Infinix has launched a new version of the Note 12 and, as the name hints, the handset revolves around a MediaTek Helio G96 processor.
This more powerful model might not offer 5G but with other specs including a large AMOLED screen, 8GB of RAM as standard, a 50Mp main camera and the latest Android 12 software, it’s got some serious chops to take on the best of the budget market.
And it does so at a tempting starting price of US$199, but can it outpace rivals like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, Realme 9i and Oppo A54 5G?
Design & Build
Fingerprint scanner in power button
Shiny, glossy, in your face phone design has been all-the-rage for the last couple of years. Particularly when it comes to cheaper phones from Chinese manufacturers and it’s the same story for the Note 12 G96.
This has a square-sided frame reminiscent of recent iPhones which steps inwards to the front and rear sections. The front is as plain as any phone while the back has a frosted finish available in three colourways: Force Black, Snowfall and Sapphire Blue.
The phone feels well-made and unusual for a budget phone, the back, as well as the front, is glass. The frame looks like metal but is actually made of plastic.
As usual, the camera module sticks out a little bit and the two lenses further still, but I’ve seen much bulkier and clunkier arrangements, so Infinix has kept this quite neat. What I don’t understand is the polished glossy surface to the right which just feels unnecessary.
Despite its footprint, the phone remains lighter than similarly sized phones at 185g and is only 7.8mm making it nicely balanced. On the positive side, there’s a headphone jack but no official waterproof rating.
Infinix does supply a clear silicone case in the box, but it doesn’t fit particularly well and is a little loose.
It’s also worth pointing out that the fingerprint scanner lives inside the power button. I’m normally a fan of this and although the Note 12 G96’s works well some of the time, it’s not always accurate and is overly sensitive leading to lots of buzzing from the haptic feedback from the tiniest touch, or on some occasions, I’m sure when I didn’t even touch the phone.
Screen & Speakers
One reason to buy the Infinix Note 12 G96 is the large screen, as you might expect for a ‘Note’ branded devices. It’s a decent 6.7in giving you plenty of real estate to watch video, play games or just scroll through your photo gallery.
Many budget phones have basic LCD panels but Infinix offers an AMOLED screen here with a Full HD+ resolution. This gives you better contrast and punchy colours as well as better brightness than many rivals.
I measured it at a peak brightness (with automatic adjustment off) at an impressive 514 nits. However, the display wasn’t as easy to view outdoors in sunlight as I expected.
The firm calls it True Colour as it can replicate 100% of the P3 spectrum which is impressive. It’s not all good news though as the display has some reasonable bezels – particularly above and below – and doesn’t offer a high refresh rate.
Not many budget phones do but 90Hz is achievable if you want things like smoother scrolling and gaming. The Redmi Note 11 is a prime example.
You get stereo speakers here and they sound surprisingly good. There’s a decent amount of volume available and the tonal response is remarkably balanced. To be honest, they sound better than many phones I’ve tested at two or three times the price.
Specs & Performance
Helio G96 octa-core processor
8GB of RAM as standard
Up to 256GB storage
Limited to 4G
As mentioned at the top, and referenced in the phone’s name, this version of the Note 12 comes with a MediaTek Helio G96 processor making it a more powerful option than the regular Note 12 with its G88.
This octa-core chip with a clock speed of up to 2.05GHz is a rival to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 found inside the Redmi Note 11. Infinix says it “enhances the display and visual upgrades and enhances its gaming capabilities,” with “groundbreaking performance.”
Helping out here is 8GB of RAM no matter which model you buy when many budget phones come with 6GB at most. Furthermore, Infinix offers something becoming more common in Extended RAM where you can get a further 5GB via ROM storage.
Since this isn’t a feature that can be switched on and off, I can’t comment on its effectiveness, but it does come across as something of a gimmick.
The benchmark results from the Note 12 G96 are good but nothing special, pipping the Redmi Note 11 in Geekbench 5 by just a few points. It does win compared to similarly priced rivals such as the Realme 9i in graphics tests, though.
Spend a bit more on the Poco X4 Pro 5G and you’ll get a decent jump, particularly if you want to play games.
In real-world usage, I’ve found the phone to be ok but plenty of stuttering occurs when opening apps and animations around the OS. It’s not awful but more noticeable than rivals and the experience can be made a lot better by selecting the sensitivity in the display settings under ‘Ultra Touch’.
Changing the swipe speed to ultra-fast and motion to fast makes the phone feel a lot nicer to use and largely eliminates those jerky animations.
One thing to note is that the G6 doesn’t get you 5G connectivity, so if accessing the latest mobile networks is a must, then you’ll need to look elsewhere. The Xiaomi Poco M4 Pro 5G and Oppo A54 5G are two great options at this price point and Infinix has the Zero 5G, too.
The phone is Dual-SIM which will be handy for some users and the second SIM slot doesn’t even take up the SD slot.
50Mp main camera
Mystery third sensor?
It’s quite refreshing to see that Infinix hasn’t fallen into the trap of adding a 2Mp macro camera just to up the lens count on the Note 12 G96. Instead, the firm has focused on the performance of the main camera which is 50Mp and accompanied by a 2Mp depth sensor.
However, there is a third mysterious sensor on the back which is simply listed as ‘Q’ in the specs and I can’t find anything in the camera app that uses it and our Infinix press contact is yet to confirm what it is.
An ultrawide would be a nice addition but, at the budget end of the phone market, the most important thing is that you can get decent results from the main shooter.
Let’s focus on the main camera since that’s the one you’ll use the vast majority of the time. Luckily, it’s perfectly capable of producing some pleasing results with good levels of detail, correct exposure and, for the most part, accurate colours.
There’s still the usual amount of noise present if you look closely to even outdoor shots but for a point and shoot camera for sharing photos on social media etc the Note 12 G96 does the job.
The caveat is that you generally need good lighting. The shots inside a dingy café with the red neon light are good but the super night mode didn’t help when taking a picture of my bookshelf in low light.
As you can see, the selfie camera is decent and offers good detail and colour but the portrait mode hasn’t done the best job around my hair.
Video quality from the Note 12 G96 is ok. It’s capped at 2K and 30fps, although shoots in 720p by default so make sure you go and change that for starters. Detail and colour are good at the higher resolution but it doesn’t have optical image stabilisation to keep things smooth so only works well if the phone is kept very still.
Battery Life & Charging
Battery life is a strong point for this phone partly thanks to a large 5000mAh cell as well as the 60Hz AMOLED screen. In real-world testing, the phone showed strong longevity and with my relatively light usage (I don’t do any gaming) it can comfortably last two days.
The PCMark Work 3.0 battery test didn’t quite reflect this with a result of nine hours and 50 minutes but that’s respectable.
Charging is rated at 33W which is a long way off the fastest phones right now but is decent enough at the budget end of the market. In our usual 30-minute test from 0%, the Note 12 G96 charged to 51% which is good but we’ve seen better.
Software & Apps
Coming with Android 12, the latest version of Google’s OS, is one-up on many rivals but Infinix adds its XOS 10.6 UI over the top making it almost unrecognisable.
As Jon found with the Zero 5G, it’s quite grating in the way it goes about a lot of things. Caught between imitating iOS from the iPhone and Android features, it takes some getting used to – that’s putting it politely.
Everything is very square looking and folders, for some bizarre reason, take up the space of four app icons even if there are just two apps inside. I do like the way you can swipe between them once one is expanded, though.
Some users might also like the smart bar which you can summon by swiping in from the side of the screen. It’s customisable and shows you some handy tools and app shortcuts.
The screen to the left of the main homescreen isn’t Google Feed but a somewhat random mix of recent apps and widgets such as RAM usage and effectively a shortcut to the Health app. Needless to say, I’d much rather have the regular Google Feed.
Like iOS, XOS splits the notification panel and quick settings on either side of the central camera with the former offering up an annoying list of apps (some of which are not even installed) and the latter has a vertical slider for screen brightness that some users may hate.
Perhaps worst of all is the sheer amount of bloatware on the device. From duplicate apps such as Hi Browser to Boomplay which offers free downloads of musical artists I’ve never heard of. In total, I make the bloat count a whopping 20 apps.
Price & Availability
Despite some impressive specs, the Infinix Note 12 G96 comes in well under our price cap for budget phones. The cheapest model is just US$199 getting you 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage.
You can double that storage to 256GB and still only spend US$219, possibly a savvy upgrade for many users although you can add a microSD card instead.
As it stands, there’s no information on a UK or European launch.
Check our chart of the best budget phones to see what other options there are right now.
There’s lots to like about the Infinix Note 12 G96 starting with the fact you get decent core specs even at the cheapest price. A decent processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage at under $200 is certainly more than many rivals.
A large AMOLED screen, decent (in good lighting) main camera and possible two-day battery life also makes it a tempting phone.
However, there are a number of downsides and things that rivals offer which hold the Note 12 G96 back from scoring higher.
The display is only 60Hz, there’s no 5G support, no IP waterproofing, the fingerprint scanner is overly sensitive and worst of all, the XOS software is difficult to get on with thanks to some strange choices and more bloatware than I’ve seen in a long time.
Infinix Note 12 G96: Specs
Android 12, XOS 10.6
6.7in, Full HD+, LCD, 60Hz, flat display
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
MediaTek Helio G96
8GB LPDDR5 RAM
microSD card slot
50Mp, f/1.6 main camera
2Mp depth sensor
16Mp selfie camera
Up to 2K @ 30fps video
Wi-Fi 5 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
165 x 77 x 7.9mm
Launch colours: Force black, Snowfall, Sapphire blue