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Vinay Aravind

Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G Review: Powerful and compact, with a surprise (or two) up its sleeve

Xiaomi burst on the laptop scene with their Mi Notebook line in 2020 but failed to impress because it had the baffling omission of a webcam. Their next round of launches, including the Mi Notebook Ultra which we reviewed, substantially upgraded their stature in the Windows laptop world, offering build quality, features and performance almost unheard of at its price range. 

Their latest premium offering, the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G, takes a few very deliberate steps forward offering up a very interesting machine at its price point. 

I have been using the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G for over three weeks now and have found it to be a compelling machine to use with a few surprises up its sleeve. Read on to find out what I loved and didn’t quite love.

The Macbook-esque design ethos remains.

The models

The Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G comes in two variants, with the only difference being the graphics card/GPU. The base variant (called simply the 120, no G) sells for Rs 69,999 and comes with the somewhat basic integrated UHD graphics. For Rs 76,999, you can get the nVidia MX550 GPU that is a fairly substantial upgrade.

The laptop is otherwise generously specced from a performance perspective. The chipset is a Core i5-12450H, which is a workstation grade chip from Intel’s 12th gen lineup. This is paired with 16 GB of DDR5 RAM and 512 GB of PCIe 4.0 storage, ticking off all the items in the 2022 performance wishlist.

The hardware

The Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G continues the Macbook-esque design ethos that we have seen from Xiaomi earlier. The grey chassis is made of what is described as “aerospace grade” aluminium alloy. I’ll take their word for it because the machine feels rock solid without the faintest hint of flex, even on the keyboard deck. It weighs in at a pretty standard 1.4 kg and opens conveniently with one hand. The fit and finish are impeccable. 

The laptop is made of aerospace grade aluminium alloy.
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The screen is a 14” 16:10 aspect ratio 2.5K unit which promises 100 percent sRGB coverage and professional grade colour accuracy, although there are no brightness claims made. It also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, which is unusual for this kind of laptop. The screen is solidly good, with excellent colour accuracy. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for my photography work, even without a professional calibration. 

The brightness is adequate, but not amazing. If you’re using it outdoors, the experience may be less than ideal, although the matte finish mitigates this somewhat.

The Mi Notebook Ultra that we reviewed earlier suffered from poor, tinny speakers. I am happy to report that this has been improved substantially on the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G. These speakers are not nearly best in class, but they’re definitely usable, offering a decent amount of detail and volume. I’d still probably pick up my earphones to watch some Netflix, but for most casual uses, these speakers are good enough.

The backlit keyboard is solidly good, offering up a no-fuss typing experience, with adequate key travel and a springy key response. I got fast typing speeds and I’d be more than happy to use this keyboard on a day to day basis. The trackpad is spacious and precise, although an internally hinged design means the top part is not clickable. I am personally more of a tap guy than a click guy, but if you’re the latter, you should keep this in mind.  

The keyboard is solidly good.

The port selection covers the basics, without being overly generous. You get two USB-C ports (one is Thunderbolt 4) both of which can be used for charging and are conveniently on either side, giving you flexibility in terms of plugging in the laptop. There’s one USB-A port, an HDMI port and a headphone jack. I would have liked to have seen a card reader on this machine.

In use

The good news with laptops these days is that as long as they come with an SSD and at least 8 GB of RAM, day to day usage will be fast and responsive. It is much the same with the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G. There’s very little in the way of day to day tasks that can faze this laptop, with multiple chrome tabs and MS Office all juggled with ease. The core i5-12450H is a workstation class CPU though, and the real test is when you use it for demanding tasks.

For that purpose, I ran both Lightroom Classic and Photoshop and the performance was as quick as I’ve come to expect (outside of ultra-expensive workstations). Everything ran smooth and fast (in fact, Lightroom subjectively felt a little extra snappy) and even the heavy big tasks like exports and imports were dispatched with admirable speed. If I was a photographer looking for a Windows laptop under Rs 80,000, this would be high up on my list, considering the colour-accurate screen and fast performance. 

The fit and finish is impeccable.

The nVidia MX550 GPU ably supports the CPU in basic AI and graphic tasks, but this will probably not be your go-to machine if you’re looking to edit 4K video. Some casual gaming will also be feasible, but you won’t be setting any frame rate records on the fancier titles. 

This brings me to two surprises I encountered with the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G that set it apart. 

Anyone who uses a Windows laptop, particularly the Intel ones, will know that sleep is something they occasionally struggle with. Either the laptop will sometimes take a while to wake, or it will occasionally simply refuse to go to sleep even with the lid shut. I am happy to report that in my experience, the sleep behaviour of this laptop was near flawless. Quick wakes and reliable sleeps were the norm. I don’t know if this is something Intel has pulled off, or Xiaomi, or Microsoft, or if I just got very lucky, but this was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The screen offers almost professional grade colour accuracy.

The other pleasant surprise was the thermal management. Even after running repeated demanding benchmarks, no part of the laptop felt like it was getting hot, which was a bit of a shock considering the Intel H-class chips run hot, and aluminium bodies conduct that heat outwards. After feeling around, I finally realised that the middle of the base, just above the keyboard, does get warm but it’s not an area that I am ever likely to come into contact with in normal use. 

Also, there did not appear to be any severe throttling as the results from consecutive runs of benchmarks remained broadly consistent. Clearly the dual fan cooling solution is doing its job well.  

As you might expect, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Considering the workstation class CPU, discrete GPU and high-res 120Hz screen, the 56Wh battery does not last very long. With the screen set at 120Hz and max brightness, I was getting less than three hours of battery life. Cut down the brightness and the refresh rate to 60Hz and I could get it to go over four hours. Five hours is possible if the workload is light enough. 

This is not terrible for a laptop in this class, but it’s decidedly below average and not even in the ballpark of, let’s say, an M1 Macbook Air. 

USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), HDMI and headphone jack.
USB-C and USB-A.

The supplied 100W power supply charges up the laptop quite quickly, so that is a little bit of a comfort. I did encounter a bug when trying to charge with other USB-C adapters (it sometimes wouldn’t charge at all), but some tinkering in the power settings fixed the issue. 

The 720p webcam is basic but good enough for Zoom calls, although I do wish better 1080p units would become the norm in laptops in this price class.  

Should I buy it?

If you can live with so-so battery life, then this is truly an excellent laptop in the sub-Rs 80,000 price range. You get absolutely top-class build quality and finish, a very good keyboard, and a screen with virtually pro-grade colour accuracy. Add to this the excellent performance, thermal management and sleep behaviour (not to mention the minimal bloatware from Xiaomi) and this laptop is a pleasure to use.

I did not realise how much the small things like the sleep behaviour can make a difference in the day to day experience of using the laptop, and I have to commend Xiaomi for pulling this off. That said, I genuinely wish they’d shoved in a 70 Wh battery at least, because that would have made this an all-round champion.

The Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G is not without competition though. The Asus Vivobook 14 OLED offers a swankier screen but with less performance for Rs 72,000, for instance, and the M1 Macbook Air can be had for about Rs 10,000 more, offering far better battery life. But this very specific combination of an intel H-class processor, discrete GPU and 120Hz screen is somewhat distinctive at this price point, and for those who don’t need the GPU, the non-G version for Rs 69,999 is also a very good option to consider, and will perhaps offer better battery life.

This Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G was sent to the reviewer as a loaner unit for review purposes. The unit will be returned on completion of the review. Xiaomi has been given no advance information about the content of this review and exercises no copy approval. 

Contact the author on Twitter @vinayaravind

Newslaundry is a reader-supported, ad-free, independent news outlet based out of New Delhi. Support their journalism, here.

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