Micromax was once one of the major names in the Indian smartphone industry, but with the advent of Chinese brands, the company lost its edge and has slipped down the sales charts. It is now looking to stage a comeback with two new smartphones — the Micromax Infinity N11 and the Micromax Infinity N12 — both of which claim to offer capable hardware, good cameras, and flashy design at competitive price points. We have the more powerful of the duo, the Micromax N12, for review.
On paper, the Micromax Infinity N12 appears to be a well-rounded offering — with dual rear cameras, a display notch, and a large battery — which could perhaps take on popular sub-Rs. 10,000 smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy M20 (Review), Realme 2 (Review), Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review), Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review), and the Xiaomi Redmi Y2 (Review). But can Micromax's latest device outshine them, or is the company's return to the game too little, too late? Let's delve into an in-depth review of the Micromax Infinity N12 and find out.
Micromax Infinity N12 design
With the Micromax Infinity N12, the company aims to not only undercut its competition in terms of sheer value for money, but also create a distinct identity for itself with an unapologetically flashy design. The Micromax Infinity N12 comes in three colour options: Blue Lagoon, Velvet Red, and Viola (which is black).
We have the Blue Lagoon variant for review which flaunts a gradient texture on its rear panel and looks quite appealing. The Velvet Red and Viola options lack this gradient finish and look like shiny slabs of plastic. In comparison, the Blue Lagoon variant looks more vibrant but also garish to an extent. The colour scheme is quite similar to what we've seen on the recently launched Oppo K1, which also looks good in person.
The highly reflective finishes and the choice of bright shades might not suit the taste of people who are looking for something understated. Moreover, all that gloss comes at a cost. The lustrous rear panel is a fingerprint magnet and gets smudged really easily. We also noticed that the rear panel gets scuffed quickly, and within a few days of using this smartphone we saw tiny marks all over the back.
As for build quality, the Micromax Infinity N12 is made out of plastic, with the entire rear curving around the sides to create a smooth profile. The plastic is decently sturdy, and we didn't notice bending or creaking anywhere on the body, unlike the flimsy rear panels we've seen on a few sub-Rs. 10,000 smartphones. The volume and power buttons are slightly raised and provide nice tactile feedback.
The SIM card tray is on the top of the phone, and can accommodate two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. The bottom features a speaker grill, Micro-USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microphone. The Micromax Infinity N12 is not a very light device, tipping the scales at 164g, and is quite a handful too with its dimensions measuring 156 x 76.2 x 8.5mm. Using this phone with one hand is going to be cumbersome.
As for the box contents, they include the Micromax Infinity N12 smartphone, SIM eject tool, Micro-USB cable, a power adapter with a power rating of 5V/1.5A, headset, and some paperwork. Overall, Micromax has done a decent job of creating an affordable smartphone which can turn a few heads with its aesthetics.
Micromax Infinity N12 specifications and software
The Micromax Infinity N12 sports a 6.19-inch HD+ (720x1500 pixels) display with an 18.9:9 aspect ratio. There's a wide notch at the top that houses the selfie camera, earpiece, and a soft LED flash. While the notch has helped free up some screen real estate at the top, there is still a thick chin at the bottom.
This phone is powered by the MediaTek Helio P22 processor, a popular choice in this price segment, which also powers the likes of the Redmi 6 and the Vivo Y93- clocked at 2.0 GHz. Micromax offers the Infinity N12 in a single configuration with 3GB of RAM coupled with 32GB of storage, which can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 128GB) in a dedicated slot.
In the connectivity department, you get Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 4G, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. The onboard sensors include a gyroscope, gravity sensor, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and fingerprint sensor. There's also support for FM radio.
On the software, the Micromax Infinity N12 runs the company's own Steroid launcher which looks like near-stock Android 8.1 Oreo, and comes with some of the company's own apps preloaded. Micromax promised to roll out an Android 9 Pie update for the smartphone within 45 days of its launch, but it is yet to be released even though two months have now passed. The unit we had for review was running Android 8.1.0 with the December Android security patch.
As far as the user experience goes, the Micromax Infinity N12 does not offer anything special to earn extra points. The UI is mostly clean with a stock Android appearance. However, the preinstalled apps are riddled with ads and do not bring anything useful to the table.
For example, the ‘Game Center' is basically a store for Web-based mobile games, but we could barely play any of them without having to watch ads. The same goes for the ‘Mi Browser', ‘App Center' and ‘Around', all of which offer half-baked experiences with the added annoyance of ads, pop-up notifications, and slow interfaces.
The Micromax Infinity N12 offers MediaTek's DuraSpeed feature that claims to boost the speed of the foreground app by restricting the activities of those running in the background. However, we did not experience any noticeable difference in performance when DuraSpeed was enabled.
Another preinstalled app is the Mobile Assistant, which shows real-time stats such as RAM and storage usage, and can scan the device for malware and junk files. The app is claimed to have been developed in collaboration with McAfee, but we didn't find it to be particularly useful.
The in-house Steroid launcher offers some nifty customisation tools for tweaking the theme, icons, and home screen layout. However, accessing those tools is no easy task, and we had to delve all the way into the Settings app, within the ‘Apps & notifications' section, to make the desired adjustments.
Long-pressing on the home screen opens a pop-up with controls such as Wi-Fi, flight mode, and hotspot among others, alongside music playback controls, the universal customisation tool, and shortcuts to the Settings and Camera apps.
However, it feels redundant to populate it with shortcuts like Bluetooth, Location, and Hotspot when they are already available in the notification shade. Moreover, the customisation controls available at users' disposal are mostly aesthetic in nature and are nowhere close to matching the functionality and versatility offered by some other launchers such as Nova Launcher.
Micromax Infinity N12 performance, cameras, and battery life
We tested the Micromax Infinity N12 as our daily driver for over a week, and our experience of using the smartphone was a mixed bag. Starting with the ergonomics, one-handed usage was not really easy, and it was quite a struggle to reach content in the corners or on the opposite edge of the screen with just the thumb. On the bright side, the device is not as slippery as the glossy rear panel might make you believe.
As for the quality of the display, its colour rendition and accuracy are just about average. Viewing angles are decent, but there's some distortion when viewed from angles. The peak brightness level is satisfactory, which certainly helped while using this smartphone under sunlight.
The relatively low resolution for such as large screen results in a sub-par pixel density, which takes a toll on the overall visual quality. The edges of images and text appeared fuzzy at times. Moreover, the display is also quite reflective.
The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor worked fine and unlocked the device in less than a second. However, the face recognition feature had some issue that prevented it from working altogether on our review unit. Despite repeatedly tapping on the ‘Face Unlock' option in the Settings menu, it simply wouldn't register an input. We experienced the issue on two review units of the Micromax Infinity N12, and despite performing a factory reset, we couldn't get it to work.
We reached out to Micromax but didn't receive a response to identify the root of the issue and whether it can be fixed with a software update. However, we did manage to try out two additional units of the Micromax Infinity N12 by visiting a retail store, and found the face unlock functionality worked just fine on both of them, which means buyers should (hopefully) not have this problem.
Coming to performance, the MediaTek Helio P22 powering the Micromax Infinity N12 proves to be capable enough when it comes to regular usage such as casual Web browsing and light multitasking. Switching between different apps was a breeze, but the moment we shifted gears and turned to heavy games, the smartphone started to stutter. The occasional lags became more noticeable when we had multiple Internet-connected apps running in the background.
Casual games ran just fine in our tests, but when it came to graphics-intensive games, the experience was downright bad. PUBG Mobile, for example, was set to the Low graphics preset by default but still stuttered and froze every now and then rendered the game unplayable. Games also crashed several times, which is certainly something prospective buyers should take into account. The device heats up with heavy usage, but this is concentrated mainly in the area above the fingerprint sensor and does not reach a point where it can become uncomfortable to hold this phone.
When it comes to synthetic benchmark scores, the Micromax Infinity N12 scored 71,412 in AnTuTu, which is in the same ballpark as the Xiaomi Redmi 6. Geekbench 4 failed to run, and just kept returning a communication error with the benchmarking platform's server. Basemark Web running in the Google Chrome browser returned 67.95. This phone managed 20fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test; 7,528 in 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme; and 629 in 3DMark Sling Shot.
In the imaging department, the Micromax Infinity N12 comes equipped with a dual rear camera setup that includes a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. The device offers features such as slo-mo and time-lapse video recording, beautification, and a Pro mode for more control over variables such as the ISO and exposure compensation.
There's an AI mode that claims to optimise camera settings for various conditions, but we found that enabling it imparted a light yellowish tinge to photos captured under artificial light. One can choose between eight different scene modes, capture bokeh shots, and also apply quirky AR effects such as masks and cartoon faces to selfies using the FaceCute mode.
Selfies are handled by a 16-megapixel front camera. The Micromax Infinity N12 captured vibrant selfies under daylight, with natural skin tones and minimal overblown colours. The beauty mode, which lets you choose between six beautification levels, aggressively smoothens skin textures and tweaks facial attributes such as your jawline and the size of your eyes.
However, in its bid to lighten skin complexions, we saw that it also somewhat washed out the true colours of objects in the background. Needless to say, selfies taken with the beauty mode looked artificial and could easily be identified. As for selfies captured in low light, there was a lot of noise and grain, with somewhat muted colours.
There is also an option to capture selfies with bokeh effect, but it is a hit or miss in most cases and falters when it comes to edge detection. Unfortunately, there is no HDR support for the front camera, so if you are expecting selfies with rich hues and depth, you are out of luck.
Coming to the performance of the dual rear cameras, the photos we shot turned out to be quite good when there was abundant natural light, especially with close-up shots. The camera captured vibrant images, and the edges of objects in focus were well defined.
The HDR mode helps, but shooting images with HDR enabled can be somewhat frustrating, as the Micromax Infinity N12 takes a little over three seconds to process a shot before you can capture another one.
While photos usually turned out to be clear, we noticed that the colours turned out muted in scenarios with sub-optimal natural light, and sharpness was also lacking. The rear sensor was quick at locking focus, which came in handy.
Low-Light performance is just average and leaves a lot to be desired. The details were missing and colour saturation also took a hit in our sample shots, with noise further degrading the quality. Then again, budget smartphones tend to underperform when it comes to low-light photography.
The bokeh mode, on the other hand, gave us decent portrait shots with blurry backgrounds. The intensity of the blur effect can be adjusted when shooting well as after shots are saved, which is certainly nice to have at one's disposal. However, edge detection could have been better.
To sum up, the Micromax Infinity N12's camera performance can be rated as average at best, and if you are not too picky about small details, it will get the job done for sharing casual photos on social media platforms.
As for audio performance, the speaker can get sufficiently loud, but amping it up creates a very noticeable distortion that is not pleasing to the ears. Another downside is that the sound got muffled when we were gaming in landscape orientation as our fingers tended to cover the speaker grille.
The bundled earphones provided by the company are of low quality and are just good for telephony. As for call quality, voices were clear and there were no issues on the receiver's end either.
One area where the Micromax Infinity N12 shines is battery life. The smartphone's 4,000mAh battery easily lasted a full day of usage which involved Web surfing, around an hour of using social media apps, two or three rounds of PUBG Mobile, and of course making calls. On average, we managed to extract around 10 hours and 40 minutes of active usage before the battery drained out.
The figures will differ depending upon usage patterns, but battery longevity is still on the higher side and won't leave most users running towards the nearest charger before the end of the day. In our HD video loop test, the Micromax Infinity N12 lasted for 11 hours and 03 minutes.
Launched at Rs. 9,999, the Micromax Infinity N12 can currently be purchased for around Rs. 9,500 on e-commerce sites. The price segment it falls in is characterised by fierce competition, so while this smartphone tries to make a case for itself with its flashy design, large battery and decent cameras, the presence of better-performing rivals from more established brands prevents it from truly becoming a strong contender.
The Samsung Galaxy M20 (Review), Realme 2 (Review), Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review), Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review), and the Xiaomi Redmi Y2 (Review) are among the smartphones that offer better value for money, with fresh competition from the newly launched Redmi Note 7 as well, which we will be testing soon.
While none of the models named above can be regarded as perfect, the pros offered by them far outweigh the cons, and when compared with the Micromax Infinity N12, many of them will come out looking stronger overall. The Micromax Infinity N12 does shine in some areas, but it is not worth recommending at the price it commands, especially when there are alternatives that offer better all-round performance and value.