The year 2017 seems like the year of the Chinese smartphone. Both Huawei and Honor have come up with some cracking hardware and we’ve seen some excellent stuff from Xiaomi as well. Xiaomi might be relatively unknown in these parts of the world, but this hasn’t prevented it from increasing significantly in popularity and, although you can’t buy them from mainstream retailers, there are plenty of places such as GearBest stocking the latest and greatest.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is the most impressive yet. With an 80% screen-to-body ratio, a gorgeous ceramic body, and an incredibly low price of £420, it’s a tasty proposition.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: What you need to know
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is a beast of a smartphone in terms of design, but it’s also all there on paper. It has a large 5.99in display with an aspect ratio of 18:9, just like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 range of handsets, as well as a decent camera and an amazingly reasonable price.
It’s powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, so there’s plenty of horsepower for intensive tasks, too.
On the negative side, the phone isn’t widely available in the UK and MIUI, Xiaomi’s Android launcher software, does take some getting used to, particularly the lack of pre-installed Google Apps (although you can install these yourself). Also, it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, which in my view is a serious flaw in any phone, and there’s no IP68 water-resistance, either.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Price and competition
At the time of writing, the only way of getting hold of a Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 was through one of the international Chinese gadget retailers: GearBest for the 64GB model at £420, or Geekbuying.com for the 128GB or 256GB version. You’ll have to bear in mind that UK customs and import fees will need to be paid and that shipping might take some time. Thankfully, the Mi Mix 2 supports all the UK 4G frequencies, though.
At this price, there’s plenty of Android-based competition for the Xiaomi, but only a couple that have the same aspect ratio: the Samsung Galaxy S8 at around £520 and the LG G6 at around £420. If you look at regular 16:9 phones, though, there’s a wider choice of phones, with the incredible OnePlus 5 for around £450, the new Nokia 8 for around £500 and the Honor 9 for around £380.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Design and build quality
If you think a Chinese phone might be poorly built, think again. Xiaomi has pulled out all the stops with the Mi Mix 2. There’s that 18:9 bezel-free display at the front, which fills nearly the entire front panel, at least at the top. The bottom bezel is slightly thicker due to the presence of the front-facing camera in the bottom-right corner, but since this will be hidden away in your palm most of the time, it’s not too noticeable.
The rest of the phone is absolutely gorgeous as well. The chassis is built from ceramic – either in white or black – and it feels lovely in the hand, though it does attract fingerprints. It also makes the phone a little slippery to hold, so you might want to use the bundled anti-slip hard plastic case to minimise the risk of dropping it.
The camera housing does protrude a little, but its attractive, gold-coloured trim helps offset that, and it’s good to see the circular, rear-facing fingerprint sensor has been positioned beneath the camera lens and not next to it as with the Samsung Galaxy S8. Unlocking the phone is a comfortable and quick process as a result.
The lack of a 3.5mm headphones jack is a serious problem, though. I know you can simply go wireless or connect wired headphones via the supplied converter – what you can’t do is charge the phone, say with a battery pack, and listen with wired headphones at the same time.
As already mentioned, the phone isn’t rated as dust or water-resistant, which is a shame, but what’s more surprising is that it has no microSD card slot. Instead, you’ll find two nano-SIM slots. Naturally, there’s also no way of removing the phone’s 3,400mAh battery.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Display
The Mi Mix 2 has a 5.99in IPS display at a resolution of 1,080 x 2,160 and this results in a pixel density of 403ppi. That’s a lot lower than the 570ppi pixel density found on the Samsung Galaxy S8’s 5.8in 1,440 x 2,960 display but, even at this screen size, you have to look pretty hard to see the difference.
In the phone’s display settings, you can adjust the contrast ratio to “automatic”, “increased” and “standard”. I found using the phone in increased contrast mode the most pleasing to the eye, and the measurements back this up.
I measured superior contrast ratio in this mode and increased brightness as well, with a full white screen measuring at 493cd/m² compared with 463cd/m² in standard mode. That’s not the brightest we’ve ever seen, but you shouldn’t need to shield the screen with your hand unless the sun is really blazing down.
It’s worth noting that in standard mode, the phone is tuned to cover the sRGB colour space, which makes it more optimal for viewing websites. On the other hand, “increased” mode is specifically tuned to cover the DCI P3 colour range and covers the Adobe RGB colour range in far greater depth, too. This makes it a better choice when watching movies. In either mode, though, the screen looks great and is stunningly colour accurate.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Software
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 comes with Android 7.1.1 and a custom overlay, MIUI 9. I’d have much preferred stock Android instead.
There are a few issues with the software, the biggest being the lack of preinstalled Google Apps and the use of the Chinese language everywhere. Even though you can install the Google Play Store through the Mi App Store, you’ll have to go through a Chinese app to get it, which won’t make much sense unless you can read Chinese.
Once complete, you’ll have the Play Store and Google’s Framework services ready to go and from here you can install your standard Android apps. Beware, though: there’s also a lot of bloatware preinstalled. At least all of it can be uninstalled.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Performance
The Mi Mix 2 is as fast as any Android phone currently on the market. It has an octa-core 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB of RAM inside, the same as the regular OnePlus 5 and the US Samsung Galaxy S8.
After the Apple A11 Bionic chip, the Snapdragon 835 is the second fastest chip you can get in a mobile device right now, which means you’re not going to be waiting around for things to happen, even if you’re running loads of stuff at once.
The phone is a capable gamer and you’ll be able to play all the latest and greatest games without having to worry about stuttering or lag.
The Snapdragon 835 has also proven it’s a very efficient chip this year and Xiaomi Mix 2’s battery life test results show it’s worth yet again. In conjunction with the phone’s sizeable 3,400mAh battery, it lasted 13hrs 35mins, which is about average: not great, but not terrible, either. It’s close in performance to its sibling, the Xiaomi Mi6, in fact, and its rival the HTC U11. By comparison, the OnePlus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S8 last longer.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Camera
The Mi Mix 2 has a single 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and a dual-LED flash. The 1/2.9in sensor isn’t the largest and the f/2 aperture isn’t the brightest, but with four-axis optical image stabilisation (OIS) and phase detect autofocus it’s a capable snapper on paper.
And so it proves, the camera capturing high-quality photographs that, on first inspection, rival those of its peers. It isn’t as good as the iPhone 8 Plus or Galaxy S8, but among phones of a similar price, such as the OnePlus 5 or Nokia 500, it’s a winner.
In particular, images captured with HDR engaged are full of colour, detail and contrast. In the image below, for instance, the area around the tree leaves is bursting with detail, as is the area around the building with the green roof.
^ With HDR enabled, images are packed with crisp details
With HDR disabled, however, the image isn’t as exciting as it’s a little dark. The building in the foreground with the green roof doesn’t have the same level of detail, and the foliage at the front is somewhat lost.
^ Without HDR enabled, the image is somewhat darker and muddier
In low-light conditions, the camera picks up colours accurately and though there is visible noise, it doesn’t hit quality too badly. The flash is decent as well, producing images that don’t suffer too badly from hard-edged shadows and have a touch more detail. There’s no unwanted blue tinge to the image, either.
^ There’s image noise present in low light conditions, but colours remain accurate
^ With the flash engaged, image noise and shadows are reduced, while colours remain accurate
The front-facing 5-megapixel camera picks up plenty of detail, too. Skin tones are accurate and image noise under bright sunlit conditions is minimal. However, due to the positioning of the camera lens in the bottom-right corner of the phone, you’ll need to take your selfies with the phone orientated horizontally, or flipped upside down or your pictures will look odd.
^ The front-facing camera captures selfies that are packed with detail
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Verdict
There’s no doubt that the Xiaomi Mix 2 is an incredibly capable phone that looks simply stunning; there’s no other phone quite like it. However, its limited availability, MIUI overlay, lack of water resistance and missing 3.5mm jack make it hard to recommend, even at such a reasonable price.
Personally, I’d much rather invest an extra £100 and get the £520 Samsung Galaxy S8 instead, while if price is an issue, the £450 OnePlus 5 or £380 Honor 9 make cracking alternative purchases.
Xiaomi Mix 2 specifications
|Processor||2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Screen resolution||1,080 x 2,160|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||No|
|Dimensions (WDH)||151.8 x 75.5 x 7.7mm|
|Operating system||Android 7.1.1|