First impressions of US$500 Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 smartphone, Chinese maker’s ‘iPhone 8 killer’

Smaller than its predecessor and with 18:9 aspect ratio display, handset’s ceramic back gives it a hefty feel; single camera takes pretty good shots, battery life is, as always with Xiaomi models, very good and its operation very smooth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 1:25pm

With Apple set to unveil a new “iPhone X” today in California that will sport a bezel-less design and an all-screen front, on Monday Xiaomi unveiled a similar-looking device in Beijing.

Of course, this isn’t a case of Xiaomi copying Apple, because the Chinese tech giant arguably started the bezel-less trend with last year’s Mi Mix. The device unveiled on Monday is its successor to that phone, the Mi Mix 2.

Design and hardware

The Mi Mix 2 continues the design aesthetics of the first device: its front is almost entirely screen save for a small bottom bezel. The back is once again ceramic.

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The standard edition pairs that ceramic back with an aluminium alloy metal frame, while a “special edition” uses a full ceramic unibody back casing that wraps all the way around the sides of the device.

One of our complaints about the original Mi Mix last year was its heft and overall size, and Xiaomi’s engineers agreed. The new Mi Mix has a smaller display (5.99 inches compared to the 6.4-inch original) that adopts the longer 18:9 aspect ratio pioneered by LG and Samsung.

This effectively makes the Mi Mix 2 a much smaller device than its older sibling, and Xiaomi’s engineers made the overall body curvier and less boxy. It’s also 20g lighter than the original – although still hefty at 185g, due to the nature of its ceramic back. It’s a nice, dense, sturdy kind of heft, though.

The display panel is still LCD and not the superior OLED as rumoured, but the resolution has been bumped up slightly to 2160x1080 from the original device.

Software and features

Xiaomi typically releases devices with specific regions in mind, and it’ll limit these devices’ usability outside the designated countries via region-specific software or telecommunication bands. The original Mi Mix, for example, was meant for the Chinese market only, hence it had a China ROM version of its MIUI software which, even after major tweaking by this reporter, still struggles to run Google apps fully. It also lacked the LTE bands to support 4G networks in the US.

The Mi Mix 2 is that rare Xiaomi device that is meant for global use, offering a choice of 43 bands, including all US LTE bands. The software inside is also the Global ROM, which means Google comes pre-installed and is fully integrated into the device.

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The Mi Mix 2, surprisingly, only has one camera on the back – seemingly every other phone has two, including several other Xiaomi devices. To me, the second lens isn’t missed, since it’s largely a gimmick for now on most devices other than LG’s phones. The 12-megapixel shooter on the Mi Mix 2 is the same as the main camera on the Mi 6, which in our testing was capable of some very good photos but ultimately fell short of those shot using the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Performance and battery life

Powering the Mi Mix 2 is the newest Qualcomm processor, Snapdragon 835, and models come with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM. In early testing the phone operated very smoothly, thanks to new Xiaomi software (MIUI 9).

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Battery life is always excellent on Xiaomi devices – the MIUI software really prioritises battery optimisation – and the 3,400 mAh battery inside has been enough to last a full day.

The Mi Mix 2 will go on sale in late September in China first, before launching in all other markets a month later. The standard version with 6GB of RAM will be priced at 3,299/3,599/3,999 yuan (US$506/552/613) for the 64/128/256GB storage variants. A special edition with 8GB of RAM and full ceramic unibody will go for 4,699 yuan.