Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 full review: elegant smartphone with a lot of good features including brand’s best camera yet, and great value
The first Mi Mix was jaw-dropping, but there’s less of a wow factor about its successor now other makers have bezel-less handsets out; still, it has a lot going for it, few downsides, and it’s half the price of an iPhone X
When Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi introduced the Mi Mix last year, jaws dropped at the sight of its bezel-less design. Its successor faces stiff competition, however, with companies ranging from obscure Shenzhen manufacturers to big bad Apple all coming out with their own take on the all-screen phone. Can the Mi Mix 2 keep the Xiaomi buzz going?
Design and hardware
From the 18-carat gold trim around the camera lens to the smooth ceramic back that curves softly at the sides, to the fingerprint reader that looks more seamless and subtle than the clicky scanners on the current iPhones, the Mi Mix 2 is meant to evoke the feel of a refined piece of jewellery. In this Xiaomi has succeeded: the Mi Mix 2 is a refined and elegant piece of hardware that feels great in the hand.
Power on the display and you’re greeted with a front that’s almost entirely screen except for a small chin at the bottom, which houses a 5-megapixel, front-facing camera (you’ll have to flip the phone upside down for selfies).
The 1080 x 2160 resolution LCD display is very good, though it doesn’t get as punchy or bright as Samsung or LG’s OLED panels. It does, however, get very dim – as low as 1 nit of brightness – which makes it much less distracting to use in dark settings than other phones.
Software and features
The Mi Mix 2 ships with Android 7.1.1 with Xiaomi’s own MIUI software on top. Now in its 9th generation, MIUI is a clean, bright, slightly cartoony skin that offers a breadth of customisation features. You can, for example, assign specific actions to each navigation button when long-pressed, and MIUI offers situational notification rules for each app. It also allows the user to run two versions of the same app on one device. These are all things that stock Android devices cannot do.
But as much as MIUI brings to the table, it also takes important Android features away. Like many Chinese Android skins, there is no app drawer – so all your apps must sit on the homepage like an iPhone – and, more bafflingly, MIUI doesn’t allow the user to expand on notifications from the lock screen.
On other Android devices, when I get a notification for a new email, I’ll expand the notification card from the lock screen to read the first couple of sentences, and then decide from there whether to jump into the phone to read more or let the email sit for now. On the Mi Mix 2’s lock screen, all I can see is that I have a new email, nothing more.
While the Mi Mix does the key things very well, it lacks some of the recent features of flagship phones: this device is not waterproof, and it can’t be charged wirelessly.
Performance and battery life
The Snapdragon 835 chip set and 6GB of RAM is about as top notch a combo as a mobile device can get at this point in time, and the Mi Mix 2 is every bit a powerhouse. During a week of heavy use the phone never had a hiccup despite running two apps side-by-side and editing multiple videos. Battery life is superb, as initially reported on our first look.
The beauty of having a bezel-less display is that consuming full-screen content feels more immersive, and that’s mostly true with the Mi Mix 2. Instagram Stories, which fills up the entire screen, look gorgeous. But most other videos on the web right now (from YouTube to Netflix) are still in 16:9 aspect ratio instead of the Mi Mix 2’s new 18:9 ratio, resulting in a serious case of letterboxing (black bars on the sides).
Samsung’s engineers foresaw this problem and gave Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 users the option to “force” a video to fill the entire screen via cropping. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2 offers no such option, and it’s missed.
In terms of photography, the Mi Mix 2 will please most consumers. Images tend to turn out sharp and balanced – neither too oversaturated nor overly processed.
To more serious mobile photographers, the camera app may appear a bit simplistic; it lacks the granular controls of the LG V30’s app. In manual shooting mode, for example, you cannot see the changes you make in ISO or white balance in real time (you can on LG and Samsung devices).
Overall, this is Xiaomi’s best camera yet, though still not enough to beat the shooters on flagship LG and Huawei handsets.
The Mi Mix 2 improves on the original device in every way, but the wow factor this time around is significantly less than last year. That’s not Xiaomi’s fault: in the Post’s review of the original Mi Mix, we declared that “some day, all phones will look this way”. Well, that day is here.
Whereas the first Mi Mix stood alone and made other phones look dated in 2016, the Mi Mix 2 is merely one of a half-dozen all-screen phones from big-name producers on the market right now.
What the Mi Mix 2 still has going for it is its great value, as you’d expect from Xiaomi. With models starting at 3,299 yuan (US$506), this is among the cheapest Snapdragon 835 handsets on the market, and half the price of the upcoming iPhone X.
Apple’s phone will likely be a better device, but it’s almost certainly not going to be twice as good.
Dimensions: 151.8 x 75.5 x 7.7mm
Weight: 185 grams
Display: 5.99-inch 1080 X 2160 LCD
OS version reviewed: Android 7.1.1 with MIUI 9 on top
Processor: Snapdragon 835
Cameras: 12-megapixel lens (rear); 5-megapixel (front)
Memory: 64/128/256GB ROM; 6GB RAM (8GB for special edition)
Colours: black, white