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Smartphones

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S first impressions: dual-camera set-up goes toe to toe with smartphone giants 

While the release may not be groundbreaking, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S offers some welcome upgrades, including a secondary rear-facing camera and a new swiping gesture that eliminates Android’s traditional three button set-up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 6:26pm

Xiaomi’s newest release, the Mi Mix 2S, isn’t going to grab headlines the way the original Mi Mix did in late 2016 – the phone’s bezel-free design was a stunner at the time – but it will satisfy loyal fans, millions of whom are devoted to the Beijing-based company’s growing MIUI ecosystem.

As the “S” part of the name signifies, the Mi Mix 2S is an iterative upgrade of last September’s Mi Mix 2. The major upgrades being the addition of a secondary rear-facing camera that’s said to be boosted by new AI-software, and the expected internal hardware bump to the latest and greatest Snapdragon 845 with 8GB of RAM. The new device also supports wireless charging – a first for Xiaomi handsets.  Otherwise, the phone retains the ceramic build from last year’s handset, and the battery size remains the same at 3,400mAh.

Even if we ignore the camera upgrade, the 845/8GB combo alone make the Mi Mix 2S a good value proposition because it’s one of the most powerful Android hardware tandems possible right now. While no official pricing has been announced yet, the phone will certainly cost much less than what Samsung or Sony are charging for their Snapdragon 845 phones. I ran the Mi Mix 2S on the benchmarking app PCMark and it scored the highest points I’ve seen: 8,132. 

But we shouldn’t ignore the cameras, even if every phone brand is abusing the buzzword “AI” right now to the point that it’s hard to tell what is real. The Mi Mix 2S’ camera set-up is a major improvement on the original Mi Mix 2, and easily Xiaomi’s best camera system yet. Photography has never been a strong point in Xiaomi’s handsets – they were never bad, just solid at best. The Mi Mix 2S’ cameras, after two days of heavy testing, can at least go toe to toe with the big boys and not look completely outclassed. 

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 full review: elegant smartphone with a lot of good features including brand’s best camera yet, and great value

The biggest improvements come in bokeh and night time shots. Xiaomi says its engineers applied machine learning to further analyse and differentiate the difference between subject, object and background. After testing for myself, I’m inclined to think Xiaomi’s claims are true. 

The Mi Mix 2S’ bokeh mode consistently churned out great looking portraits that actually blurred the background correctly. In the sample above, you’ll see the subject has hair that’s more difficult to apply bokeh effects to, yet the Mi Mix 2S did it just about flawlessly.

Night time shots also turn out well. The Mi Mix 2S is able to pull light into what should be dark shots without the photo appearing over-processed. When viewed on phone screens or Instagram, Mi Mix 2S’ night shots will look just as good as the best lowlight mobile cameras out there (Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2), but when enlarged and examined closely on a large screen, Xiaomi’s images still fall short in detail. 

New to Xiaomi’s Android skin (MIUI 9.5) is a new swiping gesture that eliminates the need for Android’s traditional three button set-up, giving the user more screen to play with. Previous MIUI annoyances such as the inability to expand notifications has also been fixed. This may not be the most exciting upgrade, but it’s a welcome one.