~ Auto Buzz ~: Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 Review: The Ceramic, Bezel-less Smartphone Gets Even Better

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 Review: The Ceramic, Bezel-less Smartphone Gets Even Better



Xiaomi Brings Upgrades to its Bezel-less Smartphone in all of the Right Places.

In the fall of 2016, Xiaomi shocked the world when it announced the Mi MIX. It was a device that was not leaked at all – which is a pretty tough thing to do these days with the internet being the internet. And now the company is back with its sequel to the bezel-less smartphone, the Mi MIX 2. Many might see this is as a Mi MIX Lite, and that’s due to the fact that the device is actually smaller than the original, with a smaller display as well. Xiaomi has made quite a few changes with the Mi MIX 2, and that was all based on feedback from its users. So does the Mi MIX 2 become a flagship that can rival the other bezel-less devices out there, like the LG V30, Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X? It definitely comes close.

In the Box

Included with the Mi MIX 2 in the box, you’ll find the usual assortment of accessories. This includes a SIM ejection tool, a USB-C to USB-A cable, a wall adapter and even a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack dongle – and that’s because there is no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Mi MIX 2, following in the footsteps of the Mi 6 from earlier this year. Also inside, you’ll find a case for the Mi MIX 2. Now it’s not as nice of a case as the leather one that was included with the Mi MIX 2 last year, instead its a polycarbonate case, which actually looks and feels really nice. It’s not like those cheap ones you’ll find on Amazon that cost around $5-10.

Specs

There are two different models of the Mi MIX 2. The regular model comes with a ceramic back and a metal chassis while the Mi MIX 2 Special Edition is a ceramic unibody design which costs quite a bit more and is going to be available in much smaller quantities – this is due to the fact that making a ceramic unibody takes some time, and the yield is pretty low as well. The Mi MIX 2 Special Edition comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and weighs a bit more at 187g. Surprisingly enough, its height and width varies a bit as well. With the Mi MIX 2 Special Edition measuring in at 150.5mm x 74.6mm x 7.7mm. The regular Mi MIX 2 measures in at 151.8mm x 75.5mm x 7.7mm and weighs in at 185g.

Otherwise, both versions of the Mi MIX 2 feature a 5.99-inch Full HD display – which has a resolution of 2160×1080 and this is due to the fact that it is a 18:9 aspect ratio panel. This also gives us a pixel density of 403 pixels per inch. The Mi MIX 2 is powered by Qualcomm’s latest chipset, the Snapdragon 835 with the Adreno 540 GPU. There is also 6GB of RAM (with 8GB in the Mi MIX 2 Special Edition), and the option of 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage. There is no micro SD card slot, so it’s a good thing that Xiaomi does offer such large storage capacities on the Mi MIX 2.

Around the back, you’ll find a 12-megapixel camera, which is the Sony IMX386 sensor – the same sensor that is found in the Xiaomi Mi 6. It does feature 4-axis Optical Image Stabilization which is new to the Mi MIX 2. It uses a large 1.25um pixel sensor, and has an aperture of f/2.0. Now on the front, there is a 5-megapixel camera sensor.

While there is no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Mi MIX 2, Xiaomi has included Bluetooth 5.0, adding it to the very small list of devices supporting the latest version of Bluetooth. And there is also NFC support for mobile payments. It also supports WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, as well as 2×2 MIMO and MU-MIMO on WiFi. It also supports VoLTE and WiFi Calling out of the box, and supports virtually every LTE band in the world.

2G GSM 2, 3, 5, 8

3G CDMA EVDO, BC0, BC1, BC6, BC10

3G WCDMA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 19

3G TDS-CDMA 34, 39

4G TD-LTE 34, 38, 39, 40, 41

4G FDD-LTE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 41

Wrapping up the specs, it is running on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, as well as MIUI 9 Beta. It will get Android Oreo, but there’s no word on when specifically that will happen. Finally, it is powered by a non-removable 3400mAh battery.

Hardware & Build Quality

One of the bigger changes is the fact that the Mi MIX 2 now has rounded sides. This makes the Mi MIX 2 easier to handle, even though the overall footprint is quite a bit smaller than the original model. The ceramic back also isn’t as slippery as the original model, which is important, as you don’t want this phone to slip out of your hands. While ceramic is a pretty tough material, if it hits concrete, it will likely shatter. Xiaomi has also gone from making the camera flush on the back of the Mi MIX 2 to having a camera bump. When asked about why the Mi MIX 2 has a camera bump, we were told that this is because of the addition of 4-axis OIS, which as you can expect, does add a bit more hardware that needs to be fit inside the device.

On the bottom of the Mi MIX 2, you’ll find the USB-C port, along with a speaker on the right of it and a microphone on the left. Like most smartphones that have a speaker at the bottom, it looks like there is one on either side of the USB-C port, but this is just to make it look symmetrical as the other side is just a microphone. On the top, you’ll find another microphone. The left side houses the dual nano SIM card slot and the right is where the power button and volume rocker live. Xiaomi has added antenna lines on the top and bottom, which are pretty dark, like the black color it used for the aluminum chassis. This makes the blend in a bit more. And since it’s a ceramic back, there’s no need for antenna lines on the back of the device either.

The front of the Mi MIX 2 is basically all screen. About 80.8% of the front is display, which leaves little room for things like the front-facing camera, LED notification light and an earpiece. Xiaomi went back to a regular speaker at the top for making calls this year, as the one used last year was pretty bad at delivering sound when on a phone call. So you’ll see a very small sliver for that earpiece. At the bottom, you’ll find a notification light just above the USB-C port and the front-facing camera in the lower right-hand corner. So you will need to flip the phone upside-down to take selfies. Xiaomi did also add a coat of paint to make the camera blend in a bit more in that bottom bezel. And Xiaomi was very proud that it did not need to add a notch for something like a front-facing camera – like the Essential PH-1 or the iPhone X.

The Mi MIX 2 feels really good in the hand, compared to the original version. This is partly due to its smaller display, which makes the phone smaller and easier to handle. This is still a 5.99-inch display, so it’s not a small smartphone, it’s just smaller than the Mi MIX. The addition of the curved sides, also makes the Mi MIX 2 easier to hold in the hand. While the original Mi MIX felt like it would slide out of my hand at any second, the Mi MIX 2 does not, and has not slid out of my hand at all during the review period. Which is a good change for the device.

Display

Those looking purely at specs, will see that the Mi MIX 2 does sport a Full HD+ display, and that doesn’t sound like a flagship spec in 2017. But those that follow Xiaomi and have used its devices in the past, will know that Xiaomi typically sticks with Full HD panels. And that’s because Quad HD doesn’t offer many advantages over Full HD, with the main one being virtual reality. Many may think that a Full HD+ display on a 5.99-inch panel would look pretty subpar. But that would be wrong. This display looks pretty good, and the only real complaint that we have about this panel is that it is an LCD instead of an AMOLED panel. It still looks good, but with an AMOLED panel it would look even better.

Auto brightness works fairly well on the Mi MIX 2. It keeps the display bright enough to see, no matter what lighting condition you are in, but not too bright that it is wasting battery. Speaking of brightness, many will wonder about its visibility outdoors in direct sunlight. And well, it’s decent, but not the best. You can use it outside in direct sunlight, but don’t expect to see it as clearly as something like the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8, both of which get insanely bright.

The panel here looks just a smidge warm. To the untrained eye, this won’t be an issue. However, Xiaomi does give the user the option of adjusting the temperature to make it warmer or cooler – although the settings aren’t quite as granular as other smartphones. You also have the ability to adjust the contrast, which we left it on auto contrast, which keeps the display looking pretty good here.

Performance

With the Snapdragon 835, Adreno 540 and 6GB of RAM, there should be absolutely zero issues with performance on the Mi MIX 2. And that is what you’ll get. With MIUI 9 Beta on-board, the Mi MIX 2 just flies through everything. There were no slowdowns in the interface at all with the Snapdragon 835, and apps weren’t being redrawn much at all, with the 6GB of RAM included. Surprisingly, we found ourselves often using around 5GB of the 6GB that was included. This hasn’t been the case with other smartphones, but whatever the case may be, unused RAM is wasted RAM and it hasn’t effected performance on the Mi MIX 2 at all.

Storage here is UFS 2.1, which is pretty fast. And in our review unit here, which is the 256GB model, you’re getting around 244GB out of the box. We can’t speak to what you’ll get with the 64GB and 128GB models since we don’t have those in hand. But it’ll likely be similar, around 12GB of space used for the system. With 256GB of storage included, we’ve installed quite a few apps, taken loads of pictures and video and still have over 200GB of storage available. So if you’re someone that hoards a lot of data or stores their music offline, this model is going to be perfect for you, even without a micro SD card slot.

Gaming performance is exactly what you would expect out of a device with the Snapdragon 835 and the Adreno 540 GPU. It’s snappy, graphics look incredible and the Mi MIX 2 does not get hot at all. The temperature is definitely a nice thing to see, seeing as gaming does usually make phones a bit warmer than normal. We played quite a few games on the Mi MIX 2 and they all ran perfectly fine with no issues at all.

Speaker & Audio Quality

The speaker on the Mi MIX 2 is at the bottom of the phone, and unlike some other smartphones, it isn’t using the earpiece as a second speaker. The sound coming from this speaker does get quite loud, and it doesn’t get distorted. The sound is adequate. It’s not going to win any awards for being high fidelity audio or anything like that, but it does its job and does it well.

Now, what’s on everyone’s mind is the lack of a headphone jack. Xiaomi does include a dongle so you can still use your regular headphones with the Mi MIX 2. But remember that the dongle does not have a splitter, so that you are either charging your Mi MIX 2 or listening via your headphones. Of course, the better way around this is to use a pair of Bluetooth headphones. And with Bluetooth 5.0, you can connect multiple headphones to the Mi MIX 2 at the same time. We used a few different models with the Mi MIX 2 and the audio sounded about the same as with another device, like the Galaxy Note 8. So again, there’s nothing special here like a quad DAC that you might find in the LG V30. And for those that are not audiophiles, this setup is going to be perfectly fine.

Phone Calls & Network

For those in the US that have been wanting to pick up a Xiaomi smartphone and use it in the US, this is the feature that you are likely most excited about. There are 43 LTE bands included on the Mi MIX 2, which is kind of insane, considering every other “global” smartphone has around 37 LTE bands. It has virtually every band you would need for any country in the world. The only band that appears to be missing is the band 71 which is for T-Mobile’s 600MHz spectrum – and right now, that’s not a big deal, even the new iPhone’s don’t support that band yet.

During the review period, we have been using the Mi MIX 2 in the US on T-Mobile. And we have experiences basically the same speeds as a T-Mobile branded Galaxy S8. So that means that this Mi MIX 2 works pretty well in the US. On top of that, it does also have VoLTE and WiFi Calling available out of the box. And both work on T-Mobile’s network, which is pretty impressive, especially since the Mi MIX 2 won’t be coming to the US – you can import it though, at a higher cost.

Calls, both through the traditional voice network and using VoLTE, worked as expected. We didn’t experience any drops at all while making calls with the Mi MIX 2. Those on the other end were able to hear us loud and clear, even with the pretty thin earpiece on the Mi MIX 2, which is also great to see. And a big improvement over the original Mi MIX 2.

Fingerprint Sensor

The fingerprint sensor has not moved from the original Mi MIX. It is still placed below the camera, in the center, towards the top of the backside. This is where most manufacturers are placing their fingerprint sensors these days, as it makes it easier to reach, seeing as your finger is already sitting right there. The sensor is pretty accurate and fast. It rarely has trouble recognizing my finger when attempting to unlock the phone. That’s something that is pretty common these days actually, as fingerprint sensors have gotten pretty accurate, and pretty fast as well.

There aren’t many shortcuts or gestures that can be used with the fingerprint sensor, but one that is actually pretty handy is using the fingerprint sensor as a shutter button when in the camera app. This makes it easier to take photos with one hand, as you can just tap the fingerprint sensor instead of the shutter button within the camera app. This can be turned off within the camera app as well. And finally, there is one somewhat minor difference in the fingerprint sensors in the Mi MIX 2 and the Mi MIX 2 Special Edition. And that is the fact that the Mi MIX 2 Special Edition does have a 18K gold ring around the sensor. Making it stand out, and look identical to the camera.

Benchmarks

The benchmarks on the Mi MIX 2 are somewhat similar to the Galaxy Note 8. And that’s not a surprise, considering they are running essentially the same hardware, with different software. In some benchmarks the Galaxy Note 8 was a bit ahead and others the Mi MIX 2 was ahead. But the scores are very close nevertheless. Which means that the user won’t notice any difference between the two in day-to-day usage.

On AnTuTu, the Mi MIX 2 scored 177,209, which puts it in third place just below the OnePlus 5 and HTC U11. Over in Geekbench 4, it picked up a single-core score of 1924, and a multi-core score of 6147. Finally, over in 3D Mark, it picked up a score of 2700 in the Sling Shot Extreme test. You can see the full test results in the gallery below.

Battery Life

A 3400mAh battery capacity does seem rather popular in 2017, with most smartphones featuring batteries between 3000 and 3500mAh. Which led many people to believe that the Mi MIX 2 wouldn’t be able to go a full day without needing to be recharged. Which is incorrect. In the US, we were able to get over a day out of the battery and still have around 30-40% left. Now when we were using this in China, the story was a bit different. And that was due to roaming and also having a VPN running all day which did eat up quite a bit of battery. But it still lasted a full day, even under heavy usage. So for most people, you’ll be able to get at least a full day out of this battery, with around 4-6 hours of on screen time. And if you utilize Xiaomi’s battery saving features, you could likely get even more.

Even if it doesn’t last you a full day, the Mi MIX 2 can be topped off pretty quickly. And that’s thanks to having Quick Charge 3.0 included. While the device does run the Snapdragon 835 and that does support Quick Charge 4, Xiaomi has opted to stick with Quick Charge 3.0 instead. Which is still plenty fast. Even with a 3400mAh capacity, the Mi MIX 2 was able to go from 0 to 100% in just a little under 2 hours. Which is similar to other smartphones like the LG G6 which has a 3400mAh battery and Quick Charge 3.0 support.

At the end of the day, this means that Xiaomi’s software – MIUI 9 – is pretty lightweight and optimized to give you great battery life. Of course, having a Full HD+ display over a Quad HD+ display does also help in that manner. So those worried about the battery not lasting all day, don’t. It will last you a full 18+ hour day and then some.

Software

On the software front, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 is running on Android 7.1.1, with MIUI 9 Beta installed. It also has the August 1st, 2017 security patch. That’s not the most up-to-date security patch available, but it is fairly new (only September’s is newer). When it comes to updates, Xiaomi is pretty good with updating its smartphones. However, it does take its time with updating to new versions of Android. But MIUI updates come out quite often, and it always adds in features that its customers are asking for – which customers can ask for in the MI Community, and that app is pre-installed here.

Software-wise, if you’ve ever used MIUI, you know what you’re getting here. It is a pretty colorful overlay on top of Android Nougat. There’s no app drawer, of course that can be cured with a third-party launcher, and all of the apps are installed on your home screen. There aren’t many pre-installed apps here. Just a handful of Microsoft apps, and SwiftKey. There are a few new features in MIUI on the Mi MIX 2 – and these aren’t exclusive to the Mi MIX 2. And one of those is in the calculator. Xiaomi has worked hard to make the calculator app a one-stop shop for everything. There are a few different modes available here, including the ability to convert currency, convert units of measurement and much more. This is especially useful if you travel a lot.

This is a 18:9 aspect ratio display, which means its taller than most smartphones. However apps don’t have any issues rendering on this display. They automatically load in 18:9, and those that aren’t able too, will see a small black bar at the top of the app, between the app and the status bar. It does look a little odd at first, but it works out fine. When watching video, you’ll see black bars on either side of the video. Unlike with Samsung’s smartphones, it does not crop to the aspect ratio of the display. Which might be preferred for some people, but it would be nice to have the option available. That is something that could be added in a software update though.

There is one other feature in MIUI 9 (and this isn’t new to MIUI) that will come in handy on the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2. And that’s split screen, also known as multi-window on other smartphones. Just hit the recents button and you’ll see a button at the top of the screen for entering split screen mode. Tap that and you’ll be able to open your choice of two apps. Now, there are a few apps that are not supported in split screen mode, but the number is pretty small. In fact, the only one we ran into issues with was Instagram – which doesn’t support split screen or multi window on virtually any device, heck it doesn’t even support rotating to landscape mode. Split screen mode on the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 is exactly what you’d expect. It works well and with the Snapdragon 835 inside, it does not lag at all. This means that users will be able to watch a video in the top half of the screen and reply to a message in the bottom half. And with the large 5.99-inch display on the Mi MIX 2 and it being a 18:9 aspect ratio, it looks good with split screen mode.

Software is pretty lightweight on the Mi MIX 2 and it is smooth as well. There’s not much to complain about in MIUI 9. Of course, some will prefer to have an app drawer on their smartphone, but it’s not the end of the world. Seeing as you are able to install a third-party launcher like Nova or Action Launcher and get rid of that. MIUI does also have many themes that you can choose from. So if you don’t like the default theme, you can switch it up for something else.

Camera

The camera app is pretty much identical to Xiaomi’s earlier devices. And that is a pretty minimal and easy-to-use camera app. There are plenty of modes to choose from here, including Audio, Beautify, Square (1:1), Timer, Straighten, Tilt-shift, Panorama, Manual, Group Selfies and HHT. Manual is of course the most used and most requested mode on any smartphone these days. And this is because it allows users to control every aspect of the shot. That includes the ISO, Exposure, Focus and White Balance. So you can get that perfect shot. Now in the settings, you do have the option of going with different size frames. You can choose to stick with the regular 4:3, 16:9 or 18:9. The 18:9 frame produces some really wide shots, which looks pretty cool and unique.

HDR is here, but there’s no Auto HDR, so it’s either on or off. What we did notice while using the Mi MIX 2 is that with HDR on, the camera was quite a bit slower. It was actually slower in finishing the shot. Likely due to grabbing more data for the shot. So when you would hit the shutter button, the viewfinder would lag for a few seconds before saving the shot. However, this doesn’t happen all of the time. So the best bet here is to only turn on HDR when you need it (for instance when outside) and turn it off the rest of the time. You do also have all of the different filters you’d expect on a smartphone camera in 2017, so you don’t have to add filters through Instagram. On the video side, you get two modes, time-lapse and slow motion. The camera can record in 4K at 30fps. It only does slow-motion in 720p which is at 120fps. So if you are okay with the lower resolution, you can get some pretty cool looking slow-motion videos out of this camera.

Camera Performance

Perhaps the biggest complaint about the original Mi MIX was the camera. It just was not good at all. Particularly in low-light. And well Xiaomi heard the complaints and went with a better camera sensor this time around. It’s the IMX386, which is the same sensor from the Mi 6, which had an amazing camera. But Xiaomi did not go dual-camera on the Mi MIX 2, which is understandable, it does need to keep costs down at least a little bit. The single camera on the Mi MIX 2 still works really well though.

Color reproduction on the Mi MIX 2 camera is pretty good. Even in low light, the camera does pretty well, leaving out a bunch of the grain or noise that you might see on other smartphone cameras. The amount of detail in these images is actually rather impressive, and puts it in the same league as what Samsung has with the Galaxy S8. Of course, with less light, there is also less detail, as is always the case with smartphone cameras. So no real surprise there. We took a number of pictures with the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, and just about every single one of them was a keeper – which you can see in the gallery below. The camera was pretty impressive, and aside from the slowness of using HDR, there’s very little to complain about. Sure having the second camera for Xiaomi’s portrait mode would be great, having a great camera is the bigger priority and it’s something that Xiaomi was able to do.

The Good

Build Quality

Physical Size

Camera

Display

Battery Life

The Bad

LCD over AMOLED display

No dual camera setup

No headphone jack

No Waterproofing

Wrap Up

The Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 isn’t as exciting a product as the original was. And that was mostly because the original was the first real bezel-less smartphone, and it was kept under wraps by Xiaomi so everyone was surprised. But with the Mi MIX 2, the company teased it quite a bit. And it did deliver. Xiaomi improved the Mi MIX 2 in all of the areas that it needed improvements. Which included shrinking the overall size of the device, adding a better camera, and making the sides rounded so it fits in your hand better. On top of that, Xiaomi was able to lower the price from 3499 RMB to 3299 RMB on the 6GB/64GB model. Which is actually pretty impressive when you think about it.

Should you Buy the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2?

There’s really no reason not to pick up the Mi MIX 2. If you’re debating between getting the LG V30 and the Galaxy Note 8, go ahead and grab the Mi MIX 2. It can do everything that those two can do (although the V30 may have a slightly better camera), and it’s a bit cheaper. Coming in at around $500 USD (give or take a few bucks), it’s hard to pass this one up. Unfortunately for those in the US, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 will not be sold here. The device is starting out in China, and will proceed to be available in other markets that Xiaomi already sells smartphones in. Which does not include the US. But there are other ways to get one in the US, which is by importing it from retailers like GearBest. And of course that means a higher price, and that could mean that the Mi MIX 2 isn’t cheaper than the likes of the LG V30 and Galaxy Note 8 – for those importing.

Buy the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2

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