Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Astounding, audacious, accessible
The first-generation Mi Mix was awe-inspiring, and with its successor, Xiaomi is looking to retain that 'wow' factor while making the device accessible to a wider audience.
Xiaomi made the rest of the smartphone industry stand up and take notice with the Mi Mix. The phone's all-screen front with a 91.3% screen-to-body ratio and ceramic construction made it stand out, but with Xiaomi opting to sell the device primarily in China, most consumers had to resort to third-party options to get their hands on the Mi Mix.
Thankfully, that's changing with the Mi Mix 2. The phone will be making its way to over 30 markets where Xiaomi currently has a presence, and with 42 LTE bands onboard, you'll be able to use it on most carriers around the world. Xiaomi also made a few design tweaks to make the phone more accessible, including trimming down the size of the screen, and switching back to an earpiece that actually works.
The price is what makes the Mi Mix 2 that much more enticing: the base variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage retails for the equivalent of $500 in China, and Xiaomi introducing it at the same price in other regions. Let's find out if the Mi Mix 2 is able to differentiate itself from the rest of the phones in this segment.
About this review
I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Mi Mix 2 for two weeks, with usage spread across Beijing and Hyderabad. I used the phone primarily on Airtel's 4G network, and was on roaming with China Mobile. The device is running the first global beta ROM of MIUI (build 7.8.24), and has picked up a single update with stability fixes, incrementing the build number to 7.9.21. The unit was provided to Android Central for review by Xiaomi.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Specs
|Operating System||MIUI 9
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
|Display||5.9-inch 18:9 IPS LCD 2160 x 1080 (403ppi)
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
2.45GHz octa-core Kryo 280
|RAM||6GB LPDDR4X (8GB LPDDR4X special edition)|
|Storage||64GB/128GB/256GB UFS 2.1 flash storage (128GB special edition)|
Quick Charge 3.0 (9V/2A)
|Rear Camera||12MP (Sony IMX 386) f/2.0, 1.25-micron pixels
4-axis OIS, two-tone flash, PDAF
[email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 ac MU MIMO, 2x2 MIMO LTE with VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0
|Network bands||FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/27/28/29/30
TDD-LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41
TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39
WCDMA: Band 1/2/3/4/5/6/8/9/19
CDMA EVDO: BC0, BC1, BC6, BC10
GSM: Band 2/3/5/8
|Security||One-touch fingerprint sensor at the back|
|SIM||Dual nano-SIM slot|
|Dimensions||151.8 x 75.5 x 7.7mm
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Hardware
The Mi Mix 2 looks a lot like its predecessor, and that's a good thing. The first-generation Mi Mix was stunning to behold thanks to its all-screen display, and we're treated to a similar design this time around. The Mix 2 has razor-thin bezels on three sides, leading to an immersive display that's ideal for multimedia consumption.
There's a chin at the bottom that houses the 5MP front camera and the notification LED, with Xiaomi noting that the bottom bezel is now 12% thinner than that on the Mi Mix. Xiaomi used a piezoelectric acoustic driver last year, but switched to a standard earpiece that's located just above the display this time around. The earpiece itself is decent enough, and you shouldn't have any issues for voice calls.
The Mi Mix had a crazy 91.3% screen-to-body ratio, but the large 6.44-inch display made it difficult to use the phone one-handed. With the Mi Mix 2, Xiaomi decreased the screen size to a more manageable 5.99 inches, making the phone more conducive to one-handed usage. The fact that it is an 18:9 display means that the phone is quite tall, and you're not going to be able to reach all corners of the display.
Whereas the Mi Mix was blocky at the back, its successor has smooth edges and rounded corners, resulting in a much better in-hand feel. The design at the back is relatively unchanged from the Mi Mix: there's an 18-carat gold accent around the camera sensor, and the "Mix designed by Xiaomi" tagline is still laser-etched onto the back. Xiaomi is once again using a ceramic back, but the mid-frame is made out of aluminum. There's a single speaker located at the bottom of the phone, and a USB-C charging port next to it. There's no IR sensor on the phone, and you're not going to find a 3.5mm jack either.
Bezel-less phones like the Essential Phone and the iPhone X have a notch or cutout at the top to accommodate the front camera module. Xiaomi, meanwhile, decided to move the camera to the bottom right corner of the phone, and in doing so the top of the Mi Mix 2 is seamless and not marred by any cutouts.
The first-generation Mi Mix also sported the front camera at the bottom of the screen, but this time around Xiaomi is using an even smaller imaging sensor, and the area around the lens is blacked out. That said, the same problems that plagued the first-generation Mi Mix are back with the Mi Mix 2: the position of the front camera makes it incredibly awkward to use, and more often than not, you'll end up getting a weird chin-first angle when taking selfies. The camera app tells you to invert the phone to take selfies, which isn't ideal. While it works for the default camera app, there's no way to change orientation in apps like Duo.
The defining feature on the phone is the all-screen front, and while Xiaomi would have fared better with a QHD panel, the FHD+ display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080 is really good. It doesn't get as saturated as the AMOLED panels on Samsung's phones, but it is one of the best LCDs you'll find in the market today.
Colors reproduction is accurate, and if you're looking for punchier colors, there's an option to adjust the color temperature in the settings. The phone gets sufficiently bright for outdoor usage, and you can reduce the brightness all the way down to 1nit for viewing the screen at night.
There's also a dedicated reading mode that acts as a blue light filter. Where things get less fun is when watching videos. With the 18:9 format still not standard, you'll see letterboxing at either side of the display when watching videos on the Mi Mix 2, which deters from the experience. Samsung has negated this by offering a stretch-to-fit feature on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, which stretches out videos to fill the entire screen. There's no such option on the Mi Mix 2.
The Mi Mix 2 is compatible with most carriers around the world.
The Mi Mix 2 is powered by the 10nm Snapdragon 835, and the base variant of the phone comes with 6GB of RAM. Xiaomi is making three storage configurations available: 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB (the model I'm reviewing). The 64GB model is available for what amounts to $500 in China, but you'll have to shell out close to $570 to get your hands on a unit from reseller sites.
As you'd imagine from a phone that has the latest hardware available today, the Mi Mix 2 absolutely blazes through anything you throw at it. I haven't noticed any slowdowns yet, and with MIUI 9 providing much-needed optimization for the UI elements, you won't feel like the interface is bloated (which was definitely the case with MIUI 8).
Xiaomi rolled out its first global phone last year in the Mi Note 2, with the phone featuring support for 37 LTE bands in total. The company is doing the same once again with the Mi Mix 2, offering 42 bands in total. That means that you'll be able to use the Mi Mix 2 on most carriers around the world, making it a much more enticing option for those looking to import the device.
Aside from the annoyances with the front camera, the Mi Mix 2 is a well-thought-out phone that certainly looks much better when compared to the likes of the OnePlus 5. Xiaomi is also offering a limited edition model crafted out of unibody ceramic that comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage. The phone will be available in black and white color options, and it looks absolutely stunning. You can clearly make out the difference between the ceramic and the aluminum mid-frame on the regular version, but the ceramic unibody edition has a seamless design that's evocative, particularly in the white color option.
If you're looking for a phone that stands out, then the unibody ceramic edition is the one to get. The phone will be incredibly hard to get a hold of, however, and at $720 it costs considerably more than the regular version.
Xiaomi phones are known for their battery longevity, and the Mi Mix 2 is no different. I easily got a day's worth of usage out of the 3400mAh battery consistently, even on days when I was using cellular data throughout. I routinely averaged screen-on-time in excess of five hours. And when you do need to top up, the phone has Quick Charge 3.0.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Software
The Mi Mix 2 runs the latest version of MIUI 9, which is based on Android 7.1.2 Nougat. MIUI 9 has a lot of new additions, but the user-facing ones are (for now) limited to the Chinese ROM. If you're buying the phone from a reseller like GearBest, you'll get the global ROM pre-installed, which comes with the Play Store and Google's suite of apps out of the box.
Xiaomi was one of the first brands to fully embrace a theming engine, and in MIUI 9 the engine is much better. You'll be able to change every facet of the user interface with themes, and there are hundreds of different theming options available from the Mi Store. Then there are the MIUI mainstays: an easy-to-use one-handed mode, Quick Ball shortcuts on the screen, Second Space, Dual Apps for running two instances of an app simultaneously. Xiaomi also introduced a split-screen mode, and it works just as you'd imagine — select Split Screen from the multitasking pane, and drag apps into the top and bottom halves of the screen.
There's a lot to like in MIUI 9, but it is very buggy in its current iteration.
One of the main highlights in MIUI 9 is system-wide optimization, which makes the UI feel much more responsive. If you're used a Xiaomi device running MIUI 8, you'll immediately notice the difference. That said, MIUI 9 does not bring any visual changes, and the notification shade in particular needs to be overhauled. Although the new panel with the integrated toggles made its debut in MIUI 8 (Xiaomi had a ghastly two-pane layout in MIUI 7), it looks dated. And although the phone is running Nougat, you lose out on features like inline replies and actionable notifications.
Then there's the issue of receiving notifications. For some reason, the Mi Mix 2 would not show incoming Slack notifications, and there's no way to expand notifications in the lock screen. The global ROM is still in beta, and there's a long way to go before we get to a finished build. However, with a global launch slated for next month, these issues should be resolved in forthcoming updates.
Xiaomi continues to deliver weekly updates with bug fixes and stability tweaks, and hopefully notification-related problems will be ironed out before the phone makes its way outside of China. I'll update the review once a stable version of MIUI 9 is available for the Mi Mix 2.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Camera
This year was defined by dual cameras making their way into phones across price points, and while Xiaomi rolled out dual rear cameras in the Mi 6, the company is sticking to a single shooter with the Mi Mix 2.
The primary 12MP imaging sensor itself is the same as what we've seen on the Mi 6, and it similarly offers 4-axis OIS and the ability to record 4K video at 30fps. And like the Mi 6, the camera on the Mi Mix 2 does a great job in daylight conditions, but it loses out on detail in low-light scenarios.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Bottom line
The Mi Mix 2 has the same fundamentals as its predecessor: an all-screen front with virtually no bezels on three sides, and a ceramic body. By shrinking the screen size down to 5.99 inches, Xiaomi has created a device that's easier to use on a day-to-day basis.
The fact that the Mi Mix 2 has global LTE bands makes it an easy recommendation if you're looking for a sub-$600 phone that manages to stand out. The same caveats as before apply though: you're not going to see any after-sales support in markets where Xiaomi doesn't sell phones, and if this is your first Xiaomi purchase, it'll take you awhile to get used to MIUI. If you're willing to put up with that, the Mi Mix 2 is a fantastic phone for the price.
The Mi Mix 2 is officially available in China and India, and if you're looking to pick up the device from another country, your best bet is to go through a reseller like GearBest. You'll have to shell out $559 for the variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage.
As for Indian customers, the phone will be sold later this month exclusively on Flipkart.
Update: Updated on October 10 with details on Indian pricing and availability.