Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 Review: Flagship Killer
Xiaomi delivers bezel-less value with few compromises
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
2017 will be remembered as the year we say a fond farewell to bezels on our smartphones.
While larger players like Samsung and Apple get all the hype for their bezel-free releases, it is important to remember that Xiaomi had set the trend almost a year sooner. The first iteration of the Mi MIX was a magnificent proof of concept. Sadly, it was not made available to the global market.
Xiaomi’s mobile offerings have traditionally pushed the limits of performance for price. As other manufacturers such as OnePlus begin to produce good phones for less, competition in the value market segment is starting to heat up. That’s where the Mi MIX 2 comes in.
The Mi MIX 2 has the look and feel of a premium device with internals to match. Released on the global market for the first time, the aim is to go up against the best flagships out there while differentiating itself from other budget offerings – a true flagship killer.
Of course, nothing good comes without a price. Compromises had to be made to bring you a premium product at literally half the price of an iPhone X. Are the trade-offs worth the price of admission? Read on to find out.
The Mi MIX 2 certainly made no compromises when it comes to internals.
Rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and the Adreno 540 GPU, it is right up there with the big Android flagships. You will never be found wanting.
The Mi MIX 2 comes with 64 GB of onboard storage with no room for expansion. This will suffice for most users, but is definitely a disappointment. A minor drawback that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for anyone.
The fingerprint sensor on the Mi MIX 2 is reliably quick and in the “right spot” on the back of the phone. This should come as no surprise considering similar sensors are available even on Xiaomi’s lower-end offerings.
Audio was one department that Xiaomi clearly cut corners on. The twin downward-firing speakers surrounding the USB type-C port are just clear enough and loud enough at max volume but lack any depth whatsoever. It sounds flat and unremarkable. It would do the trick for taking calls on speaker phone, but I would not recommend it for media consumption.
The subpar speakers make the exclusion of a headphone jack all the more painful. With a dongle and a set of wired earphones, the experience was nothing fancy compared to the likes of LG’s V30. Settings can be tweaked to improve the sound to your preference, but it only works with Xiaomi’s own earphones. Your best bet would be a set of wireless cans.
With a 3400 mAh non-removable battery powering the Mi MIX 2, you will get a full day’s use and then some. Certain software and design decisions certainly help the phone take little sips on its already generous power supply, but more on that later. Should you run out of juice, Quick Charge 3.0 will get you off the power socket in no time. Wireless charging is another noteworthy omission.
Software wise, the Mi MIX 2 runs Android Nougat with a Global version of the MIUI installed. Which means that the Mi MIX 2 comes ready for international markets with Google Play Services right out of the box. The device also features a dual Nano-SIM tray.
Overall, the MIUI experience definitely works in the Mi MIX 2’s favor. The aesthetics are clean and simple with little bloat-ware aside from a few Xiaomi exclusive apps. The software performance is buttery smooth with decent customization options. MIUI has really matured well and sets itself apart from some of the more intrusive Android skins out there.
This is where the Mi MIX 2 shines. At the price one pays for this device, one would not be expecting a ceramic back plate and an aluminum alloy frame -- much less, as Xiaomi claims, an 18-karat gold-plated trim on the rear camera!
The phone exudes refinement and feels solid in your hand. The material choices give the phone a good heft at 185 grams. Needless to say, you may want to put the included protective cover to good use. The shiny surfaces are prone to fingerprints and will not fare well to drops.
The Mi MIX 2 boasts impressive screen-to-body ratio like its predecessor. What little bezels that remain are a double-edged sword however. I appreciate having little bezels on the sides so that I don't accidentally press stuff while holding the device. The expansion of the top bezel over the original Mi MIX also gives it better call quality. While I can understand the sound design decisions that led to the Mi MIX2’s prominent chin, it is by far my biggest gripe with this phone.
While some of Xiaomi’s bezel-free competitors have opted to house the front-facing camera in a little notch on the screen, Xiaomi had decided to put it in in a less than flattering position. Leaving the camera on the chin would have been fine if right-handed users wouldn’t be blocking it with their thumbs half the time. The phone literally prompts you to flip it upside down every time you want to take a selfie. You would want to anyway, unless you like your selfies taken at an odd angle.
Despite doing away with the headphone jack, the Mi MIX 2 also lacks water resistance. These issues are ultimately nitpicks because, overall, you could do much worse at this price point. The effort thrown into the design and material choices are of phenomenal value.
Arguably the defining feature of the phone, the Mi MIX 2 comes with a pretty good 5.99-inch IPS LCD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. While it lacks the contrast and saturation of OLED panels on leading flagships, the screen is a visual treat for an IPS display with exceptionally vibrant colors. It also boasts great viewing angles and brightness in sunlight.
Many would be quick to point out that Xiaomi had skimped on going Quad HD in favor of a Full HD+ 2160 x 1080 resolution. While the Mi MIX 2 suffers in terms of pixel density, it more than makes up for it in battery life. It is still joy to behold when gaming or consuming media. Honestly, you’d struggle to see the difference at reasonable distances.
Speaking of battery-life, I find that the auto-brightness setting tends to err on the side of economy and set the screen a little too dim for my personal taste. Your mileage may vary, however.
The Mi MIX 2 sports a pretty standard single lens set-up with a 12 MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture and OIS. The hardware is pretty unremarkable, but some software magic will have you taking pretty decent shots.
Years ago, as I was tinkering with Xiaomi’s Mi4i, it surprised me how good the software made my photos look in a variety of conditions. It is pretty much the same story here. Stills look pleasing even under low light. It may not be true to life and hardcore shutterbugs may not like it. Simply put, it’s no Google Pixel but good enough for most users.
As mentioned, a run of the mill 5 MP selfie camera sits awkwardly at the bottom right of the Mi MIX 2’s chin. There is nothing amazing about it aside from its Beautify mode which even works real-time on video calls. I wish it was running a wider angle lens, though.
Overall, cameras on the Mi MIX 2 pale in comparison to some of the higher-end flagships on the market. They perform well enough that you won’t feel that Xiaomi had cut major corners here. You get all the basic features you would expect on a flagship shooter: HDR, panorama, burst, and manual. OIS really helps in recording 4K video too. The simplicity of the UI and software enhancements makes capturing fleeting moments a breeze with fairly decent results.
Should you buy it?
On paper the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2’s beefy specs and premium design make it a downright steal at below SGD 700. When you have it in hand though, you will come to appreciate its true value.
While it is far from perfect, I cannot adequately express how impressed I am at the level of polish showcased in this product. While it isn’t a quantum leap forward from its predecessor, the Mi MIX 2’s refinements in its screen, software, and design puts it within reach of the big boys who now emulate its initial bold concept.
The Mi MIX 2 is basically what Xiaomi does best at its highest level: the best possible bang for your buck. With good phones getting cheaper and cheap phones getting better, it sits at a sweet spot of price and performance and provides a solid no-frills Android experience. With the price of the OnePlus 5T being what it is in Singapore, you would be hard-pressed to find a better flagship killer than this.