It’s been a little over a year, since Xiaomi announced its Mi 5 smartphone. The device was a flagship and on stage, ex-vice president Hugo Barra stressed on how the Mi 5 offered better value for money over existing premium flagship smartphones in the market.
In our review of the Mi 5 we concluded that it was a fine device, with decent low light camera performance, and decent software as well. It was no Galaxy S7, but it packed in enough processing power to compete with the premium flagships and the OnePlus 2 (and the soon to arrive OnePlus 3).
Later that year, at a Xiaomi event held in China, the internet company announced the Mi Mix Concept smartphone. It seemed like something unbelievable at the time, an almost bezel-less display with a body made of ceramic, designed by famous industrial designer Philippe Starck. It sent tremors across the smartphone world, proving to critics that Xiaomi as a Chinese smartphone brand could innovate. Apart from the display, the device also featured piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology since it could not accommodate an earpiece because of the thin bezels at the top, and the sides. Even the camera was moved down to the chin. The phone never made it to India, but it wasn’t received too well by the reviewers because of its average camera and large size, despite the great build quality using ceramic.
A few months later, around the IFA 2017 event, Xiaomi announced a mass production versionof the Mi Mix concept smartphone called the Mi Mix 2. A few months later, it has finally been launched in India at Rs 35,999. So what has improved? Is it a better buy over the OnePlus 5? Or is it just a case of ‘all show and no go’? Let’s find out!
Build and Design: 8.5/10
Having used the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S8+, the Galaxy Note 8, the LG G6, the iPhone 8 Plus and the OnePlus 5, I must say that Xiaomi has silenced a critic like myself, who looks into the tiniest details that go into the making of these premium smartphones.
It is impressive to see a Chinese smartphone manufacturer come up with something original at a time when every other smartphone looks similar to the one next to it in a retail store. So far the only design that has stood out this year, was the Galaxy S8 that managed to fit in a larger display in a smaller footprint. Samsung did a great job with the curved edges, which rendered the S8 as an almost bezel-less smartphone with bezels just at the top and the bottom.
The Mi Mix 2 is not bezel-less smartphone because well, there are bezels (about 3 mm thin to be precise). It’s just that you keep forgetting about them every time you unlock that display, which appears more like a window into your smartphone. Xiaomi’s software too plays a big role in giving you that impression where the rounded UI elements play nice with the rounded corners of the display. So the software and hardware integration that forms the UI here can only be compared to an Apple iPhone X. But it too has an annoying notch at the top. So Kudos to Xiaomi on this one!
The earpiece is almost hidden out of view, but sounded loud and clear despite its discreet location, which is deeper in the chassis.
The selfie camera sits at the bottom chin at the right corner, while the ambient light sensor is hidden in the left side of the chin. It is really hard to tell that a sensor is actually present in that area, until you mistakenly cover it and your display goes dim. This becomes a bit of a problem when you hold the smartphone horizontally while playing games.
The back cover of the device comes with a proper 2.5D sheet of ceramic and it’s here for a reason. Ceramic is literally scratchproof with most of the objects you will find in your pocket. I usually don’t carry around keys or coins (blame demonetisation for that) in my pockets but even if I did, I think the metal frame would have acquired scratches and scuffs but not the ceramic sheet on the back.
The ‘piano black’ colour of this ceramic sheet is also very unique. Add the 18-carat gold plating for the camera ring and some gold-coloured lettering on the back below it and you have a very premium-looking device that can easily compete with the premium flagship smartphones that are priced a lot higher. The glass on both the front and back did not catch smudges or fingerprints easily. Xiaomi did provide a well-made rubberised case, but I did not end up using it because I wanted to check how the ceramic felt and wore out with daily use (it did not).
So is it the perfect picture? Not exactly. The device is not IP 67 or 68 dust and water resistant. When we quizzed Manu Jain about it. He said, that Xiaomi has yet to begin working with special components needed for delivering such smartphones, and that IP rating would be a gradual move.
Then there’s that unfinished USB Type C port cut-out at the bottom, which kept reminding me that this is a Chinese smartphone. Every time you pick up the phone, and place your pinky at the center of the bottom edge for support, you can feel the sharp edge. But it’s far from the hastily finished machining found all over the OnePlus 5.
All-in-all, at Rs 35,999 I found both the design and construction quality up to the mark, save for that USB port at the bottom, which was a bit annoying. This is because even with that tiny problem, it’s still leagues better than what other manufacturers have on offer in this segment.
On paper, the Mix 2 appears to be the perfect smartphone, at the perfect price. You get a 5.99-inch Full HD plus IPS LCD display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, sporting a resolution of 1,080 x 2,160 pixels. Inside, there’s a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core chipset that is paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of internal storage with no storage expansion.
The camera on the rear features a 12 MP Sony IMX386 sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, PDAF and a 4-axis OIS system accompanied by a dual LED flash. On the front, there’s an f/2.0 aperture lens with a 5 MP sensor behind it for selfies.
Connectivity options include the usual 4G/LTE, 3G, 2G radios, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC and that USB Type C port at the bottom edge.
There’s a fingerprint reader on the back and 3,400 mAh battery inside that also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging technology.
The Mi Mix 2’s display may not be one of the most pixel-dense ones around, but Xiaomi has struck quite the balance here. The display is an IPS LCD unit, supports 16 million colours and covers the front face with an 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. But as penned down in my first impressions I expected the worst, since it did not pack in a Quad HD unit considering the display’s size.
Thankfully, that Full HD plus resolution (1,080 x 2,160 pixels) gives a good 403 PPI pixel density. So despite Xiaomi’s abnormally fine software MIUI V8 elements, I did not spot jagged edges, whether it was icons, text or images.
The colours were spot on in my opinion and were not oversaturated like the AMOLED units on the OnePlus 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S8 (the Note 8 has a better display).
What I like even more, was the fact that it was flat and did not feature curved edges. The curved edges on the Galaxy S8 do eat into your screen’s usable real estate, so while it looks fancy and makes for a bezel-less appearance, it may not necessarily be a good thing.
Considering that this is a Sunlight display, I used the device in almost all lighting conditions. From a dark room, to a dimly lit environment, to coloured lighting and in direct sunlight. I must conclude that Xiaomi has done a fantastic job at tuning this display and loved how it adjusts to various types of lighting to reveal the right colours. There is that barely visible fine red tint, but that’s noticeable when I compare it to the Rs 77,000 iPhone 8’s display. In short, there’s not much to complain and the stuff you get here is incomparable with the rest of the offerings in this range.
Still then, if you are not happy with the way it looks, you can head into display settings and change the tone and the contrast according to your liking.
Like always, Xiaomi’s heavily customised MIUI V8 takes up residence in yet another Mi-branded smartphone. This time around, there is a difference.
It may look like the same MIUI V8 that we see on other smartphones by the brand, but it feels at home here and this is because of one hardware change, the rounded corners.
It makes a world of a difference for someone like me who installs apps based on what font they use and how well finished their user interface is. So a display with rounded corners and Xiaomi’s minimalist approach with MIUI 8 actually complimented each other in a way few smartphones today can.
The closest comparison to this experience would be the iPhone X, but it too packs in an annoying notch at the top to accommodate it new FaceID system.
The OS feels buttery smooth and there’s hint of slowdown or stuttering. In fact, it felt better and a lot lighter than’s Samsung’s TouchWiz that feels heavier despite looking minimalist with the recent shift to white backgrounds.
In the Recents menu, I like the idea of stacking the previously visible menus for apps. Open Settings, then tap on display, hit the home button. Short-press on the options key on the navigation bar and you will see those two pages stacked one behind the other. Even if it works just with the Settings it’s unique and helps you get to that particular page in Settings faster. So far, no other customised version of Android (nor Google) on any other smartphone does this.
With Android 7.1 Nougat on board and the heavy customisation options, I did miss the app shortcuts that you get on stock Android. But there was enough to keep me fidgeting with, thanks in part to the fluid UI, so I did not miss the stock features much.