Xiaomi Mi 6

Android Advisor - - Contents -

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Wow. That’s what comes to mind when you con­sider Xiaomi’s new flag­ship An­droid phone for 2017. The Mi 6 is around half the price of more fa­mil­iar flag­ships such as the Galaxy S8, LG G6, Sony Xpe­ria XZ Pre­mium and HTC U11, but it’s just as fast, just as beau­ti­ful, and just as much a musthave for any­one se­ri­ous about their smart­phone tech.

A clear con­tender for snatch­ing the crown for best Chi­nese phone, the suc­ces­sor to the Mi 5 and Mi 5s takes on de­sign as­pects from the Mi Note 2,

adds a dual-cam­era and for­ward-fac­ing fea­tures such as USB-C au­dio, and tops it all off with faster per­for­mance than any­thing we’ve seen yet.

While Sam­sung is still de­bat­ing whether to add a dual-cam­era or un­der-glass fin­ger­print scan­ner to its Galaxy line, Xiaomi’s al­ready done it. And though it might lack the Quad-HD In­fin­ity Dis­play and curved­glass edges, the Xiaomi has a great screen and is a much more com­fort­able size to hold in one hand.

Buy the Xiaomi Mi 6 in the UK

The one draw­back of the Xiaomi Mi 6 is that, un­like those afore­men­tioned ri­vals, it’s not avail­able to buy di­rectly from Xiaomi in the UK, nor from any of our ma­jor mo­bile op­er­a­tors. That means you’ll have to im­port it from China, and pay for the whole thing up front (though you can save some money with a SIM-only deal).

The up side of that is you’ll pay noth­ing like as much for the Xiaomi Mi 6 SIM-free as you would a flag­ship from the likes of Sam­sung, HTC, Sony and

LG. You won’t get much change from £700 for those phones, but with the Mi 6 you could al­most buy two. It’s in­cred­i­ble to be­lieve Xiaomi is able to of­fer such a great deal at what is in essence a mid-range price.

Our photo black Xiaomi Mi 6 is the ‘In­ter­na­tional’ edi­tion with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of stor­age. There’s also a ver­sion with 128GB stor­age (nei­ther sup­port ex­pan­sion via mi­croSD, though few peo­ple would find them­selves low on space at this ca­pac­ity) and a ce­ramic model with the same 18K gold de­tail­ing as seen on the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Mi Mix.

It was sent to us to re­view by GearBest, which is one of many Chi­nese com­pa­nies of­fer­ing to im­port tech to the UK and else­where. Pric­ing is just £381.91 for 64GB and £429.65 for 128GB, though you’ll need to also fac­tor into your bud­get im­port duty. This is usu­ally cal­cu­lated at 20 per­cent of the value printed on the ship­ping pa­per­work, plus an ad­min fee of around £11.

We’ve re­viewed many a Xiaomi phone sent to us by GearBest, and we’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced any is­sues. But we ac­knowl­edge that for some cus­tomers things can some­times go wrong, and when they do you need to re­mem­ber your rights are dif­fer­ent when pur­chas­ing goods from out­side the UK.

Some­thing else to con­sider is that dif­fer­ent cel­lu­lar fre­quen­cies are used in dif­fer­ent coun­tries across the globe, and these Chi­nese mod­els may not nec­es­sar­ily work in your coun­try of res­i­dence. In the UK what we typ­i­cally see with Xiaomi phones is that they don’t sup­port the 800MHz/Band 20 fre­quency which is re­lied on by O2, Gif­f­gaff, Sky Mo­bile and

oth­ers for 4G con­nec­tiv­ity. These cus­tomers will not re­ceive any­thing faster than 3G con­nec­tiv­ity with­out con­nect­ing to Wi-Fi, while cus­tomers of net­works that sup­port other 4G bands but also use 800MHz may find 4G cov­er­age patchier than they have done pre­vi­ously.

An­other thing that can make Xiaomi phones a poor fit for UK cus­tomers is their lack of Google apps. This is not true of all Xiaomi de­vices, and wher­ever pos­si­ble you should look to buy a ‘Global’ edi­tion of a Xiaomi phone which will in­clude ac­cess to the Google Play store and Google ser­vices out of the box. Some ‘In­ter­na­tional’ mod­els also come with Google Play pre­in­stalled, or al­low you to in­stall Google Ser­vices via the Mi App store.

Sadly, the In­ter­na­tional ver­sion of the Mi 6 we have here does not come pre­in­stalled with Google apps, and there’s no ob­vi­ous way to add them. We’ve read that this may have some­thing to do with MIUI 8.0, a cus­tom ver­sion of An­droid 6.0 Marsh­mal­low that is pre­in­stalled on the Mi 6, and if it is then there’s hope there will soon be a fix.

Of course we’ve found a work­around, but it is one that won’t ap­peal to less techy users. Some­thing to keep in mind be­fore you rush ahead and buy what looks to be the best-priced flag­ship of the year.

Add Google Ser­vices to Xiaomi Mi 6

Full credit for this work­around goes to Jaasir, a Di­a­mond Mem­ber of the MIUI com­mu­nity fo­rums.

Down­load the nec­es­sary files (RAR; Ex­tracted), then ex­tract them to your PC or lap­top’s desk­top.

Con­nect the Mi 6 via a USB-C ca­ble and open an Ex­plorer win­dow to view its con­tents (if you’re on a Mac use the An­droid File Trans­fer tool). Browse to In­ter­nal stor­age, MIUI, Backup, Al­lBackup (cre­ate that folder if it doesn’t al­ready ex­ist) and drop the file here to copy its con­tents to the phone. On the Mi 6 open the Set­tings menu and go to Ad­di­tional set­tings, Backup & re­set, Lo­cal back­ups, then tap on the file you just added. Tap Re­store. When the process has fin­ished, restart the phone, then launch the Google Play store icon on the home screen. You should be prompted to en­ter your Google ac­count de­tails.

De­sign

It’s very rare (although not un­known – re­mem­ber the LG G5 and the Google Pixel XL) for a com­pany’s

flag­ship to look any­thing short of amaz­ing. And so it is with the mir­ror-fin­ish Xiaomi Mi 6, though this phone ap­peals for more than its ba­sic good looks.

The Mi 6 is fit­ted with a 5.15in screen, fea­tures very slim screen bezels, and is just 7.5mm thick with al­most slip­pery smooth, rounded edges at the rear that make it feel ever so com­fort­able in the hand. As man­u­fac­tur­ers look to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves on screen size and qual­ity, with flag­ships that get larger with ev­ery new re­lease, Xiaomi is stick­ing to its ground. This is a rel­a­tively com­pact phone that will be ideal for those cus­tomers who think the mar­ket is be­gin­ning to out­grow them.

We still have yet to see a Quad-HD Xiaomi phone – this Mi 6 has a full-HD panel with a 1920x1080pixel res­o­lu­tion and a den­sity of 428ppi – but Xiaomi is not alone. It’s funny that the com­pany it is most

of­ten ac­cused of copy­ing, and one that is per­haps the big­gest and best-known in the western world, also has no Quad-HD smart­phone in its line-up. (Hint: Xiaomi is also known as China’s Ap­ple.)

We have to say we’re in­clined to agree with Ap­ple’s claims that you don’t need Quad-HD: though you ab­so­lutely can tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween full- and Quad-HD, so don’t be­lieve all that ‘Retina’ BS, the Mi 6 is per­fectly clear at this res­o­lu­tion. This is not a screen you’d find your­self com­plain­ing about.

With in­creas­ing screen res­o­lu­tions also comes in­creas­ing de­mands placed on the bat­tery, of course, and this is a stand­out area for the Mi 6, fit­ted as it is with a 3,350mAh cell that sup­ports Quick Charge (but not wire­less charg­ing) and may even keep go­ing two days. So the full-HD screen is a trade-off we’re more than happy to make – es­pe­cially when that dis­play is as bright (1- to 600 nits) and vi­brant as this one, with great con­trast, re­al­is­tic colours and ex­cel­lent viewing an­gles.

Xiaomi claims the Mi 6 has four-sided glass, which isn’t as amaz­ing – or con­fus­ing – as it sounds. Re­ally it means it is curved on the cor­ners as well as the edges, and only slightly – we’re not talk­ing curved in the same sense as we are with the Galaxy S8.

The Mi 6’s de­sign isn’t a huge de­par­ture from the Xiaomi Mi 5s be­fore it, which means you still get the un­der-glass fin­ger­print scan­ner on the home screen that sort of looks like the but­ton fell off (we’re not overly keen on it), but it has re­turned to the glass rear of the Mi 5 that was up­graded to alu­minium for the 5s. You still get a tough steel frame, and to be hon­est

we much pre­fer the Galaxy-es­que glass look even if it may be more vul­ner­a­ble to ac­ci­den­tal dam­age and oh so many fin­ger­prints.

Our photo black re­view sam­ple looks very much like a smaller ver­sion of the Mi Note 2, but with the cam­era - sorry, cam­eras - found flush to the frame in the top left corner. This is not the first Xiaomi to fea­ture a dual-cam­era (the Redmi Pro also had one), but it is the first dual-cam­era Xiaomi flag­ship. We’ll talk more about its pho­tog­ra­phy cre­den­tials later on.

The Mi 6 is said to be splash­proof, which is some­thing we’ve not seen be­fore from Xiaomi. As such it fea­tures a sealed SIM tray and lined ports. You’ll find USB-C on the bot­tom, as be­fore, and the vol­ume rocker in line with the SIM tray on the op­po­site side of the de­vice. This sits just above the power but­ton, while there’s an IR blaster (which is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare) at the top.

But some­thing is miss­ing here: the 3.5mm head­phone jack. Xiaomi is the lat­est phone maker to drop the head­phone jack in favour of USB-C au­dio. Ap­ple did the same thing with its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last Septem­ber, which caused a lot of com­plaints from users, although in the end ev­ery­one just got on with it. That’s prob­a­bly be­cause Ap­ple sup­plied a head­phone adap­tor in the box, which is what Xiaomi has also done here. Al­ter­na­tively, you can buy your­self a pair of wire­less or USB-C head­phones, or rely on the phone’s built-in au­dio – which isn’t bad, thanks to a pair of stereo speak­ers.

The Mi 6 is avail­able in black, sil­ver or blue, plus there’s a ce­ramic ver­sion.

Per­for­mance

Well, what can we say about the Mi 6’s per­for­mance: it’s breath­tak­ing. The Xiaomi fea­tures this year’s class-lead­ing pro­ces­sor – the octa-core Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835 – but while its ri­vals pair this chip with 4GB of DDR4 RAM Xiaomi spec­i­fies 6GB. It’s likely to get some com­pe­ti­tion soon from the up­com­ing OnePlus 5, which is also ru­moured to fea­ture this setup, but for now this pow­er­house is un­matched in the smart­phone world.

And that is proven by its ex­tra­or­di­nary per­for­mance in our bench­marks, as we will re­veal be­low.

The Snap­dragon 835 is a 10nm chip built in part­ner­ship be­tween Sam­sung and Qual­comm, which meant no phone man­u­fac­turer was al­lowed to use it un­til the Galaxy S8 had been un­veiled. Thus the LG G6, which would nor­mally be a ri­val for the lat­est

Xiaomi, was forced to use last year’s Snap­dragon 821 (as seen in the 5s). Its bench­mark­ing per­for­mance is there­fore much lower.

Sam­sung doesn’t ac­tu­ally use the Snap­dragon 835 in the UK – here you get the Exynos 8895 – but the Xiaomi still beat its per­for­mance in our bench­marks. The Snap­dragon 835 is a 10nm chip, which im­proves on Qual­comm’s pre­vi­ous 14nm chips with in­creases of up to 30 per­cent in ef­fi­ciency, 27 per­cent in per­for­mance and 40 per­cent in power con­sump­tion. It runs at a clock speed of up to 2.45GHz with a big.LIT­TLE ar­chi­tec­ture, which means four of the eight cores run at a lower 1.8GHz for ef­fi­ciency.

We ran the Mi 6 through our usual bench­marks and found some out­stand­ing re­sults. In Geek­bench 4 it recorded 6472 points multi-core (1940 sin­gle-core), and it notched up a huge 170,709 points in AnTuTu.

In graph­ics bench­mark GFXBench the Xiaomi proved it­self ab­so­lutely ca­pa­ble of all kinds of gam­ing and me­dia play­back, with a very high 59fps in T-Rex, 52fps in Man­hat­tan, 39fps in Man­hat­tan 3.1 and 25fps in Car Chase. It’s worth point­ing out that we run the on-screen tests since they are more closely re­lated to real-world us­age, though other phone re­view­ers of­ten quote the off­screen re­sults that are typ­i­cally higher.

We also ran the JetStream JavaScript test, and the Mi 6’s 70 re­sult is as good as it gets in the An­droid world. Only iPhones have scored higher in our tests.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

We touched on the fact that this Xiaomi phone does not sup­port 800MHz (Band 20) 4G LTE in the UK, but

that 2,100- and 2,600MHz 4G are cov­ered, and that those cus­tomers af­fected will still be able to re­ceive 3G. How­ever, some­thing we left out was that the Mi 6 ac­tu­ally ac­cepts two SIMs, op­er­at­ing in a dual-SIM dual-standby fash­ion.

If you need to bal­ance work and play and don’t want to carry around two phones, or if you’re go­ing abroad and want to use a lo­cal SIM for data, this is a use­ful – and very pop­u­lar out­side the UK – setup. The Mi 6 ac­cepts two Nano-SIMs. In com­mon with other Xiaomi phones one of these SIM slots can al­ter­na­tively be used to add a mi­croSD card up to 128GB in ca­pac­ity, though with in­ter­nal stor­age op­tions of 64and 128GB you may find you don’t need one.

The Xiaomi sup­ports Blue­tooth 5.0, GPS, GLONASS, NFC, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and even an IR blaster, which are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare but peo­ple still like them for their abil­ity to turn your phone into a

re­mote con­trol. Bizarrely, this was taken off the Xiaomi Mi 5s, mak­ing it even more ap­par­ent that this is an up­date to the Xiaomi Mi 5 rather than the Mi 5s.

Some­thing that is miss­ing, though, is the head­phone jack, which has been swapped out for a USB-C port in or­der to al­low space for a high­er­ca­pac­ity bat­tery. This may be a de­cid­ing fac­tor for you if you’re keen on au­dio.

The fin­ger­print scan­ner is ex­actly the same setup as we saw in the Xiaomi Mi 5s, which is to say very good - although we’re not per­son­ally keen on the way the front of the de­vice looks. The re­cessed area in which you place your finger just looks odd, and we yearn for

the phys­i­cal re­sponse press­ing an ac­tual but­ton would of­fer. But it is the fu­ture, in­creas­ingly so, and it ac­tu­ally works in­cred­i­bly well – fast and ac­cu­rate.

Cam­eras

The Xiaomi Mi 5s was fit­ted with the Sony IMX378, a 12Mp cam­era also used by the Google Pixel and one that of­fers very good im­age qual­ity. It’s im­proved things fur­ther for the Xiaomi Mi 6, now fit­ted with two 12Mp cam­eras – one with a wide-an­gle f/1.8 lens and the other a f/2.6 tele­photo lens. Key specs in­clude a 10x dig­i­tal zoom, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, four-axis OIS and PDAF. It can also shoot 4K video, of­fers var­i­ous

shoot­ing modes in­clud­ing man­ual, beau­tify, Tilt-shift and group shot, plus real-time fil­ters. Af­ter the photo is taken there are also some de­cent edit­ing tools.

We were im­pressed with the qual­ity of our test im­ages, which were very well ex­posed and of­fered very re­al­is­tic colours. De­tail was softer than we were ex­pect­ing, how­ever. The front cam­era has also been up­graded from 4- to 8Mp, which is plenty clear enough for video chat and self­ies.

Soft­ware

The Xiaomi Mi 6 runs MIUI 8.2, which is a cus­tom ver­sion of An­droid 6.0 Marsh­mal­low (the lat­est ver­sion of An­droid is Nougat, and An­droid O is ex­pected within the next few months). The main dif­fer­ences you’ll no­tice are the lack of an app tray – ev­ery­thing is laid out on the home screen in an iPhone-es­que fash­ion – and you’ll find some changes in the Set­tings menu. For­tu­nately there’s a search op­tion at the top that makes it eas­ier to find what you’re look­ing for.

Oh and, of course, the lack of Google Play. Which is a real is­sue for UK users (if you in­tend to use the Mi 6 only for calls and texts you don’t need a Mi 6). Un­til a Global model is of­fered with Google Play pre­in­stalled we wouldn’t rec­om­mend the Mi 6 to UK users who don’t know what they’re do­ing. Although we man­aged to get Google Play and var­i­ous apps in­stalled as we have out­lined ear­lier in this re­view, we did still run into the odd is­sue, in­clud­ing a Gmail er­ror mes­sage that said it was hav­ing trou­ble with Google Play Ser­vices.

You can, of course, use Xiaomi’s own apps for such things as email – you don’t have to use Google

ser­vices at all. But if you’re al­ready using them on your cur­rent phone, it makes no sense to switch now.

MIUI 8 has some cool fea­tures of its own, in­clud­ing Dual apps, which in essence lets you run two in­stances of one app, and in a sim­i­lar vein you can also et up a sec­ond space on the phone – it’s al­most like hav­ing two phones. There’s a Child mode, too.

You can in­di­vid­u­ally lock any app on the phone, should you rather not lock the phone it­self or you want a sec­ond layer of se­cu­rity, and you can tweak var­i­ous things such as the theme and which side of the home but­ton your back and multi-task­ing op­tions sit. You can make use of a Quick ball, which places on screen a short­cut to op­tions such as screen­shot and lock, although in com­mon with the one-handed mode (which shrinks the size of the screen to a more

man­age­able area) it is more use­ful for the larger mod­els in Xiaomi’s line-up.

Ver­dict

This re­ally is an amaz­ing phone, and only the Chi­nese soft­ware puts us off rec­om­mend­ing it for a UK au­di­ence. It is crazy fast, crazy beau­ti­ful and crazy priced. If you know your way around An­droid go and get one, and you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. Marie Brewis

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

5.15in full-HD (1920x1080, 428ppi) four-sided curved glass MIUI 8.2 (An­droid 6.0) 2.45GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835 octa-core chip 653MHz Adreno 540 GPU 6GB LPDDR4 RAM 64/128GB stor­age (no mi­croSD sup­port) Un­der-glass fin­ger­print scan­ner USB-C au­dio (no head­phone jack) Dual-SIM dual-standby 4G FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7/B8 2x2 MU-MIMO dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi Blue­tooth 5.0 GPS, GLONASS USB-C 12Mp dual-cam­era, 2x op­ti­cal zoom, 4-axis OIS, PDAF, f/1.8 and f/2.6 aper­ture 8Mp front cam­era 3,350mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery, Quick Charge 145.1x70.4x7.5mm 168g

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