Xiaomi Mi Mix 2

£427 inc VAT from fave.co/2yNdMNE

Android Advisor - - Contents -

De­spite be­ing in­tro­duced as a con­cept phone, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix was the most in­ter­est­ing smart­phone we saw in 2016. It was the phone that in­spired Sam­sung, LG and Ap­ple to fea­ture 18:9 full-screen dis­plays in their lat­est flag­ships, and it gar­nered so much at­ten­tion in the con­sumer tech in­dus­try that to­day I have no fewer than six Chi­nese copy­cat phones sit­ting on my desk wait­ing to be re­viewed, all with the prod­uct name ‘Mix’.

Pro­duc­ing a suc­ces­sor to that rev­o­lu­tion­ary hand­set was al­ways go­ing to be a tough job for

Xiaomi, but in the Mi Mix 2 it has re­turned a gor­geous flag­ship that is more man­age­able in the hand and sig­nif­i­cantly faster. It also fea­tures the same pri­mary cam­era as the com­pany’s Mi6, which is a good thing.

Where to buy the Mi Mix 2 in the UK

There’s one main prob­lem with the Mi Mix 2: it’s not of­fi­cially avail­able in the UK. We never let things like that stop us though, and our re­view sam­ple was shipped in from China by GearBest.

This op­tion is avail­able to con­sumers, too, and with free ship­ping. But do note that legally you should pay im­port duty if re­quested, which is cal­cu­lated at 20 per­cent of the value on the ship­ping pa­per­work plus an ad­min fee of around £11.

Even so, it’s crazy to think a phone with this level of per­for­mance and such an awe-in­spir­ing de­sign is able to so heav­ily un­der­cut UK flag­ships.

The 64GB model we’ve re­viewed here costs just £427.14 at the time of writ­ing. GearBest also stocks 128GB and 256GB ver­sions at £458.47 and £489.04 re­spec­tively.

That’s just £60 sep­a­rat­ing its en­try- and top-end mod­els – com­pare that to Ap­ple’s lat­est iPhone where the dif­fer­ence is £150.

The dif­fer­ence here is that if you want to buy the Mi Mix 2 you will need to pay for it up­front, then add a SIM-only deal. You won’t find any con­tract deals on the Mi Mix 2 in the UK.

Pre­vi­ously with Xiaomi phones UK con­nec­tiv­ity has been a con­cern, with the hand­sets rou­tinely lack­ing sup­port for 800MHz 4G, also known as FDD-LTE band

20. This had meant those on the O2 net­work or those who pig­gy­back it – Gif­fGaff, Sky Mo­bile, Tesco Mo­bile, and so on – were un­able to re­ceive 4G. But with the Mi Mix 2 4G con­nec­tiv­ity ex­tends to all 4G bands in use in the UK.

If you like you can even use two UK SIMs, be­cause a key at­trac­tion of the vast ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese phones is their dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity, which here works in a dual-standby man­ner (the usual).

Un­like some of those phones this is not a hy­brid SIM tray, how­ever, so there is no pos­si­bil­ity to swap the se­cond SIM for a mi­croSD card. It’s im­por­tant that you choose the cor­rect amount of stor­age for your needs from the out­set.

The down side of a phone like the Mi Mix 2 is Xiaomi hand­sets are rarely sold pre­in­stalled with

Google ser­vices, which means you need to do some work to con­fig­ure the hand­set if you wish to use Gmail, Google Pho­tos, Google Drive and so on. For­tu­nately with our sam­ple we were able to down­load the Google In­staller from the Mi App Store, but this isn’t some­thing we would rec­om­mend for peo­ple who don’t know their way around an An­droid phone – es­pe­cially when ev­ery­thing is in Chi­nese.

De­sign

It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine with­out see­ing it in the flesh, but the Mi Mix 2 is even bet­ter-look­ing than the orig­i­nal. And that’s even tak­ing into ac­count we re­viewed the top-end ce­ramic model for the orig­i­nal Mi Mix, a hand­set that won the IDEA Gold award for de­sign. Part of the rea­son for this, no doubt, is French de­signer Philippe Starck is back on board.

The best de­sign change, in our opin­ion, is the re­duced over­all size. It’s dropped 7mm on its height and 6mm on its width, and has even shaved off a lit­tle round its waist, now just 7.7mm thick. Un­for­tu­nately this means there is now a cam­era bump, which is more ap­par­ent thanks to its gold sur­round. We’d have pre­ferred Xiaomi to stick to the 7.9mm de­sign with the rear cam­era ly­ing flush.

We ap­pre­ci­ate that some peo­ple want a huge phone, but hav­ing used the Mi Mix across mul­ti­ple sea­sons we never found a coat or jacket pocket into which it would com­fort­ably fit with­out feel­ing as though it was go­ing to rip the seams.

And when you have a piece of tech that large, it’s sur­pris­ingly easy to drop. Not good when you have a

fancy phone with 18K gold de­tail­ing on the rear – that re­mains a fea­ture here, by the way, al­beit no longer sur­round­ing the fin­ger­print scan­ner.

2.5D curved glass at the front and slightly rounded edges at the rear are very sig­nif­i­cant in mak­ing the Mi Mix 2 feel more com­fort­able in the hand. To say the orig­i­nal was un­wieldy is some­thing of an un­der­state­ment.

The Mi Mix 2 is much smaller thanks to a re­duced screen size and a 12 per­cent smaller chin. The screen is still enor­mous, at 5.99in, but it was pre­vi­ously quite the mon­ster at 6.4in.

It’s an ideal size for watch­ing video, play­ing games and get­ting stuff done, and though MIUI’s one­handed mode may still come in handy you won’t be re­sort­ing to it quite so of­ten (this shrinks the view­able screen size to 4.5-, 4- or 3.5in). The Quick Ball fea­ture

re­mains avail­able too, plac­ing on screen quick ac­cess to the mul­ti­task­ing menu and home screen, and the abil­ity to lock the screen or take a screen­shot.

This change in screen size also means that in line with more re­cent ‘bezel-less’ flag­ships, such as the Gal­axy Note8, Gal­axy S8 and LG G6, it has an 18:9 as­pect ra­tio rather than the Mi Mix’s 17:9. In fu­ture that could mean im­proved app com­pat­i­bil­ity, and for now you can use the Set­tings menu to con­fig­ure which apps are al­lowed to take ad­van­tage of the max­i­mum as­pect ra­tio.

The screen it­self is a stun­ner, crys­tal clear, bright, and with re­al­is­tic colour re­pro­duc­tion. View­ing an­gles are good, too. All the things we’d ex­pect from a de­cent IPS panel. Xiaomi is hold­ing out on the res­o­lu­tion, though, and while many of its com­peti­tors are in­clud­ing Quad-HD it has yet to re­lease any­thing higher than full-HD on a smart­phone. Ac­tu­ally, that’s the ap­proach Sam­sung has taken with its Gal­axy Note8, too – Quad-HD is pos­si­ble, but it’s set to full-HD by de­fault. While we won’t pre­tend there is no vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence be­tween full- and Quad-HD, we re­ally don’t think it mat­ters all that much. And when you’re talk­ing about a phone with a screen this large, it makes sense to re­duce its po­ten­tial im­pact on bat­tery life as much as pos­si­ble.

Bat­tery life, by the way, was one of Mi Mix’s strong­est suits: its 4,400mAh bat­tery could eas­ily last two days with even heavy use. So it’s dis­ap­point­ing to see bat­tery ca­pac­ity re­duced here to 3,400mAh.

You should take into ac­count that the screen is now smaller and the new 10nm pro­ces­sor sig­nif­i­cantly

more ef­fi­cient, but the real­ity is you’re likely to find your­self with a day’s us­age here, prob­a­bly with some juice to spare the fol­low­ing morn­ing. Quick Charge 3.0 does let you rapidly re­fill the bat­tery, though one thing miss­ing is sup­port for wire­less charg­ing – that’s true for all of Xiaomi’s smart­phones.

How­ever, we do like the fact the smaller bat­tery makes the phone lighter – now 185g, pre­vi­ously 211g. This makes a huge dif­fer­ence to our over­all im­pres­sion of the phone.

So we men­tioned that we pre­vi­ously re­viewed the ce­ramic Mi Mix. The new Mi Mix 2 still has a ce­ramic rear panel but a 7000-se­ries alu­minium frame. It’s an im­prove­ment – much nicer look­ing, if less at odds with other flag­ships on the mar­ket. Still a flat slab, but the Mi Mix 2 is now a flat slab with ul­tra-smooth,

rounded edges, which re­sults in a softer, less boxy de­sign. Mi Mix 2 re­mains prone to fin­ger­prints, but no way would you be­lieve this was a phone that costs less than £500.

You’ll find two tiny an­tenna lines hid­den away on the top and bot­tom edges, along with a USB-C port, a mic and speaker grilles. There are no phys­i­cal but­tons on the front, but you can ac­cess home, back and mul­ti­task­ing but­tons at the base of the screen, or tuck them away from view so you must swipe up to see them. But the Mi Mix has al­ways been more about what it takes away than what it adds.

For­get the ‘notch’ on the iPhone X, or the slim area atop the screen on the Gal­axy S8 and LG G6. The Mi Mix 2 – and the Mi Mix be­fore it – has no top bezel. There is a bot­tom bezel, so it’s not strictly bezel-less, but it is the clos­est we’ve seen yet.

Some of the cheaper copy­cats have snuck in a speaker and sen­sors right at the very top of the screen. Mi Mix 2 does this too, which is a de­par­ture from its pre­de­ces­sor, but se­ri­ously – blink and you’d miss it. Mi Mix uses spe­cial tech­nol­ogy to do away with other un­sightly blem­ishes at the top of the hand­set, us­ing a hid­den ul­tra­sonic prox­im­ity sen­sor and a tweaked sound-guided speaker. It’s a setup that works as well as any other stan­dard phone and call qual­ity is good.

This does mean there’s no room for the selfie cam­era, and this re­mains one of our gripes. As be­fore, you’ll find this at the bot­tom right cor­ner of the Mi Mix 2, and in or­der to take a selfie you’ll want to turn the phone up­side down. Not too much of a hard­ship, you might think, but in our ex­pe­ri­ence that doesn’t work great with apps such as Snapchat.

Another no­table omis­sion is a 3.5mm head­phone jack. This is the first Xiaomi phone we’ve seen not to in­clude this port, and may well be a sign of things to come for the com­pany. It’s a trend started in late 2016 with the iPhone 7, caus­ing users to re­sort to the USB-C port or a pair of wire­less ear­phones for au­dio.

There’s the phone’s built-in speaker, too, of course. But we weren’t overly im­pressed with this. It’s not es­pe­cially loud, and qual­ity is a bit in­con­sis­tent.

Xiaomi does not pro­vide any USB-C head­phones in the box, but you do get a USB-C to 3.5mm au­dio adap­tor – and a case, which is handy as cases for Chi­nese phones are of­ten dif­fi­cult to get hold of in the UK, or you’ll be wait­ing so long for de­liv­ery you’ve al­ready cracked the screen.

Per­for­mance

Run­ning the 2.35GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 821, Adreno 530 GPU and 6GB of RAM, the orig­i­nal Mi Mix was a force to be reck­oned with. Swap­ping in that 14nm chip with the 10nm Snap­dragon 835, also run­ning at 2.35GHz and paired with 6GB of mem­ory, the Mi Mix 2 now makes that phone look slow. The Snap­dragon 835 makes huge sav­ings on bat­tery life, and sig­nif­i­cantly im­proves per­for­mance.

The Mi Mix 2 has per­for­mance as good as any­thing we’ve seen this year, bar the iPhone 8, and in fact its full-HD dis­play means that it doesn’t have to push so hard in our on screen graph­ics tests.

We’ve col­lated the re­sults of our bench­marks for var­i­ous com­pa­ra­ble phones in the chart be­low, but the Mi Mix 2 is right up there with the likes of

the Gal­axy Note8, OnePlus 5 and Pixel 2 XL. And it shows a sig­nif­i­cant boost over the orig­i­nal Mi Mix.

We recorded a stag­ger­ing 6675 points in Geek­bench 4’s multi-core com­po­nent, which is faster than the Pixel 2 XL and only a tiny amount be­hind the Gal­axy Note8 and OnePlus 5. Its An­TuTu score of 177903 beats the Note8’s 166,832, though.

In graph­ics tests us­ing GFXBench the Mi Mix 2 scored the max­i­mum frame rate of 60fps in T-Rex, so we in­creased the in­ten­sity and in Man­hat­tan it achieved a com­mend­able 55fps. In Man­hat­tan 3.1 and Car Chase it recorded 30fps and 24fps, which are still very re­spectable, eas­ily playable frame rates.

Lastly we run JetStream, which is a JavaScript bench­mark. The Mi Mix 2 scored 60.8, in line with all other An­droid flag­ships.

So what do all th­ese num­bers mean? In essence, the Mi Mix 2 is a pow­er­house. We defy you to find any is­sue with its per­for­mance.

In terms of space for your stuff, you get a choice of 64-, 128- or 256GB UFS 2.0 fast stor­age. All th­ese op­tions are gen­er­ous, though there is no pos­si­bil­ity of adding in more later via a mi­croSD card. Choose care­fully. Con­nec­tiv­ity-wise the only thing miss­ing is an IR blaster. So you get NFC and a fin­ger­print scan­ner, which is nec­es­sary for mak­ing mo­bile pay­ments, fast Wi-Fi, GPS and GLONASS, OTG USB and the lat­est Blue­tooth 5.0.

There’s also dual-SIM ca­pa­bil­ity that will be use­ful if you want to use sep­a­rate con­tracts for home and abroad, or busi­ness and leisure, and Mi Mix 2 sup­ports all UK 4G con­nec­tiv­ity bands.

In this re­gard the MIUI op­er­at­ing sys­tem sup­ports Dual Apps, al­low­ing you to run two in­stances of the same app each with their own home screen short­cut. This might save you hav­ing to keep switch­ing your lo­gins within apps, and it ties in neatly with the se­cond rel­e­vant soft­ware fea­ture. Se­cond Space lets you cre­ate a sep­a­rate space on your phone that is pass­word-pro­tected. You can im­port pho­tos, files and apps to this space, then switch be­tween spa­ces us­ing the com­mand in the no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar. It may come in use­ful if you’re us­ing two num­bers on the phone, or if you have some­thing to hide.

Cam­era

Mi Mix 2 has been ad­ver­tised as us­ing the same cam­era as the Mi6 (and, for that mat­ter, the orig­i­nal Google Pixel), which is a bit con­fus­ing given that the Mi6 has a dual-cam­era and the Mi Mix 2 does not. Ac­tu­ally it has the same pri­mary cam­era as the Mi6,

the Sony IMX378, and that’s a good thing. The only dif­fer­ence you’ll find is the ab­sence of any ‘bokeh’ ef­fects. This is a 12Mp lens (pre­vi­ously 16Mp), with an f/2.0 aper­ture, phase-de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus, four-axis OIS, 1.25μm pix­els and a dual-tone flash.

It didn’t wow us as other flag­ship cam­eras have, but it’s by no means a poor of­fer­ing. De­tail is sharp, colours re­al­is­tic, and low-light pho­tog­ra­phy is ac­cept­able if not the best we’ve seen, pro­vided you al­low it time to prop­erly fo­cus.

You can check out some of our test shots above and op­po­site, with auto and HDR set­tings re­spec­tively, and then in a low-light scene (op­po­site).

There’s also a 5Mp cam­era at the front but, as we’ve men­tioned, awk­wardly placed at the bot­tom right so you’ll need to turn the Mi Mix 2 up­side down to use it prop­erly.

Soft­ware

As we’ve touched on sev­eral times within this re­view, the Mi Mix 2 does not run stan­dard An­droid but MIUI 8.5.7, which is a cus­tom ver­sion of An­droid

7.1.1. It is quite the de­par­ture from the An­droid to which you will likely be fa­mil­iar, with a quite dif­fer­ent set­tings menu and the loss of the app tray. For­tu­nately there is a search bar within the set­tings menu that helps you to find what you’re look­ing for, and it should all be­come fa­mil­iar fairly quickly any­way.

We’ve heard sev­eral com­ment that there’s a lot of bloat­ware on this phone. We reckon that’s an un­fair com­ment. Sure, there is some, but all of which can be unin­stalled very eas­ily. The re­main­ing apps are not bloat­ware, but al­ter­na­tives to the Google ser­vices UK users are fa­mil­iar with, since Google ser­vices are not pre­in­stalled. It is th­ese apps that can­not be unin­stalled, and the fact ev­ery­thing is sprawled over the home screen makes that more ap­par­ent. Our ad­vice: group them all in a sin­gle folder and for­get about them.

This is the big­gest prob­lem with the Mi Mix 2. Set­ting it up for UK use (on the as­sump­tion you don’t speak Chi­nese) can be a headache. For­tu­nately, we found it eas­ier on the Mi Mix 2 than we did some Xiaomi hand­sets, since we were able to down­load the Google In­staller from the Mi App Store, and then down­load a UK key­board and all our apps from there.

The only app we had any is­sues with was Gmail, but while it kept pop­ping up er­ror mes­sages it did seem to be work­ing cor­rectly. Our ad­vice is to en­sure all the apps you down­load have the nec­es­sary per­mis­sions al­lowed, be­cause you can’t take for granted the same seam­less op­er­a­tion as you would on a phone pre­in­stalled with those apps. En­sur­ing the likes of What­sApp, Gmail and Face­book Mes­sen­ger are al­lowed to au­tostart is also a good idea if you want to re­ceive any mes­sages.

While we’d pre­fer to use stan­dard An­droid be­cause that’s what we’re used to, MIUI has some real ad­van­tages – in­clud­ing timely up­dates and a huge com­mu­nity of users will­ing to pro­vide help at on­line fo­rums. We es­pe­cially like Dual Apps and Se­cond Space, but the likes of One-handed mode and Quick Ball are also use­ful in the Mi Mix 2 for help­ing you man­age that enor­mous screen.

Ver­dict

We re­main huge fans of the Mi Mix fam­ily, but rather than the rev­o­lu­tion­ary beast it once was Xiaomi’s ‘bezel-less’ phone has been brought kick­ing and scream­ing into line with other An­droid flag­ships.

It may have lost some of its wow fac­tor, but in the most part we’re pleased with the changes: we love the new de­sign, both smaller and lighter and there­fore more man­age­able than be­fore. We also love the im­proved con­nec­tiv­ity, now with com­plete UK 4G sup­port.

We don’t love the re­duc­tion in bat­tery life, though, nor the loss of the head­phone jack, and we’re not

en­am­oured with the new cam­era bump. But the Mi Mix 2 is still a fan­tas­tic phone: sig­nif­i­cantly faster than its pre­de­ces­sor, and much bet­ter look­ing. Bet­ter still, it’s as af­ford­able as ever, mak­ing it a great al­ter­na­tive to other An­droid flag­ships – pro­vided you can either live with­out or cope with hav­ing to set up Google ser­vices your­self.

In the Mi Mix 3 we would love to see Xiaomi’s dual-cam­era im­ple­mented, plus a higher-res­o­lu­tion screen. Water­proof­ing and wire­less charg­ing would also be good shouts. Marie Black

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.99in full-HD (2160x1080, 403ppi) dis­play • An­droid 7.1.1 Nougat (MIUI 8.5.7) • 2.35GHz Snap­dragon 835 octa-core pro­ces­sor • Octa-core (4x 2.45GHz Kryo, 4x 1.9GHz Kryo) CPU • Adreno 540 GPU • 6GB RAM • 64-/128-/256GB stor­age, no mi­croSD sup­port • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • 12Mp Sony IMX386 rear cam­era • 5Mp front cam­era • Dual-SIM dual-standby (2x nano) • 4G FDD-LTE UK bands B3/B7/B20 • Blue­tooth 5.0 • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Bei­dou • USB-C • USB-C au­dio • 3,400mAh bat­tery • 151.8x75.5x7.7mm • 185g

Geek­bench 4

HDR on

Low light

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