Xiaomi Mi 8

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Price: £438 inc VAT from fave.co/2AvaEdD

At Xiaomi’s launch event in May three new Mi 8 smart­phones were an­nounced, of which the hand­set we re­view here is the stan­dard model. There’s also an SE ver­sion, lower-spec­i­fied and cheaper with the Snap­dragon 710 head­lin­ing, plus the Ex­plorer Edi­tion, which has a cool trans­par­ent rear cover and an in-dis­play fin­ger­print sen­sor.

The lat­ter is some­thing of a sore point: in com­mon with many Chi­nese phones the stan­dard Mi 8 has an amaz­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tion at a crazy-low price, but it lacks some of the fea­tures we were so look­ing for­ward to in the lead up to its an­nounce­ment. Thus

the stan­dard model gets no in-dis­play fin­ger­print scan­ner, which would have given it a lead over bet­ter known ri­vals such as Sam­sung, Ap­ple and LG (we’re ex­pect­ing to see such a fea­ture in the Galaxy S10 in Fe­bru­ary 2019), there’s no wa­ter­proof­ing and, de­spite its in­clu­sion in the Mi Mix 2S, there’s no sup­port for wire­less charg­ing – in any of the three edi­tions.

Some­thing that has po­ten­tial to di­vide fans is a com­pletely new fea­ture to Xiaomi’s phone line: the dreaded screen notch. As seen in the likes of the iPhone X and LG G7, it al­lows the screen to cover more area on the front of the de­vice, while re­tain­ing an area in which to keep the selfie cam­era, sen­sors and ear­piece speaker. Thus the Mi 8 has a screento-body ra­tio bor­der­ing on 87 per­cent, and now a larger dis­play than ever at 6.21in.

No com­plaints there, but the notch is not uni­ver­sally ad­mired for its aes­thetic ap­peal. In our minds it’s cer­tainly bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion pro­vided by the Mix, plac­ing the selfie cam­era be­low the screen and re­quir­ing the user to turn the phone up­side down to make proper use of it. And it gives the Mi flag­ship line a whole new look that is be­fit­ting of such pre­mium de­vices.

Avail­abil­ity

Xiaomi is mak­ing in-roads into Europe and has the US on its hit list for 2019, but there’s still no of­fi­cial Xiaomi store in the UK. If you want to get hold of a Xiaomi phone over here you need to im­port it from a coun­try in which they are avail­able – we rou­tinely use GearBest to ship us sam­ples from China.

In the sev­eral years we’ve been re­view­ing Xiaomi phones sent via GearBest we’ve never had an is­sue and can vouch for its ser­vice, though you should note that buy­ing from China does have more risks than buy­ing within Europe sim­ply be­cause your con­sumer rights dif­fer. Should some­thing go wrong get­ting sup­port may be more dif­fi­cult – but not im­pos­si­ble.

One thing we would rec­om­mend is to check the GearBest ware­house from which the Mi 8 is be­ing shipped: at the mo­ment the only op­tion here is China, but if Euro­pean ware­houses get stock you may find prices are a few pounds higher, but it’s worth the ex­tra out­lay in re­turn for faster de­liv­ery and the re­moval of im­port duty li­a­bil­ity.

Pay­ing im­port duty is a le­gal re­quire­ment when ship­ping goods from China to the UK, and there are no ifs and buts if you are asked to pay it. Not all parcels are picked up by cus­toms, so your luck here can of­ten de­pend on which de­liv­ery ser­vice you use, but in our ex­pe­ri­ence with DHL it charges us 20 per­cent of the value printed on the ship­ping pa­per­work and slaps an £11 ad­min fee on top. You must fac­tor this into your bud­get when de­cid­ing whether or not to buy the Mi 8.

Even with the ad­di­tion of im­port duty, though, the Xiaomi Mi 8 of­fers stag­ger­ing value. This is a phone with fea­tures and per­for­mance in line with the likes of the Sam­sung Galaxy S9, LG G7 and OnePlus 6, and it costs a frac­tion of the price.

Pric­ing at GearBest can fluc­tu­ate, but right now the stan­dard Mi 8 with 6GB RAM and 64GB stor­age costs £438. This is for the ‘English and Chi­nese ver­sion’, which can be set up in English, Google Play in­stalled,

and used like any other An­droid phone you’ll buy on the high street. It sup­ports all three 4G bands used in the UK, and the only part that doesn’t trans­late from Chi­nese to English is the voice as­sis­tant – but you can al­ways in­stall Google As­sis­tant.

De­sign

At first glance the Mi 8 is im­me­di­ately set apart from all Mi flag­ships be­fore it by the most sig­nif­i­cant new up­grade to this phone: the screen. It brings the new Xiaomi flag­ship kick­ing and scream­ing into the fu­ture, which is ex­actly where it de­serves to be.

Okay, so it’s still not got a higher than full-HD res­o­lu­tion, and we’re be­gin­ning to won­der if we’ll ever see Quad-HD or Ul­tra-HD on a Xiaomi phone, but the Mi 8 has a gor­geous AMOLED panel that is rich in con­trast (up to 60000:1, so the com­pany claims),

with punchy colours and ex­cel­lent bright­ness. We mea­sured 408cd/m2 with the Spy­der, mak­ing this an ideal de­vice for use in di­rect sun­light – some­thing we have ac­tu­ally been able to test in the UK for once.

More­over the Mi 8’s dis­play is larger than on any Mi flag­ship be­fore it, up from 5.15- to 6.21in. The fact this has added only a cen­time­tre to the phone’s height, which is also 4mm wider, is quite a re­mark­able feat. Love it or hate it, for this we have to thank the new screen ‘notch’ (which can be hid­den in the screen set­tings if you re­ally dis­like it) – and the fact you’ll now find the fin­ger­print sen­sor on the rear.

Ac­tu­ally, the lat­ter is a sig­nif­i­cant de­sign change for us per­son­ally: we hated the pres­sure-sen­si­tive but­ton that didn’t quite feel like a proper but­ton on the Mi 6. With this moved to the rear the Mi 8’s top bezel and chin are now much shorter, and with min­i­mal

space ei­ther side of the dis­play it has a screen-to-body ra­tio of 86.7 per­cent.

The dis­play is taller with­out be­ing pro­por­tion­ately wider, adopt­ing the new 18.7:9 as­pect ra­tio that we’re see­ing from flag­ship phone mak­ers all over the world. With more screen space avail­able to apps they of­fer a much more en­joy­able mul­ti­me­dia- and brows­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and they just look so much bet­ter.

By de­fault, the Mi 8 has re­cent apps, home and back soft­ware but­tons at the bot­tom of the screen, but it’s pos­si­ble to switch these off and opt to use fullscreen ges­tures in­stead. To ac­cess the home screen you quickly swipe up from the bot­tom and let go, while the same ges­ture with a pause be­fore lift­ing your fin­ger will open the Re­cents menu. To go back you swipe in from the left- or right edge of the screen.

So from the front it’s all change for the Mi 8, but you’ll also no­tice some dif­fer­ences at the rear. Where the dual-cam­era pre­vi­ously lay flush to the body in the top left cor­ner it now juts out in a ver­ti­cal align­ment to­ward the top left side. We have to say we don’t love it, though it doesn’t stick out far enough to cause any sta­bil­ity is­sues when ly­ing flat on a desk. If any­thing it seems to give the slip­pery glass body a lit­tle more grip, which can’t be a bad thing if you hope to keep it in­tact.

This glass is gen­tly curved on all four sides, but more so to the left and right, mak­ing the larger than ever Mi flag­ship feel less cum­ber­some in a sin­gle hand. The glass front and back is sep­a­rated at the mid­dle by a 7000-se­ries alu­minium frame, which is about as pre­mium as it gets in 2018 smart­phones.

So with all this glass it’s a real shame there’s no sup­port for wire­less charg­ing, be­cause this is one area in which Xiaomi lags be­hind its com­peti­tors and in which con­sumers are re­ally starting to sit up and take no­tice how con­ve­nient it is. The Mi 8 also lacks any form of wa­ter­proof­ing, which was tipped to be added to the line this year.

At 175g, the Xiaomi feels weighty in the hand, with­out be­ing too heavy, and it’s 7.6mm thick body aids the im­pres­sion of a su­per-slick pre­mium de­sign.

Per­for­mance

In line with all 2018 flag­ships the Mi 8 has seen its core spec boosted to the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845 (here clocked at 2.8GHz) and 6GB of RAM. The stan­dard model that we re­view here also has 64GB

of stor­age, but the Mi 8 also comes in 128GB and 256GB vari­ants. The lat­ter is im­por­tant be­cause there’s no sup­port for mi­croSD.

It’s a breath­tak­ing com­bi­na­tion that of­fers per­for­mance in line with flag­ship phones cost­ing sev­eral hun­dred pounds more. It par­tic­u­larly shone in graph­ics tests, though this is al­most cer­tainly down to its lower-res­o­lu­tion screen. In use you ab­so­lutely can­not fault the Mi 8’s per­for­mance: speed is not some­thing you’ll ever need take into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Even bat­tery life is good, with a 50mAh bump over the Mi 6 (now up to 3,400mAh) we recorded seven hours, 10 min­utes in the Geek­bench 4 bat­tery test, which is higher than its com­peti­tors and ev­i­dence that will keep go­ing as long as you do.

And while we’re sad about the lack of sup­port for wire­less charg­ing, sup­port for Quick Charge 4.0 is mu­sic to our ears. Con­ve­nience is nei­ther here nor there when you can recharge a phone as quickly as you can the Mi 8. We’ve com­pared our bench­mark re­sults to some other flag­ships in the charts. As you can see, there is no com­pro­mis­ing on per­for­mance to keep down costs.

Connectivity and extras

Xiaomi bills the Mi 8 as the first Snap­dragon 845 phone to sup­port dual-fre­quency GPS, which means in nav­i­ga­tion it should prove more ac­cu­rate than any other phone.

It’s nice to see sup­port for all three 4G bands used in the UK, since sup­port for the 800MHz band is of­ten left out in Xiaomi phones, and there’s also dual-SIM dual-standby func­tion­al­ity if you wish to use two SIMs. This might be use­ful if you want to sep­a­rate work and play, for ex­am­ple, or if you’re trav­el­ling abroad and would like to use a lo­cal SIM to keep down costs.

There’s also dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 5.0, NFC and the afore­men­tioned fin­ger­print sen­sor, which works flaw­lessly.

One more new fea­ture in the Mi 8 is a 3D-sens­ing cam­era at the front, which is ba­si­cally the same thing as the iPhone’s Face ID. It’s less se­cure than a pass­word or PIN, since it could be un­locked with a pho­to­graph of you or by oth­ers with a sim­i­lar ap­pear­ance, but it’s pretty cool none­the­less and al­most cer­tainly a fac­tor in Xiaomi’s rea­son­ing in mov­ing the fin­ger­print sen­sor to the rear.

In our tests it just worked all by it­self in the back­ground, and you for­get it’s even run­ning un­til some­one else tries to un­lock the phone. It also works in the dark.

As in the Mi 6 there’s no head­phone jack, so you’re re­liant on USB-C for au­dio. An adap­tor is sup­plied in the box, along with a sil­i­cone case – a nice touch, given that it can of­ten take a few weeks for de­liv­ery of Chi­nese phone cases.

Cam­eras

As be­fore the Mi 8 fea­tures a dual-cam­era at the rear with two 12Mp lenses. One of the lenses is a Sony IMX363 with four-axis OIS, dual-PD fo­cus, f/1.8 aper­ture, 1.4μm pix­els and a dual-LED flash; the other a 12Mp Sam­sung S5K3M3 lens with 1.0μm pix­els and an f/2.4 aper­ture, which en­ables tele­photo and por­trait ca­pa­bil­i­ties. As well as 12Mp stills it can shoot 4K video, but OIS is sup­ported on only one lens. It’s ac­tu­ally the same cam­era mod­ule as on the Mi Mix 2S, though it is run­ning newer and im­proved firmware. Xiaomi says the Mi Mix will be up­graded ac­cord­ingly.

It uses ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to boost the pho­tog­ra­phy skills of the pri­mary cam­era, and as we saw on the Mi Mix 2S the cam­era is able to au­to­mat­i­cally se­lect one of 206 pre­set scenes to help you get the best shot. It isn’t al­ways clear what it’s do­ing, but that doesn’t per­haps mat­ter if you’re the type of per­son who would rather pick up and shoot than fid­dle around with man­ual modes.

It’s all change at the front, with a 20Mp selfie cam­era re­plac­ing the pre­vi­ous 8Mp lens. Xiaomi is

se­ri­ously talk­ing up its selfie-shoot­ing skills, with a ‘Mi­croPlas­tic’ Beauty mode that also uses AI for deep learn­ing of fa­cial fea­tures. It sup­ports fine ad­just­ments, im­age back­ground blur, and real-time pre­views.

In our test shots we found the Mi 8 cam­era to be very good. Colours are bang-on, with sharp lines and great de­tail. At 100 per­cent a very small amount of grain is vis­i­ble at the far edges of shot, but the level of de­tail is oth­er­wise in­cred­i­ble, with the Mi 8 able to pick up in­di­vid­ual bricks and road names at street level on the other side of a busy du­al­car­riage­way from our sev­enth-floor roof ter­race.

Low-light pho­tog­ra­phy is gen­er­ally very good, with plenty of de­tail on text and the cam­era able to pick out dif­fer­ent shades of black. Viewed at 100 per­cent, again, some noise is vis­i­ble, but the over­all im­age qual­ity is strong.

Soft­ware

Although MIUI 10 was an­nounced dur­ing the same launch event as the Xiaomi Mi 8, the Mi 8 runs MIUI 9.5. It’s based on An­droid Oreo and has all the

same fea­tures, and then some. We’ve touched on a few al­ready, but there’s also a Dual Apps mode that lets you run two in­stances of each app (handy if you’re us­ing two SIMs or al­low­ing some­one else to use your phone), a one-handed mode that can make the de­vice more friendly to smaller hands, and a Quick Ball op­tion that places on screen quick ac­cess to fre­quently used func­tions.

New to the Mi 8 and also seen in the Mix 2S is the Guide, which is a swipe in from the left of the main home screen. It lets you quickly jot down notes, add short­cuts to fre­quent apps, and alerts you to up­com­ing cal­en­dar events.

Xiao AI is pre-in­stalled, which is Xiaomi’s voice as­sis­tant, but if you don’t speak Man­darin it’s cur­rently of no use to you. We didn’t test this fea­ture and rec­om­mend you in­stead in­stall the Google As­sis­tant if voice con­trol is your thing.

MIUI is quite the de­par­ture from plain old An­droid, with a re­designed Set­tings menu (thank­fully with Search func­tion), re­moval of the app tray and Xiaomi’s own apps for every­thing you’d nor­mally use Google ser­vices. Google Play was not pre-in­stalled on our re­view sam­ple, but it is easy to in­stall. You can then add which­ever Google – or other – apps you like as re­quired.

Ver­dict

As­ton­ish­ing value, in­sane per­for­mance, awe­some pho­tog­ra­phy, a larger than ever 18.7:9 AMOLED dis­play and a cool new 3D Face recog­ni­tion fea­ture are all rea­sons why you should rush out and buy the

Mi 8. We’re sad to see Xiaomi not keep­ing up with its ri­vals in terms of wire­less charg­ing, wa­ter­proof­ing and a Quad-HD screen, and that the highly an­tic­i­pated in-dis­play fin­ger­print is unique to the Ex­plorer Edi­tion, but at this price we can hardly com­plain. Amaz­ing phone, highly rec­om­mended. Marie Black

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6.21in (2,248x1,080) 18.7:9 AMOLED dis­play • MIUI 9.5 (based on An­droid 8.0 Oreo) • 2.8GHz Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845 octa-core pro­ces­sor • Octa-core (4x 2.8GHz Kryo 385 Gold, 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 385 Sil­ver) CPU

• Adreno 630 GPU • 6GB RAM

• 64/128/256GB stor­age • Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 12Mp, f/1.8, 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, 4-axis OIS, dual pixel PDAF; 12Mp, f/2.4, 56mm, 1/3.4in, 1.0μm, AF, 2x op­ti­cal zoom • Front cam­era: 20Mp, f/2.0, 0.9μm • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS • NFC • In­frared face recog­ni­tion • Fin­ger­print sen­sor (rear mounted) • USB-C 1.0 • Non-re­mov­able 3,400mAh lithium-poly­mer bat­tery • 154.9x74.8x7.6mm • 175g

Xiaomi’s lat­est phone has a ‘notch’ at the top of the dis­play

The fin­ger­print sen­sor has been moved to the rear of the phone

Geek­bench 4

JetStream

Low light shot

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