Finally, it’s happened: Xiaomi has worked its way into Europe. Well, Spain. The popular-in-China brand is known for its affordability and, over the years, design creativity. Which is epitomised in the Mi Mix 2 more than any of its other phones, making for one of the most standout almost-purchasable – but certainly affordable – phones we’ve seen for some time.
Bezel-free design unlike any other
- 5.99-inch 18:9 aspect screen (2160 x 1080 resolution), near bezel-free
- Philippe Starck designed, aluminium frame and curved ceramic back
- Rear positioned fingerprint scanner
- 151.8 x 75.5 x 7.7mm; 185g
Bezel-free designs aren’t new in smartphones, but it was actually Xiaomi’s original Mi Mix that was much to do with kicking-off the trend. That phone didn’t make it to Europe or the USA officially, of course, so it was widely missed by a large chunk of the globe. Since then we’ve had the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Apple iPhone X capture the headlines – but the Mi Mix 2 looks every bit as good as those, if not better, in its consideration of what takes the cut and from where.
Interestingly, Xiaomi teamed up with French industrial designer Philippe Starck in the creation of the Mi Mix 2 – a designer famed for his use of simple yet effective shapes; a reduction in form pursuit of better function. And in the Mi Mix 2, given that it’s almost entirely screen, we can see how that concept translates. The panel is a 5.99-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio, too, so fits in perfectly among the current elongated flagships and makes for great one-handed hold during use.
The rear, with its striking reflective curved ceramic, is a fingerprint magnet though. That’s almost par for the course these days – just look at the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Apple iPhone X and you’ll see what we mean. The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is at least far more considered in its placement of rear camera than the Apple device, placing it centrally; there’s a fingerprint scanner placed beneath, in sensible proximity to the camera, used to unlock the device with ease (no facial recognition to be found here).
Hardware hits the mark, software needs some polish
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform (octa-core 2.45GHz), 6GB RAM, Adreno 540 graphics
- 64GB on-board storage, microSD card slot for expansion
- LTE+, 43 bands and six network modes (more than any other phone)
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2X2 MIMO & MU-MIMO
- Android 7.1 operating system, MIUI skin
- 3,400mAh battery (USB-C charging)
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
That suave design is matched with significant innards, as the Mi Mix 2 sports the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform, boasting among the fastest processor speeds going, paired with 6GB RAM (not the 8GB RAM as found in the Special Edition model that launched in China).
There’s 64GB on-board storage, which can be expanded with a microSD card if you please. What there isn’t, however, is a 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s USB-C only, which is a shame. Oh, and there’s no waterproofing either, which puts the Xiaomi a peg behind the competition if you’re prone to such accidents.
Now, such power potential should mean greatness is gaming and those hardcore applications. What it doesn’t translate to quite as well in our experience, however, is the overall software experience. Xiaomi uses Android 7.1 with its own re-skin, called MIUI (as in “Mi user interface”), which while not drastically different to stock Android just doesn’t feel quite as snappy and sleek as the current Android Area arrangement. Animations are a little longer than, say, you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy S8 or (EMUI-skinned) Huawei Mate 10 Pro. We’re being picking here, mind, as it’s not slow by any imagination – we just think it could be a little sleeker in its treatment of the system.
Still, when it comes to connectivity, Xiaomi hasn’t left a stone unturned, it seems. With all current high-spec Wi-Fi and LTE speeds, it should dig deep into data without fuss. It even has a huge range of network bands available to ensure connectivity wherever you happen to be in the world.
Battery-wise, the slender design means a 3,400mAh cell has been squeezed into the device. That’s more capacious than the iPhone 8 Plus, which is good news, but it’s a step behind the Huawei Mate 10 Pro in capacity terms.
Capable cameras, front-facing is poorly placed though
- 12-megapixel rear camera with Sony IMX386 sensor (1.25um pixel size)
- Front-facing camera positioned to bottom bezel
- Four axis image stabilisation for rear
- 18 carat gold camera rim for rear
The other major part of any smartphone these days is how good the camera is. Xiaomi has gone down the route of offering a similar set of features to its competitors in the Mi Mix 2 – namely the depth-derived software-produced soft background “bokeh” for portrait shots and the like – but from a single rear camera unit, rather than dual setup.
The camera app is super prompt – as instantaneous as that in the Huawei Mate 10 Pro when shooting – which is great for capturing images with zero fuss. The quality of shots, however, we can’t detail further until we get in a full, final EU unit for review purposes.
When it comes to the front-facing camera, its placement is an unavoidable oddity. Xiaomi claims that by placing the camera on the “chin” of the device it can remove the “forehead” for that bezel-free surround on three sides. Problem is, with the camera that far down the screen, it adds considerably more “chin” to those selfies! Hold it higher, people, hold it higher…
Which, by and large, all sounds great, so surely the Mi Mix 2 is as pricey as its other 18:9 screen, trim bezel, high-powered flagship competitors? Well, no, not even nearly. With its €499 asking price in Europe – well, Spain for the time being, which is where the handset launches on 11 November 2017 (hopefully with more European nations to follow) – it’s a lot, lot more affordable than the competition. It even has the potential to slap about OnePlus with its imminent 5T launch. Changing times.
If there’s any “problem” with Xiaomi, it’s the brand awareness. Or, more precisely, the lack thereof. It’s taken Huawei generations and generations of phones to barely pierce some EU countries, which, seemingly, is why Xiaomi wants to take it slow and considered (read our piece from the Mi Mix 2 launch, where the company’s Vice President adds yet more). Even so, with a price that competitive and a design generally this good, Xiaomi is clearly one to watch in the future. We look forward to the company mixing things up in the UK in the inevitable future.
Indeed, as our title says, at just €499, this bezel-free marvel could be the end of ultra-pricey flagships…