Edge-to-edge displays might be the talk of the town right now thanks to the iPhone X, but as anyone with even a passing interest in the smartphone industry would know, Apple’s newest flagship is not the first smartphone to embrace this design. That feather belongs in the cap of Xiaomi, which released the Mi Mix last year when the iPhone X when was nothing but a rumour you read about on a site like this one.
Xiaomi released the Mi Mix with an all-ceramic body and striking display as a ‘concept’ smartphone, much like the concept cars that manufacturers showcase in the auto world. While most concept cars never really hit the market, Xiaomi’s design has inspired a whole host of ‘bezel-less’ smartphones since then. These have included the Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy Note 8, and LG G6, among others, with some more true to their bezel-less nature than the rest. So how does Xiaomi’s second take on the trend it kickstarted perform in the real world? Let’s find out in our review of the Mi Mix 2.
Mi Mix 2 design and display
A lot of smartphones claim to be ‘all screen’ but the Mi Mix 2 is arguably the one that has come closest to making this a reality. Just like its predecessor, the Mi Mix 2 has done away with the ‘forehead’ almost entirely, which means the selfie camera had to be moved to below the display. However, unlike the original Mi Mix – which used piezoelectric acoustic ceramic earpiece to deliver sound “straight to the ear” – Xiaomi has managed to find space for a tiny, covential speaker just above the display. The proximity sensor, however, is still ultrasonic, and not infrared, as seen on most smartphones. The chin – the part below the display – on the Mi Mix 2 is noticeably smaller than that of the Mi Mix.
The rear camera is surrounded by a 18-karat gold-plated decorative rim, giving the phone a distinctive look from the back as well. Below that you will find the fingerprint scanner, and the words ‘Mi Mix Designed by Xiaomi’, just in case you had any doubts about the smartphone you were using. A dual-tone flash sits to the right of the camera module.
The Mi Mix 2 does away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, but you get a USB Type-C port at the bottom for charging, data transfers, and audio. A Type-C-to-3.5mm adapter is bundled with the phone. In the retail box, you also get a back cover for the Mi Mix 2, a 9V/2A charger that supports Quick Charge 3.0, a USB Type-C cable, a SIM eject tool, and some documentation. Like other Xiaomi phones, there are no earphones. Interestingly, the Type-C-to-3.5mm adapter bundled with the Mi Mix 2 did not work with other smartphones including the Nexus 6P, Nokia 8, and HTC U11. On either side of the Type-C port you have grilles, with the left one housing the mic while the right one has the speaker.
The Mi Mix 2 has an aerospace-grade aluminium alloy frame and a ceramic backplate that’s curved on all four sides. This gives the smartphone a really nice, premium feel, though the back is a fingerprint magnet, so you’d be well advised to keep something to wipe it with handy. In India, the phone is available only in black.
Instead of the 6.4-inch 17:9 display on the Mi Mix display, Xiaomi has switched to a 5.99-inch 18:9 screen on the Mi Mix 2, which makes the smartphone a lot easier to handle. The 1080×2160-pixel display has a 1500:1 contrast ratio and support for the DCI-P3 colour gamut as well as features like Sunlight Display and Reading Mode seen on other Xiaomi smartphones.
The screen itself offers vibrant colours with good contrast and brightness, even outdoors. Watching videos and reading text-heavy documents or webpages is especially enjoyable on edge-to-edge displays like the one on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. By default, the smartphone displays on-screen buttons at the bottom of the display, but you can choose to hide them – and have them show only when you swipe up – for a more immersive experience.
Mi Mix 2 specifications, performance, and battery life
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is powered by the Snapdragon 835 SoC, which has been seen in most Android flagships of 2017, including the OnePlus 5 – which can be considered the Mi Mix 2’s closest competitor, at least until the OnePlus 5T comes out. This phone also packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable internal storage, out of which nearly 118GB is available for end use. The Mi Mix 2 has dual Nano-SIM slots, though 4G can be active on only one SIM at any given time.
The smartphone supports VoLTE, and Xiaomi claims support for six network modes and 43 bands, which, the company says, is the most of any smartphone. You also get support for NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac including MU-MIMO, and Bluetooth 5.0, which means the Mi Mix 2 ticks all the boxes when it comes to connectivity options.
As you would expect, the Mi Mix 2 proved to be a reliable workhorse for all day-to-day tasks, and we didn’t experience any performance-related issues at any point in time. Games such as Asphalt 8 and Breakneck ran flawlessly, and the phone did not get warm even after extended gaming sessions. The benchmark scores were pretty similar to those of other Snapdragon 835-powered smartphones.
Initially, we thought accidental touch inputs would be a big problem given the edge-to-edge nature of the display, but with everyday use, this fear turned out to be unfounded. The apps we tried scaled correctly to the 18:9 display on the Mi Mix 2 without any issues. While watching 16:9 videos in landscape mode you will notice tiny black bands to the left and right. You can choose to go ‘full screen’ at the cost of cropping a bit of content from the top and bottom, a tradeoff you end up making while watching content in a non-native aspect ratio on any screen.
As we mentioned before, the Mi Mix 2 has its fingerprint sensor at the back, just below the rear camera module. We found it easy to reach every single time, though the experiences of those with smaller hands may vary. The scanner worked reliably every single time we reached to unlock the phone, though its placement means you cannot do so when it’s lying on its back without lifting it, unless you enter the passcode.
Call quality was decent, and the tiny earpiece performed satisfactorily during phone calls, addressing a complaint many had with the original Mi Mix. The mono speaker gets sufficiently loud but cannot, of course, match the audio fidelity of a stereo setup.
The Mi Mix 2 has a 3400mAh battery, which performed great in our HD video loop test, lasting just a shade under 13 hours of continuous playback. Our real-world experience was equally good, with the smartphone easily lasting over 1.5 days of medium to heavy usage. With light use, the Mi Mix 2 could take you from the start of one day to the end of the next. Unfortunately, our review until did not come with a charger, so we couldn’t test the Quick Charge functionality with the bundled power adapter.
Mi Mix 2 software and camera
The Mi Mix 2 runs MIUI 8.5 out of the box, which is built upon Android 7.1.1. MIUI, of course, is Xiaomi’s own take on Android, one that customises nearly every aspect of the operating system. Most OEMs are moving towards stock Android – or at least reducing bloat in one form or other from their respective skins – but despite its Android One experiment with the Mi A1, Xiaomi is sticking to its guns with the Mi Mix 2 for now. This and other smartphones are also slated to receive an update to MIUI 9, which adds a bunch of new features, sometime later this month.
Software features that the Mi Mix 2 shares with other Xiaomi smartphones include Dual Apps, i.e. the ability to run multiple instances of apps like Facebook and WhatsApp on the same phone; Second Space, which is like having a second user/ profile on your phone with its own set of core apps; and Quick Ball, which lets you place a virtual ball anywhere on the screen and use it to trigger various apps/ actions. You also get a customisable one-handed mode and support for gestures, such as one that lets you swipe down with three fingers to take a screenshot. We encourage you to read our reviews of other Xiaomi phones to find out more about MIUI.
The camera app on the Mi Mix 2 is the same as what you get on other Xiaomi phones running MIUI, with options for Panorama, Manual, Beautify, and Square modes. You can also time your shots, voice trigger them using the Audio mode, or use the Group-Selfie mode to have selfies captured automatically when a face is detected. The Straighten mode lets you align your shots perfectly, while the Tilt-Shift mode will let you blur parts of the shot. Finally, the Hand-Held Twilight aka HHT mode is designed to improve low-light photography by stitching together multiple shots – we noticed at times that this kicks in automatically during low light conditions.
The Mi Mix 2 has a 12-megapixel rear camera with 4-axis optical image stabilisation and the ability to record 4K video at 30fps. You also get a slow-motion mode that can record at 120 frames per second, but is limited to 720p resolution. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor but no flash, not even the kind where the display lights up to brighten up the shot.
Images shot using the rear camera outdoors looked alright on the phone, but upon closer examination on a PC, we found that they appeared over-exposed and lacked the amount of detail that you’d expect from a phone in this price range. At times, objects weren’t properly in focus. Videos recorded with the Mi Mix 2 were similarly disappointing in terms of visual detail, though the audio quality was decent.
Images shot in low light exhibited similar characteristics and we even noticed artifacts when there was more than one source of light. The flash on the Mi Mix 2 can be rather overbearing. Even selfies taken outdoors appeared overexposed and ‘whiter’ than expected – we’re not sure if this is a result of the ‘beautification’ features kicking in.
Talking about selfies, we mentioned earlier that the front camera is now placed at the bottom of the phone, and this means you will need to make a few adjustments to your habits. First, of course, you will need to hold the phone a little higher than usual while taking pictures in portrait mode, but, more importantly, you might find that part of your hand keeps blocking the camera.
This is why the first time you try to use the front camera, Xiaomi recommends that you hold the Mi Mix 2 in landscape mode. Even if you hold the phone from its bottom edge, you will find the problem doesn’t go away entirely, and you might need to hold it from the top edge, which isn’t convenient. Thankfully, either of the volume buttons or the fingerprint scanner can be tapped to trigger a capture, though that mitigates the problem only a little bit.
Xiaomi has tasted one success after another over the past 12-18 months, and the company looks set to dethrone Samsung as the number one player by volume in India’s smartphone market. This has largely been possible because of its budget Redmi offerings, but recently, we’ve seen the company looking to experiment with other price bands and product segments with the likes of the Xiaomi Mi A1 and the recently launched Redmi Y1 series.
The Mi Mix 2 is arguably the most crucial part of this new strategy, as it is the first premium smartphone that the company has launched in India ever since Mi 5’s lukewarm reception. In the meanwhile, the likes of the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T – and more recently the OnePlus 5 and Honor 8 Pro – have done well for themselves in the “budget flagships” category, and the Mi Mix 2 India launch is an attempt to grab a slice of that pie.
To Xiaomi’s credit, the Mi Mix 2 gets a lot right – the phone has a head-turning design, a great display, fantastic battery life, and excellent performance. Xiaomi also has a decent track record of eventually delivering software updates, though they don’t quite follow Google’s update cycle. Our only real gripe is with the cameras – the placement of the front camera is awkward, and we would have been willing to forgive that if its performance was great, but that sadly isn’t the case here.
Much like the OnePlus 5, the Mi Mix 2 falls short in the camera department, though it has none of the display issues of the former, and its design is anything but boring. If your primary use case will be sharing pictures on Facebook and Twitter, the Mi Mix 2 might well serve your purpose, though if you are looking for a better camera in a more traditional package, you should give the Honor 8 Pro a look. Or you could wait and see what the OnePlus 5T has to offer.