Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 review: Still worth it in 2018?

Xiaomi is a name that many Americans don’t know. The Chinese company is one of the biggest phone manufactures in the world. But despite its success, it doesn’t have much of a presence here in the states. And that’s true for a fair number of companies who make Android devices. OEMs like Huawei, Doogee, Leagoo, Elephone, Ulephone, and others all make some pretty high-quality devices, but none of them are officially sold here in the US. The best you can do is import them from sites like GearBest and hope they work on your network.

But, that could all be changing soon. Xiaomi has its eye on the US and could enter the market sometime this year. It released a test balloon of sorts in 2017 with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. The phone offers fantastic specs, an amazing design, and support for pretty much LTE band in the world. Where other Chinese phones suffer, the Mi Mix 2 thrives. So, that got us thinking. With the wave of new phones on the horizon, is the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 still a good buy? Should you wait for something new on the horizon?

We spent four weeks with the device and here’s what we found out.

Editor’s note: The Xioami Mi Mix 2 review device was supplied to us via GearBest.com for our honest review.

Key Specs

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 128 GB
  • Display: 5.99-inch 2160 x 1080p IPS LCD
  • Battery: 3400 mAh
  • Dimensions: 5.98 x 2.97 x 0.30 inches
  • Main camera: single 12 MP f/2.0 with 4-axis OIS and dual-LED dual-tone flash
  • Front-facing camera: 5 MP f/2.0
  • Software: Android 7.0 Nougat with MUIU 9
  • LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41

General impressions

Xiaomi has positioned the Mi Mix 2 to be a luxury phone without the luxury price tag. This is apparent from the very first time you open the box. Before you’re greeted by the phone, you find an insert with a quote from Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi. The quote paints a pretty good picture of what Xiaomi was aiming for with the Mi Mix 2

To truly explore is to exhaust countless possibilities. for an inch of progress, we’re willing to walk miles.

Xiaomi wanted to make the Mi Mix 2 a work of art, perfect in their eyes. When you pick the phone up for the first time, you have to admire how close they got. The phone is impressive in the hand and to the eye. It feels soft and smooth with a coldness normally reserved for steel. But, this is isn’t steel. Instead, the phone is wrapped in ceramic that melts over the sides to the back of the device. I spent time with both the black and white versions of the device. But, I have to say the latter is the most attractive phone I’ve ever seen.

Moving beyond the phone, the box holds a cable, charging brick, books, SIM card removal tool and a USB type-C to 3.5mm adapter. Yes, the Mi Mix 2 joined the chorus of devices to drop the headphone jack. My personal opinion is that this is a terrible idea, but I have no idea what sacrifices Xiaomi would’ve had to make to keep it. You’ll also notice that the charging brick is almost certainly for a European or Asian socket. That’s something you’ll need to keep in mind when purchasing the device. You either need to have your own wall brick or have an adapter on hand.

Hardware

The outside of the device is a work of art. The front of the phone holds an almost 6-inch display in a frame that isn’t much larger. The Mi Mix 2 shares a similar design to the Essential Phone where it has almost no bezel on three sides of the device with a decent size chin down below. Unlike the Essential Phone, there’s no notch here. Instead, Xiaomi chose to put the front-facing camera in that chin below the screen. It’s an interesting design choice and one that will make you cock your head to the side a bit and wonder what they were thinking, but in practice, it does the job just fine.

The rear of the device houses a single 12 MP camera outlined by a gold ring to give it a subtle hint of class. Just under the camera is the fingerprint sensor and… that’s it. There’s no branding, no logos or anything else on the rear of the device. It’s clean and it’s beautiful. The right side of the device houses the incredibly click volume rocker and power button, whereas the left side of the device houses the SIM card tray.

If I had to pick one word to describe the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, it would be “clean.” Everything on the device is clean. The lines are perfect, there’s nothing to distract the eye and no flashy gimmicks. It looks simply fantastic.

Internals

One of the key aspects of picking a phone today is longevity. That longevity normally comes down to whats inside the device. Pick a phone with an old processor and without much RAM, and you could be upgrading before you really want.

Luckily, the Xioami Mi Mix 2 has fantastic specs. We’re reviewing the special edition of the device that comes with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, but the Mi Mix 2 normally comes with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Those are on the high end of what you can expect from a flagship in 2017-2018 and should be sufficient for years to come.

The processor of choice is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. This is 2017’s flagship processor, but as we enter 2018 and devices with the SD845, one is left to wonder if you should really be picking up a phone with an older processor. I haven’t gotten my hands on a phone with a Snapdragon 845 yet, but I do know the Mi Mix 2 absolutely flies through tasks with no hint of slowing down. I believe that the Mi Mix 2 will be powerful enough to last for many many years.

One of the often overlooked internal components is the modem. We normally don’t have to worry about phones working on our carrier of choice, but being that the Mi Mix 2 is a Chinese phone, this a very real fear. There’s a wide swath of devices that simply won’t get service on American carriers, or at best will get 2G speeds. Luckily, Xiaomi included a top of the line modem that picks up on virtually every LTE band around the world. I never once had an issue connecting to T-Mobile’s network in the month that I’ve used the phone and data speeds have been great.

Display

I have to admit, I’m an AMOLED fanboy. The deep blacks and colors that pop on AMOLED displays are truly a thing of beauty. I try to stay away from devices with IPS LCDs as much as possible, but I was honestly surprised by the Mi Mix 2. The device has a 5.99-inch IPS LCD that has a 2160 x 1080p resolution. It has the 18:9 aspect ration that Xiaomi first popularized last year in the Mi Mix and it just looks fantastic.

The colors are warm and beautiful, while dark areas are closer to black than gray. Peak brightness is very good and the phone will be viewable during all but the brightest of days. One word of warning though: the display is invisible when turned sideways when you’re wearing sunglasses. This isn’t the first display we’ve seen with this and it surely won’t be the last. This can cause issues if you plan to use the device in landscape mode for turn-by-turn navigation so keep that in mind.

While most displays are now QHD, Xiaomi decided to stick with a 1080p panel on the Mi Mix 2. The law of big numbers says that a 2560p display will always be better than a 1080p display, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. Once you hit 1080p, I feel like the quality of the panel matters more than resolution. That’s where the Mi Mix 2 wins. The display looks excellent while saving battery life. It’s a win-win.

Camera

In a world of dual-camera smartphones, it’s almost a surprise to see a single camera setup. But that’s what Xiaomi has here on the Mi Mix 2. The single 12 MP shooter has four-axis optical image stabilization (OIS) and is flanked by a dual-tone flash.

While others like HTC and Google are able to produce top-of-the-line pictures with just one lens, Xiaomi cannot follow suit. While most of your shots will be fine for sharing with friends through social media and messaging services, that’s about all they’re good for. In good lighting, the Mi Mix 2 is able to produce compelling shots, but it falls flat in low light situations.

The included HDR mode does a lot to help in low-light, but it slows the camera shutter down drastically. This seems to have been helped with software updates of the course of our review period, but we still feel its pretty subpar compared to other flagship devices on the market today.

The front-facing camera is… interesting. The placement at the bottom of the phone is unconventional, to say the least. We understand that Xiaomi didn’t have room up top, but this still feels like an odd solution to that problem. When you switch to the front-facing camera, you’re prompted to flip your phone upside down so the camera is now placed at the top where you’d normally see it. That’s great for shots with the camera app, but if you’re using a video chatting app or taking pictures through a third-party camera like Snapchat, your camera will be at the bottom of your phone looking up at you. It’s a pretty odd situation.

The camera app itself is also just fine. There are plenty of modes to choose from but as we stated earlier, the shutter takes forever when using HDR and that can freeze up the app from time to time. It’s not all bad news here as there are plenty of modes to choose from and a manual mode to get shots exactly as you’d like them. Now as for the design of the camera app…

Software

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is running the latest version of MIUI, Xiaomi’s heavy Android skin. While there are some great features of MIUI, one of the things you’ll need to get used to is the “iOSification” of Android. From the camera app to the share menu and beyond, Xioami has taken great pains to make its skin look a lot like iOS.

And honestly, we’re not sure why. Apple doesn’t have the prettiest software in the world and its kind of strange to us that anyone would want to try and copy it. Places like the share menu are vastly superior on Android and nerfing it just to appeal to some iOS fans seems utterly silly. While many people call the Pixel 2 Google’s iPhone, I think the Mi Mix 2 is closer to that title than anyone else.

Despite that drawback, MIUI can be really attractive if you’re not in love with stock Android. There are excellent features here like Quick Ball which lets you quickly navigate the phone without using soft keys, dual apps which allows you to have multiple instances of an app open and second space that allows you to set up an entirely different instance of your phone. We love second space because we’re able to set up separate instances for work and personal apps and switch between them whenever we need. It’s great for leaving work at work.

One of the hallmarks of MIUI is very strict background restrictions. Xiaomi maximizes battery life by letting almost nothing suck your battery in the background while you’re not using your phone. This is fantastic for battery life but can cause issues with some apps updating when they’re not being used. I’d often open up my email app after several hours of inactivity to find many unread messages. I never experienced this with something like the phone or messaging app, but it can be frustrating if you’re waiting for an important work email to come through.

MIUI has certainly improved since we took a look at the Xioami Mi 6 earlier in 2017, but we feel that Xiaomi can keep improving the software. There are definitely some refinements to be made before the company considers entering the US market.

Conclusion

So, should you go out and buy the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2? I think if you’re looking for top-notch design and hardware, the answer is yes. While you’ll have to put up with some quirks (mainly due to MIUI), the Mi Mix 2 delivers a fantastic experience overall. Again, I’ve never seen a more striking phone in my life. The white ceramic version is simply a work of art in every way. If I were choosing my daily driver based on looks alone, I’d definitely go with the Mi Mix 2.

I haven’t seen a lot of reviewers give the device praise for being easy to handle and I think that’s a shame. Sure, the ceramic is slippery and the curved edges don’t exactly help, but the overall size of the device makes it incredibly easy to operate. Reaching the top of the display to reveal the notification shade was a breeze and I never felt in danger of dropping the phone while I was using it.

I do wish the camera performance was a little bitter. As you can tell in the samples above, it’s just not a top tier camera in any way. Camera hounds will surely choose something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2 instead. While you can get good pictures out of the Mi Mix 2, it’s a hassle. Not only is it difficult, but you have to have perfect conditions to do so.

There’s only going be a small subset of customers for this device outside of the few countries where it’s officially sold. That’s really a shame because I believe that this was one of the best devices of 2017 and still remains a solid buy in 2018. The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is coming soon, but it’s only a relatively small change and I think you could save the money and pick up the Mi Mix 2 and be just as happy.

You can pick up the Xioami Mi Mix 2 from GearBest right now

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Display
Build
Internals
Connectivity
Software
Features
Value
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Matt is an avid sports and technology fan and Managing Editor for AndroidGuys.com. You can get in touch with him by email at [email protected]