Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S first impressions: Looks great, handles like a dream

We got our hands on a Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S a while back, and for the past week or so I’ve been using it as my daily driver. It released back in April for about $530, which puts it in a similar category to OnePlus’ signature price point.

What follows are my generally unfiltered first impressions of the Chinese-made flagship killer, with a full review coming in a few weeks.

The very first thing I noticed when pulling the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S from its box was its striking design. In a world filled with glass-encased smartphones that all generally look and feel about the same, the Mi Mix 2S stands apart with a ceramic back and a wildly garish face that features a front-facing camera in the lower-right hand corner.

It’s hefty as hell. At 191 grams, it’s nearly a full ounce heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S9. But, that weight offers a certain security when holding it.

The ceramic backing doesn’t have the painfully fragile feel that plagues glass-backed phones – don’t get me wrong, though if you drop the thing, I’ve no doubt it’ll shatter.

Regardless, that ceramic back is both aesthetically unique and gorgeous, and the people I’ve shown the phone to have all been immediately intrigued by the design. If nothing else, it’s an eye-catcher.

The decision to place the selfie camera in the lower-right corner of the device is a dubious one, but I can see why Xiaomi did it. In order to maximize viewing area at the top of the device, Xiaomi decided to move all the components that normally take up space there – camera, light sensor, proximity sensor – to the bottom of the device. The result is a little bit of a “chin” at the bottom with minimal bezels along the top and sides.

In my opinion, that shin is just begging for a row of capacitive buttons to maximize the screen usage further, but that’s just me.

MIUI’s Evolution

MIUI has come a long way; I remember back in the early days of Android, MIUI was just an iOS clone with questionable compatibility and a great theme engine. But, it’s really come into its own over the years, developing into more of a stock Android experience with a few tweaks and a custom launcher.

The firmware is quick and crisp, and is more much more Android than Apple at this stage. The MIUI Launcher is really limited in its options, and I suspect most people – like me – will switch it to Nova or something similar in short order.

MIUI’s Gesture controls are really crisp – much more so than Google’s. A Left or Right edge-swipe takes you Back (with an animated Arrow icon), while swiping up from the bottom goes Home.

Swiping up and holding it briefly brings up your recents – and that’s the gesture that really stands out from Google’s, which requires a much longer “hold.” I find myself struggling with Google’s gesture controls, but thoroughly enjoying MIUI’s. It’s a fine balance, and while I’ve no doubt that Google’s will evolve in time, currently Xiaomi’s have the edge.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Specs at a Glance

  • Display: 6″, 1080×2060 IPS LCD (403ppi)
  • Processor: Snapdragon 845
  • RAM/ROM: 8/256GB or 6/64(or 128)GB
  • Rear Camera: 12+12MP dual-sensor
  • Selfie Camera: 5MP
  • 3.5mm jack: Nope
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5, USB-C 2.0
  • Battery: 3,400mAh, Qi Charging
  • Firmware: MIUI 9.5 (Based on Android 8.0)

Hardware-wise, this thing really cooks. With a Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of RAM, you have to work hard to slow it down. It comes loaded with 256GB of onboard storage, though there’s no MicroSD card slot, sadly. The 3400mAh battery is pretty standard for flagship-caliber phones. The battery life I’ve gotten so far is decent, about on par with similar phones like the OnePlus 6.

Verdict

I’ve only spent about a week with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, but early returns on the device are great. It’s got a unique design, great aesthetic, phenomenal, flagship-caliber specifications and a much-improved UI that’s just different enough to set it apart.

A couple design quirks like an oddly-placed front-facing camera make you tilt your head in confusion, but so far I’m thoroughly impressed with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S.

More to come, Android guys. Stay tuned!

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