DNA Review: Mi Mix 2 better second time round
By Chong Jinn Xiung January 1, 2018
- New flagship phone remixes the formula and brings marked improvements
- Large screen is still Full HD+ only but big battery and great processor make up for it
BY NOW you would probably be familiar with the 18:9 full-screen display that is so common on nearly every flagship smartphone.
Back in 2016, Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix, a concept phone that introduced the full-screen display. The screen dominated the front of the phone leaving little room for any bezels. It, however, wasn’t a perfect phone by any means but now, one year later, the Mi Mix 2 is back for round two of the fight and is arguably much better.
Producing a successor to the Mi Mix was always going to be challenging but Xiaomi has put forward a very stylish flagship model with aesthetics that are worthy of the envy of other manufacturers.
From a design standpoint, there is plenty to love about the Mi Mix 2. Xiaomi has gone out of its way to ensure that looks come first and it employed French designer, Philip Starck to design the phone.
Part of the appeal is the feeling in hand. With very smooth rounded edges the Mi Mix 2 feels great to hold. It also has a sexy all ceramic backplate that looks gorgeous and is tough at the same time, being rather resistant to scratches.
The 2.5D curved glass takes up a significant portion of the phone’s front, though the Mi Mix 2 is actually smaller than its predecessor; another bonus in terms of its handling. So not only is it compact but you are actually getting a 5.99-inch IPS display on this device making it terrific for reading, watching videos and playing games.
There is but a small compromise to this design. Xiaomi opted to place the front-facing camera on the bottom corner of the phone and this is a very awkward position as it presents a very unflattering point of view. Though the Mi Mix 2 will prompt you to flip the phone upside down when taking selfies or making video calls, this extra step may put off selfie lovers.
Of course, navigating an enormous screen like this can be challenging but fortunately, some smart user interface decisions in MIUI’s Quick Ball feature provide quick and easy access to the multitasking menu, home button, lock screen button and ability to take a screenshot so you don’t need to contort and stretch your hand.
Coming down to screen quality, the Mi Mix 2 sadly isn’t going to stand on par in terms of resolution, as it only has a Full HD+ screen. While the difference between Full HD+ and Quad HD may not be so apparent for the average user, the fact remains that it doesn’t look good on paper. That being said, though this is not AMOLED quality, it isn’t a bad looking display as colour and sharpness are still good.
Leaving little space in front, the fingerprint reader naturally has to go behind but much like Xiaomi’s other handsets, the placement is perfect and within reach. Unlocking is almost instantaneous, so it is good when you need to unlock your phone in a hurry.
Apart from that, the Mi Mix 2 keeps a very minimalistic design all around the device. The power and volume buttons are all parked on the right, there is no home button and on the bottom and you will find that there is only a USB Type-C port.
Disappointingly, there is no headphone jack so either you use an adapter for wired headphones or fork out for a pair of wireless headphones if you want to listen to music while on the go.
As far as internal specs go, the Mi Mix 2 has all the makings of a flagship model, outfitted with a Snapdragon 835 processor along with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The lack of a microSD card slot is a negative for the phone but fortunately, 64GB is still roomy enough to install your apps and photos.
Judging from the massive amount of RAM that comes with this device, we were very pleased with the Mi Mix 2’s performance as it managed to switch between apps seamlessly. Even with multiple apps open, the Mi Mix 2 never missed a beat.
It is also worth noting that the Mi Mix 2 is a real “world” phone as it has the most radio on any smartphone and should work practically anywhere you take it.
As we came to expect with hardware this powerful, the Mi Mix 2 is a great performer judging from the benchmark scores.
Running on top of Android 7.1.1, Xiaomi’s MIUI 9, for the most part, is smooth and modern looking. The interaction was fast and zippy. It does come with a couple of preinstalled apps, including Microsoft Office.
You don’t get an app drawer so all apps will be on the main screen but not to worry, you can always use another launcher if you aren’t happy with MIUI 9.
One thing for certain, battery life is one of the strong suits of the Mi Mix 2. It packs a 4,4400mAh battery which is supermassive and allows you to comfortably use the device over the course of two days.
The inclusion of Quick Charge 3.0 is another big plus point to charge the device when you are in a hurry. All these facts make the Mi Mix 2 a terrific phone for travel.
Coming down to the camera, it is slightly disappointing to note that Xiaomi decided to stick to a conventional 12-Megapixel f/2.0 for the rear camera instead of upping its game to a dual camera setup. Even its budget-friendly Mi A1 has dual cameras that give users 2x optical zoom!
The Mi Mix 2 uses a Sony IMX378 sensor and comes with other goodies like Phase Detect autofocus and four-axis optical image stabilisation (OIS) among other things; all the typical markers of a flagship camera phone.
You get a manual mode if you fancy taking full control of the camera and the OIS really helps to keep videos (which go up to 4K resolution) looking sharp. HDR capture annoyingly needs to be toggled and isn’t automatic.
Picture quality is definitely good and it does a decent job at colour balancing though things fall apart in low-light conditions. The Mi Mix 2’s camera is no low light killer camera in comparison with other flagships but at the very least its daylight photos can hold a candle up to the rest.
It is hard to top the revolutionary design of its predecessor but the Mi Mix 2 is a worthy successor to the concept phone that sparked the 2017 bezel-less trend in flagships. The ‘surprise’ may not be as impactful but it does hold some subtle surprises that improve the phone’s overall performance and usage.
The new design is slimmer, smaller and lighter; all good things to have on a second-generation phone. We still miss the headphone jack but it is just another sign of the times.
Performance is good all-around thanks to the top end processor and whopping 6GB of RAM. No complaints during multitasking and the battery life is pretty good.
However, the Mi Mix 2 misses on some points. It is not a phone for selfie lovers thanks to its awkwardly placed front camera that requires you to flip the phone around. Also, MIUI 9 still comes with too many pre-installed apps. The exclusion of a microSD card slot exacerbates the problem further.
Regardless, the Mi Mix 2 is a solid phone I thoroughly enjoyed using during my review.