Last year, the Mi MIX by Xiaomi was launched as a sort of concept phone pushing the boundaries of smartphone design and innovation. While it managed to capture the attention of everyone across the world, it’s availability was limited.
The Mi MIX was one of the first smartphones to go beyond the 16:9 aspect ratio ditching the bezels along the way, and was crafted from ceramic. The beautiful design with the edge-to-edge display made it a head-turner, and different from anything we had seen before.
The Mi MIX 2 goes a step forward while making some practical pullbacks but now finds itself in a crowded market of smartphones with tall displays – a trend that the company pioneered in a way. It’s more mainstream now, packs in the most number of radio bands ever (so it works anywhere in the world), and is more widely available.
Launched in India recently, it competes with other mid-range flagship smartphones like the OnePlus 5, Honor 8 Pro, and Nokia 8. Does it manage to be a great, well-rounded option on this table? Here’s what I think of the Mi MIX 2.
The Mi MIX 2 is one of the most beautiful devices I’ve seen in recent times. The ceramic back looks stunning and it is crafted with symmetrical elegance. It’s a phone that stands out in a crowd and catches everyone’s eyes in the room. The Mi MIX 2 is special, really.
Unlike the super-sized display on the original Mi MIX, the Mi MIX 2 opts for a more manageable 5.99-inch IPS LCD and the bezel-less design means that the Mi MIX 2 offers that large screen experience on a phone that’s almost the same size as a OnePlus 5 with a 5.5-inch screen. It feels great in the hand and is quite comfortable to grip, especially because of the rounded edges.
Yet, because of the ceramic back, it is quite slippery. Xiaomi does bundle a slick protective cover in the box, but putting it on hides the beauty of the gorgeous device – something I’ll rather not do, and be careful with the device instead. It is also a smudge magnet and picks up a bunch in short time. Each time I pick up the Mi MIX 2, I have to rub it along my shirt’s sleeve to wipe off the smudges.
The original Mi MIX had a distinct blocky look that looked more enticing but the company has now traded that for familiarity. The device feels solid in hand and the ceramic at the back feels much better than glass or metal.
The rear of the phone has a branding phrase – MIX Designed By Xiaomi – which is grammatically awkward. It could’ve just been ‘Designed By Xiaomi’ or have a hyphen or period or something after ‘MIX’. It’s not a showstopper, but my Grammar Nazi instincts get riled up each time I look at it.
Over 80% off the front of the Mi MIX 2 is taken up by that IPS display – and it stretches up to the very top of the phone. There’s no notch like the iPhone X or the divot like the Essential. Thankfully.
On the Mi MIX last year, Xiaomi placed a piezoelectric acoustic speaker under the screen. While it was an innovative solution in theory, it offered poor sound experience and a lack of privacy with others around you able to hear what’s being said at the other end.
This time around there is a small slit at the top that houses an actual speaker, and hence the display stretches to ‘almost the top’ but not till the top edge. It’s a minute difference, though, and no one would mind it.
The Mi MIX 2 sports a beautiful 5.99-inch Full HD+ display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080. It’s not OLED and the lack of Quad HD resolution on a large display slightly garbles Xiaomi’s flagship pitch. Yet the display offers a wonderful viewing experience despite the lack of color saturation.
While the phone fits nicely in the hand, the size of the display means that getting up and down across the screen real estate requires some hand gymnastics.
The Mi MIX 2 packs in top-of-the-line specifications like any other flagship smartphone in the market. Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, the Indian variant packs in 6 GB of RAM. Like the OnePlus 5, the Mi MIX 2 doesn’t include a microSD card slot for storage expansion, but 128 GB of internal storage should be good enough for most people.
The powerful internals underneath that beautiful chassis make the device shine. It can take on anything that you throw at it with aplomb ease and doesn’t break a sweat even when you push it during gaming or aggressive multitasking.
The battery life on the Mi MIX 2 is pretty good, aided by the efficient 10nm-fabricated Snapdragon 835 chipset and a reasonable screen resolution. The 3,400mAh battery would last a day-and-a-half on typical usage and the support for Quick Charge 3.0 rounds off a great specifications sheet.
The camera is the weakest link in the Mi MIX 2 juggernaut. Both front and rear have cameras with great optics, yet are missteps in one way or the other.
Up front, is the biggest compromise Xiaomi had to make for that striking finesse at the top. The front-facing camera is located at the bottom corner of the phone. It is absolutely the most awkward position for a camera. The odd angle is annoying while clicking selfies, and while shooting videos or in during video calls, you’d look disoriented to the viewer because instead of looking at the screen (which one does for the intuitiveness, helped by the placement of the camera) you’re looking at the bottom of the phone.
The default camera app prompts you to turn the phone upside down to click selfies in a conventional way, but that’s not an option in apps like Facebook and Snapchat. Essentially, it is very hard to recommend the Mi MIX 2 to anyone who clicks a lot of selfies or broadcasts everyday shenanigans on Facebook or Snapchat or WhatsApp, despite being a great device otherwise.
Things aren’t bad on the rear, but the Mi MIX 2 chooses to not jump in the dual-camera bandwagon. The company did debut the Mi 6 earlier this year with the dual camera setup at the back and even the affordable Mi A1 launched last month, but looks like the design considerations trumped the feature on this one.
The 12 MP shooter sports 4-axis optical stabilization and the manages to click pretty good pictures in the day – some of them very impressive in both color reproduction and the amount of details. But in low light, it’s a struggle to capture a few good ones.
Overall, it’s a good camera, but a tad underwhelming when compared to other smartphones at the price point. Even with a single camera, the Pixel 2 manages to offer something special, but the Mi MIX 2 doesn’t try too hard in that department.
The Mi MIX 2 runs MIUI 9, Xiaomi’s proprietary UI layer over Android 7.0 Nougat. MIUI is an integral part of the Xiaomi experience and has garnered quite a lot of fans – except for the ones who prefer stock Android experience. It packs in quite a few nifty additions and handy features to improve overall user experience.
In his review, my colleague Joshua Vergara mentioned that the software on this phone is just short of ready for primetime outside China. The lack of polish here and there irked him. However, that isn’t true in India – a market where Xiaomi has had a strong focus for a while. Since MIUI 7, we’ve seen several useful features like better SMS experience introduced specifically for the Indian audience.
Xiaomi has established itself as a force in the budget smartphone market in India, and as the number two smartphone vendor in the country, it is inching closer to the market leader Samsung with every launch.
So, is the Mi MIX 2 the right phone for the company to go up the value chain to take a shot at the mid-range flagship smartphone market? Absolutely. Does it deliver a perfect product to win the segment? Well, not really.
At ₹35,999 ($550), the Mi MIX 2 is of course a brilliant device. It looks stunning and can match any flagship device in performance. Yet, it is not a well-rounded smartphone because of the average camera experience and the novelty of bezel-less smartphones fading away in the market now since the Mi MIX first introduced the concept. And there’s no headphone jack! It actually boils down to what you’re looking for in your smartphone.