Beautiful, solid design
Smooth, solid performance thanks to the Snapdragon 835
Above average battery life
Capable dual lens camera
Portrait mode is very pleasing
Low price point
No headphone jack
MIUI may not be for everyone
Camera capabilities aren’t fully fleshed out
Xiaomi made headlines early last year with its 2016 flagship, the Mi 5. Not only was the Mi 5 affordable, beautiful, and packed with top-tier features, it was also one of the first devices to sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. Unfortunately the device never officially made its way to the United States, and even if you did manage to import one it lacked the proper 4G LTE bands.
Now Xiaomi is back with its 2017 flagship smartphone, the Mi 6. With the Xiaomi Mi 6, you get a phone with high-end specs, a unique design, a zoom lens, and a sub-$400 price tag. The problem is, like the Mi 5, this phone isn’t coming to the West. That means folks residing in the U.S. will need to import one from a third-party website. But if you happen to live elsewhere, is this phone worth your hard-earned cash?
Find out, in our Xiaomi Mi 6 review!
Because I, Joshua Vergara, used the Xiaomi Mi 6 in the States on the T-Mobile network, I was not able to get the best example of the Mi 6’s performance. As a Chinese phone, this device lacked the radios for LTE connectivity and even then had problems sticking to an HSPA+ connection. This is common for a phone made for other markets, but it does mean that this review is a bit less deep on the hard specifications. Please keep this in mind when reading our review.
The Mi 6 manages to stand out with its design. While it doesn’t stray too far from past Xiaomi phones, we still applaud the company for trying to be unique. The Mi 6 variant in this review is also the ceramic edition, which makes it quite a bit heavier than the standard glass model. Also, the ceramic model comes with the highest configuration of specifications (more on that later).
The ceramic shines beautifully and is complemented by small gold accents
The ceramic shines beautifully and is complemented by small gold accents – 18K gold accents, to be exact. Yes, Xiaomi seems to spare no expense when it comes to the materials of this phone, but it almost makes you wonder how the retail price could be so low. Nevertheless, it feels incredibly premium and hefty, but can slip around in the hand a little too much. However, there is a case included that helps a bit with the handling.
Below the display, you’ll find a set of capacitive back and recent apps keys, which flank the physical home button. The home button also doubles as a fingerprint sensor, and has proven to be fast and accurate in our experience. And, as an added bonus, the capacitive keys can also be customized in the settings menu.
There’s one more major design decision worth pointing out here, and that’s the lack of a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Though it is a controversial move, Xiaomi says removing it allowed them to include a bigger 3,350 mAh battery.
Despite being a flagship device, the Mi 6 does fall behind the pack a bit with its 1080p display. This LCD isn’t bad in any regard, though Quad HD is very much a standard this year in high-end devices. However, Xiaomi has done a great job at making the LCD panel extremely bright in daylight, and also impressively dark when the slider is cranked to zero. This level of darkness is something we’d normally expect from AMOLED displays, but somehow Xiaomi was able to make it work with the Mi 6’s LCD panel.
Despite being a flagship device, the Mi 6 does fall behind the pack a bit with its 1080p display
Overall I didn’t have any issues with the display, though sometimes I did have trouble finding the brightness slider in dark environments. Trust me, this display gets really dark when the slider is turned all the way down.
Performance and hardware
You’ll also find the latest and greatest specs inside the Mi 6. Aside from the Galaxy S8 and HTC U11, the Mi 6 is one of the first devices to sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. It also comes with either 4 or 6 GB of RAM and up to 128 GB of on-board storage. As I alluded to earlier, the ceramic edition is considered the most premium of the bunch, as it comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
I’ve been using the Mi 6 to take tons of photos and videos, and I’ve also been using it as my main gaming device over the past few weeks. In both of these situations, I found no reason to doubt the performance and overall reliability of the phone
As I mentioned in the disclaimer, I unfortunately wasn’t able to use the device to its fullest on T-Mobile’s network here in the U.S., so I had to rely on Wi-Fi and tethering to get things done in many cases. However, call quality was adequate and was helped along by the dual speaker setup. In a configuration similar to last year’s HTC 10, a bottom mounted speaker is accompanied by a unit in the call speaker. Thus, the phone’s audio has some good stereo sound, but unfortunately doesn’t get all that loud. Things get better when connecting headphones, as a built-in EQ provides a nice amount of sound customization. However, you’ll have to keep the headphone jack adapter handy.
The biggest issue I ran into when reviewing the Mi 6 is assessing battery life, as the phone was only connected to T-Mobile via HSPA. I was able to make it to the end of the day on a single charge, but that could definitely change when connected to proper high speed internet.
In Android Authority’s own battery testing app, the Mi 6 was able to achieve about seven hours of continuous screen-on usage using a mixture of gaming, browsing, and video playback. In my personal usage, I was able to get close to six hours of screen-on time primarily on my home Wi-Fi network. And when I was running low on a charge, Quick Charge 3.0 helped keep the Mi 6’s battery topped off throughout the day.
Xiaomi is shipping the Mi 6 with its own custom version of Android, MIUI 8, atop Android 7.1.1 Nougat. And if you’re at all familiar with Xiaomi devices, you probably already know that MIUI doesn’t come with an app drawer, which means you’ll need to rely on folders to help organize your home screens. This is par for the course for many other Chinese ROMs, but users in the West might have a hard time getting used to it.
Even though we’re using the latest version of MIUI on the Mi 6, the core experience hasn’t changed much at all over the years.
Some extra features include a Dual App mode that allows multiple iterations of the same application, a Deep Clean application that helps to clear the phone of junk files, and included Mi Cloud storage if you have a Mi account. If there’s one thing we always enjoy hearing about with MIUI, it’s how often it gets updated due to feedback in the Mi forums. All in all, if you’re familiar with MIUI (and, really, any Chinese ROM) there isn’t much else that differentiates this new version.
If you have been following the trend of this review, you may notice that the Xiaomi Mi 6 seems to take a lot of the best features from previous devices and puts them into one complete package. That’s definitely true for the camera, which is a dual lens system that provides a 2x optical zoom aside the original wider angle. Zoom can be quite important to shutterbugs and Xiaomi has done well to provide one for picture taking in particular. Zoom capabilities are unfortunately not available for video recording, which is a rather significant downside.
Throughout the testing period, I have enjoyed using the Xiaomi Mi 6 for video recording. Optical image stabilization helps keep all footage from looking too jittery, and there was a good amount of detail in each shot. Even though exposure might jump around from time to time, there was little to complain about other than the omission of zoom when in Movie Mode. I was told that this misstep is not a problem with the hardware and could be opened up in the future via a MIUI software update.
I've really enjoyed using the Xiaomi Mi 6 for video recording
The camera software in the Mi 6 provides a few extra modes that shutterbugs will be particularly fond of, including a Pro mode. And even as an automatic shooter, the Mi 6’s camera is quick enough to take a good shot, even when shooting in HDR mode. HDR is a toggle rather than an automatic mode, and keeping it on will often boost up the shadows and bump up the saturation to a noticeable degree.
Pictures in broad daylight generally came out looking good, though the dynamic range left a bit to be desired. Highlights tend to be too bright when I tried to bring up the exposure compensation for better shadows. And this same overly bright effect was observed in HDR adjustments, too. While zooming into elements without a loss in quality is a nice option to have, but it wasn’t required in a ton of situations.
Xiaomi Mi 6 camera samples
That is, until you use the marquee feature of the Xiaomi Mi 6 camera – Portrait Mode. Heavily inspired by the iPhone Portrait Mode, Xiaomi utilizes the optical zoom to tighten up the frame while working to isolate the subject from the background. When subjects are, at most, a couple of meters away, the phone goes right into a Depth Effect mode, adding bokeh to the background elements.
Xiaomi Mi 6 camera samples (Portrait Mode)
The Mi 6 does a decent job of this as it softens out the edges, but it does sometimes cut the line a bit incorrectly. This is only really noticeable when zooming in; taken on their own, the portrait photos turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the camera experience. Especially in good lighting, photos of friends and colleagues yielded new-profile-picture-level shots. Lower light situations make these and pretty much any other photo suffer especially in the finer details of the pictures, making this a less than ideal indoor or nighttime camera.
|Xiaomi Mi 6|
|Display||5.15-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1080 resolution
|Processor||2.45 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Camera||Rear: Dual 12 MP rear cameras, f/1.8 and f/2.6 apertures, PDAF, dual LED flash, OIS
Front: 8 MP
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS + GLONASS
USB Type-C 1.0
|Battery||Non-removable 3,350 mAh|
|Software||MIUI 8 (based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat)|
|Dimensions and weight||145.2 x 70.5 x 7.5 mm
168 grams (standard model)
182 grams (ceramic model)
Pricing and final thoughts
Much like the Portrait Mode, it is when the phone focuses on a specific feature or capability that it manages to provide some high points. However, trying to do too much just bogs down the overall package. The Xiaomi Mi 6 is by far the most capable phone Xiaomi has made to date (the “most unique” title goes to the Mi MIX, of course). But in its quest to provide every feature we’ve loved in the last couple years, it falls just short of perfection.
The dual speaker is a bit reserved, the battery is big but sacrifices the headphone jack, and the dual camera isn’t as capable as we would like. It’s a give and take with the Xiaomi Mi 6, and it comes right down to its price — a price that is equivalent to $360. That’s an incredible price that would make anyone in the West excited, only it’s not available anywhere but the opposite side of the world.
So we hope that Xiaomi expands further with their next phone as long as they continue this trend of selling their phones at as close to cost as possible. Xiaomi has made strides with the Mi Note 2 that was globally capable and then the limited release Mi MIX that made a big splash. If this ceramic Mi 6 came with the global radios, Xiaomi could have a hit.
The Mi 6 could be one of the best bang for buck phones in existence
Even with the cons, the pros are stacked with the price point leading the way. It might not be perfect as a flagship, but if you can get your hands on it, this amalgam of features could be one of the best bang for buck phones in existence.