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Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 hands-on impressions: All that in a skin-tight suit

Xiaomi shows Samsung how to trim down and shape up.

Published onAugust 15, 2023

From the very get-go, the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 already feels like one of the most refined foldable phones available today. Sadly, it’ll be China-only for a little while before we hopefully get an expanded release in more regions over the coming months. Until then, it’s a folly that emphasizes Samsung’s tick-tock update cycle with its own market-leading Galaxy Z Fold line, and pitted against the direct competitors within the Chinese market, Xiaomi has produced a fine rebuttal to the ultra-slim HONOR Magic V2.

There are two Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 models — one composite fiber and the other glass — with both coming in at under 11mm when unfolded. Despite such a slim chassis and sub-300g mass, I was surprised at just how well the Mix Fold 3 is put together. I wouldn’t necessarily be too worried about body flex because the frame and folding mechanism feel sturdy enough that you don’t need to be too cautious when going about your daily business.

A striking aspect carried over from the Mix Fold 2 is the understated design. I’d liken it to a prototype in the stealthy black finish. The hardware doesn’t scream “look at me,” but rather “I can do all this while wearing a skintight suit.” While it would have been nice to see some funky colors, I personally find bright colors on an expensive device can get tacky or gaudy rather quickly — that’s not the case here.

The in-the-box frame clip-on case is an incredibly nice touch. It combines a base level of protection with a fairly solid kickstand that is perfect for propping up the Mix Fold 3 on a flat surface or table. It does at a couple of extra millimeters to the dimensions, but it’s worth it for some added utility.

I’ll stop just short of calling the 6.56-inch FHD+ outer screen “perfect.” However, when folded, this looks as good as any device display you’ll find on a modern smartphone. In fact, on a desk it looks like any other Android phone. With a more standard aspect ratio, it feels more in tune with other flagship devices.

Unfolded, the 8.03-inch 120Hz QHD+ panel is similarly excellent, but I feel it suffers from the almost 1:1 aspect ratio. With few apps able to take proper advantage of this squared-off panel, you’ll find huge areas of whitespace of wasted real estate. In fairness, I have the same complaint with the Galaxy Z Fold series, and various app developers are still yet to optimize for the square-off shape.

I have some bad news, as you can see the crease on the Mix Fold 3. It’s not prominent, but it is very much there. OPPO still leads the charge with an almost invisible screen fold on the Find N2 and Find N2 Flip. That said, this portion of the panel is almost perfectly flat. Running your finger along it and you can feel the separation between each side.

The maximum brightness has already proven to be a key selling point for me. I was struck by how blinding it could be in dim environments, but outdoor visibility is as good as I have tested. Although it is important to note that this particular flexible screen absorbs fingerprint grease to the point it can almost fully obscure content at lower brightness levels.

By this point in time, you know what to expect from a $1,000+ device such as this. The latest flagship processor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, is paired with a bucketload of RAM. The software is a mixed bag on the unit I received, too. As with just about any China-only smartphone, it means you’re running a Chinese-specific build of Android.

It wouldn’t be fair to truly criticize without being able to test-drive a global ROM. However, with a few downloads and app deletions, a semi-usable setup can be achieved with partial Google Mobile Services working as intended. Not all of Google’s foldable-specific Android 13 tweaks have been ported over, such as the persistent app dock, which makes things like multi-tasking a bit of a chore on the inner screen. Put simply, I wouldn’t recommend importing it right now unless you’re happy to jump through a lot of hoops.

A striking aspect carried over from the Mix Fold 2 is the understated design.

Xiaomi has tried to plug some functionality gaps with its own floating sidebar. This allows you to quickly access recently used applications in a similar manner to the taskbar found on Galaxy Z Fold and Pixel Fold. It’s less useful in that form, but you can add 10 custom apps here, which is far more useful. Even so, I made a few split-screen app pair quick widgets and added to the home screen for speedy multi-tasking with my favorites.

We’re still in a bit of a strange period where more folding handsets are launching, and more support is coming to Android, but apps are not fully taking advantage of the new layouts. It’s more apparent with each phone of this ilk I’ve tested. That said, it would be unfair to lambast Xiaomi and MIUI for issues that are somewhat out of their control.

I do applaud the dedicated “Features for foldable devices” section within the Settings app. From here, you can tweak some functions to take better advantage of the larger inner screen. A lot of this is pretty basic stuff, but it’s still appreciated given its elevated status within the broader phone settings.

Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 camer macro
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

While I haven’t had time to properly test the camera capabilities of the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3, it bodes well for anyone who cares deeply about mobile photography and videography. To get two telephoto lenses is impressive on such a thin package. Xiaomi has stepped up in recent years to fill the void left by HUAWEI with the Leica partnership helping to produce impressively tuned camera systems.

In my brief time just pointing and shooting with the 50MP main sensor, images have been tack sharp with lots of detail and well-balanced colors. What’s more important is that Xiaomi has addressed the color tonal differences that plagued some older handsets when switching lenses. There is a nice consistency between each of the focal lengths here.

It wouldn’t be a great leap to expect the Xiaomi 13 Ultra to remain top of the totem in the Chinese firm’s camera lineup, but I’m excited to see what I can do with this quad-camera system over the next few weeks. The flexibility feels a step ahead of the Samsung and Google foldables for what it’s worth.

Xiaomi Mix Fold 3: Our initial impressions

Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 packaging top down
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

It’s hard to truly evaluate the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 in isolation, because it’s unclear if Western markets will ever see the device via official channels. The entire package feels like a statement of intent to provide one of the most complete and comprehensive foldable phones to date.

The svelte package is the first of its kind that has me believing I could ditch my Pixel 7 Pro and use a foldable device as my main handset daily. Much of this is down to the super slim form factor that won’t leave a huge pocket dent. To put this into perspective, the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a case and screen protector is thicker than the Mix Fold 3. Plus, the front screen is just as usable as a “regular phone,” with the added bonus of the larger inner screen goodness.

If it goes global, the Mix Fold 3 could be one of the foldables to beat in 2023 and beyond.

What’s also apparent to me is that compromises are not as explicit here. The camera system already feels more than competent. My only personal gripe would be the lack of IP rating — something that Xiaomi has not confirmed to us. Sure, the MIUI software build on this specific model is not great, but it’s designed for Chinese audiences, and a global MIUI ROM would undoubtedly iron out some admittedly minor complaints.

As has been said about many China-only devices over the past few years, if no release is planned outside of the region, Samsung will remain steadfast at the top of the foldable sales charts for some time yet. Luckily, we could learn more about a global launch at IFA in just a few weeks. We’re eager to see how and where Xiaomi positions the Mix Fold 3, as it could be one of the phones to beat in 2023 and beyond.

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