Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Review: Almost a true flagship

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 detailed review

Xiaomi has sold millions of phones in India and has yet to make its way into the flagship market. The company won’t be selling an uber-premium phone in any country, but its own flagships have failed to impress, at least as far as Indian buyers are concerned. So, having passed the Mi 6 this year, it seemed like the right idea to sell the Mi Mix 2 instead.

The Mix series has a short history, which only started last year. It aims to prove that Xiaomi is not a company that only makes affordable phones. It is a mascot, for innovation and creativity. It aims to prove Xiaomi’s ability to make uber premium devices and market them to others. The Mix isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s a phone that lives up to every modern standard you can imagine. It won’t be the best-selling phone in the country, but it’s not meant to be. Xiaomi just wants you to know that it can make such phones, in the hopes that one day you will buy them.

Build and design

Most of the defining elements of the Mi Mix 2 are in the design. Xiaomi has refined its bezel-less design, creating a significantly smaller form factor this time around. The bezels are still cropped, but you’ll find a larger black border around the screen this time around, compared to last year’s Mi Mix (review). The Mix 2 is also thinner than its predecessor and all this together makes for a much more compact smartphone, despite the 6-inch screen.

Then, while there is a glass version of the Mi Mix 2, Xiaomi is only selling the ceramic variant here in India. The smaller form factor makes the finish feel sleeker and the body firmer. Although it is almost impossible to scratch ceramics, the material is more brittle. That means your Mi Mix 2 will break the first time it falls, on the one hand, you don’t have to worry about wiping the fingerprints off with a soft cloth. You can do that with your shirt without worrying about scratches. For someone like me, who makes sure he never drops his phone, that seems like a fair ending.

The proximity sensor is behind the screen, while the front camera is almost invisible at the bottom

You’ll see a thicker bezel around the screen this time, although the edges are still cropped

Another very important change has been made to the Mi Mix 2, that of the rounded metal frame on the side. Together with its compact shape, the rounded sides provide a better grip, while the use of metal makes the case slightly more resistant to damage when dropped. The antenna lines are on the top and bottom of this frame, while the speaker grilles and USB Type-C port are on the bottom. You’ll also find a noise-cancelling microphone on the top, while the volume rocker and power button sit on the right. The SIM slot is located on the left side of the phone.

The final standout design element of the Mix 2, which makes it more premium than last year’s Mi Mix, is the round camera module with gold accents on the back. It’s raised slightly, with the flash next to it and a similar, spherical fingerprint sensor below. Beneath all this is “Mix Designed By Xiaomi”, a statement from the company that it can make a phone like the Mix/Mix 2.

The metal frame on the side makes the Mi Mix 2 feel premium

Mi Mix 2 i(left) is significantly smaller than the Mi Mix (right)

The smaller form factor of the Mi Mix 2 (left) made the ceramic back fit more tightly

Along with that message, Xiaomi has once again placed the proximity sensor behind the display. This time there is a small notch at the top, to fit the earmold.

When explained in paragraphs, the Mix 2’s design doesn’t feel special or new, but it’s the succinct marriage of all these materials that makes this a modern flagship. Simply based on its design, the Mix 2 would easily impress budget buyers who crave the premium feel that comes with a phone priced at 50,000. It is miles ahead of mid-sized flagships like the OnePlus 5 and Honor 8 Pro. When you walk into a Mi Home, the Mi Mix 2 is the phone that grabs your attention.

Screen

The design is a big pleasure for the screen of the Mi Mix 2. I spent almost 500 words describing the premium design, but it also left Xiaomi very little room in terms of cost. As a result, a 1080p display is all you get, although the lack of bezels makes it feel much more immersive on the Mix 2.

While Gorilla Glass 2 feels extremely premium, I would certainly have preferred an AMOLED panel on the Mix 2, and one that pushes the pixels into the high 500s. Instead, you get a pixel density of 403 ppi and an 18:9 aspect ratio that still feels great, but leaves you wanting a little more. I really hope next year’s Mix 3 will have at least an AMOLED panel.

Performance

As Xiaomi’s flagship, the Mix 2 is also Xiaomi’s fastest smartphone to date. It runs on the Snapdragon 835 chipset with a clock speed of 2.45 GHz. There is 6GB of RAM here and 128GB of storage inside. As for mid-range phones, this is the most storage you can get, eliminating the need for micro-SD expansion.

The Mix 2 sets high benchmark scores and the same can be seen with regular use. Apps open quickly and Xiaomi has tuned the software to reduce the loading times of apps. The phone is lag-free and smooth. It feels almost as fast as the OnePlus 5, although differences are easy to spot when placed side by side. Still, the Mi Mix 2 is snappy and responsive.

The earpiece on the Mix 2 is cleaner this time. That’s not to say the Mix made calling difficult, the new earpiece just feels easier to use. There were no issues in terms of call quality and no drops.

The Mix 2 also supports 43 LTE bands, meaning you can use it literally anywhere in the world. You only see the impact of this if you are a globetrotter.

Software

For everything the Mi Mix 2 is capable of, it’s a shame the Mix 2 isn’t getting Android updates anytime soon. It runs on MiUI 8, layered over Android Nougat, and given Xiaomi’s history, I wouldn’t expect any timely OS updates.

While MiUI has some useful features like allowing you to swipe across screens when moving apps around, there are drawbacks as well. For example, the Mix 2 only shows you the number of notifications from an app when the screen is locked. This means that you have to open the app every time there is a notification.

That said, whether you like the user interface ultimately comes down to personal choices. MiUI is one of the better designed custom interfaces out there.

Camera

The Mi Mix 2 has an improved camera compared to last time, but it easily outperforms any flagship today, mid-range or high-end. It has a 12MP camera with f/2.0 aperture and a pixel size of 1.25 microns.

It takes decent photos in daylight, although you can see fine noise if you magnify them. Details are also low and diminish in low light or indoor shots. Shadow detail is low and photos taken at night remain subpar. The great thing is that colors and white balance are reasonable and the camera is quite fast to shoot with.

Natural light inside

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Indoor lighting

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Outdoor daylight shot

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Little light

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Overall, there’s still work to be done, although Xiaomi has improved the camera this time around.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2

Battery

The Mi Mix 2 is well designed, fast and has a nice display. But my favorite feature of this phone is the battery life. The phone runs on a relatively small 3400 mAh battery, but it drops almost no battery when idle and normal usage times are higher than any flagship I’ve used to date. In a weekend, with just a few calls and toned down use, the phone easily surpassed 15 hours on a single charge. For most users, the phone will easily last for at least 12 hours on a single charge. The PC Mark battery test gives a score of almost 12 hours to bring the battery down from 80% to 20%, the highest score of flagships in our tests.

bottom line

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 looks premium, feels high-end and is fast. It doesn’t set new heights in terms of what flagships can be, but it certainly proves what Xiaomi is capable of. A better camera would have made this the best mid-range flagship to buy, but Xiaomi has been making mistakes in this department for a while now. So while the Mi Mix 2 is indeed a great phone, Xiaomi has to tackle the camera to make it worth the money.

How it compares?

The Mi Mix 2 will match any phone in terms of speed, design or build quality. Where it fails, however, is in terms of camera performance. The OnePlus 5 (review) and Honor 8 Pro (review) outperform this phone in that area, while being equally fast and competitively priced. The Mix 2 will impress those who want a true flagship design, it’s not the perfect mid-range flagship out there, and certainly not the best buy.

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