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[Review] Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 – The Black Mirror

[Review] Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 – The Black Mirror

As far as trends go in the world of tech, 2017 is best remembered as the year that every vendor on the planet was racing to make a bezel-less phone. Xiaomi’s thrown their hat in the ring with their flagship, the Mi Mix 2 that blends an 18:9 aspect ratio display and includes some top-shelf hardware such as a Snapdragon 835 chip and 6GB RAM as well as one of the most premium finished chassis seen in recent memory.



The phone comes with the sort of packaging that is now de rigueur for flagship phones – its heavy grammage cardboard all around with the top lid tastefully monogrammed with the Xiaomi logo in gold. Pop the lid open and you get the Mi Mix 2 itself along with a very generous assortment of accessories to go with it.



Along with the obligatory USB Type C charging cable and 5V/2A charger plug is a USB Type-C-to-headphone jack dongle as well as an unexpected but highly welcome bonus –  a matte black polycarbonate casing to protect the phone. Putting it on means you can’t admire the beautiful finish on the Mi Mix 2 though which is a bit of a pickle.

Mi Mix 2 with casing

The Mi Mix2 with its bundled polycarbonate casing on

Externally, the Mi Mix 2 is a subtle refinement over their earlier Mi Mix that debuted in 2016 which has been sized down slightly to a 5.99-inch 1080P display from the original Mi Mix which had a 6.4-inch display to make it easier to wield on top of making it a wee bit slimmer and lighter while retaining a similarly premium ceramic finish. 

The back of the Mi Mix 2 sports a mirrored ceramic-like material that’s so reflective that you can literally use it to check your mug if you lack a mirror.The upper rear quadrant sports a 12-MP camera rimmed with gold trim that is paired with a dual LED flash. Perched just beneath it is a rounded fingerprint reader finished in the same mirrored material. It also has a manufacturer’s sticker on the back, which  you can see in our shots but that can be removed so you can admire the glossiness of the phone in all its glory.



The trim around the sides of the phone is done up in a more fingerprint resistant matte aluminium finish with the right side coming with a power button and volume rocker. The left side is bare save for a dual SIM card slot that accepts two nano SIM cards and aught else. Bucking the trend of sporting a hybrid SIM, the Mi Mix 2 lacks a microSD card expansion slot so if you need more storage from the get-go you’ll have to fork out for the higher capacity 128GB or 256GB models.



The base of the Mi Mix 2 is a rather busy affair with a USB Type C port, along with a speaker and earpiece grille flanked by antenna bands. The top has a similar setup as well but is mostly bare bar the antenna bands. Alas, the phone omits the 3.5mm headphone jack from the design though it compensates somewhat with a USB Type C dongle bundled with the box.

The front is dominated by the now increasingly common 18:9 aspect ratio widescreen display. In the case of the Mi Mix 2, it sports a 5.99-inch Full HD display with 403ppi and extremely thin bezels on the top and sides which stretch almost to the side trim though the base still has a smidgen of a bezel remaining despite the fact that there’s no home button left. Oddly enough, the selfie camera has been repositioned away from its usual placement on the upper section and is instead located at the base of the display in the lower right corner. It’s a decidedly odd position and affects how you take selfies somewhat though it’s not an insurmountable complication.



On the design front, the Mi Mix 2 is a stunner indeed with its polished ceramic finish, beautifully curved edges and huge display. It feels exquisite when held and has an excellent heft and finish that can match even the best from Cupertino though it is also a fingerprint magnet and collects smudges even with casual handling. Unfortunately, the Mi Mix 2 for all its good looks lacks water and dust resistance which means you’ll have to be careful in day to day use.

Mi Mix 2 performance

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 comes with a solid array of hardware that can match any top-tier phone currently in service in 2017. It sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor paired with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage. Short of the next generation of Snapdragon 845 processors appearing in 2018, the Snapdragon 835 is Qualcomm’s best chipset available. Unfortunately, the existing 64GB storage is non expandable so you will have to work with what you have though you can opt for the higher end 128GB or 256GB models if you’re wont to keep an entire season worth of shows on your phone.



The 5.99-inch display of the Mi Mix 2 goes for an 18:9 aspect ratio but maxes out at 2,160 x 1080 pixel resolution which isn’t the sharpest available in the market though it’s more than sufficient for day to day use.  Colours are punchy and details are crisp with the default settings though, the Mi Mix 2 only has several predefined settings in terms of colour calibration options and no means to specifically adjust RGB levels. Fortunately, the standard settings should cover most of the scenarios that you’ll encounter.

On the audio front, the Mi Mix 2’s stereo speakers delivered with pretty good detail and modest volume though bass was on the low side. The somewhat asymmetrical placement of the speakers did not impede performance and Joanna Wang’s dulcet tones on Vincent ran in a clear fashion while the usual explosions and thumps on Clash Royale were viscerally enjoyable.


Overlaying Android Nougat 7.1.1 on the Mi Mix 2 is their own MIUI, now in version 8.5. Of note is the ability to create a distinct separate partition on the phone dubbed Second Space. This allows you to have a separate theme, settings, apps, folders pics and the like distinct from the primary install on the phone. This allows for two distinct but separate accounts on the phone for personal and work purposes.

This theme of doubling is also extended further down to apps as well with the ability to create two instances of an app running on the phone which is handy if you need to run two Whatsapp or Facebook accounts on the Mi Mix 2.

Firing it up takes seconds and MI UI has nixed most of the bloatware so getting about the interface is a swift affair. Apps fired up in seconds and it handled everything thrown at it including some fairly intensive gaming sessions on Final Fantasy: Awakening with settings on high and Asphalt 8 Airborne without any stuttering or lag.



In synthetic benchmarks, the Mi Mix 2’s hefty hardware yielded very respectable results. In Antutu it got a score of 162,309. In PCMark, it snagged a healthy 6578 which makes it quite a workhorse indeed. In Geekbench it yielded a single core score of 1945 and a multicore score of 5496. In the Slingshot Extreme Vulkan test, it got a score of 2,264 while in the Sling Shot Extreme Open GL test it got a score of 2,814 which puts it on par with quite a few flagship phones out there.


Mi Mix 2 Cameras

The rear camera on the Mi Mix 2 consists of a single lens 12-MP camera with 4-axis optical image stabilisation, an f/2.0 aperture, HDR support and a dual LED flash. It’s also rated for 4K video capture at 30 frames per second. The phone also includes a manual mode that lets you tweak white balance, exposure time, ISO and focus on top of all the usual panorama, tilt-shift and timer modes.

In the field, the Mi Mix 2 is capable of great shots in well lit conditions on the rear camera with the 4-axis OIS helping somewhat under more challenging conditions including shots in dim light. Colour accuracy is pretty good as well with decent levels of detail. With practice, the phone can achieve some very shareworthy shots.

The Mi Mix 2 has a front facing 5-MP camera with an F/2.0 aperture though it lacks a dedicated flash and is unable to use the front display as a screen flash so you’ll need pretty decent lighting to get good shots.

Manual mode on the Mi Mix 2

Manual mode on the Mi Mix 2

Like its predecessors, the phone is able to guesstimate the age of a subject.  You’re able to both slim the face and lighten the skin of a subject as needed with results appearing live on camera though dialling everything to maximum results in rather unrealistic outcomes with waxy smooth skin. The main quibble here though is the decidedly odd placement of the selfie camera at the base of the phone which means that your thumb will likely get in the way or shots will end up being angled from a distinctly unflattering angle though you can flip it around for more normal looking selfies.

 

Mi Mix 2 Price, Battery Life & Conclusion


Crammed within the mirrored ceramic finish of the Mi Mix 2 is a 3,400mAh battery that supports Quick Charge 3.0. With modest usage making several minutes of phone calls, all-day texting on social media, liberal usage of Google Docs and Sheets for an hour or two combined, writing several quick emails and a game or two of Final Fantasy: Awakening, the Mi Mix 2 managed to make it past sundown though it needed a top-up with about 10% remaining for the return commute.

The Mi Mix 2’s FHD+ display is a pragmatic choice that helps in extending battery endurance as it has less pixels to push. Once you reach a wall plug, the quick charge mode and the bundled charger helps you get juiced to a nearly full battery in about an hour and a half.

At RM2,499, the Mi Mix 2 is a somewhat mixed proposition. The novel use of ceramic and the exceptional polish in its design make it one of the best looking smartphones in the market though this is tempered by the fact that it’s a fingerprint magnet and the lack of water resistance.

The hardware is exceptional with the widescreen display, Snapdragon 835 processor and 6GB RAM making it quite a performer though it lacks a storage expansion card slot for power users.

As it stands, the Mi Mix 2 comes at a bit of a premium for the unique looks and finish that it offers. While it has top-shelf hardware, it’s matched by more competitively priced phones like the Nokia 8 which has a similar Snapdragon 835 processor though with less RAM at 4GB but expandable 64GB of storage at RM2,299.  Still, it tops most phones out there for sheer good looks alone.

If you are on the hunt for a unique looking phone with a wide angle display and decent hardware to match and you prioritise good looks and performance in equal measure, the Mi Mix 2 is worth a look.

What we Liked Premium design, excellent specifications, good display, decent rear camera
What we didn’t No water resistance, middling selfie camera, no headphone jack, finish is a fingerprint magnet
We Say A real looker of a phone with innovative design and solid performance to boot but a lack of water resistance and some other minor quibbles make it fall short of greatness.

Specifications

Price RM2,499
Display 5.99-inch, 1080 x 2160 pixels, 403ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
OS Android 7.1 Nougat
Memory 6GB RAM/ 64GB storage (non expandable)
Camera 12-MP w/ f/2.0, 4-axis OIS and dual LED flash (rear) / 5-MP w/ f/2.0 (front)
Battery 3,400mAh
Size/Weight 151.8 x 75.5 x 7.7 mm /185g
*Review unit courtesy of Xiaomi Malaysia

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