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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 Review : Beautiful. Beastly. Bezel-less

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This year has seen a lot of exciting flagship smartphones being launched, by manufacturers both big and small. And while all of them have bleeding-edge hardware, class-leading cameras and things like that, there’s one design trend in particular, that seems to have really caught the fancy of smartphone manufacturers in 2017 – minimal bezels around the display.

The beginning of the year witnessed the launch of LG’s G6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which wooed both the consumers and media with their 18:9 aspect ratio displays, complete with curved corners. These were recently followed up by the Galaxy Note 8 and the V30. And just a month back, Apple announced its own bezel-less smartphone – iPhone X – which is yet to reach into the hands of customers.

But amid this sudden barrage of bezel-less smartphones, introduced by behemoths of the technology industry, there’s one smartphone, from a comparatively-smaller brand that has managed to grab eyeballs everywhere. I’m talking about Xiaomi’s recently-launched Mi Mix 2.

What’s interesting here is that Xiaomi hopped onto the bezel-less bandwagon last year itself, when it launched the original Mi Mix. That smartphone was flat-out gorgeous, but it was more of a prototype that Xiaomi launched to show the world where it was ultimately headed.

On the contrary, its sequel – Mi Mix 2 – is a refinement of the prototype that was the original Mi Mix in almost every way. The smartphone, which was introduced by the company in its home country of China only about a month back, was recently launched in India.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has a stunning 18:9 display that has almost zero bezels on three of its four sides. In addition to that, the Mi Mix 2 packs in top-tier hardware, all of which is encased in an exquisitely-crafted body. Bearing an extremely-competitive price tag of Rs 35,999, the Mi Mix 2 clearly has its sights set on the OnePlus 5. But is that swanky bezel-less display, coupled with powerful hardware, really enough to make you shell out Rs 36K for a Xiaomi smartphone?

Find out, on the other side of my full review of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.    

Design And Build Quality

Gaze upon the Mi Mix 2 for a while and you’re bound to be mesmerized. It’s among the best-looking smartphones that I’ve come across, and definitely the finest that Xiaomi has ever created.

Everything about the Mi Mix 2’s construction screams premium. The smartphone has an all-ceramic back panel that curves on all four sides, blending into the aerospace-grade aluminum frame as it does so. The ultra-smooth mirror finish of the backplate truly makes it a sight to behold.

The top half of Xiaomi Mix 2’s rear panel sports a 12MP primary camera in its center. A two-tone dual-LED flash sits on the right of the shooter. The slightly-protruding camera module is adorned by an 18-karat gold-plated rim, which looks pretty damn good. Just below the camera lens is a circular fingerprint sensor. The words ‘Mix Designed By Xiaomi’ are imprinted horizontally in the center of the lower half of the Mi Mix 2’s backplate, accentuating its minimal design.

Equally well-done is the Mix 2’s facade. It’s essentially a continuous sheet of Gorilla Glass 4, with only a tiny, slit-like cut-out for the earpiece along the center of the top edge.

Wake up the smartphone and you’re greeted by its standout feature – display. And boy, is it a stunner!

While it does have just the tiniest bit of borders on the top and both sides, the screen on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is for all intents and purposes, bezel-less. The chin bezel is quite substantial, but only because it houses the 5MP front-facing camera and a notification LED. While the relocation of the selfie shooter below the display may irk some users, it’s a design choice Xiaomi had to make because there’s simply no space left for the camera module above the display. Personally, I like it!

Coming to the sides, the upper left holds a slide-out tray that accepts two nano-SIM cards. Directly opposite, on the right, are the volume rocker and the power button. Up top, there’s a secondary noise-canceling microphone. Lastly, the bottom is where one can find the USB Type-C port. It’s flanked by two grilles, but only the right one hides a speaker beneath it. The top and bottom have two antenna lines (one each on the left and the right) running across the thickness of the frame.

Sadly, the humble 3.5mm audio port is something that’s missing from the Mi Mix 2. While it’s good that Xiaomi provides a USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio adapter with the smartphone, axing a still-useful feature just for the sake of blindly following a stupid trend, isn’t a very smart move. So if you do decide to get the Mi Mix 2, better get a good pair of Bluetooth earphones/headphones, or get ready to live the #donglelife.

All said, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is a stunningly-designed and well-made smartphone that’s more than capable of handling its own against the likes of LG V30, Samsung Galaxy S8, and iPhone X. Tipping the scales at 185g, it’s not exactly light, but that heft gives the Mi Mix 2 a reassuring in-hand feel.

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Display

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has a 5.99-inch FullHD display. Having a resolution of 1080×2160 pixels and a pixel density of around 403ppi, the 18:9 aspect ratio screen is great for everything from from graphics-rich games to 4K videos. Since it’s an IPS LCD panel (though I would’ve loved an AMOLED panel), colour reproduction and viewing angles are pretty good. The display gets sufficiently bright under direct sunlight to be used sans any issues.

The 18:9 aspect ratio means that more content can fit (especially vertically) on the screen at a time. But even though majority of the content (games, webpages and videos) scales up to the display just fine, YouTube videos still play pillarboxed.

Performance and UI

Delivering horsepower to the Mi Mix 2 is Qualcomm’s (current) flagship SoC – Snapdragon 835 – comprised of a CPU with eight Kryo cores and Adreno 540 GPU. This is complemented by a hefty 6GB of RAM. There’s no microSD card slot, but the 128GB internal storage should be more than enough for the needs of just about everyone out there.

There’s nothing much to say about the general performance of the Mi Mix 2. As one would expect from a flagship device having innards as powerful as those mentioned above, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 mows down everything thrown at it with little to no effort. During my test run, the smartphone had no problems handling multitasking, web-browsing, graphics-intensive gaming titles like Asphalt 8: Airborne and stuff like that.

And of course, the performance of Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 shows in numbers too. The smartphone scored 1923 (single-core) and 6029 (multi-core) on Geekbench 4, while the score on 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme was 2666.

As far as discharging its primary duty of being a phone goes, the Mi Mix 2 doesn’t disappoint. Over the course of my testing, I found no issues with cellular reception. The smartphone latches on to 4G (VoLTE) networks pretty easily and call quality is generally very good, even in areas of problematic coverage. But since network reception depends on a lot of factors like carrier choice and area-specific coverage, your mileage may vary.

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The fingerprint sensor at the back of Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is really fast, and unlocks the smartphone the moment you put your digit to it. It supports 360-degree fingerprint recognition and works quite well with the built-in App Lock feature of MIUI (discussed later).

So the Mi Mix 2 is no slouch when it comes to hardware, but is it any good in the software department? Well, it is, but only if you’re a fan of heavily-customized UI layers.

Like all (except for the Mi A1) Xiaomi handsets, the Mi Mix 2 runs MIUI (v8.5) baked on top of Android (v7.1 Nougat). But even though the smartphone has zero issues handling the added bulk of Xiaomi’s custom UI layer, overall software experience isn’t really that great.

Now, don’t get me wrong! MIUI does have its share of nifty features such as Quick Ball, Three-finger screenshot, App Lock, Second Space and of course, Themes. But it’s so heavily-customized that it sort of messes up the entire Android experience. Everything is too colorful, and that notification shade looks atrocious. Then of course, there are Xiaomi’s numerous preloaded apps like Mi App Store and Browser, which are either redundant or not very useful. This is a crying shame, especially since the Mi Mix 2’s hardware is a head-turner.

Bottomline is, MIUI won’t exactly be an issue for nine out of ten users who choose to buy the Mi Mix 2. But I would’ve loved to see this smartphone run stock Android, as it would’ve looked magnificent.

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Camera

For handling imaging duties, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has a 12MP primary camera with f/2.0 aperture, phase detection autofocus and two-tone dual-LED flash. The camera has a 1/2.9″ sensor and supports everything from HDR and face-detection to touch-focus and Panorama. Unlike its ‘regular’ flagship sibling – Mi 6 – the Mi Mix 2 doesn’t have a dual-camera setup at the back.

During my test run, I found the primary camera of the Mi Mix 2 to be a fairly capable shooter. In ideally-lit conditions, the camera clicks very good images, with ample amount of resolved detail and decent sharpness. The camera focuses fast, and colour balance and dynamic range are more than okay too, even if the brighter areas of the images tend to get overexposed quite often. But the Mi Mix 2’s shooter isn’t without its shortcomings.

The camera struggles quite a bit in low light conditions. Dimly-lit photos often turn out with uneven colors, and some details are over-softened. Turning on HDR and Xiaomi’s own HHT (Hand Held Twilight) modes does help things a bit though. So if you want a very good shot at night, you’re going to have to tinker with the settings through the Manual mode.

As one would expect, Mi Mix 2 can shoot both FullHD and 4K videos (there’s no 60fps recording option, even though 720p videos can be shot at 120fps). Recorded videos pretty good and have sufficient of detail. The four-axis OIS helps in reducing shakiness. The phone does get a little hot during continuous shooting, but it’s nothing to get worked up over.

Clicking selfies with the Mi Mix 2, on the other hand, is a rather interesting affair. Due to the low placement of the 5MP shooter it’s not exactly possible to properly compose a self-portrait photo.

The solution? Well, all you have to do is turn the phone 180 degrees, so that the selfie camera is on the usual top position. Once that’s done, the camera app itself turns 180 degrees, and you can click that awesome selfie!

Speaking of, selfies from the Mi Mix 2’s 5MP front-facing snapper turn out to be quite good. And if you want to enhance them further, you can always use the truckload of ‘beautify’ options available at your disposal.

Battery Life

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 is backed by a non-removable 3,400mAh battery. And while it may not seem much for a smartphone rocking a Snapdragon 835 chipset, the Mi Mix 2’s battery performance surprised me.

With moderate to heavy use (involving a fair amount of calls, gaming, audio & video playback and web browsing, all with Wi-Fi turned on), the battery easily lasted through the entire day on a single charge. The Screen-on time (SoT), as measured by AccuBattery, was an excellent 6 hours 20 minutes. During my testing, recording half an hour of FullHD video caused the battery juice to dip 6%, while playing back a FullHD video caused a 4% drop in battery juice.

While individual results will vary, battery life is something that you definitely don’t have to worry about when it comes to the Mi Mix 2.

Thanks to fast-charging technology (with support for Quick Charge 3.0), the Mi Mix 2’s battery can be fully charged in two hours.

Verdict

The Mi Mix 2 is unquestionably the best smartphone that Xiaomi has ever crafted. It has a spectacular design, premium build quality, and top-of-the-line hardware. While there are minor quirks such as the lack of 3.5mm audio port and customization overload, Xiaomi’s bezel-less flagship brings so much to the table that these can be easily ignored.

At a price of Rs 35,999, this is certainly one of the best (if not, the best) smartphones that you can buy right now, and one that I have no qualms recommending!

That said, if you’d still like to check out some other options, you can go for the Nokia 8. It may not have the funky bezel-free design of the Mi Mix 2, but has its own set of exciting features, such as stock Android experience and a Zeiss-powered dual-camera setup with spatial audio recording.

Photos by : Rajat Sharma

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