We have seen some fascinating smartphone innovations in recent years, but if there’s one evolution that has gone on to become a genuine head-turner, it would be 2016’s Xiaomi Mi Mix.
This trend-setter kicked off a bezel-less trend which has arguably culminated in the wallet-destroying iPhone X, and now the entire industry appears to be gripped with the desire to drastically reduce those bezels at all cost.
With the Mi Mix, Chinese firm Xiaomi made a striking statement, not just from a design perspective but from a business one, too – it wants to be considered an equal to the big players in the global smartphone arena.
The company has now reworked the original design and returned with the new Mi Mix 2, a more refined, logical and a favorable implementation of the bezel-less concept it did so much to promote.
Since the Mi Mix blazed its trail a year ago, we have seen a handful of smartphones thinning down the bezels and maximizing that all-important screen-to-body ratio.
From the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6 and Essential Phone to the aforementioned iPhone X, the big talking point of 2017 is minimal bezel design – so much so that otherwise excellent devices like the standard-sized Google Pixel 2 have been branded “old-fashioned” for failing to follow the same trend.
The downside for Xiaomi is obvious; while the Chinese firm may have started this particular party, it’s been joined by some pretty popular new guests.
The Mi Mix 2 is Xiaomi’s chance to reassert its dominance in this particular realm – and it’s also the handset that the company has chosen to spearhead its expansion into Europe. Can it hope to compete with the likes of Apple, Samsung and LG? Let’s find out.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 price and availability
- Starts at approximately £430/$575/AU$840
- Available from online re-sellers
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has launched in certain parts of Europe but isn’t officially available in the UK, US or Australia. However, it does support LTE just about everywhere in the world, so you can safely import it from online re-sellers such as Gearbest.
The Mi Mix 2’s pricing places it firmly in the mid-range sector of the market, where it is likely to face stiff competition from the OnePlus 5T, another big-screen challenger.
The base model comes with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for around £430/$575/AU$840. If you want more internal space then you can go all the way up to 256GB for roughly £100/$75/AU$85 extra.
A super-premium model is also available in China which has 8GB of RAM and an entirely ceramic body.
As there’s not currently a means of purchasing the phone without importing, expect to pay a little for international shipping and potentially some more on top if your parcel is intercepted by customs when it arrives in the country.
When it comes to aesthetics the Mi Mix 2 really hits the ball out of the park. Conceived by famous French designer Philippe Starck, the phone combines a premium feel with gorgeous looks which are relatively unique in this price bracket.
Many of the design cues witnessed in the Mi Mix have been retained, but the use of a 5.99-inch display in place of the huge 6.4-inch panel seen on its predecessor makes the Mix 2 shorter by 7mm and narrower by 6.4mm. It’s also slightly thinner.
All of this trimming has resulted in an overall weight of 185g, which is 24g lighter than the original Mi Mix. Some complained that the 2016 model was simply too large to use, and it seems that Xiaomi has taken this feedback on board and created a more manageable device.
The Mi Mix 2 has a ceramic back reinforced by an aluminum frame. Ceramic isn’t a common material when it comes to smartphone manufacture, and it comes with positives and negatives.
It looks amazing and cannot be scratched easily, but it is very fragile and picks up fingerprints with alarming regularity; it’s also incredibly slippy.
The sides are aluminum, which lends the phone a robust feel, while the screen is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for protection.
A plastic hard-case is included in the box – Xiaomi’s way of admitting that it has created a beautiful but easily-dropped handset – and while it still looks great with the case fitted, it’s a shame to have to cover up that stunning design.
Instead, the camera is located below the screen, a move which is sure to divide opinion and something we’ll talk about later.
Xiaomi didn’t just banish bezels this time around – it has also done away with a 3.5mm audio jack, with a USB Type-C to 3.5mm connector (kindly provided in the box) providing your only means of using wired cans.
On top of the display, you’ll see a small earpiece which peeps out of a tiny cut-out in the middle of the glass; the impressive but ultimately flawed “cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology” earpiece used on the original Mi Mix has gone, which is definitely a positive as it was hard to hear in noisy environments.
In terms of the more mundane design details, the dual-SIM slot is on the left and the right edge has the volume rocker and power/lock key.
The super-fast and reliable fingerprint scanner is placed in an optimal position on the rear – just where your index finger rests, in fact – and is accompanied by Xiaomi’s branding that reads “MIX designed by Xiaomi” in gold.
Speaking of which, the camera has a gold ring around it which really pops against that lovely black ceramic.
Xiaomi has bucked the trend of 2017 by not giving the Mi Mix 2 any kind of water or dust resistance, so be careful using it near water – it might not survive an accidental dunk.
With a screen-to-body ratio of over 80%, it should come as no surprise that the defining feature of the Mi Mix 2 is its display. Xiaomi has gone with a 1080 x 2160 resolution despite the massive 5.99-inch screen, which showcases an 18:9 aspect ratio with round corners.
While some may grumble about the lack of a QHD panel, the display looks great regardless and it’s practically impossible to pick out individual pixels, even close up.
The IPS display slightly softens its punch to retain an eye-pleasing viewing experience, while the screen brightness is akin to what we’ve seen on LG displays and offers a good balance of brightness and color.
Using the Mi Mix 2 outdoors is not a problem as it adjusts the brightness to a readable limit in almost no time.
One minor complaint is that the adaptive brightness is often a little too aggressive when indoors, dimming the screen down to the point where it’s hard to make out images – thankfully you can adjust this from the swipe-down notification pane at any time.
If you’re on the hunt for the best possible smartphone display then you might prefer the Galaxy S8 to this. But on a phone with such an immersive front panel, the display on the Mi Mix 2 certainly does not disappoint; it’s great for reading, watching video content or just browsing the web. Viewing angles are also really impressive, even in well-lit conditions.