Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

Xiaomi

March, 2018
5.99" display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, Dual: 12 MP + 12 MP primary camera, 5 MP front camera, 3400 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 4.
EUR:€270
Rate It:User Rating: (Excellent)


Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review


Introduction

Almost all current flagships these days have made efforts to have a bezel-less display, with Apple and Samsung leading the race. However, it was not these two smartphone manufacturers who introduced the concept of bezel-less display phones, it was Xiaomi. Chinese manufacturer started this trend with their phone Xiaomi Mi Mix and continuing that trend for year 2018, they have launched a brand new bezel-less device, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. It's every bit as sleek as previous models, but this time Xiaomi has made a bold claim of competing with Apple's iPhone X. Question remains, is this phone worthy of competing mighty Apple or is it yet another Chinese smartphone trying hard to mimic American smartphone giant?

Design

Xiaomi's latest flagship device looks identical from front to its predecessor, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2. Phone is huge with a large display wrapped in ceramic body with a 7000 series aluminum frame having almost zero bezels on both sides and top. You won't find a notch anywhere which means Xiaomi utilizes as much area possible for display. Screen to body ratio is even greater this time as claimed by Xiaomi and only bezel you will find is at bottom.

Ceramic on Xiaomi's latest flagship shines really well, regardless of your choice of color. However, it slips about pretty easily in hand, but this material gives phone a decent look. Xiaomi gets closer to a truly bezel-less design than any phone I've seen yet. At a glance you would think top edge and left/right sides were all screen, though there is actually a speaker and sensors at very top. It uses special technology to incorporate all that at top of handset, using a hidden ultrasonic proximity sensor and a tweaked sound-guided speaker. Front facing camera is placed at bottom bezel, which is an odd place for it.

At back of the device, you will find a fingerprint scanner, which looks neat and tidy in its circular form, and is well placed given size of phone. There was a rumor that Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S would feature a fancy sensor-behind-glass scanner on front of phone to rid of bezels completely, but as we have seen in Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS, that technology just really isn't up to scratch yet. As it stands, rear-positioned scanner makes perfectly good sense and works really fast. Rear cameras are placed at top right of phone, with an Apple iPhone X like dual camera placement. Camera module is wrapped around with a gold trim and that gives this phone a classy feel to it. Under fingerprint scanner, you'll find Xiaomi branding which might be liked by few users. The rest is kept clean and shiny. At right side of device, there is a power button and volume keys with left side kept clean. At bottom, you'll find a USB Type-C port together with a mono-speaker. To our great disappointment, there is no water proofing or headphone jack found on this phone.

To sum it all up, with Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Xiaomi takes a gorgeous smartphone and makes it even better-looking by increasing screen-to-body ratio, without adding an infamous 'notch', which is the route Huawei has taken with its latest P-series flagships.

Display

Display is where Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S should have exceled at. Coming with a 5.99-inch FullHD+ display with a resolution of 2160x1080p, an aspect ratio of 18:9 and pixel density of 403 ppi, Xiaomi's latest Mi Mix series flagship is a stunning looking phone. However, even with such an impressive display on paper, there are many issues with it.

First of all, colors on Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S display panel are not punchy, similar to initial Google Pixel 2 XL's display. It is not bad, but it is simply not that vibrant, so colors don't pop and appeal your eyes. Viewing angles are fine, resolution is perfectly good too, but if you are used to rich blacks and wide-gamut colors from, say, Apple iPhone X, then you won't find this phone much appealing.

This is further worsened by an over-powerful auto-brightness adjustment. Screen is not very bright, but with software trying hard to dip output to lower levels than necessary almost all of the time, it makes using this phone a rather frustrating experience. Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 had similar auto-brightness issues, so it is a shame they have not fixed it. Only way to get rid of it is to turn off Automatic Brightness setting.

Personally, I feel that this is a wasted opportunity by Xiaomi to not make best use of this big bezel-less display, as they should've tried to make it look vibrant and display punchier colors than it already does. When compared with display on OnePlus 5T, even with similar resolution, OnePlus 5T's display appeared to be quite ahead of this phone as it was more lively, colors were deeper and saturation was far on point. With Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, only good thing you are getting in display department is its bezel-less nature. For protection, Xiaomi uses Gorilla Glass 4 which is enough to protect display from minor scratches and drops.

With statements from Xiaomi claiming that their latest Mi Mix series flagship is made to compete with Apple iPhone X, one gets high hopes and display on XiaoMi Mix 2S shatters them, even when it is larger than on its Apple counterpart.

Hardware

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S comes packing with some of the best hardware combination. It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and Adreno 630 GPU, coupled with 8 GB of RAM and comes with an onboard storage of 256 GB. Other options include 6 GB of RAM with either 64 GB or 128 GB of onboard storage. With Snapdragon 845 running things, it's the first time this platform has appeared in a Chinese phone which makes Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S powerful enough to level up with Samsung Galaxy S9.

I tested this phone's performance for hours of heavy games and apps where animations were slick with loading time as quick as you'd expect from a top-end flagship phone. No problem on gaming or high-powered apps as apps load instantaneously, and I never saw a slowdown even when playing visually-demanding titles.

Phone comes with a USB Type-C connection for fast charging and also supports wireless charging due to its ceramic back, which is a great addition. However, Xiaomi disappoints in audio department with removal of 3.5 mm headphone jack and lack of dual stereo speakers. As this device is set to compete with Apple, this move does not end well in favor of Xiaomi. It does support Bluetooth 5.0 though, and comes with all major sensors you'd expect in a flagship device, including accelerometer, gyro, proximity and compass.

Overall, hardware on Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is impressive and powerful enough to take on top smartphones in market right now, however, lack of waterproofing and no headphone jack might be a deal breaker for some potential users.

Battery

Battery on Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is an impressive 3400 mAh powerhouse which enables this phone to successfully last through a working day. With a huge display and screen-on time of over 5 hours and 50 minutes, this phone is a major go for anyone who's looking for a big phone with a decent battery life.

You can charge this phone from 0 to 100 in around 2 hours and 3 minutes using fast charging adapter which comes with this phone. Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S also supports wireless charging so that adds to utility of this phone as it makes charging on the go much easier.

Most people will be satisfied with battery performance of this phone as in this department, it clearly seems to rival Apple iPhone X and even outperform it, especially in charging time.

Camera

Xiaomi kept more or less everything on its latest flagship device similar to what we have seen on Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, however, cameras on its latest flagship device are updated and are now even better. Phone comes with a dual rear camera setup, having two 12 MP Sony sensors with an f/1.8 and f/2.4 aperture respectively. One of those lenses is a wide-angle lens and other is a telephoto for depth measuring.

Reason for this combination of lenses is to deliver a mix of wide angle and telephoto, which means this camera is able to zoom while limiting overall loss of quality in images. Both lenses can also use their offset positions from one another to map and identify depth, which can then be used to apply software-produced soft backgrounds, just like you would typically find in a portrait shot. Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S cameras have larger pixels compared to many competitors (1.4um, not 1.25um like older Xiaomi Mi Mix 2). That clearly improves quality, particularly in low-light, plus Xiaomi has included hardware level multi-frame noise reduction and 24 million focusing points on sensors themselves to enhance autofocus.

Autofocus works well but not as fast as on some smartphones available in market, such as Huawei P20 Pro. A touch on screen will select focus but it needs to be faster in order to rival best of best and truly be a flagship. Xiaomi has implemented four-axis Optical Image Stabilization on its cameras, and instead uses artificial intelligence to perform clever tricks such as 'on-the-fly translation', online currency conversion and intelligent background blurring (bokeh effect). Bokeh effect is actually also possible from front camera, which means you can create bokeh-effect selfies too.

As for results, Xiaomi's Mi Mix 2S deliver shots that have detailed colors, ample sharpness and even low light shots are not filled with image noise. Sometimes, there's noise or extra saturation in photos which prevent it from being cleanest result you'll see from a flagship camera phone, while even daylight shots have some presence of grain within them. Camera interface is largely unchanged from previous years, but there's a new AI feature that automatically sets up ideal shooting mode for a particular shot. AI-assisted feature is similar to what we've seen from likes of Huawei, and it works by gauging lighting conditions and subject to offer optimal shooting mode. It works seamlessly, and you see a clear difference with this feature, once again in low-light conditions. To my surprise, however, this mode does not really say much about what it's doing. Other major manufacturer implementing AI in their cameras is Huawei, but its AI system tells you which mode it has selected based on what it thinks it's looking at. This makes those camera phones easier to use generally more intelligent. I personally like Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S having such a mode, but it should've been designed to give more information to users like its Huawei counterpart does.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is first phone in China to support Google's ARCore platform. This adds Augmented Reality capabilities similar to Google Pixel phones. There are tons of apps and games that enable AR functionality on phone to have fun with. Phone is also capable of shooting videos up to 4K at 30 fps, which is inferior to Apple iPhone X's 4K at 60 fps. Even at 1080p you don't get option to shoot at 60 fps which is quite disappointing. Videos coming out of this phone are good, however. OIS helps in stabilization and that could be a reason why Xiaomi decided to ditch 60 fps as OIS doesn't work at that frame rate. Dynamic range is good, and camera doesn't perform bad even in low light while shooting videos but once you compare videos taken from this phone to those taken from competitors, you clearly see difference in quality and that's something Xiaomi really needs to work on.

For selfies, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S has a 5 MP front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture that sits in a very awkward position below screen. When triggering selfie mode in camera app, it actually tells you to rotate phone 90 degrees in order to capture selfies like you would with any other smartphone. Selfies come out sharp, and bokeh selfies aren't bad either. However, it is certainly not the best selfie camera out there, as Apple iPhone X takes sharper selfies with better edge detection when using portrait mode.

It is a success, although Xiaomi really needs to polish things more to make it a truly great camera. Loading time is not as instant as on other flagships, for example, while scrolling between modes. Short Video, Video, Photo, Portrait, Square, Panorama, Manual should switch instantly to be extra quick. Once during my test, when in Manual mode, interface of Panorama Mode was showing even when I was using Manual Mode and such little blunders differentiate a phone from being a top flagship device.

Software

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S comes with Xiaomi's latest MIUI 9.5 which is based on Android 8.0 Oreo. Biggest addition to this version of MIUI is a very good Xiao AI voice assistant. Now that's something which is received very well in Chinese market, however, in other markets, opinions differ. Just like most Chinese smartphones, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S comes with a heavily modified software and interface which diverts from stock Android experience.

Another new addition to MIUI 9.5 is user interface gestures, which transform the way you use your phone. Gestures are way forward as screens get taller, and for better or worse Android manufacturers are adapting what Apple has done on Apple iPhone X. This was seen last year with OnePlus, and now Xiaomi is following suit. Like Apple's latest flagship, you will be able to swipe up from bottom of display to go to home screen, swipe from bottom and pause to access multitasking pane, also, swipe from either edge to go back within an app. It takes a few days to get used to gestures, but they do offer a more natural way of interacting with your phone giving you extra screen area to operate with.

Interface itself has not received a major visual update, but thankfully, multitasking pane has been updated and finally looks like a part of UI. You are not going to see a lot of changes from previous versions of MIUI, but interface does not feel as bloated as before. In fact, after using this phone for a couple of weeks, you would feel that this is most stable MIUI experience you're going to get. Sheer number of features that have been added to MIUI over last four years made it feel bloated, and although MIUI 7 introduced a fresh new design, UI didn't feel cohesive. Xiaomi tackled that issue with MIUI 9, focusing on optimizing interface and making it faster, and MIUI 9.5 is a huge step forward.

MIUI 9.5 still offers enough customization options that will take you a good time to set up this phone according to your preference. Xiaomi was one of the first manufacturers to offer a dual apps feature, which lets you run two instances of an app simultaneously and with MIUI 9.5, company is making global version of this ROM much more tempting for a wider audience.

There are few things about Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S' new software that I did not like. Camera defaults to having watermarks which you'll need to switch off inside menu. Also, all apps are being battery managed by default and that there's no app tray/drawer. Biggest issue amongst these problems is the fact that MIUI isn't trusted by Google, so despite this phone having NFC for contactless payments, it's not possible to setup Google Pay, AMEX Pay or any other contactless payment service you'd like to use. That makes using stock Android much more better than MIUI and leaves users of this phone derived of such an important financial feature.

Again, just with Huawei's smartphones, this phone tries to give you an Apple like interface experience while also showing off some of its own features and trick. Whether this UI appeals you or not depends on your preference, and on the fact whether you like having a clean Android experience or you prefer having extra features in your smartphone.

Conclusion

Xiaomi's latest Mi Mix series flagship is available in market from $550 going all the way up to $800 for 8 GB RAM variant. Overall, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is a phone that is as exciting as it is mystifying. Trim-bezel design and considerable power on board are great to behold for its price, yet an average screen and sometimes problematic software are just two of a handful of hurdles to overcome. Another issue with this phone is its availability in Western markets which makes this device hard to get there.

Is it better than phones such as Samsung Galaxy S9, Google Pixel 2 or Apple iPhone X? Definitely not, however, it is a clear example of just how much can be achieved for half price of rival flagships, a great design, full of interesting ideas, powerful hardware and quality build. Some people might not like front camera placement on this phone or the fact that it isn't waterproof, as most flagship nowadays come with some sort of waterproofing. Others might not like MIUI experience, and a bloated software experience. What you need to realize though is it's not about what this phone doesn't offer, but what it does. Xiaomi has shown signs of learning from past mistakes and improvements have been seen on this phone, with a better camera than previous Mi Mix devices and a little less bloated software.

In my opinion, if you are looking for a bezel-less phone which is stunning to look at and is capable of handling all daily tasks that average users put their device through, then Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is a solid phone to consider. But if you are someone living in Western part of this world, then you are better off getting an Apple iPhone X or a Samsung Galaxy S9.