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Xiaomi Mi 6 review: The best phone you can’t get (unless you’re in China)

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The Good Premium materials and top-of-the-line hardware means it's a flagship phone that competes with the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7.

The Bad The dual-camera setup isn't very good and the phone's glass back is great to look at but can be slippery to hold. It's only available in one country for now.

The Bottom Line Xiaomi’s Mi 6 could do some real damage if the company sold it more places. Too bad for us.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 8
  • Battery 9

Review Sections

The Xiaomi Mi 8 has been officially revealed. It has a 6.21-inch AMOLED screen and dual 12-megapixel rear cameras.

The Xiaomi Mi 6 is one of the best Android phones around.

I love the Mi 6 for what it is -- an amazing device with the same speedy processor as the Samsung Galaxy S8 ($420 at Amazon) and a beautiful design that stands out on its own. It also comes with dual-cameras, and takes portrait pictures like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus ($378 at Walmart) and now, the OnePlus 5. You get Android goodness with some Apple-like features. And it costs a lot less than your typical flagship phone. What's not to like?

Well, how about the fact that it's still only available in China two months on from its launch. Xiaomi said it would reach other countries "soon", but it couldn't tell me when exactly it's going to start rolling out.

While eager beavers could order a Mi 6 from China, take heed that the LTE may not work in countries such as the US -- you'll have to compare to your carrier's network bands to be sure. And there are no Google Play services in China so until the company releases a global ROM, you'd have to sideload it if you want native apps such as Google Maps.

The lack of global availability means Xiaomi may be missing the boat in most markets that would have loved to grab a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 powered phone on the cheap. The cheapest version of the phone retails for about $365, £280 or AU$485 converted, and that model gets you 4GB RAM and 64GB of onboard storage. Step it up to the 6GB RAM version with 128GB onboard storage and you'll pay 2,899 Chinese yuan -- about $420, £330 or AU$560.

A premium ceramic version with 18K gold finish and 128GB of storage space sells for just a little more at 2,999 Chinese yuan. That's about $435, £340 or AU$580.

If you're lucky enough to get and use the Mi 6, you'll find an affordable flagship that matches the Galaxy S8 where it counts. Though it's missing some features, including wireless charging. It makes you wonder just how much of a premium you're paying for other high-end flagships such as the Galaxy S8 or the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. If you live outside China, keep reading to see what the Mi 6 will bring you -- but hold out for the international version before committing.

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The power and volume buttons are located on the same side -- and the only problem with that is that I can't use it with my car mount -- the clamps press down on the power button, turning it off.

Aloysius Low/CNET

All the bling in the world

The Mi 6's glass and stainless steel frame stand out. The phone comes in the standard shades of black or white, plus a much snazzier blue-and-gold version that's visually stunning.

I particularly loved that color, and it's a great conversation starter as well. I can't tell you how many people looked at it and said, "Wow." That said, the glass rear can be a tad slippery to hold at times.

The Mi 6 has a 5.15-inch screen with a 1080-pixel display that looks good to the naked eye. Pixel density isn't as sharp on paper as the Galaxy S8, but my eyes didn't strain trying to read news stories or social media updates. Colors pop, and while it has a maximum brightness of 600 nits, it goes all the way down to one at night, helping you not strain your eye. The phone won't take a long dunking like the Galaxy S8 or LG G6, but it is splash-proof, so you shouldn't worry too much about small spills.

Like other Xiaomi phones, the Mi 6 runs MIUI, a customized version of Android 7.1.1.

Double the cameras

One of the Mi 6's key features is its dual 12-megapixel camera setup, which is a hot trend these days. While it's not the first time Xiaomi has used it on phones, it's the first time a Xiaomi phone has added portrait mode similar to the one found in the iPhone 7 Plus (Xiaomi even calls it the same thing).

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