I've yet to find the perfect phone, but Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3 comes closer than anything I've used in years.
The Mi Mix 3 is a full-screen display phone without a notch. Its hidden front camera is revealed when you slide down the display, which moves on a unique magnetic slider and makes a satisfying click as it locks into place.
Using the slider is unexpectedly satisfying and I can't stop playing with it. The screen lights up and a buzz-like chime plays when you slide it open, like a mini reward. And you don't need to worry that using the slider will break the screen. Xiaomi says it's rated for 300,000 cycles, with opening and closing it counts as one cycle. Even with my newfound addiction, I found myself sliding fewer than 50 times a day.
The Mi Mix 3 is a fantastic device with the best hardware available. It's got Qualcomm's current Snapdragon 845 chip (though the Snapdragon 855 is due to arrive soon), a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED full HD+ display, dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with 2x optical zoom and wireless charging. It even has a wireless charging pad in the box.
The cheapest Mi Mix 3, with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage, sells for around $490, £375 or AU$680 converted from its 3,299 Chinese yuan price. The version with 10GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage costs 4,999 Chinese yuan, or about $845.
While the cheapest version is a steal, the top-end model is still cheaper than the cheapest iPhone XS Max, by about $250. The only question is where to get one. You can buy the Mi Mix 3 in most parts of Asia, as well Spain and Italy, but Xiaomi doesn't currently sell phones in the US.
I told you earlier that the Mi Mix 3 is almost perfect, and I wasn't kidding. Sure, it's missing a few things, such as waterproofing -- which I'm guessing is almost impossible with the sliding mechanism -- and secure 3D face unlocking, but I can live without those features. Here's why:
The shiny signature ceramic rear shimmers in the light. And while ceramic backing is acclaimed for resisting fingerprint grease, you'll still see plenty. The darker color of the phone does hide the ugly marks somewhat. The phone is comfortable to hold, and while it's slightly heavier than the iPhone XS Max on paper, I didn't notice the difference.
The 6.4-inch display is bright, and colors pop out, even outdoors in sunlight. The Mix 3 also supports wireless charging, which is nice to have, and as mentioned earlier, you don't have to buy a charging pad since it comes in the box.
The Android experience feels somewhat like iOS, but it's definitely Android. By default, the Mix 3 uses onscreen buttons, but you can switch it to a gesture based control that's similar to iOS -- swipe up to exit an app, swipe the sides to go back or forth, and swipe and hold to bring up all the currently open apps on the phone.
One of the new features that takes advantage of the slider mechanism is to bring up a customizable quick menu that lets you quickly access apps such as a recorder, stopwatch or your notes. You can also set it to just take a picture with the front selfie camera.
But that means you can't lay the phone on its side to take a stable picture -- you'll accidentally depress the button.
Or you can slide the screen down to use the front cameras. But this isn't as secure as the iPhone -- or even the Mi 8 Explorer Edition, which has 3D face unlocking.
Xiaomi's Mi 8 has great cameras, and the Mix 3 uses the same camera setup for equally good shots. I love the phone's night mode, which takes multiple shots and combines them together for a bright and detailed picture. Sound familiar? That's because it's a trendy feature among today's top phones. The Mix 3's version works well.
Even without night mode turned on, the camera still takes good lowlight shots.The camera also turns in a great job in daylight, with pictures sporting lots of detail and colors popping on the Mix 3's screen.
The front selfie camera has a built-in beauty mode. You can judge how effective it is in my sample photo below. But you can turn it off, unlike similar features on other Chinese phones. It also has a secondary depth sensor for portrait mode shots.
Check out the rest of the shots below.
The Mix 3 breezed through a day of use thanks to its 3,200-mAh battery. In our CNET Video Labs test, the phone easily lasted 17 hours and 48 minutes. The Mi Mix 3 delivers similar performance to other Qualcomm Snapdragon 845-powered phones, as you can see from our benchmark testing graphs below. I tried out games such as Asphalt 8, Marvel Strike Force and even Maplestory Mobile and found the experience to be pretty smooth. We'll probably see better performance numbers when the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855-powered phones are announced at Mobile World Congress next month.
|Xiaomi Mi Mix 3||Huawei Mate 20 Pro||Google Pixel 3 XL||Samsung Galaxy Note 9|
|Display size, resolution||6.39-inch AMOLED, 2,340x1,080 pixels||6.39-inch AMOLED, 3,120x1,440 pixels||6.3-inch "flexible" OLED, 2,960x1,440 pixels||6.4-inch Super AMOLED, 2,960x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||403ppi||538ppi||522 ppi||516ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.22x2.94x0.33 in||6.21x2.85x0.34 in||6.2x3x.03 in||6.37x3.01x0.35 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||157.89x74.69x8.46 mm||157.8x72.3x8.6 mm||158x76.7x7.9 mm||161.9x76.4x8.8 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.69 oz; 218g||6.67 oz; 189g||6.5 oz; 184g||7.09 oz.; 201g|
|Mobile software||Android 9.0 Pie; MIUI 10||Android 9 Pie||Android 9 Pie||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Camera||Dual 12-megapixel rear||40-megapixel, f/1.8, 27mm (wide), 20-megapixel, f/2.2, 16mm (ultrawide), 8 MP, f/2.4, 80mm (telephoto), OIS||12.2-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel (wide and telephoto)|
|Front-facing camera||24-megapixel, 2-megapixel depth sensor||24 MP, f/2.0, 26mm||Dual 8-megapixel||8-megapixel|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.8GHz)||Kirin 980 (octa-core)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz octa-core)||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||128GB||64GB, 128GB||128GB, 512GB|
|RAM||6GB, 8GB, 10GB||6GB||4GB||6GB, 8GB|
|Expandable storage||None||NanoSD (not microSD) up to 256GB||None||512GB|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back cover||In-display||Back cover||Back of phone|
|Special features||Wireless charging, slider||In-display fingerprint sensor, two-way wireless charging, water resistant, super-fast charging||IPX8, wireless charging support, Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box||Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; S-Pen; Iris and facial scanning, Animoji|
|Price off-contract (USD)||Converts to $490 (6GB RAM, 128GB), Converts to $845 (10GB RAM, 256GB)||converts to $1,167||$899 (64GB); $999 (128GB)||$1,000 (128GB), $1,250 (512GB)|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to £375 (6GB RAM, 128GB), Converts to £655 (10GB RAM, 256GB)||£899||£869 (64GB); £969 (128GB)||£899 (128GB), £1,099 (512GB)|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to $680 (6GB RAM, 128GB), Converts to AU$1,180 (10GB RAM, 256GB)||AU$1,599||AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499 (128GB)||AU$1,499 (128GB), AU$1,799 (512GB)|