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The Xiaomi Mi Mix is, I think, what most phones will look like a few years from now. And believe me, it's awesome. The 6.4-inch screen covers almost the entire face of the phone, and the buttons you'd usually find on the front are now onscreen.
The premium ceramic back gives the phone a luxurious high-end feel with a very good grip, quite unlike glass. But while the material is pretty hard and scratch resistant, you definitely don't want to drop it.
There are some weird omissions and weaknesses. There's only one speaker in the traditional sense, which plays music and video. For calls, the phone uses a "cantilever ceramic piezoelectric actuator", which just means that the phone's body vibrates to deliver sound. The camera isn't great, either.
The Mi Mix is only on sale in China, and even there in limited quantities. While you can get it from third-party online resellers, good luck getting it fixed if you break it, as the parts used in the phone are rare as hens' teeth. Plus its 4G LTE bands are limited, so it may not work properly outside China.
It's also the most expensive Xiaomi phone so far. Our review model costs 3,499 yuan, which converts to around $510, AU$680 or £420. In China, that's about half the price of phones like the Google Pixel. There's also a premium model with 18-carat gold embossing, 6GB 0f RAM (up from 4GB) and 256GB of onboard storage (up from the base model's 128GB) for 3,999 yuan, which is roughly $590, AU$770 or £480.
If you're thinking of getting one, bear in mind that Chinese phones don't come with Google services installed (like Google Maps and even Google Play), and you'll have work to do to get those integrated properly. Big screen phones like the Google Pixel XL or the iPhone 7 Plus are much more easily procured -- you'll just have to accept a smaller screen than the Mi Mix's mammoth 6.4-inch display.
I kid you not. While our photos and video might be enough to convince you, it's when you pick up the phone, hold it in your hand and watch the 6.4-inch screen come to life that the whole idea of a magical bezel-less phone sinks in. I've been using the phone for around a week now, and I still can't help but feel amazed every time I turn it on.
Now, I'm really not a fan of big-screen phones. I personally feel anything above 6 inches is unusable, and I didn't really like the Xiaomi Mi Max (the company's other super large 6.4-inch phone). Strangely, I found myself learning to like and use the Mix a lot more. The screen is still pretty big, but it doesn't feel it compared to the Max, which is bigger in size thanks to its bezels. The palm rejection system on the Mix is a lot better too, which means you don't tap as many things by accident.
An edge-to-edge screen means my palms were almost always touching the display, but despite that I didn't accidentally press buttons I shouldn't have or move the home screen while holding the phone in my hand. This is great, particularly compared with my experiences with phones that don't properly implement this feature.
Big screen phones tend to feel unwieldy, but not so with the Mix. While it's a little on the heavy side at 209 grams (7.37 ounces), it's perfectly balanced in your hand. I've been able to use it one handed at times, though it's obviously a lot easier with both hands depending on what you want to do with it, like typing long messages.
To get a phone that's mostly all screen, with a 2,080x1,080-pixel display, Xiaomi had to do some pretty nifty engineering. The phone's selfie camera got moved to the bottom of the phone -- not necessarily a good thing, as I'll explain below -- and underneath the display is the piezoelectric actuator that replaces your front speaker. The actuator converts digital signals into analog vibrations, using the body of the phone to deliver sound to your ears. It works, though you can feel the whole phone rumbling in time to your voice call.
There's only one thing about the phone I don't really like -- well, apart from how much of a fingerprint magnet it is. It's that the ambient light sensor, located at the bottom chin of the phone, is easily blocked if you're resting the phone on say, a pillow, while using it, leading to a dimmer screen which can make things hard to see in normal light. You can turn off auto-brightness as a solution, so it's a minor irritant in the grand scheme of things.
Like most Chinese smartphones, the Mi Mix is powered by Android -- in this case, Android 6.0, but a heavily customised version of it called MIUI. This is Xiaomi's version of Android, and it has features taken from both iOS and Google's software.
Like iOS, MIUI lacks an app drawer, so apps have to go on the home screen. You do get the ability to muck around with your file system, unlike in iOS, and MIUI also has some pretty snazzy features of its own. A favorite of mine lets you hold down on an app to move it and use another finger to switch to a different screen, instead of dragging it to the edge as on most phones. Double tapping the home screen to wake the phone up is cool too.
As I mentioned above, Google services don't come preinstalled, and if they work, they may not perform correctly. And while you could sideload Google Assistant, the cool feature found on the Pixel phones, you have to do a lot of work to get it working correctly, which also includes rooting the phone.
Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and boasting 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage, the phone performs pretty much as you'd expect. Fluid, smooth and no lag. Games played great, especially the fast-moving 3D racing game Asphalt 8, and thanks to the large screen, the graphics looked better than ever.
The only problem I noticed was that the odd aspect ratio of the display can sometimes cut some apps off a little at the sides. Otherwise, things generally ran great. See below for how the Mix compared with other similar Snapdragon 821-powered phones, and the iPhone.
Don't buy the Mix for its camera. In good lighting, it takes some great shots, but at night it struggles. The HDR sensor is accurately calibrated -- an improvement on my previous experience with Xiaomi phones, which have tended not to detect when HDR needs to be turned on.
The front 5-megapixel selfie camera's placement at the bottom of the phone is as awkward as it sounds. To get it to fit in the bottom required a custom sensor that's half the size of a normal one. Honestly, Xiaomi could have done away with the camera and gone for a perfectly bezel-less phone instead. The selfie camera isn't bad, but I'm not a selfie person, so it doesn't bother me too much.
Check out the gallery below for more shots.
Xiaomi has yet to make a waterproof phone and the Mix is no different, so don't expect to survive a dunk on this phone. Your best bet is to stay away from water.
With a 4,400 mAh battery, you'd expect battery life to be good. But the phone seems to drain 30 percent when left idle overnight, which isn't good at all. In our lab video battery test, however, the phone lasted 17 hours 52 minutes of continuous video playback, which is fantastic. I was able to get a full day of use with the phone, but you should leave it plugged in when you're not using it to avoid that drain.
The Mix employs Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 charging technology, which is supposed to let phones charge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes. Xiaomi's own specs say it only charges 20 percent faster and I managed only to get about 35 percent charge from zero in 30 minutes, which honestly doesn't seem any faster than a normal phone.
Xiaomi's Mi Mix is a device that shows off the company's technological prowess. And while I'd say it's worth getting, a major problem is that the phone probably isn't very useful in the US, due to limited 4G band support (though it may work on T-Mobile, but we haven't confirmed that).
Elsewhere, the phone will work on some 4G LTE networks. In the UK, you'll get some joy on 3, EE and O2, though Vodafone will likely have the best band support for the phone. In Australia, Optus and Telstra should work for you. You should have no trouble in Asia, especially in Singapore, where this phone was reviewed.
I'm loving the phone, and know I'll miss it terribly when I return it to Xiaomi after this review. Don't get it if you're not willing to jump through a few hoops, but if you are you'll probably enjoy using tech that won't be available to the mass market anytime soon. You'll draw envious stares every time you take it out in public. The Mi Mix is the blueprint of future phones, and I honestly can't wait until more are here.
|Xiaomi Mi Mix||Google Pixel XL||Apple iPhone 7 Plus||Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge|
|Display size, resolution||6.4-inch; 2,080x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||362 ppi||534 ppi||401 ppi||534ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.25x3.22x0.31 inches (at its thickest)||6.1x2.98x0.34 (at its thickest)||6.23x 3.07x0.29-inches||5.9x2.9x0.3 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||158.8x81.9x7.9mm (at its thickest)||154.7x75.74x8.58 (at its thickest)||158.2x77.9x7.3 mm||150.9x72.6x7.7 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.37 oz; 209g||5.92 oz; 168g||6.63 oz; 188 g||5.5 oz; 157 g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 7.1 Nougat||Apple iOS 10||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Camera||16-megapixel||12.3-megapixel||12-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide)||12-megapixel|
|Processor||2.35GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Apple A10 chip (64-bit)||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 processor|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||32GB, 128GB||32GB, 128GB, 256GB||32GB, 64GB (varies by region)|
|Battery||4,400mAh (nonremovable)||3,450mAh||21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE||3,600mAh (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back cover||Back cover||Home button||Home button|
|Special features||Bezel-less display, ceramic unibody, piezoelectric ceramic actuator, ultrasonic proximity sensor||Google Assistant built-in; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR ready||Water and dust-resistant, Taptic Home button, dual rear cameras, up to 10x camera zoom, Depth of Field mode||Water-resistant, wireless charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||Converted: $510 (128GB); $590 (256GB)||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)||AT&T: $795; Verizon: $792; T-Mobile: $780; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $780|
|Price (GBP)||Converted: £420 (128GB); £480 (256GB)||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)||£639|
|Price (AUD)||Converted: AU$680 (128GB); AU$770 (256GB)||AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)||AU$1269 (32GB); AU$1419 (128GB); AU$1569 (256GB)||AU$1,249|