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Xiaomi's new Mi 6 is impressive but not game changing

The Chinese company's new beast looks slick and powerful, though less innovative than the Mi Mix.

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The 5.15-inch Mi 6 looks like another strong Android phone from Xiaomi, but the company may have missed an opportunity to show how innovative it can be.

Xiaomi went a different route with its bezel-less Mi Mix concept phone last year, but the Mi 6 retains the look and feel of previous Xiaomi flagships, including physical menu keys. Perhaps the Chinese market prefers it this way, but the company could have taken a bold step into a world without buttons like the Samsung Galaxy S8 has.

But it's far from bad. Xiaomi's new flagship sports top-end specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, and it's a looker. The blue and gold version is stunning, while the normal white and black are as ogle-worthy as you'd expect from Xiaomi. This isn't Xiaomi's first dual-camera phone (that was the Redmi Pro), the new Mi 6 joins other flagships from competitors such as Huawei, LG and Apple in offering one.

Instead of the LG G6's wide-angle dual cameras or Huawei's color and monochrome setup in the P10, the Mi 6's rear 12-megapixel twin shooters use a telephoto and wide-angle lens setup like the iPhone 7 Plus (£669.00 at Apple). Like Apple's phone, the Mi 6 has a Portrait Mode and features 2x optical zoom.

Unlike the iPhone where you swipe to Portrait Mode, Xiaomi's Portrait Mode is activated by tapping an onscreen button on the far left of the phone. It's not really obvious, so you may, like me, miss it the first time around. I couldn't quite get it to work properly, perhaps I didn't get enough distance between my subject and the background. For now, I'd say Apple's implementation is a lot better, but we'll give this the full test when we get our review unit.

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The Mi 6 sports 12-megapixel dual-cameras, and like Apple's iPhone 7, uses a wide angle and telephoto lens to give users 2x optical zoom. There's also a Portrait Mode on the phone for taking really good pictures of your friends.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Xiaomi MI 6 key specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4GB/6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB onboard storage
  • 5.15-inch full-HD display (1,920 x 1,080 pixels)
  • 3,350mAH battery
  • Rear 12-megapixel dual cameras

The new Mi 6 has curved edges, and a more expensive version of the phone will sport a ceramic rear. It remains to be seen if the phone will be slippery, though Xiaomi says it's designed to be grippy. I found this to be so at least, the phone didn't seem like it'd accidentally slip out of my hands.

One thing I noticed though, is that the phone is a crime scene investigator's dream. The glossy rear makes fingerprint smudges very obvious, though the white model doesn't have it as bad. I'm also not a fan of Xiaomi doing an Apple and removing the 3.5mm headphone jack -- audio now runs through the Type-C USB port.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

The phone goes on sale in China on April 28 for 2,499 Chinese yuan (which converts to around $365, £280 or AU$485) for a model with 4GB RAM and 64GB onboard storage. A Mi 6 with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage retails for 2,899 Chinese yuan (about $420, £330 or AU$560).

A premium ceramic version with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage will retail for just a little more at 2,999 Chinese yuan (that's $435, £340 or AU$580). If you want to get one in the US, UK or Australia, you'll have to go through online third-party retailers.

Where to Buy

Xiaomi Mi 6 (Silver)

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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