With the increasing notoriety of one thousand dollar phones, most consumers have begun to wonder whether or not the smartphone market is going in a consumer-headed direction. This is especially true in the North American markets, where brands like Apple and Samsung dominate so much of the market that it can at times feel undoubtedly unsaturated. After spending a week with my first Chinese phone, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s, I am finally convinced that better -and cheaper- options do exist.
Instead of taking cues from Apple, Xiaomi has decided to implement a more original design approach with its Mix 2s device. While it keeps most of the same great features that its original counterpart made waves with back in November 2016, there are a few new implementations that make a big difference in day to day usage.
The most startling different is the availability of a new white ceramic model and a China exclusive green ceramic variant, both which bring some much-needed diversity to this lineup. Yet needless of your colour choice, Xiaomi has also added a one in a time feature alongside its already jaw-dropping design: Qi wireless charging. After pairing my Mix 2s with Xiaomi’s official charging pad (retails for $14.99 USD), I found the experience of setting my phone at a desk before sleeping to be reassuring and convenient, especially for its entry price point.
While its wireless charging convenience may be outstanding, the Mi Mix 2s now also sports the latest Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0, which tops off its reasonably sized 3400Mh battery in just over an hour and a half.
The last design nuance worth mentioning is the change from the archaic single camera setup to a more modern dual camera combo. This same camera setup would later be used on the Xiaomi Mi 8, the company’s current flagship, which boasts a DxOMark of 99, with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s coming in at a whole 97- the same score as the iPhone X.
But in day to day use, this dual 12MP setup, one being used for dual pixel images and the other for 2X zoom, still don’t make for the same camera experience that the iPhone X could provide. My main issue with it, is its AI mode. Due to the rather dull colours provided by the main shooter, Xiaomi has developed its own AI software to solve this issue, however, all it seemed to do was to make photos extremely saturated. Despite this being an issue for those looking for a more photo-realistic experience, those of us who spend most of their time on Instagram shouldn’t have that much of an issue as pictures come out share-ready.
Where even the Instagram celebrities will have an issue with this handset is the selfie shooter. Because of its bezel-less design, Xiaomi has pushed its 5MP selfie cam to the bottom, making for an experience that is simply not at flagship levels.
Regarding video, both the rear and selfie cam can shoot at 1080p 30fps, with the rear camera being able to take that to 2160p at 30fps. Regardless of shooting modes, both cameras do a great job at capturing smooth and detailed video, the selfie cam is only limited by its inability to focus on brighter lights, making beach vlogs look like you’re in some sort of white room.
Now with design and camera out of the way, move to the front and you’ll find a bright – or a bright as possible – IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 1080×2160 pixels, at the modernly required 18:9 aspect ratio. At 403 ppi, this panel is gorgeous, offering great viewing angles and colours even when shimmered by midday sun rays. In fact, Xiaomi has done such a great job with this panel that I barely found myself my S8+’s OLED screen, and that’s a lot coming from a tech junking with eagle vision.
A couple of features had to be moved around with this gorgeous design, however, and no I’m not mentioning the silly selfie cam placement again. Instead, users of the beloved headphone jack will be torn to realize that they’ll need to use the included adaptor, which sounds great, but cuts down on the convenience of simply plugging in your headphones as they came in the box. Another feature is the call speaker, which Xiaomi solved by using screen vibrations, a feature that is becoming more and more popular within Chinese brands pushing for this bezel-less future.
With this wonky speaker setup, I was surprised to find that Xiaomi included stereo speakers, which sounded better than I expected considering the technology behind it. This paired with the amazing screen makes the Mix 2s the perfect handset for watching your favourite Youtube content on the go.
Moving back to the screen, being an LCD, I also found that battery efficiency was amazing, in fact, with what may seem small at 3400Mh, I found that more often than not I could make through an entire day with over 30% left. While this may be because I use my phone scarcely – mainly through light web browsing and a few texts here and there – I reckon that even power users can definitely get a day out of this battery.
Besides its efficient screen, the most outstanding reason for such great battery life is MIUI itself. While most users will find some akin characteristics between this version of Android and Apple’s IOS, I found that Xiaomi’s take on software was both refreshing and practical. Throughout my time with the handset, I found that its streamlined nature was especially appealing to users such as myself- who don’t want to spend eons setting up their phone upon purchase. For users who aren’t keen on this, however, Xiaomi makes it extra easy to set up a third party launcher like Nova Prime, which is definitely a plus.
But while MIUI is practical once dived into, what it isn’t is western-friendly. Unless it’s purchased from the Indian market, the Chinese variant of Mix 2s not only comes with Chinese bloatware but no services from Google, making it useless outside of China’s software firewall. This again can be negated by simply installing an APK, but that’s an extra step that those looking into getting this phone need to be made aware of.
The last annoyance is accessory availability: unless purchased from China upon purchase, finding screen-protectors and cases can be a pain. Although this isn’t as big of an issue as the absence of Google apps, it’s surely worrisome once this slippery ceramic design is taken into account.
For the past half decade that I have been a tech fanatic, never would I say importing a smartphone from China would be in any way, shape or form “worth it”, however, after using the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s- this no longer holds true. While it may have some missteps that make it harder for western users to get their hands on it, the Mix 2s’ stunning ceramic back, almost full-screen display, powerful spec sheet, impressive camera setup, and impressively low price tag, makes the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s a gem from the east that deserves its place in your pocket despite any initial drawbacks it may have.