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September 11, 2017

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 preview: Ready for primetime

by John_A

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Xiaomi’s bezel-less phone is ready to take on the LG V30 and the Galaxy Note 8.

Xiaomi’s Mi Mix was one of the most innovative products of 2016, but the main drawback with the phone was its availability. With the Mi Mix 2, Xiaomi is looking to change all that. The overall design of the phone is based on its predecessor, but Xiaomi made a few key changes that make the Mi Mix 2 a much better product.

Xiaomi retained the ultrasonic proximity sensor and the camera sensor at the bottom, but it made a few tweaks in other areas — the piezoelectric acoustic driver has been switched out for a standard earpiece, which sits in a narrow slit at the top of the phone. Xiaomi implemented the change after getting feedback from Mi Mix users that the piezoelectric driver wasn’t suitable for calls.

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When it comes to the design, the ceramic back of the Mi Mix 2 curves gently to the sides to meet the frame, making it a lot easier to hold the device. Xiaomi also went with a four-sided curved design with rounded corners — much like what we’ve seen on the Mi 6.

The phone itself now features a 5.99-inch display, down from the 6.4-inch panel that was used in the first-gen Mi Mix. The decrease in display size makes a huge difference when using the phone one-handed, with the Mi Mix 2 slightly smaller than standard 5.5-inch phone.

The way Xiaomi is able to do that is by cutting down on the bezels — there is a still a chin at the bottom to accommodate the front camera, but the top portion is devoid of any sensors. The effect is quite striking, and makes the Mi Mix 2 stand out when compared to other bezel-less phones.

Xiaomi has also switched to an 18:9 display ratio, making it easier for content to scale on the Mi Mix 2. With the likes of the LG G6 and the Galaxy S8 boasting a similar ratio, it is looking more and more likely that square displays will be the standard going forward.

Xiaomi says it designed the Mi Mix 2 to be all about the content — the device itself falls away into the background, putting just the content on the screen into focus. In this regard, the Mi Mix 2 is unlike any other phone in the market today.

The panel also offers features sunlight mode, which selectively boosts contrast when outdoors, allowing you to view the screen under harsh sunlight. There’s a reading mode, which reduces brightness all the way down to 1nit, and a blue light filter as well.

The back is still made out of ceramic — and Xiaomi has retained that glossy look that it says is designed to look like jade — and there’s an aluminum mid-frame with antenna cut-outs at the top and bottom. The front camera sensor is harder to spot with the display off, and that’s because Xiaomi blacked out the area around the lens. Like last year, there’s an 18K goal-plated ring around the camera sensor at the back.

The ceramic chassis gives the Mi Mix 2 a decent amount of heft, without making the device feel too heavy. The fingerprint sensor is located at the bottom of the camera unit, and the reduced screen size means the sensor is always in easy reach of your finger.

As for the camera itself, the Mi Mix 2 is using the same sensor that’s featured in the primary camera on the Mi 6. I didn’t get much time to spend testing out the camera, but if it can offer the same kind of quality as the Mi 6, it’ll be one of the best shooters in the $500 segment. As for other things the phone has in common with the Mi 6, there’s no 3.5mm jack on the Mi Mix 2.

On the software side of things, the Mi Mix 2 comes with MIUI 9 atop Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The marquee features introduced with MIUI 9 are limited to the Chinese version of the ROM (for now), but Xiaomi made significant under-the-hood changes — for one thing, the interface is definitely snappier.

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If there’s one word to define the Mi Mix 2, it’d be refinement. Xiaomi took the same basic idea of the Mi Mix but made minor changes that made a huge difference when it comes to day-to-day use.

One of the main highlights is that the Mi Mix 2 will come with global LTE bands. Xiaomi stirred up a lot of interest in the Mi Note 2 last year, which was sold in a variant with 37 LTE bands, and the brand is taking a similar route with the Mi Mix 2. The Mi Mix 2 has 43 bands in total, giving you the ability to use the device on most carriers around the globe.

Xiaomi is also going to launch a special edition model that has a unibody ceramic chassis, the first of its kind in the world. Ceramic is an extremely difficult material to work with (initial yields of the Mi Mix were as low as 5%), and Xiaomi says a single phone takes up to seven days to manufacture.

The ceramic is initially baked, allowed to shrink at the optimal temperature to solidify, and then machined, milled, and polished to add that glossy finish. The ceramic variant feels nicer to hold as it’s just one seamless chassis from the back to the sides, and you get 8GB of RAM along with 128GB storage with the edition. The ceramic variant will retail for ¥3,999 ($590), and will be sold in limited quantities.

The ceramic variant will be available in two color options — black and white — with the black version offering gold-plated accents around the camera and fingerprint sensors at the back and the white edition featuring rose gold accents.

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As for the standard variant of the Mi Mix 2, Xiaomi says that the phone will be sold in global markets. The manufacturer now has a presence in over 40 countries, and the phone should be up for sale in a majority of these markets (it’s launching in India ‘very soon’). The Mi Mix was intended to showcase Xiaomi’s technological prowess, and the Mi Mix 2 is a continuation of that idea.

We’ll have much more to talk about the Mi Mix 2 shortly, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the device in the comments below.

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