Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S full review
Xiaomi is the fourth largest smartphone company in the world, and the Mi Mix 2S is one of many reasons why. Now available below £200 (here and here), this phone should have a price tag two or three times that amount.
The Mi Mix 2S' class-leading performance, beautiful design and feature-heavy specification make it difficult to look at other flagships in quite the way. It is evidence that buying Chinese phones can get you so much more for your money.
Key features in this 'S' model over the previous Mi Mix 2 include a faster Snapdragon 845 processor, a dual-camera with AI and Qi wireless charging. It still has the bezel-less (at least on three sides) and also notch-less 18:9 large-screen display we've previously admired, and gorgeous ceramic design that, on the black model (it's also available in white), features 18K gold bling on the rear.
The Mi Mix 2S has now been updated with the Mi Mix 3.
Also see: Best Xiaomi phones
Mi Mix 2S: Design & Build
One of the most noteworthy things about the Mi Mix 2S has always been its design. The original Mi Mix kicked off the whole full-display trend, near-bezel-less on three sides and at the time incredibly futuristic-looking.
The display was refined for the Mi Mix 2S, reduced in size to 5.99in (which also meant reducing the overall size of the device and the battery capacity), but it retained the familiar design, including the ceramic case.
Now in version 3 (or more accurately 2.5), the Mi Mix 2S is almost indistinguishable from the Mi Mix 2. The phones are the same size, with our review sample measuring 158.6x74.9x8.1mm and weighing 189g, with the same 5.99in display and 3400mAh battery.
There are some subtle differences, such as the row of drilled holes to the left of the USB-C port has been replaced by a single hole for the mic. It's still only a mono speaker inside, so there's really no need for two rows.
From the back the single-lens camera with dual-LED flash has moved from top-centre to top-left, now joined by a second lens with the flash separating the two. It still protrudes slightly from the body, and on the black model at least has an 18K gold trim. It's touches like this, and the ceramic body, that mark out the Mi Mix 2S as a premium phone.
The fingerprint scanner, previously below the camera, hasn't moved. We were hoping to see this integrated to the screen technology, given that the Mi Mix has always been known for its revolutionary design (it was originally a concept phone). Looks like we might be waiting for the Mi7 for this (expected to launch on 23 May).
One final change that's visible under close scrutiny is ever so slightly more rounded edges at the rear, which make the Mi Mix 2S more comfortable in a single hand and reveal less of the aluminium frame when viewed from the back.
The overall effect is of a phone that just feels so good in the hand. The ceramic is smooth to the touch - if a little slippery - with a gorgeous mirror finish. It does pick up some fingerprints, but it's not too bad.
It feels a lot tougher than glass-back smartphones, and round the front there's Gorilla Glass 4 to protect the display. It's still not waterproof, and that's next on our wishlist for the Mi Mix.
Xiaomi has kept the smaller chin it introduced with the Mi Mix 2, but unfortunately it still is home to the selfie camera. We're not huge fans of the increasingly common 'notch' design, but the front camera does have to go somewhere and below the screen is not an ideal solution, especially when it means you need to turn the phone upside down to take a selfie.
The screen bezels remain minimal to the top and left/right sides, with only a small slit for the earpiece visible at the top of the display.
Also see: Best Chinese phones 2018
Mi Mix 2S: Features & Specs
The Mi Mix 2S is fitted with a 5.99in 18:9 display, which has a full-HD+ resolution of 2160x1080 pixels. Though this is not as high as Quad-HD+ phones such as the Galaxy S9, to be fair that phone defaults to Full-HD+ to maximise battery life in any case. And it's still perfectly clear, showing well detailed images and text free from fuzz. Xiaomi has not yet added Quad-HD display tech to any phone in its line-up.
It's a decent panel, which provides realistic colours, good contrast and strong viewing angles, but if we're honest it's not as punchy as we'd like. Not everyone likes the saturated colours of AMOLED, but this display just seems to be lacking a little 'something'.
It is usefully bright, but we did find auto brightness can be a bit hit and miss.
Processor and performance
This might be the entry-level Mi Mix 2S we're reviewing here, but we were blown away with its performance. Though you'll likely see a little more in some tests from the versions with 8GB of memory, this 6GB RAM version was more than capable of keeping up with the competition.
The Mi Mix 2S uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor as the majority of 2018 Android flagships, a chip that has been built on the second-generation 10nm manufacturing process and promises significant gains in raw performance and energy efficiency. It's here clocked at 2.8GHz, and integrated with the Adreno 630 GPU.
In real-world use the Xiaomi is a fast and responsive device no matter what you task it with, and how many things you task it with at once.
Nevertheless, we did run our usual benchmarks on the phone, and found excellent results that are right up there with recent flagships - even better in some cases (compare these in the chart below).
It fared particularly well in graphics benchmarks, and this is likely because we use the onscreen variants of those tests and the Mi Mix 2S has 'only' a Full-HD+ display. However, a Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 9099 is outstanding, and we also recorded a very good 266,962 in AnTuTu.
The Mi Mix 2S has the same battery capacity as the Mi Mix 2 before it, at 3,400mAh. Like that phone, light users might get a day and half usage, but for everyone else it should get them through a full working day and no more.
What's new here, though, is the addition of wireless charging. You can use any compatible Qi charging pad or dock, but note that the maximum charging speed available is 7.5W. This means it will charge slower wirelessly than wired.
The Mi Mix 2S supports Quick Charge 3.0 and a 24W charger is supplied in the box. Using this supplied charger, we found the Xiaomi was able to get from zero to 53 percent in 30 minutes.
We also ran the Xiaomi through the Geekbench 4 battery test (with screen brightness dimmed to 120cd/m2). It turned in a time of 5 hours and 37 minutes, with a score of 3365. In comparison to other Android phones, this is a middling score.
In common with many Chinese phones the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S supports dual-SIM dual-standby functionality (two nano-SIMs), though unlike many of those phones the second slot does not double up as a microSD slot. You're stuck with the amount of storage you buy, so choose carefully between the 64-, 128- and 256GB internal storage options.
There's no IR blaster here, but just about every other connectivity base is covered here, including NFC. There's Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS, USB-C and OTG support, and the Mi Mix 2S supports Wi-Fi Direct and Wi-Fi Display.
We'd like to have seen the fingerprint scanner built into the screen, but it remains in its previous location on the back of the handset. It's responsive and works fast, and is within easy reach as you pick up the phone in a single hand.
Surprisingly for a flagship, the Mi Mix 2S has simply a mono speaker for audio. It's actually quite loud, but some distortion is notable at max volume and it struggles with both bass and treble.
Less surprisingly, it adopts the latest trend of ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of USB-C audio. There is an adaptor in the box so you can use your old pair, tucked away alongside a silicon case.
Cameras and photography
One of the big changes for the Mi Mix 2S is the dual-camera. Xiaomi is marketing this as an AI camera, which in essence means it is able to intelligently work out what you're trying to take a photo of and set the scene accordingly.
That's ideal if you're the sort of person who isn't at all interested in manual shooting modes and would rather pick up a camera and snap away, though it isn't obvious to the user what it's actually doing in this mode - it appears to increase the image saturation and brightness but not much else.
The dual-camera consists of one 12Mp Sony IMX363 lens with 1.4um pixels and an f/1.8 aperture, and a second 12Mp Samsung S5K3M3 lens with 1.0um pixels and an f/2.4 aperture, which enables telephoto and portrait capabilities. Only the main lens supports OIS.
DxO Mark awarded this camera a very high score of 101 points, but of course we run our own tests.
We found the Mi Mix 2S produced better-quality images than its predecessor, with great colours and sharp lines. It did a great job in low-light, too, giving a lot of detail to text and able to pick out various shades of black. It's not perfect, though, and a small amount of noise is visible even in well-lit shots. See some of our test shots below.
The Mi Mix 2S can also shoot 4K video.
Around the front is a 5Mp selfie camera with 1.12um pixels and an f/2.0 aperture. It's not the world's best front-facing camera, but if selfies are your number-one priority then the Mi Mix 2S is not for you in any case.
It's no good for apps such as Snapchat, given that you have to turn the phone upside down, and if you don't do that you'll find yourself holding it much higher above your head than you'd like just to avoid that double chin.
Software and apps
In common with all Xiaomi phones the Mi Mix 2S runs MIUI 9. It's based on Android Oreo, and as this is the Global version of the phone we have full access to Google services out of the box, including Google Play.
Android Oreo is the latest Android operating system, though Google is currently beta-testing Android P, which will be released later in the summer. It's interesting to note that the Mi Mix 2S is one of the few phones that supports this beta, which will make it more attractive if you just can't wait to try out Android's latest features.
We stuck with MIUI 9 for the purpose of this review, of course, an OS with which we have become rather familiar but new users may still find daunting. It's not only that Xiaomi preinstalls its own apps for all the things you'd usually expect to see Google apps, but it removes the app tray (in a very iOS-like fashion) and reorganises the Settings menu. As we always point out, though, you can make use of a search option in the Settings, and use folders to organise your home screens as you wish.
MIUI has several extra features over standard Android, and a couple of the older features that have been around for years but are still useful for usability - especially on a large screen such as this - are One-handed mode and Quick Ball.
The former shrinks the usable screen size to make it easier to use in a single hand, and it can align this to the left or right edge of the display to suit left- and righthanded users alike. Quick Ball, meanwhile, places onscreen a movable quick-access shortcut to common features such as Home and Back.
Other features of note include: Second Space, which lets you create a separate working environment on your phone and will be handy if you're passing the phone over to a kid and want them to be able to access only certain apps; and Dual Apps, which let you run two instances of the same app, and may be useful if you're using two SIMs in the phone.
A new feature for the Mi Mix 2S is the Guide, which is a swipe in from the left of the main home screen. It lets you quickly jot down notes, add shortcuts to frequent apps, and alerts you to upcoming calendar events.
In China the Mi Mix 2S has its own smart assistant, but here in the UK you'll be able to use the Google Assistant.
Mi Mix 2S: Verdict
The original full-display smartphone is evolving into something really special. Now with wireless charging, faster performance and a dual-camera that builds in AI, the Mi Mix 2S is a closer rival to western flagships than ever - and at a fraction of the price.
The Mi Mix 2S majors on performance and design. With its ceramic, mirror-finish case and 18:9 display it looks and feels incredible in the hand.
With full Google services the Xiaomi is easy to recommend, although it's not ideal for selfie and audio fanatics with a poorly positioned front camera and a mono speaker that doesn't make up for the lack of a headphone jack.
Battery life could also be better, and we'd like to see the company finally take the plunge with a Quad-HD display and waterproofing.
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Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S: Specs
- 5.99in Full-HD+ (2160x1080) 18:9 display, Gorilla Glass 4
- MIUI 9 (Android 8.0 Oreo)
- 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor
- Adreno 630 GPU
- 6GB/8GB RAM
- 64GB/128GB/256GB storage
- 12Mp Sony IMX363 (1.4um, f/1.8) + 12Mp Samsung S5K3M3 (1.0um, f/2.4) dual-camera, 4K video
- 5Mp, 1.12um, f/2.0 selfie camera
- dual-SIM dual-standby (2x nano), Global model 43 bands
- dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- Wi-Fi Direct
- Wi-Fi Display
- fingerprint scanner (rear)
- 3400mAh battery, Quick Charge 3.0, 7.5W Qi wireless charging
- available in black or white