Phones

Less bezel, more value

The Mi Mix 2's 6-inch IPS LCD screen is bright and vibrant.
The Mi Mix 2's 6-inch IPS LCD screen is bright and vibrant. PHOTO: XIAOMI

Xiaomi's Mix 2 mostly keeps up with more expensive flagship models in design and hardware, but lacks features such as water resistance and wireless charging

In 2016, Chinese smartphone-maker Xiaomi launched the idiosyncratic Mi Mix smartphone. Big, bold and sporting a ceramic body, the Philippe Starck-designed Mix was one of the first smartphones with minimal bezel.

The new Mi Mix 2 retains its predecessor's edge-to-edge screen. But the Mix's huge 6.4-inch body has been reduced to a more manageable 6-inch frame, while some of its flaws have been fixed in the Mix 2.

These changes have resulted in a less distinctive-looking phone. This opinion is probably coloured by the near-bezel-less smartphone trend that has taken off this year with the Apple iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S8. It means the Mi Mix 2 is no longer one of a kind.

Even its ceramic body, which accounts for its weighty feel (185g) is not that unique anymore - the Essential Phone also has a scratch-resistant ceramic back. Polished and reflective, this ceramic back looks lovely, but is too slippery for its own good - I recommend using the included plastic case. The ceramic back itself is surprisingly resistant to fingerprint smudges.

The Mix 2 feels more practical and palatable to mainstream users than the previous version. Take its earpiece speaker, which is now a more conventional design with a tiny slit at the top of the phone. Compared with its predecessor's "piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology", which has no slit but produces mediocre sound quality, I know which one I would pick.

To maintain its bezel-less look, the Mix 2's front camera is, like its predecessor, located at the chin. While this design choice may look aesthetically more pleasing than the camera notch on the iPhone X, it creates practical issues when using the camera. I had to turn the Mix 2 upside down to take a decent selfie. This is also a problem in apps such as Snapchat, which do not rotate the camera when the phone is flipped. Personally, I hardly use the front camera, so this is not much of an inconvenience.

Its single rear camera, on the other hand, is a good 12-megapixel shooter with phase-detection autofocus and four-axis optical image stabilisation. It produces crisp images with accurate colours. However, images taken with the HDR feature enabled took longer than expected to be processed. In low-light conditions, photos tended to look grainy.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $699

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (Quad-core 2.45GHz and Quad-core 1.9GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5.99-inch, IPS LCD, 2,160 x 1,080 pixels, 403 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 7.1

    MEMORY: 64GB, 6GB RAM

    CAMERA: 12-megapixel, f/2.0 (rear); 5MP, f/2.0 (front)

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,400mAh


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Its IPS LCD screen is bright and vibrant, although the 2,160 x 1,080pixel resolution is not as high as top phones. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio that is the norm now for bezel-less phones. More importantly, apps such as YouTube and Netflix can expand to make use of the wider screen estate.

Powering the Mi Mix 2 is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip found in other top Android smartphones. It also has an ample 6GB of RAM, which means switching between apps is speedy. For frequent travellers, the Mix 2 supports 43 different LTE bands around the world. This, according to Xiaomi, is more than any other phone in the market.

In terms of its design and hardware, the Mix 2 mostly keeps up with more expensive flagship models. But it lacks some features, such as wireless charging and water resistance. There is also no microSD card slot to augment its 64GB of internal storage.

Battery life could be better - the Mix 2 lasted 81/2 hours in our video-loop battery test, which is around that of the iPhone X, but short of the more than 10 hours clocked by other top phones.

• Verdict: The latest Mi Mix is more usable than its predecessor, but does not look as unique because rivals have caught up. However, it still offers better bang for the buck than the competition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2018, with the headline 'Less bezel, more value'. Print Edition | Subscribe