This is the Xiaomi Mi Mix, and you’re allowed to say “wow.” It may look like concept phone, a vision of the future, but you can actually buy it right now. The most striking feature is the almost bezel-less screen, which takes up almost the entire front of the device, and extends right up into the top corners. The technology to make this possible is amazing, but has Xiaomi come up with a usable phone that represents the future of smartphone design? We’ve been finding out.
DROP DEAD GORGEOUS
You can’t stop staring at the Mi Mix. It’s beautiful in a way that other smartphones simply aren’t. Designs tend to follow the same trend, and although other phones may be attractive, they don’t even come close to the pure visual excitement generated by the Mi Mix. Why? Because it’s all screen. The 6.4-inch IPS LCD has an unusual 17:9 aspect ratio and covers more than 90 percent of the front panel. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge manages 76 percent screen. A 14 percent difference may not sound much, but just look at the pictures. It’s an absolute world away from the S7 Edge. Look at the top corners, for instance. They don’t end in a right angle, but actually curve with the body. It’s not visual trickery either, the edge of the screen is really curved.
The Mi Mix is otherwise a very simple shape, and its glorious minimalism doesn’t stand out until you start examining the subtleties, from the “Mix designed by Mi” wording on the back, to the absolute lack of speakers or sensors on the front. Instead, the speaker is behind the screen itself and uses specially designed piezoelectric technology to transmit sound to your ear. Xiaomi has taken away the regular proximity sensor, too, making way for an ultrasonic module, which is located behind the screen. The Mi Mix isn’t all looks, it’s also an impressive technical achievement.
The body is superbly built. It’s made from ceramic, rather than metal and glass. Our review model came in glossy black, but Xiaomi now makes a white version, too. It’s stunning, but unless you carry a cloth around with you, or wear white gloves like you’re cradling a priceless artefact every time you pick the phone up, it’s going to get covered in fingerprints and smudges. Really, really covered.
The Mi Mix isn’t all looks, it’s also an impressive technical achievement.
Fingerprints aren’t the only problem. The Mi Mix is so slippery, it’s like it’s actively trying to escape. No matter how you hold it, it slips, wriggles, and slides around in a continuous bid for freedom. The ceramic body offers no resistance, and there’s no texture or ridges down the side. Engage in just about any activity from taking photos to checking your email, and you run the gauntlet of the Mi Mix taking a dive. It’s almost essential to wrap the phone up in a case, unless you like the feeling that an awfully expensive accident is about to happen every second of the day.
Not to worry, owning the Mi Mix is like having a partner you absolutely adore. You’ll make ridiculous concessions just to be with them. We’ve taken to wearing a pair of grippy rubber kitchen gloves all the time. No more fingerprints, and no more worrying about accidents. Sure, people stare when you wear the pink ones, but when the Mi Mix is in your hand, you’ll be so smitten you won’t care.
Our Mi Mix came with 6GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor running at 2.35GHz, but when clearing the RAM, only about 4GB of RAM was ever listed as available for use by apps. A cheaper alternative model with 4GB of RAM as standard is also available, but you won’t get the 18k gold accents around the camera lens and fingerprint sensor, either.
The Snapdragon 821 chip has proved to be an excellent performer, and we’ve enjoyed using it before in the OnePlus 3T and the Google Pixel phones. It’s equally superb here, keeping the operating system zipping along, making web browsing and app use fast and fault free, plus it has superb gaming ability.
Games are more fun on the Mi Mix’s big, bright, and beautiful screen. I hesitate to say more immersive, because it doesn’t seem possible; but the right game is definitely more engrossing here. Danmaku Unlimited, an all-action bullet-hell game, plays beautifully in HD on Hard mode; yet despite being a game I’ve played many times, it was just that little bit more exciting, due to the Mi Mix’s combination of no bezel and a large screen size.
Xiaomi hasn’t gone mad with the display, opting for an IPS LCD panel and a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. It doesn’t suck the battery dry in moments, and is perfect for online video. Watch YouTube, tap the fullscreen button, and videos take up the whole of the display, curved corners included, rather than being squeezed down into an unusual format, or not supporting the full display. It’s a real treat.
Put the Mi Mix through a couple of benchmark tests, and AnTuTu 3D gives it an incredible 153,637, putting it in the top five overall results. Xiaomi has stuffed a whopping 4,400mAh battery inside the Mi Mix, which by most modern standards, is huge. It’s an equally large benefit, too, and we easy got two days regular use out of the phone before feeling the need to plug it in the charger. This was more down to battery anxiety than any alerts the phone sent out.
In case it’s not obvious, there’s more than enough power, energy, and speed for everyone inside the Mi Mix.
HIGHLY CUSTOMIZED ANDROID MARSHMALLOW
Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the Mi Mix has Android 6.0 Marshmallow installed. It’s not the latest version 7.0 Nougat, mainly due to MIUI, Xiaomi’s own user interface. It modifies Android extensively, to the point where Android Pay won’t work because it considers MIUI a custom version of the operating system.
Does the interface make it unpleasant? Not really. Version 8 of MIUI is installed, and our imported version came with Google Play all ready to go. That means you don’t have to deal with Xiaomi’s app store, and can install all the usual Google apps — from Maps to YouTube — directly from Play. Early setup takes a while, but we’ve never had any issues with installation or updates on a Xiaomi device.