For years, people outside of China or India have been denied a fully functional Xiaomi smartphone. Yes, you could import one, but it would inevitably be hobbled by the lack of local 4G LTE network support. That has now changed: Not only can you buy a Xiaomi phone that will connect to 4G in the U.S. and U.K., but it’s the best phone Xiaomi has ever made. It’s the Mi Mix 2, and we’re very lucky indeed. In our time with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, the phone has consistently connected to 4G LTE in the U.K., going way beyond the patchy service seen with older Xiaomi phones.
Well, almost lucky. You still need to import the Mi Mix 2, as Xiaomi doesn’t officially sell its hardware in the U.S. or U.K. No, you won’t find it at Best Buy or in AT&T stores; but unlike phones such as the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X, it doesn’t cost around $1,000. The Global version, through importing retailers like GearBest, is $530. It’s strong competition for the OnePlus 5T and the Honor View 10 — flagship killers.
The lack of 4G LTE in the U.S. was a caveat we always noted at the end of our Xiaomi device reviews, no matter how much we liked them. But the Mi Mix 2 supports all the bands needed to connect to GSM networks provided by T-Mobile and AT&T (you’re out of luck if you have Verizon or Sprint). The Mi Mix 2 opens up an entirely new audience for Xiaomi hardware, because there are no compromises in service. The question is, should anyone thinking about the OnePlus 5T also consider the Mi Mix 2? The answer is yes. This is an astonishing phone for the price, and ticks every box from capable camera and stunning screen to an ultra modern design.The original Mi Mix was one of the first phones with an almost bezel-less display, where the borders around the screen are minimized. The Mi Mix 2 continues the trend. Tiny bezels run down the sides of the screen and above it, where a small speaker sits due to Xiaomi abandoning the piezoelectric speaker inside the display on the first Mi Mix. It works better too because it gets louder.
Below the screen, the bezel is larger but not unnecessarily big. It’s where the selfie camera sits. Yes, you still have to flip the phone upside down to take a sensible selfie, but the software adjusts the display automatically to make the experience less annoying.
It’s strong competition for the OnePlus 5T and the Honor View 10.
Aside from 4G LTE connectivity, the software on Xiaomi phones has also been a setback. The Mi Mix 2 runs Android 7.1.1, and ours came with the November 2017 Google security patch, along with the global version of Xiaomi’s MIUI 9 user interface. The Google Play Store is installed, Google Assistant works, but despite the presence of NFC for mobile payments, Android Pay will not work because of an unlocked bootloader. This gives the user root access to a smartphone, but it disables Android Pay due to security concerns. That aside, it happily ran all the apps we use on a daily basis without argument, and with speed. Lots of speed.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has a Snapdragon 835 processor with 6GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage space. It’s an absolute monster, taking on the OnePlus 5T, the Galaxy S8, and the LG V30. We put the Mi Mix 2 through an AnTuTu benchmark test, and it scored 180,985. That’s almost identical to the OnePlus 5T. MIUI has improved and is a fluid experience, and the Mi Mix 2’s speed makes it pleasurable to use. Xiaomi will soon introduce a series of gesture controls to speed up navigation even more, much like the iPhone X, in a future version of MIUI. This is still in beta, so we didn’t thoroughly test them.
Decent camera, beautiful design
Then we come to how the Mi Mix 2 looks. It’s a beauty. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio 5.99-inch screen with a 2,160 x 1,080 pixel resolution. The colors are spectacular, video looks great, and it’s easy to stretch content out to take full advantage of the entire display. The auto brightness isn’t tuned well, and we did encounter a lot of glare out in the sun. That made it a little difficult to see notifications at a glance.
The body is made from ceramic with an aluminum frame. The back panel is essentially like a mirror, and sadly it gets covered in fingerprints and is dangerously slippery. We handed the phone to a friend saying, “be careful,” and he almost immediately handed it back replying, “I’m going to drop that.” A case is essential.
This is an astonishing phone for the price.
How about the camera? Xiaomi hasn’t done anything crazy here. There’s a single 12-megapixel lens on the back which takes good pictures. It doesn’t have a portrait mode that adds blur behind subjects, a monochrome camera, or any other flashy feature; but show it a pleasant day and the HDR mode shines. The 5-megapixel selfie camera has a more intrusive beauty mode than many other phones, slimming and lightening faces down considerably. Fine, if that’s what you want, but not representative of real life.
The lens sits above a fingerprint sensor on the back of the Mi Mix, which is easy to locate and fast to react.
With the addition of global 4G LTE connectivity on the Mi Mix 2, there is now a strong reason why — if you’ve often been tempted — to try out a Xiaomi phone. The Mi Mix 2 is excellent value for money, has a beautiful modern design, and performs like a true flagship phone should. Now if only it was officially on sale in the U.S. and U.K.