Xiaomi has built their best smartphone yet, with the Mi 6
Xiaomi has a rather interesting release schedule for their flagship smartphones. Unlike many manufacturers, they do not release their successor every 11 to 12 months. For example, the Mi 5 was announced in February of 2016, while the Mi 4 was announced way back in August of 2014. Xiaomi likes to announce a new smartphone when they have a new technology ready for this new smartphone. Which means they aren't simply releasing the same phone every year. With the Xiaomi Mi 6, they are first on a few things. They are first to bring the Snapdragon 835 to China. But is that enough to justify buying the Mi 6? Starting at 2499 Yuan (about $360 USD), it's definitely looking good on paper. Let's see if it stacks up to the competition.
The Xiaomi Mi 6 sports a 5.15-inch display, making it one of the smaller flagships on the market. The Mi 6's display is the typical 16:9 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 1920x1080. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is powering the Xiaomi Mi 6, making it the first device available in China with the newest Snapdragon chipset. That is paired with 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage. There is no micro SD card slot on the Mi 6, so you're stuck with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. It does support dual nano SIM cards though. There's also a 3350mAh battery inside, which Xiaomi says should keep the Mi 6 running all day long.
Xiaomi's Mi 6 is their first smartphone with dual rear-cameras. There's a 12-megapixel camera with 4-axis OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), while the other camera is a 12-megapixel telephoto sensor and unfortunately it does not have OIS. There's also a USB-C connector for charging, there is also NFC support but no 3.5mm headphone jack, sadly. The Xiaomi Mi 6 does sport that fingerprint sensor under a capacitive home button. Finally, it's available in black, white, blue and silver with the ceramic edition costing 2999 yuan (about $420 USD) and sporting 18-karat gold camera trim.
In the Box
Inside the box, Xiaomi has included all of the usual suspects. You get your wall adapter, which is capable of Quick Charge 3.o speeds. Additionally you get a USB-C to USB-A cable along with the appropriate paperwork and SIM ejection tool. There's also a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle for listening to music with your wired headphones. As an added bonus, and something the company began doing with the Mi Note 2 last fall, there is a TPU case included in the box. Allowing you to keep your device protected, especially important if you get the ceramic or silver model.
Hardware & Build
Picking up the Xiaomi Mi 6, it definitely reminds you of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. It has a curved backside, kind of like a backwards Galaxy S6 Edge, which makes it feel great in the hand. Now while the Mi Note 2 sported a curved display, the Mi 6 does not. It sports a flat 5.15-inch display on the front, with a capacitive home button. The home button is a bit confusing. It looks like it's a physical home button, since it is concaved, but it's just a capacitive button made of glass, and it actually works fairly well. Xiaomi has two capacitive buttons on either side of that home button, which are shown as simply dots. Allowing users to swap their recents and back buttons. The rest of the front is pretty clean, just showing a camera at the top on the left of the earpiece, and there is a notification LED light on the right side.
On our blue model here, the frame is indeed gold, but it's not the 14k gold that is on the ceramic model. It looks a bit odd on the blue Xiaomi Mi 6, but the more you use it, the better it looks (aka, you get used to it). On the right side of the Mi 6, you'll find the volume rocker with the power button below it. On the left side, there is the dual SIM card slot, remember the Mi 6 does not have a micro SD card slot, so instead it's just a dual nano SIM card slot. Up top you'll find a microphone and an IR Blaster - one of the few smartphones that still has an IR blaster. The bottom of the device sports a USB-C port, a speaker and microphone. Remember the Mi 6 does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The backside of the Mi 6 also looks pretty clean. You'll find the dual-camera and dual-LED flash at the top, and nothing else is back here besides Xiaomi's logo and regulatory information towards the bottom. Now with this being a glass phone, it's plenty slippery, so you'll want to slap that TPU case that comes with it, on the Mi 6 to keep it protected. The Mi 6 does feel really good in the hand. Of course, a big part of that is the fact that the Mi 6 does have a somewhat small display, in this day and age. So a 5.15-inch device does fit in the hand. The blue model we have here does have a bit of weight to it, although the ceramic model is even heavier, and that shouldn't be a surprise since ceramic is heavier than glass.
In a world where smartphones are going with bigger displays in smaller body sizes, and higher-resolution displays, does a 5.15-inch 108op IPS display make the cut? Surprisingly, yes, at least when it comes to picture quality. The 5.15-inch display here looks great, even though it is a 1080p resolution display. But keep in mind that with this being a somewhat small 5.15-inch panel, you're getting 428 pixels per inch, which is still a pretty high pixel density, making for a great experience. This IPS panel is one of the better ones out there, of course an AMOLED panel would be better, but there's very little to complain about here with the IPS panel.
Now when it comes to size, the bezels on the front of the Mi 6 does look pretty bulky. This comes after using the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 for the past few months. Of course, it is nice to have a 16:9 aspect ratio display, instead of a taller display - especially since video fits better on this display - it would be nice to have a smaller display. And it's not that Xiaomi isn't capable of making one, after all, they did announce the Mi Mix last year. But they are, currently, keeping that bezel-less display for the Mi Mix, and they are going to be announcing the successor to that this fall. With Xiaomi, they have a specific feature-set for each flagship, with the Mi 6 being the small device, the Mi Note 2 having that larger curved display, and the Mi Mix having that really large display with virtually no bezels.
Having said that, the display here is top-notch. We'd always love to see something of higher-resolution, but on a display this size, we'd happily take the lower-resolution display for better battery life. Especially since it is still really good looking, especially when it comes to media. Xiaomi does also allow you to adjust the color temperature, in case you weren't too impressed with the temperature of this display panel. This is great because not everyone likes panels at the same temperature, some like it a bit warmer, while others may like it a bit cooler.
Xiaomi's Mi 6 is the first smartphone to launch in China with the Snapdragon 835 processor, which means this is a beast. The Mi 6 comes with the Snapdragon 835 processor, Adreno 540 GPU and 6GB of RAM. Making it the only smartphone available with the Snapdragon 835 and 6GB of RAM, so there's some high standards here when it comes to performance. And the Xiaomi Mi 6 didn't let us down. We've been using the Mi 6 side-by-side with the Galaxy S8 Plus which also runs on the Snapdragon 835 but with 4GB of RAM. And the Mi 6 is a bit faster in everyday use. Of course, that is largely due to the software on the device, which is pretty impressive, since MIUI is also pretty full of features like Samsung Experience (the new name for Touchwiz).
The Mi 6 is nice and snappy, even with many apps and games running in the background, the Snapdragon 835 still runs really well. 6GB of RAM definitely does its job here, on that respect, which is good, but 6GB of RAM is likely still a bit more than what most people need. Now when it comes to gaming, the Mi 6 is a beast. Especially when it comes to high-end games with plenty of good looking graphics inside. Now the Mi 6 does come with 64GB of storage, but there is a 128GB option available but it's only available on the ceramic Mi 6. There's also no micro SD card slot available so there's no way of expanding the storage here, unfortunately.
There is a home button on the Mi 6, but it's capacitive and not a physical button like on earlier Xiaomi devices. So it feels a bit like the home button on the iPhone 7, except it doesn't move at all. The home button does have a chamfered border, which makes it look like a physical button, but more importantly, it makes it easier to actually find that button and use it for recognizing your fingerprint. Which is important as well.
Now when it comes to accuracy, the fingerprint sensor is top notch. That's something you expect from Xiaomi, considering they have been working with fingerprint sensors for a few years now and continue to get better with each smartphone. The fingerprint sensor also works with many apps, as you'd expect since the Mi 6 does run on Android Nougat, so the Fingerprint API is supported here.
Like most smartphones, the Mi 6 has a speaker on the bottom of the phone. It's a single speaker, and it's decent. That's about it. The speaker is loud, and it's not tinny, which is a good sign for a single speaker smartphone. But the audio quality isn't going to win any awards. It's great for watching movies, listening to music and such, but don't expect high-quality audio from the Mi 6.
Now the other hot topic in regards to audio on the Mi 6 is the headphone jack - well the lack thereof. Xiaomi had said that the headphone jack was removed so that they could add in a larger battery (3350mAh). Which sounds like an okay reason, but many would have still loved to have a headphone jack for their existing headphones. Fortunately, there is still a Bluetooth connection available. So you can connect your favorite Bluetooth headphones with ease.
Phone Calls & Network
Before we get started in this section of the review, it's important to remember that the Mi 6 was made for Asia (specifically China) and not for the US. Which means it is not optimized for the networks in the US, not to mention it doesn't support all of the bands in the US. Despite the Mi Note 2 supporting basically every band, when it launched last year. The Mi 6 isn't a global edition, and there's no plans to make one. Therefore, in the US, we are stuck with HSPA+ speeds and often times stuck with 2G or EDGE speeds.
During the review, we used the Mi 6 on T-Mobile's network, and it worked as expected. We were able to get up to HSPA+ speeds on the device, and they matched the speeds on other Chinese smartphones (like the Meizu M5 Note). So there's nothing to worry about with the data speeds on the Mi 6. When it came to phone calls, calls came in clear and those on the other end said that we sounded great. There were no dropped calls either. Xiaomi does have VoLTE on the Mi 6, so you are able to make calls over LTE instead of over the traditional voice networks. It did work for us here in the US, but only to an extent since it's not a universal standard just yet.
On the Mi 6, we ran the same three benchmarks as we do on every review. Which includes AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. Now the scores are pretty impressive here, and are basically the same as what the Galaxy S8 scored, despite the Mi 6 having slightly more RAM. On AnTuTu, it scored 163,157. Over on Geekbench it picked up a score of 1934 in the single-core test and 6479 in the multi-score test. Finally, on 3D Mark gave the Mi 6 a score of 3379. You can see the full results from all three benchmarks in the gallery down below.
Xiaomi is pretty proud to have stuffed a 3350mAh battery into this pretty small smartphone (at least by today's standards) and say that it's the biggest battery in its class, which is true. But what we care about more is whether it'll get us through an entire day of usage or not. And the short answer here is yes, it will. We've been using the Xiaomi Mi 6 for about a week (not quite as our daily driver since it doesn't get LTE in the US, but still pretty heavy usage) and were able to get nearly 6 hours of on-screen time. Now this included watching some video, browsing the internet, using Snapchat, etc. So that's some pretty good battery right there. And it actually leads me to believe that the Snapdragon 835 is fantastic when it comes to power efficiency, since the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus also have great battery life.
Now where the Mi 6 does run on the Snapdragon 835, many people may think that it has Quick Charge 4.0 for charging, and well it doesn't. Xiaomi has kept Quick Charge 3.0 in this one, which is just fine, as it still charges the 3350mAh battery rather quickly, in just under two hours. Which is more than fast enough for topping off your smartphone before you head out. And with the Mi 6 already having great battery life, that still may not be needed.
The Xiaomi Mi 6 launched on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, MIUI 8, and the March 1st, 2017 security patch. For the most part, everything here is up-to-date, including the latest version of Android, definitely great to see that here. Now we haven't gotten any updates during our time with the phone, but we do know that Xiaomi does push out updates rather frequently, especially if you are on the beta version of MIUI. But while updates are fast, the latest version of Android is a bit slower. And that's partially because they are implementing their overlay into the new version of Android, which can take some time.
There's not much new with MIUI here, it's still pretty colorful and vibrant and jam-packed with features. Still one of my favorite features in MIUI 8 is the fact that you have the weather in the notification shade. So you can simply pull down the notification shade and see what the weather is like right now. It's definitely useful, and easier than opening up your favorite weather app. Xiaomi is also one of the very few smartphone makers that are keeping the IR Blaster in their smartphones. So using the Mi Remote app, you are able to use your Mi 6 to control your TV, DVR and a lot of other products around your home. Definitely easier than having to find that pesky remote that is probably lost again.
As usual, MIUI does not have an app drawer. But that's not a big deal, since you can simply install a third-party launcher and get one back on the Mi 6. But for those that want the full MIUI experience, you're stuck with having your apps on your home screens. This is a trend that is pretty popular in Asia, and we see most Chinese manufacturers - those that make their own skin, and don't just slap AOSP on their smartphones - doing this, so it's no real surprise either.
If you don't have a Mi Account already, it's definitely worth it to sign up for one. It allows you to use their forums and provide feedback to their team, but it also allows you to keep track of your accounts, devices and use Mi Cloud. By default, Mi Cloud starts you off with 5GB of space. It's a lot like iCloud in that it can sync your contacts, messages, Gallery and Notes, as well as being used for finding your device if you ever lose your Mi 6. You can also use Mi Cloud to backup your device. Making it pretty useful, and while 5GB may not be a lot of space, you can opt for more storage at an extra cost.
The more you use your device, the more "junk" files accumulate on your smartphone. And that clogs up space that could be used for other things. Xiaomi has a built in feature for handling this. With Deep Clean, it'll analyze your device and find files that you can clean up and get rid of. Allowing you to free up some space on your Mi 6. Which sometimes could be a few gigabytes of space. And since there's no micro SD card slot here, the space on the Mi 6 is definitely precious. This is part of the Security app on the Mi 6 which has a few other features, like analyzing your battery to find out what can be done to extend your battery life. You can also view your data usage and permissions, also scan for viruses and check out your blocklist (and most importantly, add more people to your blocklist).
MIUI is not for everyone. There are usually two groups of Android users out there, those that love pure Android and those that don't. Obviously, MIUI appeals to those that don't love pure Android, and possibly those that want to have plenty of features on their smartphone. While MIUI seems like it is a bit bloated and heavy on features and such, it is not so heavy that it hinders performance, which is a good thing. MIUI 8 runs smooth on the Mi 6 (and we are using a beta version of the global ROM), smooth as butter, which is something we definitely like to see.
The Mi 6 is one of the first smartphones (the Redmi Pro was the very first) from Xiaomi to feature dual-cameras, a feature that every manufacturer seems to be adopting these days. Xiaomi uses dual-cameras similar to how the iPhone does. There's one lens that is your normal 12-megapixel camera, and the second is a telephoto lens. This means that you'll be able to get better zoomed in photos, as it uses the telephoto lens to do that. Now when we were in Beijing for the announcement of the Mi 6, we were taken to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, so we took a slew of pictures there, which you'll see in the Flickr gallery below, and the Xiaomi Mi 6 camera did pretty incredible. We had the chance to take some portrait style photos (a feature that was heavily touted in the Mi 6's announcement) with some of the PR reps that were with us. The portrait mode is aimed at taking great portraits, but you can also use it for macro shots. However we found that for some occasions, you don't even need that turned on to get a good macro shot.
The colors in the images taken from the Mi 6 were nice and vibrant. Xiaomi did not oversaturate the photos like you see with some of Samsung's smartphones (actually all of them). Xiaomi does also have and Auto HDR mode available on the Mi 6, which was used in the majority of the pictures taken. It worked really well, and it didn't slow down the shutter at all on the Mi 6, which is also impressive. Since most smartphones that are using HDR will be a bit slow to take a picture after you hit the shutter button. So it was nice to see that was not an issue with the Mi 6.
Having used a good number of the dual-camera setups available on Android in the past year, it's tough to say whether Xiaomi has the best dual-camera smartphone. It is a pretty good one, although we would like to see an actual macro mode, like what Huawei has. Their macro mode so far has been the best. It's a bit interesting that they went with a telephoto lens instead of a black/white and a color sensor like Huawei and Honor have on their smartphones. But the Xiaomi Mi 6 does output some pretty impressive photos, which is what you want from a smartphone camera. And best of all, it doesn't protrude on the back of the Mi 6. It sits flush with the backside, and even has gold (not 14-karat gold though) trim, which looks great and matches the frame of this blue Mi 6 we have here. Will the Mi 6 replace your current camera? Probably not, unless you are one of the very few carrying around a point-and-shoot camera. The Mi 6 will replace a point-and-shoot, but it still has a ways to go to replace a DSLR for the hardcore photographers out there. You can check out all of the images we took with the Mi 6 in their original resolution (with zero editing done) in the Flickr gallery below.
Dual SIM slot
Impressive Battery Life
Notifications don't expand, like they should in Nougat
No headphone jack
Xiaomi knows how to make great smartphones, there's no doubt about that. And one of the great things about Xiaomi is the fact that they don't just release new phones just because. They release new phones because they are the first to implement some type of technology or feature. Which with the Mi 6 includes, the first with Snapdragon 835 in China, the first with a fingerprint sensor under the glass, and a few others. Now while the Mi 6 does take a hit by getting rid of the 3.5mm headphone jack, it's not really surprising, since most smartphone makers are doing the same thing. And removing that headphone jack to add more battery capacity is definitely a good thing. But that does mean you'll need to get USB-C headphones or use Bluetooth headphones, which is unfortunate. Or you are forced to live the dongle life. But as an entire package, the Mi 6 is perhaps the best phone that Xiaomi has ever made.
Should you Buy the Xiaomi Mi 6?
Definitely. The Xiaomi Mi 6 is one of the best smartphones on the market right now, especially at its price point. The standard version of the Mi 6 is priced at 2499 RMB which is around $362 USD, and the ceramic model with 128GB of storage is 2999 RMB which converts to about $434 USD. There's really nothing that competes at this price point with these specs, besides OnePlus. So it's hard to say no to buying the Mi 6, unless you are really attached to your wired headphones, and want to be able to charge your phone at the same time as listening to music.