Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S is an iterative upgrade that looks and feels like much more.
Xiaomi unveiled the Mi MIX back in 2016, as an absolute surprise to everyone. It was one of the very few smartphones that debuted without getting leaked at all. And since then, it has been one of the most talked about phones of all time. Xiaomi was the first to really use an obscure aspect ratio on a smartphone and actually got Google to change its requirements which open the door for the various aspect ratios we have now. It was also the first phone without a bezel, and still is one of the few without a notch. Now the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S is the company's third-generation Mi MIX smartphone, but is it the best yet? Let's find out.
Xiaomi has a 5.99-inch 10280x2160 resolution display on the Mi MIX 2S here, which is an LCD panel. That gives you roughly 403 pixels per inch, and a 81.9% screen-to-body ratio. It's powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset, along with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GGB, 128GB or 256GB of storage (our model here is the global version that has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage). There's no micro SD card slot available here, so you are stuck with the storage on the variant you purchase - makes it a good idea to grab the 256GB model.
With the Mi MIX 2S, Xiaomi focused quite a bit on the camera - something the company didn't do with the original Mi MIX. This time around, there's a dual-camera setup on the rear. Both are 12-megapixel sensors, though the main sensor is a f/1.8 aperture and is 1.4um in size. With the secondary sensor being a telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture and slightly smaller at 1.0um. The front sports a 5-megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 aperture. Both the front and rear cameras do support portrait mode (though the front camera is more based on software versus the rear being based on hardware). There is phase-detection autofocus on the rear, as well as 4-axis optical image stabilization.
Mi MIX 2S does support WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, so you are getting 2.4GHz and 5GHz here for fast wireless speeds. Bluetooth 4.2 is supported, along with GLONASS and A-GPS for location tracking. Xiaomi has included NFC here, which is a surprise for many, as Chinese smartphone makers tend to leave NFC out. Unfortunately there is no headphone jack here, similar to the Mi MIX 2. There is a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, and there is also a fingerprint sensor around the back for unlocking the phone.
In the Box
Xiaomi's packaging for the Mi MIX 2S hasn't really changed from the previous two Mi MIX smartphones. It's a square black box that actually looks pretty good and provides the customer with a great unboxing experience. The phone is right there on top, with paperwork below it and a case as well (it's a TPU case, so it's not the leather case from the original Mi MIX, but it's not a bad one either). To the left of the phone are boxes with the USB-C cable, headphone dongle and wall adapter.
The hardware has been the main selling point for the Mi MIX lineup since it debuted. Xiaomi has been using ceramic and metal for this smartphone build, and it really has been impressive. This year, Xiaomi did not do a ceramic unibody for the Mi MIX 2S - likely due to the low yield, and how expensive it is - instead, it's a ceramic back with an aluminum frame here. The ceramic back is slightly curved, and actually melts into the sides of the phone, giving it a slight curve, and making it feel great in the hand. While this is what some might call a "big phone", it does feel really comfortable in the hand.
All of the buttons are on the right-hand side of the Mi MIX 2S, with the volume rocker at the top and the power button slightly below it. These buttons are nice and clicky, they aren't mushy like some other phones' buttons tend to be. On the bottom you'll find the speaker as well as the USB-C port, with a microphone at the bottom and another at the top. The left side houses the SIM card slot, which is a dual-SIM slot - and that really comes in handy when traveling. The back is also pretty clean, with the dual cameras in the upper left-hand corner in a vertical position. Xiaomi has put the dual flash between the cameras, which makes it look even cleaner. Finally, the fingerprint sensor is in the middle on the back, just below the camera. Putting it in a great place to actually use the fingerprint sensor, which is always a good thing. As was the case with previous Mi MIX smartphones, the Mi MIX 2S, has "Mi MIX Designed By Xiaomi" text on the back. On our white review unit here, it is actually pretty tough to see, but it is a bit more visible on the black model.
The front of the phone is also pretty clean looking. Considering 81-percent of it is indeed screen, there's not a lot else here. Xiaomi has kept the front-facing camera in the bottom bezel or the "chin" along with some other sensors. On the white model that we have, the camera is pretty visible, but on the black model, it's tough to see, and it blends in a bit more. Up at the top, there's a pretty small earpiece, which works pretty well for phone calls, but it's not a second speaker. Unfortunately, Xiaomi did not go the route of stereo speakers on the Mi MIX 2S. Hopefully that will make its way into the fourth-generation Mi MIX, though.
The Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S is a beautiful smartphone from the company, it's one of those smartphones that you just don't want to put down. You just want to keep it in your hands and look at how beautiful it really is. The Mi MIX 2S feels great in the hand which is always a plus, but unfortunately it is still a bit slippery. Fortunately, the included TPU case does mitigate that and does still keep the Mi MIX 2S looking nice.
Many will groan at the fact that Xiaomi has stuck with an LCD panel on the Mi MIX 2S, instead of going with an OLED panel, but it's not all bad news. This LCD panel that Xiaomi is using on the Mi MIX 2S is actually pretty darn good. It does get plenty bright, and is visible in direct sunlight, while also getting pretty dim in dark situations - so you aren't blinding yourself when using the phone at night. The colors on this panel are also pretty vivid Of course, that is going to be due to the tuning Xiaomi has done with software, but it's pretty good here. Obviously an OLED panel would offer up better colors, like deeper blacks, but for an LCD panel, Xiaomi could have definitely done worse.
Xiaomi says that this is the first smartphone in China to sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which is not surprising, since Xiaomi was first to bring the Snapdragon 835 to China as well. The Snapdragon 845 here in the Mi MIX 2S is pretty powerful, but also great on battery life. In day-to-day usage, the Snapdragon 845 is pretty snappy, and doesn't slow down at all. Always a good thing when talking about a brand new phone with a brand new chipset. Of course, the 8GB of RAM that is included here does definitely help.
When it comes to gaming, the Mi MIX 2S is pretty impressive. Playing games like Gear Club shows just how good the Mi MIX 2S is at gaming. The phone will get a bit hot, when playing games. Which is to be expected, given that it is using all of the power in the phone for those games. But it's not so hot that it'll burn your hands. Also a good thing. The only thing missing here for a great gaming experience is Dolby Atmos sound and a 120Hz refresh rate, like the Razer Phone - but Xiaomi does also have its own gaming phone, so a bit of an unfair comparison.
As already mentioned, the Mi MIX 2S has a fingerprint sensor on the rear-side of the phone for you to lock and unlock the phone and authenticate yourself through other apps and services. The fingerprint sensor is pretty fast and accurate as you'd expect. This isn't Xiaomi's first rodeo using a fingerprint sensor, so there's nothing really surprising here. It's here, and it works. But Xiaomi has included facial recognition here (because it's 2018 and everyone is doing this). It uses the front-facing camera, and can be a bit slow. However our unit here does not have the option available, weirdly enough. Even though it is running on the latest version of MIUI. So we were unable to test it out extensively, but it is an option on the Mi MIX 2S (just not our review unit).
Phone Calls & Network
This is another model from Xiaomi that supports over 40 bands, so that it will work virtually anywhere in the world. And that includes here in the US. We actually used the Mi MIX 2S on China Unicom and also on T-Mobile US - thanks to this being a dual SIM smartphone, we didn't even need to swap out SIM cards. And it worked great on both networks in both countries. With LTE speed on both, it was comparable to other smartphones running on the same network in the same location. Now on the phone calls side of things, Xiaomi does have VoLTE support here, and it is supported on both SIM slots which is a bonus. But there's no HD Voice available. That, at least in the US, is usually reserved for phones sold by the carrier as they have the carriers software on-board. Overall, this is one of the few phones from China that you can import to the US and actually use.
With the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S, we ran the usual benchmarks here, which include AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. You can see the results from all three below. On AnTuTu, it picked up a score of 259,546. That's a pretty good score, but it is slightly lower than what the Galaxy S9 Plus scored in our review earlier this year. This is a bit surprising given that the Mi MIX 2S does sport a bit more RAM at 8GB, but both sport the same processor. Obviously, a 2,000 point difference isn't going to make much of a difference in the real world, but it's still surprising. Now over on 3D Mark, it did pick up a score of 3,863 in the Sling Shot Extreme - OpenGL ES 3.1 test, and a 2.758 in the Sling Shot Extreme - Vulkan test. Also slightly lower than the scores that the Galaxy S9 Plus picked up. Finally over on Geekbench 4, the Mi MIX 2S picked up a single-core score of 2437 and a multi-core score of 8331, which are actually higher than the Galaxy S9 Plus.
Inside the Mi MIX 2S is a 3400mAh capacity battery, which is the same capacity as the Mi MIX from last year, but battery life does seem to be improved, although only slightly. The Mi MIX 2S will definitely get you through the day. In fact, we've had a tough time killing this battery in a single day. If you were to use this phone all day long for checking social media, watching YouTube, etc., you would likely get around six to eight hours of screen on time. Which is pretty good, and puts it on par with some of the other top flagships that have launched so far this year. This is partly due to the Snapdragon 845 being very battery efficient, but also due to the software optimization that Xiaomi has done with MIUI.
The actual battery life is only part of the story here though. Charging it is the other half. A big battery is great to have, but recharging it can be a pain, especially if it doesn't support Quick Charge. Fortunately, the Mi MIX 2S does. It does support Quick Charge 3.0, and when charging with a Quick Charge 3.0 charger, the Mi MIX 2S does charge pretty quickly. We're looking at about an hour and a half to go from zero to 100-percent. Which isn't bad at all, and definitely nice to see. Especially if you are in need of a quick top up.
For the first time, Xiaomi has added wireless charging to its smartphone in the Mi MIX 2S - which many will say is because Apple added it to the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X last year, but it doesn't matter, it's here. It supports Qi Wireless Charging, so it'll work with any existing Qi Wireless Charger or Xiaomi's own wireless charger that it debuted with the Mi MIX 2S. We tested it on an Anker, Belkin and Xiaomi's wireless chargers and the Mi MIX 2S works great with all of them, and charges at the same speed. So whether you want to charge your phone with Quick Charge 3.0, or just want the convenience of just putting your phone down on a charger with Qi wireless charging, Xiaomi has both options available for its customers.
At the time of writing this review, the Mi MIX 2S model that we have in our hands is running on Android 8.0.0, with the MIUI Global 126.96.36.199 Stable version (build ODGMIFA) with the March 2018 security update on-board. That's not quite the latest version of Android or the latest security patch, but it's pretty darn close. We did get an update after receiving this unit, which brought it from pre-release software to its stable build. Otherwise, we have not received any updates during our review period.
This MIUI 9, which is not a huge difference from MIUI that was on the Mi MIX 2 and even the Mi 6 from last year. Xiaomi doesn't release a new version of its software for each new flagship device like other companies do. But there are some new features here - mostly in the camera - that are for the Mi MIX 2S. Xiaomi did add facial recognition here, which we talked about in the security section of this review already. Otherwise, the changes are in the camera, which we'll talk about in the camera section. MIUI is still a pretty feature-rich Android skin from Xiaomi. There's still no option to have an app drawer by default, but you do have the option of installing a third-party launcher on the device. This is something that Xiaomi likely won't change until it really ventures into Western markets - which is when Huawei added the option to its EMUI skin.
On the surface, MIUI doesn't look to be super feature-rich, it actually is. For example, in the calculator app. An app that you probably don't open that much. Tap on the menu icon in the corner, and it'll open up a slew of different modes for the calculator. This includes currency, mortgage, length, area and much more. For those that are traveling, the currency converter is a really nice touch. For example, seeing how much 1 RMB is in US Dollars. There's also Mi Drop, which is like Apple's AirDrop, allowing you to move files between devices and even computers, over the air. This is also a very useful feature for those that are using files on multiple devices.
Second Space is still here on the Mi MIX 2S, which essentially allows you to clone the Mi MIX 2S on the same device and have two user accounts. This is great for those that use the same phone for work and personal use. Allowing you to have one space for work-related things and another for personal stuff. It's similar to the different user accounts that are in stock Android, but a bit more separate. There is one other feature that I particularly like about MIUI, which is in the notification shade. Below the quick settings, MIUI shows your mobile data usage. It'll show the amount that you used today and this month. If you tap on the settings, you can set your data plan as well as when you want it to reset (like on the day your billing cycle resets). It's really useful to see how much data you've used this month, without needing to jump into settings, or contact your carrier. Of course, if you have unlimited data, this isn't really an issue. But still nice to have.
MIUI is not everyone's favorite software. Especially in the West, as many prefer a stock Android approach. But MIUI has really improved over the past few years, and that is because Xiaomi gets feedback from its users and implements that feedback into future versions of MIUI. It pushes out updates about every week or so - on its beta channel - often times, you will get more MIUI updates than security patches. Xiaomi has also done a great job at updating its older phones to new versions of Android and MIUI, usually lasting around four years.
When Xiaomi released the first Mi MIX smartphone back in 2016, it was clear that the company did not focus much on the camera experience. To put it lightly, it was bad, very bad. With the Mi MIX 2, the company gave everyone a better camera. It went from bad to good. Now with the Mi MIX 2S, Xiaomi has a great camera. Like many other smartphones, Xiaomi went to a dual-camera setup here, with a standard lens and a telephoto lens here. Xiaomi has also added in some artificial intelligence to make the photos even better.
Let's start by talking about the artificial intelligence features here. It's pretty simple, you can toggle on the AI Camera with the icon at the top of the viewfinder. This will identify what you are taking a photo of and enhance the image in post-production without you needing to do anything. A prime example is of the clouds (taken in a plane about 20,000 feet up), in the Flickr gallery below. The image taken without the AI Camera looks pretty dull, but with AI Camera turned on, it looks much more colorful. This is really just "Auto" on steroids though, but it works pretty well.
Portrait mode is also here, on both the front and rear cameras. On the rear camera, it actually works a bit better. And that's because the secondary lens (the telephoto lens) is capturing depth information, therefore relying less on software to enhance the photo and blur out the background, like the front camera is. Portrait mode looks really good on the rear camera, but the front camera isn't as good. You can tell that the front camera is doing it all based on software, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it does look pretty good, but not as good as the rear camera. Keep in mind that with the front-facing camera, you do need to flip the phone so that you can actually take a photo, since the camera is on the bottom bezel.
The Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S does shoot in 4K, which is pretty nice, but for the YouTubers out there, the Mi MIX 2S also supports Time-lapse and slow-motion. Now the slow-motion isn't quite as good as what Sony and Samsung have, as it only does up to 240fps. But that does keep the resolution pretty high at 1080p, so that's not entirely a bad thing. Videos shot with the Mi MIX 2S do actually come out rather nicely. The only real complaint here is that there's no manual mode for video, which isn't a surprise since really only LG is doing manual for video at this point.
Software for the camera is still pretty simple and straight-forward. You can swipe between different modes at the bottom of the screen, and have toggles for different settings like flash, AI Camera and more at the top. So the camera app is pretty easy to use and is also pretty snappy. That is important for those that are looking to take photos of kids or pets, since they don't stay still for long. As always, you can check out pictures taken with the Mi MIX 2S in the Flickr gallery linked below.
Great build quality
No Headphone Jack
No micro SD Card slot
LCD panel is not quite as bright as an OLED would be
The Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S is named appropriately. It's not a huge overhaul of its predecessor like the Mi MIX 2 was compared to the Mi MIX. Instead it's an iterative upgrade. But one of the bigger iterative upgrades out there. While the big selling point here is the fact that it has barely any bezels, with just a chin at the bottom, many people will enjoy this smartphone for other reasons. The great battery life, incredible performance and the impressive camera. At this point, the minimal bezels here are pretty much expected, almost like NFC these days. It's a great smartphone, and definitely worth buying.
Should I Purchase the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S?
For sure. It's less than most other flagship smartphones, and has much better performance, and no notch. Now, if you are looking to import the Mi MIX 2S into the US, you'll want to make sure you get the 8GB/256GB model, as that is the global version that supports all of the bands. It's a bit more expensive, but it's nice to have that much storage - especially since there is no micro SD card slot available here.