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Xiaomi’s new game-changing bezel-less Mi Mix handset is one that needs to be seen in person.
Even though I’d devoured all the available press materials on the Mi Mix before my review unit arrived, when I booted it up for the first time, I was still left in awe.
Although the phone, despite having a massive 6.4-inch screen, is no bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus or LG V20, I found it a bit unwieldy, partly because of its square-ish build and slippery ceramic back.
The Philippe Starck-designed handset is eye-catching, but to be fair, Sharp released a similar edge-to-edge screen phone two years ago called the Aquos Crystal. Sadly, it was underpowered and had a noticeably large chin to compensate for having no top bezel.
The Mi Mix has a far more subtle chin, and it’s got top-of-the-line specs to go with its killer looks.
For starters, the Mi Mix is powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip, clocking in at 2.35GHz and running on 4 or 6GB of RAM depending on the model. Even though the unit I’m testing is the “lesser” 4GB version, the phone is blazingly fast.
I ran both real world tests, jumping in and out of bunch of apps, and benchmark tests. In both scenarios the Mi Mix finished among the top of the pack.
Using the Geekbench app, the Mi Mix scored benchmarks of 1,797 for single-core and 4,054 for multi-core — well ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Google Pixel — but short of the iPhone 7 Plus.
Making calls with no earpiece
Since the phone has no upper bezel, Xiaomi had to remove long-standing smartphone components like the earpiece and proximity sensor. Instead, the phone uses a piezoelectric speaker and ultrasound tech to respectively pump out sound and check for your ear. Both work surprisingly well.
During test calls I was able to hear the other person clearly, but the volume isn’t as loud as phones with a dedicated earpiece. That means using this in noisy environments could be a problem.
In order to accommodate the design, Xiaomi had to move the selfie camera. This certainly takes a little bit of getting used to — you’ll have to hold the phone a higher than head level for a proper looking shot.
The Mi Mix’s display resolution is “only” 1080p, but I’m in the camp that believes the human eye can’t tell the difference between full HD and quad HD anyway.
You’ve got to hold the camera differently for selfies.
As Mashable’s Raymond Wong pointed out, the display on the Mi Mix is part of the design statement that Xiaomi is making.
The phone maker could have used typical display panels with standard resolutions, but instead Xiaomi opted to craft its own unique display with a 17:9 aspect ratio.
“The Mi Mix is indeed a showcase of our abilities, [particularly] how seriously we take design,” a Xiaomi rep told me. “These innovations are developed in-house and they will trickle down to our other phones.”
Camera is solid, but not best
Behind the display, the second most important smartphone feature to most consumers is probably the camera, and the Mi Mix’s 16 megapixel shooter is solid, albeit not the best.
During brief testing, photos shot during the day came out sharp, but lacked the vibrant punch of photos taken by, say, a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
The Mi Mix, with an aperture of f/2.0, also suffers in low light photography compared with competitors like the S7 Edge’s f/1.7 and iPhone 7’s f/1.8 apertures.
While the camera isn’t bad, the boundaries of smartphone photography keep getting pushed, and it isn’t caught up with the best right now.
Battery life, however, is among the best in the business. The giant 4400 mAh battery will almost certainly last a full day for even the heaviest of users, and the fast charging works as advertised: I went from 27 percent to 80 percent in about 25 minutes.
Many may call this a “concept device,” but it’s already stolen the thunder from Apple and Google’s 2016 flagships. After all, the iPhone 7’s design is now three years old — and the Pixel looks just like it.
The Mi Mix, meanwhile, is something most of us have never seen before.
With rumors of the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 going mostly bezel-less, it seems that Xiaomi has beaten both of them to the future.