The Mi Mix 2S: The best Xiaomi smartphone for now

Xiaomi released the Mi Mix 2 half a year ago, and is just launching its new flagship model, the Mi Mix 2S. This iteration time is a bit too short for a flagship model.

We can tell you the hands-on experience of the Mi Mix 2S.

When Xiaomi produced the Mi Mix, it was thought to be a concept machine. Xiaomi then released the Mi Mix 2, proving the company’s maturing innovative capabilities. The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S makes the Mi Mix product line close to perfection.

The design looks familiar.

The Mi Mix 2S has a 5.99-inch 18:9 full HD+ display and a curved ceramic body. There is only an 8GB RAM and 256GB storage version.

From the front, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is indistinguishable from the Mi Mix 2.

Xiaomi does not offer a special edition full-ceramic version of Mi Mix 2S.

Due to its metal frame, the Mi Mix 2S is larger than the fully-ceramic version of the Mi Mix 2, and is the same size as standard version of the Mi Mix 2.

The Mi Mix 2S can be regarded as a slightly modified version of the Mi Mix 2, with which it shares many additional similarities. It keeps the same audio output and its top bezel is slightly wider than the side bezels. Compared to the currently popular notch design (such as in the iPhone X), its visual presentation is almost perfect.

Its speaker can also be used when the phone is playing music or videos, a function absent in the Mi Mix 2.

However, due to the limitation of the sound guide structure, the speaker cannot be used as a loudspeaker, as its volume and sound quality are sub par. If you do not listen carefully, or if the bottom speaker is covered, you can barely hear anything. Thus this phone may not be ideal if you are looking for a pair of loudspeakers.

The only visual difference from its predecessor is on the back of the phone. The ceramic body can display various aesthetics under different light conditions, but the use of dual cameras affect the clean look of the back.

It is hard in any case to position dual cameras without affecting the phone’s appearance. However, the dual cameras slightly protrude from the phone, and a touch on its screen will cause the phone to shake if it is laid on a table.

Xiaomi also provided an official phone case to reduce fingerprint smudges and cover the protruding cameras.

Using ceramic material, the Mi Mix 2S conserved the smooth and comfortable texture of the Mi Mix 2.

Even though this phone can be handled with one hand, it weighs a lot. The weight of the phone can be felt distinctively when it is placed into a pocket.

Improving photography features

It is not the first time that the letter “S” appeared in the name of Xiaomi‘s phones. Xiaomi had previously used this letter to denote that the device will have little differences from its predecessor, other than few modifications and improvements in specifications and functions.

The Mi Mix 2S has followed the same naming convention. Its double camera is the most prominent difference.

The Mi Mix 2S’s back camera is 12 MP with 1.4μm pixels and uses the Sony IMX 363. It can support Dual PD, full-resolution dual-core focus, and four axis optical image stabilization.

Compared to the Sony IMX 386 with 1.2 μm pixels and f/2.0 aperture in last year’s Mi Mix 2, the Mix 2S’s photographic capability should be better.

Taken with the Mi Mix 2S
Taken with the Mi Mix 2
Taken with the Mi Mix 2S
Taken with the Mi Mix 2

In sufficient light, the Mi Mix 2S displays very accurate color presentation and exposure control. Under similar conditions, photos taken by the Mi Mix 2S are sharper and have more details than photos taken by the Mi Mix 2.

Left: Mi Mix 2, Right: Mi Mix 2S

In insufficient light environments, the Mi Mix 2 has significantly increased ISO. While the colors are bright, the photo looks somewhat unrealistic with loss of details. This problem has been resolved in the Mi Mix 2S. Below are some more sample photos:

The Mi Mix 2S also improved its night-time photography features, especially noise suppression, although the pictures tend to look bluish. The Mi Mix 2S takes longer to take photos during the night, and its image quality can be influenced by shakiness. These issues will be gradually resolved in subsequent system optimizations.

Generally speaking, the Mi Mix 2S is a significant improvement in photography compared to the Mi Mix 2. The Mi Mix 2S is also equipped with smart scenario recognition, identifying objects in pictures, such as buildings, people and animals.

What else can the “S” mean?

Other than its cameras, the Mi Mix 2S also updated its processor. Xiaomi has previously revealed that the Mi Mix 2S will carry the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which is the standard in most flagship models.

Aifaner (WeChat: ifanr) has tested this exclusive version on hand before its release. The Mi Mix 2S scored 260,000 on AnTuTu, a smartphone benchmarking platform. Although there is still room for improvement and optimization, its overall performance improved over the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 with Qualcomm 835, which scored over 140,000.

There is no delay in the loading and running of the mobile game “Man vs. Wild”. Images are high quality, and after half an hour of continuous play, the phone is only slightly warmer. From this example, the Mi Mix 2 seems well-calibrated for gaming.

The Mi Mix 2S also supports rapid face unlock function. Compared to the face unlock function added to the Mi Mix 2 after a system update, the Mi Mix 2S is clearly faster. However, it may be so fast that it is difficult to check the time on the phone.

The Mi Mix 2S also does not support hand gesture waking, so it is required to first press the power button or double tap the screen before using face unlock.

Furthermore, the face unlock feature can be inefficient at night due to insufficient lighting and inconvenient camera angle. Its front camera’s sensor is focused on the jaw, and may have problems collecting whole face information.

The phone can also be unlocked with fingerprint, which is faster than face ID.

When this year’s glass-based phone bodies were starting to become popular, Xiaomi also launched wireless charging with the Mi Mix 2S. Xiaomi‘s wireless charging base supports 7.5W fast charging, and charged 10 percent of the battery in 20 minutes.

Covered in a layer of soft silica gel, the charging base has a nice texture and provides some protection for the phone. However, it can get dusty easily and may need frequent cleaning. The charging base is priced at only 99 yuan ($16).

Xiao Ai and AR

In addition to hardware upgrades, Xiao Ai, a voice assistant, is also embedded in the Mi Mix 2S.

Although Xiao Ai currently has only some of its functions available on Xiaomi phones, it can answer questions and execute instructions with good accuracy.

Other than being a voice assistant, Xiao Ai also provides users with another way to navigate their phones. For example, sending WeChat messages and digital red envelopes, opening application functions, or even downloading apps can be achieved through voice commands. This function is very convenient when the user’s hands are occupied.

Xiao Ai can be triggered by saying “Xiao Ai Tong Xue”, or by pressing on the virtual home button. The Mi Mix 2 added new navigating gestures, which hides the virtual button when in use. When this occurs, pressing on the power button for 0.3 seconds will activate Xiao Ai. A longer press brings up the power menu.

Besides its AI assistant, the Mi Mix 2S features hot AR functions. Xiaomi collaborated with Google’s ARCore platform to make the Mi Mix 2S one of the first Android phones to carry ARCore.

The gameplay of the AR game “The Machines” was very smooth on the phone, but evidently heated up the phone. This issue needs to be addressed in subsequent optimizations to obtain better experience for long-time gaming.

An optimized version before “3.0”

The Mi Mix series proved Xiaomi‘s innovation capability. When Xiaomi introduced the “bezel free” concept to the market with the Mi Mix 2, even Google, who is at the core of Android phones, had been still making 16:9 screens.

The Mi Mix 2S does not leave as big of an impression as the first generation Mix phones did. Although the “bezel-free” concept was hot all last year, it is not everything about the phone.

The “S” notation has made up for the shortcomings in the first generation phones, with photography as the most significant improvement. This time, the “S” also indicates all the features that 2018 flagship models should have: dual-cameras, wireless charging, AI, AR, and the latest flagship processors.

The “S” also proved that this line of product can reach perfection. It could be symbol for the ending of Xiaomi‘s “2.0 stage”, and preparing it for the next “3.0 stage”.

This article originally appeared in ifanr and was translated by Pandaily.