A few weeks have passed since the arrival of Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 in the editorial office and, since then, the smartphone has always remained in my company. It is an elegant and powerful device, but it still has some flaws, which I will tell you about in this full review.
- Solid construction
- Box full of accessories
- Very satisfactory performance
- Competitive price
- Low capacity battery
- No IP certification
- No audio jack
Cheap? No, but still tempting
The MIX series has always been special for Xiaomi and with the Mi MIX 3 is no exception. The attention to detail is already evident when opening of the box. You will immediately find a "letter of thanks" signed by Lei Jun, CEO of the company.
The box is really rich in accessories, in fact inside we found:
- USB compatible Quick Charge 3.0 (18W) wall charger
- USB Type-C cable
- USB Adapter Type-C / 3.5mm Jack
- Pin for extracting the SIM cart
- Rigid plastic cover
- Fast charging wireless charger (10W)
Unfortunately there are no headphones, but how can we complain given the price of the smartphone? There are manufacturers, which for more than double the sum required by Xiaomi, do not even include a headset adapter or a quick charger...
Speaking of price: Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 is officially on sale in Europe at the price of 549.90 euros in the Mi Store website (£499 in the UK), and if you're looking to import to the US, Gearbest sells it for $550.
A work of art
Xiaomi has always compared the MIX series to works of art. For the company, it represents the union between art and technology . With the Mi MIX 3, it has once again emphasized this concept. The smartphone is really stylish and the construction is robust.
The manual sliding mechanism is helped by magnets that give pleasant feedback. Opening and closing the slider brings to mind the days of Nokias with a retractable keyboard and the movement quickly becomes addictive. Don't worry about playing with it too much: the company guarantees 600,000 openings and closures (which is a lot) but, as already shown in another article of mine, it seems to resist even more.
The curves of the smartphone make it comfortable in the hand, and the ceramic back almost always gives a feeling similar to glass, but more pleasant in a way. The edges of the smartphone are made of 7000 series aluminum but, despite this, I must admit that in some conditions the smartphone seemed a bit too heavy with its weight of almost 220g. The device, however, is balanced in such a way as to "hide" this heaviness - perceivable only from time to time and in non-standard conditions, such as, for example, when using it lying on the side of the sofa or in bed.
Unfortunately, there is no IP certification and the slider is certainly not friendly to dirt and dust. Mi MIX 3 is not the ideal companion to take to the beach or dusty environments such as the workshop or factory.
Full screen, zero distractions
The main feature of Xiaomi's MIX series is the presence of a virtually bezel-less display . With the Mi MIX 3 the company has gone one step further - reaching a screen/front surface ratio of 93.4%. Practically the entire front of the smartphone is covered by the display, with thin side bezels and slightly more pronounced ones at the top and bottom.
The difference in the upper part is almost imperceptible and was used by Xiaomi to introduce holes for the ear capsule located in the slider, as well as a small LED for notifications. The lower part almost certainly includes the hardware needed to manage the panel. Don't be fooled by the difference in size of the so-called "chin" compared to the other three sides, this edge is just like the frames of the iPhone XR, the only difference is that the latter seems more balanced thanks to the frames of equal size all around the display.
As for the features, for the first time in the MIX series the display uses an OLED panel (which allows you to keep the slider thin) with a size of 6.39 "and resolution FHD + (2340x1080 pixels, 19.5:9). You can adjust the white temperature and color range from the settings. There is the always-on display function, as well as a blue light filter for night use and support for the reproduction of HDR content.
Good use of the extra physical button
On the left side of Mi MIX 3 there is an "extra" key that in China is linked to the company's Xiao AI functions . Fortunately, in Europe Xiaomi relied on Google to remove all traces of the Chinese digital assistant and integrate Google Assistant instead. This key can be completely deactivated (take note, Samsung!) and you can program the double press or long press.
Xiaomi still needs a little help from the community
When we turn on the smartphone, we find Android 9 Pie with MIUI customization , a skin that's certainly not close to stock Android, but is extremely elegant and accurate in detail. Xiaomi's ROM Global is available, but for European users, the online community Xiaomi.eu created a UI that is more "westernized" and complete-feeling, at least to my tastes. I recommend it.
This requires the unlocking of the bootloader (you will have to wait for the confirmation of Xiaomi after 72h) and a bit of manual work, but as a result you will have a smartphone compatible with Google Pay, the Google Pixel Camera app (which I'll talk about later), and Digital Wellbeing. Best of all, the advertising will be removed from the system apps. In addition, all functions available based on the selection of the region of use of the smartphone will be unlocked. Among these you'll also find the face recognition unlocking (not 3D).
However, there is a note to make: Mi MIX 3 does not support the DRM Widevine Level 1, this means that you can not use your smartphone to stream HD video content (eg from Netflix). A pity given the beautiful display of the smartphone, but you can play YouTube videos up to 4K, 60fps and HDR...
Fast enough to intimidate OnePlus and Huawei
On board the smartphone is the Snapdragon 845 AIE accompanied by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory (not expandable) . In China there are variants with up to 10GB of RAM (which you don't really need) and up to 512GB of internal memory UFS 2.1 that maybe could have enticed some users.
Fortunately, the Chinese version of the smartphone can be imported and differs only in the software that can be replaced with a little patience. Most of the global telephone bands are supported by the device, including the missing band 20 on many devices for the Chinese market. Both SIM cards can use 4G at the same time. Xiaomi also announced the arrival of a variant of Mi MIX 3 with the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and the Snapdragon X50 modem for compatibility with 5G networks.
From the point of view of technical features Mi MIX 3 is no different from many other top of the range announced and tested by us during 2018. This is also confirmed by the scores obtained in the benchmark tests:
Xiaomi Mi MIX 3: benchmark test
|3DMark Sling Shot Extreme
|3DMark Sling Shot Vulkan
|3DMark Sling Shot
|3DMark Ice Storm Extreme
|Geekbench 4 (Single/Multi)
|Xiaomi Mi MIX 3
|Huawei Mate 20 Pro
|Samsung Galaxy S9+
|Google Pixel 3 XL
However, the smartphone is extremely fast. The only two smartphones that were equally fast among those I tested are OnePlus 6/6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro (of which I tried the Porsche Design version and which features a SoC Kirin 980 of the next generation). The Pixel 3 XL that accompanies me from the moment of its presentation is snappy thanks to the presence of stock Android, but the top of the range Xiaomi smartphones (in addition to the two rivals mentioned above) are even faster, although it is hard to believe.
This demonstrates once again how software can make a difference - especially when opening apps, an action that in MIUI 10 is accelerated by AI. It is not clear how artificial intelligence manifests its presence in this case, but the effects are there and are visible to the naked eye.
Disappointing but powerful audio speaker
In terms of audio, the Mi MIX 3 has left me perplexed. There is no 3.5mm jack even though you can connect wired headphones via the included adapter or directly to the Type-C USB. By connecting wired headphones you can take full advantage of the musical potential of the device, including a global equalizer, presets made for the company's headphones and a crazy high volume (I had to limit it for fear of burning Type-C USB earphones that I used for the test).
On the other hand, finding these functions is not easy because they are not found in the audio settings menu, but in a separate category "hidden" in the advanced settings. Also nothing of what I mentioned is enabled if you use Bluetooth headphones. If you're using a wireless headset, don't you think you need an equalizer, Xiaomi?
As for the speakers we find a single speaker facing down to the side of the charging port. The earphone capsule is not amplified for stereo sound. The volume of the main speaker is good but not very high. The quality is average, while the output sound is flat and lacks bass.
A complete and fun camera
The rear body has a pair of cameras, same sensors as Mi 8, Mi8 Pro and Pocophone F1, which have been rated by DxO Mark with a total score of 108 points - a result which Xiaomi proudly reminds us of.
The main sensor is a 12 MP Sony IMX363 with f/1.8 focal length lenses and Dual Pixel PDAF for fast and precise focusing. Your smartphone also has a 4-axis OIS optical stabilizer on this camera. The secondary camera is a telephoto lens with twice the focal length of the main, the 12MP Samsung S5K3M3+.
At the front, hidden by the slider, we find a 24MP camera (Sony IMX576) accompanied by a second 2 MP sensor that helps to detect the depth for the bokeh effect not only in photos but also in videos!
The Xiaomi software comes complete with many modes - a manual for enthusiasts, a night mode similar to Google and Huawei and a 960fps slow motion mode in FullHD resolution (or 1920x1080, until now only Sony had achieved this result). Of course, there are also portrait modes, beauty filters and an almost obsessive use of the word AI. Fortunately, the artificial intelligence functions can be quickly activated or deactivated without having to go into the settings. This allows you to do tests to verify the effects.
An interesting possibility that exists (in the ROM Beta or in the custom ROM of Xiaomi.eu) is installing the Google Pixel Camera app. The ability to use HDR+ and Night Sight mode gives your smartphone an edge!
A better duration than expected
Despite substantial weight and thickness, the Mi MIX 3 only has a 3200mAh battery to get to the end of the day. Fortunately, it can be recharged quickly enough thanks to the 18W charger or you can keep the charge at a high level using the 10W wireless charger that Xiaomi has been pleased to include.
In my everyday life I have to admit that I could not complain about the battery duration of Mi MIX 3 , always arriving in the evening with more than 20% of residual battery on normal days and carrying on without worry even during the longest evenings out with friends. This is due to the excellent software from Xiaomi that always manages to surprise me with its level of optimization. On the other hand, I would have liked to have found the same 4000mAh as on the Pocophone F1.
Yes, to prevent useful apps from being closed in the background too aggressively, you need to play with the settings a little. At least you can choose how your smartphone should behave and you do not have to submit to the choices imposed by the manufacturer. There are also many energy-saving features such as reducing the resolution of the display or an extreme mode that I have never felt the need to activate.
Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 technical specifications
Impossible to forget
Mi MIX 3 is not perfect. There is no fingerprint reader integrated in the display or a 3D face scanner, but many other 2018 flagships are in the same situation. The display does not have a QHD resolution, but the almost total lack of bezels, the lack of a notch and the excellent color rendering compensate.
The battery is not one of the biggest seen on a smartphone, but Xiaomi's optimization allows you to reach the evening without problems thanks to the help of wireless charging. The cameras are not the best in the world but they can fight (and overcome) many of the top-of-the-range devices presented last year without any problems - providing exclusive features and appreciable shots in most situations.
In short, Mi MIX 3 is not unbeatable, especially if we look at the individual specifications. However, it is still one of the most complete devices I've tried. For the price, it's a great deal and I will not tire of recommending it to those who are looking for an all-screen flagship that's powerful, elegant and affordable.
It is the first phone that has managed to tempt me away from the Pixel 3 XL, which has been my daily companion. This, for anyone who has followed me for a while will know, means a lot.