Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 review — sliding the bezels away
Xiaomi moves ever closer to their goal of 100% screen-to-body ratio with the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3, opting for a cool slider mechanism for that ol' school satisfaction of slider phones from your younger days. And Xiaomi actually made it affordable!
6GB + 128GB: RM2199 (SRP)
+ Most comprehensive package we have ever seen
+ Sleek bezel-less design is to die for
+ Ceramic back looks and feels great in hand
+ Top-tier performance
+ Surprisingly good battery life
+ MIUI 10 is one of the best Android skins out there
+ Image quality is stellar in good lighting
- Can get quite toasty when gaming
- Display wobbles slightly when pressure is applied
- GPS is wonky despite featuring dual-band GPS technology
- Wireless charging pad gets sticky too quickly
- Night mode yields horribly unnatural images
Xiaomi made waves when they launched the very first Mi MIX. A true all-ceramic design with no screws at all. A testament to their design and engineering capabilities. The Mi MIX 2 used aluminium for the frame instead of ceramic, and it is still the most beautiful phone I have ever owned to date. The premium variant even takes it a step further and uses a full ceramic unibody. Those shimmery glass backs are cool, but nothing matches the sheer premium appeal of that beautiful ceramic finish, and that 24K gold camera ring just oozes premiumness. But hey, it had its drawbacks and I decided I couldn’t really use it as my daily driver.
We didn’t get to play around with the Mi MIX 2S which came with a slew of upgrades, including an upgraded camera and the latest Snapdragon 845 chipset. Now we see the Mi MIX 3, which builds upon the Mi MIX 2S’ innards with a new design. A slider. Xiaomi’s goal with the Mi MIX series has always been to achieve a full bezel-less design, so Xiaomi has finally done it with the Mi MIX 3. But how does a slider fare in daily usage? Lets find out.
Xiaomi has applied a mild texture to the packaging here, but it’s still full black with the Xiaomi logo finished in gold. Just by looking at the box, you would know that this is a premium device.
Just like the previous Mi MIX devices, there’s a love letter from Lei Jun. Cool stuff. Gold ink on black paper looks awesome.
This is probably the first smartphone to come with a wireless charger, so kudos to Xiaomi for adding this to the package. If you want to rely on traditional wired charging, there is also the 18W Quick Charge 3.0 power brick. The USB-C cable here features a slight cut out to allow the Mi MIX 3 to slide open even when you are charging.
And here’s the full set of accessories that come with the Mi MIX 3. The case doesn’t say “MIX designed by Xiaomi” anymore, but then again the phone doesn’t either. Xiaomi definitely outdid themselves with the inclusion of a wireless charging pad.
One of the highlights of the Mi MIX series has always been the near-bezel-less design. The Mi MIX 3 goes all the way with that, removing the lower bezel which was somewhat of signature since the first Mi MIX until the Mi MIX 2S.
Just like its predecessors, Xiaomi continues to confound unassuming girls by placing the camera in an unusual position. Instead of placing it at the bottom edge, this time it’s under the screen on a slider. It skips all the issues of having to deal with the limited lifespan of motors with a manual, magnetic and hugely satisfying slider mechanism.
On the back is another trademark of the Mi MIX series. Ceramic. The whole back here is made from ceramic. However unlike the first two Mi MIX, the Mi MIX 3 follows in the footsteps of the Mi MIX 2S and skips the 24K gold-plated ring around the camera lens. It’s just painted metal here, which is somewhat of a downgrade for me.
On the right side, there’s the common volume rocker and power button. Here we find the not-so-common AI button as well as the SIM tray. Interestingly Xiaomi went with a glossy polished finish here instead of the matte finishing the Mi MIX 2 and Mi MIX 2S featured.
The bottom edge is where you will find the single loudspeaker and the accompanying microphone grille. The USB-C port handles all the wired connections, as there is no 3.5mm jack. Speaking of connections, you can see the antenna lines here set flush into the metal frame.
As a whole, the Mi MIX 3’s design is pretty sleek, but the lack of the chin somewhat takes away from the whole allure of the Mi MIX design. I know, sounds ridiculous, but I missed the iconic chin, even if it meant the screen-to-body ratio with one isn’t nearly as high as what we can achieve without one.
|CPU/Chipset:||Snapdragon 845 (4 x Kryo 385 @ 2.8 GHz + 4 x Kryo 385 @ 1.8 GHz), 10nm FinFET|
|GPU:||Adreno 630 @ 710 MHz|
|Display:||6.39″ FHD+ (1080p) AMOLED display, 103.8% NTSC gamut, 600-nit max brightness, 93.4% screen-to-body ratio|
|Storage:||128GB UFS 2.1|
12MP f/1.8, Sony IMX363, 1.4μm pixels, OIS
12MP f/2.4 2x telephoto lens
AI scene recognition, OIS, auto HDR, 960fps slow-mo, 4K60 video, Night mode, AI dynamic bokeh, AI studio lighting, LED flash
24MP f/2.2 + 2MP depth sensor
AI Beauty, AI Portrait, auto HDR, AI studio lighting, AI dynamic bokeh
|OS:||MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie|
|Connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz), 2×2 MIMO
FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/66
TDD-LTE: Band 30/34/38/39/40/41
|Battery:||Li-Po 3200 mAh (non-removable)
18W Quick Charge 3.0 (supports QC 4+)
10W wireless charging
Supports reverse charging over USB-C port
|Dimensions:||157.89 x 74.69 x 8.46 mm|
Xiaomi packed the Mi MIX with almost everything under the sun, except maybe a 3D ToF sensor. The only real omission is probably water resistance which is increasingly popular in flagships, but then again it would be ridiculous to even expect that from a device which packs a sliding mechanism. Not to say it won’t be cool…
In Antutu, the Mi MIX 3 distances itself from the older Snapdragon 845-based devices from Xiaomi. The MIUI 10 update was chockful of improvements, but we didn’t expect a 3000-ish points uplift in Antutu.
The CPU performance of the Mi MIX 3 sits right in between the POCOPHONE F1 and the Mi 8…
…before handily besting both devices in the 3DMark benchmarks. In fact, it’s faster than even the ROG Phone in Sling Shot (ES 3.0) and Ice Storm Unlimited (ES 2.0).
Here it scores top marks. While this is a benchmark involving productivity workloads, the most professional of the devices here actually sits right at the bottom of the list. Definitely one of the most inconclusive benchmarks in our suite.
The Mi MIX 3 is surprisingly long-lasting, outliving two devices with much larger 4000 mAh batteries. Xiaomi is known to optimize their devices quite aggressively for battery performance, so perhaps this is the result of their hardwork.
In daily usage, the Mi MIX 3 actually surprised me with its longevity despite its small battery. As long as you don’t turn on the Always On Display (AOD) feature, that is. AOD saps the battery quite ridiculously, slashing the screen-on-time down to just 4 hours.
Charging speeds are pretty good, with 51% of juice regained in 30 minutes with the supplied 18W QC 3.0 charger. 22% in 30 minutes is what we saw when we opted for the wireless charger instead of a good ol’ USB-C cable. Still good, but you know which to use if you need a quick rejuice before a night out.
In terms of general usage, the Mi MIX 3 performs just as expected. Quick in day-to-day usage, and if you are looking for some fun, any game available on the Play Store now is handled with aplomb. The device does get quite toasty in extended PUBG Mobile sessions, getting quite uncomfortable to hold especially around the upper half of the metal frame area. Xiaomi didn’t use any heatpipes in the Mi MIX 3, instead transferring the heat to the frame. It probably isn’t really designed to be great for gaming though as the missing 3.5mm jack is pretty much all the evidence we need anyway.
Holding the device in the hand, the 210g weight definitely lends itself to a premium feel. Xiaomi has worked on improving the ergonomics too, as the back is now a lot more curvy than the Mi MIX 2’s. The display does wobble slightly though, detracting from the whole exquisite experience of holding an all-screen device. The display is excellent, with great colors and brightness. The fact that it occupies nearly the whole front facade is just the icing on the cake.
Xiaomi took a step backwards when it comes to audio, whereby the Mi MIX 3’s bottom loudspeaker is the only thing pumping out sound. It actually sounds great for a mono speaker, but the fact that you don’t get stereo sound is somewhat limiting. Xiaomi also didn’t get Widevine L1 certification despite this being a flagship, so you won’t get to enjoy Netflix in HD on that bespoke display. A shame, really.
Having an included wireless charger in the box is pretty cool, but the material Xiaomi coated the pad with gets sticky. Despite our unit being rather new, it has already attracted quite a bit of dust and lint. That doesn’t really bode well for the durability of the wireless charging pad.
One issue I had with my unit of the Mi MIX 3 was the GPS navigation. Despite sporting a dual-band GPS system, the Mi MIX 3 was absolutely horrible to use for GPS navigation. It often placed me in the smaller roads adjacent to the road I am on, and randomly deciding that I have taken turns which I didn’t. I never encountered it during my experience with the Mi 8, so perhaps Xiaomi needs to release an update for the Mi MIX 3 to fix the issue.
MIUI 10 is a great upgrade for Xiaomi, and they have actually delivered it to most of their recent devices. It looks great and modern, and while it’s probably the furthest from stock Android, it definitely ranks as one of my favorite UIs. To take advantage of the slider, the Mi MIX 3 allows you to slide to open any app of your liking, or even fire up the camera in selfie mode immediately when you slide it open.
Speaking of the camera, the rear camera hardware on the Mi MIX 3 is exactly the same as the one you will find in a Mi 8 or Mi MIX 2S. It’s plenty good, and Xiaomi has been hard at work optimizing it until it scored a 103 on DxOMark.
In terms of the UI, Xiaomi hasn’t changed it much since MIUI 9. Xiaomi makes it very simple to just shoot a photo. If you want to play with the different modes it gets rather annoying though as you will have to swipe between the modes. Getting to the full-featured manual mode is quite a chore, but you will be feted to the best manual mode we have seen. There’s even peaking for those of you who want to use manual focus on a smartphone for whatever reason.
Images in good lighting generally look amazing. Colors are vivid, and sharpness is excellent. Plenty of detail. Selfies look pretty good too, but you might have to make sure everyone is sharp as even without the bokeh mode, the depth of field is somewhat shallower than on some smartphones I have used.
Going into low light the Mi MIX 3 stumbles, despite the presence of a dedicated Night mode. Night mode is pretty inconsistent, and more often than not produces images which look very unnatural. With the AI scene recognition active, the Mi MIX 3 seems to be able to trigger the Night mode automatically, and while it doesn’t seem to offer the same level of quality improvement, it definitely takes just as long to get ready for your next shot. The shot-to-shot delay is pretty appalling for a flagship with a Snapdragon 845. Zooming in low light will just result in a zoomed-in image taken with the primary sensor. Smart move, as the 2x zoom lens is just inadequate with its 1.0µm pixels and f/2.4 aperture. You can check out the full-sized images on Flickr here.
With Xiaomi’s dedication to updating MIUI, I forsee my issues with the camera to be solved pretty soon. Both the delays and also the image quality. Looking at the hardware, the Mi MIX 3 packs a great AMOLED display from Samsung and the best camera sensor Sony had to offer. The slider is cool, and the ceramic back is of course the bee’s knees. And let’s not forget the included wireless charging pad, something which even market leaders like Samsung conveniently exclude from the package to sell it as a separate accessory.
The Mi MIX 3 is indeed a spectacular device. Xiaomi delivers not only an impressive design, but one which you can afford. And to me, that’s probably the most important factor. You can be as innovative as you want, but if no one can afford it, it will all be moot anyways. There are a number of flaws, for example the wonky GPS, the camera and also the heat dissipation. But for just RM2199, Xiaomi is giving you the chance to enjoy a notchless, bezel-less experience, and a tactile sliding experience which reminds you of your younger days. Definitely worth the price of admission. Given its late entry into the market, it will definitely be compared against the Snapdragon 855 devices just around the corner. But, do they slide?
Our thanks to Mi Malaysia for provisioning the Mi MIX 3 for our review purposes. You can check out the Flickr gallery below (only visible when viewed on browsers)