When the whole smartphone industry is parading towards notches, the Mi MIX 2S stands out with its own unique design, at least on the front.

We liked the bezel eating Mi MIX 2 from last year and aside from its awful chin-facing front camera, the rear one didn’t make up for it as much. So this time Xiaomi seems to have addressed the issue and plonked dual cameras on it while taking design cues from Apple.

The Mi MIX 2S is the poster child for Xiaomi, and it’s packed with everything Xiaomi has to offer. We got a sneak peek of the Chinese smartphone and here’s what we think.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The design approach remains the same from last year keep stretching that full 5.99in display towards the edge and push the front camera and sensors into a chin. Love it or hate it, the design hasn’t changed much on the front. However, Xiaomi has not slapped a notch on top, which is nice given how the upcoming OnePlus 6 has confirmed it now.

The beautiful ceramic back makes a return with dual cameras planted firmly on the top left corner like Apple X. The back is super reflective and the finish is really beautiful. And this time, it supports wireless fast charging too.

There’s not much of a design overhaul here but, when you hold the phone, it feels grippier than its predecessor. The aluminum frame streamlines at the ceramic back and the front glass perfectly. Even the silver and gold lining on the rear cameras are made from actual silver and gold material. Talk about premium, eh? The white one definitely is our favourite.

X marks the spot

The rear camera is where Xiaomi is aiming to replace the OnePlus’ budget crown. We got to spend a few hours with the Chinese version rooted to work in India but it’s still not the final product yet.

Like most Chinese manufacturers focusing on AI-enhanced cameras, the Mi MIX 2S is no different. The camera app now has an AI built into it that does a bit of fixing. For now, we saw a noticeable improvement in the picture quality while using AI. Though in some scenes you could barely tell the difference. It even stacks up five images for noise reduction.

The contrast is vivid and punchy. Zooming in will mean that a bit of detail is lost, but that’s just us being picky with all these ₹60K smartphone cameras setting unimaginable standards. The portrait mode is where we don’t want to say much because it’s completely underworked. Those fancy bokeh effects will hopefully be available outside of China.

Like last time, the 4-axis OIS is good for taking stable 4K videos and the chin-loving 5MP front camera is still planted in the lower bezel of the phone. So if you absolutely want to avoid a notch, picking up the Mi MIX 2S is appealing, but only before it forces you to turn the phone upside down to take a selfie. What a strange era of smartphones we live in.

The first dragon

Yup, this is the first smartphone with the Snapdragon 845 processor that we’ve seen this year in India. It hasn’t launched yet but still it's the first to come in our hands. Stick in an 8GB RAM and 256GB storage and it’s hard to tell if you’re barking specs about a laptop or a smartphone.

Stating the obvious, the MIUI 9 OS on top of Android Oreo works effortlessly (845 and 8GB RAM, gulp!). The 3400mAh battery should be more than enough to last you a full day because the FHD+ (2160x1080) screen is not juice-hungry. Trading battery life for screen resolution is acceptable by our standards.

There are gesture controls now. Swipe up and hold to bring in the background apps and swipe anywhere from left or right edge of the screen to go back. It’s notch copying Apple from the screen design, but the software UI is definitely leaning more towards Cupertino brain works. As bad as that may seem, the gesture controls compliment MIX 2S’ bezel banishing design minus the notch.

Initial Verdict

With a general polishing of innards and the same design, the Mi MIX 2S is just a spec bump update from last year’s model. That said, the dual cameras at the back might bring the Xiaomi close to chasing OnePlus 6. Sadly, we didn’t get to experience the full potential of it in our hands-on.

The bokeh modes shown during the Chinese launch were an exciting addition to get pumped about, but they were still under work in our hands-on units. So we can’t say much or be excited about the camera in general for now.

The wireless fast charge and the gesture controls are a welcome addition to a 2018 smartphone. Not to mention the stunning ceramic body is in a league of its own. There’s no word on the pricing and availability as of now but we’ll update you as soon as we get a whiff of it.

Where to buy Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S: