At their CES keynote, Xiaomi announced the white version of the Mi Mix launched last year.
It was hailed as the “smartphone of the future” and earned Xiaomi major design props. We finally got the chance to feel it all up. Did it measure up to expectations? And does a new colour matter so much that it warrants a keynote? Find out here.
Designed in collaboration with the revered Philippe Starck, the Mi Mix doesn’t just look good, it looks different. In a world of smartphone clones, it stands out. Its unibody is crafted from ceramic so there aren't any unsightly seams, making it incredibly smooth and also slippery to the touch. it’s thicker than we expected from seeing photos of it, reminding us of classic Nokia Lumia like a 635 or a 520 with its boxy silhouette. The lack of ergonomic curves on this makes it feel all of its 6.4 inches.
But its display, oh man, that display. Nice and bright colours on the display, but it's really the lack of a "forehead" that makes all the difference.
What’s in a colour change? Plenty, actually. The White looks fantastic, but it takes away from the bezel-less nature of the Mi Mix since the white rim pops, standing out more than the Black would - unless you happen to be standing in Jony Ive's white room.
However, the White is more forgiving than the Black when it comes to hiding fingerprints. The Black sample's rear was covered in a mess of fingerprints, a plight of most demo phones, while if the White was, we could barely make them out even when held up to the light.
It's a pity because the Black is a fine looking specimen with its fingerprint sensor's gold accents, while the White has subtler silver accents.
Not the best shot
The Mi Mix might look great in photos, but its photos don’t look great. It’s using a 16MP sensor but photos we took also weren't the clearest even under the bright spotlights. When I was snapping away on the showfloor, there was a perceptible lag. You might forgive all that though, when you realise how neat it is that those tiny borders barely separate image and reality.
And if you’re fond of selfies, switch the camera around to see yourself in a new light. The front-facing camera is situated in the bottom right corner of the phone so what you’ll get is the most unflattering angle on earth. If you're lucky, your thumb might already be in the way of the lens, saving yourself the shock of seeing yourself upface.
Fun fact: the age estimation feature told me I was older than I was when perceived from that angle, but did an about turn and declared me younger than I am when I used it from the usual selfie angle. There is some basis to all that talk about taking selfies from a higher angle after all.
To take a flattering shot of yourself looking into the camera (which is the whole point of a selfie), you need to hold the phone up unusually high or flip it upside down to put the front-facing camera where it should be. Ironic, I know.
It’s a lot of effort to take a selfie this way even if the camera interface automatically flips to be the right way up when you turn the phone. And considering how big and slippery the phone is, it’s not the easiest - or safest - of tasks.
To achieve that edgeless design, Xiaomi had to remove the all important speaker. But it wouldn’t be a phone anymore, let alone smart. So they came up with an alternative solution - cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic that works via alchemy of signal, energy, and vibration to give you sound. As for that actually fares in real life, I'll wait until I can take calls on my own review unit to give you a verdict.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB RAM to keep your WhatsApp-ing and Instagram-ing running smoothly. USB-C is its lone port on the bottom of the phone, but don’t panic, the headphone jack hasn’t been removed. It’s just been moved to the top, so you don't have to go buy those wireless headphones yet - for this iteration, at least.
Having seen everyone rave about this phone, we expected to be completely blown away, but the Mi Mix still needs some finetuning - particularly in the camera department - before it’s truly considered a futuristic phone.
For now, the only department it really wins in is looks and that's by virtue of it being so outrageously daring and different. But at what cost? That's what we aim to find out in more detail when we get to spend some time with it. Stay tuned.