Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Review
Review indexDesign | Fingerprint Scanner | Display | Interface and Functionality | Processor, Performance and Memory | Internet and Connectivity | Camera | Call quality | Battery life | Price and Alternatives | Conclusion
In the beginning was the screen. And the screen was everything and everything was a screen.
That’s what Chinese company Xiaomi could have written if it had to apply the Holy scriptures to the way it kicks off 2019. The reason for that is its new, futuristic Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, a phone with a true, edge-to-edge screen and with practically no bezel to get in the way (no notch either).
How is that possible and where is the front camera? Well, it is quite simple actually: the Mi Mix 3 is a slider, quite like some of the phones we used in the early 00’s. Slide it down and you will see the front cameras. Click, click, it’s a satisfyingly mechanical feeling.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at its latest and greatest, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, and see whether it’s any good.
First, let’s take a look at what's inside the box:
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
- Silicone case
- Fast charger (up to 18 watts)
- Fast wireless charger (up to 18 watts)
- USB-C to regular USB cable
- SIM tool
- User Manual
How does it feel to use a slider phone in 2019?
So… the elephant in the room is the sliding action: how well does it work and does it actually bring any value apart from the fun of fidgeting around? First of all, we should say that the top and bottom (or front and back, if you will) parts of the Mi Mix 3 are not connected tightly and there is a very slight wiggle. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but it’s a little something that we thought we should let you know about. With this out of the way, sliding the screen up and down is easy, and accompanied by a sound effect (thankfully, you can disable the sound and make it less creepy). By default, sliding the phone down opens the camera in selfie mode, but you can customize this to open your favorite app instead. This shortcut quickly grew on us: sliding the phone is a super easy and fun thing to do and having custom shortcuts made it all the more useful.
On the left side of the Mi Mix you have what Xiaomi calls the AI button. This one is hard-coded to the Google Assistant, so you cannot customize that, but you do have some customization options for what a long press and double press of the button can do, so you can set a double press on it to start the flashlight for example, which is useful. A long press defaults to push-to-talk mode for the Google Assistant, acting much like a walkie-talkie.
So what about the actual design and styling? The Mi Mix 3 is a beautiful phone with a ceramic back and it comes in a selection of three different colors: blue, green and black. And... it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet. It is also a bit on the thick side, measuring 0.33 inches thick, which is actually a bit thicker than an iPhone XS Max. Size-wise it’s very similar to the XS Max. it’s just a bit narrower, but not by much. So yes, it’s a big phone.
What’s missing is a headphone jack, just like on the iPhone, but here you do have a USB-C adapter included in the box. Speaking of the box, Xiaomi has really gone all out to provide a truly luxurious package: included in the box come a fast charger, a USB-C cable, the USB-C to 3.5-mil headphone adapter, a case and even a wireless charger. Impressive.
One feature that we do miss on the Mi Mix is water-proofing. There is no special water protection on this phone.
A perfectly good fingerprint reader!
We were a bit let down by the first generation of fingerprint scanners built inside the screen. Phones like the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro feature such finger scanners; they are just a bit on the slower side and not quite as accurate as a traditional fingerprint reader.
Thankfully, the Mi Mix 3 has just that: an extremely fast and accurate fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. It works just as you’d expect, no nasty surprises.
The Mi Mix 3 comes with a 6.3” AMOLED screen. It’s actually the first with an AMOLED display in the Mix series, as all earlier models feature LCD displays. It’s a Full HD+ (1080 x 2340 pixels) one, which definitely looks sharp enough, but if you are comparing it against Quad HD panels, the resolution is slightly lower. Again, we don’t see this being an issue in real life, unless you really stare at the screen from a few inches distance.
So what about this screen? We like it: colors appear vibrant, with excellent contrast and good viewing angles. We found that outside it got bright enough, but still not quite as bright as the AMOLEDs you find on Samsung’s Galaxy series or the iPhones, so those phones are a bit easier to use outside on a sunny day.
The colors are also definitely on the cold side, with whites coming off with a noticeable bluish tint. You can easily fix this if you prefer warmer colors as Xiaomi provides several color profiles in the display tab in settings.
You also have an Always-on display option, which – contrary to its name – is turned off by default. You can turn it on or schedule it to work only during the day to avoid the extra battery drain at night. In either case, be warned that it will drain extra battery, and the Mi Mix does not have the biggest battery around in the first place.
Interface and Functionality
Xiaomi’s custom interface MIUI has grown up and has some of the best gestures around. It’s fun.
MIUI (pronounced "Me You I") has evolved a lot and presents itself in the latest MIUI 10 version on the Mi Mix 3. All of this runs on Android 9 Pie, the latest version of Google’s operating system. All good news.
MIUI 10 has a distinct styling with flat icons and simple icons with white backgrounds everywhere. It’s not the most visually striking interface we’ve seen, but it looks clean and it’s easy to get used to it.
By default, you have the three on-screen navigation buttons: recents, home and back, but we strongly suggest that you go into Settings > Full Screen Display, and switch to the full screen gestures. This here is easily among our favorite implementations of gestures: you can swipe both left and right to go back, which is very convenient, you swipe up to go home, swipe and pause to see the recents app, and you also have a swipe up from anywhere but the bottom part of the screen to trigger a local search.
The multitasking interface is also quite ingenious: you have two columns of apps rather than just single apps, so while the cards are still big enough for easy tapping, you can easily see many more apps and this just works so much better than the traditional card approach, especially if you have to switch between more than just two apps.
One little thing that we are missing are fingerprint gestures like we have on Google’s Pixel series. On the Pixels the fingerprint scanner is also on the back of the device and you can swipe down on it to bring down the notification shade, which is a cool little shortcut. Unfortunately, this one is not available on MIUI.
MIUI also has a few tricks up its sleeve that you don’t find on many other interfaces: for instance, you have the option to record all of your calls without the need for any third-party apps. You also have a Second Space, which is basically a second profile for your phone and allows you to have two completely different setups, one for work and one for play, for example.
MIUI, however, is not perfect by any means and there are a few things in this interface that really left us perplexed: often times the phone would vibrate, but it shows no notification on the lock screen, so you have no idea what actually happened and you need to unlock the phone to see. Also, simple things like the auto-rotate feature do not work as well as you’d expect from a flagship phone. Last but not least, we noticed a surprising amount of stutter in places like the gallery and other native apps.
Processor, Performance and Memory
Snapdragon 845 and top tier specs at an incredibly affordable price
The Mi Mix 3 is a true Android flagship and you can tell by the Snapdragon 845 chip that powers it, the same one that you find on nearly all high-end Android phones from 2018.
This alone ensures speed, and the Mi Mix 3 is certainly a very fast phone. When it comes to the actual performance, though, little optimizations can make a big difference, and the Mi Mix 3 does not quite feel as buttery smooth as say a OnePlus 6T. On the Mi Mix, there is a very slight delay between the moment you tap an icon and the moment an app starts. It’s not a big deal by any means, but if you obsess over speed, you will notice it – and we know we did.
In benchmarks, the Mi Mix does on par with the rest of the Snapdragon 845 gang. Take a look at the results below:
While there are versions with more RAM and more storage of the Mi Mix 3 in its homeland of China, there is only one version that is available internationally in most countries and it is the one we have up for review. That is the one with 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage. We find this configuration more than adequate enough for even the power users out there. For the select few out there that would need even more storage, though, you should know that unfortunately there is no microSD card slot on board for memory expansion here.
Internet and Connectivity
Mi Mix 3 features all necessary LTE bands for official markets (but not for the USA)
The Mi Mix 3 is a full-fledged flagship equipped with all necessary 4G LTE bands for the markets where it’s officially available. The USA is not on that list, in case you are wondering, and this means that you will have some issues with LTE bands if you decide to get the phone unlocked off third-party resellers on eBay. Keep in mind that the Mi Mix 3 is a GSM phone also, so it will not be compatible with CDMA carriers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the United States.
One useful feature on board the Mi Mix 3 is dual SIM connectivity. Again, this would be useful for those who carry two phones with them, so they can have both numbers on the same device.
In terms of other connectivity options, you do have NFC here (many affordable Xiaomi phones miss it, but not this one). You also have dual-channel Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.
Not quite a flagship killer.
The Mi Mix 3 comes with a DxOMark score printed on the label and some big ambitions, but how does its cameras perform in real life?
We snapped a bunch of pictures to find out, but first, let’s go over the specs: the Mi Mix 3 features a dual rear camera with two 12-megapixel sensors where the secondary one offers 2X telephoto zoom. Up front you have another dual camera setup for selfies: there is a 24-megapixel main shooter and an additional 2-megapixel depth sensor. You also have an LED flash on the back, as well as the front, so you can light up those night-time shots.
The camera app features a ton of options, but the biggest one is the artificial intelligence (AI), which recognizes particular scenes and boosts the colors on those pictures. You also have HDR, which is turned off by default (and we do recommend you switch that to Auto), filters, flash controls and more. One thing we also recommend doing is going in settings to specify a shortcut to quickly start the camera. We are so used to the double click on the power button to start the camera on Android phones that we were surprised it was not enabled right out of the box here. If you are wondering how to do it, go into Settings > Additional Settings > Button and gesture shortcuts, and here select the shortcut you want to use to launch the camera.
So how about the actual images? Are they good enough to compare with the very best phones out there?
During the day, photos look good with pleasing colors and a very distinct, slightly soft detail. This slightly soft detail is not technically ideal, but it gives a very interesting, slightly dreamy look to photos. The Mi Mix 3 is one of very few phones out there that allow you to select the sharpness level as well as contrast and saturation in the camera, so you can easily change that by switching the sharpness setting from ‘normal’ to ‘high’.
You also have portrait mode on board. Portraits turn out very good when you have decent lighting, but if you are shooting in a dim room or a darker environment, the phone has trouble with focusing and properly separating subject from background. In good light, though, subject separation works nice and portraits come up with pleasing colors.
On many phones, you can use portrait mode to blur out the background even with inanimate objects, but we actually had little success using this mode with anything else than a real person. Even then, the results are hit and miss: the Mi Mix has trouble correctly separating the person from the background, and you often get blurred parts of the image that should have been in sharp focus.
In low light, the camera of the Mi Mix 3 does a pretty good job. We compared it against the popular OnePlus 6T and it was clear that the OnePlus consistently captured a brighter photo with a higher exposure at night, while the Mi Mix low-light images were always clearly darker. That difference may be due to the OnePlus having a slightly wider aperture on the main lens (f/1.7 vs f/1.8) and because it is preset to go with a lower shutter speed. This, however, also means that images are consistently not as sharp on the OnePlus. The Mi Mix favors faster shutter speeds and higher ISO settings, so images do look grainier and darker, but sharper and without the blown-out highlights that you get on low-light shots from the OnePlus.
You also have a dedicated ‘Night Mode’ on the Mi Mix and again, we compared it to the night mode on the OnePlus. First of all, we have to say that we love Night Mode on the Mi Mix: contrary to the OnePlus which takes quite a long while for a night mode shot, the Mi Mix is fast. Night mode shots from the OnePlus also appear very blurry and come out with very poor detail, while the Xiaomi does a much better job.
Switching to the front cameras, selfies turn out pretty good. Again, the colors look nice, but we have the same soft detail. Those are the technicalities. Xiaomi, however, adds a lot of fun options for selfies. Of course, you have ‘beauty’ mode that smooths the skin, but you also have a bunch of different portrait effects that create very interesting bokeh. You can have crazy, swirling patterns for the background, or make hearts and other shapes appear in the background.
The Mi Mix 3 can shoot 4K video at either 60fps or 30fps, and you have video stabilization available for both these modes. And the actual footage looks very good: you have a good amount of detail, proper exposure and the camera is able to switch focus quickly when needed.
The Mi Mix 3 has a single loudspeaker that is located in one of the grills on the bottom of the phone (the right one, next to the USB-C port). This is one area where the phone falls short in comparison with most flagships: sound through the speaker is just not very loud, and speaking of quality, the sound is quite shallow and squeaky.
The phone also has no headphone jack, so you would need to rely on an adapter to use wired headphones (the adapter comes included in the box, which is nice).
We had no issues with call quality on the Mi Mix 3. Reception is good and the calls come through with a good amount of volume and clarity on both ends of the line.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with a 3,200mAh battery, which is not the biggest battery size for a phone with a massive, 6.4-inch AMOLED display.
Naturally, we were curious: can such a relatively small battery provide enough juice and power the phone through those longer days?
To understand that, we turned to our trusted battery life test. This is the same test that we have been running on phones for a few years now, so you can not only get a number, but you can see how battery life on a particular phone compares to its peers and even to phones released way earlier.
The Mi Mix 3 scored right in the middle of the charts, with a battery life just shy of 8 hours.
This battery score is right on par with last year's Mi Mix 2s and is a decent score by all means. The result is on par with the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy S9 series, but we should note that many phones in 2018 have actually stepped their game up and devices like OnePlus 6T, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, iPhone XR and others deliver a much better battery life.
The other aspect of the battery experience is the time it takes to charge up a phone from 0 to 100%. The Mi Mix 3 supports 18-watt fast charging and it comes with the fast charger in the box. Not just that, you also get a fast wireless charger included in the box for free as well! Awesome!
It took the Mi Mix 3 less than an hour and a half to reach a full charge. This is among the fastest charging phones around, practically on par with the charging speeds of champions like the OnePlus 6T.
Price and Alternatives
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is actually more affordable than the latest OnePlus phones!
Price is set at 500 euro (but discounts are available at start and you can get it for 50 euro off the initial price). For a brand new device that is just arriving on the market, this price is extremely competitive.
And here is how this compares to other top-tier phones with a similar processor and capabilities:
- LG G7 ThinQ: 450 euro
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 (6GB RAM + 128GB storage): 500 euro
- OnePlus 6T: 550 euro
- HTC U12+: 570 euro
- Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus: 670 euro
- Google Pixel 3 / 3XL: 600 euro / 700 euro
- Samsung Galaxy Note 9: 800 euro
- Apple iPhone XR: 820 euro
All of these except the iPhone run on the same Snapdragon 845 processor, and all except the OnePlus 6T come with just 64GB of storage, while the Xiaomi doubles that to 128 gigs.
It’s clear that for those looking at the pure specs and the value there, the Mi Mix 3 is the best offer around, hands down.
So, is the true full screen Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 a go?
There are just a few downsides to this phone: it’s a bit on the bulky side, the loudspeaker does not quite sound stellar, performance is just a bit below the very best, and the camera, especially at night, is again not on par with the best. We were also concerned about the small battery and how that plays out, but in reality, we found that the phone easily lasts a day. It’s definitely not among the best battery performers, but it is not bad either. And as to the slider, it’s really not something that gets in the way too much, so if you don’t take a lot of selfies, you almost forget about it.
Really, though, considering its price that is less than that of a OnePlus phone, there is little we could hold against the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3. It looks gorgeous, the full screen experience is something really cool, the gesture navigation is among the best we’ve used and it’s a joy just navigation around, plus you have plentiful storage on board.
So, it’s a thumbs up from us!