Ever since Xiaomi launched the Mi Mix series in 2016 with the first smartphone, they tried to push the boundaries of the screen so that it occupies as much of the front of the phone as possible. Even that phone had an impressive 83.6% screen-to-body ration, and things got only better from there. The latest Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 smartphone pushes this even further by making the front panel almost 100% screen. The front-facing camera is hidden behind a sliding mechanism that you have to open by hand. Maybe not the best approach, but definitely better than the notch that we got so accustomed to in 2018.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 specifications
The Mi Mix 3 ticks all the boxes when it comes to internal components. You have the latest Snapdragon 845 CPU, 6GB or 8GB of RAM (depending on the chosen configuration) and 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with a gorgeous 6.39″ AMOLED screen with a 1080x2340px resolution. This translates to approximately 403dpi and a 19.5:9 screen ratio. On the front, if you open the slider mechanism, you will see two front-facing cameras with 24MP and 2MP for depth sensing, perfect for taking selfies. On the back, there are two cameras of 12MP each, one having a telephoto lens while the other is a wide-angle camera. The fingerprint reader is also on the back.
When it comes to connectivity options, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 does not disappoint. It has 4G+ connection almost worldwide with a 5G version being teased for launch in the first half of 2019. Naturally, you will find Bluetooth 5.0, GPS (all major positioning systems, including GLONASS and Galileo) and NFC. It also supports dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac. The only thing missing is the 3.5mm audio jack, but a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter is included in the box, for those that still want to use their old headphones.
All-in-all, the Mi Mix 3 is a full-fledged flagship that comes with the best internal specs for 2018. This also includes the latest version of MIUI 10 over Android 9. And knowing Xiaomi, the Mi Mix 3 will get updates for a very long time.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Design
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is an elegant device. The full ceramic body gives it a premium feel and looks stunning at the same time. However, there is a major downside to having such a glossy device. Similar to smartphones that have a glass back, the Mi Mix 3 is a fingerprint magnet. I had to constantly wipe it clean during the photoshoot for this review. Some may also say that it is slippery, but for me, this was not a problem. Another downside to having a ceramic body is the added weight. Compared to smartphones that come with an aluminum case, the Xiaomi Mi MIx 3 is heavy, weighing almost 220 grams. You can’t place all that weight on the battery since other smartphones with similarly sized batteries rarely surpass 190gr.
On the front of the phone, all you see is the screen. No notch anywhere to be found and I can only salute this design choice. On the top, left and right side of the phone the bezel is barely visible, but it is there. At the bottom, the bezel is slightly bigger but still way smaller than other smartphones have. I mostly compared it to the OnePlus 5t, Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, and the difference in bezel size is noticeable. Just look at the photos if you don’t believe me. Obviously, once you open the front facing camera, there is a big “chin” at the top but you rarely have to open it and the compromise of having this sliding mechanism is way better than the notch.
On the back, you have two cameras that extrude slightly outside. I would still prefer if smartphone manufacturers would find a way to have the phone the same thickness everywhere. This may get annoying when placing the phone on a flat surface (Eq: a table) due to the wobbling of the device. This get’s fixed with the included case, which has the exact thickness to make the body uniform, but then you will hide the fantastic ceramic back. The fingerprint reader is also placed on the back of the phone. Xiaomi decided to not use an in-display fingerprint reader for the Mi Mix 3. This choice was probably because with the technology available when the phone was developed, those type of readers were still a lot slower compared to traditional ones. A good comparison for this is the OnePlus 6t, whose in-display fingerprint reader is noticeably slower.
The left edge of the device you have the sim tray as well as the Virtual Assistant button. On the Chinese ROM this will open Xiaomi’s AI when pressed. Waiting to see how this is mapped on the Global ROM. On the other side, you have the volume up and down buttons as well as the power button. At the bottom, you will see the USB Type-C port used for charging and no audio jack. However, Xiaomi included a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter inside the box, so you are covered on this front as well. All in all, this is one of the most elegant smartphones of 2018 and it will be hard to beat maybe for years.
MIUI 10 on top of Android 9
I must start by saying that when writing this review, the global ROM was not yet available for the Mi Mix 3. The version I had was the Chinese ROM that had only English and Chinese languages with the Google Play Store sideloaded. Xiaomi’s AI assistant only supports simplified Chinese for now so I was unable to test it’s potential and some MIUI applications were still in Chinese, even though I had the phone set to English. With this being said, let’s get started.
MIUI is not for everybody. Using a OnePlus device as my primary for the past 3 years (and a Nexus before that), I am used to stock (or close to stock) Android. However, I’ve tested MIUI in the past and this is the best version so far. From a visual perspective, MIUI is colorful, however, this version’s default theme makes everything flat and more elegant than before. It has some obvious inspirations from Android’s Material Design, with a sprinkle of Samsung’s TouchWiz and iPhone’s simplicity. A rather strange combination, but it works. It is easier to use in most situations than stock android, as long as you don’t want to get into more advanced things. Furthermore, Xiaomi implemented some nice features that are not seen in stock Android. For example, the entire interface is themable. You can download many themes from Xiaomi’s store and customize the phone to your liking. This is something that Samsung has done as well with their customization.
Another interesting feature is the one called “Second space”. Basically, it is similar to the multi-user mode on standard Android. It comes completely isolated from the main account and it can have it’s own apps, settings, customization and all. Switching between the two accounts is easy and both can be protected by a different pattern. A use case for this is having one workspace for home/personal use and a different one for work/corporate use. For the Mi Mix 3, Xiaomi also added actions for when the slider opened. You can set it to take a selfie, open the tools window or open a specified application. Honestly, MiUI is so different compared to stock Android that an entire article can be written just for it.
One thing to keep in mind is that Xiaomi does not make a big profit from selling their phones. They openly said that the profit margin for each device sold is between 0% and 5%. Most of their revenue comes from services, with MiUI being fully integrated with their services: themes, apps, music, video, etc. They even said that they don’t consider them as a “smartphone company”, but an “internet and services company”. For the global ROMs, integration is not strong, Xiaomi relying on Google for Apps, videos, email, but for some features, you will still have to go through them.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Performance and Benchmark results
Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 smartphone behaves as you expect a flagship from 2018 to. No, honestly, you get the best mobile CPU Snapdragon has to offer, more than enough RAM and internal storage and every component that Xiaomi chose was top of the line. Pair this with MIUI which, even though heavily customized, is well optimized and does not slow the phone down at all. Navigation between the menus was smooth, application launch fast and there are no hiccups or stuttering anywhere. Even when you have many applications opened at the same time, the phone can handle everything you throw at it. But, let’s face it, even mid-range CPUs are pretty good nowadays when it comes to day-to-day usage. Where those struggle usually is gaming. With more and more people choosing mobile games, even hard-core ones, it is no surprise that niche gaming smartphones hit the market.
The Mi Mix 3 is not labeled as a gaming smartphone. It does not come with fancy RGB lights, extra buttons on the side for use in shooters or a 120Hz refresh rate. But thanks to its powerful CPU and fast memory, it can play anything. I chose a few games that are high-demanding and popular at the moment: Asphalt 9, PUBG and Mortal Kombat X. Even at high setting, the phone behaved remarkably. Loading times were short and gameplay was smooth. There was no lag, no reduced frame-rate and no artifacts were encountered in the graphics. Yes, the screen does not have the high refresh rate as the Razer Phone, but I did not encounter any problems. Even if there was screen tearing, at the pixel density that this phone has, it was unnoticeable. Also, the phone did not get hot even after long periods of gaming on it. Yes, it was slightly warmer than idle, and this is expected, but I never considered the phone hot or uncomfortable to use due to temperatures.
No performance testing is complete without some benchmark scores. In AnTuTu, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 received 294021 points, placing the device in the top 10%. In 3DMark, for the Slingshot Extreme OpenGL version, it got 4454 points while for the Vulkan version 2762 points. For PCMark I ran both the Work2.0 Performance tests, where it received a score of 8172, and the Computer Vision tests, where the Mi Mix 3 received 5222 points. In the same benchmark suite, but for storage, it got 8445. All in all, the Mi MIx 3 got excellent scores. Feel free to look at the gallery below for more details.
The Mi Mix 3 comes with a dual-camera setup on the back, each camera with a 12MP sensor. The difference between the two is the lens. One has a telephoto lens and the other is a wide angle lens with optical image stabilization. At first, you may be skeptical about the megapixel count. Nowadays manufacturers like to brag with the number of pixels in their photos, but as we learned in the past, higher pixel count does not necessarily translate to higher quality photos. There are many more aspects which contribute to the quality of the image. I am pleased to say that the Mi Mix 3 delivers excellent picture quality. Xiaomi learned a few tricks in image processing and in AI and used the knowledge to deliver photos on par in quality with most flagship devices released this year.
I took the phone for a spin outside to test the camera capabilities. It just started to snow the day before so I got the perfect scenario on hand. I am no professional photographer, but the camera on the Mi MIx 3, with the help of the onboard AI, managed to capture the splendor of the park next door, all covered in snow. Even though it was snowing, the phone did not detect them as noise and kept everything as is. The image quality is excellent, with good exposure and high fidelity in color reproduction, and with many details captured in the trees and on the ground. Look at the gallery below for sample photos. Each time I took one picture at 1x zoom and another one at 2x zoom.
It was day outside when the above photos were taken and even mid-range smartphone can take good photos with perfect light. However, when night falls and we have only the street light at our disposal, many phones are not capable of offering good quality pictures. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, however, managed to impress me with its low-light photography capabilities. Even in standard mode, the picture quality was very good. Yes, the sensor could not capture so many details as before, but the phone was capable of offering a clear image of the surroundings. All the snow amplified the quantity of light available so results in summer may vary a little. Next, I decided to try the ‘Night’ mode build in the phone’s software. This mode uses tricks similar to what Google has done with the Pixel’s camera, where you have to keep the phone still so it captures more light and from different exposure, with the image being composed by the internal image processor. The image quality may not be as good as the Pixel’s in these conditions, but they are very good and contain a lot more details compared to normal mode. In the gallery below you can see sample photos taken in both normal and night mode. Even though the standard photos seem brighter, the night mode ones contain more details.
Once you open the slider, the two front-facing cameras are revealed. The main shooter has a 24MP sensor and a secondary, depth-sensing camera is also present with a 2MP sensor. During daytime, the selfies are very good. The main subject has a lot of details, exposure is great and the background can be blurred in a bokeh effect. This can be turned off however if you so desire. Furthermore, the camera software comes with multiple enhancements and filters that can be applied. It is normal now for manufacturers to include “beautify” modes for the front-facing camera and the Mi Mix 3 comes with such features. During nighttime, however, the selfies aren’t that good. The phone tries to capture as many details as possible, but this results in over-exposed photos. The last photo in the gallery was taken at dusk when the night mode for the main camera was tested. Judging from the picture I won’t blame you if you thought that it was day. Zooming in however reveals the tricks that were done to achieve this result: very few details, smooth edges and way to much light. You can’t even see the beard hairs, but just a black smudge where they used to be.
Xiaomi equipped the Mi Mix 3 with a 3200mAh battery. Considering the size of the phone, the battery isn’t that big. Other smartphones with a slimmer body or a smaller screen can be found with a bigger battery. Considering this, the runtime is good for the Mi Mix 3. During my usage, I could easily squeeze a full day from the phone. I am a heavy user with some occasional gaming, mobile data and Wi-Fi on all the time as well as Bluetooth active 24/7. The phone was synced with my Gear smartwatch and emails, calls, texts and what not send to the smartwatch. Even with this, I could get a full day out of the phone and I will not be surprised if others, that don’t rely on so many outside connections can get a lot more than that.
When talking about the battery we have to mention charging speed as well. Here, we must mention both wired charging as well as wireless charging, since both chargers are included in the box. On wired, the phone can get fully charged in about an hour and a half. This is similar to other smartphones that feature some quick-charge technology, being it from Qualcomm, Oppo or others. yes, it is not as fast as the SuperVOOC or the newly-released Warp Charge, but it is still fast and I don’t think anyone will complain about charging speed. Most people, however, will use the wireless charger for sure. It is more convenient and fast as well. From 20% to 100% the battery got charged in less than 2 hours, not too much longer compared to wired charging. The added convenience counter’s the slightly slower speed.
Xiaomi may have outdone themselves when it comes to design. All the smartphones released on the Mi Mix brand were beautiful, with top quality materials and excellent performance. But the Xiaomi Mi MIx 3 is special, being the first device from the company with a slider mechanism and the one the highest screen to body ration they launched so far. But beauty is not everything when it comes to smartphones. Luckily, the Mi Mix 3 delivers on all fronts. The Snapdragon 845 CPU can handle anything you throw at it: games, productivity apps, video and photo editing. There is more than enough RAm to keep all your apps in the background even on the 6GB version and the 128GB storage space on the base model will satisfy everybody. MIUI, even though not suitable for everybody, is one of the best customizations there is and, once a Global ROM will be launched, it will get even better. Camera performance is good, but no the best. Xiaomi still has some tricks to learn from Samsung and Google, but the picture and video quality are still great.
Currently, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is being sold for around $580 for the base model, with the higher tier models reaching close to $750. Yes, it is more expensive than a OnePlus 6t, but the higher quality materials and non-standard design may be worth it (+ don’t forget about the extra accessories included). And it is still less expensive than the best Samsung or Apple has to offer. Below you can see the price for the device on a few Chinese websites that have the phone in stock.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 can be found at most Chinese retailers, with pricing varying a bit. Below I posted links for different websites and the current price of the device. Please note that pricing may change with time.