26 Oct 2017 16:11 IST

On the Mi Mix 2, less is so much more

Xiaomi has led the phone industry with a near bezel-less device

There’s something about edge-less displays that strongly attracts us. Maybe thick edges give us that caged or boxed up feeling. Televisions have long since gone bezel-less, often looking as if it’s just the picture hanging in the air. Now, we want the same thing on our smartphones.

It’s with that thought that Chinese tech giant Xiaomi decided to create their Mi Mix phone, a device with practically no edges. How people drooled! But this concept phone wasn’t available for purchase everywhere.

The company had work to do on it before it could be brought to the market. This they did when they recently brought in the Mi Mix 2, looking a little different from the original but based on the same philosophy — that nothing should stand between you and the content on your screen, especially not bezels.

More screen, more content

It took a huge amount of tinkering and rearranging of components such as the speaker and the camera and so on before Xiaomi arrived at what they believe is the right mix. The top edge of the Mi Mix 2’s display is so thin that the front camera had to be shifted down. The bottom edge is a little thicker. The edges are not the same size, but together, they make the 5.99-inch IPS LCD display look more seamless than on regular phones taking up over 80 per cent of the front. And the format caught on with other phones.

In fact, Xiaomi wants you to know it knows how to innovate. So even if you have a quarrel with the price, know who you have to thank for near bezel-less phones. The Mi Mix 2 is not easy to produce en masse so it may not be around in numbers such as with the budget phones, like Redmi Note 4 or the Mi A1, but belongs closer to the premium range. Many think it looks far better than the iPhone and it competes head-on with the OnePlus 5.

Ceramic beauty

Xiaomi says they’ve kept the price down as much as possible, given that each phone takes over a week to make. It isn’t only the trend-setting display on the front but the back of the phone that’s rather special. It looks beautiful and beats some of the flagship devices hollow. It is made of an industrial grade ceramic and is shiny, so naturally it takes on smudges but it also wipes up easily. It’s also scratch resistant. All the same, you’ll probably want to protect it with a case. The back is a sheet of shining ceramic with “Mix Designed by Xiaomi” written in tiny gold lettering on it. The camera on the back is ringed by a 24 carat gold circle balancing the lettering. The edges are rounded with the glass wrapping in.

Xiaomi called in famous designer and architect Philippe Starck to make the Mi Mix 2, who told The Verge that the Mix 2 was the end of smartphone design, because the next step will be dematerialised and be part of the body.

The LCD display is nice in its edge-lessness but one can’t help wishing it had a resolution higher than its 1020 x 2160 pixels. It’s vivid enough but needs something more. It’s in an 18:9 ratio, which is now popular on several other devices.

Top notch specs

On the inside, the Mi Mix 2 is familiar for anyone who has known Xiaomi phones. Xiaomi’s MiUi 8.5 interface sits on top of Android Nougat 7.1.1 working with the Snapdragon 835 — the current flagship processor and 6 GB of RAM plus 128 GB of internal storage and no memory card slot. Performance on this phone is fast and fluid. When you compare it with the OnePlus 3T or 5, which have similar specs, these phones have the advantage of cleaner software that is almost untouched Android and in the newest version, Oreo, arriving as an update.

The OnePlus5 also has a camera that I found better and Dash charging. On the other hand, the Mix 2 has the more elegant design, the special display format, and good video recording because of its 4-axes optical image stabilisation.

The Mix also has the most cellular connectivity bands of any phone and will work no matter which country you travel to. So which of the two you would want to consider depends on which of these features you need more, since the price is in the same range.

The Mix 2’s front 5 MP camera does have what is one of the device’s biggest compromises though. With the front camera located on the bottom edge, you need to turn the phone upside down to take a selfie. That won’t matter a lot for those who don’t take selfies very often. After all, the rare time you want to take one, you’ll immediately see it looks odd the regular way and turn the phone around. If you’re in the habit of taking dozens of selfies a day — and I know some who are — then you’d better rethink this front camera, though the results are just about okay. The primary 12 MP has four-axes stabilisation and does a good job in good light.

The Mix 2 doesn’t have a headphone jack but I’ve long since given up on them. An adaptor is provided so if you need to use an existing set of headphones, just leave the adaptor attached.

It seems that the 3.5 mm jack really takes up space and as Xiaomi explains, you need every fraction of a millimetre on the inside for new components these days.

Price: ₹35,999

Pros: Unusually beautiful ceramic back, near bezel-less display, fast charging, 37 cellular bands supported, good ergonomics, solid specs, smooth performance

Cons: Back attracts finger smudges, slightly slippery, front camera position calls for turning phone upside down for selfies, MiUi not everyone’s cup of tea, a bit heavy

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

Recommended for you