Some phones change the world or at least change your perspective on what a phone should be. Others, change to fit a mold. The type of device designed to maximize what is known to sell and sell as many as possible. With Xiaomi's Mi MIX smartphone line, they tried both of these approaches.
First, there was the famous, astonishing Xiaomi Mi MIX, which practically challenged conventions with its unorthodox approach to the frames of the screen. Then there was the Mi MIX 2 (and MIX 2S) "made-for-the-masses" that curbed the madness of some original MIX to help him become a more sensible smartphone. And, although I think they are polar opposites, I came to see that they are actually both sides of the same coin.
There are often two schools of thought when it comes to innovation: innovating with customer feedback, and innovating without. And, looking back, it was very clear which MIX fell where. This is why I was more than a little worried when I heard there would be a Mi MIX 3 – because I did not know which way it would be served. Personally, I am a person who likes to be stunned, especially when it comes to the high end. I like it when producers push the boundaries and introduce new ideas or risky concepts that I probably would not have even thought of.
This is part of the reason why I loved, and probably will always love, the original Mi MIX. And also because I have never enjoyed my time with the MIX 2 (and 2S). I did not think they needed a phone like Mi MIX 2 because they already had the sensible smartphone from moneymaker in the Mi 6. It seemed like they had abandoned the initial idea of experimentation in favor of churning out another moneymaker, and this was very disappointing.
When I finally got my first hands with Xiaomi Mi MIX 3, I was so happy to find out that they brought back some of that magic – a little bit. of that pizzazz – which made the first MIX so special. That said, I also realized that while I could make myself poetic about how "special" a smartphone is, not everyone is willing to buy a "special" phone even if it's not something you can use every day. That there are people who prefer the other side of the coin. I imagine this is how maturity feels.
But enough about me. I know you're all here to find out if Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 falls on the side of the coin you prefer. And if you ask me, I think he has enough of both to please both sides.
A power plant of 2018
Let's start by putting the first big worry off the road: its processor. Mi MIX 3 of Xiaomi is a flagship smartphone from almost all definitions. However, since this phone was launched in October 2018, its interiors are not entirely 2019 as some of you might like. There is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor in the middle and, in Malaysia, you can pair it with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal memory. Personally, I'm not even bothered by the fact that I have Qualcomm's flagship mobile processor of 2018, because the performance on Xiaomi's Mi MIX 3 is nothing short of stellar. Coupled with the optimized MIUI 10 Android skin (built on Android Pie) everything was buttery and smooth. I have not encountered performance problems or bugs during my week and a half with the smartphone, which is powerful refreshing compared to the previous devices I've used.
Personally I am not a big fan of MIUI, but I have always recognized that it is a seriously optimized skin and one of the best to get out of China. I still find it disappointing that there is not a drawer of apps, and I do not have the ability to add more than four apps in a row on my home screen, but I think they are relatively minor things. MIUI 10 added a much cleaner look with many convenient touches in the shadow of the notifications that I think everyone would be happy with.
In fact, Xiaomi did something that I hoped Samsung had the courage to do with its flagship smartphones. On the Mi MIX 3, there is a dedicated button whose main purpose is to launch your AI assistant of choice, just like Samsung's dedicated Bixby button. However, on Mi MIX 3, it is much more than this. You can even customize that button to do a lot of things – like throwing the camera, turning on the flashlight and more – with a long press or a double touch. This flexibility for customization is one of the things that led me to Android in the first place, and seeing MIUI handle this aspect so well is certainly good news for the development of this operating system.
But while performance and software are definitely the pros in my book, my favorite part on Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 is much more superficial.
A body to die for
I'll tell you right away, I think the Mi MIX 3 is an absolutely gorgeous smartphone. It's not as flamboyant as a Mate 20 Pro or tacky like the new Honor View 20. The Mi MIX 3 is just a set of clean lines, great choices of materials and what looks like a refined engineering. Consider this: the Mi MIX 3 is a smartphone with a display that scrolls down (I'll think about it a little later), but you can barely hear the joint or the point where the screen rises from the rest of the body. It is phenomenal.
So, there's weight. There's a thin line between a phone that's too heavy and a phone heavy enough to seem expensive. The flagship smartphone of Xiaomi absolutely nailed it when it comes to this balance. Even ceramics gives this smartphone an aspect that is really difficult to replicate with glass. But being beautiful is not all that this material does for the phone: it is also surprisingly enduring. I like to use my smartphones without a case because it's a good way for me to understand how well the phone body will hold over time.
Typically, at the end of my review, the smartphones with the back of glass that I'm so used to handling would be covered in micrographs and even a couple of deep ruts, if I'm not careful. But not the Mi MIX 3. That ceramic back is still perfect as it was the first day and I'm so impressed.
I'm also glad that Xiaomi decided to go with a polished aluminum band this time, instead of an anodized like they did with MIX 2. Yes, it's not completely ceramic like the original MIX, but it's as safe as hell it feels like it is. For a phone to feel expensive, I always thought it was necessary to feel as strong as it was fragile. At the beginning it might seem strange, but I think you'll understand what I mean when I pick it up. Xiaomi has found a great balance here that I think is only second to the Nokia 8 Sirocco – and this is indeed a great eulogy.
Despite the astonishing build quality, there is a slit in the otherwise impeccable armor of the laptop of a well built goodness. But this particular vulnerability also seems to be the downtime of the laptop.
Clicking on the spot
By now you probably already know that Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 is one of the few modern smartphones for magnetic sliding mechanism. I go over why this was needed first in my practical post, but the juice is that this is Xiaomi's solution for what I like to call the camera's conundrum. In the quest to eliminate all the front panels from the front of the device, manufacturers had to find creative solutions to house all the elements that are normally found on the front of a device.
The most popular method we have seen is the infamous notch. But Xiaomi's Mi MIX has never been at the height, with both MIX and MIX 2 choosing to hide their selfie camera at the bottom of the laptop's chin. Then, either they filled the headset in a slot at the top of the device, or opted for a piezoelectric speaker (it vibrates the screen to produce sounds) plus an ultrasonic proximity sensor.
So, there is the Mi MIX 3, which has opted for an approach to the old school to solve a new world problem – something that, in retrospect, should have been so obvious: Slide the display like the old ones sliding phones.  When you do, open a world of possibilities when it comes to the size of the screen frame. I mean, just look at the display on the Mi MIX 3. It's unreal how immersive the viewing experience is. The 6.39-inch Full HD + AMOLED panel is absolutely stunning and has large viewing angles for an AMOLED display.
His absolute lack of ring nuts and borderline insane 93.4% screen / body ratio (0.934: 1) still seems so special even though I watched every day for over a week. However, I will say that the 19.5: 9 aspect ratio of this phone is one of the highest I've used on a smartphone, so the pillarboxing for 16: 9 content (which is most of the videos out there) is real . But the bright side is that the phone's footprint is still very manageable for a screen of this size.
Oh, and as icing on the proverbial cake, the sliding front panel of Xiaomi is not there just when you need to access the selfie cameras In fact, the company allows you to customize the operation of the slider, so that you can set it to launch specific apps or tools, or you can leave it in the default mode to automatically start the selfie camera. But the thing I like best is that you can now answer phone calls with a slide down (even if you can not hang up with a slide).
Of course, having a mobile part on a smartphone is a risky move. If our phones are already in error for all sorts of reasons when they have almost zero moving parts, one could only imagine the plethora of problems caused by a sliding display.
Well, according to Xiaomi, the magnetic sliding mechanism on the Mi MIX 3 should be very durable. They rate it for around 300,000 slides, which works at around 150 slides a day for a little less than five and a half years – very impressive. And, on that note, I think they also did a fantastic job with the feel and quality of the sliding mechanism. You click really satisfyingly when you lower or raise the front panel, and it does not move accidentally when you scroll through the Web pages. It is buttery and safe and, above all, when the cursor is closed, it does not seem to negatively affect the structural rigidity of Mi MIX 3.
However, even if the gap between the display and the rest of the frame is something you can not really feel in your hand, there is still a gap there. And when there is a gap, it becomes vulnerable to things that remain trapped.
Dust, for example, sticks to the slots between the display and into the earphone and camera section at the top of the phone. But the real problems arise when something bigger – and more difficult – is caught between the pieces. During my review period, I spent a whole day with something small, sharp and hard, stuck between the two panels. When this happened, every time I slid the display, I was greeted with a scratchy sound instead of a satisfying click. That said, the grain of sand or what was stuck in the cracks disappeared the next day, and I did not see any visible damage to the chassis of the Mi MIX 3.
But, something like that also made me realize that some of the main features of the flag had to give up owning a smartphone like this.
The wrong side of practical currency
Of course, with 100% moving parts more than the typical flagship smartphone, you do not have any water resistance IP67 / IP68 with Mi MIX 3. In reality, I would not even want to be taken in the rain with this smartphone because I fear that any amount of water will kill it. While I usually position the water resistance high enough on my list of needs for a flagship smartphone, I recently switched to the Mi MIX 3 from a mid-ranger who did not even have water resistance, so it was not such a strident change for me. But your mileage may vary.
What was particularly disappointing to me, however, is the fact that the Mi MIX 3 speakers are definitely atrocious. They're also bad for mono speaker setups, but I think in a phone like this, Xiaomi did not really have room to put big drivers or echo chambers to improve speaker quality. To make matters worse, even this phone does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but you know it's no longer an unusual thing for the high end, so now I'm a little insensitive.
Finally, however, we have the biggest sacrifice that Xiaomi had to do: battery. In the Mi MIX 3, you will find a small 3,200 mAh battery. With the flagships that exceed 4000 mAh, that little battery was the most disappointing thing about Mi MIX 3 when I first saw the data sheet. But, the small cell that could actually publish better numbers than I expected.
With moderate use (lots of Netflix, YouTube and social media with a camera dash) the device actually lasted me for over 18 hours on a single charge with about five hours of screen activation time. This is what I consider the "average" battery life for a smartphone in 2019, so props there. That said, could you imagine how long I'll have more time with this phone if it had room for a larger 4,000 mAh cell? However, since it is not posting terrible numbers, I suppose I should not give it such hard time.
The good news is that Xiaomi has had enough space for another couple of goodies that I think really complete the device.
To complete the experience
One of the most important aspects of a flagship smartphone is its camera. Unlike the mid-range, high-end phones have to perform because they often pay a lot more money for them. But on the Mi MIX 3, I would say that this camera is definitely OK. Yes, I know that DxOMark says it's as good as the Samsung Galaxy Note9 when it comes to photography, but I would not go so far.
In fact, to see if I was alone in this, I took a quick side-by-side shot if a typical scene daytime with both Mi MIX 3 and Galaxy Note9. Then, I asked my colleagues to choose between the two and most of them chose the Galaxy Note9. Of course, choosing a nicer picture is a deeply subjective thing, but there are also objective ways to judge a phone.
Mi MIX 3 of Xiaomi takes photos that often maintain a good amount of detail, but the highlights are cut from time to time. It's also an AI mode, but it's a lot thinner than what you might find on other competing Chinese smartphones.
In addition to this, Xiaomi also added a "Night Mode" seems to work like Night Pixel of Google Pixel and Night Mode of Mate 20 Pro, but does not come close to producing the kind of quality images that the other two can do.
And frankly, I was deeply impressed by the camera selfies.
I consider this camera at B + thanks to its snappy snap and OK images, but personally I do not think it can compete in the higher end of the market.
What I loved about Mi MIX 3 that I have the fact that Xiaomi did not force an in-display fingerprint scanner on MIX 3. That tend to be much slower – and much more inaccurate – than their traditional counterparts so I've never been a fan of them.
Instead, what you have left on the Mi MIX 3 is just a damn regular, rear-mounted, which I'd like to carry out every day with the current set of in-display scanners. There is a facial release if you do not want to get around to scan your finger, and you can also slide the front panel down to activate it, which is the best thing.
A bit of both goes long way
My biggest complaint about the Mi MIX 2 was the feeling that Xiaomi was trying to sell. And when they started to abandon the magic for practicality, all he did was expose the flaws of Mi MIX 2 compared to other flagship smartphones that could be purchased. That said, while I loved the original Mi MIX, I never had the feeling that it was a device that was practical enough to be used by everyone on a daily basis. He tore me up because I did not want to be forced to choose one or the other. I wanted both.
And in a sense, I found it with Mi MIX 3.
Yes, it's not quite as practical as your typical high-end smartphone and I do not think it can really compete -a-toe on each one of those flagship features. But the beauty of MIX 3 is that it is not necessary because it has something that none of these flagships do. It has this very special feature that is equal to the cold parts and impractical, but also quite exceptional. In a sense it's like the original MIX, and I really like it on this phone.
However, I think the best part of MIX 3 is its price. Just like MIX 2 is successful, Mi MIX 3 will be retail – at launch – for RM2.199 only. This is a really good price for a flagship smartphone with these specifications, and even less a flagship smartphone with a unique feature like magnetic scrolling. And, even if I do not like it, you have to pay RM100 more for the Jade Green and Sapphire Blue variants because they are exactly the same smartphone, it's still a more than reasonable price for a phone like this.
Photograph by Rory Lee, with Sony A7 III.