Review, Smartphone

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 Review: Sacrificing Practicality for Good Looks

The first Xiaomi Mi Mix impressed us with its sleek, almost bezel-less design, and it was released way back in 2016 before every other manufacturer decided to cut down on bezels. It was then followed by the Mi Mix 2, and while it was a more practical device, it lacked the original phone’s “wow factor.”

Now, we have the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, and it retains the series’ signature bezel-less design…with a twist. To avoid having a notched display or a hole-punch cutout, the Mi Mix 3 employs a slider design, hiding the selfie camera underneath the display.

It’s a great idea on paper, and even though it gives the phone a sleek aesthetic and unique appeal, it’s not the most practical design. But, if you’re willing to live with it, the Mi Mix 3 is a very solid flagship smartphone.

Specifications

Display6.39-inch FHD+ AMOLED (2340 x 1080)
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.8GHz octa-core
GPU
Adreno 630
RAM6GB
Storage128GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)
12MP f/1.8 + 12MP f/2.4 (telephoto), dual pixel AF, OIS
Camera (front)24MP + 2MP
Battery
3,200mAh
Dimensions157.89 x 74.69 x 8.46 mm
Weight
218g
OSMIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie
ConnectivityLTE
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
USB Type-C

For a 2018 flagship smartphone, the Mi Mix 3 is well-equipped. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s fastest chipset yet (the Snapdragon 855 isn’t in the market yet), it has generous RAM and storage capacities, and it features a very respectable camera system.

However, the Mi Mix 3’s average 3,200mAh battery is a cause for concern – I’ll get into detail further down this review.

Design

Without a doubt the Mi Mix 3’s most exciting design element is its slider mechanism, and it’s really fun to use. It is satisfying to activate, and I love the fact that there’s a sound effect whenever I slide the display down. Naturally, the sound effect is customisable.

That being said, I did face a number of issues with the Mi Mix 3’s slider design. For one, it gathers dust very easily, which is quite unsightly. Besides that, there were a couple of occasions where I accidentally pulled down the display when I was taking it out of my jeans pocket.

But the worst thing about the slider design is trying to activate it when I am doing something on the screen. More often than not, I would accidentally tap on something while trying to pull down the display, which can get frustrating.

Evidently, the slider design can be cumbersome to use. But in exchange, you’re getting an undisturbed viewing experience; the Mi Mix 3 has no notch or selfie camera cutout on the display to obstruct your view. Like it or not, this is an increasingly rare feature, especially on a flagship smartphone.

In terms of build quality, the Mi Mix 3 feels solid. The aluminium frame and ceramic back of the phone give it a premium touch, and the slider mechanism feels robust. However, while I do like the phone’s ceramic back, it is very slippery. In fact, I used the phone exclusively with the provided casing for this very reason – I really don’t want to drop it.

Smartphones without notched displays or hole-punch cutouts are becoming increasingly rare, and that makes the Mi Mix 3 an interesting option. Yes, the slider mechanism isn’t perfect, and there is always a possibility it will fail in the future, but hey, you’re getting an (almost) all-screen smartphone.

User Experience

Running on MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie, the Mi Mix 3 offers an “okay” software experience. Much like other Xiaomi phones such as the Mi 8 Pro, I still cannot dismiss notifications with a left swipe. Not surprisingly, I can’t interact with notifications on the lock screen either – other versions of Android don’t have these limitations.

But as a whole, MIUI 10 still offers relatively good software experience. It doesn’t feel sluggish, the user interface looks modern, and there’s an always on display. However, notifications from some apps (such as Telegram) still don’t show up on the always on screen.

As for biometric security, you have two options to unlock the Mi Mix 3: the fingerprint sensor, or the face unlock feature with the selfie camera. If you opt to choose the latter, you’d have to slide the display down for the feature to work. Yes, it is as troublesome as it sounds, so I mostly use the rear fingerprint sensor instead.

Oh, there’s also one neat feature I absolutely love while using the Mi Mix 3: the AI button on the left of the phone. The fact that I can change what the button does to my liking makes it an incredibly useful feature. I can, for example, double click on the button to activate the flashlight. If you don’t see any use for the button, no worries – you can outright disable it.

Samsung can definitely learn a thing or two from Xiaomi here with the former’s dedicated Bixby button.

Gaming on the Mi Mix 3 is unsurprisingly a very pleasant experience. After all, the Snapdragon 845 is a very capable chipset, even though it will be superseded by the Snapdragon 855 in the near future. But until that happens, the 845 is still the best chipset you can get from Qualcomm, and it provides a great level of performance.

Display quality of the Mi Mix 3 is very good too. Its 6.39-inch 2340 x 1080 AMOLED display is bright and vibrant, and viewing angles are great as well. Of course, as this is an AMOLED panel, you also get very deep blacks.

Now, let’s talk about the Mi Mix 3’s battery life. On average, I was getting about four to five hours of screen on time. It’s not fantastic battery life, and it’s definitely not the worst, but considering the fact that this phone measures 8.46mm thick and weighs a whopping 218g, you’d be wanting better battery life.

Charging rate of the Mi Mix 3, on the other hand, is also quite average. Within 30 minutes of charging, the phone got up to 50% from 0%.

Using the Mi Mix 3 as my daily driver is mostly a pleasant experience. It has decent battery life, a great display, and flagship-tier performance. Xiaomi’s MIUI 10 software could still use some work, but overall, it’s still a decent version of Android.

Camera

Sporting a 12MP f/1.8 + 12MP f/2.4 (telephoto) dual-camera system, the Mi Mix 3 has very respectable camera performance. Whether in broad daylight or low light environment, the phone can deliver impressive-looking shots. Judge for yourself with the sample images below.

What I particularly like is the Mi Mix 3’s Night mode, which allows the camera to capture better-looking low light shots by slowing down the shutter speed and increasing the ISO. This mode can make images look artificial in certain conditions, but most of the time, the end results are much better than shots taken in the normal mode.

Shooting with the Mi Mix 3 is a fairly fuss-free affair too. The camera app is responsive, and the interface is intuitive enough – changing between different shooting modes is quite seamless.

That being said, Xiaomi still has some catching up to do with class leaders like Samsung and Huawei when it comes to camera performance. Yes, the Mi Mix 3 is a great shooter, but I’d still rather shoot with the Galaxy S9+ if I had the choice.

Competition

For the Malaysian market, the Mi Mix 3 retails at RM2,199 – quite a decent price tag for a flagship smartphone. At this price point, it has a number of noteworthy competition.

Oppo Find X

Just like the Mi Mix 3, the Find X has an almost all-screen design unblemished by a notch or hole-punch cutout. But instead of a manual slider mechanism, the Find X uses a motorised design. It also has a Snapdragon 845 chipset, a larger 3,730mAh battery, double the internal storage at 256GB, as well as 8GB of RAM.

However, the Mi Mix 3 has the edge in one vital area: value for money. Xiaomi’s offering retails at only RM2,199, while the Find X costs a whopping RM3,699. On top of that, I’d also argue the Mi Mix 3 has better camera performance and software experience than the Find X.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Yes, the Galaxy S10 series is just around the corner, but you shouldn’t dismiss the Galaxy S9+ as a compelling alternative to the Mi Mix 3. Not only can you get the 128GB model for only RM2,488 now, the S9+ is superior in a number of key areas, including camera performance, software experience, and display quality.

Of course, the biggest disadvantage of the Galaxy S9+ is its top and bottom bezels. Although the display itself doesn’t have a notch or selfie camera cutout, its screen bezels are still larger than the Mi Mix 3’s. Also, the latter is still more affordable than the S9+, even if it’s not by a huge margin.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is a sleek device with a unique slider mechanism, and overall, it’s a solid flagship smartphone. But there is one thing that holds it back, which is the very feature that makes it a unique product: the slider mechanism.

As with all moving parts, there is always a chance the Mi Mix 3’s slider mechanism will fail; some would argue it’s only a matter of time. On top of that, even though activating the mechanism is a very satisfying experience, it can be quite cumbersome to use in certain situations.

Regardless, if you like the slider mechanism, and you’re perfectly okay with the possibility that it will eventually fail in the future, the Mi Mix 3 is definitely worth a buy. It has impressive camera performance, a fast chipset, decent battery life, and most of all, a sleek, almost all-screen design.