“While the Mix 2S might not be much different than its predecessor from the outside, it does bring much-needed improvements”

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the original Mi Mix helped to put Chinese brand Xiaomi on the global map. At a time when smartphone designs were starting to look dated, the Mi Mix came as a breath of fresh air with its minimum bezels and maximum screen. Its successor, the Mix 2 (review), took that concept even further by offering a tall aspect ratio of 18:9 to harness the screen real estate. However, the imaging prowess of the Mix 2 proved to be its Achilles Heel, especially at a time when dual cameras had become more than just a trend. Perhaps that explains why Xiaomi decided to launch a refresh in the form of the Mix 2S. The new phone was unveiled a couple of days ago in Shanghai, and we’ve managed to get our hands on the smartphone to see whether it’s just an iterative upgrade or if there’s more to it. Read on to find out.

Related read: Top 5 features of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

In true Xiaomi style, the box of the Mi Mix 2S features minimal branding. Clad in black, the box greets you with a paper sheet as soon as you open the lid. Beneath that, you’ll find the smartphone, along with a wall adapter and a USB Type-C cable. Along with that, the handset also comes bundled with a protective case.

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As aforementioned, Xiaomi has given special attention to the cameras on the Mi Mix 2S. The phone sports dual 12-megapixel snappers at the back, comprising a wide-angle and telephoto lens. Similar to its flagship siblings like the Mi 6, the camera array helps in offering optical zoom capabilities along with the ability to focus on the subject in the foreground and blur the background, with a portrait mode. The primary camera utilises Sony’s flagship IMX363 sensor with a f/1.8 aperture, promising impressive performance in low light as well. Thanks to DPAF (dual pixel autofocus), the smartphone can focus quickly as well. Xiaomi has also harnessed artificial intelligence to improve the camera experience. Sadly though, the demo unit we played with wasn’t running the final software and hence we couldn’t test these abilities. That said, the initial shots taken by the smartphone certainly look promising, and it’d be interesting to compare them against the likes of the Google Pixel 2 duo (review) and the Samsung Galaxy S9+ (review).

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On the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, the power of AI helps to offer a bokeh effect for the front camera as well. With selfies becoming more than a phenomenon though, a 5MP f/2.0 snapper may not able to match up to the competition… though we still need to test the phone properly before we can offer a conclusive verdict. Moreover, capturing self-portraits on the Mix 2S requires a change in habit… considering the awkward placement of the front camera on the bottom chin.

Speaking of which, the Mi Mix 2S is a carbon copy of the Mi Mix 2 from the front. A 5.99-inch panel adorns the fascia, with virtually non-existing bezels on three of its sides, and only a tiny bezel at the bottom. And that’s where the camera is placed, which means that for capturing selfies, one needs to hold the phone upside down. The ceramic back sports vertically-aligned dual cameras in the top left – similar to the Redmi Note 5 Pro (review), with a fingerprint sensor placed towards the middle. The glass on the front and the ceramic on the rear are held together by an aluminium frame, which continues with the usual placement of ports and controls.

The IPS panel might not be as punchy as AMOLED displays, but it remains crisp and vibrant thanks to full HD+ resolution and accurate colour reproduction. The brightness levels also seemed adequate in indoor conditions.

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At the phone’s heart ticks the latest and greatest chipset from Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 845. The octa-core chipset is built with a 10nm fabrication process and offers two quad-core clusters running at 2.8GHz and 2.0GHz respectively. With up to 8GB RAM, the smartphone should be able to handle everything like a champ. In our brief session, navigating between screens and switching to different apps was a smooth affair. While the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S doesn’t support memory expansion, it does ship with multiple storage options of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB.

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The Xiaomi Mi 2S is also the first smartphone from the brand to boot the latest iteration of Android, i.e. 8.0 Oreo, out of the box. On top of Google’s OS, the phone runs the proprietary MIUI 9.5 platform, which comes with a slew of new features. Powering Xiaomi’s latest offering is a 3,400mAh battery, which can be charged quickly thanks to QC 3.0 support. The Mix 2S is also the first smartphone from the phonemaker to support wireless charging. While the phone’s top-end variant (the one with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage) comes bundled with a 7.5W Qi wireless charger, the accessory will also be available to purchase separately for 99RMB (~Rs 1,000).

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Since the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 made its way to India soon after its unveiling, we’re hopeful that its successor will also land on our shores. Not only does the Mix 2S solve one of the biggest pain points of the Mix 2, the newest offering is also among the very few smartphones to come with the top-notch Snapdragon 845 SoC. And the best part is that the brand has kept the pricing highly competitive as its sticker price in China starts at 3,299RMB (around Rs 34,000), making it look like a worthy rival to the upcoming OnePlus 6.

Photos by Deepak Dhingra