It hasn’t been a year since Xiaomi put down its suitcases in France, but the Chinese brand has been prolific! Three shops opened in the capital, including one on the prestigious Avenue des Champs-Elysées, and a dozen smartphones sold, most of which received a good critical reception.
The brand is not resting on its laurels at the beginning of 2019, Xiaomi offers a new flagship in its famous “Mix” series with the Mi Mix 3. In keeping with the tradition of the Mix range, the latter relies on emerging technologies rarely seen on the market, with a focus on design. The Mi Mix 3 adopts a sliding system to hide the front sensor and get rid of the notch.
A similar solution was seen at Oppo with the Find X launched at 999 euros in France. True to its tradition, Xiaomi significantly compresses prices to 529 euros, and even 499 on special offer during the first weeks of marketing. Aggressive pricing for a different smartphone, but not perfectly executed, is what we will see in this test.
Xiaomi has dressed her Mi Mix 3 in ceramic, with a real mirror effect. The effect is so elaborate that it can… really act as a mirror, barely hindered by the fingerprint sensor which has undergone the same treatment. Only the photo module will cut the reflections, but it blends in with the whole without difficulty. At the front… there’s nothing to see except the screen and a lower part slightly thicker than the rest as is the case with competitors like OnePlus on its 6T. Only Apple can really shave the chin.
The Mi Mix 3 offers us a very pure design. In the absence of a notch or punch like the View 20 of Honor, the Mi Mix 3 is for the moment the closest smartphone to the “all screen”. All we can do is put it to his credit. Since this is all we see, we shouldn’t miss it. Not surprisingly, Xiaomi opted for a 6.39-inch AMOLED panel with 2340 x 1080, a resolution of approximately 403 ppi and a 19.5 aspect ratio: 9. The slab comes from Samsung, and thus brings the South Korean know-how to the Chinese to offer us the right colors and infinite blacks.
But the particularity of this screen is obviously the fact that it can slide to reveal the front sensors. Unlike Oppo who did it with a motor on the Find X, Xiaomi uses magnets to provide manual movement. The latter is more sensible for several reasons. First of all because it’s less subject to wear and tear (Xiaomi claims 300,000 cycles, by the way) and it has that really enjoyable side of the smartphones of yesteryear. You know? The ones where you could discover the number pad with a thumb gesture, with that characteristic sound. The brand understood that this would speak to the nostalgic, since you can get off the slide.
By default, operating the mechanism will launch the camera in selfie mode. You can also choose to open a menu of tools including the flashlight, timer or calculator. This is the option we think is the most useful, but it all depends on how often you take selfies. You may or may not accompany the slide with various sound effects, including the sound of a sword or a lighter. It’s fun for a few days, but in reality the natural sound of the mechanism is so satisfying that it’s self-sufficient.
While the slider solves some problems, it is not free of flaws either. At first, if your hands get dry from the winter cold, operating the mechanism is quite complicated and in some cases can even be a factor in a fall. Another problem inherent to this system is the lack of water resistance, even though, at Xiaomi’s landfill, few products offer it in this price range. The magnet system also adds to the weight of the device. At 218 grams, it’s now the heaviest smartphone in its class. Thickness remains relatively controlled at 8.46 mm.
The mark can also be blamed for the lack of facial recognition. While it is understandable that it is not perfectly adapted to the slider, it is a pity that the user was not offered the possibility of using this unlocking mode. It’d look great with the slide. Too bad. So there’s some good stuff in this slide, at least, but the originality is worth the detour.
On performance, no surprises to report. Xiaomi used a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 like all her friends. No need to introduce him, he offers all the performance expected of him on the phone. Nothing wrong with that. There’s no better place to be at the moment. The SoC is supported by 6 GB of RAM, and storage starts at 128 GB. It is not expandable, but a second SIM slot is present.
Xiaomi didn’t go crazy with the battery by opting for 3200 mAh. This is a little less than its competitors offering similar prices, such as the OnePlus 6T (3700 mAh) or the Honor View 20 and its impressive 4000 mAh. The Mi Mix 3 is not dazzling in terms of autonomy, but is not to be outdone. You’ll have a day’s use for sure, and often enough rabes so you don’t have to rush to a charger when you wake up. The presence of a wireless charger in the box and the quick recharge are to be welcomed in passing.
On the software part, Xiaomi scared us. The product arrived in our offices in a commercial version equipped with MIUI 10 which was clearly not worthy of a… commercial version. There were untranslated menus and various bugs. One of them particularly irritated us: the lack of notification when an SMS is received. Fortunately, while writing this test, MIUI 10.2 arrived to correct a lot of the problems.
However, it is still not ready yet. Instead of not being translated, the “Slider” parameters are now mistranslated to “Cursor”. A detail regarding the biggest problem with overlay: a keyboard that barely speaks French. Automatic correction is clearly bad. It doesn’t correct accents or typos, and worse, it even makes mistakes for you. This makes writing messages of all kinds frankly painful. Xiaomi needs to fix this as soon as possible. The last point is that it is impossible to modify some default applications. A link received by SMS can only be opened via the manufacturer’s browser for example.
It is frankly damaging to this overlayer which is otherwise quite well thought out and pleasant to use on a daily basis.
Xiaomi always had some difficulties on the picture but with this Mi Mix 3, things tend to get better. In daylight, the 12 MP (at f/1.8) + 12 MP combo produces satisfactory results. It is in low light that Xiaomi will mark the step by losing a lot of details by capturing less light than others. The Mi Mix 3 misses a little bit when the light goes down.
Colour rendering is better on Galaxy Note 9, but given the price difference between the two products, Xiaomi has nothing to be ashamed of
In low light, we quickly lose detail and the grain is visible on our 100% crop. The picture as a whole remains usable but does not make you dream.
You will also find a double photo sensor on the front: 24 mpx and 2 mpx. The second will only be used to calculate depth effects in portrait mode, which is therefore quite well managed. Finally, let’s note the possibility of capturing videos in 960 fps for super slow motion.
All in all, the Mi Mix 3 is definitely a dog. This “slider” gives it a character that no other has at the moment. That’s cool. Simply put. And then the product is sexy with this borderless screen without notches or punches, and then it runs like clockwork, and then it offers honorable pictures, and then there’s no worries about battery life.
On the other hand, the smartphone is handicapped by certain absences, such as “simple” 2D facial recognition. It could easily have been implemented even with the mechanism in place. The software part is also not up to scratch and frankly plagues the user experience on a daily basis. Can’t wait for an update.
This Mi Mix 3 can certainly be a “guilty pleasure”, a choice of the heart. At the moment, however, it is not the best option around 500 euros except to fall in love with the slider.