The Mi Mix 2S and Galaxy S9+ are iterative updates, but they offer key upgrades in several areas.
The Galaxy S9+ shares the same fundamental design as its predecessor, with Samsung instead focusing on improving the camera. Xiaomi is undertaking a similar strategy with the Mi Mix 2S, which has the same design as last year's Mi Mix 2 but with an upgraded chipset and a new dual camera setup at the back.
When I compared the Galaxy S8+ to the Mi Mix 2 last year, I found that the camera on the S8+ was vastly superior to what Xiaomi was offering on its flagship. The Chinese manufacturer has committed to improving the camera quality on its phones this year, and we saw the same in the budget segment with the Redmi Note 5 Pro.
With the Mi Mix 2S, Xiaomi is touting a new AI mode that automatically picks the best shooting mode based on the lighting conditions. Let's find out if the improvements make the Mi Mix 2S hold its own against the Galaxy S9+.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S vs. Samsung Galaxy S9+: Specs
Where they're both equal
Both the Mi Mix 2S and the Galaxy S9+ have a lot in common — they have minimal bezels up front and reflective backs, they feature the latest hardware available today, and both offer wireless charging. The Mi Mix 2S is compatible with the Qi wireless standard, whereas the Galaxy S9+ works with both Qi and PMA.
Both phones have top-notch performance as well: you're not going to encounter any slowdowns or lags on either device. The Galaxy S9+ comes with 6GB of RAM as standard, as does the Mi Mix 2, and both phones can be configured with up to 256GB of internal storage. The 256GB option on the Mi Mix 2S comes with 8GB of RAM, as well as global LTE bands — the standard variant has LTE connectivity limited to Asian markets.
The similarities continue on the software side of things as well — both phones come with Oreo out of the box. The Mi Mix 2S features MIUI 9.5, and Xiaomi has significantly improved the stability and fixed numerous bugs. Samsung Experience 9.0, meanwhile, is nearly identical to what we saw on the S8+ last year. I'm giving MIUI the edge on this front just for the sheer improvement in performance from the previous iteration.
Over the last two years, the differentiator between a $500 phone and one costing over $800 was the camera. If you wanted a camera that consistently took great photos in any lighting scenario, you had to shell out the big bucks.
However, it looks like all that's changing this year, at least if the camera on the Mi Mix 2S is any indication.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S on the First, Galaxy S9+ on the Second
Xiaomi's new AI-assisted feature is in use here, and it makes the Mi Mix 2S stand out. The photo taken by the S9+ has a yellowish tint throughout, but that isn't the case on the Mi Mix 2S. The colors are accurate as well, and overall the Mi Mix 2S wins this one.
The Mi Mix 2S also edges out the S9+ in this photo. The S9+ image is washed out, and you don't necessarily get accurate colors.
This is where the S9+ starts to take the lead. It was able to focus faster, leading to a crisper image. The colors are much more vibrant as well, and there's more detail.
Low-light photography has been the main drawback on Xiaomi phones in the past, but the Mi Mix 2S vastly improves on that front.
This is a particularly tricky photo as there's little light, but the Mi Mix 2S does a great job of preserving detail. If anything, it does better than the S9+.
Overall, it's safe to say that the Mi Mix 2S has the best camera of any Xiaomi phone by some distance. It may just be the camera to beat in the $500 space.
What the Mi Mix 2S does better
The Mi Mix 2S has a ceramic back while the Galaxy S9+ comes with a glass back reinforced by Gorilla Glass 5, and when it comes to durability, the former takes the lead. The ceramic back gives the Mi Mix 2S added resistance to tumbles, and it doesn't scratch as easily — after a month of use, the back of my Galaxy S9+ is littered with scratches.
The Mi Mix 2S also feels better to hold thanks to the subtle curves at the back and the smaller 5.99-inch form factor. The 6.2-inch 18.5:9 panel on the S9+ is a tad too large, and the narrow chassis combined with the tall display makes the phone unwieldy. It's also easier to reach the fingerprint sensor on the Mi Mix 2S — it is located where your finger usually rests at the back, so you don't have to contort your hand to access it.
Then there's the battery: the Mi Mix 2S comes with a 3400mAh battery, slightly lower than the 3500mAh battery on the Galaxy S9+. However, the FHD+ panel and MIUI's battery-saving optimizations make the phone last significantly longer than the S9+. The difference is particularly noticeable when using cellular data throughout the day — the Galaxy S9+ barely managed to last over 14 hours, whereas the Mi Mix 2S delivered over 20 hours of battery life.
The Mi Mix 2S also has the upper hand when it comes to charging. The phone comes with Quick Charge 3.0 — allowing the phone to fully charge up in just over an hour and a half — whereas the Galaxy S9+ is still limited to Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging.
What the Galaxy S9+ does better
The display on the Galaxy S9+ is in a league of its own. Samsung dominates the OLED segment with its AMOLED panels, and the screen on the S9+ is about as good as it gets on a phone today. The colors are vibrant and saturated, viewing angles are excellent, and the panel is certified for HDR10, making it a delight to view content from Netflix or Prime Video.
Both the Mi Mix 2S and Galaxy S9+ have stereo speakers, although the setup on the Galaxy S9+ is better — you get more detail, and the soundstage is wider. Audio on the Mi Mix 2S gets garbled at high volumes, but that isn't an issue on the Galaxy S9+. The built-in loudspeaker on the S9+ is one of the best around today, and a significant improvement from last year.
The Galaxy S9+ also wins out as it has a 3.5mm jack, a sore omission on the Mi Mix 2S. The AKG earbuds bundled with the S9+ are pretty great too, and while Xiaomi makes a decent set of USB-C earbuds, they're not bundled in the box. All you get is a dongle to hook up your wired audio gear to the USB-C port.
Then there's water resistance — the Mi Mix 2S is rated for the occasional splash of water, but it won't survive a dunk in the pool. The Galaxy S9+, meanwhile, is certified IP68, making it more immune to the elements. And while it's hard to quantify a feature like Samsung Pay, it is one of the best mobile payments services around.
Who is the runaway Winner?
The Mi Mix 2S is the most refined Xiaomi phone I've used thus far — and that's saying something as I used every single phone the company has launched over the last three years. Xiaomi nailed the hardware part of the equation from the beginning, and that was a large reason for the brand's success. And while MIUI had a lot going for it, recent iterations have felt bloated, with basic features like push notifications being broken in early builds.
Thankfully, Xiaomi fixed a lot of these issues in MIUI 9.5 — the ROM finally feels like a cohesive effort and not something that's been tacked down with new features following every update.
For around the $550 mark, there's plenty to like in the Mi Mix 2S. The hardware is evocative (as always), and Xiaomi finally fixed long-standing issues in MIUI. Then there's the camera — which is a significant upgrade over previous Xiaomi flagships. The phone is a legitimate contender for the best device in this category, but if you're looking for an all-around option, the Galaxy S9+ is the better choice, particularly if you're in the U.S.
Things are slightly different in India, however. The Galaxy S9+ costs ₹64,900 ($1,000) in the country, and the Exynos 9810 version isn't as good as the Snapdragon 845 variant when it comes to battery life.
In fact, the battery life has degraded from the Galaxy S8 series, and seeing as how the Galaxy S8+ is available for ₹53,900 ($830), a better option would be to pick up last year's flagship. Sure, the camera on the Galaxy S9+ is better — and you get two of them — but it isn't worth the extra ₹11,000 premium the S9+ commands right now.
As for the Mi Mix 2S, if the phone launches at anywhere around the ₹36,999 ($560) mark as its predecessor, it has the potential to become one of the best smartphones in India.
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