Hey all you Mi Fans out there!
You know after I received my MIX 3 I was a little at a loss. I really wanted to brag about this great device, but by this time it was already around May of this year and not only was MIX 3 already half a year old but even it's modern variant had already been announced months prior. Thankfully this contest arrived and has given me the opportunity to talk up this (still available online) amazing device!
Back in mid 2016 the smartphone industry had reached an impasse. What was so special about the next rectangle to come off the assembly line?
That's when Xiaomi would revolutionize the industry and change its course forever. The original Mi MIX was a milestone for smartphone technology and for the first time since the first iPhone released new devices were interesting again. Still nothing would come close to the Mi MIX's incredible 90.1% screen-to-body ratio. But this ended up a double edged sword. Yes the Mi MIX was at the top but new phones come out every year. How was Xiaomi going to top themselves?
Everybody's allowed to have a misstep once in a while right? Besides Xiaomi was smart enough to show us Mi Fans this proposed MIX 2 design first instead of just releasing the phone. After we rejected it Xiaomi was left with continuing MIX's chin design through the Mi MIX 2 period while it left the notch design up to Apple to copy and popularize. It ended up a pretty good decision considering both the iPhone X and XS failed spectacularly while Apple's marketing of the design popularized it so much that most Android OEMs would end up adopting it leading to great sales for Xiaomi's following Mi 8.
The Mi MIX 2S brought the hardware of 2018 to the MIX series but there was still no update on the Full Screen design. Besides those following in the wake of the notch other phones seemed to have given up on improving the design. We started getting that old rectangle design again.
But finally after two years Xiaomi finally had the answer. The Mi MIX 3 arrived in October of last year with a much improved 93.4% screen-to-body ratio.
MIX 3 possesses all of MIX 2S's powerful specs: the same Snapdragon 845 processor with the option between 6GB and 8GB of RAM and between 128 and 256GB of storage. It also benefits from the improved ceramic back design of the MIX 2 with curved edges on all four sides that allow for much better ergonomics. MIX 3 retains the 10W fast wireless charging capability that started with MIX 2S along with the charger itself and this time stored right inside of the box! Even at its slower pace charging up these devices to full only takes 2 hours at most. The rear camera setup is the same 4-axis OIS dual 12MP cameras with AI capabilities which drastically improved image quality and when the device first released it had one of the highest DxO scores on the market and somehow surpassed even the MIX 2S despite sharing the same hardware. AI has also allowed the MIX 3 and its predecessor to pull off some really cool abilities.
Then we have the brand new Full Screen design. To break through the original MIX's ratio ceiling of 90.1% some OEMs had decided to add another display and use the rear-facing cameras as a selfie cam too. However Xiaomi did them one better.
It kept the bezel-less display but by adding a sliding mechanism the selfie camera could remain and what a setup they added with the extra space! It was the first 24MP camera added to a smartphone's front panel and on top of that its pixel size is a large 1.8 microns. On top of that Xiaomi added a second camera for depth sensing and flash which up to that point none of the notched designs had.
In addition to being able to include such an incredible selfie camera Xiaomi was able to create an even more accurate facial recognition system. And it also helps that slider phones had faded into cell phone history so now each time I use the Face Unlock feature it's like I'm James Bond.
The customizable sound effect for sliding also helps. I've left mine on default but there are a few other preloaded sounds to choose from including a lighter or even a sword! But of course it is a Xiaomi phone and what Xiaomi phone would be complete without themes? So you could actually apply a custom sound of your choice.
The slider itself is also very interesting since it's another "button" in a way. Now you can slide down to immediately open the camera app and switch the camera to selfie. Then it'll automatically close it back down or it'll switch back to the rear camera if you were already using the camera app. Otherwise you could use the sliding gesture to activate a shortcuts menu though I prefer the camera.
And if that wasn't enough Xiaomi took a page from Samsung and added a new button. But unlike Samsung even though the button is only meant to be the "AI button" and calls Xiaomi's Xiao Ai AI voice assistant they decided they could add some more features to it. By default long pressing activates Xiao Ai just like pressing the button on the Note 10 will activate Bixby. But then you can add a shortcut for pressing it which I applied to open WeChat. Then you could add another shortcut for double tapping the button. And the coolest part is that you can actually train Xiao Ai and record a preset command to apply to these button presses. For example one of the default examples is to check the weather. So you can just say (sadly only in Chinese) "Xiao Ai please check the weather" and apply that to the button. Then the next time you want to check the weather you just need to hit the button.
Speaking of Xiao Ai let's talk about how MIX 3 was the first phone to debut with the very AI based MIUI 10!
On MIUI 10 just about every function we'd had on our MIUI was boosted with AI. My favorite has to be the brand new QR feature that can now identify plants (like your groceries) actively translate words or whole sentences and not only scan codes but plain text as well.
The app vault also got a make over and looks more polished than on MIUI 9 and the brand new volume rocker even got Lou from Unbox Therapy excited.
Mi Labs is also a welcome addition and something close to what I'd suggested once upon a time. With it Xiaomi can present a few optional experimental phase features that we can try before it becomes a full fledged feature. For example the new Car Mode that makes it easier to control your device when your hands are mostly occupied with the wheel.
I'd also been vocal about changing the swipe up feature from one of the now many ways to access search to anything else. I'd originally thought the App Vault would have been a good replacement but Xiaomi did us one better. There's a new Content Center which provides news alongside videos and interest groups.
Finally MIUI 10 did one very cool thing for our Mi Phones which is really evident on my MIX 3.
That is being able to boot in an astounding 14 seconds! And I thought my MIX was fast with its 24 second boot times but MIUI 10 has trimmed that down!
But if MIUI 10 wasn't good enough for you MIX 3 was also one of the first devices to be upgraded to our latest MIUI 11 with the first developer rom OTA v9.9.24 released this last September.
And the MIX 3 power play doesn't even end there. Where for most the top end MIX 3 with its 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage would be enough MIX 3 gives us an even higher end variant called the Museum Edition.
This monster of a device ups the RAM to 10GB and until this year was the most RAM you could get in a smartphone. Of course the rest of the package looks really cool too but really it's the additions to the MIX 3 package that arrived as a result of this edition that are much more near and dear to my heart. First off there's the Museum Edition case. Not the one you get in the box but the one you get from the store.
Look at this! It is so cool and it really spruces up the phone while adding a little more grip which is even more important for this phone than on normal phones thanks to the sliding feature. Not only did the Museum Edition come out with this cool case but there needed to be a custom theme to go along with it!
Which is available in the Themes Store for anybody to use! The lockscreen is animated, the icons have a really traditional Chinese flavor which is pretty interesting and there's just an overall pleasant aesthetic to it. Plus it just recently got updated to be compatible with MIUI 11 devices!
But the Museum Edition wasn't the only higher than high end version of MIX 3 to come out. This guy got another variant that would become the world's first 5G phone!
Now to say a device of this quality wouldn't turn heads is impossible to believe. Even in its home market where rivals popped up almost immediately there was just no comparison.
MIX 3 was still in a class of its own. The slider was a unique magnetic form making it much more durable than others. Xiaomi was also hip enough to tack on sleek looking edge lighting and of course the sound effect. And of course you have the slider's gesture feature that I mentioned which is not availabe on its rivals. These additional qualities set it apart in China but over here in America the best competition MIX 3 even has is that stove top design iPhone 11 and the "we aren't going to do notches" Galaxy Note 10. I was like James Bond! Just using Face Unlock or taking a selfie got plenty of attention and my street cred rocketed up. Nobody even considered that you could hide the selfie cam behind the screen like this. I can't imagine how they'll react when Xiaomi brings out the Under the Display selfie cam.
Ok ok ok so for all that bragging I just did I can't let that be it. No phone is perfect and it is good to know the shortcomings so that they may be improved on in the future. So what are MIX 3's faults?
Well the first one has to be the battery. Yes MIUI optimizations have done wonders for a battery that's only 3200mAh. But it is still a battery on a full screen device that's only 3200mAh. The original MIX had a whopping 4400mAh! And we're about to get a Mi Note 10 with its 108MP camera that comes with a gigantic 5280mAh battery! 3200 in 2019 is just a little too small. And the bigger issue about having a battery small like this is that it was made small to save on space to make the phone thinner. But thinner only means that there's a noticeable camera bump. Why do that when filling up the space would let the battery be bigger meaning along with the optimizations it would last so much longer and also not have a camera bump. Wait a minute. That's exactly what happened!
The 5G version of the phone filled up the back to sport a 3800mAh battery and because of that the camera bump is much less noticeable. Sadly when it comes to the 5G super high end edition there's another problem. Thanks to it being released outside of China where it's only known as the low price phone brand Xiaomi was forced to sell at only 600 euro meaning it had to cut out other things like the storage at only 64GB and the RAM at only 6GB. The Museum Edition meanwhile does have the large storage and a whopping 10GB of RAM but it's still got the same small battery, the camera bump that goes with it and of course it only has a Snapdragon 845 under the hood.
This brings me to my last issue with the MIX 3 and all its variants. (Maybe even all recent Mi Phones in general.) You see the world is a different place now than it used to be. Sure Qualcomm was the best of the best back in 2017 and earlier but MIX 3 released in 2018 where a new era had started. Huawei's era. So while the 845 and coupled with Xiaomi's optimizations meant that you got a phone that can still outpace 2019's Samsung Note 10 or the iPhone 11 it can't do anything against Huawei's answer to the MIX 3 the Honor Magic 2.
Beaten in all categories! That's because the Kirin 980 chip that beats at the heart of the Honor Magic 2 is so much better than the Snapdragon 845. Huawei had started on a new trajectory. In 2017 it was the first company to create an AI infused SoC in the Kirin 970. It was from Kirin 970 that Qualcomm got the idea to make 845 into an AI SoC. But by that time Huawei had already developed the much faster 980 which was 5G capable. So Qualcomm answered with this year's 855 that was its first 5G chip only even now in its 855 Plus form it is less than half the performance of Huawei's Kirin 990 chip.
These are points to think about as we move forward. First the age of ultra thin phones is gone. Fact is the knife thin phones Apple kept making are just not easy to hold and the camera bump that comes with it is horrible. Make the phones thicker and put in the bigger battery and maybe even other things now with that extra space. - cough - headphone jack - cough -
Second go big or go home. Xiaomi is no longer just the cheap but high end brand anymore. Yes our Mi Phones are not as expensive as all the other flagship quality devices out there. But that's because they are priced right not priced low. I think Xiaomi realized to teach people that with this year's MIX α. At $3000 I don't think anybody will think Xiaomi is only about cheapness ever again. Xiaomi's brand should be about having the world leading tech and innovation that its rivals have been copying for years. It's the market leader right now and has been since 2016 thanks to this MIX series.
But lastly in terms of which chips to use in our best of the best devices Qualcomm isn't going to last. Ever since the Kirin 970 debuted it's Huawei's time and if it is at all possible we should try to get those more powerful chips into our devices. There's no reason why MIX 3 should have lost in speed to the Honor Magic 2. It is a better device in all categories besides when it comes to Kirin 980 vs Snapdragon 845. Of course it might not be possible to buy from Huawei but that only means that maybe it's about time Xiaomi dust off the old Surge chip series. We've been waiting on the Surge S2 for many years.
The Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 is absolutely a showcase of Xiaomi's innovation and technological expertise. It is a worthy successor to the MIX series of smartphones and even with little brother MIX α storming towards us with that Typhoon Display as the fans call it my MIX 3 is still a great companion to have in my day to day.
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