No company causes more disruption in the smartphone market than Xiaomi. Time and time again, the Chinese company pushes incredible bang-for-buck products that undercut competing offerings at all levels.

The Mi 6 is the latest to do so, giving even the widely praised OnePlus 5 a run for its money.

You could argue that OnePlus causes more commotion with its annual smartphone releases. But unlike Xiaomi, OnePlus continuously ups its pricing with each iteration, making consumers wonder if the brand still caters to the budget-conscious.

With a starting price of US$ 450 on GearBest.com (where we also acquired our unit), the Mi 6 doesn’t seem that cheap, either — but all that changes after the first few minutes with it.

At 5.15 inches in screen size, it’s smaller than most flagships

Yes, the bezels are thick, but at least the fingerprint reader is in front

More glass covers the back

Would’ve looked better if not for all the text near the bottom

Careful, or else you’ll get lots of smudges on it

The package comes with a translucent case for added protection

Up top you’ll see the dual cameras and LED flash

No bumps, yay!

No physical home button — all capacitive here

You may switch the recent apps and back buttons if you wish

USB-C? Yes! Audio port? Nope

This is a trend we aren’t happy about

Is the performance any good?

This question must be answered with a big, fat yes. And it’s no surprise, really. Running on a Snapdragon 835 chipset, which is currently the highest-end smartphone processor in the market, there’s no doubt it can run anything you throw at the Mi 6.

It doesn’t end there; our review unit comes with 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage — and this happens to be the lowest-end configuration. If you’re willing to add a little more, you could opt for 128GB of storage or a sleeker ceramic version (but it might be more difficult to order).

I’d say the Mi 6 is as fast as the OnePlus 5, and way more powerful and efficient than the Mi Mix. Our usual gaming tests consisting of NBA 2K17 and Asphalt Xtreme went smoothly, whether or not we maxed out the visuals or went for extra fluid gameplay with lowered graphics settings.

Can it last more than a day?

Every time I review a Xiaomi device, I expect fantastic battery life. The Mi Mix, Redmi Note 4X, and Redmi 4 Prime left me more than satisfied. As for the Mi 6, it was a mixed bag.

Its battery is understandably smaller than the aforementioned Mi’s and Redmi’s, and that’s fine considering the Mi 6’s slimmer frame and more pocketable dimensions. Still, a 3350mAh battery powering a 5.15-inch 1080p screen is an impressive feat in itself, which shows in the results.

I could get anywhere between 4.5 to five hours of screen-on time during a full day’s worth of use. That would put the Mi 6 in the above-average range — not bad. Having the latest MIUI 8.2 interface on top of Android 7.1 Nougat is great; never has Xiaomi’s take on Google’s operating system been this clean and intuitive before.

But does it take nice photos?

While I have high standards for the battery endurance of Xiaomi phones, I have the opposite expectations for their camera performance. Whether you look at the entry-level, midrange, or premium segment, it’s tough to find that perfect camera-centric phone from this brand.

In the Mi 6’s case, it takes some work to achieve the right shot. Here are samples of the best we could do during the review period:

When the conditions are right, the camera is near-flawless. As long as you rely on the wider main camera at the back, photos are comparable to those of smartphones at this price bracket. The issues begin when you attempt to use the secondary rear camera’s optical zoom.

 

As useful as it is to zoom in on a subject without much quality loss, other variables like white balance and sharpness take a dive. Going into manual mode or using a tripod could fix these issues, but that would take so much time and defeat the purpose of taking quick snaps with your smartphone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Figuring out if the Mi 6 is your GadgetMatch or not depends on where you reside, because that would determine the types of deals you could get.

Tagged with a starting price of CNY 2,499 (about US$ 360), choosing a Mi 6 over its rivals is a no-brainer. However, that’s only possible in China, and importing through websites like GearBest would simply add to the original cost.

Considering a Mi 6 in the US$ 400 to 500 range means pitting it against the US$ 479 OnePlus 5, which has a bigger metal build and purer version of Android, it makes recommending one over the other a tougher affair.

Ignoring the price for a moment, favoring the Mi 6 is like picking any other Xiaomi: don’t fret about battery life, but at the same time, don’t expect much from the camera. In exchange, you’ll have a premium-looking build, highly customizable Android skin, and performance that goes beyond.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi 6 Unboxing and Hands-on

SEE ALSO
Xiaomi Mi 6 Unboxing and Hands-on