Hands-On

Mi MIX 2S hands-on: Xiaomi’s pride and joy

A little change goes a long way

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Xiaomi has had a great year and the launch of the Mi MIX 2S in Shanghai this week is a milestone for a number of reasons.

During his keynote, Founder and CEO Lei Jun was quick to point out that like a dark horse, Xiaomi came back to the world stage in 2017 — climbing back to the top five and nearly doubling shipment growth while the rest of the top smartphone manufacturers’ numbers suffered.

Xiaomi also reached its target revenue of CNY 100 billion (US$ 15.8 billion), after just seven years of operations.

Lei Jun says this was possible not just because of Xiaomi’s solid fanbase, but also because of their relentless commitment to innovation. Xiaomi was able to acquire more than 6,000 patents by the end of last year, with more than half being global patents. And of course, who could forget, Xiaomi popularized the now mainstream full-screen display.

While fans will always argue that Sharp did it first, it was Xiaomi who opened the doors for other OEMs with the original Mi MIX. At the time, Google’s Compatibility Definition Document said that all Android devices must conform to the 16:9 aspect ratio. But Xiaomi challenged that and changed the Android world forever with the original Mi MIX and its 17:9 ratio.

In December 2017, the Mi MIX and Mi MIX 2 have been added to the permanent collection of the contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou in France

And if innovation is the core of Xiaomi, design and quality are its life. Xiaomi is now the Chinese company that has won the most number of industrial awards not just in China but in other parts of the world.

But among its growing ecosystem, Xiaomi is proudest of its award-winning MIX line, with the Mi MIX and MIX 2 also parts of European art museum collections.

Same beautiful design

It comes as no surprise then that Xiaomi retained the same beautiful form factor in this S update. Despite everything we’ve seen so far, the Mi MIX 2S is still one of the most beautiful phones out there.

Xiaomi Global Spokesperson Donovan Sung says the MIX 2S represents the company’s dedication to cutting-edge innovation and top-notch quality design. No pun intended.

The only compromise and the one thing we haven’t liked since the original MIX is the awkward front camera placement.

Sure it makes the design unique and now iconic, but it’s still the sore point in a phone that would otherwise be great.

If you’re like our managing editor Marvin or account manager Alven who don’t take a lot of selfies, this shouldn’t really be a problem. Rotating the phone is always an option if you have to. But if you use Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and video calls a lot like the rest of the population, this might be a deal-breaker.

While most brands have opted to put their own versions of the notch to achieve a full-screen display, Xiaomi is choosing a rather uncomfortable route for the MIX line for now.

The 5MP selfie camera on the white Mi MIX 2S can trigger your OCD

Unlike the Mi MIX 2, the MIX 2S will not come in special edition unibody ceramic versions. Instead, we’re getting two colors by default: black or white.

Black is the more seamless of the two, especially when turned off — even the front camera has a black coating.

Sung says the ultimate vision for the MIX line is for the phone to become one unblemished piece of glass — no notch, no bezels. He says the black version of the Mi MIX 2S is the closest we have to that vision and as for me, I personally can’t wait for that future.

Xiaomi Global Spokesperson Donovan Sung says the black Mi MIX 2S is the closest we have to the future of an unblemished piece of glass

But me and the rest of the GadgetMatch team really like the white version even if the front camera sticks out. Having reviewed hundreds of smartphones, it’s a refreshing sight in a sea of black devices.

It’s also less of a fingerprint magnet, comes with a really nice matte case that doesn’t make the phone look cheap, and most importantly, matches my outfits better if I must say so myself.

That notch-free display

Not everyone gives users the option to hide the notch, hence the hesitation among Android fans. It can be distracting especially when watching videos or playing games.

On the Mi MIX 2s, that’s not a problem. Videos fill up the entire screen as long as the app supports taller aspect ratios.

Watching Android Authority‘s Mi MIX 2S video on the white Mi MIX 2S

One caveat though is Netflix doesn’t support beta ROMs, which most of our Xiaomi units are on. It doesn’t even show up on the Google Play Store. There are, of course, do-it-yourself fixes available online, but like most users, I would rather have my favorite apps like Netflix available at my disposal without much tinkering, especially for a phone designed perfectly for content consumption.

Other than that, Xiaomi kept the same LCD display from the previous generations. It’s not the brightest we’ve seen but it’s bright enough for use under the sun.

AI in Cameras

Like most phones this year, the biggest upgrade on the Mi MIX 2S has to do with the cameras. Not only does it have dual 12-megapixel cameras, they’re also now equipped with AI, largely thanks to the high-end Snapdragon 845 chipset found inside.

Mi MIX 2’s single rear camera vs Mi MIX 2S’ dual cameras

The unit I’m using doesn’t have the final software yet so I didn’t really get to test all the new features, but at the event, Xiaomi showed off what it can do. The camera adjusts settings depending on your subject and scenario. It can detect 206 (yes, 206!) different scenes, including different settings for thinner leaves and Instagram-worthy succulents.

Some of the different scenes that can be detected by the Mi MIX 2S’ AI cameras

There’s real-time translation and currency conversion, which would be really useful in China for tourists like me. There’s also depth effect even on the selfie camera, and probably what I’m most excited to try: dynamic bokeh.

That said, the camera improvements don’t stop with the AI features. Compared to the Mi MIX 2, the MIX 2S’ cameras are noticeably better at handling dynamic range resulting in better color accuracy.

Photos are also more detailed and sharper without being oversharpened.

Selfies are not as mushy as before but still too tight for our liking, making group selfies almost impossible.

Although low-light photos have always been a weak spot for Xiaomi phones, improvements can be seen on the Mi MIX 2S on the main rear camera. It still has optical image stabilization, but now has a bigger 1.4µm pixel size on its new Sony IMX 363 sensor.

The second camera on the Mi MIX 2S is a telephoto lens for zoomed-in shots and portrait mode, which works surprisingly well — a far-cry from the Mi 6 and Mi A1’s crooked cutouts — even with my usually challenging wavy hair.

DxOMark gave the Mi MIX 2S an impressive photo score of 101 and an overall score of 97 — the same overall score as the iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s. I didn’t get to do a comparison with those two but here are more sample photos I took around Shanghai:

Despite the high photo score, DxOMark gave the phone a lower 88 for video performance, which is usually the case for a lot of smartphones. Even with OIS, videos shot on the Mi MIX 2S can still be a little shaky. Although I had way too much fun using the built-in time-lapse feature on the camera.

Efficient battery

Apart from powerful chipsets coupled with cheaper price tags, battery life on Xiaomi phones is usually what we’re most impressed with, and the Mi MIX 2S is no exception.

After a 10-hour day of taking photos and videos, checking emails, writing, a lot of social media, I still managed to get a little above five hours of screen-on time. Although again, the phone I’m using doesn’t have the final software yet so it can still improve or regress from here.

I didn’t do a charging test, but I got to try the white wireless charger that matches my new phone. Yes, the Mi MIX 2S now supports the standard Qi wireless charging and Xiaomi will be selling its own wireless charger for CNY 99 (US$ 15).

It only charges at a maximum of 7.5W, which is faster than most wireless chargers, but still a little slower than Samsung’s wireless charging pad that maxes out at 9W. A full charge of the Mi MIX 2S on the Xiaomi wireless charger takes less than three hours.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s hard to say given I haven’t tried the phone’s new features and full potential. But there’s one thing I know for sure: While more and more manufacturers are increasing prices for their devices recently, Xiaomi is proud to stay true to its brand.

Whenever asked whether they can maintain the same value proposition, Xiaomi’s response is always a resounding yes; they have been doing it for seven years and there’s no changing that.

The Mi MIX 2S is proof that Xiaomi’s reputation of building high-quality products for much less is here to stay. It will be available in China starting April 3 and pricing is as follows: CNY 3,299 (US$ 525) for the 6GB + 64GB model, CNY 3,599 (US$ 573) for the 6GB + 128GB model, and CNY 3,999 (US$ 573) for the 8GB + 256GB model.

Although if there’s one thing that’s changed about Xiaomi, it’s that they’re no longer the same Chinese startup that disrupted the smartphone space in 2011.

Their expansion in Western Europe and launching not in Beijing but in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai signify that Xiaomi recognizes they’re now a global company, ready and confident to be compared with the rest of the world.

With Xiaomi leading the way, and the MIX line as their pride and joy, Lei Jun says together with other Chinese companies, they are embarking on a transformation — changing the way the world perceives their products — shifting from the derogatory made in China to a proud label of designed in China.

Hands-On

realme 9i Hands-On

Solid as usual
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The realme 9i is the “little brother” in the realme 9 series. And while it doesn’t pack the same punch as its pro siblings – the realme 9 Pro and realme 9 pro+ – there’s enough here for anyone who just needs a reliable daily smartphone.

Here’s a quick look at the specs before we dive in deeper: 

Performance

  • 6.6-inch IPS LCD display with 90Hz refresh rate 
  • Qualcomm SM6225 Snapdragon 680 4G processor
  • 6GB RAM with Dynamic RAM expansion feature up to 5GB 
  • 128GB Internal Storage 
  • 5,000mAh battery
  • 33W Dart Charge tech

Cameras

  • 50MP main camera
  • 2MP macro lens
  • 2MP depth lens
  • 16MP selfie shooter

Here are some samples for your appreciation.

Neat, simple, and elegant

The realme 9i is pretty understated in the looks department. The variant we got comes in blue and depending on how the light hits, you’ll see some lines to accentuate its back.

As for button and port placements, at the bottom you’ll find the usuas: speaker grille, USB-C  port, and 3.5mm jack. 

On the right side is the power button/fingerprint scanner. 

And on the left hand side are the two, tiny volume buttons. 

Overall, the realme 9i  looks neat. Simple yet elegant. The camera stands out, obviously. But you can say that for most phones these days. It’s light for its size and appearance. It’s already easy to hold as is, but it’s even easier if you’re the phone-case-and-pop-up socket type of person.

General usage

Switching from one app to the other, or going back to the home screen for that matter is seamless and fast. There’s no trouble opening or loading apps so far. 

The apps load from where I last left it, provided I haven’t closed all apps, cleared RAM, or optimized phone usage.

Media consumption and gaming

We enjoyed more than our fair share of watching sports highlights  on the realme 9i. It pays to have a great-performing phone to not miss any action. We didn’t have any problems watching on YouTube at the highest resolution settings and at 60 fps. 

Same is true for other types of content. The viewing experience was likewise seamless.

The speaker is really loud and complements the video. You don’t have to put it on max volume although it’s still of the best quality when put to max. It doesn’t break.

Playing Mobile Legends with friends and relatives on this phone is perfect even if it’s “only” a mid-level phone. The game’s graphics settings were set on default when opening from the phone. I tinkered it to HD mode with a high refresh rate and “Ultra” graphics, and it didn’t have problems throughout the game like lagging when I played.

Battery life

On full standby in power saving mode without having to connect it to Wi-Fi or turn on mobile data, the phone consumes just about 5 to 10 percent of its battery power in one whole day.

When charging, it takes less than an hour to charge from 30 percent to full with its 33W fast charging.

Solid as usual

realme 9i

 

The “i” variants in realme’s numbered series phones have consistently been steady performers and the realme 9i is no different. It’s not gonna wow you with raw specs, but the overall package and performance makes it worthwhile.

The realme 9i retails for PhP 11,990. Buy it here.

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Hands-On

ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED Unboxing and Hands-on

The dual-screen laptop of your dreams!

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The pinnacle of ASUS’ Zenbook is here!

Meet the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED, the third iteration of the popular Zenbook Pro Duo from 2019 and the follow-up to last year’s non-OLED-touting Zenbook Duo.

If you’ve been a fan of this type of Zenbook, chances are you would love the new version more with its host of significant improvements over the past.

Can’t wait to know more, head over to our Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED unboxing and hands-on in 4K!

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Features

What I love about the realme Pad Mini

A good companion gadget

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realme Pad Mini

I have been looking for a tablet that’s around 7” to 8” to compliment my already full stacked suite of gadgets. My primary intention is to make it a full-time media consumption device and a Zoom event partner. All the recent tablets of late came in 10” or over. Then realme reached out with an opportunity to try out the realme Pad Mini. So I jumped at it.

But why do I need an extra device? Need is a stretch for me. At this point it’s a luxury for me to add to my normal rotation of gadgets. That being a MacBook Pro, whatever Windows laptop I’m reviewing/working on, an iPhone 11 Pro, an OPPO Find X3 Pro, and whatever smartphone I’m reviewing. Regardless, I wanted to see if I can fit a tablet into my life all while checking on the current state of Android tablets in 2022. 

Before we dive into my take on the realme Pad Mini, here’s a quick rundown of its specs. 

realme Pad Mini

realme Pad Mini

  • Display – 8.7-inches, 1340×800
  • Processor – Unisoc T616 
  • Battery – 6400mAh, 18W
  • RAM+Storage – 3GB+32GB, 4GB+64GB, expandable up to 1TB via microSD slot 
  • Cameras – 8MP rear, 5MP front

As mentioned in the teaser article, the versions coming out at launch are both LTE-capable. A 3GB+32GB Wi-Fi variant will be released soon after. 

Aluminum alloy body design 

realme Pad Mini

Perhaps my favorite thing about the realme Pad Mini is its aluminum alloy body design. It looks pretty sleek, especially this blue colorway. It’s got a nice heft to it too. Nothing too heavy but enough to make it seem higher end than it actually is. 

There are two speaker grilles on the top and bottom (if you’re in portrait mode) or one on either side (if you’re in landscape mode). That’s a key design decision since I imagine anyone getting a tablet has media consumption in mind. 

The button placements felt a little off to me, though. Maybe it’s just me getting used to phone layouts but normally when you have the power button and the volume rockers on the same side, the volume rockers are placed higher.

realme Pad Mini

That’s not the case here since, in portrait mode, your fingers will grace the rockers first before the power button. And in landscape mode, you’ll more often have to use your left hand and grace the power button first before you get to the volume rockers. It’s a little disorienting at first and I’m personally still getting used to it. 

All things considered, it looks good, feels great, and doesn’t put a strain on your hand even after a binge-watching session. Granted, you switch hand placements every now and then. 

Perfect Zoom partner 

realme Pad Mini

Over the past couple of years, the only events we’ve attended were held online. Most of which via the video conferencing platform Zoom. During these events, I like to get other tasks out of the way too. So while tuning in to an event, I’m either writing, copy editing, or what have you. However, multitasking can be tough in my setup where I only use a laptop. Having the sound come out of the laptop with a minimized Zoom window isn’t ideal.

Enter the realme Pad Mini. I’ve done this with other tablets I reviewed previously. Having the Zom event come from a device, other than my laptop, helps ease the mental burden of having to intently listen to something while doing a different task.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it’s a type of setup I recommend especially for those who don’t have the space for full blown desktops with multiple monitors. 

Media consumption companion

realme Pad Mini

This is what most people would likely do on their tablets. At least, I think so. Binge-watching series, watching movies, and cycling through a YouTube or TikTok blackhole. For the most part, the realme Pad Mini does this pretty well. 

The display isn’t outstanding but it gets the job done. I normally get 720p and 1080p depending on which platform I’m watching on. 

Watching (G)-IDLE Miyeon’s fancams were a bit of a pain because of YouTube

One downside is it doesn’t work well for YouTube which prioritizes continuous streaming thus giving you as low as 360p sometimes when you first start a video. I can’t count the number of times I had to go into the settings and force the highest quality when I’m on YouTube. 

realme Pad Mini

Caught up with Soundtrack #1 because I love looking at Han So Hee’s face.

But that’s just one pain point. Every other platform delivers good, steady quality of streaming. I’ve been using it to catch-up on a few series on Netflix, HBO Go, and Chrome (if you catch my drift). The visuals aren’t mindblowing but they’re more than good enough and the speakers are just the right amount of loud without distorting the audio. 

It checks all the boxes for what I’m currently looking for in a tablet. It also helps that it’s relatively inexpensive. The 4GB+64GB LTE variant, which is the one I reviewed, retails for 11,990 and I think it’s just right. More pricing details later on. 

Quickfire Q&A 

Naturally, some of you might be looking to do more on your tablet and have a few questions. Turn’s out, there are a ton of questions on our teaser post so I’ll try to answer some of them. 

Is it good for gaming?

realme Pad Mini

Specifically, someone asked if the Unisoc T616 is good for gaming. I didn’t do a lot of gaming on the realme Pad Mini, only a few matches on Call of Duty: Mobile. And well, it’s… okay. There’s a bit of lag and the screen isn’t as responsive so it might not be the best for gaming.

If you really want to play on something around the same price range, you’re probably better off using the Redmi Note 11 or vivo Y21T. 

Call and text functions? 

realme Pad Mini

Texting and chatting are the two things I personally didn’t want to do on a tablet. I wanted it to specifically be a media device. But if you’re looking for call and text functions, make sure you grab the LTE versions. There are two available. 

Pen/Stylus support

Nope, it doesn’t come with a stylus. As for stylus support, that’s something we weren’t able to test, but it’s safe to assume this doesn’t have it given its set of specs. 

Price and availability?

realme Pad Mini

 

As mentioned earlier, two LTE variants will be available at launch. They are priced as follows: 

  • 3GB+32GB – PhP 9,990
  • 4GB+64GB – PhP 11,990 

But realme being realme, naturally there are early bird promos. Discounts will ber offered exclusively on realme’s official Lazada store.

  • 3GB+32GB – PhP 8,490 (PhP 1,500 off) | Buy here
  • 4GB+64GB – PhP 9,990 (PhP 2,00 off) | Buy here 

The realme Pad Mini will also be available at all realme official stores and partner dealers nationwide. Those who purchase from April 4-30 will get a FREE realme Mobile Game Finger Sleeves.

Is this your GadgetMatch? 

realme Pad Mini

As a budget tablet, the realme Pad Mini is okay. I don’t think it falls in the category of realme’s usual devices that punch up in terms of specs and price. Its overall performance is steady and really, that’s all you need for something at its price point.  

The realme Pad Mini is a great media device, good for binge watching sessions, taking a few notes, and being an extra device in your arsenal. If that’s what you’re looking for, then it’s definitely a match. 

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