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

Snapdragon 865 Hands-on: Top 5 Features

5G for all, 200MP, 8K, and more.

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As we lean towards the second decade of the millennium, Qualcomm is ready to ship out their next flagship chipset.

Snapdragon has been running most devices people use today. Snapdragon 865 (together with the midrange 765) are two of Qualcomm’s chipset offerings for 2020. They offer more than incremental performance boosts.

Watch more to know the top 5 promising features of the new chipset.

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Hands-On

Realme X2 Pro Master Edition hands-on: Tough looks, solid performance

It’s made of a soft-frosted glass but feels like cement

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The Realme X2 Pro has gotten fans really excited. Touted as the new flagship killer, it has quad cameras, Snapdragon 855+, and other flagship-level features at an affordable price tag.

While the regular Realme X2 Pro is already pretty awesome, what we got here is even more intense. We have the Reame X2 Pro Master Edition to check out, the Concrete edition to be exact.

Tough looks

The Master Edition of the Realme X2 Pro also comes in a Red Brick design. I’m not too big a fan of that look, so I got the Concrete version instead.

The Realme X2 Pro Master Edition is designed by famous Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. It comes with a signature of the designer on the back panel.

The texture is pretty similar to the Sandstone feel of the older OnePlus devices — just less rough and more matte.

Realme says this is a soft-frosted glass although it’s hard to tell to be honest. The finish looks and feels like concrete cement even if it’s soft-to-touch.

Solid performance

Apart from the differences in design, it’s pretty much the same exact Realme X2 Pro inside. It packs 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

The Realme X2 Pro has a 6.5-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with a waterdrop notch, and a high 90Hz refresh rate. It boasts a 91.7 percent screen-to-body ratio and an in-display fingerprint scanner that works really fast.

Making it an even better media device is a pair of stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

There’s also a vapor chamber liquid cooling, a superconducting carbon fiber multi-layer scheme, multi-layer graphite sheet and other heat-dissipating materials so the phone can definitely game without heating issues.

This is all backed up by a massive 4000 mAh battery with 50W SuperVOOC Flash Charging technology. It can fully charge the phone from zero, in just about 35 minutes.

This super fast charging is definitely something anyone would appreciate. Imagine waking up in the morning and charging your phone while you’re in the shower. It’ll be ready and full just before you head out.

Capable cameras

The Realme X2 Pro has a quad-camera setup, with the Samsung GW1 64-MP sensor with a fast f/1.8 aperture as the main camera. There’s also a 13MP telephoto lens with support for up to 20x hybrid zoom, an 8MP ultra-wide with a 115-degree field-of-view, as well as a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help with portrait shots. Up front is a 16MP selfie camera.

In China the Realme X2 Pro is priced at CNY 3299 (US$ 469). In India, it will be going on sale around Christmas time for INR 34,999 (US$ 490).

What do you think about this version? Should phone companies make more special edition phones in a similar design? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Features

5 reasons to invest in a gaming laptop even if you don’t play

They can do more than just game

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If you’re a professional in need of a powerful laptop, you might find it difficult to find something that meets all of your needs and preferences. While you’d rather have something that’s sleek, sometimes what you need are on a gaming laptop that’s bulky and just screams gaming too much.

Fortunately, brands like ASUS and Lenovo have started redesigning gaming laptops with portability in mind. This attempt makes consumers consider gaming laptops once again.

While it’s easy to look for a reason to buy a gaming laptop if you’re a gamer, there are still a few good reasons to invest in a gaming laptop even if you don’t play games.

Work anywhere you want

Brands are redesigning gaming laptops by making them slimmer and more compact. Gaming laptops have started looking like real laptops and not a clunky machine that will be tough to carry around for most people. They’ve trimmed the weight and now a lot of them fit in most backpacks with a dedicated 15-inch laptop sleeve. Think of it as bringing a laptop with the power of a mobile PC wherever you go.

Stay ahead of the game (no pun intended)

A lot of laptops launched this year carry the latest processors and graphics card meant for the future. For instance, the Lenovo Legion Y540 has a 9th-gen Intel i7 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, 8GB RAM and 1TB SSD storage.

With that much power, that’s more than enough for your work and daily usage. Imagine running multiple tabs without any hiccups, or even when using power-hungry apps like Netflix, Spotify, and Google Chrome simultaneously.

Show-off a personality

Most gaming laptops nowadays are designed stylishly to reflect different personalities. The ASUS’ ROG line roars like thunder, screaming power, and strength. It’s also unafraid of coming out too loud and daring.

On the other hand, Lenovo’s Legion laptops remain true to their motto of being “stylish on the outside, savage on the inside.” A lot of their laptops look discreet and classy, but are powerful on their own right and oftentimes, they let their work  — and performance — do the talking.

Since I have a hint of narcissism and vanity, I enjoy showing-off from time to time. However, I resonate most with the Legion lineup since I prefer astounding the world with the quality of my output.

Choose when to be untethered

A lot of people prefer being mobile so they can work remotely. Gaming laptops may be humongous but they’re portable and have multiple ports for you to stay connected. It’s difficult to pass on this kind of convenience. Additionally, gaming laptops aren’t limited to USB-C ports, unlike most business laptops. Furthermore, you don’t have to be tied down with cables compared to when you opt for a desktop PC.

Get the extra features to make you more productive

While your needs for a work laptop sometimes are limited to the basics, switching to a gaming laptop lets you enjoy extra features. Case in point: near-borderless display, better visuals, a 144 Hz refresh rate allowing a smooth and seamless, immersive sound experience, antiglare screen, and unique cooling system.

With all these nitty-gritty details, gaming laptops can make your workflow easier since these machines do most of the work for you. It’s just a matter of you taking advantage of all that power.

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