What is the Xiaomi Mi 6?
Unlike OnePlus and Huawei, Xiaomi has yet to become a household name outside of its native China. But although Xiaomi’s devices may not be so easily available in Europe and America, some of them are certainly worth hunting down.
The Xiaomi Mi 6 is one such device; a compact Android _phone_ offering plenty of power and a lovely screen that undercuts even the OnePlus 5 for value.
Xiaomi Mi 6 – Design
The Xiaomi Mi 6 is an iteration of the design first seen with the company's Mi 5 _phone_ last year, and considering that handset was a pleasure to hold and use, this is far from an issue. In fact, the Mi 6 is one of the only Android flagships – aside from the Huawei P10 – to stick with a fairly small 5-inch display and keep the phone manageable in size.
The combination of the small display, heavily curved sides on the rear and the slightly curved screen mean that if you’re looking for a phone that’s comfortable to use one-handed then this is it.
It looks great too, and considering the price is well built in the main. While there’s no plastic to be seen, except for some mushy volume keys, some corner-cutting has evidently taken place. The Mi 6 picks up scratches like no other phone I've used in a long time; I even discovered a deep scratch on its rear when I took it out of the box. In addition, the back glass panel has already started to come unstuck in the bottom corner, and with little force I can pry it away leaving a visible gap.
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The biggest omission on the Xiaomi is the lack of a headphone jack. The company says this is the result of a space issue, and in order to fit in a bigger battery and splash-proof rating, something had to go. I find that an odd response – there are several phones on the market that have full IP ratings and yet manage to retain the headphone jack. In my opinion, a headphone jack is still a requisite on a phone and it will continue to be until quality Bluetooth headphones come down in price. You do get a flimsy 3.5mm dongle in the box that you’ll probably lose instantly, but no USB-C headphones.
Tucked under the glass on the front is a ceramic fingerprint sensor that's exceptionally fast and reliable.
Xiaomi Mi 6 – Screen
Xiaomi is one the few brands that hasn’t yet made the switch from 1080p to quad-HD on any of its phones, but in most ways that’s a good thing. The 5.15-inch LCD panel here is one of the best I've seen, and is noticeably more attractive than the Huawei P10 due to much richer colours and a more even brightness.
Most phones manage good peak brightness, and the Xiaomi Mi 6 certainly does that reaching 600 nits, but it also does well in the dark – when you want what's onscreen to be visible but not blinding.
1080p seems the right choice for a display of this size and pixels are impossible to spot. You also benefit from that lower-res screen, which requires less power with the knock-on effect of better battery life – another area in which the Mi 6 really impresses.
LCD panels don’t quite achieve the deep colour saturation, nor the deepest blacks, seen on AMOLED panels from the likes of Samsung, but really this display is so impressive that this isn't much of an issue. What IPS LCDs do have over their AMOLED counterparts is much better viewing angles, however.
Interestingly, the screen doesn’t feature a polarising filter on it, so if you’re wearing certain types of sunglasses then you simply won’t be able to see the screen outside.
Xiaomi Mi 6 – Performance
The Xiaomi Mi 6 was one of the first phones announced to be running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 SoC, and the rest of the device's internals are all high-end. There’s 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage available – but, annoyingly, no microSD support.
Considering the high-end specs it’s no surprise that the Xiaomi Mi 6 runs fantastically well. During my few weeks with the device I've suffered no lag or slowdown, and the Adreno 540 GPU handles each and every Android game with ease.
The biggest issue I can see arising is that since this phone isn't built to be used outside of Asia, it’s missing a few of the required LTE bands worldwide. In the US, for example, you won’t get 4G support on the major networks; but here in the UK I have 4G working on both Three and EE. Call and Wi-Fi quality is good, and the mics do a good job at noise-cancelling.
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Like the iPhone 7 and HTC 10, the Xiaomi Mi 6 manages to pump out decent audio by combining one speaker on the bottom of the device, next to the USB-C port, and another next to the ear piece above the display. It sounds good, much better than the Samsung Galaxy S8, but not as good as the HTC U11. However, it doesn’t really get very loud. It also lacks a punch of bass, meaning it’s fine for YouTube videos but not so much for audio.
Synthetic benchmarks are becoming increasingly redundant and I don’t find them a trustworthy source of determining the speed of a phone. Recently, many phones I've reviewed simply don't appear to run benchmarking suites properly, and that’s what I've found with the Mi 6.