If you want top-end hardware for the cheapest smartphone, look no further than Xiaomi's Mi line. Last year's Mi 5 packaged the best hardware, including high-quality Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs and high-quality cameras, in a package under $ 400, undercutting just about every device on the market, including the OnePlus 3.
In 2017, Xiaomi updated its flagship product line with the Mi 6, and the story remains largely the same. You get premium hardware – including a Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal storage, and a double 12-megapixel camera solution – in a package that costs around $ 430 to import. With phones like the Galaxy S8 for over $ 700 and the LG G6 for $ 550 for last-generation hardware, the Xiaomi Mi 6 is an absolute bargain at this price.
The only downside to buying the Xiaomi Mi 6, like all Xiaomi devices, is the lack of availability in Western markets. But that didn't stop us from getting one: Gearbest will be happy to ship you anywhere in the world at a very competitive price.
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Let's talk about the design of the Xiaomi Mi 6, as I know that the company has gone to great lengths to develop what it calls the premium chassis. In fact, Xiaomi quickly informed everyone during their announcement press that the stainless steel construction of the Mi 6 requires a 50-step manufacturing process and over 270 individual operations. That sounds like a lot of work, and the fact that the case is made of stainless steel is a key difference from other phones that use aluminum.
Unfortunately for users, the Mi 6 is hardly a stainless steel phone. The entire front and back is made of glass, with only the edges giving the metal look. The build quality here is fantastic, with extremely swooshable glass and an almost seamless transition from glass to metal edges. Xiaomi has also ensured that every element is aligned symmetrically, which is a touch of shine for Android OEMs.
Although the build quality is great, I'm not a fan of the general Mi 6 design for several reasons.
First, the Mi 6 is ridiculously slippery. The glass back wall pushes your fingers off like the Galaxy S8, while the metal edges seem to be coated with the same shiny surface as the back. Sometimes the Mi 6 is hard to hold, although its relatively compact 5.2-inch size helps a bit. The Galaxy S8 is a slippery phone due to its narrow edges, but the Mi 6 comes in less than a second.
Fortunately for the buyers here, only the rear glass pane is bent to both edges, and even then the curve is minimal compared to the Galaxy S8. The front panel is completely flat, which protects the display from breaking if you drop it on an edge. Having glass on both sides is always a risk, though I suspect the Mi 6 isn't as fragile as the Galaxy S8 due to its more reasonable display design.
One of the other problems with the design of the Mi 6 is how shiny it is. I got a black model for review, and this variant attracts eye-catching fingerprints like nothing else. You'll clean this phone 10 to 15 times a day if you want it to be fingerprint free as it literally collects dirt as soon as you touch it. I tend to think that glossy surfaces give expensive phones a cheap feel, and although I appreciate the minimal style of the Mi 6, it doesn't seem to me to be a premium build.
The premium design problem is exacerbated by the huge bezels above and below the display.
Shortly before I got the Xiaomi Mi 6, I tested the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 +, both of which have extended displays and reduced frames in their premium cases. Of course, the Mi 6 is a much cheaper device, but it's hard not to notice the overwhelming bezels of the last generation of this handset.
One reason that the frame of this phone is so big is because it has a fingerprint sensor under the display. Like most phones these days, the Mi 6 fingerprint sensor works very well and functions as a home button without any problems. Next to the sensor there are capacitive navigation buttons on both sides, which are configured for the back and the app switch. Instead of printing certain icons for these functions on the phone, Xiaomi only used dots to change the order in the software.
Xiaomi joins the list of companies, including Apple, HTC and Motorola, who have decided to remove the headphone jack from their flagship phone in favor of USB Type-C only. I hate everything about it. It is not an advantage to have only one USB-C port compared to a USB-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, we only have pain – dongle pain – if we want to use headphones with a standard 3.5mm jack. At least Xiaomi contains a dongle in the box.
The Mi 6 implements stereo audio by combining the call speaker above the display and a speaker at the bottom. Stereo audio is always better than mono on smartphones, so I appreciate the recording here. Double front speakers are usually the best implementation because the speaker can be blocked along the edge and tends to produce an unbalanced sound. With that, however, I can use any form of stereo audio.
Xiaomi claims the Mi 6 is "splash-proof" even though the company has not specified an IP protection class. It is therefore difficult to say how splashproof it really is. Of course, it's not waterproof, otherwise Xiaomi would boast of this ability, although I suspect it is splash-proof as it's okay if you spill some water on it. I would not recommend playing on the Mi 6 in the shower or throwing it into a bath.
The Mi 6 has a SIM card slot on the left edge that supports two SIM cards. However, no microSD extension is available here. This is the same as the Mi 5, but this time 64 GB of storage is standard and not 32 GB. I find that 64 GB is perfectly fine for most users without expandable storage, although expandable storage is always a nice feature. For those who need more storage space, Xiaomi offers a 128 GB option for around $ 70 more.