With OnePlus cornering the budget smartphone space but raising the price of its Pixel-beating OnePlus 5, there’s another Chinese firm keeping its costs down. Chances are you’ve never heard of them, but they’ve just recently launched a flagship-killing handset that’s worthy of your attention: this is Xiaomi’s Mi 6.
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Yep, that’s Xiaomi (pronounced shh-OW-mee) a tech company that isn’t so popular in the West but has since reached absurd levels of popularity in mainland China. In fact, in 2014 Xiaomi was crowned third largest smartphone maker in the world, only slightly trailing behind Samsung and Apple. Why haven’t you heard of them, then? Well, that’ll be because the firm’s smartphones aren’t so easy to track down overseas.
Xiaomi Mi 6 review: What you need to know
Like the OnePlus 5, the Xiaomi Mi 6 is a flagship smartphone at a much, much lower price of £340. It squeezes in the latest, greatest Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage into a curvaceous glass-backed chassis, with a dual-lens camera thrown in for good measure.
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The only thing lacking compared with phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 is screen resolution and size: it “only” has a 5.15in Full HD display. Otherwise, this is every bit the flagship smartphone.
Xiaomi Mi6 review: Price and competition
The sticky wicket is tracking one down outside Asia. Xiaomi is a Chinese firm and they don’t seem all that interested in launching their smartphones overseas; the Mi 6 is no exception. You’ll have to rely on grey import sellers for this one, but the £340 price is so reasonable it may be worth tracking one down.
It does face stiff competition, though, and the strongest challenger is the excellent £449 OnePlus 5. There’s also Samsung’s Galaxy A5 mid-ranger to contend with at £293, and the new Honor 9 at £370.
Xiaomi Mi 6 review: Design
At half the Galaxy S8’s launch price you’d think Xiaomi would have cut a few corners when it comes to design. More often than not, you’re paying for quality, but the Mi 6, just like the OnePlus 5, is an exception to that rule.
It doesn’t reinvent the wheel. The Mi 6 is a polished black rectangle, with a smooth curved glass back and rounded corners but it looks just as good as Apple’s iPhone 7. It’s much nicer to hold than the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and the Mi 6’s compact 7.5mm slimness is perfect for the pocket.
The only irritation is that Xiaomi has ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s a bizarre move; Apple can afford to defy convention a little but Xiaomi? At least there’s a USB-Type C adapter supplied in the box.
Xiaomi Mi6 review: Display
Xiaomi hasn’t followed the super-wide aspect, high-resolution display route like Samsung or LG. Instead, you get a 5.15in 1,920 x 1,080 screen. Now, this might seem a little uninspiring on paper but look past the numbers and you’ll spot one of the best-looking displays on a handset so cheap.
The IPS panel on this year’s Mi 6 is superb, displaying 99.2% of the sRGB colour space according to our X-Rite calibrator, while the pixel-perfect contrast ratio of 1,266:1 does wonderful justice to images captured with the Mi 6’s dual rear cameras (more on that later). A maximum screen brightness of 645cd/m2 is incredibly well-suited for use out in the bright sunshine, with one caveat. If you hold the phone horizontally while wearing polarising sunglasses the screen blacks out.
Xiaomi Mi 6 review: Performance and battery life
Inside, the Xiaomi Mi6 latest mid-range handset comes incredibly well-equipped. The Mi 6 packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, the same chip used in HTC’s U11 and the Sony XZ Premium, at a fraction of the price. There’s also 6GB of RAM and a choice of 64GB or 128GB of storage but no microSD card support.
Unsurprisingly, it’s an incredible performer. A Geekbench 4 single-core score of 1,923 is on par with all of 2017’s flagships – including the Galaxy S8, and its multi-core result is just as admirable at 6,729.
Graphics power is just as imposing. A GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 onscreen result of 57fps is splendid and means you’ll be disposing of enemy ships in Sky Force: Reloaded without any hiccups at all.
Sweetening the deal is the Xiaomi Mi 6’s battery life and despite all that power, longevity hasn’t been hurt. The Mi 6 reached 13hrs 48mins in our video playback test with flight mode engaged and the screen set to 170cd/m2. Should you run dry, 30mins plugged into the mains will give you roughly 25% of juice; alas there’s no fast charging here.
Xiaomi Mi6 review: Camera
The Xiaomi Mi6 has two cameras on the back. Rather than offering a secondary monochrome sensor as with the P10, or a wide-angle lens as with LG’s G6, Xiaomi has gone the same route as OnePlus and Apple, supplying a secondary, 2X telephoto zoom sensor which works in tandem with the main camera.
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There’s a little variation between the two. The main sensor is equipped with optical image stabilisation and a wide f/1.8 aperture, while the secondary sensor doesn’t let quite as much light in, with a narrower f/2.6 aperture.
The Xiaomi Mi 6’s rear snapper is an incredibly versatile performer. In good light, it’s superb, as you can see from the test image below. Tree foliage is incredibly well-defined, while window reflections in neighbouring buildings are crisp and detailed. Even brickwork – a notoriously tricky test – is captured accurately, especially in HDR mode, which in turn lifts shadows and picks up a touch more cloud detail.
Low-light performance is just as impressive. While some shots did suffer from a little too much warmth and a smidge of unnatural processing, there was an abundance of detail – as you can see from the test shot below.
Xiaomi Mi 6 review: Verdict
Xiaomi’s Mi 6 ticks all the right boxes. It offers a fantastic alternative to those pricier handsets, without a single sacrifice in any aspect: from performance through display quality to battery life. In fact, looking back through this review, the Mi6 scores full marks in every section. That’s no easy feat.
Its price is what sets it apart from the rest. No two ways about it, the Xiaomi Mi6 is ridiculously cheap, even in the context of the £449 OnePlus 5 and as a result, impossible not to recommend. If you don’t mind the risk involved in purchasing a phone you might find difficult to get fixed if you drop it, it’s definitely one to add to your shortlist.
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