Review Price drop: Xiaomi Mi 8 – 6/128 GB flagship for $389.99
Xiaomi skipped the Mi 7 and instead presented the new flagship smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi 8, at the end of May. This is equipped with similar hardware as the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, but the design is clearly oriented towards the competition. That’s why we compared it with the current Mix 2S and tested the Xiaomi Mi 8 extensively. Does it climb onto the throne of the Xiaomi smartphones?
- Xiaomi Mi 8 6/64 GB
- Xiaomi Mi 8 6/128 GB
- Xiaomi Mi 8 6/256 GB
- at Geekbuying for $479.99 (white & gold)
- Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition 8/128 GB
- at Geekbuying for $719.99 (transparent back)
|Display Size||6,21 in|
|Display Resolution||2248 x 1080 p|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 @ 2,8 GHz|
|Graphic Chip||Adreno 630|
|Graphic Chip Clocking||710 MHz|
|Internal Memory||64-256 GB|
|Internal Memory Type||UFS 2.1|
|Camera Type & Aperture||wide angle (OIS) with ƒ/1.8 + 12 MP tele camera with ƒ/2.4|
|Front Camera||20 MP|
|Connectivity||LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8,20, WLAN AC, GPS//BDS, Bluetooth 5.0, Dual SIM|
|Features||Quick Charge 4.0, fingerprint Sensor, USB Type C, Face Unlock|
|Operating System||MIUI 10, Android 8.1|
|Dimensions||154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6 mm|
The first impression counts…
Xiaomi knows how important the first impression is. That is why the company from Beijing attaches great importance to the packaging of its equipment. The Xiaomi Mi 8 comes in a black box; the 8 takes up most of the front. But we don’t get a personal greeting from Lei Jun like with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S – well, whatever. Inside, in addition to the smartphone itself, there is a white 1-metre-long USB Type C cable, the USB charger with CN plug, a Chinese operating manual, the AUX to USB C adapter, the SIM needle and a transparent silicone case.
The reactions of the Twitter community after Xiaomi’s keynote on May 31st varied between enthusiasm, laughter and disappointment. The design was actually known in advance through several leaks. The fact that it looks so similar to the iPhone X has been criticized by some tech bloggers.
Nevertheless, Xiaomi is not the first company to use the design of the (still) Californian flagship. The Honor 10 or the OnePlus 6 leave no doubt that a notch design for flagships is just the measure of all things. Therefore we wanted to test the Xiaomi Mi 8 as soon as possible.
Just an iPhone X clone?
The design of the Xiaomi Mi 8 is a balancing act between its obvious model and its own Xiaomi style. In my opinion, this is also very successful. The front side reminds of other devices only because of the notch, the rest looks again strongly like Xiaomi.
In fact, it is similar to its direct predecessor, the Xiaomi Mi 6. On the front, this is particularly evident in the four corners, which are just as rounded as in the previous Mi generation. Compared to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, these curved corners are much more pronounced.
The back also confirms the impression. The manufacturer uses a glass back again, in our case in black. This is of course also extremely susceptible to fingerprints. The same applies to the positioning of the Mi logo. In contrast, two decisive features that prove to us that this is a smartphone from 2018 are different. The dual camera is arranged vertically in the upper left corner, separate from the flash. The fingerprint sensor is now also on the back and no longer on the front.
Between the glass front and back is the metal frame, which hardly differs from its predecessor. On the right side are the power button and the volume rocker, on the left the Nano-SIM slot and below the USB Type-C connector between the two loudspeakers. The workmanship is typical for Xiaomi and once again exemplary. The gap dimensions were even more visible with the predecessor and were now solved here in a very filigree manner.
Overall, the Xiaomi Mi 8 with dimensions of 154.9 x 74.9 x 7.6 mm is slightly larger than the current Mi Mix generation. But you get a bit more display and it weighs 18 g less. These are differences that you notice when you know one of the Mix devices. However, we are in the millimetre range here and it will probably only be a change if you come from the predecessor, for example. Due to the rounded long sides, the Mi 8 fits well in the hand, but is not as handy as the Mi 6.
Here you have to consider what is more important, as the display of the new flagship is more than one inch larger. This makes it the largest Xiaomi smartphone currently available with the Mi Max 2, until the release of the Xiaomi Mi Max 3.
Does Notch annoy you?
But let’s get to the dealbreaker: the Notch. No “feature” on smartphones has polarized as much last year as the cutout at the top of the screen, which is actually only an emergency solution but has now become a distinctive feature for flagship smartphones. But what does a smartphone need a notch for? Xiaomi positions the front camera here, which I like much better than the emergency solution on the two Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 devices. This part also houses the light and distance sensor, as well as the auricle, an infrared sensor and the infrared camera.
Of course, just as with other smartphones, you can simply put these components in the upper edge of the screen and do without the notch. But you want to offer as much display area as possible. Those who have never had such a Notch display in their hands will certainly ask themselves: Doesn’t it annoy you?
The answer: not me. I can’t speak for everyone, but you get used to it really quickly. In addition, it only contains information such as time, battery and wireless connections. Xiaomi has also adapted the MIUI operating system well, so that it has never been noticed negatively. Of course not all apps support notch, so the display is cut off at this point. Furthermore, Xiaomi gives you the choice: you can also permanently deactivate the notch.
Finally with AMOLED display again
After a long time the Xiaomi Mi 8 is again equipped with an AMOLED display. In this case, a 6.21-inch AMOLED display. This one comes from Samsung. This makes the screen significantly larger than its predecessor, which still has a 5.15-inch screen diagonal. For example, the Mix 2S has a 5.99″ screen diagonal.
The advantages of AMOLED displays are obvious: energy-saving, higher contrast, better black levels and faster response times. And these advantages can also be seen, especially in comparison to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. Especially the higher contrasts are definitely noticeable, white backgrounds look brighter and appear with a lower red hue than the internal competition. The colors of a Need for Speed look great and increase the gaming pleasure once again. The viewing angle stability is also unobjectionable.
Thanks to AMOLED technology, the MIUI’s display settings also include Always On mode. Since the AMOLED panel can control the pixels individually, the display can switch off most of the display and only let individual pixels light up without the need for backlighting. This means that the display is black and only the time, date and messages are displayed. We know a similar principle from the Huami Amazfit Bip Smartwatch, for example, and it is not at the expense of the battery.
Overall, the AMOLED display of the Xiaomi Mi 8 is the flagship’s greatest unique selling point. The colors look very rich and strong and simply enliven the icons of the in-house MIUI operating system. The Always On mode is also a very nice feature. Ultimately, it is simply the more efficient option and is reflected in the battery life. If you want to use the 6.2 inch diagonal completely, it is recommended to activate the “Full Screen Gesture”. This eliminates the three digital navigation keys, replaced by certain gestures and you gain some usable display area at the bottom.
Snapdragon 845 processor leaves nothing to be desired
The predecessor, the Mi 6, was extremely successful and also convinced us in the test. The successor is also coming onto the market with the next processor generation, which we currently see in almost all flagship smartphones.
Inside works Snapdragon 845 processor. The CPU clocks in eight cryo 385 cores with a maximum of 2.8 GHz. Overall, it is more powerful and energy-efficient than the 835, but was manufactured using the same 10-nanometer process. We already know the processor and are not disappointed in the Xiaomi Mi 8 either. Rather, it is one of the best you can get on the market at the moment and is ideal for gaming, but also serves as support in the camera with AI functions. Apps open and close as quick as lightning, switching from a benchmark to PUBG and then taking a quick snapshot in the track doesn’t push the CPU to its limits.
Of course, the 6 GB of RAM at the processor’s side also help. For even more RAM you have to order the Explorer Edition, which offers 8 GB of cache space. But in my opinion 6 GB is enough, because the current game benchmark, Player Unknown’s Battleground, runs very smoothly and is really fun. The performance is absolutely on the same level as the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S and there are no real differences in normal use.
The comparisons with external competitors are somewhat more interesting. First and foremost, the Xiaomi Mi 8 has to compete with the OnePlus 6, which offers an almost identical configuration. We have to consult various benchmark results. In all cases, they are in favor of the competition from OnePlus. The AnTuTu benchmark in particular is significantly better and the Mi Mix 2S also scored more points here. Without wanting to defend Xiaomi: that sounds very impressive on paper, but it doesn’t bring any real added value.
Xiaomi Mi 8: Among the top 5 camera smartphones
The Xiaomi Mi 6 brought the dual camera to the Xiaomi devices and was the answer to the portrait mode of the iPhone 7 Plus. The manufacturer uses a dual lens camera consisting of the 12 megapixel Sony IMX363 and the 12 megapixel Samsung S5K3M3 sensor. This is exactly the same equipment that has made the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S the most powerful camera smartphone from Xiaomi to date. Sony’s primary sensor offers an aperture of ƒ/1.8, quad optical image stabilisation and a wide angle focal length.
The photos are really impressive again, but in my eyes they are not noticeably better than with the Mix 2S. The 24 mm focal length offers a good image detail in which you can see bright and rich colours. Autofocus makes it easy to set the focus point so that the images are sharp. With the camera Xiaomi has not yet reached the end of the flagpole, but everyone should have fun with these photos. Currently the Mi 8 ranks 5th in the DXoMark photo benchmark, ahead of an iPhone X and Google Pixel 2, but behind the Galaxy S9 Plus or Huawei P20 Pro.
The secondary sensor from Sony works with an aperture that is not quite as bright. The ƒ/2.4 aperture is due to the fact that this is a telephoto lens with a focal length of 47 mm. This is therefore also used for portrait mode, but also simply as a 2x optical zoom. Here you get a stronger zoom at the expense of the low-light behavior, because the aperture cannot leave so much light on the already smaller sensor.
Speaking of low-light…
The low-light behavior of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S probably impressed us the most and could not even be achieved by the Xiaomi Mi 6X with low-light camera. Also the Xiaomi Mi 8 knows how to deliver here again and trumps with good or still usable photos in low light conditions. This is where artificial intelligence comes into play much more than in AI mode. The ƒ/1.8 aperture allows the light still present on the large sensor and the software manages to illuminate the image further. Of course there has to be some light, otherwise the Mi 8 can’t do anything here either.
The already mentioned portrait mode is of course an integral part of the camera app. The software combines a photo from both cameras and produces an image with a blurred background and the sharp object in the foreground. Edge detection is just as good as with Mix 2S, people are clearly separated from the background. In my opinion, this works better and more naturally than, for example, Honor 10.
Unfortunately, the skin tones and sharpness of people are a thorn in my side with the Mi 8. It looks as if Beauty mode is used because the face is softened and does not look so sharp even in direct comparison to Mix 2S. At least in slightly poorer lighting conditions. This surprises us because of the identical hardware to the Mix 2S. Therefore, we assume that there is a small problem on the software side or that this mode has been strongly adapted to MIUI 10 up to now and is not running so smoothly with MIUI 9.5 at the moment. The photos are by no means bad, only not as strong as with the direct brother.
AI camera not yet intelligent enough
Here again, the processor is supposed to improve the camera quality through artificial intelligence. The camera is supposed to recognize over 200 scenes and thus better adjust the settings. The “AI” menu item in the camera app, which can optionally be switched on, is used for this purpose. During our extensive test of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S we already asked ourselves the question, what you notice in practice and why you need it?
To make a long story short: this technology has a lot of potential that Xiaomi has not yet exhausted. We succeed in taking photos of plants with a richer green or a text recognition that increases the contrast. However, the differences can only be noticed in a direct comparison and do not clearly enhance the photos. The scene detection works relatively reliably, especially with food and plants, but so far we could not find much more scenes.
The best selfie camera so far
However, the front camera differs from that of the Mix 2S. The Xiaomi Mi 8 is equipped with a 20 megapixel front camera, while the Mix 2S was still working with a 5 megapixel camera. It also supports AI functions like animated emojis, which sweeten the day with MIUI 10. However, the front camera does a good job in terms of sharpness and focus. However, the photos tend to seem a little overexposed and could use a little more contrast.
The camera offers an aperture of ƒ/2.0 and is therefore more convincing than the direct competition of Xiaomi itself even in poor lighting conditions. The portrait mode in the front camera is now very, very good overall and manages to really enhance the selfies once again. Edge detection works perfectly, the bokeh is soft, making the photos look natural. For me, the front camera is the best we have tested so far.
Where is MIUI 10?
The presentation for the Xiaomi Mi 8 included the announcement of MIUI 10, the latest iteration of the Xiaomi operating system. So far (July 2018) this update has not been released. So you still have to make do with MIUI 9.5.6. To date, this is still in the Chinese-English version for the Mi 8.
If the letter combination MIUI says nothing to you: this is Xiaomi’s own operating system, which is (meanwhile) based on Android 8.1. This is a highly customized interface that is equipped with its own Xiaomi apps. If you have installed the Chinese version, you can’t get past a lot of bloatware. Apps like Baidu, Dianping, taobao or Alipay don’t make sense anywhere else. However, all Google services such as Play Store, YouTube, Gmail & Co. are easy to install from the Mi App Store.
Just search Google in the App Store and install the Play Store under Baidu (see picture). Now you can download apps as usual.
Xiao AI – Chinese Siri
With the release of Mix 2S, Xiao AI, Xiaomi’s intelligent language assistant, has also found its way into the MIUI operating system. This is activated by a long press on the digital home button and can then be fed with commands. At least when you speak Mandarin. Because at the moment Xiao AI only works in Chinese. An alternative is of course the Google Assistant, which works reliably as usual.
Face recognition at Apple level
Face recognition is now being used on more and more Chinese smartphones, now also in the budget range, as in the Xiaomi Redmi 6. The Mix 2S is also equipped with it, but the Xiaomi Mi 8 should still be a bit faster and safer. In addition to the front camera, the smartphone also uses an infrared laser and an infrared camera. You won’t notice this when you set it up, but you will notice it when you unlock it. In nine out of ten cases, the Mi 8 unlocks faster than the Mix 2S. Especially when you look at your smartphone and press the power button, the phone unlocks immediately without displaying the idle state for a moment.
Here one must also praise the use of the infrared units in the Notch. They are necessary for the face scan especially in the dark and do their work very reliably. This makes it easy to unlock your smartphone even at night in the dark.
Even the 3D Face Unlock of the Explorer Edition should work a little better and safer. Besides the fingerprint sensor in the display, this is another advantage of the more expensive Explorer Edition. However, the Xiaomi Mi 8 also has a fingerprint sensor, but this is on the back and not in the display. As you would expect from Xiaomi, it reacts very quickly and reliably. Since the Mi Mix 2 at the latest, this is one of my favorite features of the Xiaomi flagships.
Powerful battery life – but no Qi
The battery capacity has also changed: There is now a 3,400 mAh battery in the Mi 8, but the battery cannot be charged wirelessly via the Qi standard. Interestingly, this feature is not available exclusively to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. If you choose the Explorer Edition, you have to make do with a smaller 3,000 mAh battery. However, it should be possible to recharge it in record time. After all, Xiaomi relies on Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0+ technology.
Quick Charge 4+ is Qualcomm’s fastest fast charging method available today and 15% faster than Quick Charge 4, allowing 50% battery charging in approximately 25 minutes. Qualcomm also states that by charging for five minutes, the battery life can be as long as five hours. At 3,400 mAh, the battery is the same size as the Mix 2S and ensures good battery life again. The AMOLED display makes it even better. A screen-on time of at least 7 hours is definitely possible with intensive use. If you tweak the settings a little bit you should get by with a full battery charge in about 1.5 days.
The included adapter brought the Xiaomi Mi 8 from 20% to 65% within 30 minutes. It took the charger an hour to charge the phone almost completely.
Xiaomi thinks globally – LTE & Dual GPS on board
There are no surprises when it comes to connectivity. This means: the Xiaomi Mi 8 is intended for global use and therefore equipped with different LTE bands. Of course, we also have a dual SIM slot, so you can use two SIM cards at the same time. There is also Bluetooth 5.0, thanks to the Snapdragon 845, Dual Band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, GLONASS, Galileo and Dual-GPS.
The Xiaomi Mi 8 is the first smartphone with dual GPS. This means that two GPS modules are located in the Mi 8 at the same time for more accurate tracking. In the building we had an accuracy of only 16 m with a fix of 2 seconds. This looks much better outside, of course. The accuracy is 4 m with a fix of 0.3 seconds.
Also on board is NFC, which can be used for fast coupling with peripherals or for contactless payment. Xiaomi leaves nothing to be desired.
But you don’t need a headphone jack and only use USB Type-C. The AUX-to-USB-C adapter, which is included, serves as a consolation. Alternatively, Bluetooth headphones can be used to listen to music. Two SIM cards fit into the Nano-SIM slot, but no microSD card. A memory expansion is therefore not possible.
Xiaomi Mi 8 SE & Mi 8 Explorer Edition
Mi 8 SE
Apple has released two versions of its smartphones for several generations. Xiaomi obviously likes that. Instead of a Mi 7, as was suspected until shortly before the announcement, there is a Mi 8 SE (Special Edition). The Mi 8 SE has a somewhat slimmed-down hardware configuration, about 64 GB memory and the new Snapdragon 710 processor at its heart. Compared to the Snapdragon 660, known from Xiaomi Mi 6X and Mi Note 3, it should deliver 25% more power.
It is also slightly smaller and equipped with a 5.88 inch display. The version will be much cheaper than the actual Mi 8.
Mi 8 Explorer Edition
The version with the best features will be the Mi 8 Explorer Edition. Its most striking feature is the transparent back, which also has to make way for the fingerprint scanner. It fits in the front, under the display. Savings can be made elsewhere. The battery shrinks from 3,400 to 3,000 mAh and the internal memory is 128 GB. The Mi 8 has 256 GB in the most expensive version.
Xiaomi Mi 8: Top notch – but a matter of taste
Be honest: the big surprise is not the Xiaomi Mi 8. The design is already known from Apple, the hardware is known from the in-house Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S. Nevertheless one must say that the Xiaomi Mi 8 is simply a very good smartphone and not only on paper. It is currently the most powerful Xiaomi smartphone. The performance is at the highest level, the camera takes very good pictures (especially for a China smartphone) and the processing is first-class. The AMOLED display does an excellent job and plays the battery life into the cards. Xiaomi manages to round off the overall package with features such as really powerful face recognition.
Most of the points of criticism are on a rather subjective level. If you hate the notch, the Mi 8 in the choice of the smartphone probably falls out automatically. The smartphone is also simply big, although it still fits quite well in the hand. In addition, two points are omitted from other flagships. You cannot charge the Xiaomi Mi 8 wirelessly and it does not have IP68 certification.
If you can do without it and have no problem with a notch, you get a lot for your money with the Xiaomi Mi 8 in this price range. If you want to take so much money in your hand, I don’t think the Xiaomi Mi 8 is wrong.
Compare: Buy Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S or Xiaomi Mi 8?
As you probably noticed during the test, we compared the Xiaomi Mi 8 with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S in almost all disciplines. After all, they are almost identical. Both use the same processor, the same memory configuration, the same camera, the same operating system and have the same connection options, except Dual GPS, which is only integrated in the Mi 8.
The big difference is the design and the display used. While the design including Notch is a matter of taste, the Xiaomi Mi 8 trumps with the AMOLED display, which produces better colours overall, is slightly brighter and more neutral and protects the battery. This is where the Mi 8 scores, even if the battery life is not much longer. Another advantage is the facial recognition, which works faster, better and in the dark with the Mi 8. In addition, the front camera is better positioned and offers higher resolution.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S has a slightly smaller form factor and the possibility to charge the device wirelessly. And don’t forget that the Mix 2S is a bit cheaper.
Be that as it may, both devices are very good smartphones that are definitely worth their money and for which we can both give a clear recommendation to buy. So it’s up to you.To the gadget