Xiaomi Mi 6 first impressions: The $360 flagship

Out in Beijing, we got a look at the latest version of Xiaomi’s flagship line. After 7 years, the company has come a long way and with their newest device Xiaomi hopes to bring the best features into one complete package. While many of the features might seem pretty familiar, they haven’t come together quite like this. We take a look here at the Xiaomi Mi 6.

It’s pretty easy to notice the design first with the Mi 6, as it comes in a myriad of different colors and a few of them are quite special. Aside from the typical black and white editions of the phone, an eye-catching blue and gold version is the main color for this new flagship. It is like a reverse Iron Man color, and I really like it. That’s not the one that I’m going to be reviewing, however.

Read: Xiaomi Mi 6 specs, features, price and availability

First, we look at the other highly exclusive edition of the Mi 6, a highly reflective silver color that is made of a stainless-steel skeleton like the rest of them but sports the silver sheen all over.

What you’re looking at is only one of maybe a dozen that made it out of the manufacturing process. During the presentation, it was made abundantly clear that making this version of the phone requires so many dangerous steps around the steel that out of tens of thousands of attempts, only about 10 or 20 are successful. So, obviously, this is not a version that is up for review. It certainly looks really great, however.

Instead, the most premium version of the Mi 6 is the one that you’ll be seeing in the final review. True to form in their design department, Xiaomi has brought back the ceramic material and lined it with 18k gold to give it a really high-end finish. The result is a heavier phone with a material that shines really well in the light and also comes with a premium 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.

The screen of the Mi 6 is a 1080p panel with the conventional 16:9 aspect ratio, which keeps it from being completely current in terms of specs. However, it does show highly saturated colors to do the MIUI justice. To help users who might stare a little too deeply into the bright display, Xiaomi have added in an ‘Eye Care’ mode that filters some of the blue light. In an effort to provide the same benefits without compromising the display colors, the Eye Care mode won’t have the same aggressive yellow tint as other smartphones.

Beneath the display is the capacitive array, including a home button that is a little reminiscent of the HTC 10 – and it comes with the fingerprint reader built-in. The glass curves four ways in the corners, making it wrap around the front of the device. Meanwhile, for the backing, the glass curves upward to make the phone easier to handle. The entire body is splash resistant, though it definitely should not be submerged into water.

So that covers the design, let’s go deeper under the surface. Xiaomi has positioned itself as the first manufacturer to bring the Snapdragon 835 to China, giving the Mi 6 a very powerful device. 6GB is standard and there are different capacities for the onboard storage – as we mentioned already, the most expensive ceramic has that high capacity.

The battery is one of the bigger deals with this phone, as it sports 3350mAh. While we will be doing our full testing on the battery life, it is important to note off the bat the ratio between the unit and the smaller 5.15-inch display. This ratio is one of the largest in pretty much any smartphone, so the longevity should go for a while.

Xiaomi’s moves with the camera are very notable, as well – in the era of the dual camera, they have decided to join the fray with their own version of the zoom camera experience. Much like the iPhone 7 Plus, the Mi 6 comes with a default wide angle lens that sports 4-axis stabilization and a telephoto secondary shooter that adds a 2x optical zoom. The result is a camera with more choice than ever before for Xiaomi devices, and with the ceramic device I was able to get quite a few samples.

My first experience with the cameras yielded some mixed results – the one main downside being the lack of zoom capabilities for video. I was told that this is not a hardware limitation and that an update to the MIUI in the future could rectify this – however, they stopped short of guaranteeing such a change. That said, the picture taking experience benefits from the 2x zoom quite well, allowing for users to get closer to the subject without moving one’s feet. And with both lenses sporting 12 MP f/1.8 specs, the pictures have an adequate depth of field that gives each photo an appealing look.

For a little more depth of field, especially when photographing people, Xiaomi has included their own Portrait Mode that finds subjects and adds a healthy amount of bokeh to the background. This is a little different from the Huawei P10 bokeh effect and definitely more like the iPhone 7 mode, meaning that there is not much control over the effect. That said, these first tests on subjects yielded very good looking results, as long as the subject is within a certain distance – any farther, and subjects might not be cut out from the background quite as well.

With little to say about the software, all of these hardware changes are the crux of the Xiaomi Mi 6 experience. MIUI is constantly being updated under the suggestions of Xiaomi’s forum goers, so there are sure to be some significant software changes eventually. For now, I find the Mi 6 to be a conglomeration of some of the best features we’ve seen in the past year all put together into one package.

So, how much does that package cost? It’s surprisingly affordable. For a Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and a dual camera, users can get the phone for the RMB equivalent of $360. If you wanted to spring for the Ceramic edition, the premium would only bring it up to a total equivalent of $435. In the west, this is a price that is rather unheard of for what could be considered a flagship device.

My first impressions put the Mi 6 in a pretty positive spot, as Xiaomi attempts to make their flagship the place to find the best specs and features in one place. We will continue our testing over the next week or so before we give you our full review.

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