Here in the UK the 5G era is well and truly underway with networks rolling out the next generation of technology to allow super fast speeds to customers on the go.
Xiaomi who are always on the cutting edge of innovation have updated one of their recent 4G phones to include 5G and made it available at a very affordable price.
Vodafone UK were kind enough to loan me the device for a few weeks to see how well it performed in the real world.
I used the device as my main daily driver for a few weeks and now am able to give my thoughts on if you should splash the cash to own one yourself.
Design and display
These days companies are thinking of new ways to get maximum screen estate while still keeping a decent front facing camera for selfies and video calling services.
We started with the notch trend, which has over time got smaller thanks to improvements in technology, this has shifted into the pinhole like camera cutout in the middle like seen on the Huawei P30 Pro.
Not wanting to stand still, Samsung took the approach to remove the bezel all together and instead have a small hole for the camera in the actual screen, however this lead to it getting in the way of when watching videos on the screen and some people hated the design.
Companies like OnePlus went with the motorized popup camera, Xiaomi went a different way, and instead made the whole screen a slider which reveals not one, but two cameras underneath, which means they won’t get in the way when watching any content or using the device.
I actually grew to like this design, and was also due to the cool sliding noise the phone makes when you open and close it which is addictive to just pull out of your pocket and slide a few times for that tone.
With no bezel to house the camera, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G has a very impressive 93.4% screen to body ratio, and on the front has nothing to get in the way of what you are watching on that display.
Xiaomi went with a Full HD panel with a 2340 x 1080 resolution which is more than adequate for a smartphone still, whilst it does not have the Quad HD resolution or punchy colours from the likes of Samsung, the display was very good in all lighting conditions and I did not see this as a downgrade at all.
When you slide the display down you have a 24 megapixel camera paired with a secondary 2 megapixel depth sensor which allows you to capture portrait selfies, although the overall quality have mixed results depending on lighting conditions, often not quite getting the bokeh as accurate as a Samsung or a Pixel phone.
I will cover more on the selfie camera in the main camera section of this review later on including some sample photos and videos
Looking up at the top of the device you have one of the dual microphone setup which allows for stereo sound recording and also acts as noise cancelation when in voice calls, you also have the SIM card tray.
On the bottom you have a set of downward facing speakers for loudspeaker or for when playing muiltimedia, this produces very clear and very loud audio which was great for watching video services like Netflix and YouTube.
You get the USB-C port which is used for charging and data transfer right in the middle, thankfully you do get 18W fast charging with the supplied charger in the box, you do however forfeit wireless charging due to the ceramic back cover.
Over on the left side you have a dedicated button used for loading the Google Assistant, very handy for anyone who uses Google services on a daily basis, I found I used this a lot for setting reminders checking weather etc, sure you can use the ‘Hey Google’ keyword, but sometimes it is not always possible if in a loud area for example.
You also get the SIM tray which is removed using a small pin in the hole to pop it out, this is a SINGLE SIM phone with no expandable memory unfortunately.
Over on the right hand side there is a power button up at the top and also as expected is a volume up and down set of keys for controlling system volume as well as the volume of voice calls when in a phone call.
Over on the back you get a dual camera setup as we are seeing a lot more of these days, you also get the LED flash for helping photos in poorly lit conditions or using as a very handy flashlight if needed.
You get the gold 5G symbol on the back near the middle to show off this is in fact a 5G device and a new generation of technology is being used.
The back itself is actually made from ceramic, this is very shiny as well as adding a lot of weight to the hefty 225g body, it also gives you a bit of a decision to make when using it though.
Do you keep the phone in a case which comes in the box, also adds more grip and protects the phone from getting knocked about in daily use, or do you keep the case off to get that nice ceramic feel but attracts fingerprint like crazy and will have you wiping with your clothing every few minutes to clean it up.
Photography is very important for a lot of people when picking a new smartphone Xiaomi realize this and actually have some impressive camera technology on their most recent devices, this one included.
Whist lots of smartphone manufacturers will put different megapixel lenses in on their smartphones, the Mix 3 5G has two 12 megapixel cameras, one for normal photos, one for zooming in as it is a telephoto lens so offers excellent zooming options.
There is no super wide angle camera which was disappointing as lots of phones these days are having this option included, however for most people having a standard as a telephoto camera will be more than enough.
The camera interface is very easy to understand and navigate through, on the left-hand side You have controls for the flash HDR AI and settings.
On the opposite side you have a slider to navigate through the difference modes Such as portraits night mode video etc, this is seen on most phones so would be pretty easy to understand even for the novice user.
There is a night mode included which captures multiple photos and merges them into one 12 hopefully make a better low light image however the results can be very next as I mentioned later on in the review you and this mode does not compete with what the pixel or Huawei offer.
One thing that it was not included thankfully was a version of the animoji or memoji that both Samsung and Apple have introduced in their recent phones as most of the time is rather pointless and can lead to a poor user experience if not done correctly.
In good lighting conditions, especially out in the sun, you can get some very pleasing results to share with friends and family or on social media, this also includes decent macro photos when you get in close to your subject.
Where the camera let’s down though is when it comes to night photos, even with the night mode setting on the photos taken often came out grainy or with some blur, very noticeable at times and something that you will definitely find annoying if you are a night time photographer.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the Mi Mix 3 5G has two selfie cameras which let it capture portrait selfies if you wanted too.
Quality is mixed as already said, especially when it comes to portrait selfies which often miss the mark when compared to the competition.
Where it does do a good job is with normal selfie shots or more so when you need that camera for video calls such as on Google Duo or Skype.
For those use cases the camera does a very good job so if you are someone who does not want portrait photos of themselves and wants a good video calling camera, don’t let this out you off getting this phone.
Video mode is decent enough for most people to use on a daily basis thanks to to a good pair of cameras sensors which help with the only photography but also capturing clear video.
Quality does go up to 4K resolution if you want all need to use this however standard HD is good enough for most situations.
Stabilization is also very good as I found when recording video handheld with no tripod.
Below is a quick slow motion sample I was able to get in reasonable lighting conditions during the day.
The Mi Mix 3 5G might lack the 48 megapixel camera found on the Mi9 which is also on sale, but it does come with an impressive dual 12 megapixel set of cameras which does a great job most of the time.
Performance and battery
When buying a phone that is a good £250-£300 less than the competition you would think some key areas are overlooked to get that more affordable price.
However this was far from the case with the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G as it comes with 6GB of RAM and a up to date speedy Snapdragon 855 processor to zip through all daily tasks you can throw at it.
I tested some different types of games to push the performance to it’s limits, and these included PUBG, Pokémon Go, Fortnite as well as some sports management type games that use less resources, all worked flawlessly without any stuttering or slow down.
Speaking of performance, a quick mention for the X50 5G chip included which makes this a 5G device.
Speeds over 4G were excellent, helped with 4G+ and Carrier Aggregation for even faster download speeds without the need for 5G.
Should you get that shiny new 5G network, depending on location you can get some serious download speeds, I have seen speeds around 750Mbps in Birmingham by Ricky from TechTalkUK who did some testing of his own recently.
This is some serious speed in your hands and will be great to see other results come in as the networks improve coverage across the UK in the coming months and years.
When it comes to battery, the large 3800mAh battery does a great job as lasting the full day, even if you use the device for a lot of heavy tasks, where the real drain comes from is when connected to the 5G networks so if you are not in a 5G area, or do not need it, switching this off will help give you that bit extra.
Storage comes in at a large 64GB built in but does not come with any expandable options so you are limited to onboard only, however this can be improved by using various online cloud options such as Google Drive which comes free with every Google account, and higher storage plans are available for a monthly price if needed.
When it came to the overall performance of the Mi Mix 3 5G, I could not fault it at all and found the experience to be smooth, lag free and enjoyable and could not tell this was a cheaper phone than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
Android Q was in beta form at time of writing this review, and final rollout should happen shortly which is great news for anyone who wants to get the latest version of Android on their latest smartphone.
Xiaomi do a few things differently such as notification icons needing to be switched on under the display settings so you know by looking at the top bar what the notifications needed to be seen are.
There are also some pre-installed apps for clearing up storage space, but when you setup the phone for the first time pay attention to the switch which talks about adverts in the software, some of the built in apps do have adverts which can be a little frustrating and also cannot be switched off unfortunately.
Xiaomi have not got into the health software side of things yet, where as Huawei, Samsung and some other manufacturers have built health applications for monitoring your steps and exercise, this is something you will need to look to 3rd party apps to have working, thankfully the manufacturers mentioned above all have their app downloadable through the Play Store for free.
As mentioned at the start of this review I was able to use the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G for a few weeks and am happy to say it was a very enjoyable experience.
The battery lasted a full day with a lot of use, having it switched on to find 5G does hit the battery though so if you know you are not in one of the 5G locations it would be best to switch the phone onto 4G/3G/2G mode to get the best performance.
The camera captures some great daytime photos as well as decent night shots thanks to the dual camera setup on the back, and the front camera hidden under the screen is a great show piece when showing off to friends and family.
The network performance was very good with Vodafone spending a large amount of money investing in both 4G and 5G and this showed in my speed tests and performance testing.
Overall I would have to say if you wanted to pick up a 5G phone and not spend a fortune tune on doing so, the Xiaomi is a great option with it’s impressive set of specs for the price being asked, and you get something rather unique with that slipping down screen to reveal the camera.