Xiaomi Mi 8 Review (20 days later) – Beast from the East

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SOFTWARE

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The Xiaomi Mi 8 currently comes with Android 8.1 Oreo on top of Xiaomi’s own custom MIUI 9.5 Stable version. This offers great features and overall enhancements, but there is still no sign of MIUI 10 – which is supposed to give much a much needed overhaul  to the platform and offer AI and other great features right out of the box.

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The fingerprint sensor can be found on the back of the device and it has always worked reliably and very fast, although I didn’t use it all that much.

I did not use the fingerprint sensor a lot of times because of the built-in infra sensor that can be found in the notch. Xiaomi has made an IR sensor that scans your face and unlocks your device – I found no option to get Google Pay or PayPal to allow me to sign in and make a purchase, so I assume support for that will only come at a later point.

Back to the sensor – the IR face scan worked so reliably and it was so comfortable that often, I even forgot that this phone has a fingerprint sensor on the back. I tested it in both bright and pitch black conditions and it never missed or was in doubt even for a second. It also didn’t matter if I wore glasses or not, it always unlocked my device lighting fast.

If you’re wondering, I have attempted to show my face on my laptop, on a tv and on a phone to try and get access to the device, however I was unable to trick the system and bypass the lock screen. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but a simple photograph will most likely not allow anyone to simply pick up your phone and unlock it without your permission.

I have also noticed that the Mi 8 only allows you to unlock the phone if you have your eyes open, so unless you’ve scanned yourself with your eyes closed, it will not allow you to unlock the device – which is certainly a great thing.

MIUI has a lot of great features that can genuinely be useful at certain times, and these are also not as jam packed as it is on Samsung’s devices. You still get a lot of options, but the way everything is laid out – I just much prefer this over any other manufacturers’ setups.

There are two ways to navigate the device. Xiaomi was very keen to copy this from the iPhone, and I think they have done a much better job than Apple, or even Google with the latest Android P Beta release. For starters, the on-screen navigation buttons do not need any introduction. You can tap to go home, back to previous pages and to get to the recents – nothing new here.

The new gesture navigation is amazing.

You can swipe up from the bottom to go back to the homescreen or swipe up and hold to see your recent applications. If you’ve played around with the iPhone X, you probably have nothing new so far. By now, you’re probably wondering how you would go back to a previous screen – and that can be done by swiping on either side of the lower end of the display. You will also get a pretty cool looking animation guiding you and giving you some feedback that you’ve went back. This setup is brilliant and it made the usage of the device a lot more comfortable and easy – it took me some time to re-adjust and learn, but once you get it – it’s natural and you don’t want the on-screen navigation buttons back.

One bad thing though is that you can’t use Google Assistant with the gesture navigation enabled as you can’t long press onto anything – if you’re a fan of Google Assistant and you use it a lot, you’ll most likely want to figure out another way to physically trigger it – or you could always just say the magic phrase to get it up and working.

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I have had one really bad and annoying issue when using Nova launcher. I’ve noticed that whenever I would restart the device and use the custom launcher instead of Xiaomi’s own MIUI one, it would always ask me to give permission to open up applications – for every single app. For some reason in this version of MIUI – all previously granted permissions will simply be denied and turned off after a restart – so I quickly started getting used to the built-in launcher which worked great most of the time, although I still much prefer custom gestures and the overall feel of stock Android. This issue will hopefully get fixed in a future update, until then, I would strongly recommend getting used to the thought that you will only want to use the built-in launcher – or wait for the fixes to come.

One more small issue that I come across is with the Haptic motor. The feedback that it provides is simply not as hard as I would personally like – and definitely not as good as on other very expensive and high-end devices. It still gets the job done, don’t get me wrong, but every once in a while you may not know that your phone is ringing or you’ve received a text message.

CAMERA

The Xiaomi Mi 8 has a dual rear camera setup. The primary sensor is 12MP with f/1.8 aperture with Optical Image Stabilisation and Phase Detection Autofocus. The secondary is also a 12MP sensor but with f/2.4 aperture that is solely there to provide 2x optical zoom and to enhance portrait images. There’s also a Dual LED flash setup on the back.

The selfie shooter on the front is a 20MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture that can record in 1080p.

In bright conditions, it captures beautiful looking images that look great on all screen sizes. In dark or low-light scenes the camera captures quite a bit of noise and the contrast and sharpness are not on par with current flagship devices – although I still think these would look good with a few tweaks.

The 2X optical zoom in my opinion is just a gimmick. It doesn’t zoom in a lot and it really doesn’t seem to offer features that I would consider to be worthy.

For portrait shots, It does indeed help that there is a secondary sensor, but overall the bokeh effect is just not on par with recent flagship devices. The same can be said for the selfie shooter that offers great colours and overall takes a nice photo, but the blur is not as nicely cut out as on the Pixel 2 XL – which by the way, only uses a single sensor.

If you’re a casual photographer and only share things on social media, this is a solid choice as it can manage to take great photos overall – just don’t expect it to come any close to a DSLR.

CONCLUSION

All in all, I think that Xiaomi really deserves a lot more appreciation for creating such a great device that doesn’t seem to compromise too much – for a price that is so low, when compared head-to-head with popular high-end flagship devices.

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The Mi 8 provides an excellent battery life, lighting fast performance that doesn’t get choppy under load, and it can also shoot some very usable and great images.

The Mi 8 costs roughly £400 or $450 US Dollars. If you can afford it, I would definitely recommend picking this up if you ever need a secondary device, or you’re due for an upgrade at the price of a mid-ranger. This Mi 8 can accomplish everything that you throw at it, and if you can live with Xiaomi’s own integrations, I really do think that you are getting an amazing piece of hardware and software both in the short and long term.

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