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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mi Mix 2S vs Huawei P20

Mi Mix 2S vs Huawei P20
Announced only yesterday, we've been unable to spend a great deal of time with either the Mi Mix 2S or the Huawei P20 (or P20 Pro). For now we're comparing these phones based on design and specification, and we'll update this article once we've completed our full set of benchmarks.



PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Mi Mix 2S will go on sale before the Huawei P20, but for UK users it's probable that you'll be able to get your hands on the P20 first. That's because although the Mi Mix 2S is available to pre-order now and goes on sale in China on 3 April, it's not officially going to be sold in the UK. That means you'll need to ship it from a site such as GearBest, which takes time.

You'll also be looking to pay a little more than the RRP, especially when you factor in import duty (calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork). The Mi Mix 2S should still be cheaper, though. It's available in three versions:

  • 6GB RAM, 64GB storage: 3,299 RMB/£371/US$525
  • 6GB RAM, 128 GB storage: 3,599 RMB/£405/$573
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, Global bands, free wireless charger: 3,999 RMB/£449/$635
UK users are advised to opt for the top-end model, given that it supports 43 connectivity bands, including all three 4G LTE frequencies used by UK network operators. Those on O2 and networks that borrow its network, such as Sky, GiffGaff and Tesco, will not be able to receive 4G LTE on the cheaper models because they do not support the 800MHz band.
The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, by comparison, are available to pre-order now and go on sale on 5 April. You'll be able to buy them within the UK, which means no import duty or long delivery times, and pricing is set at £599/€649/$849 for the standard P20, and £799/899€/$1,100 for the P20 Pro.

The reality is, of course, that most of us in the UK prefer to buy our smartphones on a contract, whereby we get the phone 'free' and pay a monthly charge that part pays it off and part covers our minutes, texts and data. This isn't possible with the Mi Mix 2S, though the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro are available from Carphone Warehouse, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.

Those who order the Huawei P20 before 5 April will also get a free pair of £329 Bose QC35 II noise cancelling headphones.

Bottom line: While the Mi Mix 2S is significantly cheaper than the Huawei P20 even when you factor in import duty, for UK users the Huawei P20 wins this category: it's easier to get hold of, you can buy it on a contract, and aftersales support should also be more easily accessible.

DESIGN
It's very difficult to accurately judge the design of one smartphone when compared to another, given that everyone has different ideas about what makes a handset look good. We'd argue that Xiaomi wins this category hands-down, however. 

The Mi Mix family has won international acclaim for its design. It has several awards to its name, including an IDEA Gold award, and in some design museums the Mix has become a permanent fixture. It's also responsible for a barrage of cheaper copycat smartphones coming out of China, many of which carry 'Mix' in their product name. 

With the Mi Mix 2S Xiaomi takes a gorgeous smartphone and makes it even better-looking by increasing the screen-to-body ratio - without adding an infamous 'notch', which is the route Huawei has taken with its P20 and P20 Pro. The slab-like Mix 2S has a ceramic rear with ultra-smooth curved edges that melt into the 7000-series aluminium frame, and a large, bright 5.99in IPS panel that matches the P20 on its full-HD resolution. 

Xiaomi gets closer to a truly bezel-less design than any phone we've seen yet. At a glance you'd think the top edge and left/right sides were all screen, though there is actually a speaker and sensors at the very top. It uses special technology to do away with other unsightly blemishes at the top of the handset, using a hidden ultrasonic proximity sensor and a tweaked sound-guided speaker. We found in the Mi Mix 2S that it's a setup that works as well as any other standard phone and call quality is good.

The one thing we don't like, and that's something that hasn't changed here, is that the front camera is forced into a position below the screen that makes taking selfies awkward. Using apps such as Snapchat is difficult when you have to turn the phone upside down, too. While we're not fans of the P20's notch, it does get around this predicament.

The finishing touch is exquisite 18K gold detailing on the camera surround - if you buy the black model anyway, since Xiaomi decided silver looked better on white.

Note that there's no headphone jack, since the Mi Mix 2S uses its USB-C slot for audio, but that's also the case with the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro.

Viewed side by side the two Huawei's are very similar, at least from the front. The Pro has a larger 6.1in screen (vs 5.84in), but both feature the same front fingerprint scanner (on the Xiaomi this is found on the rear). Turn them over, though, and you'll spot an extra camera lens on the Pro, which uses a 40Mp + 20Mp + 8Mp triple array.

The P20 has had a redesign over the P10, now featuring a glass back and some fancy colour options that make it feel like a premium piece of kit. The P20 is available in black, champagne gold, pink gold, midnight blue and, our favourite, twilight: a gradient from dark blue to a pinkish hue.

A key difference between the Huawei P20 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is that the Huawei is waterproof (rated IP67). It always supports an always-on display. But the Xiaomi hits back with 7.5W wireless charging, something that should have been possible with the P20's new glass rear panel.

Bottom line: The notch-less and virtually bezel-less Mi Mix 2S wins the design category on its unique, premium looks, but the Huawei P20 is no ugly duckling. If waterproofing is a must, however, then your only choice is the Huawei.

CORE HARDWARE AND PERFORMANCE
The top-end Mi Mix 2S runs hardware as powerful as any other Android phone on the market, with a second-gen 10nm Snapdragon 845 (Qualcomm's top chip), Adreno 630 graphics and 8GB of DDR4 RAM. We have not yet benchmarked it, though Xiaomi claims it's capable of a 277k point score in AnTuTu, which is pretty impressive to say the least. As with the Huawei it also supports ARCore for augmented-reality apps.

Huawei's P20 is also running top-end hardware, though it's not directly comparable without benchmarking both phones in our lab. That's because it runs the company's own Kirin 970 chip and Mali-G72 MP12 graphics, which we also saw in last year's Mate 10. It's probably not going to be quite as capable as the Mi Mix 2S, given that the P20 has just 4GB of RAM and the Pro 6GB of RAM, but we'd struggle to find anyone who would complain about overall speed.

Storage is pretty good from either phone, though the Mi Mix's 256GB is incredibly generous. We doubt you'll need more than the P20's 128GB in any case. 

To our knowledge Xiaomi has not confirmed the battery capacity, though we expect it to be 3,400mAh as with its predecessor. That matches the capacity of the P20, while the Pro packs in a 4000mAh cell. Do not assume the Huawei offers longer battery life, however, since  variety of things such as software (the Xiaomi runs MIUI, and Huawei EMUI) can affect this.

Bottom line: We're refraining from picking a winner here until we've benchmarked the phones. We suspect the Xiaomi may have the edge on performance, and the Huawei on battery life, but we're prepared to be corrected.

PHOTOGRAPHY
The one thing both Huawei and Xiaomi make great claims about is their cameras. We have spent some time with the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro's cameras, but we have not yet had a chance to test the upgraded dual-camera on the Xiaomi. If you want to take it from someone who has, DxOMark has awarded the Mi Mix 2S 101 points, the Huawei P20 102 points, and the Huawei P20 Pro 109 points, so you could assume the Pro has the edge. 

The P20 Pro is going to be garnering the most column inches here for its triple-lens setup. It has 40Mp colour, 20Mp monochrome and 8Mp telephoto lenses, while the standard P20 'makes do' with a 12Mp (f1.8) colour and 20Mp (f1.6) telephoto lens. By comparison, the Xiaomi's Sony IMX363 dual-camera consists of two 12Mp (f1.8) wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

On paper the Pro's camera sounds fantastic, particularly with a 5x optical zoom (Mi Mix 2S has 2x optical zoom) and crazy high 102,400 ISO, and it was certainly capable of outstanding low-light shots in our testing. However, you should note that only its 8Mp lens supports OIS, with the other two (and both those on the P20) relying on AI for stabilisation.

Xiaomi has implemented four-axis OIS on its camera, and instead uses AI to perform clever tricks such as on-the-fly translation and currency conversion, and intelligent background blurring (the bokeh effect). The latter is actually also possible from a single camera, which means you can create bokeh-effect selfies, too.

The company talks up its dual-pixel autofocus, hardware-level noise reduction, and massive 1.4um pixel size that allows 25 percent more light to get in for improved low-light photography. How well it works, though, we'll just have to wait and see.

Bottom line: According to DxOMark the Huawei P20 Pro has the best photography skills in this round-up, but we are not DxOMark and we will reserve judgement until we've tested the Mi Mix 2S' camera.

SPECS
  • 5.4in 2244x1080 18.7:9 LCD
  • Android 8.1 with EMUI 8.1
  • Kirin 970 CPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB storage 20- and 12Mp dual-rear cameras
  • 24Mp front camera
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4G LTE
  • Nano-SIM (Dual-SIM in some regions)
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 3400mAh non removable battery
  • 7.65mm thick

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