Xiaomi Mi 8 Review

12 June 2018, 16:35:13

Xiaomi Mi 8 Review
You can get a Xiaomi Mi 8 from Geekbuying with a $6 coupon based on the sale price, if you subscribe to their newsletter from the 6th Anniversary discounts page.

OS, UI and software

The Xiaomi Mi 8 we've received runs on MIUI 9.5 | Stable 9.5.6.0 (OEACNFA) based on Android 8.1 Oreo. This is the latest original Chinese ROM for this model. For the past week, the MIUI page for downloading official software has been down but once it is back, we will check it for a newer version of the software as we're curious about seeing the Mi 8 with MIUI 10 on it. Having the original Chinese ROM on your Xiaomi smartphone means you get all third-party apps with Chinese content. Of course, you can remove them if you want to and still enjoy the benefits of operating on the original software version. At a first glance, the Oreo-based MIUI does not look very different from the Nougat-based one. The latest MIUI 9.5 version offers two icon packs instead of one like the previous version but everything else - the architecture of the desktops, the design of the notifications and quick settings, the volume and power off shades - everything looks and behaves as those elements in the Nougat-based MIUI. MIUI 9.5 lacks the desktop shortcuts and granular notifications control - typical features of Android Oreo. The Lock Screen is a traditional MIUI one with shortcuts to the Mi Remote options and the Camera app. The Chinese ROM contains a Wallpaper Carousel, which is off by default and from its settings you can choose whether a shortcut to it should appear on the Lock Screen or not. A simple swipe up from the Lock screen unlocks the device and you land on the Home screen. It contains a Time/Date and a Weather widget, both of which can be removed. The Weather widget icon is redesigned but the app behind it remains the same. There is a Tools folder plus favourite apps and a docked tray containing the Dialer, Messenger, Browser and Camera. A swipe to the left opens the second desktop with the rest of the folders and apps. A swipe to the right opens the favourites tray with shortcuts to preferred services, apps, features, information sources, notes, step counter, etc. You can customize it to your liking. Finally, we see the split-screen mode in MIUI 9.5 and some apps still don't support it. You can access it from the icon in the top left corner of the Task Manager or simply grab an app and drag it to the top of the screen. The Task Manager tiles the apps horizontally. If you drag a window downwards, you will lock the app from being cleared with the Clear All icon. The volume shade with three slides and silent mode toggle as well as the power off screen remain the same as in the latest Nugat-based MIUI version.
In the Chinese MIUI versions, you can choose whether the Notifications and Quick Settings should be shown split into two successive screens or should be shown together. The design of both is the same as the one on previous MIUI versions and does not reflect the new Android Oreo paradigms. Only the Quick Settings screen lacks the search bar with GQ scanning options. If you zoom in with two fingers on an empty area on any of the desktops or simply touch and hold on that space, you will open the Widgets menu, which offers a choice of wallpapers and widgets, window transition effects and home screen settings. The home screen settings can also be accessed from the main Settings menu. From here you can choose a default launcher (in this version of MIUI you finally get an access to a second one), set the default desktop, fill the empty cells, lock the home screen layout, switch on/off the favourites tray, which was named QuickCard in MIUI 9.0 and is now called AppVault in MIUI 9.5.
It is a typical MIUI feature that all applications are installed directly on the screens following the Home one and the docked apps appear at the bottom on each one of them. Removing an app uninstalls it directly after a confirmation dialogue. The Dialer and Contacts in MIUI appear as separate tabs in one and the same application, though they are available as separate app icons as well. The Chinese MIUI offers a third tab called Yellow Pages. The Messenger is quite simple and remains a separate app. The MIUI File Manager also contains three tabs - Recents (recently stored/opened files), Categories (files sorted in folders according to their type such as Docs, Videos, Images, Music, etc.), and Storage, which lists all files in their corresponding folders. It contains a shortcut to the Cleaner and Mi Drop. The proprietary Clock, Sound recorder and Screen recorder apps can be accessed from the Tools folder and feature minor updates. The in-house developed Calculator is known for providing not only a classic and scientific version of a calculator, but also containing options for converting metric units and, currencies, calculating mortgages, etc. The Calendar and Gallery apps remain largely unchanged. The Browser has been updated a bit and now the settings shade contains data about your MI account as a header.
The Weather app preserves its beautiful design and you also get the usual Compass and Level found in the Tools folder, where you will also find the QR Scanner, Downloads, Feedback, Mail, Mi Roaming and the Xiao AI voice assistant. There are some proprietary Xiaomi applications such as Notes, App Store, Games, News, Reader, Videos, all of which, except for the Notes offer content in Chinese and are part of MIUI's media ecosystem. The Music application has been entirely redesigned and will be discussed in the Audio section of this review. The device also arrives with the Mi Home, Mi Live and Mi Wallet apps plus Baidu Map. The third-party applications are all placed in the More Apps folder. It is there you can find TaoBao, Ctrip, Baidu, AliPay, Weibo, Mi Talk, Mi Life, etc.
The Themes application is traditional for Chinese versions of MIUI. It gives you access to tons of online themes, wallpapers, ringtones, and Chinese fonts. It is also a one-point manager of all themes, wallpapers, ringtones and fonts you have on your device and allows you to customize the lock style, status bar, icons, desktops, dial pad, etc. The most noteworthy of all typical MIUI applications is the Security one. It made its first appearance in the first MIUI 8 and is dedicated to monitoring your device and optimizing its performance. The app provides lots of features, but there are four main ones - Cleaner for optimizing the internal storage by cleaning unnecessary files, Security scan, Boost speed and Battery usage. The latter will be discussed in the Battery section of this review. The Security app also contains Data usage monitor and combines in one place all app management features such as app lock, permissions, dual apps, etc. Additional features that can be accessed from the Security app are the Blocklist, Deep clean, Game speed booster, Second Space, etc.
The Oreo-based MIUI 9.5 looks and feels almost exactly the same as older Nougat-based MIUI versions. The same applies to the Settings menu which follows the latest MIUI design paradigm instead of the default Android Oreo style. Being a Chinese ROM it also lacks the Security Status - a typical Oreo feature that contains the Find My Device service, Google Play Protect, and Security Update. These are available only in the global MIUI ROMs. The Settings begin with the My Device menu that contains data about the current software version, main device specifications, device name, model number, Mi Store, legal data. The second group of settings is the Network one for managing the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Portable and other wireless connections, NFC payments, SIM cards, data usage and mobile networks. These include some new features as well such as the Oreo-bound Wi-Fi assistant, Share QR code and One-time data limit for the Portable hotspot menu. The third menu is named Personal and manages the Display, Wallpapers, Themes and Sounds & Vibrations. The Display menu contains the usual Brightness level, Reading mode (off by default), the Contrast & colours menu, which is its most significant feature and may alter the way you perceive the screen of your unit depending on the combination you choose. From here you can also change the font style and size, switch on/off the auto-rotation of the screen and the double tap to wake feature. This version of MIUI 9.5 introduces the Always On mode with a scheduler. The Sound & vibration menu offers nothing new as options - there are three volume bars, Silent mode toggle, ringtones, notifications and system sounds. The Audio settings are removed from here and can be accessed from a separate menu under the Additional settings as well as from the Music app. They contain options for adjusting the headphones, choosing a type of earphones, a toggle for the Mi Sound Enhancer, and Equalizer.
System & device is the name of the largest group of settings and its first menu contains the Lock screen & password options. From here you can create and manage fingerprint IDs, fingerprint payments, set a screen lock and privacy protection password as well as set up your lock screen - shortcuts, smart cover mode, etc. From this menu, you also set and manage your face ID for unlocking the device. The Wallpaper Carousel menu is located in the Lock screen settings as well. The Notifications & status bar settings are second in this group. Being a Chinese MIUI, it gives you the option to split the Notifications and Quick Settings followed by app notifications management, quick settings toggles editing, the status bar and notification shade. The Home screen settings come third and are the same ones that you can access from the Widgets menu. They allow you to choose a default launcher, lock the home screen layout and others.
A new menu in the System & device group of settings has appeared called Full-Screen Display. It allows you to either use on-screen navigation bar or on-screen gestures and hide the virtual buttons. It also includes a list of apps that support the fullscreen mode. With Mi 8, this menu also gives you the option to hide the bangs of the display. In reality, this area is not shut off completely, it continues to serve as a standard status bar with a black background. Xiao AI is MIUI's voice assistant and its settings come as the next menu, which is mainly in Chinese as this service is available only for Chinese-speaking users. Second space is the next in line. It has been around MIUI for quite some time now and allows you to have two separate virtual places on one physical handset. If you activate the second space, a Switch icon appears on the home screen and you can easily switch between the two. This menu is followed by the Battery & performance (to be discussed in the corresponding part of this review), Storage, and MIUI Lab. The last group of options under System & device is the Additional settings, which offers plenty of features for customising the way you interact with the device. It contains the Date and Time, Language and Region settings, detailed Privacy settings. The Language menu offers a choice of five languages, including English - this is typical for the Chinese MIUI. It also contains the Autofill service - a new feature in Android Oreo. The Privacy settings allow you a finer control over your data and app usage and contain the picture-in-picture service - yet another Oreo-bound feature.
In the Additional Settings group, you will also find the Quick Ball menu, from where you can activate and customize a floating dot, which is yet another type of navigation, manage the notification light and headphones & audio effects, activate/deactivate the one-handed mode. There's an additional menu called Button and gesture shortcuts from where you can setup quick shortcuts for launching the Camera, Xiao AI voice assistant, take a screenshot, turn off the screen, turn on the torch, close the current app, open split screen, show the task manager, etc. You can also choose the apps in which the navigation buttons will be automatically disabled when you open them. The Accessibility menu is a large part of the Additional Settings and offers plenty of features, including turning on/off Xiao AI, Game speed booster, App vault and other downloadable services that are not typical for Android Oreo. The last menus in the Additional settings are the Mi Mover, Backup and reset, Printing services. The Accounts group comes next and manages your Mi Account and any other accounts you might have. The last group of settings is dedicated to the applications on the handset. It separates the system from the additionally installed apps and provides individual settings for each one of them. From this section you can also manage the App Lock, Permissions and Dual App feature, all found as services under the Security application. The Feedback menu is the last and is the same as the Feedback app - an option to send your feedback directly to Xiaomi.

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