Marques Brownlee: Get a closer look at the XIAOMI Mi Mix Alpha in MKBHD’s hands-on video

The nearly all-display phone is in the wild

Mi Mix Alpha
Mi Mix Alpha

It’s been six months since Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix Alpha, with its intriguing “surround screen” that wraps almost entirely around the phone.

By Cameron Faulkner@camfaulkner

Now, tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee (also known as MKBHD) has a more in-depth look at the prototype hardware running prototype software. And while it seems very polished for an unfinished product, a closer look reveals a few areas where its software needs some optimization and where some of its hardware doesn’t quite seem as magical as it did at the unveiling.

Let’s touch on the specs first.

Unsurprisingly, the display is the main highlight here, and it’s dazzling to behold. It’s a 2088 x 2250 resolution display, wrapping all the way around the phone and meeting at a ceramic strip on the phone’s back that houses all of its cameras. Xiaomi claims that it’s a 7.9-inch display, measured from end to end, though he likens the actual size of its main section to that of an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The Mi Mix Alpha has the Snapdragon 855 Plus, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of UFS 3.0 flash storage inside. The phone also packs in a 4,050mAh battery that supports 40W fast charging.

Given that the Mi Mix Alpha has so much screen real estate, Xiaomi attempts to take full advantage of it by shifting some software functions normally constrained to a standard-sized phone screen to various parts of the display — with varying degrees of success. The left edge showcases the date and the time and offers a glimpse at notifications.

When you flip the phone around, it displays a dashboard of sorts, revealing the weather, a step counter, music controls, and the like. It’s cool, but instead of pulling down a notification shade, you’ll have to physically rotate the phone to get the same info.

Taking pictures works as you’d expect, though you’ll need to twist the phone around to take selfies as it doesn’t have a selfie camera. The bright side of this awkward interface choice is that you’ll be snapping selfies with the phone’s 108MP main camera.

Xiaomi placed some digital controls for volume control and power over on the right side, and MKBHD says these need some work. He states that using these buttons can be hit-or-miss, and it’s possibly due to Xiaomi’s in-progress palm rejection algorithm, which caused some accidental presses here and in other places while using the phone. There’s a physical hardware button for putting the phone to sleep along its top edge, but there’s no easy shortcut for adjusting the volume.

MKBHD’s experience with using the phone turned up a few interesting revelations. You might assume that an all-glass build would get super slippery, but he says that it’s actually grippy. Also, he shares that the glass that wraps around the display is actually three separate pieces fused together to give the illusion of one piece.

And depending on the lighting, where the pieces meet can be easy to spot with a rainbow effect that hits on the edges of the glass.

Xiaomi claimed that the Mi Mix Alpha went into “small-scale” production in late 2019, though the company hasn’t given an update on wider availability for the phone outside of China. There hasn’t been an update on international pricing, either. Xiaomi set the price in September 2019 at 19,999 yuan, or about $2,800, which is pricey for a phone with a folded screen that doesn’t actually fold. More

By Cameron Faulkner@camfaulkner