Is Xiaomi Mi 8 SE the new mid-range king? While the world’s latest flagship phones threaten to put a huge dent in our bank accounts, China often comes to our rescue geared with its very own affordable yet at the same time high-quality flagships. It does have to cut a few corners, maybe quite literally to get to the mid-range prices it’s widely renowned for. The results we usually get are more often than not satisfying and have their own unique charm. Proof being the latest addition to the Xiaomi phone series, the Mi 8 SE.

Xiaomi Mi 8 SE Phone Review

The Xiaomi Mi 8 rose up to its fame, and quite rightfully so as Xiaomi’s latest flagship lineup. What followed was its successor with a few cut corners to make it affordable but still maintain its good qualities. The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE was introduced at Xiaomi’s 8th-year-anniversary event in China, alongside the Mi 8 and Mi 8 Pro. The 8SE is a watered down version of the original flagship as it cuts down costs to an approximate $350. At first glance, it looks kind of boxy and has no curved edges falling behind on the looks department. But as the smoke clears, it offers quite a package without breaking the bank. It seems too good to be true. Here’s what we at The Techseer think about whether you should go for it or ditch it and check out our Top 10 Mobile Phones in 2018.

Pros

  • Super AMOLED display, with HDR support
  • Long battery life, fast charger
  • Snapdragon 710 proved to be a great performer
  • Solid camera work, a step down from its predecessor but still good

Cons

  • No 3.5mm jack, no microSD slot
  • Audio is loud but unimpressive
  • A bit of an issue with video playback and battery efficiency in current MIUI build.

Price and Availability

The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE was announced on 31st May 2018 coming to market on the 8th of June 2018  in China.  Xiaomi Mi 8 SE release date in Australia is yet to be announced but you can order it online from all major retailers or check the phone out in your local phone stores in 2-3 months.

Xiaomi Mi 8 SE price for 4GB RAM+64GB is Yuan 1799 ($355AUD). If you want to upgrade a bit more the 6GB RAM+64GB version costs Yuan 1999 ($395AUD).

Design

Available Colors: Grey, Blue, Red, Gold

As you can probably imagine, corners had to be cut, quite literally to accommodate to the affordable price of the Mi 8 SE. So while it borrows a lot of its design from its ancestor, sadly the curved edges aren’t a thing anymore. Well, it does follow the familiar status quo- metal frame, inside a glass sandwich.

The new Xiaomi Mi 8 SE features a premium glass body. It parallels the glass body of the more expensive and larger edition, the Mi 8 which is definitely a plus. It’s not that much of a high-spec device, but it sure feels like a premium flagship in hand. While some feel like Xiaomi straight up copied iPhone X’s design, when we held the Mi 8 SE in our hands, we can honestly tell you, they did not. The vertical camera placement is the only thing that remotely resembles that of iPhone X’s. The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE favors more of a blocky design contrary to iPhone X’s rounded design.

We have to say we love the in-hand feel of the device. It feels nice and sturdy and fits quite perfectly in our hands. We had the gold color variant and it’s absolutely breathtaking. We’re happy with the phone’s glass sandwich design, with a glass display and a glass back, both of which are held together by an aluminum frame. The glass on glass design does make it quite fragile so you might want to put a cover on this one.

One thing that really caught our attention was that despite its glass back, it isn’t a magnet for fingerprints.

It also has a rounded fingerprint reader which blends in quite nicely with its surroundings. Keeping up with their squeaky-clean track record, the biometric sensor is snappy and reliable.

Display

We have to say, our favorite feature yet is the display. Xiaomi Mi 8 SE comes to us with its big 5.88-inch Super AMOLED display which has a resolution of 1080 x 2244 pixels. This gives it a pixel density of 423 PPI. We were also pretty intrigued to hear that the Mi 8 SE came with an OLED display. We prefer the OLED over IPS panels and the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE doesn’t disappoint. The display on this thing looks amazing, there’s a ton of contrast and colors, text looks crisp and pictures and videos pop out.

Not only does its OLED display give the phone life, it’s great for the phone’s battery life. Some people hated the notch on the top, yes, we were one of them but after using the phone for a few days, it didn’t really feel like a problem anymore.

We’re really happy with the display and we’re certain you won’t be disappointed.

Camera

Remember the cut corners we talked about? Unfortunately, the camera comes under that list. It suffered a bit of a downgrade from the flagship Mi 8 and it shows.

Well instead of a symmetrical dual camera setup and its optical zoom capabilities, the phone features a 12MP main shooter along with a 20MP selfie camera with Al portrait support, accompanied by a simple 5MP, f/2.0, 1.12µm secondary camera. While it was a pretty much a downgrade, the main camera isn’t really all that bad and does have a few extra perks. For starters, it’s positioned behind a decently bright f/1.9 lens and has a pixel size of 1.4 µm.

The image quality of the pictures we took wasn’t exactly high-class but they were pretty amazing for its incredible price point. The HDR Auto mode rarely triggered when we actually needed it to. Needless to say, we prefer the manual mode. Although there might just be a better option for this-Al Camera, which in our opinion, covers scenery really well. Speaking of modes, they’re arranged side by side and you can access them by swiping left or right.

The phone can capture videos either 4K/30fps or 1080p/30fps but what’s really disappointing is the fact that there is no 60fps. Which isn’t really surprising since this isn’t a flagship nor of that price point.

In daylight, the camera performed really well but by the time darkness rolled in, the camera started to falter in its results.

Audio

With the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE at hand, coupled with its single bottom-firing speaker at its disposal, let’s just say, it can get real loud. However, the sound quality is an entirely different story since it does get distorted with higher-pitched sounds.

We were really disappointed by the fact that the phone doesn’t have a headphone jack. Hell, Xiaomi doesn’t even provide headphones inside the box so you’d have to purchase your own headphones which have to be USB-C compatible or use the USB-C to 3.5mm jack dongle which they thankfully provide with the phone.

Hardware & Software

Identical, to its fellow mates, the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE runs on the latest Android 8.1 OS complete with the traditional MIUI on the top. Since it’s based on current Chinese MIUI builds you have to go through an automated installer to get Google Play services but it isn’t really a major issue. A more important issue with such a ROM is how often it’s left stuck on an infrequently updated software branch. Fortunately, Xiaomi offers us the option to unlock the phone’s bootloader which is a pretty convenient tool for hopping over to an official OS branch.

Personally, we can’t decide whether to love or hate the MIUI. On one hand, it brings in a ton of extra features, customization and theming capabilities that we absolutely adore. On the other hand, it gets deadly slow when it comes to receiving software updates, and especially the monthly security patches released by Google.

The facial recognition has been stripped down in this edition of the Mi 8 so now we only have the camera and no infrared illuminator. In good light, it managed to recognize our faces but as the light decreased, naturally so did the recognition.

While the facial recognition feature does falter, the fingerprint sensor picks its pieces right back up since unlocking is nearly instantaneous. Did we already mention the new Snapdragon 710? Well, it does have us pretty excited. It’s like an ambassador of sorts to Qualcomm’s fresh lineup of 700 series chips. It brings down the flagship functionality to mid-rangers and this might be our very first example.

The Snapdragon 710 without question overthrows the previously titled top-dog Snapdragon 660. It rocks an unconventional, CPU core setup, comprised of pretty new ARM cores and it’s pretty interesting to see how this phone sits atop the mid-rangers of today.

Battery Life

While its battery life isn’t spectacular in pure numbers, the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE  still packs a very decent capacity on a fairly compact device (147.3 x 73.1 x 7.5mm). It comes with a 3,120 mAh battery, which is a little less than the vanilla Mi 8 but it’s a bit more than the Mi 8 Explorer edition, with all its extra hardware that is.

The Mi 8 SE comes packing quite a punch with its energy efficient Super AMOLED panel. Looking past its flaws, the Snapdragon 710 is well geared for providing excellent battery efficiency and spoiler alert, it beats out the Snapdragon 660, no argument. It’s based on a 10nm fabrication process which results in lower power consumption and in this particular case, the arrangement does seem rather odd to us. Six efficient  1.7 GHz Kryo 360 Silver (Cortex-A55 based) ones and only a pair of 2.2GHz Kryo 360 Gold ones (Cortex-A75 based). The arrangement lowers overall power consumption as opposed to the symmetrical 4+4 arrangement. It supports QuickCharge 4+ which accommodates the battery life greatly.

Verdict

While the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE definitely ticks a number of our boxes, it manages to do so at a pretty affordable price. Finding competitors is quite a challenge since this phone is the first to come with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 710 chipset so far. The phone isn’t exactly a flagship phone, at least not compared to the current flagships, but it is a pretty great mid-ranger. The phone manages to show up most of its peers and the only phone that does come close is the Vivo V9. As a whole, Xiaomi Mi 8 SE does take out its competition but if you want great selfies Vivo V9 is the one for you. All other aspects? Mi 8 SE is definitely a go.

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