Many manufacturers use cool additional features to offer new smartphone versions. The Mi6 Special Edition (SE) has offered a ceramic rear. The special features of the Mi8 are now reserved for the “Explorer Edition”. The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE (Special Edition) is named after the iPhone SE and is a smaller and cheaper Xiaomi Mi8. However, the device does not lack neither power nor stamina and the design is also refreshing. Only a global version is not yet in sight. I set up the Mi8 SE directly after using the normal Mi8 as my daily device and I am surprised how well the device performs compared to the much more expensive flagship. The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE brings a wind of change in the middle and upper class at a price of 272$ (in China).
Versions and differences – Xiaomi Mi8
The Xiaomi Mi8 SE is only available in 2 memory versions with 4/64 or 6/64 and in 4 different colours (black, white, blue, gold). With a maximum memory of 64GB you notice directly a clear demarcation to the upper class devices. It’s a real pity that they don’t offer at least one hybrid slot for memory expansion.
|Xiaomi Mi8||Xiaomi Mi8 Explorer||Xiaomi Mi8 SE|
2248 x 1080
2248 x 1080
2244 x 1080
|Processor||Snapdragon 845 @ 2.8GHz||Snapdragon 845 @ 2.8GHz||Snapdragon 710 @2.2 GHz|
|Storage||6/64, 6/128, 6/256GB
|4/64 + 6/64GB
|Weight and dimensions||154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm
|154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm
|147.28 x 73.09 x 7.5mm
|Connectivity||WiFi – ac-standard, 2×2 MIMO
|WiFi – ac-standard, 2×2 MIMO
|WiFi – ac-standard, 2×2 MIMO
|Special features||Infrared Face-Unlock||3D Face-Unlock
fingerprint scanner in the display
|Price||2700 RMB (= ca. 397$)||1800 RMB (= ca. 265$)|
In this review, we closely examined the Special Edition of Xiaomi Mi8.
Design / build quality / scope of delivery
The Xiaomi MI8 SE has a timeless glass sandwich design with a beautiful silver lacquered metal frame. Although it offers a glass rear they did not install wireless charging, like it is the case with the real Mi8. The glass rear naturally increases the probability of breaking in case of falling down enormously, but it looks first-class in the light and feels really good haptically. Of course, the rear is also a magnet for fingerprints and the device likes to slide off the table when it is not perfectly straight. Fortunately, Xiaomi includes a dark silicone protective cover in the scope of delivery, as well as a charging adapter, USB-Type-C cable and SIM tool. The cover fits perfectly around the smartphone; concerning the haptics, you lose the actual premium feeling.
The dimensions of 147 x 73 x 7.7mm are slightly more compact than those of the Mi8. Mi8 SE is 2mm narrower and 8mm shorter in direct comparison. The weight is also reduced by 12g to 164g. With its compact dimensions, the Mi8 SE beats any 5.5-inch smartphone like a Redmi Note 4X, but is still slightly larger than a 5-inch phone like the Redmi 4X or Mi6. Considering the 5.88-inch display, you should not jump to conclusions from the display to the size of the casing. If you are looking for a handy smartphone, the Mi8 SE is the right choice.
The build quality of the device convinces down to the smallest detail. All transitions to the metal frame are perfectly rounded and there are no noticeable edges. You can’t find any gaps on your smartphone and the Mi 8 SE seems to be made of one piece. The buttons on the right outside are perfectly integrated into the frame, have a pleasant feedback and the power button is also slightly roughened to make it easier to feel. Objectively speaking, the notch of the SE is as huge as that of the Mi8. Why they waste so much space here, remains a mystery to me. With the Redmi 6 Pro, Xiaomi suddenly managed to keep the Notch small.
Instead of an infrared camera, a front LED flash is included in the notch. The effective usable space that the notch creates is therefore still limited and the added value is questionable. As a design aspect, some people may like it, but I personally don’t like the notch. The notification LED only lights up in white and shines a bit too weak in my opinion. The LED is only really perceptible indoors and in the dark.
Face-Unlock is realized via the front camera and provides accordingly little security. The speed of the Face-Unlock is also rather modest compared to the current flagships. You have to wait a second or two before the display is unlocked and pictures can also easily trick the unlock function. All the better that Xiaomi installed an accurate and lightning-fast fingerprint sensor on the rear. On the top there is a noise-cancelling microphone and an infrared transmitter. At the bottom you find one opening for the speaker, and one for the microphone, as well as a modern Type-C USB port. The SIM card slot only works with 2 nano SIM cards. The memory cannot be expanded via micro SD.
You wouldn’t notice that the Mi8 SE does not feature a Snapdragon 845 (the flagship processor par excellence) only by judging the outward appearance. Depending on your taste, this device may even be the more beautiful Mi8. In any case, the build quality is high and absolutely flawless. The missing jack connection is rather unusual for the upper middle class, where the Mi8 SE is priced. You should also be aware of the lack of memory expansion before purchasing. Apart from that, the Mi8 SE is a very stylish and super modern smartphone that won’t have to hide from any flagship in 2018. Personally, the Mi8 SE reminds me strongly of the Mi4s, if anyone remembers the device.
AMOLED fanboys and -girls are allowed to cheer, since the Mi 8 SE offers a 5.88-inch AMOLED display with a high resolution of 2244 x 1080p, resulting in a razor-sharp 423 pixels per inch. If you like strong colours and an almost infinite contrast, you are almost right here. “Almost” because the black of the display (notch faded out) still glows visibly. The contrast of the AMOLED of the Oneplus 6 is therefore even better. In terms of brightness, the Mi8 SE is positioned between a Mix 2S and also behind the OP6. This results in a really good readability outdoors, which Xiaomi again supports with an additional contrast boost (if activated in the options menu). The viewing angle stability is also convincing. In addition to the continuously adjustable colour settings, you also have an automatic contrast and of course the reading mode at your disposal. The Mi 8 SE now also offers an HDR mode.
The touch screen processes up to 10 points of contact simultaneously, reacts fast and is extremely accurate. The popular “Double-Tap to Wake Up” function can also be activated in the options menu. The usable area to the left and right of the notch remains very small, as with the Mi8, so that even the %-display of the battery does not fit in it. Both the front and rear are protected by scratch-resistant glass, although Xiaomi doesn’t mention Gorilla glass. Even though I’m not the biggest AMOLED fan, I have to admit one thing here: Compared to the Xiaomi Mi 6X and the Redmi Note 5 I like the AMOLED display of the Mi 8 SE better. If you’re looking for an incredibly good display in the mid-range segment, you won’t be able to avoid the Mi 8 SE from now on.
System and performance
Qualcomm has designed the Snapdragon 710 SoC as an upper class chip that is only placed a little bit below the SD845 – a few functions did not make it into the 700 series to still maintain a difference between the devices: Augmented / Virtual Reality, for example, does not work that well. The processor is manufactured in a 10nm process. The Octa-Core contains eight Kyro 360 cores. Two of them are comparable to the A75 cores and clock up to 2.2 GHz – this is the power cluster. The other six cores are based on the Cortex-A55 and operate with 1.7 GHz – they are the energy saving clusters. The GPU is the Adreno 616, which clocks at up to 500 MHz. The Snapdragon 660, which is housed by the Xiaomi Note 3 and Mi 6X / A2, serves as a comparison. The GPU renders graphics up to 35% faster – the Snapdragon 710 creates 40% faster gaming, 25% faster web browsing and a total increase of +20%. And last but not least: the new Snapdragon 710 should also work more efficiently, since most of the time only the energy saving cluster is active and processors in the 10nm “format” have a lower power consumption.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result Geekbench Single Result 3D Mark Result
In practice, this technology-blah-blah means pure performance. No matter which games you want to play with high graphics settings on the MI 8 SE, you can play all of them without any problems. Lags or delays did not even occur with PUPG mobile on high graphics settings. The heat development of the Mi 8SE was also very limited: after 1 hour of playing PubG it was 38°C at the warmest point. The Mi 8 SE works on the same level as the normal Xiaomi Mi8; you only notice differences when installing new apps because the UFS memory of the Mi8 is clearly superior. The 64GB eMMC memory of the Mi8 SE is also limited and no larger memory version can be purchased. Concerning the RAM, you have the choice between 4 or 6GB. The 64GB memory has a good reading/writing rate of 306/223MB/s. The RAM is flagship-worthy with 12GB/s and again on the same level as Mi8.
If you like to look at the differences in benchmarks, you’re welcome to do so. A Mi8 with SD845 is more future-proof, but according to today’s standards, a Mi8 SE is only slightly slower in practical use and can keep up with the extremely fast working speed. This also applies to a Snapdragon 660, which will be used e.g. in the Mi 6X, or soon Mi A2.
System – still with MIUI 9.5
As it is the case with the normal Mi8, MIUI 10 is not yet available, but will be updated in the next weeks via OTA. Currently, the Mi8 SE is still running with a China ROM, if a global version of the Mi 8 SE were to come, then the device would also get the Global ROM. If not, you can use a custom ROM like the Xiaomi.EU after unlocking. My new MIUI favorite feature, the full-screen gestures, are already available in the installed MIUI 9.5. Bugs or errors are hardly present in the MIUI system. Occasional small lags, which should not be there, disturb the overall convincing picture. Even gamers don’t have to dig so deep into their pockets anymore, at least if they reach for a new device every 2 years anyway.
Instead of the two 12 megapixel sensors, Xiaomi only uses the main sensor of the Xiaomi Mi8 in the Mi8 SE. The Sony IMX363 sensor now has only one f/1.9 aperture and does not require optical stabilization. The main sensor is supported by a Samsung S5k5e8 5 megapixel sensor, which is why 2 x zoom pictures are not possible with the MI8 SE. The second sensor is used when taking Bokeh shots. In direct comparison with the Mi8, it is much more difficult to achieve good bokeh shots. But if you have found the right distance, then the pictures can finally convince. But a good shot was taken much faster with the telephoto sensor of the normal Mi8.
We also know the front camera already from the Mi6X: a Sony IMX376 sensor with 20 megapixels and f/1.75 aperture. Very good sharpness, many details and a natural colour representation distinguish the selfies. When taking night shots with the main camera, the Mi8 SE takes worse images than the normal Mi8, which is probably due to the smaller lens opening and the lack of an optical image stabilization, but the images are slightly better than those of a Redmi Note 5.
Overall, the main camera can clearly distinguish itself from the mid-range killer Redmi Note 5 when it comes to taking photos in daylight. More details in the photos, clearly more beautiful and stronger colours distinguish each photo or video to the Note 5. For some people it may even be too much of a good thing. In good lighting conditions, the Mi8 SE achieves photos at flagship level without any ifs and buts. But also the camera setup of the Xiaomi Mi 6X should not be underestimated. If you would like to have a detailed camera comparison with 6X and Note 5, just write tell us in the comments.
When it comes to video recordings, the facts change quite quickly. While at 1080p an EIS filters out the shaky footage convincingly, at 4K you just get shaky images. With the Note 5 it is possible to activate the video recording in 4K via another camera app (Open camera e.g.), unfortunately this was not possible with the Mi8 SE. The sound and quality of the recordings are definitely better with the SE, especially because of the sharpness and the clearly stronger colours. Of course, Xiaomi’s camera-AI also works in the Mi8 SE and occasionally provides more beautiful photos (especially more beautiful colours). The AI remains a matter of taste and is often also a matter of luck.
The camera of the Mi8 SE and especially the front camera can fully convince for the price. Only small details like an OIS or stabilized 4K recordings distinguish the device from the flagships. If Xiaomi brings an update for the EIS at 4K here, the Mi8 SE definitely offers one of the best smartphone cameras in the range up to 350$.
Connectivity and communication
The Xiaomi Mi8 SE convinces with strong and stable reception. The following network frequencies are supported by the China version of the Mi8 SE:
GSM (2G): 2/3/5/8
UMTS/WCDMA (3G): 1/2/5/8
FDD-LTE (4G-LTE): 1/3/5/7/8
The call quality is excellent and the sound quality via the USB-C to jack adapter is loud and absolutely clean. When using the hands-free function, the noise-canceling microphone is a little too aggressive and can cause words to be swallowed. The speaker is also convincing, although it can’t keep up with current flagships. The sound is loud, but free of bass and slightly distorted at the highest volume.
Xiaomi didn’t cut back on reception and transmitting standards and the results speak for themselves. WiFi reception in the 2.4 and 5GHz network with ac-standard and 2x2x MIMO ensures high transmission rates and an excellent range. Bluetooth 5.0 works perfectly and the GPS reception with GALILEO support is also great. Within a few seconds you have a precise location and also the pedestrian navigation worked without any problems with the compass as support. In addition to the 3 standard sensors (proximity, brightness and acceleration sensors), the Mi8 SE provides a gyroscope, infrared transmitter, compass and Hall sensor (for smart covers).
Although the Mi8 SE has a 300 mAh smaller battery than the Mi8, the battery life is absolutely convincing. With QC 3.0, the Mi8 SE is charged from 0 to 100% in just 1 hour and 30 minutes. Those who like to recharge in between, gets 30 percent battery power in 15 minutes between 20% and 80%. With intensive test use I always managed a DOT (display-on time) of 7-8 hours after 2 days. Therefore, the battery life of Mi8 SE is slightly better than that of the normal Mi8. The Mi8 SE also performs better in the PCMark battery test with 11 hours. So, 2 days of use should be possible for most users without any problems.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Conclusion and alternative
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