Xiaomi Mi 8 SE Review

Many manufacturers are happy to have a few cool additional features paid for in additional smartphone versions. The Mi6 Special Edition (SE) had a ceramic back. 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 with no lack of power or stamina and a refreshing design. Only a global version is not yet in sight and you have to do without volume 20 for the China device. I set up the Mi8 SE directly after the normal Mi8 as my daily device and I am surprised how the device performs compared to the much more expensive flagship. The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE mixes up the middle and upper class smartphones at a price of 233€ (in China).

The Xiaomi Mi8 SE comes in only 2 memory versions with 4/64 or 6/64 and in 4 different colours (black, white, blue, gold). With a maximum memory of 64GB one notices directly a clear demarcation to the upper class devices. It’s a real pity that you don’t offer at least one hybrid slot for memory expansion.

Design

The Xiaomi MI8 SE has a timeless glass sandwich design with a beautiful silver lacquered metal frame. Although it offers the glass back, Xiaomi, like the real Mi8, does without wireless charging. The back of the glass naturally increases the probability of breakage during a fall enormously, but it looks first-class in the light and feels really good to the touch. Of course, the back is also a magnet for fingerprints and the device likes to glide off the table once, when it is not perfectly straight. Fortunately, Xiaomi comes with a charging adapter, USB-Type-C cable, Sim tool and a dark silicone protective case. The case nestles perfectly around the smartphone, haptically you then lose the actual premium feeling.

The dimensions of 147 x 73 x 7.7mm are slightly more compact than the Mi8, which 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. 5.88-inch display means that conclusions from display to case size should be slowly but surely avoided. If you are looking for a handy smartphone, the Mi8 SE is the right choice.

The workmanship of the device convinces down to the smallest detail. All transitions to the metal frame are perfectly rounded and there is no noticeable edge. You can’t find any columns on your smartphone and the Mi 8 SE seems to be made of one piece. The buttons on the right outside are wonderfully integrated into the frame, have a pleasant pressure point and the power button is also slightly roughened with great attention to detail to make it easier to feel. Objectively speaking, the notch of the SE is as huge as the Mi8, so why you waste so much space here, you don’t have to understand. With the Redmi 6 Pro, Xiaomi suddenly managed to keep the Notch small.

Instead of an infrared camera, a front LED flash is accommodated 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 personally I don’t like the Notch. The notification LED only lights up in white and is a bit too weak for me personally. Only in rooms and in the dark is the glow really perceptible.

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 quickly trick the unlock. All the better that Xiaomi has an accurate and lightning-fast fingerprint sensor integrated in the back. On the top side there is a noise-reducing microphone and an infrared transmitter. The bottom is classic with an opening for the speaker, and one for the microphone and a modern Type-C USB connector. The SIM card slot only works with 2 nano SIM cards. The memory cannot be expanded via micro SD.

The fact that there is no Snapdragon 845 (the flagship processor par excellence) in the Mi 8 SE is not obvious. Depending on your taste, this device may even be the more beautiful Mi8, but the workmanship is 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 chic and super modern smartphone that won’t have to hide from any flagship in 2018. The Mi8 SE reminds me personally strongly of the Mi4s, if anyone remembers the device.

Display

AMOLED fanboys are allowed to jump up and cheer, because the Mi 8 SE has a 5.88 inch AMOLED display with a high resolution of 2244 x 1080p. This brings the device to a razor-sharp 423 pixels per inch. If you like crisp colours and an almost infinite contrast, you are almost right here. “Almost” because the black of the display (notch faded out) still glows visibly after all. The contrast is therefore even better with an AMOLED from the Oneplus 6. 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 is again supported by Xiaomi 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, the automatic contrast and of course the read mode, the Mi 8 SE now also offers an HDR mode.

The touch screen processes up to 10 points simultaneously, acts in a flash and is extremely accurate. The popular “Double-Tap to Wake Up” 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. Both the front and back are protected by scratch-resistant glass, although Gorilla glass is not mentioned at Xiaomi. 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.

Hardware

Qualcomm has designed the Snapdragon 710 SoC as a top-of-the-range chip that can only be placed a little bit below the SD845 – a few functions do not make it into the 700 series as a respect gap: Augmented / Virtual Reality, for example, does not work so 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 rates up to 2.2 GHz – the power cluster. The other six cores are based on the Cortex-A55 and operate with 1.7 GHz energy saving clusters. The GPU is the Adreno 616, which clocks at up to 500 MHz. The Snapdragon 660, which works in the Xiaomi Note 3 and Mi 6X / A2, serves as a comparison. The GPU renders graphics up to 35% faster – the Snapdragon 710 creates gaming +40%, web browsing +25% and a total 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.

In practice, this technology is hot-blabla pure performance. No matter which games you want to play on high graphics settings on the MI 8 SE, they are all playable without any problems. Lags or delays did not even occur with PUPG mobile on high graphics setting. The heat development of the Mi 8SE was also very limited after 1 hour PubG with 38° at the warmest point. The Mi 8 SE works on the same level as the normal Xiaomi Mi8, but you only notice differences when installing new apps, because the UFS memory of the 8 series is clearly superior. The 64GB eMMC memory of the Mi8 SE is also limited and no larger memory version can be purchased. With RAM you have the choice between 4 or 6GB. The 64GB memory has a good read/write rate of 306/223MB/s. The RAM is flagship-worthy with 12GB/s and again on Mi8 level.

If you like to look at the differences in benchmarks, you can 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

MIUI 10, like the normal Mi8, 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 comes, then the device receives the global ROM in addition to volume 20. 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 under the installed MIUI 9.5. Bugs or errors are hardly present in the MIUI system. Occasionally small lags, which should not actually be, disturb the overall convincing picture. Even gamblers don’t have to dig so deep into their pockets anymore, at least if they reach for a new device every 2 years anyway.

Camera

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 lens opening and does not require optical stabilization. The main sensor is supported by a Samsung S5k5e8 5 megapixel sensor. Why 2 x zoom shots with the MI8 SE are not possible. The second sensor is used by Bokeh Aufnahmen. 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 it was much faster with the telephoto sensor of the normal Mi8.

We also know the front camera from the Mi6X: a Sony IMX376 sensor with 20 megapixels and f/1.75 aperture. Very good sharpness, many details and a natural colour reproduction distinguish the selfies. During night shots with the main camera, the Mi8 SE achieves worse images than the normal Mi8, which is probably due to the smaller lens opening and the lack of optical image stabilization, but slightly better than a Redmi Note 5.

Overall, the main camera can clearly distinguish itself from the mid-range killer Redmi Note 5 in daylight when it comes to taking photos. More details in the photos, clearly more beautiful and stronger colors distinguish each photo or video to the grade 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 want a detailed camera comparison with 6X and grade 5, just write it to us in the comments.

With video recordings, the whole thing changes quite quickly. While at 1080p an EIS filters out the wobblers convincingly, at 4K only jerking is called for. With note 5 it is possible to activate the video 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 with the Mi8 SE and occasionally provides more beautiful photos (especially more beautiful colors). The AI remains a matter of taste and is often also a game of chance.

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 has one of the best smartphone cameras up to 300€ in its luggage.

Connectivity

The Xiaomi Mi8 SE shines with strong and stable reception. One or the other will be bothered by the missing LTE Band 20, which is not particularly relevant for city dwellers and telecom customers. So I was able to stream the Germany game on the motorway at 140 km/h without any problems, with only a short interruption. In Würzburg and the surrounding area or in the whole Saarland you almost always have 4G and if not fast HSPA+ with the Telekom. Whether there will be a Global Version with volume 20 is still in the stars. The following power 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. With 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 broadcasting standards and that doesn’t just read great, 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 does uncritical work and the GPS reception with GALILEO support is also great. Within a few seconds you have a stable location and also the pedestrian navigation worked with the compass as support without problems. In addition to the 3 standard sensors (proximity, brightness and acceleration sensors, the Mi8 SE has a gyroscope, infrared transmitter, compass and Hall sensor (for smart cases).

Battery life

Although the Mi8 SE has a 300 mAh smaller battery than the Mi8, the battery life is absolutely convincing. The Mi8 SE with QC 3.0 performs the charging sprint from 0 to 100% in just 1 hour and 30 minutes. Who likes to recharge in between, gets between 20 and 80% in 15 minutes 30 percent battery power. With intensive test use I always managed a DOT (time with display switched on) of 7-8 hours after 2 days. The Mi8 SE also performs better in the PCMark battery test with 11 hours. So 2 days use should be possible for most users without any problems.

Summary

The Xiaomi Mi8 SE is one of the best Xiaomi smartphones available today. But the device also has its peculiarities: Non-expandable 64GB memory, no jack connection, no LTE band 20 (this could change) and a notch would have to be named here first. Who gets along with it, gets again a shovel more achievement, a better camera and a first-class display compared to the Redmi note 5, the momentary king of the middle class. It gets even more complicated as soon as the Xiaomi Mi6X is released as a global MI A2, because then the Mi8 SE has one more strong competitor. The Mi 8 SE hardly lacks strength, so the battery life, the brute performance and the outstanding photo quality in good light are particularly convincing. If you are looking for a small and affordable Mi8 and don't have a Notch allergy, you can reach for the Xiaomi MI8 SE without hesitation.
9.4
Perfect!

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