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With the Mi 8 Lite, Xiaomi marked the completion of the Mi 8 lineup, or so it seems. The company now has two premium flagship models in the Mi 8 family – the Mi 8 and the Mi 8 Explorer Edition along with two mid-rangers – the Mi 8 SE and the Mi 8 Lite, with the last one being the subject of this review.
But releasing yet another Mi 8 smartphone, one could not help but think that Xiaomi is just confusing its customers and luring them into buying a Mi 8-branded handset with lackluster specs. After all, we’ve come across quite a few underwhelming Lite models in recent years.
Luckily, this is not the case. Unlike most direct Lite rivals out there, the Mi 8 Lite comes at a reasonable price, while packing capable hardware and it doesn’t try to imitate its more expensive siblings, spec-wise, that is. In fact, Xiaomi could have easily released the phone under a different name or as part of a different lineup and still score good sales numbers.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite specs:
- Body: 156.4 x 75.8 x 7.5mm, 169 grams, glass front and back panel with aluminum side frame.
- Screen:6.26″ IPS LCD, 1080 x 2280px resolution (19:9); ~403 ppi.
- Chipset: Snapdragon 660 (14nm) chipset: octa-core Kryo 260 CPU (4×2.2GHz + 4×1.8GHz); Adreno 512 GPU.
- Memory: 4/64GB LPDDR4X RAM, 64/128GB EMMC 5.1 built-in storage, microSD slot support (takes the second SIM slot).
- OS: Android 8.1 Oreo; MIUI 9.6.
- Rear camera: 12MP f/1.9 1/2.55″, 1.4µm dual pixel PDAF + 5MP f/2.0, 1.12µm, depth sensor, LED flash; [email protected], [email protected], 1080p/[email protected] video recording with stereo sound.
- Front camera: 24MP, f/2.0; 1.8µm, [email protected] video recording.
- Battery: 3,350mAh; QuickCharge 3.0 support (proper charger not included).
- Connectivity: LTE Cat.12 download/ Cat.13 upload, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-band MIMO, 2×2 antennas, Bluetooth 5.0, USB Type-C.
- Misc: Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
Of course, in order to bring the price that low, Xiaomi had to cut some corners while giving you a few reasons to opt for the Mi 8 Lite instead of Mi 8 SE. For one, the display is bigger and taller. And when you consider the smaller notch, the screen real estate should be taken into account as well. And besides, if you are aiming for a powerful mid-range SoC and you are a fan of Xiaomi’s MIUI, it’s your only option with Snapdragon 660 chipset aside from the Android One-powered Mi A2.
The phone comes in a box with pretty much everything you’d expect at this price, meaning there are no headphones. But if you already own a pair of cans or buds, Xiaomi has included a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter since the phone, unfortunately, doesn’t have an audio jack.
Just like the rest of the Mi 8s, this one also supports Quick Charge 3.0 but the included brick and USB-A to USB-C cable support 5V/2A charging speeds or in other words 10W. This means that you will have to look for a QC 3.0-compliant charger to get the most out of the battery.
From a design standpoint, the Mi 8 Lite is almost indistinguishable from the Mi 8 SE, unless you take a peek at the back camera arrangement and the notch – the Lite has horizontally-stacked camera sensors and a considerably smaller notch. Overall, the impression is nothing short of premium.
Mi 8 Lite front side
The Mi 8 Lite is another glass sandwich handset so the design is quite ordinary. It’s got a chrome-colored aluminum side frame and 2.5D-curved back glass that connects seamlessly to the sides. In contrast, the front panel isn’t curved and instead looks like it’s slapped on top of the body. You might feel its protruding edge along the sides though it’s doesn’t cause any discomfort.
Speaking of the front panel, the screen offers slim side bezels while the upper and bottom ones are kind of wide. Still, the screen-to-body ratio according to our specs sheet is 82.5%, which is a really nice number for a smartphone in this class. It even beats the Mi 8 SE in this regard.
Going around the sides, we find the SIM/microSD card tray on the left, the volume rocker and the power button on the right, the second microphone used for noise canceling on the top and the bottom-firing speaker grills. Right between them is the USB-C connector. We do have to note that the buttons are delightfully clicky and feel quite firm without any noticeable wobble.
Mi 8 Lite from the side
But it’s not all roses. The rather flat back design and the tall aspect ratio might steer away some people with small hands. One-handed use is difficult and it’s hard to reach the other side or the top of the display with your thumb. The good news is that the rear-mounted fingerprint reader and the power key are ideally positioned within reach. The fingerprint works flawlessly, too. It’s blazing fast and it’s consistent enough on a day-to-day basis.
As you’d expect from a glass back phone, it’s not only prone to scratches and cracks, it’s also easy to smudge. The black version of the phone that we have with us appears to attract fingerprints, but the gradient color makes them less prominent – they can be seen at an angle. We assume that the Aurora Blue version of the phone will be a better fingerprint magnet.
Mi 8 Lite back side
The biggest drawback, however, is the lack of IPxx certification against water and dust but to be honest, at this price point, it’s really hard to be mad at Xiaomi for not including it.
As we’ve already said, it’s hard to notice the difference between the Mi 8 Lite and the Mi 8 SE – both weigh just about the same with the Lite version being just 5 grams heavier at 169g and almost a centimeter taller than the SE. After all, the Mi 8 Lite‘s screen is approximately 0.4″ bigger. Luckily, the screen size hasn’t resulted in noticeable width increase.
All in all, the Mi 8 Lite is a well-built device with little to no complaints regarding the build quality. Only ergonomics could be improved to make the grip more comfortable, natural and less slippery.
The Mi 8 Lite comes with a 6.26-inch IPS display with a tall 19:9 aspect ratio and 1080 x 2280 pixels resolution achieving 403 ppi. Or in other words – nothing too fancy except for the notch. Like it or not, it’s there, but we didn’t find it overly distracting because it’s quite narrow. It just houses the earpiece, the front-facing camera, the usual sensors, and the subtle LED notification light. The only issue we had with the notch is the poor uniformity of the backlight around it and the top bezel.
The small light bleed is most noticeable with a white or gray background and since the majority of the menus and apps use bright color palettes, the issue will be more prominent. Good thing you can visually hide the notch with a black strip across the top of the screen.
Keep in mind that this is a mid-range device we are talking about here. Yet, it was able to surpass the 400 cd/m2 mark, which appears to be the median for today’s affordable LCDs. It got 468 cd/m2 with the slider cranked up to maximum – it’s not the best result out there, but it’s just enough to make the content on the screen readable outdoors. Just avoid direct sunlight as legibility is far from stellar in this scenario.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Contrast ratio|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite||0.322||468||1453|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 SE||0||455||∞|
|Xiaomi Mi A2||0.277||420||1516|
|Motorola One (P30 Play)||0.254||447||1760|
|Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)||0||402||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) (Max Auto)||0||602||∞|
|Huawei P20 Lite||0.27||482||1785|
|Nokia 7 plus||0.254||432||1701|
And as far as color reproduction goes, we suggest switching over to the “Standard” mode in the display calibration menu as it renders colors way more accurately. The “Automatic” mode spilled an average deltaE of 5 and maximum 10.1 while the “Standard” screen mode brought those digits down to an average of 0.9 with a maximum of 2, which is a stellar score. Note that deviations under deltaE=2 can’t be seen with a naked eye, only with lab equipment. The trade-off here is that the maximum brightness will go down to 415 cd/m2.
In the end, you will have to choose between accurate colors and slightly dimmer display or blue-ish whites and almost 470 nits of maximum brightness.
With the default mode the sunlight legibility is satisfactory and our sunlight contrast ratio score puts it right behind the Huawei P20 Lite and the Motorola One. Again, we’ve seen better, but it’s good enough to make the content readable under the sun – sort of.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite battery life
The handset boasts a generous 3,350 mAh built-in battery, but given that it powers up a powerful Snapdragon 660, we assume the battery life won’t be all that impressive.
After all, the Snapdragon 660 features eight Kryo 260 cores (4x running at 2.2 GHz and 4x running at 1.8 GHz) so there are no dedicated energy-efficient cores there. With Snapdragon 660, you sacrifice power efficiency for performance. Still, the 3G talk and standby times are respectable, to say the least. Only the web browsing runtimes keep the phone from getting a better overall score.
The main takeaway from this test is that the IPS panel and the Snapdragon 660 chipset bring down the screen-on-time of the handset, so keep that in mind.
Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSer App. The endurance rating above denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We’ve established this usage pattern so that our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you’re interested in the nitty-gritty. You can check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we’ve tested will compare under your own typical use.
Compared to most of its competitors, the Mi 8 Lite drags behind, but it’s important to note that only a few feature a powerful chipset like the Snapdragon 660. So there’s that. Also, the results are almost identical to the Mi A2. Perhaps due to the largely similar hardware.
The phone charged from 0 to 36% with the included charger, which isn’t fast by any means but since the unit supports Quick Charge 3.0 standard, you can get yourself a third-party QC 3.0-compliant charger for speedier top-ups. For comparison, we used a QC 3.0 brick in the office and we got significantly better results – the cell replenished from 0 to 52% in 30 minutes. Not too shabby.
The phone has a bottom-firing single speaker that gets pretty loud and according to our score sheet, it’s assessed as “Very good.” It will surely come in handy when you want to hear the phone ringing in loud environments.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Pink noise/ Music, dB||Ringing phone, dB||Overall score|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play||62.6||68.0||71.0||Average|
|Nokia 7 plus||67.5||71.3||79.7||Good|
|Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)||69.4||70.9||79.9||Very Good|
|Honor 8X||67.1||72.9||81.6||Very Good|
|Huawei P20 Lite||66.3||71.5||84.9||Very Good|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite||67.5||77.8||77.6||Very Good|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 SE||70.5||74.1||85.2||Excellent|
|Motorola One (P30 Play)||79.2||74.7||85.1||Excellent|
|Xiaomi Mi A2||89.5||72.2||89.8||Excellent|
The Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite did splendidly with an active external amplifier, delivering very loud output with perfect accuracy. In fact, it was among the loudest smartphones we have tested lately, earning our approval.
Headphones dropped the volume, but it still remained high. The degradation caused was slightly above average with a noticeable spike in stereo crosstalk, some intermodulation distortion and some frequency response shakiness all part of the picture now. It’s still a very capable performer starting as high as it did, but the Mi 8 Lite is no longer top of the class here.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite||+0.04, -0.04||-93.5||93.4||0.0011||0.0070||-93.4|
|Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite (headphones)||+0.45, -0.18||-93.4||93.4||0.021||0.457||-54.9|
|Honor 8X||+0.01, -0.04||-92.3||92.4||0.0041||0.0085||-80.7|
|Honor 8X (headphones)||+0.45, -0.54||-92.2||92.8||0.0084||0.492||-51.5|
|Honor Play||+0.01, -0.03||-93.0||93.1||0.0037||0.0093||-92.9|
|Honor Play (headphones)||+0.12, -0.06||-92.3||92.5||0.0027||0.088||-65.7|
|Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)||+0.02, -0.02||-93.1||92.9||0.0026||0.0089||-92.5|
|Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) (headphones)||+0.25, -0.17||-91.4||91.6||0.115||0.306||-55.4|
|Nokia 7.1||+0.02, -0.06||-91.0||88.6||0.0021||0.016||-94.4|
|Nokia 7.1 (headphones)||+0.05, -0.03||-93.8||89.6||0.0019||0.034||-54.9|
|Huawei Mate 20 lite||+0.01, -0.02||-94.7||94.7||0.0013||0.0086||-73.1|
|Huawei Mate 20 lite (headphones)||+0.12, -0.09||-93.8||93.8||0.0035||0.115||-71.7|
|Pocophone F1||+0.01, -0.02||-93.6||93.6||0.0010||0.0069||-93.8|
|Pocophone F1 (headphones)||+0.65, -0.08||-91.2||92.5||0.0082||0.359||-50.3|
The Mi 8 Lite runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box with Xiaomi’s MIUI 9.6 software on top that adds a few extra features to the basic Android ones. And if you are a fan of the MIUI, you surely find your way around it. But if you are coming from another skin or pure Android, you may sometimes find yourself lost in the settings menu.
Once you get past the lock screen, you will be greeted with the home screen and in typical MIUI fashion, all of the installed and system apps are in there. And unfortunately, you don’t have the option of bringing the app drawer so you might want to spend a little time sorting apps if you like a tidy home screen. Swiping to the right will bring you to the so-called App vault, which is basically a pane with the frequently used apps along with the usual organization apps like Mi Notes, Calendar, etc. This panel can only be disabled on the Chinese version of the ROM for now.
Swiping down from the home screen brings down the notification shade with the quick toggle icons. Of course, you can re-arrange them to your liking, but the overall looks have remained the same for quite some time now. You get four toggle icons per row, shortcut to the settings menu and a screen brightness slider. Good thinking on Xiaomi’s behalf for including the swiping gesture – you can swipe down from wherever and the notification shade will drop. It makes one-handed operations easier, which helps a lot in the case of the tall 19:9 screen.
Face unlock is not available, so you are stuck with the fingerprint reader as your only option. That’s a missed opportunity because in the display menu you can find the lift-to-wake option, which would have worked perfectly with the screen unlock. Hopefully, Xiaomi will offer the lock screen option with the MIUI 10 update, which is just around the corner.
Speaking of security, the MIUI comes with a Security app pre-installed that lets you scan the phone for malware, which ironically, is the least useful feature it offers because Google Play already does that for you perfectly fine. But the Security app has other useful applications – it can limit your data usage, free up some RAM, manage permissions of already installed apps and also analyze battery behaviour of certain apps.
Which brings us to the battery section in the settings menu. There’s nothing out of the ordinary in there – you can track the battery usage of each app, activate power saving mode and see your overall battery usage since your last full charge. The “Smart scenes” menu is what caught our attention. The only option in there is the “Non-interactive mode” – whenever MIUI detects that you are not using the phone for a long time, it will turn off Bluetooth, GPS and other connections along with background apps and even disables notifications.
Second space is another cool feature to have that lets you create a second account for your work, for example. You can lock it off with a password or a fingerprint. The dual apps option is practically the same but it’s for selected apps only, not system-wide.
We assume the “Full screen” menu will be of interest to most users because it offers you to hide the notch and more importantly, choose between standard button navigation and gesture-based navigation. The latter is particularly interesting because so far, aside from the stock Android 9.0 Pie gesture navigation system with the pill, Xiaomi seems to be doing it much better than others. In fact, we can go ahead and say that it’s almost as good as Apple’s iOS gestures.
A quick tutorial in the menu helps you get acquainted with the gestures. Swiping from the bottom bezel of the screen takes you back to the home screen, swipe up and hold for the recent apps menu and swiping from the left or right edge of the panel works as a back button. Xiaomi even went further and included the option of turning off the back gesture animation. It could potentially shave off a few milliseconds off but we didn’t find any measurable improvement in reality.
Keep in mind that the back gesture gets in the way sometimes when swiping to the right for the so-called “hamburger” menu, which many apps still use.
Other notable but still familiar features are the split-screen function that can be found in the recent apps menu, the off-screen shortcuts and the pre-installed apps like Xiaomi’s own Gallery, Weather, Mi Drop, File Manager, Cleaner, Notes Mi Video and other software found in the “Tools” folder.
The Mi 8 Lite takes things down a notch compared to the Mi 8 SE in terms of performance and efficiency since it uses a slightly older Snapdragon 660 chipset. The SD660 uses an octa-core CPU with 4x Kryo 260 cores clocked at 2.2 GHz and 4x Kryo 260 cores ticking at 1.8 GHz.
The Snapdragon 660 is known for its great performance compared to other SoCs in its class but lacks the energy efficiency of the Snapdragon 636, for example or even the Snapdragon 710, which is built on the 10nm node.
During our testing, we didn’t notice any thermal throttling or overheating even after a few consecutive benchmark tests. It performs just as you’d expect from a Snapdragon 660-powered smartphone.
A regular dual-camera setup with a depth sensor
There are no fancy cameras on the back so don’t expect telephoto, ultra-wide angle or B&W – the Mi 8 Lite carries a standard primary 12MP unit with a f/1.9 aperture and 1.4µm pixel size with dual pixel phase detection autofocus. It’s aided by a 5MP camera used only for depth sensing.
And if all of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same camera setup on the Mi 8 SE. Which in turn means that we expect almost identical camera performance unless there’s some software trickery going around here. Optical image stabilization is still lacking, unfortunately.
The good thing is that you have plenty of options in the camera menu to play with. And it’s fairly simple to use too. Swiping left and right will change the camera modes while the top bar brings out some additional settings like turning the HDR on and off, AI camera mode, beautify effect for the portrait shots and also the option to apply filters. Moreover, the pro mode will give you more control over the camera if that’s your thing.
Clicking on the settings menu brings you even more options. For example, you can use the fingerprint or the volume rocker for the shutter button and also adjust the video quality.
As already mentioned, the Mi 8 Lite sports the same camera hardware as its more expensive sibling, the Mi 8 SE. As in, we can’t really hope for any mind-blowing results but should do just fine for the average Joe when posting stills on social media. As long as there’s enough lighting in the scene, you should expect fairly consistent performance..
The lack of dynamic range is the first thing we’ve noticed, so the HDR function does help with that quite a bit. However, the HDR’s Auto mode would result in inconsistent performance as most of the scenes where the HDR should have kicked in didn’t and we had to force it manually.
And if it’s too much of hassle, why not ask the AI for some help. In our experience, the AI algorithm is capable of doing a great deal in this situation. It worked wonders with the HDR and adjusted it accordingly. Still, don’t rely on the AI too much as some of the scenes remained un-HDR’d.
And while we are on the AI subject, it’s not as capable as some flagships are, but it does cover the very basics like recognizing clouds, flowers, grass, trees and buildings. The only issue we had with this mode was the over-saturation of colors although, most people will find it suitable for social media.
Regarding night-time performance – it captures stills just like every other mid-range device – it struggles to produce good shots under low-light. The noise becomes more prominent and the lack of OIS makes matters worse, so you better have a steady hand. Once again, we suggest leaving the AI turned on as it does help with the noise suppression to some extent.
Along with the real-life sample shots, we got some in our lab in a controlled environment so here’s how it stacks against some of its competitors.
The portrait shots were a mixed bag. Some of them turned out to be pretty good where the background didn’t pose any challenge, but others looked plain broken. Also, we didn’t find any significant difference between turning on and off the beautification filter and the AI. It’s as if the beautification mode was constantly turned on.
While the Mi 8 Lite borrows the Mi 8 SE’s camera setup on the back, the front-facing shooter is different. It has higher resolution (24MP vs 20MP) and Xiaomi says it’s Sony IMX 576 with large 1.8µm pixels. So we expect better overall performance in this regard. However, this module is still with fixed focus so some of your selfies may not come up as sharp as they should be. To achieve optimal sharpness, you will have to bring the phone pretty close to your face – much closer than a normal arm’s length.
This is less pronounced in the Portrait mode.
The Mi8 SE captures [email protected] video, but it also gives you the option of choosing between 30 or 60fps in 1080p mode. There’s also a [email protected] and [email protected] slow-motion mode as well but we can’t say it produces the best results with those.
Another great addition to the set of video features is the EIS, which works in 4K and 1080p but don’t expect too much from it when recording in 4K. We’ve definitely seen better. The main issues we had with the video quality is the lack of contrast and noticeable noise in some areas of the scene. Sharpness and fluidity, on the other hand, are pretty good.
In an over-saturated market like the mid-range segment, there are quite a few offerings around €250, but only a few of them can challenge the Mi 8 Lite‘s performance. Most of the handsets at this price come with inferior Snapdragon 636 or even 625 chipsets.
The first few alternatives that spring to mind are the Mi 8 Lite‘s close relatives – the Mi 8 SE and the Mi A2. Of course, the Mi 8 SE is a tad more expensive, but it does offer a considerably more powerful and future-proof Snapdragon 710 chipset, a crisp Super AMOLED display beating the LCDs by a huge margin in almost every aspect and longer battery life. And you get pretty much the same camera experience. The downside is the sensibly smaller screen diagonal.
Xiaomi Mi 8 SE • Xiaomi Mi A2 (Mi 6X) • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) • Motorola One (P30 Play)
The Mi A2, on the other hand, is pretty easy to recommend over the Mi 8 Lite due to its slightly lower price tag and clean Android experience (Android Go ensures faster updates and extended software support) and almost identical hardware. The screen’s image quality is on par with the Lite, and it offers similar battery life and the same Snapdragon 660 chipset.
Looking further than the Xiaomi’s catalog, Samsung’s recent triple-camera phone, the Galaxy A7 (2018) comes to mind. It’s negligibly more expensive but offers great battery life and a gorgeous, notch-less Super AMOLED screen. And a big one too. You will have to settle with the lackluster camera experience and generally worse performance from the Exynos 7885 Octa, though.
Huawei Honor 8X • Nokia 7 plus • Huawei Honor Play
Next one down the list is the all new Motorola One – it has great battery life, clean Android experience but struggles to keep up with the pixel count and performance with its 720 x 1520 display and Snapdragon 625 chip.
But if the big screen is what you are after, why not check out the Honor 8X? It has a massive 6.5-inch display and passed our battery tests with flying colors although, the Kirin 710 SoC didn’t leave a lasting impression when it comes to performance.
The Nokia 7 Plus appears to be a good alternative too, and for the extra cash, you get a considerably brighter screen, longer battery life, the same Snapdragon 660 chipset, and a good 2x telephoto camera. The overall photo quality is rather good too. The fast updates on the vanilla Android are also something to consider here.
The Honor Play, however, might be just enough to push you over the fence. It’s in the same price range as the Nokia 7 but sports Huawei’s previous generation flagship SoC – Kirin 970. And it’s not just that. It produces serviceable photos, it has a big screen, and it squeezes every last bit of its 3,750 mAh in terms of battery life.
Have you noticed the trend here? There aren’t many devices around this price point that could match the performance of the Mi 8 Lite and those that do, usually have a slightly higher asking price.
Sure, it’s not a perfect product. Some aspects still need improving such as battery life, but we do appreciate the great build and generally solid camera experience. Most of the issues with the latter can be easily overlooked by the general user or even solved with a bit more tinkering with the camera options. The full-featured manual mode will surely come in handy in those situations. Portrait shots, however, can’t be fixed with anything other than a future Xiaomi update. Still, it’s a solid all-around experience.
The lack of 3.5mm jack is another thing that might steer away some customers, especially since most of the direct rivals haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet. And if you are a fan of MIUI, the feature-rich software would be greatly appreciated. There are plenty of options to play around with, and Xiaomi has a good track record of updating its phones – old and new – to the latest MIUI software version. MIUI 10 is just around the corner.
- Solid build with glass back and aluminum side frames.
- Generally fine display with slightly above average brightness and excellent color reproduction in “Standard mode”.
- Good all-round camera experience with small inconsistencies.
- Great performance with the Snapdragon 660 chipset.
- Loud speaker and good audio output quality.
- Plenty of features provided by Xiaomi’s MIUI software, expect swift updates to the latest version.
- Ergonomics might be an issue for users with small hands.
- No 3.5mm jack.
- Battery life could be better.
- EIS in 4K video isn’t good, Auto HDR mode needs improvement, portrait shots are largely inconsistent.
So is it worth buying? Definitely yes. But we’d still recommend going for the Mi 8 SE or the Nokia 7 Plus. It seems like you will get more in return for the extra cash.