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Is it all you ever wanted in a flagship?

The Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 is finally official, alongside the rather fetching Mi 8 Explorer Edition (seen above) and the cheaper Mi 8 SE phone.

Is the base Mi 8 an underwhelming device? Will the Mi 8 SE have enough grunt for you? Is the Mi 8 Explorer Edition more than just a transparent phone? You can check out the spec table below, for starters.

  Xiaomi Mi 8 Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
Display 6.21-inch AMOLED
2,248 x 1,080 resolution
18.7:9 screen ratio
6.21-inch AMOLED
2,248 x 1,080 resolution
18.7:9 screen ratio
5.88-inch AMOLED
2,244 x 1,080 resolution
18.7:9 screen ratio
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Octa-core, up to 2.8Ghz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Octa-core, up to 2.8Ghz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 710,
Octa-core, up to 2.2Ghz
GPU Adreno 630 Adreno 630 Adreno 616
RAM 6GB
LPDDR4x
8GB
LPDDR4X
4/6GB
LPDDR4X
Storage 64/128/256GB
UFS
128GB
UFS
64GB
eMMC 5.1
Cameras Rear cameras
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, 4-axis OIS, f/1.8 aperture
Secondary: 12MP telephoto with 1.0 micron pixels, f/2.4 aperture
Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 240/120/30fps, 720p at 240/30fps

Front camera: 20MP with 1.8 micron pixels, f/2.0 aperture

Rear cameras
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, 4-axis OIS, f/1.8 aperture
Secondary: 12MP telephoto with 1.0 micron pixels, f/2.4 aperture
Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 240/120/30fps, 720p at 240/30fps

Front camera: 20MP with 1.8 micron pixels, f/2.0 aperture

Rear cameras
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, f/1.9 aperture
Secondary: 5MP telephoto with 1.12 micron pixels, f/2.0 aperture
Video: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120/30fps, 720p at 240/30fps

Front camera: 20MP with pixel binning, f/2.0 aperture

Audio Bottom-firing speaker
USB Type-C
No 3.5mm jack
Bottom-firing speaker
USB Type-C
No 3.5mm jack
Bottom-firing speaker
USB Type-C
No 3.5mm jack
Battery 3,400mAh
Non-removable
Quick Charge 4+
3,000mAh
Non-removable
Quick Charge 4+
3,120mAh
Non-removable
Quick Charge 3.0
Facial recognition Infrared facial recognition 3D facial recognition N/A
Sensors Rear fingerprint
Hall
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient Light
Electronic Compass
Barometer
In-display fingerprint
Hall
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient Light
Electronic Compass
Barometer
Rear fingerprint
Hall
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient light
Electronic compass
Infrared
Network GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA: 1X/EVDO BC0
WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B8
TD-SCDMA: B34/B39
TD-LTE: B34/B38/B39/B40/B41 (120MHz)
FDD-LTE: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B12/B17/B20
LTE B41 4 antenna technology supporting 4×4 MIMO
GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA: 1X/EVDO BC0
WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B8
TD-SCDMA: B34/B39
TD-LTE: B34/B38/B39/B40/B41 (120MHz)
FDD-LTE: B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B7/B8/B12/B17/B20
LTE B41 4 antenna technology supporting 4×4 MIMO
GSM: B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA: 1X/EVDO BC0
WCDMA: B1/B2/B5/B8
TD-SCDMA: B34/B39
TDD-LTE: B34/B38/B39/B40/B41
FDD-LTE: B1/B3/B5/B7/B8
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0
AptX/AptX-HD support
NFC
Dual frequency GPS (GPS L1+L5, Galileo E1+E5a, QZSS L1+L5, GLONASS L1, Beidu B1)
Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0
AptX/AptX-HD support
NFC
Dual frequency GPS (GPS L1+L5, Galileo E1+E5a, QZSS L1+L5, GLONASS L1, Beidu B1)
Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0
GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, Beidu, Galileo
SIM Dual nano-SIM Dual nano-SIM Dual nano-SIM
Software Android 8.1
MIUI 10
Android 8.1
MIUI 10
Android 8.1
MIUI 10
Dimensions and weight 154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm
175g
154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm
177g
147.28 x 73.09 x 7.5mm
164g
Colors Blue, Gold, White, Black Transparent Red, Blue, Gold, Grey

The base model and the Mi 8 Explorer Edition have a lot of shared DNA, starting with the power department. You’re looking at the latest Snapdragon 845 processor from Qualcomm, along with 6GB of RAM for the Mi 8 and 8GB of RAM for the Mi 8 Explorer Edition.

The shared specs extend to the camera department, as a 12MP f/1.8 and 12MP f/2.4 telephoto dual-shooter setup are found on both models. Unfortunately, the 4-axis optical image stabilization only applies to the standard camera, so expect some blur and judder when using the secondary camera. A 20MP f/2.0 camera handles selfie duties on both models, but the front-facing shooter also packs large 1.8 micron pixels for better night-time/indoor/nightclub selfies.

How do they differ from one another?

The Xiaomi Mi 8. MIUI Forum

The selfie camera is mounted on a notch; yes, Xiaomi is the latest company to adopt the Essential Phone/iPhone X display cutout. If it’s any consolation, the notch is also being used as a home for facial recognition sensors. The standard Xiaomi Mi 8 makes use of infrared-based facial recognition, while the Explorer Edition uses more advanced 3D structured light facial recognition in the name of better security.

In the storage department, you’ve got 64GB, 128GB and 256GB options for the standard Mi 8, while the Explorer Edition is only available in a 128GB option. So if you want an 8GB RAM/256GB storage version of either phone, you’re out of luck. You’d think Xiaomi would at least make an 8GB/256GB Explorer Edition variant…

Another noteworthy difference is that the standard Xiaomi Mi 8 actually has a bigger battery (3,400mAh) than the Explorer Edition’s 3,000mAh pack. So if you need to squeeze out a bit more juice, the standard Mi 8 does the better job on paper.

There are two other major differences here, in the fingerprint scanner and design arenas. In the case of the former, the standard Mi 8 offers a rear fingerprint scanner, while the Explorer Edition offers a pressure-sensitive under-display fingerprint scanner.

As for design, the Explorer Edition has a rather cool transparent back, bringing to mind the HTC U12 Plus. Unfortunately, the standard Xiaomi Mi 8 doesn’t get this rear cover, so you’ll have to settle for blue, white, gold or black options.

How does the Xiaomi Mi 8 SE fare?

The Xiaomi Mi 8 SE. Xiaomi

Looking at the spec sheet, the Mi 8 SE seems more like a Mi Note 3.5 than a slightly less powerful Mi 8. There’s a Snapdragon 710 chip in there (the first Snapdragon 710 phone, to boot), 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage, and a downgraded dual camera setup.

In the case of the latter, you’re looking at a 12MP plus 5MP pairing rather than the 12MP/12MP combo seen on the Mi 8. The 12MP camera also receives a slight aperture downgrade — f/1.9 compared to f/1.8 on the Mi 8. It doesn’t look like the Mi 8 SE gets optical image stabilization, either.

You’ve also got a slightly smaller AMOLED screen (5.88-inches versus 6.21-inches), but it maintains the same resolution as the flagship displays.

There are two other features absent from the Mi 8 SE, in the form of dual frequency GPS navigation and NFC connectivity. So if you must have either function, well, the SE model isn’t for you.

Four missing features from all devices?

The Xiaomi Mi 8. Xiaomi

Oddly enough, all three phones are missing a few major features. For one, it seems like none of the models support microSD slots, so no storage expansion here.

Read more: Here are the best Xiaomi smartphones you can buy

Xiaomi has also followed the trend of dropping 3.5mm headphone jacks, as all three phones omit the port. Fortunately, the firm has opted to include a 3.5mm to Type-C adapter with each model. The lack of a headphone jack doesn’t translate to any significant IP rating though, so don’t go swimming with these phones.

Finally, wireless charging is seemingly absent on all three phones (it’s not listed on the official spec sheets), which means you might want to consider the Mi Mix 2S or a rival brand.

The Xiaomi Mi 8 and Mi 8 SE store listings are live in China now. You can check them out via the buttons below.

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