Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite full review
Belonging to Xiaomi's flagship Mi 8 family but with a lower spec and more affordable price, the Mi 8 Lite has a lot to offer the mid-range smartphone market.
Also see: Best Xiaomi Deals
Mi 8 Lite Price & UK availability
Following a China launch in September the Mi 8 Lite officially launched in London on 8 November 2018.
There are two models of the Mi 8 Lite, with the 4GB RAM, 64GB storage model (reviewed here) retailing at £259, and the 6GB RAM, 128GB storage model retailing at £279.
You can buy the Mi 8 Lite directly from the Mi UK store (or in branch at its new outlet in London's Westfield Shopping Centre), or from UK vendors such as Amazon, Argos and eBuyer. At the time of writing eBuyer has the cheapest price at £224.97.
However, remember that when you factor in import duty (20% of the value on the shipping paperwork) the difference is not so great. And buying within the UK from an approved stockist you will have an easier ride should something go wrong with your purchase.
That said, we thoroughly recommend GearBest, but advise you to purchase a 'Global' model else you will need to install Google Play services yourself and it may lack support for 800MHz (Band 20) 4G LTE (of major importance only if you're on a network that relies solely on this band for 4G, such as O2, GiffGaff and Sky Mobile).
Should I buy the Mi 8 Lite or Mi A2?
There is very little difference in price between this Mi 8 Lite and the Mi A2 (reviewed). Performance is also largely similar with the same core hardware inside, but key differences are found in the operating system (this Mi 8 Lite runs MIUI while the Mi A2 has Android One), the display (the Mi 8 Lite has a fractionally larger 'notch' display), battery capacity (Mi 8 Lite has more, at 3,350mAh vs 3,010mAh) and cameras (Mi 8 Lite has a better selfie camera, Mi A2 has more megapixels on its primary camera).
We would recommend either as top mid-range phones, though the Mi 8 Lite is the better phone by a very slim margin thanks to its extra software features, gorgeous design and longer battery life.
Mi 8 Lite Design & Build
The Lite comes in three colour options - a standard Midnight Black (reviewed here), and two gorgeous gradients that make this model seem rather boring. There's a Sunset Gold model which has a pinky, orangey hue, and an Aurora Blue option (pictured above) that moves gently from blue through purple. We've seen only the black and blue options available to buy so far.
The mirror-like finish is striking, and the gradient design seems to be the latest trend for Chinese phones, with the recently announced Honor Magic 2 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro both opting for a similar look.
A super-slim 7.5mm frame, incredibly slim bezels and 19:9 tall display add to the feeling of this being a premium phone, despite its mid-range price. The Mi 8 Lite has a high 82.5% screen-to-body ratio, and it maximises the presence of its huge 6.26in display with the tiniest Xiaomi screen notch to date - less than 20mm in width.
This is the largest panel in the Mi 8 family yet it also has the tallest aspect ratio, which means it's just 1.5mm taller and 1mm wider than the also announced Mi 8 Pro. And it shaves 0.1mm off the waistline, despite housing a higher-capacity 3,350mAh battery. This is a 6.26in-screen phone in the body of a 5.5in model, fitting comfortably in the hand.
There is a key difference between the screens here, though, which has been necessary to keep down costs. Whereas every other Mi 8 model has an AMOLED panel, known for their incredible vibrancy and saturated colours, the Mi 8 Lite has an IPS panel.
But while it's not quite as good as those flagship models, it's still very good, and IPS is the technology favoured by all other Xiaomi phones such as the budget Redmi line. It produces realistic colours, good contrast and strong viewing angles. It has a maximum 450 nits brightness, and claimed contrast ratio of 1500:1. We measured brightness as high as 437 nits in our own tests, which will make it very easily usable in all lighting conditions.
The resolution is Full-HD+ (2280x1080 pixels), with a pixel density of 403ppi, and Xiaomi has never gone higher than this in any of its phones. It's more than adequate for clear images and text on a screen of this size.
Looking around the edges of the phone the Mi 8 Lite has a lot in common with its Pro sibling. With a USB-C port on the bottom there is no 3.5mm headphone jack here, though you do get a 3.5mm- to USB-C adaptor in the retail box. Also gone is the IR blaster found in Xiaomi phones lower down the range.
What looks like dual speakers are visible from the bottom of the device, although sound is fired only from the right side of the USB-C port. The Mi 8 Lite has an upgraded DSP algorithm and Mi Sound built-in, and we found audio really rather good for a range of genres. It's usefully loud, too.
A slot-loading SIM tray at the top left edge can also accept two Nano-SIMs for dual-SIM, dual-standby operation, but unlike the Pro you can swap out one of those SIMs for a microSD card up to 256GB in capacity. Fortunately, with the Mi 8 Lite's internal storage options as generous as 64- and 128GB you might not be forced to make that decision.
Around the rear is a slightly raised dual-lens camera module, slightly lower-specced than that of other Mi 8 models. Where they all have twin 12Mp lenses the Lite has one 12Mp Sony IMX363, f/1.9, 1.4um pixel lens and one 5Mp Samsung S5K5E8 f/2.0, 1.12um pixel telephoto lens, though it makes up for this at the front with the best selfie camera of the lot - a 24Mp, 1.8um pixel beast in the shape of Sony's IMX576.
Both assemblies build in AI, which means they can intelligently select the scene and automatically configure appropriate settings, and there's a beautify feature that will be able to retouch facial areas to achieve an enhanced nude make-up look. Jump straight to camera performance.
Also here is a fingerprint sensor, and only the Mi 8 Pro and Explorer Edition feature an in-display version. Unfortunately the Mi 8 Lite does not support NFC, which is necessary for making mobile payments.
The Mi 8 Lite is not waterproof but there is Gorilla Glass 5 protection for the display, and overall it feels very well made.
Mi 8 Lite Core Hardware & Performance
One clear area where Xiaomi has cut down on costs with the Mi 8 Lite is in substituting the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor seen elsewhere in the range for the Snapdragon 660. Both are octa-core chips, but this cheaper processor is built on the 14nm- rather than 10nm manufacturing process. It has four cores running at 2.2GHz and four at 1.8GHz.
This is the same processor we've seen previously in the Mi A2 and Mi Note 3, and performance is similar here - as high as 5861 points was possible in our Geekbench 4 tests, where we saw 4600 from the A2 (running Android One) and 5600 from the Mi Note 3. That's a very good mid-range score.
Integrated to the Snapdragon 660 processor is the Adreno 512 GPU, clocked at 650MHz. Xiaomi has reportedly worked with both Tencent Games and Epic Games to optimise the Mi 8 Lite for gaming, and the chip has Vulkan API support that can balance CPU and GPU usage so that it is better able to support the multiple cores and reduce excess load on the processor.
There is also 4- or 6GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 64- or 128GB of storage, along with the aforementioned microSD support.
At 3,350mAh the battery is just 50mAh lower in capacity than the standard Mi 8, and 350mAh higher in capacity than the Mi 8 Pro. With the lower-spec hardware we anticipate you'll get a full day's life from the Lite, though obviously this will depend on your usage.
We ran the Geekbench 4 battery test and the Mi 8 Lite recorded 6 hours 22 minutes, which is significantly longer than the 5 hours 35 minutes the Mi A2 was able to achieve with its lower-capacity battery.
It supports Quick Charge 3 for fast charging, but there's no wireless charging in any of the Mi 8 range.
In common with those higher up the range Xiaomi's Mi 8 Lite features a dual-camera, but its second lens is lower specified at 5Mp. But while it lacks that second 12Mp lens at the rear, it goes one up on the rest of the family with a 24Mp lens at the front, making this the best Mi 8 for selfies.
We took a selection of test shots on the Mi 8 Lite and were impressed with its ability. In low-light its large 1.4um pixels were able to do a decent job lighting the scene without turning to the flash, and we saw well defined text and clear differentiation between colours and shades of black. Noise is present throughout the shot, as you would expect, but overall it does a good job.
In daylight scenarios the Mi 8 Lite performed even better, reducing the amount of visible grain and producing realistic colours and good exposure. Detail is sufficient that you can make out individual bricks on a building the other side of Euston Road, and even the letters on the road sign from seven storeys up.
Turning on HDR (which can be left to automatic) makes a visible difference to the overall quality of the shot, here lightening the darker areas and adding emphasis to the cloudy sky.
As on the Mi 8 Pro the selfie camera contains three beauty modes - a generic mode that adjusts an overall beauty filter on the scale of 1-5, remodelling options with a sliding scale for your eyes, nose, chin, lips and risorius, and a Make-up mode that lets you apply eyebrows, eyeliner, lip gloss and rouge. In our tests only the standard overall Beauty mode made the slightest bit of difference, and the effect was visible only after you took the shot. We believe these other filters are going to be delivered as OTA updates in the near future.
Mi 8 Lite Software
The Mi 8 Lite runs MIUI, which is a custom version of Android based on Android 8.0 Oreo. MIUI will eventually be updated to Android Pie, but while you get MIUI updates fairly regularly Android updates are less frequent.
MIUI is quite a departure from standard Android, removing the app tray, reorganising and redesigning the drop-down notification bar, and reordering the Settings menu.
In China it doesn't come with Google services preinstalled (because they aren't used there) and instead has many of Xiaomi's own apps. Here in the UK you'll get the Global ROM, which does include Google Play - and some of those Xiaomi apps.
That could lead to a very bloated operating system and cluttered home screens, but it doesn't feel that way here. You get Xiaomi's own apps for things like Contacts, Messages, Music, Video and the browser, and you can easily install your own from Google Play. Missing here is the Mi App Store, which you don't need anyway as it's full of Chinese apps, but you do get many of the Xiaomi extras we've admired before in MIUI.
Chief among these are Dual Apps and Second Space, allowing you to take full advantage of that second SIM slot by installing multiple versions of each app, and create a second environment that is as good as using a second phone.
There's also Quick Ball and One-handed mode, both designed to improve usability with a larger display by placing onscreen a quick-access shortcut to common features or shrink the usable display area to 4.5-, 4- or 3.5 inches.
Mi Mover is here, too, allowing you to easily move from one Xiaomi phone to another, and Mi Drop, which supports the sharing of files without internet access.
MIUI also has some of the best backup options we've seen, allowing you to at any point create a backup that includes your system settings, account info and apps, which can be restored even after a factory reset. You can also back up data to both Mi Cloud and Google.
Some of the stuff you'd expect to find in standard Android is also here, such as a Split screen mode and 'App Vault', the latter is swiped in from the left of the main home screen and can offer shortcuts to frequently used apps, notes and calendar events.
MIUI can seem unfamiliar at first, but you quickly get used to it. There's also a handy search option in the Settings menu for anything you can't immediately find.
Mi 8 Lite Verdict
The Mi 8 Lite is an incredible-value mid-range phone, with a good all-round spec and an attractive design. There's very little separating it and the Mi A2, but we prefer the design of the Mi 8 Lite and the extra software features MIUI brings.
Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite: Specs
- 6.26in Full-HD+ (2280x1080, 403ppi) 19:9 IPS LCD
- MIUI 10
- 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 octa-core processor
- 650MHz Adreno 512 GPU, Vulkan API support
- 4GB/6GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 64GB/128GB storage
- microSD up to 256GB (hybrid dual-SIM slot)
- 4G LTE
- dual-SIM dual-standby
- dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- Dual-lens AI camera: 12Mp Sony IMX363, f/1.9, 1.4um pixels, dual-PD + 5Mp Samsung S5K5E8 telephoto, f/2.0, 1.12um pixels
- 24Mp Sony IMX576 AI selfie camera, 1.8um pixels
- rear fingerprint sensor
- 33,50mAh battery
- Quick Charge 3
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