Known as 'China's Apple', Xiaomi is a huge brand in the Chinese smartphone market - and increasingly in Europe, with Xiaomi listed as the fourth biggest smartphone vendor for sales in Q1 2018, behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei, but ahead of Nokia (Canalys). It plans to hit the US in 2019, too.
For users in the UK, US and Europe, Xiaomi offers mobile phones with specifications several notches above what you'll get for the same money over here. If you want the best-value phone, you're in the right place.
The Xiaomi line-up can be confusing for those not familiar with it, but follow these general rules of thumb and you can't go far wrong. Redmi is the company's budget line, so while prices are cheaper you shouldn't expect the same features and performance you get from the flagships. The Note range are its phablets or large-screen phones (though Mi Max is the largest), and plain old Mi is its flagship family.
The Mi8 and futuristic Mi Mix 2S (originally a concept phone in its first edition) currently sit at the top of the line-up, and in the next few weeks we'll be adding some of the recently announced new phones from the company, including the Mi Max 3 and Redmi 6 line. The Android One-powered Mi A2 is also tipped to be launching in Spain at the end of July 2018.
Previously you also had the Mi Note at flagship status, but in the Mi Note 3 core hardware has been downgraded. Don't rule it out, though: with many of the same features and an identical design to the Mi6 it is appealing as a cheaper option.
Your buying guide to the best Xiaomi phones of 2018
Though you can sometimes find Xiaomi phones on Amazon, usually you'll need to import them from a site such as GearBest since they aren't officially sold over here. That could all be about to change, though. Xiaomi has already launched in Spain, and will apparently come to the UK soon via network operator 3. In 2019 it plans to branch out into the US, too. Not only will you be able to easily purchase Xiaomi phones, you'll be able to get them on contract, too.
In the meantime, if you are importing a Xiaomi phone it's always worth looking for an EU warehouse (check the codes here) to avoid import duty, and to look for an 'International' or 'Global' model even if that means paying a little more for them.
Only the Global models support 800MHz 4G LTE (Band 20), which is important to note for UK users on O2, GiffGaff or Sky Mobile. O2 relies solely on this band for 4G coverage, which means the most you'll get is 3G without reverting to Wi-Fi. For other networks that also use this band 4G coverage may be lower than you would find with a phone that does support 800MHz.
If you're buying from China you should also take into account that your consumer rights are different to when you buy within Europe, and that should something go wrong you're going to find aftersales support more difficult. Delivery times will also be longer, though there is usually a free option.
One major difference between Xiaomi phones and stock Android phones is that they run MIUI, and unless you have one of the International or Global models you'll find Google Play Services are not preinstalled. As long as it's a fairly recent device and capable of running MIUI 9, this is easy to solve. We've explained how to install Google Play on a Xiaomi phone here.
An exception here is the Mi A1, which is identical in design and specification to the Mi 5X but runs Android One rather than MIUI. Xiaomi has recently announced the Mi 6X (which should be similarly rebranded as the Mi A2 any day now), and we'll be adding it to our chart once we have completed our testing.
Best Xiaomi Phone Reviews
1. Xiaomi Mi8
- Reviewed on: 15 July 2018
Astonishing value, insane performance, awesome photography, a larger than ever 18.7:9 AMOLED display and a cool new 3D Face recognition feature are all reasons why you should rush out and buy the Mi 8. Right now it costs just £438.33/US$569.99/€490.20 from GearBest, which is several hundred pounds cheaper than many of the phones with which it competes.
We're sad to see Xiaomi not keeping up with its rivals in terms of wireless charging, waterproofing and a Quad-HD screen, and that the highly anticipated in-display fingerprint is unique to the Explorer Edition, but at this price we can hardly complain. Amazing phone, highly recommended.
Read our Xiaomi Mi8 review.
- Reviewed on: 16 May 2018
The original full-display smartphone is evolving into something really special. Now with wireless charging, faster performance and a dual-camera that builds in AI, the Mi Mix 2S is a closer rival to western flagships than ever - and at a fraction of the price.
The Mi Mix 2S majors on performance and design. With its ceramic, mirror-finish case and 18:9 display it looks and feels incredible in the hand.
With full Google services the Xiaomi is easy to recommend, although it's not ideal for selfie and audio fanatics with a poorly positioned front camera and a mono speaker that doesn't make up for the lack of a headphone jack.
Battery life could also be better, and we'd like to see the company finally take the plunge with a Quad-HD display and waterproofing.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S review.
- Reviewed on: 12 July 2017
The Mi Note 2 was wrongly overshadowed at its launch. This is a gorgeous big-screen Android phone with very decent performance, a great camera and plenty of storage. We'd like to see a Quad-HD screen on Xiaomi's flagship phone, but this one should prove plenty sharp and clear. Google apps are not preinstalled, but there is a workaround if you are happy to do some tweaking.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 2 May 2018
The Mi Note 3 is a downgrade on the Mi6 and, arguably, the Mi Note 2, but it appeals with a lower price and an attractive premium design. Though it doesn't feature a flagship processor, this is is a very capable smartphone with a very decent dual-camera. Provided you can live without 800MHz 4G and are happy to install Google Play Services yourself, it's difficult not to recommend the Mi Note 3.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 3 review.
5. Xiaomi Mi5s
- Reviewed on: 29 November 2016
We cannot recommend the Xiaomi Mi5s enough. This is the smartphone every 2016 flagship wanted to be, and it comes with a price tag half that of theirs. Fantastic build quality, fantastic performance, fantastic storage, battery and connectivity options - the Xiaomi Mi5s gets a big thumbs-up from us.
Read our Xiaomi Mi5s review.
6. Xiaomi Mi A1
- Reviewed on: 7 November 2017
We're big fans of Xiaomi phones, but have been frustrated by MIUI on many an occasion. The Mi A1 and Mi 5X are to all intents and purposes the same phone, except one runs Android One and the other MIUI 8.5. That's huge news: at last we have a Xiaomi phone we can really get onboard with in the UK and Europe.
The Mi A1 itself is a well-built and decent all-round mid-range Android phone. It's not the fastest phone we've ever seen, and its low-light photography can be faulted. It lacks wireless charging, a futuristic full-screen display, a Quad-HD resolution, waterproofing, even NFC.
But at around £200 it offers amazing value, with good performance, a good camera, a nice design and decent software with timely security updates. If you're on a budget, it's difficult to think of a similarly priced phone that will do a better job.
Read our Xiaomi Mi A1 review.
- Reviewed on: 20 July 2017
It might not be as fast as the original Mi Max, but performance isn’t the main reason you’ll be buying the MI Max 2. Crossing the boundary between phone and tablet, the gigantic 6.44in screen will leave those of you who like your phones big all hot under the collar. With more storage, an improved camera and longer battery life, the Mi Max 2 is a no-brainer of an upgrade.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Max 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 30 April 2018
The 2GB RAM model we reviewed lacks features compared to the better-specced Redmi Note 5A options that cost only slightly more. There's no fingerprint scanner, a slower processor, a less impressive selfie camera and less memory and storage.
But none of this takes away from the fact this super-budget smartphone offers extraordinary value under £70. It doesn't excel at any one particular thing, but it is capable for less demanding users and nicely designed for a plastic phone.
If you do buy the Note 5A we strongly recommend choosing a Global variant for improved connectivity and the preinstallation of Google Services.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A (2GB) review.
- Reviewed on: 8 May 2017
It isn’t a huge upgrade over the Redmi Note 3 or Note 4, but the Note 4X Global edition is a fine budget phone for UK users.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X review.
10. Xiaomi Redmi 4A
- Reviewed on: 25 April 2018
The Redmi 4A is ageing, and yet it remains a very good budget phone and a decent all-rounder under £100. Though it lacks more modern aspects such as a fingerprint scanner, metal build and 18:9 display, it's almost impossible to argue at this price. The 4A has since been succeeded by the 5A, but there's really no difference in core specification, making this an even better deal if you can find it at a rock-bottom price. The Global model is recommended, provided you're happy to get along with MIUI 8.5.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi 4A review.