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In order to reduce hardware cost and achieve superior performance in multi-input multi-output (MIMO) systems, this paper proposes a novel scheme for joint antenna combination and symbol detection. More specifically, the new approach simultaneously determines the transformation weighting for antenna combination to lower the RF chains called for and to design the minimum bit error rate (MBER) detector to effectively mitigate the impairment due to interference. The joint decision statistic, however, is highly nonlinear and the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm is employed to reduce the computational overhead. Conducted simulation results show that the new approach yields satisfactory performance with reduced computational overhead compared with pervious works.