It’s no surprise that Xiaomi offers some pretty competitive phones in the mid-range and budget segments. Following the tradition, Xiaomi’s new entrant in the mid-range segment is quite the interesting device. The phone might essentially a rebrand of the 5X but it isn’t exactly the same in some aspects.
The Mi A1 is a device under Google’s Android One campaign, which is ironic if you consider the fact that Google has actually partnered with the very same brand that was in a lot of ways responsible for the failure of Android One in the previous run due to the launch of some certain disruptive Redmi devices. The Mi A1 is guaranteed to receive faster updates and newer Android versions due to this.
So, I got my hands on the Mi A1 for a limited time and put my expectations on trial.
The Mi A1 is a bit different compared to their other phones in terms of design language. While the fingerprint scanner lies at the usual location at the back of the device, the camera is located at the top right corner of the device which on first look resembles Apple’s camera location on the iPhone 7 Plus. The camera had a slight bump on the outside. The antenna lines run on the top and lower border and the MI logo sits symmetrically in the lower half of the all-metal backside of the device.
On the front, the 1080p LTPS display is protected by a 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla glass. The hardware buttons are present below the screen as usual and they are backlit as well. The IR blaster is located at the top while the 3.5mm headphone jack is shifted to the bottom of the device. It is now located to the right of the micro-USB type-C port along with the primary mic, the other side of which is the speaker grills.
The phone feels noticeably lighter at 165g than their popular mid-ranger, the Redmi Note 4. Even so, it is very slippery in the hand and I wish they made the back curved a better grip. Using a case or some sort of protection might be necessary.
The device sports a Full HD LTPS (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon) display with a maximum brightness output of 450 nits. The display didn’t disappoint and was fairly good. It did have a bit colder color tones but the display still looks vibrant and not washed out. Certainly, not anything to be amazed at but decent enough for what it is. At maximum brightness, there weren’t many issues with sunlight visibility. Xiaomi phones usually have a ‘Sunlight display’ feature but since the A1 runs stock you won’t be able to use it. Also, the bezels were not the thinnest but not too thick, certainly not an issue.
The Mi A1 does have an upper hand in software being an Android One smartphone, thus running an almost untouched stock android with essentially zero bloatware except a few added by Xiaomi which is essential to the usability of the device. The Mi Remote app, for instance, is added in order to use the IR blaster and the camera app is also tweaked by Xiaomi since they had to utilize the rear dual camera and make it work the way they want it to perform.
Running stock, security updates and Android version updates will come to the device very soon after their Pixel smartphones or even at the same time. In fact, an update to 7.1.2 was already available when we took it out of the box. Lacking the cosmetics of MIUI, this gains the fluid and seamless experience of pure vanilla Android, which is a big plus and one of the biggest highlights of this device.
Xiaomi has also confirmed that the Mi A1 is due to receive Android P in 2019.
The camera is one of the main highlights of the Mi A1. It packs a front-facing 5MP f/2.0 shooter and the rear-facing setup includes a 12MP f/2.2 wide-angle paired with a 12MP f/2.6 telephoto lens and a dual tone LED flash. But that’s on paper, so I took a few shots with the phone’s rear camera. In good light, the camera captures a decent amount of detail and produces sharp images. The telephoto allows up to 2x optical zoom with no loss of quality or sharpness. Depth field is good but nothing fantastic.
The portrait mode mostly works fine and does offer a nice blurry background. This feature takes advantage of the dual cameras where the wide lens focuses on the subject and the secondary lens helps to separate the background from the subject, blurring it to provide a nice bokeh. Even low light the feature works fine. However, in extremely dark places it might be a bit hard to utilize this feature but that’s asking for a lot from a phone in this price segment.
But sometimes it did show flaws.
The camera produces impressive pictures in good light but things change drastically in low light conditions. A lot of noise creeps in and the pictures lose a lot of sharpness, the depth of field takes a hit too. The phase-detection autofocus does a pretty decent job and grabs focus without being too slow.Check out these sample shots:
The Mi A1 has the capability to shoot 4k at 30fps and 720p at slow-mo 120fps. Though due to the Snapdragon 625 chipset not being capable of displaying content above 1080p.
As we can see in the benchmarks, the scores are not impressive. Single Core performance was not up to mark, but the multicore benchmark results scored better than the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Exynos 7420), Samsung Galaxy S7, One Plus 3 notably.
We did not face any lag while playing high-end games like NOVA 3, Dead Trigger 2, and Modern Combat 5. Having 4gb RAM, the phone performed great in multi-tasking, there were no issues while switching between different apps.
The battery being 3080mAH lasts almost for a day. The phone takes less than 2hrs to charge from 0 to 100%. The phone actually performs better than expected with a small battery pack due to the efficiency of Snapdragon 625 processor and pure android. Day-to-day usage on moderate loads should still leave some juice at the end of the day.
The Mi A1 does have a lot of good factors making it a compelling device to purchase. Even though it has its share of limitations but the pros seem to dominate the cons, which were not too many anyway. A decent dual-camera setup and a seamless software experience but at the cost of a not-so-big downgrade in battery life. The camera’s low light performance is a little disappointing and the portrait mode is good but actually quite far from being great, which hopefully should improve with camera patches within the upcoming software updates. The build quality is nice and premium and feels light. If you are looking for a mid-range smartphone with a good all-round balance of features and power, the Mi A1 is a pretty good option.
The Mi A1 is available with a price tag of Rs. 14,999 and comes in gold and black color options.