Xiaomi has made a lot of name for itself since its arrival in the Indian smartphone market. It is known for offering premium-looking and feature-packed smartphones for the relatively lower price than the competition. And today, we have a new smartphone from the company which comes with same tried and tested hardware and build quality but with a different take on the software aspect.
In this review, we are having a look at the recently-launched Xiaomi Mi A1 which is the first phone from the company to run stock Android instead of the MIUI skin. This change has taken place because Xiaomi has partnered with Google to release the phone which is a part of the latter’s Android One program, something that did not work the first time but the reboot might help.
Xiaomi Mi A1 Specifications:
- 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD display
- Octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with Adreno 506 GPU
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage (expandable via microSD card but feature hybrid slot)
- Dual 12-megapixel rear shooters with f/2.2 and f/2.6 aperture, phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, and dual-LED flash (4K video recording supported)
- 5-megapixel front shooter (up to 1080p video recording)
- 3080mAh battery (non-removable)
- Android 7.1.2 Nougat (updated confirmed for Android Oreo and P)
- Fingerprint scanner, IR blaster, USB Type-C port, and 3.5mm headphone jack
Let’s start the review without any further ado.
Build and Quality:
The Xiaomi Mi A1 boasts full-metal body and a thickness of only 7.3mm which not only makes it premium to look at but also when you hold it. But the metal build also makes it quite slippery to hold and prone to smudges. This is the reason I would recommend you go for a good-quality protective case as soon as you get your hands on the phone.
Talking about the design, the front panel has bigger bezels on the top and bottom but the side-bezels are quite slim. This helps in offering an impressive viewing experience, especially if you have the Black color variant of the phone. On the top, you will see the front camera, earpiece, and other sensors. The phone has physical buttons for Home, Recent Apps, and Back which are present at the bottom bezel and the good thing is that they are backlit. It means you can use the phone and access those buttons even in the dark.
Now coming to the back panel, You will see the dual camera setup with a bump at the top left corner along with the dual-LED flash on its right. You can also see the antenna band design at the top and bottom which becomes almost invisible on the Black color variant. The camera setup placement and antenna designs are most likely to remind you of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5. The fingerprint scanner is at the center which is quite easy to reach. There are Mi and Android One brandings towards the bottom along with some other information.
Other aspects of the phone’s design include the Volume rocker and power button on the left side frame and the hybrid SIM tray slot on the right side. There is an IR blaster at the top which can be used for controlling appliances like TV, AC, and microwave oven. At the bottom, you will find the 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port along with the mono-speaker which is the loudest in this price-range because of the dedicated DAC inside. The only issue is that you might end up blocking the audio output from the speaker while gaming or holding the phone with both hands.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 sports a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD display which falls on the cooler side of the display temperature spectrum. It is an impressive display with a quite good color reproduction and great viewing angles. The display brightness can go really high and makes it easier to see and read the content even in broad daylight. This is also the reason I keep the brightness to a minimum level when indoors.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 features the octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor with Adreno 506 GPU and 4GB of RAM. The processor is known for offering a perfect blend of power and battery efficiency which is also evident on the smartphone. It basically means that the Mi A1 is not only capable of running apps and games with ease but the battery efficiency is also impressive (detailed explanation later). I have been using the phone for over three weeks now and not even once I have come across anything that disappointed me about the phone’s performance.
The Mi A1 performed very well even in multi-tasking and switching between apps/games was a smoother experience. Thanks to the 4GB RAM, stock Android, and software optimization, you will rarely see any reloads. I did not face any issues even while playing games like PES 2017 or Asphalt Xtreme while texting to my friends on WhatsApp or listening to the music at the same time. It is worth mentioning that many of the games would start on Low graphics settings by default but you can always change that from game settings and would not notice much difference in the performance.
The Mi A1 is powered by a 3080mAh battery which means I had my doubts regarding the battery backup but those were only until I actually started using the phone. The battery life is impressive and will easily last you for a day. You will have to go for recharging the phone in the middle of the day only if you game a lot. In other scenarios, you can be assured that you will not need the charger until you return home from a typical day’s work. It gives screen on time of about 5-6 hours with ease and at times, it can even go over 7 hours.
It should be noted that Xiaomi has not offered a fast charger with the phone which means it takes about 2 hours to charge from 0 to 100%. While I did not try it myself, you should be able to use third-party fast chargers to make use of fast charging on the phone.
Xiaomi has loaded the Mi A1 with dual 12-megapixel cameras on the back with phase detection autofocus and dual-LED flash. The primary lens has a f/2.0 aperture and the second one is a telephoto lens with f/2.6 aperture. It means you use the Mi A1 for taking those Portrait mode (Bokeh effect) shots where the background gets blurred and the subject pops out. The secondary camera can also be used for having 2x optical zoom which does come handy in different situations.
The camera performance of the Mi A1 is superb in the daytime and you can click some really impressive shots. It should be noted when you are in lack of natural light or simply under low light conditions, you should avoid using the secondary rear camera of the phone as it really disappoints in such situations.
The story remains the quite similar for the selfie camera where you can end up with good selfies in the daylight but really crappy ones during night time or under low lighting. There are Beauty modes and filters to help you make your selfie look great.
As for the camera app, it is Xiaomi’s own camera app which has been tweaked to support dual cameras. You will find it loaded with a bunch of modes and options to help you make most out of the cameras. It even has photo filters which can be applied even prior to clicking the photo. There is also a Manual mode which lets you play around with White Balance, Focus, Exposure time, ISO, and Lens type. The view-finder on the app opens the Google Photos app which is obvious considering that Xiaomi has worked with Google on the phone.
This is the first Xiaomi smartphone to run stock Android and the overall software experience is same as what would you expect. If you have used any Xiaomi phone running MIUI before, you might even ask why did not stock Android appear on Mi phones earlier. It is true that you will not get as many customization options as MIUI offers which means if you are a big fan of them, you will surely them on the Mi A1 from the time you will use it. But it does have two gestures: Swipe up/down on fingerprint scanner to pull down/up the notification panel and double-press the power button to launch the camera app even from the lock screen.
The best part of having an Android One and stock Android Mi A1 is that it has been assured to receive regular software updates and upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo before the end of this year. It has even be said to become one of the first devices to receive Android P next year. And during my usage of this phone, I have received one software update which upgraded it to the September security patch level.
One interesting thing to mention here is that the Mi A1 is one of the few selected Nougat running phones which support newly-introduced A/B (seamless) system updates functionality. It means whenever you will receive a software update, you can download it and left it to install on Mi A1 in the background while you use the phone like you do usually. Once the installation is completed, all you need to do is to reboot and you will be welcomed by the new software. There is no need to wait around for that “Android optimizing apps” screen to disappear before you can use the device.
The Xiaomi Mi A1 is an impressive offering at this price point. It has a premium build quality and design to go with reliable and relatively faster/smoother performance. The dual camera setup also works fine and not to mention the battery life which surprised me considering that it has only 3080mAh battery. On top of all these, the stock Android with the promise of faster and regular updates, I don’t see any reason why you should not go for the Mi A1 if you are on a budget of Rs. 15,000. It’s simply a no-brainer at this price point.