When the first Xiaomi Mi A1 was released, everyone was on the edge of their seat. It’s a smartphone that is inexpensive yet runs on Android One and packed with some rather interesting hardware. Slightly less than a year later, Xiaomi returns with the next iteration – the Mi A2.
We got to take a brief look at the Xiaomi Mi A2 during its announcement here in Malaysia, and we also got a unit of the Xiaomi Mi A2 to review. Specifically, the one with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
Thanks a bunch to Xiaomi Malaysia for this opportunity. Let’s dive into the in-depth review of the brand new, highly-anticipated Xiaomi Mi A2.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 packaging is fairly simple to begin with. The packaging shows the how the phone will look at the front and back, together with the Android One branding right below the Mi A2 name.
At the back of the box, there aren’t much to see here. There are a few feature highlights up top and there is a list of package contents.
Opening up the box, we’re immediately greeted with the accessories box. It’s actually a good design where the phone has a cushion that dampens the force and prevent damages during shipment. Beneath the accessories box we can see the Mi A2 in all of its glory.
At the bottom of the packaging, we can find the charger and also the USB-C cable. The charger is in there tight – and it’s a bit tricky to take it out.
With all of the contents dug out of the box, we have the phone itself, a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle, a SIM ejector tool, the charger, USB-C cable, and an included TPU case.
In terms of aesthetics, the Xiaomi Mi A2 is a sleek smartphone. Again, Xiaomi stuck with a minimalist design where it’s clean and with zero frills. The Mi A2 doesn’t have a notched display as well.
At the back is where you can touch and feel the phone’s metal body. The antenna lines are lined up around the top and bottom of the phone, making the design pretty clean overall. This antenna design is pretty common among other smartphones in the market these days.
It has a matte finishing that is nice to touch, but grease marks can stain it pretty easily. Once grease marks are on there, it’s not easy to clean either. That’s where the included TPU case comes in.
The included TPU case is not particularly high quality or anything – but Xiaomi did an extra mile here. Including a TPU case in the box is already a good enough – but not for Xiaomi. The Xiaomi Mi A2 that we have here is in black color – and the included TPU case is black as well. If you get the gold color Mi A2, you’ll get a transparent TPU case instead. 😲
Despite being – blatantly speaking – a cheap TPU case, it does offer decent protection – particularly around the camera. The rear-camera protrudes out way too much and the case actually surrounds the rear-camera and has a lip around the perimeter to protect against direct contact with any surface.
The case does have a small lip around the screen as well.
The included TPU case has little grains to prevent direct contact between the case itself with the back of the phone. This can prevent scratches whenever debris get inside.
[nextpage title=”Connectivity & Ports”]
The first concern I have when I picked up the Xiaomi Mi A2 is the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack. Xiaomi knew that this will be a problem for the users, so they included a 3.5mm audio jack in the box itself. It’s great – but knowing the fact that I have to carry a dongle around is not really that fun or convenient.
Our recommendation is go wireless or bring this dongle everywhere you go. Remember – if you use this dongle, you can’t charge at the same time.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 comes with up to 802.11ac WiFi, IR blaster, and a single bottom-firing speaker. Nothing too impressive in terms of connectivity and it gets the job done.
At the bottom, there’s a speaker grill and the USB-C port alongside with a microphone.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 lacks a microSD card slot – which is a big difference compared to its predecessor. This is also where we get to see the dual nano SIM slot instead of the commonly-found nano SIM 1 + microSD card slots in many other phones.
The other connecivity that the Xiaomi Mi A2 lacks is NFC. No Google Pay for you, but that is quite an obscure payment system to begin with.
The loudspeaker on the Mi A2 is pretty alright – it’s loud and doesn’t sound as bad. Surprisingly, it doesn’t sound high-pitch like many other smartphones’ loudspeakers. Still, it would’ve been great if Xiaomi made the earpiece to be the secondary speaker as well.
Let’s first talk about the overall size of the phone. It’s surprisingly similar to the Mi A1, with only an increased height to accommodate the new 5.99-inch LTPS IPS LCD display with 2160×1080 pixels in resolution and an 18:9 aspect ratio.
The display on the Mi A2 is very good. Colors are vivid enough but not overdone.
Though, the Xiaomi Mi A2 doesn’t have any special features that make it stand out compared to other smartphones that we’ve seen in the market. It’s pretty much the same as the Nokia 7 Plus that we reviewed here, since they’re both under the Android One program as well.
To briefly go through the features, there’s blue light filter mode – which is called Night Mode on the pure Android experience – and ambient display that briefly displays newly received notification a la the always-on display fashion. Same goes for the Nokia 7 Plus.
Remember – battery-powered LCD displays cannot use the always-on display feature if you want to prolong the battery life.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 comes with vertically-stacked rear-facing cameras and has these specs:
- Dual rear-facing cameras (learn more here)
12MP Sony IMX486 sensor with 1.25μm pixel size; f/1.75 aperture
20MP Sony IMX376 sensor with 2.0μm pixel size; f/1.75 aperture with 4-in-1 pixel binning technique. Advertised as “low-light”.
- Selfie camera
- 20MP Sony IMX376 sensor with 2.0μm pixel size; f/2.2 aperture with 4-in-1 Super Pixel based on pixel binning technique
It’s interesting to see the technique of 4-in-1 pixel binning technique making a return to a mainstream smartphone like the Mi A2. A similar technique was used on the ASUS ZenFone 2 with their Low Light mode that combines 4 pixels into one.
Here are some of the photos taken with the Xiaomi Mi A2.
You can always visit our Flickr album here to view the pictures in its full resolution and have a look at the EXIF data.
Rear cameras picture samples
Throughout my time with the Xiaomi Mi A2, I can only say one thing – I like the camera. Quite a lot, actually. The combination and ability to switch between the 12MP and 20MP cameras are unique yet offers quite a lot of flexibility. While Xiaomi claims that it’ll automatically switch to the 20MP camera is meant to be used for low-light photography, that update is yet to come (during the time of this review).
The Xiaomi Mi A2’s camera is good. Colors are on point and looks natural to the eye. Even the details are surprisingly good. As for low-light photos, the 12MP camera actually takes really nice pictures.
The HDR mode on the Xiaomi Mi A2 looks great. Even at night, HDR mode does make quite a lot of difference to the overall brightness of the image.
Xiaomi does offer the the ability to actually use that 20MP in manual mode. Just switch from the “regular” 12MP camera to the “low-light” 20MP camera and you can snap pictures in higher resolution using manual mode. Pretty neat.
As an added bonus, the Portrait Mode does quite an okay job as well. It’s not really that accurate in separating the subject and the background, but it’s alright.
Selfie camera picture sample
Again, I’m not much of a selfie fan. The Xiaomi Mi A2 takes some okay selfies with no major features to really enhance the selfie photography. Just beauty mode. It gets the job done and that’s pretty much it.
Camera UI & Other Features
Coming to the camera UI, I find it rather clunky as well. To select the different modes that the Xiaomi Mi A2’s camera has, you’ll have to scroll through the list side to side, one by one. Same goes to the shutter speed and ISO selection.
Other than that, the UI is pretty much clean and simple to use. If you don’t fudge around with manual mode, then auto mode is already pretty good.
There are a few modes in the camera as well – but the one I like the most is straighten. I have an OCD in getting the straightest photo ever, and this mode helps me a tonne. However, I do wish that Xiaomi improve this camera mode and make it straightening in both roll and yaw axes.
You can combine a few modes together too – for example, straighten and beautify.
One gripe I have is the lack of a RAW mode for manual mode. Not really a big deal, but certainly something that I wish Xiaomi will add in the future.
[nextpage title=”Software – Android One”]
As a part of Google’s Android One program, the Xiaomi Mi A2 comes with stock Android together with the latest updates from Google themselves. As of the time of this review, the Xiaomi Mi A2 comes with Android 8.1.0 with June 2018 security patch.
With that said, the Xiaomi Mi A2 actually does come with a few Xiaomi apps. Just a few, and they’re the more useful ones. They’re not pre-baked and shipped with the Xiaomi Mi A2 but these apps will automatically be downloaded once you finish setting up the phone.
In the settings menu, there is a menu for gestures as well. However, there’s only one option here – jumping to camera with a double press on the power button. I do wish that Xiaomi adds fingerprint scanner gesture to bring down notifications too. That’ll be a great addition.
There is another Mi Services menu in the settings which lets you to enable or disable telemetry services.
[nextpage title=”Performance & Gaming”]
Instead of using an energy-efficient chip like its predecessor, the Mi A2 now comes with some powerful hardware. Here’s the full list of the specs for the Mi A2 that we had for review.
- 5.99-inch LTPS IPS LCD display with 2160×1080 resolution
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
- Octa-core processor with 4xKryo 260 @ 2.2GHz + 4xKryo 260 @ 1.8GHz
- Adreno 512 with 128 ALUs
- 4GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 64GB eMMC 5.1 storage
- 3,010mAh battery
- Android One
The Mi A2 comes with 6GB RAM with 128GB storage variant as well.
The last time we reviewed a smartphone using Snapdragon 660 chipset was on the Nokia 7 Plus – and that’s a power-hungry chip. With that said, let’s take a look at the benchmark scores of the Xiaomi Mi A2.
The Snapdragon 660 on the Xiaomi Mi A2 is actually quite powerful. Even the benchmarks say so. As for gaming experience, you can actually get some great gaming experience out of it.
We first tested with Asphalt 9 with maximum graphic settings. The car still looks jaggy, but the entire gaming experience was buttery smooth.
As for Honkai Impact 3, the frame rate fluctuates quite a lot and ends up being frustrating at times. I recommend to just stick with medium resolution and turn everything else to enabled/max. It’ll run at 60FPS without a hitch.
PUBG Mobile? Handled it like a champ with high settings as well. Though, playing a game of PUBG Mobile will drain quite a lot of battery with the Snapdragon 660 chipset.
We mentioned the word “power-hungry” a lot – and that leads us to the next section – the battery life of the Xiaomi Mi A2.
[nextpage title=”Battery & Charger”]
The Xiaomi Mi A2 has quite a disappointing battery. 3,010mAh battery on a 2018 smartphone – will it last for a full day of use? Especially with the Snapdragon 660 chipset? Probably not – and in our test, it tells us that the battery is indeed a weak point in the Mi A2.
In our usual battery life benchmark, the Mi A2’s 3,010mAh battery only scored about 8 hours and 45 minutes. It’ll be a challenge to last the day without a power bank.
It’s funny how the Xiaomi Mi A2 actually supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, but only includes a 5V 2A charger. In India, their Mi A2 actually supports the latest QuickCharge 4.0! However, that’s none of our concern for now as the Malaysian version of the Mi A2 will come with a 5V 2A charger only.
The bundled charger has a 2 prongs only, making it quite convenient to bring around. Just be careful not to damage these prongs.
As for the charging speed, the bundled 5V 2A charger can get to 50% battery in 30 minutes, and it reaches 75% at about 53 minutes. Pretty good.
[nextpage title=”Wrapping up the Xiaomi Mi A2 review”]
I like the shape and size of Xiaomi Mi A2. The camera is surprisingly good – better than quite a lot of smartphones out there too, yet it’s highly affordable. The only smartphone that is running on Android One and has similar specs with the Mi A2 is the Nokia 7 Plus – which is nearly much more expensive.
Is the Mi A2 worth your money? Yes, definitely. But, there are two variants available in Malaysia:
- 4GB RAM + 64GB storage: RM999 (the one we reviewed)
- 6GB RAM + 128GB storage: RM1,199
Depending on your personal needs, you might want to opt for the 6GB RAM variant. For those who are thrifty with background apps and number of apps running in parallel, perhaps the 4GB variant is enough.
For me personally, I think the extra RM200 for 6GB RAM and 128GB storage is really worth it. Keep in mind that the Mi A2 does not have an SD card slot.
The only biggest downside of the Xiaomi Mi A2 is the battery life. And that’s the only downside that bothers me.