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Review - Xiaomi Mi4i: The Super Affordable Mid-range Smartphone 1

The Xiaomi Mi4i was released in India as a way to bring an affordable, yet capable smartphone to the masses (hence the “i”). It was introduced to provide a an edge over the lower-end offerings in India, and the Mi4i has since found its true identity as a competitive mid-range option for the increasingly affluent Indian community.

But is the Xiaomi Mi4i as attractive in other markets, apart from India? With the Xiaomi Mi4i just released in Malaysia this August, we shall see if it can hold its own against comparable products at this price point.

Build

Review - Xiaomi Mi4i: The Super Affordable Mid-range Smartphone 2

Unsurprisingly, the Mi4i does have notable similarities to the Mi4, beyond just its name. The Mi4i has the same overall design language, with its shape being uncannily alike.

The Mi4i, however, differentiates itself with a matte polycarbonate back (in white or black), unlike the Mi4’s aluminum frame and glossy plastic back cover. The matte back provides the Mi4i with a with a luxe ceramic-like feel around its body, though lacking a grippier and more tactile back of the Mi4. The result is a phone is thin and yet considerably more slippery in the hand, making it risky for daily a phone case.

Thankfully, the power button and the volume rocker are thoughtfully placed, all lined up on the top right, preventing awkward accidental presses. All the buttons feel sufficiently responsive, and yet durable enough to withstand long-term use.

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The dual-SIM card slot lies unassumingly on the left, and the 13 megapixel camera and dual LED flash presented no bulk by being totally flush on the phone’s back. The headphone jack up top, and micro-USB slot down below are standard fare, but are hardy as well. On the top and bottom of the screen, we have three capacitive menu keys below, and notification lights and front-facing camera above. In every sense, this architectural design that’s functional, ergonomic, and belying its cheap price-point.

The dual-SIM card slot is unobtrusively on the left, and the 13 megapixel camera and dual LED flash on the back. The headphone jack up top, and micro-USB slot down below are standard fare, but are hardy as well. Front display-wise, the Mi4i has three capacitive menu keys, along with the notification lights and front-facing camera above. In every sense, you are getting an architectural phone typical of Xiaomi, that is functional, ergonomic, and at a low price-point

Screen and Display

If there’s one aspect that sets the Mi4i apart from other lower-tier mid-range smartphones, it would be the display. With a 5” 1080p full high-definition IPS LCD display, running at a sharp 441 pixel-per-inch density, we are looking at a similar screen to that of a Nexus 5, the affordable Google flagship phone from two years ago.

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The only feature that would be wholly original might just be the extraordinarily good colour reproduction. A whopping 16 million colours can be reproduced, and Xiaomi even has a new hardware-controlled technology named “Sunlight Display,” that can adjust the contrast of each pixel to suit ambient light, making graphics impressively vivid to look at.

Looking at Mi4i’s screen in direct sunlight is still difficult, but in gentler conditions, Xiaomi’s screen technology looks like a sharp explosion of colours. Finding a more vibrant and better-looking screen at this price is a very tall order.

Processor performance and hardware

The Mi4i is paired up with the industry-standard Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, version 615 in this case, equipping the Mi4i with top-notch capabilities. Even 2 GB RAM internal memory is arguably sufficient for everything you might want to achieve application-wise. However, the Mi4i does fall shy of last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 4, when put through the AnTuTu benchmark test.

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In reality, the Mi4i does a competent job running a graphical-intensive game like Burnout 3, but we found it to be slightly slower in overall game startup times and frame rates, as opposed to the high-end phones of the previous year. However, the 2 GB RAM memory and the 4 highly-clocked processor cores do help to chug things along for a decent and respectable smartphone app experience. The fixed and smooth animations within the graphical interface also improved the overall experience.

One downside would be the operating system, Xiaomi’s MIUI 6, which leaves only slightly more than 1 GB of RAM memory for multitasking and non-system related tasks . However, unless we are opening an unusual amount of browser tabs or applications, it should not be an issue for the average user.

Storage

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Don’t expect to load a large number of apps or video files on the Mi4i, as you only get 16GB of flash memory with no expandable storage space.

Thankfully, Xiaomi recently released a 32GB version of the Mi4i in Malaysia, so that’s the variant to go for if you plan to install a large quantity of games, or store a huge amount of movies.

Call and network quality

This is where the Mi4i’s network and call capabilities come in. Call performance was good, with sound levels being high on both ends of the calls. Speaker volume from the lone rear-speaker grill is loud and clear across the board, from music to notification sounds. The sounds aren’t muffled as well, even at high volumes, atypical to phones at this price point. There’s even a small bump on the back of the phone, that raises the device slightly, preventing the speaker from getting blocked.

If there was one feature that truly makes the Mi4i relevant in today’s smartphone market is the 4G LTE. Web browsing was snappy and downloading files didn’t prove to be a problem in good reception areas. However, with almost every phone being released with 4G LTE these days, it might as well be the norm, just like 3G was back in the day. It’s great to see speedy LTE performance in the Mi4i, and with a dual-SIM card tray, you can potentially double on the 4G.

Battery life

It contains a high-capacity 3,120 MAH lithium battery (not removable, unfortunately), that can last the entire day with slightly over 4 hours of on-screen activity, ending with at least 20% at midnight. One issue: the Snapdragon 615 processor in it is said to support Qualcomm’s quick charging standard, Quick-Charge 2.0, but didn’t work with the Aukey Quick-Charge 2.0 power adapter we had. Charging still maintained an acceptable rate, but we didn’t get the less-than-1-hour charge times advertised for Quick-Charge 2.0. 2 hours from 0 up till 100% was the best we could do on the Mi4i.

However, having over 3,000 MAH of battery on a 5” device is refreshing. Phones with a battery this big are usually phablet-sized, but not everyone wants to carry around smartphones that are more than 5.5”.

Camera

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A Sony/Samsung-made 13 megapixel rear-shooter is what the Mi4i is equipped with, and a respectable one at that. The resolution of the pictures was crisp and the light exposures were excellent with just the right amount of light being introduced into every shot. Colour reproduction was near-perfect, with or without Mi4i’s HDR (high dynamic range) mode. But the HDR mode is ‘the icing on the cake,’ taking the pictures to a whole new level of vividness and clarity. Even the 5 megapixel front-facing unit produced both sharp video calls as well as selfies.

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Day shots look incredibly detailed
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Colours are vibrant and sharp

For at least RM 749, we have a smartphone with a camera that can handle heavy-duty work in a number of ambient light situations, and holds its own against exceptional camera phones like the LG G4. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with Mi4i’s cameras to say the least.

The bottom line

No other mid-range Android smartphone checks the boxes like the Xiaomi Mi4i does, at this price. It is an attractive product that is beautifully thin while still being premium in feel, although it may be slightly slippery without a case. There is also powerful computer processing within this phone, which is rare for such a cheap phone.

With a still-potent processor, substantial battery, and camera shooters that put other mid-range smartphones to shame, Xiaomi has truly pushed the envelope of what a mid-range smartphone should be, and more. The closest that anyone else has ever come would be the 2015 Moto G, thought substantially more expensive. You will never get exceptional gaming experiences out of these smartphones but to see almost all games running perfectly on a Mi4i is impressive and telling.

The Xiaomi Mi4i is certainly a superior upgrade of Xiaomi’s own lower-end offerings, the Redmi 2 and Redmi Note 4G. The increase in performance just feels tremendous considering the price narrow price difference between the Mi4i and the rest of the cheaper Xiaomi phones. All in all, with a good phone case equipped, the Xiaomi Mi4i is definitely a worthy buy for anyone looking to get a budget smartphone off-contract.

Where to buy?

The Xiaomi Mi4i can be purchased on the official Mi webstore http://www.mi.com/my/mi4i/. The 16GB is available in White and Dark Grey (RM 749), while the 32GB is available in Dark Grey (RM 899).

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