REVIEW | Xiaomi Mi 4i smartphone

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Xiaomi’s latest Android smartphone, the Mi 4i, started to be sold in the Philippines by Lazada last Wednesday, June 29. As expected, it has generated much interest from Android enthusiasts who know too well what a Xiaomi product can offer — that is, value for money.

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Currently the sixth most popular among the smartphone brands, Xiaomi has established a firm grip in its home country of China and India, as well as here in the Philippines. Xiaomi’s local office sent us a brand new Mi 4i a week prior to official launch and here is what we think of the mid-range smartphone.

Build

The Mi 4i is a looker, make no mistake about it. It reminds you of a slimmer iPhone 5C, if not for the silver Mi logo at the top most left corner of the front panel.

The top part of the front panel houses the 5MP front camera, the earpiece, proximity sensor, and LED light notifications. The standard 3.5mm jack is located at the top edge of the device. It has a very minimal look with curved edges and will come in various colors, taking a page out of the iPhone 5C.

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The back part is made of a matte polycarbonate material which Xiaomi claims to be fingerprint-proof and grease-proof. There is even a video by Xiaomi wherein a permanent marker was used on the back part only to be removed after few wipes.

Although it was constructed with a unibody design, the back cover is actually removable, albeit with the use of special tools. Underneath the polycarbonate back cover is a magnesium alloy frame to support the internal parts in place.

Xiaomi claims to have developed a compact motherboard to allow for a bigger battery (at 3210mAh) to be placed inside, yet maintaining a svelte profile of 7.6 mm.

The right side houses the stainless steel volume rockers as well as the power button. The bottom edge part features the USB charging port. There is also a dual standby 4G SIM slot on the left side which can be accessed via a pin hole, similar to the iPhone. A single speaker grille is located at the back which produces good acoustics.

Overall, the build is pretty solid and leaves no hollow feeling or creaking sound when pressure is applied. The screen bezels at the sides are also very small, allowing for one hand operation.

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Display

The Mi 4i has a 5-inch 1080P full HD display from Sharp and JDI, and claims to have a 95% NTSC color gamut. In a nutshell, the color gamut refers to how wide the range of colors the device can reproduce. The larger the range the color gamut, the more rich saturated colors the display is capable of reproducing.

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The display is a pleasure to look at, either turned on or off. With the display off, the front panel looks like single slab of black glass as the screen bezels blends seamlessly with the display. The white-lit capacitive buttons have no markings at all, completing a minimalistic look.

With the display turned on, one can appreciate the HD display as the icons are very sharp with no apparent pixilation, even when viewed very close. Compared to the iPhone 6?s 426 DPI, the Mi 4i has 441DPI, which is really at par with the iPhone’s retina display. The display has wide viewing angles and color representation is excellent.

Xiaomi claims the Mi 4i display uses “Sunlight Display”, a technology they developed that ensures automatic adjustment of pixel contrast in real-time, ensuring readability in daylight.

And true enough, we did not suffer the typical flushing of display under direct sunlight and had no need to crank up the brightness outdoors. It is like auto brightness, but better.

The Mi 4i has a double tap to wake option, first seen on LG devices. When the display turns off, you only need to double tap the screen to turn the display on, reducing the stress on the power button.

In our test, it works about 8 out of 10 tries, sometimes needing to be tapped multiple times for it to work. A software update, which Xiaomi is quite known for, should be able fix this glitch.

One thing to note is that Xioami opted to use Corning’s One Glass Solution (OGS) implementation dubbed as ?Concore Glass?, for its display instead of the more widely used Gorilla Glass or Dragontail Glass.

One Glass Solution is a touchscreen technology which aims to reduce thickness of display by integrating the glass with the touchscreen sensor as well as removing the air gap between the glass and LCD display, making it more sensitive to touch and improving clarity by reducing light refraction normally produced by the air gap. It also makes it appear as if you’re touching the actual display itself.

Now in terms of protection, the Concore Glass is clearly not up to par with Gorilla glass or Dragontail Glass yet, but with the proliferation of tempered glass in the market, I personally think it should not be a deal breaker. Other manufacturers who have previously implemented OGS in their products include LG and Oppo.

Software

Out of the box, the Mi 4i is running the MIUI V6, this time based on the latest Android Lollipop, the first one to carry the OS among its products. Xiaomi is quite known for releasing software updates every two weeks or so and not three days into the trial period we received our first update.

MIUI is a heavily skinned Android implementation similar to what Samsung or HTC is doing with Touchwiz and Sense, respectively. The MIUI interface gets its inspiration from Apple’s iOS, thus having the looks of iOS with the openness of Android. MIUI V6 is undoubtedly one of the better looking OEM Android skin out there. Here are some screenshots from the phone.

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Performance

Having a 64-bit architecture, a second-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, Adreno 405 GPU and 2GB worth of RAM certainly allows the Mi 4i to power through any application or games thrown in its way.

May it be high definition games like Modern Combat 5, Implosion or just casual use of Facebook app or checking emails, never have I experienced any lags and later did I realize I was on Balanced Mode the whole time.

Switching to Performance Mode further improves the speed of the device but will consume more juice as all 8 cores are pushed to its limits. Speaking of which, four of the eight cores are clocked at 1.7 GHz and the other four cores at 1.1 GHz, ensuring a balance between performance and battery life.

On Balanced mode, the device can last you a day or two on normal use of text and call while connected to the Internet. Switching between modes is easy as there is a dedicated button on the notifications panel.

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Camera

The Mi 4i is equipped with a 13MP Sony/Samsung camera with f/2.0 aperture and five element lens. For those who aren?t into photography, a large aperture opening such as f/2.0 aperture allows for large depth of field (DOF), resulting to a good background blur.

Colors are very natural and the images are quite sharp. It has a two-tone flash system which intelligently mixes cool white light and warm yellow light producing a natural, and not overly saturated images.

It also features HDR mode, HHT mode, Panorama mode and Manual mode. For low light situation, the Mi 4i provides the ability to crank up the ISO level up to ISO 3200. Exposure time can also be set to up to two seconds, allowing for light trail photography.

One chink on the armor of the Mi 4i is that it lacks Image Stabilization (IS). This would often result to blurry pictures, especially in low-light situations. Make sure you have steady hands or bring a tripod with you when doing night photography. Below are sample shots in multiple scenarios.

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Cloudy morning
Cloudy morning

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Low light condition with modified ISO level
Low light condition with modified ISO level
Light streak photography (need stable hands or tripod)
Light streak photography (need stable hands or tripod)

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HHT mode enabled
HHT mode enabled

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Xiaomi has something very special with the Mi 4i — not only does it performs well but is well-priced, too, at less than ten thousand bucks.

Aside from the double-tap-to-wake bug we mentioned earlier, the overall experience with using the phone has been nothing but blissful. Apps launch fast, battery life is very good, and camera has manual controls like that of a DSLR.

I would personally recommend the Mi4i for those who want a solid performer but with a tight budget. Get yours now before initial stocks run out.

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