The Bud­get Pixel

Xiaomi Mi A1

HWM (Singapore) - - TEST - By James Lu

The Xiaomi Mi A1 is a sleek all-metal phone that looks a lot more pre­mium than its price tag sug­gests. If you’re fa­mil­iar with Xiaomi’s other phones, think of it as some­thing that ts be­tween the Mi 6 and Mi Mix 2. When com­pared with other brands, it bears a more than pass­ing re­sem­blance to the Ap­ple iPhone 7 Plus, Oppo R11 and OnePlus 5.

On the rear of the phone there’s a dual cam­era setup and a finger­print scan­ner. Both the power but­ton and vol­ume rocker can be found on the right side while the dual Nano-SIM card slot can be found on the left. The sec­ond SIM slot dou­bles up as a mi­croSD card slot that ac­cepts cards up to 128GB in ca­pac­ity. On the bot­tom, you get a USB 2.0 Type-C port, a sin­gle speaker and a 3.5mm head­phone jack.

On the top of the phone there’s an IR blaster, which you can use in con­junc­tion with Xiaomi’s pre-in­stalled Mi Re­mote app to con­trol your TV, air con, Mi Box or pretty much any­thing else with an IR re­ceiver.

The Mi A1 has a Full HD, 5.5-inch IPS LCD dis­play. Bright­ness is pretty good at 450 nits at max­i­mum on the Auto set­ting, and 550 nits at max­i­mum in Stan­dard set­ting. Con­trast is also quite good for an LCD dis­play, with sur­pris­ingly deep blacks. Color re­pro­duc­tion is fairly muted, al­though I did no­tice that the screen tends to fa­vor blues, which look more vi­brant than other col­ors.

The Mi A1 has some no­table au­dio fea­tures, in­clud­ing a ded­i­cated head­phone am­pli­fier that can drive high-im­ped­ance head­phones of up to 600 ohms. The phone’s sin­gle speaker is also quite im­pres­sive, fea­tur­ing a ded­i­cated 10V smart power am­pli­fier paired with a Dirac HD Sound al­go­rithm for higher sound qual­ity.

The big sell­ing point of the Mi A1 is that it runs on stock An­droid. The phone ships with An­droid 7.1.2 Nougat, but you’ll be able to up­date it to An­droid 8.0 Oreo as soon as it is avail­able. Xiaomi also tells us that the Mi A1 will be one of the rst phones to get An­droid 9.0 P.

As for the soft­ware ex­pe­ri­ence it­self, it’s ba­si­cally ex­actly what you get on a Pixel smart­phone. All in­ter­face el­e­ments are un­changed from stock An­droid: you swipe up on the dis­play to ac­cess the app drawer work, and you can nd Google Now to the

CON­CLU­SION Pure An­droid OS and Xiaomi hard­ware com­bine for the best value smart­phone un­der $500.

left of the home screen. You can even pull down the notication shade by swip­ing down on the nger­print sen­sor, and dou­ble press the power but­ton to launch the cam­era app, just like you can with a Pixel smart­phone.

The Mi A1 is pow­ered by a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 625 octa-core pro­ces­sor and 4GB RAM paired with an Adreno 506 GPU. While this pro­ces­sor is quite old, it’s still more than su cient for most day-to-day tasks.

The Mi A1 has two 12-megapixel cam­eras on its rear: the rst is a 26mm widean­gle lens with a 1.25-mi­cron pix­els sen­sor and f/2.2 aper­ture, and the sec­ond is a 50mm tele­photo lens with a 1.1-mi­cron pix­els sen­sor and f/2.6 aper­ture that o ers 2x op­ti­cal zoom. Im­age qual­ity from the Mi A1 is quite de­cent, but not on the same level as ag­ship smart­phone cam­eras. Shots tend to be a lit­tle grainy in less than ideal light­ing con­di­tions and the im­age is also slightly soft to­wards the edge of the frame.

As with most dual cam­era set­ups, there’s a Por­trait mode that lets you blur the back­ground for some DSLR­like bokeh. Xiaomi’s ver­sion is sur­pris­ingly good, with great edge de­tec­tion and fairly re­al­is­tic-look­ing bokeh.

The Mi A1 has a 3,080mAh bat­tery, which is ac­tu­ally a lit­tle small for a 5.5-inch phone. Bat­tery life was a lit­tle un­der­whelm­ing with the A1 last­ing just un­der ten hours in our video loop­ing bench­mark.

While Xiaomi con­tin­ues to face sti com­pe­ti­tion in the com­pet­i­tive $500-800 price bracket, it is still the king of the sub-$500 tier. Right now noth­ing even comes close to what you’re get­ting with the Mi A1 thanks to its com­bi­na­tion of pre­mium de­sign, good dis­play and au­dio, wide-an­gle and tele­photo dual cam­era setup and pure An­droid OS. While there are other pure An­droid smart­phones on the mar­ket, none o er this level of hard­ware and de­sign so­phis­ti­ca­tion at this low of a price.

The main draw­backs to the Mi A1 are its dated pro­ces­sor, lack of NFC and fast charg­ing, but if you can get over these, the A1 is ba­si­cally a Pixel smart­phone at a much, much cheaper price.

The Mi A1 has a full metal build.

There’s an IR Blaster on the top of the phone for con­trol­ling ap­pli­ances.

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