The Budget Pixel
Xiaomi Mi A1
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 notication 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.