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Xiaomi Mi A1 sale starts today: A budget smartphone with flagship features

The smartphone, with the promising Android One and sporting a brilliant dual camera phone, goes on sale in India on September 19

Khalid Anzar  |  New Delhi 

The Mi A1, whose India sale begins from noon on September 19, seems an identical twin of the Mi 5X. The only difference lies in the operating system these devices run on. The Mi A1 is the first smartphone to use stock Android version instead of company's heavily customised MIUI theme.

It is also a first premium mobile phone to wear the Android One moniker, created with the promise of a pure Android experience and quicker software updates, and earlier limited to budget smartphones. That indeed is the device’s USP, but how does it fare on other parameters?

Business Standard took the Mi A1 for a spin and here are our observations:

Design

At first glance, the smartphone resembles the Google Pixel, with some minor tweaks. The metallic uni-body design feels premium in hand and the 2.5D curved glass on top of the screen accentuates the details. On the back, the dual camera set-up bulges out from the body, enclosed in a metallic frame, accentuating the camera unit. The fingerprint scanner is placed at the upper centre which makes it easier to reach and comfortable to use.

Overall, has not done any fancy design experiment with the Mi A1 and the result is no-frills, neat-looking smartphone.

Display

For a smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen, the Mi A1 is a big device with huge top and bottom bezels around the display. The side bezels are slim and the 2.5D curved glass on top makes it look almost bezel-less. The screen is of in-plane switch (IPS) breed, with fullHD resolution. It looks sharp and bright. There is no dearth of contrast, either, but the reflective nature of the glass deteriorates the screen’s sunlight legibility.

The touch feels smooth and there is no lag or touch latency of any sort. Instead, the curved glass makes it easier to operate the phone.

Hardware and software

The Mi A1 is powered by Qualcomm mid-tier Snapdragon 625 processor, an octa-core SoC coupled with Adreno 506 graphic processing unit (GPU). While the processor is no powerhouse, what does wonders in the Mi A1 is the pure Google Android Nougat, which has been set as the default operating system.

Free from bloatware and unnecessary customisation, the light-weight stock Android Nougat makes the phone responsive and clutter-free. The phone does well in almost every task; the only noticeable lag seems to be inside the camera, a feature that Mi carried along with Mi Remote and Mi Store app from MIUI.

The Mi A1 doesn’t lag or skip frames in heavy games like Asphalt 8 or Need for Speed. The phone feels light and snappy, even after keeping 25+ apps open in the background.

The smartphone offers an internal storage of 64 GB, expandable using microSD, coupled with a moderate 4 GB RAM, which runs optimally because of proper RAM management and light user interface.

Camera

The Mi A1 uses dual 12-megapixel camera sensors on the back and a 5-MP sensor on the front. The camera at the back has by far the best module in a device since the Mi 6. The result is similar to, if not the same as, the Mi 6.

The addition of the portrait mode, inspired from the Apple iOS, and 2x optical zoom give the Mi A1 camera an edge over other budget dual-camera smartphones. The camera performance in daylight seems to beat even some of the premium OnePlus 5 smartphones by a wide margin.

The dual camera set-up in the Mi A1 is a clear winner.

Battery life and other features

The Mi A1 is one of the few phones with a dedicated audio amplifier chip that boosts the audio output without creating any distortions. The phone speaker is loud and the audio output using earphones is spectacular, with a good noise level. The phone is certainly a shade or two less than the HTC U11 and LG G6 in audio quality, but it is a great budget-level substitute to those premium devices.

The device has a 3,080 mAh battery that keeps it going for a day, and more. The battery life is another strong area for the Mi A1. With light-weight stock Android Nougat and no bloatware running in the background, the Mi A1 easily takes you through the day and still leaves the phone with some more juice. Even on heavy usage, the phone stays up for more than 12 hours.

Verdict

The Mi A1 is an all-rounder with almost no weak area. With pure Android OS and guaranteed future updates and capable dual cameras, the smartphone can easily compete with the yesteryear’s Google Pixel devices and many other flagships. At Rs 14,999, the smartphone is a deal for those looking for stock Android experience without compromising on design, features and camera performance. 


First Published: Sun, September 17 2017. 15:40 IST
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