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Xiaomi Mi A1 review: A Pixel on a budget

By James Lu - 19 Nov 2017
Launch SRP: S$349

Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery life, and Conclusion

Performance Benchmarks

In terms of hardware, the Mi A1 is identical to what you'll find inside the Redmi Note 4. You get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor and 4GB RAM paired with an Adreno 506 GPU. While this processor is more than enough for day-to-day tasks, its more than a year old, and phones with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 630 SoC will soon be available (such as the ASUS ZenFone 4). The processor is the one area where the Mi A1 lags behind and fails to punch above its price tag.

  Xiaomi Mi A1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Mi 6 ASUS ZenFone 3 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB)
  Xiaomi Mi A1 Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 Xiaomi Mi 6 ASUS ZenFone 3 OnePlus 5 (8GB RAM/128GB)
Launch SRP
  • From S$349
  • From S$259
  • From S$599
  • From S$498
  • From S$799
Operating system
  • Android 7.1.2 Nougat
  • MIUI 8.2 based on Android 6.0.1
  • Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) with MIUI 8
  • Android 6.0 with ASUS ZenUI 3.0
  • Android 7.0.1 (Nougat) with Oxygen OS 4.5
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core, 2.0GHz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Built-in Memory
  • 4GB
  • 3GB RAM
  • 6GB RAM
  • 4GB RAM
  • 8GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS LCD
  • 5.5-inch / IPS / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
  • 5.15-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (427 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (~401 ppi) / IPS
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi) / AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: Dual 12-megapixel (26mm, f/2.2 & 50mm, f/2.6) 2x optical zoom, phase-detection AF, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel
  • Rear: 13-megapixel BSI CMOS camera with ultra-fast 0.1s PDAF technology
  • Front: 5-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture
  • Primary Rear: 12-megapixel, 27mm (35mm equivalent), f/1.8, two-tone flash, 4-axis OIS, 1.25 µm pixel size
  • Secondary Rear: 12-megapixel, f/2.6, phase detection autofocus, Portrait Mode, 1.00 µm pixel size
  • Front: 8-megapixel
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, TriTech AutoFocus, 4-axis OIS
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.0
  • Primary Rear: 16-megapixel, f/1.7, contrast detection autofocus, EIS, LED flash, 1.12 µm pixel size
  • Secondary Rear: 20-megapixel, f/2.6, phase detection autofocus, LED flash, 1.00 µm pixel size
  • Front: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, 1.0 µm pixel size
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type-C 2.0, Infrared port
  • Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou positioning, micro-USB 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display, USB Type-C 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, USB 2.0 Type-C, Wi-Fi Direct
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, DLNA, USB Type-C, USB 2.0
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 32GB internal storage space
  • microSD support up to 128GB
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 64GB storage (expandable via microSD to 2TB)
  • 128GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,080mAh
  • 4,100mAh
  • 3,350mAh
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • 3,000 mAh
  • 3,300mAh
  • Dash Charge
Dimensions
  • 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3 mm
  • 151 x 76 x 8.4mm
  • 145.17 x 70.49 x 7.45 mm
  • 152.59 x 77.38 x 7.69 mm
  • 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
Weight
  • 165g
  • 165g
  • 168g
  • 155g
  • 153g


Sunspider Javascript

SunSpider JavaScript measures the browsing performance of a device when processing JavaScript. It not only takes into consideration the underlying hardware performance, but also assesses how optimized a particular platform is at delivering a high-speed web browsing experience. 

As expected, the Mi A1 performed about as well as the Redmi Note 4 and ASUS ZenFone 3, both of which run on the same Snapdragon 625 processor. For what it's worth, I couldn't tell any difference in actual real world browsing performance between the A1 and the Mi 6.

 

Quadrant

Quadrant is an Android benchmark that evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performances. Again, the Mi A1 showed about the same performance as the Redmi Note 4, however it wasn't significantly worse than the OnePlus 5.


 

 

3DMark Sling Shot

3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.

Here's where we saw the biggest difference between the Snapdragon 625 and 835. The 835 devices are in a completely different class from the 625 devices and the A1 really struggled on this benchmark.



 

Imaging

The Mi A1 has two 12-megapixel cameras on its rear: the first is a 26mm wide-angle 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 offers 2x optical zoom. While Xiaomi is advertising the A1 as having a "flagship dual camera" setup, it's worth noting that Xiaomi's actual flagship dual camera configuration on the Mi 6 is quite different, offering both a faster aperture and optical image stabilization on the primary wide-angle lens.

The camera app is the same one that comes with all Xiaomi phones and bears a pretty strong resemblance to Apple's default camera app. You can tap the x1 and x2 to toggle between the wide-angle and telephoto lens. Unfortunately, if you want to select a zoom setting in between them you have to pinch to zoom. A pop up slider like the one Apple uses would have been nice here. There are toggles for filters and easy access to various shooting modes, which include panorama, beautify, tilt shift, a square mode for Instagram, and others. For some reason there's also a toggle for enabling a watermark - which is on by default - which adds the words "Shot on Mi A1" in the bottom left corner of every shot. You'll probably want to turn this off.

Image quality from the Mi A1 is quite decent, but not on the same level as flagship 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. There's also some noticeable smearing when you zoom in on details.

Click for full-size image

This picture is taken from the same distance with the x2 telephoto lens. Click for full-size image

As with most dual camera setups, there's a Portrait mode (Xiaomi calls it Stereo Mode) that lets  you blur the background for some DSLR-like bokeh. You activate Stereo Mode by tapping the portrait icon at the top of the camera interface. Xiaomi's version is surprisingly good, with great edge detection and fairly realistic-looking bokeh. If the cameras themselves were better, the results might come close to what you get out of the Samsung Galaxy Note8 or iPhone 8 Plus. 

 

 

Battery Life

Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:

  • Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter

One of the big differences between the A1 and the Redmi Note 4 is the battery inside the phone. While the Note 4 is known for its massive 4,000mAh battery, the Mi A1 has a more standard-sized 3,080mAh battery, which is actually a little small for a 5.5-inch phone. As a result, battery life was a little underwhelming with the A1 lasting just under ten hours in our video looping benchmark.

One other downside to the A1 is that despite the Snapdragon 625 SoC supporting it, fast charging does not seem to be enabled on the A1. I tried with a few fast charging wall adaptors and unfortunately all of them took about two hours to charge the A1 to full.


Conclusion

While Xiaomi continues to face stiff competition in the competitive S$500-800 price bracket, it is still the king of the sub-S$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 offer 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. Furthermore, with the Snapdragon 625 about to be replaced by the Snapdragon 630, the Mi A1's performance is only going to fall further behind. Having said that, if you're buying a phone in this price bracket, high-end performance shouldn't be your primary concern and if you're not a power user, the Snapdragon 625 is more than sufficient for most day-to-day tasks - just know that it will struggle with more graphically intense games. We also expect phones running on the Snapdragon 630, like the upcoming ASUS ZenFone 4, to be quite a bit more expensive than the Mi A1, at least to start with.

With that in mind, we still consider the Mi A1 to be a great value buy as it's basically a budget Pixel phone, or to compare it to another phone, it offers almost everything you get from the OnePlus 5, for under half the price - in fact, you also get the benefit of expandable storage, which I know the lack of can be a deal-breaker for many people.

Pre-orders for the Xiaomi Mi A1 start 7th October at Xiaomi's Suntec City and Causeway Point Mi stores. The phone will officially launch on 14thOctober 2017  fort S$349 and will be available from the aforementioned stores or purchased online from Xiaomi's official Lazada Mi Store.
 

8.0
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 7.5
  • Performance 7
  • Value 9
The Good
Premium metal design
Dual camera setup
Pure Android OS
Great value
The Bad
No NFC
No fast charging
Dated processor and average performance
Imaging quality could be better