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MI A1 – The One made for Android One – [Review]

Xiaomi was known to the world with their custom Android skin MIUI. 7 Years ago MIUI started a revolution in terms of visual design and user experience in Android mobiles. When Xiaomi announced the MI A1 with stock Android, I was taken aback. I never imagined a Xiaomi mobile with Mi A1. But Mi A1 is the first mobile from Xiaomi to enter into an alliance with Google for their Android One program. Here is my review of the Mi A1.

xiaomi mi a1

In the Box

  • Mobile
  • 2A Charger
  • USB C Cable
  • Manual
  • SIM ejector pin

Design

Mi A1 has a generic mobile design which is quite common these days. But it has a good feeling when you hold the mobile in your hand. Though the edges and corners are curved, the mobile gives you a flat feel in the back. It is made of metal and has a premium feel in the hand. It is available in Soft Gold, Matte Black and Rose Gold in India. The bottom has the 3.5mm audio jack, mic, USB-C port and speaker grills. The top has an Infra-red port and noise canceling mic. The power and volume buttons are on the side and on the other side you will find a hybrid sim card slot. The navigation keys are backlit and it has a notification LED above the display. Overall, the MI A1 has a nice finish. It is a sturdy mobile with an ergonomic design.

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Display

It has a 5.5 inch IPS LCD panel. The display quality is good, but not as good as the display on the Redmi Note 4. The colors are slightly faded. It has fantastic viewing angles. Direct sunlight visibility is also good. MI A1’s display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. I find the display to be good, if not impressive.

xiaomi mi a1

Camera

Mi A1 has dual camera setup at the back. It has dual 12 MP camera and one sensor has a 26 mm and f/2.2 lens, while the other sensor has 50 mm and f/2.6 lens. At the front, you get a basic 5 MP camera for selfies. The rear camera can shoot up to 4K videos and there is no form of Image Stabilization. Video footage is shaky and the colors are a tad bit faded. The front camera can click some good shots under ample light conditions. The camera UI is from Xiaomi and apart from the usual set of modes, you get a portrait mode and 2x Tele focus toggle. The 2x tele focus is optical and the mobile also offers you 10x digital zoom. The UI is fast and has no lag. It is quick between shots.

xiaomi mi a1

Under ample light conditions, the details are sharp and color reproduction is accurate. The white balance is accurate and HDR performance is pleasing. Under low light conditions, noise creeps and also the UI struggles to focus. The portrait mode can click come pleasing shots. The background bokeh is natural and edge detection is accurate. It does not have real-time bokeh preview though. Under ample light conditions, the portrait mode performance is as good as Oneplus 5 or Honor 8 pro dual camera setup. To sum up, I would say that the MI A1 has the best dual camera implementation in this price range.

Check out the camera samples below.

Hardware and Performance

The usual suspects, Snapdragon 625 with Adreno 506 GPU, 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. This is turning out to be the safest combination for mobile manufacturers in this mid-range segment. The MI A1 show no lag in performance. It is smooth and all the day to day applications run smoothly. Graphically intense games also give you a smooth gaming experience, but the graphics rendering quality is average at its best. Mi A1 has no heating issues, even after 30 minutes of gaming, it heats up by just 2 degrees. The fingerprint at the back is fast and accurate. It has all the usual set of sensors and supports VR and turn by turn map navigation. It does not have FM radio and NFC. For a mid-range mobile, MI A1 has a smooth and snappy performance.

Software

This is the first mobile from Xiaomi to have stock Android out of the box. About 5 years ago, when I got my HTC One X, I remember how I rooted the mobile and loaded MIUI on it. I still have it running on it. I have been using MIUI since 7 years now and it is a bit difficult for me to digest a Xiaomi mobile without MI UI. But looks like that is what most people want and hence the Google Android One program which guarantees stock Android experience on basic and mid-range mobiles. Stock Android also gets you fast updates and regular security patches.

So the Stock Android on Mi A1 is without any features. It is bland and has no customization options or any kind of visual distinction. It has 3 apps from Xiaomi and the rest are stock Android Apps. In terms of performance, the UI is fast and snappy. I have also used the Mi 5x and I must say that I don’t find much of difference in speed and performance. I wish Mi 5x was also launched alongside Mi A1.

Battery

Mi A1 has 3080 mAh battery. It is 1 mm thinner than the Redmi Note 4 and it has dual camera setup and hence the space for a less capacity battery. It gives me a screen on time of 4 to 5 hours of moderate usage. It gets charged in 2 hours with the provided 2A charger. Once charged, the mobile lasts for a day. Compared to Mi 5x, I notice an only marginal improvement in battery performance.

xiaomi mi a1

Verdict

ProCons
Solid build qualityAverage joe design
Corning Glass ProtectionLow Light Camera Performance
Stock AndroidLack of Native Features
No Heating issues
Good battery life

Mi A1 is like Redmi Note 4 with Oneplus 5 camera and Nexus 5x software. MIUI is not heavy or resources and it does not impact performance in most Xiaomi mobiles. But Stock Android is leaner and meaner. Mi A1 is all about Stock experience on a Xiaomi mobile. The mobile is priced at Rs 14999 and for that price, you get a good mobile with a neat camera and clean UI. Mi A1 is the first mobile from Xiaomi to start the Stock Android on Mid-Range mobile revolution among the manufacturers who rely on UI skins. Will this revolution catch fire and bring down the dynasty of skinned UIs? Is stock Android sans customization the future? Time has to answer until then, enjoy your Mi A1.

Links to Buy

Flipkart – http://fkrt.it/O1lBL!NNNN

Mi.com – http://www.mi.com/in/mi-a1/

Tempered Glass – http://amzn.to/2yaDfPB

SD Card – http://amzn.to/2kfeLkf

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Giridhar

A Technology evangelist, Giridhar reviews gadgets and mobile applications. He is also a passionate photographer and a user experience designer by profession.
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