We are not going to bicker over comparison with Apple’s iPhone design because Xiaomi Mi4 stands tall on its own due to a heady mix of fine craftsmanship, powerful hardware and an outstanding UI.
Before we dive into our complete take down on the flagship device from the Chinese super star(t up), here is a quick bullets of the specifications.
- 5″ IPS LCD display
- 1080 x 1920 pixels, 441 ppi
- Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 Chipset
- Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400
- Adreno 330 GPU
- MIUI 6
- 3GB RAM
- 16GB / 64GB
- 13MP rear / 8MP front camera
- 3080 mAh battery
Design, Build quality and Specs
Xiaomi has taken a giant stride when it comes to design and build quality of Mi4. Not that Mi3 was anything inferior, in fact even now, I quiet liked Mi3 which was more unique-looking. But here with, Mi4, they have stressed upon the build quality which Hugo Barra passionately talked about during one of the interactions.
The stainless steel banding around the sides and a quick glance at the well chiseled out speaker grille, not to forget the skillfully chamfered edges speaks volumes about the brilliant build quality of Mi4.
While the metallic frame and finish piqued my interest, the rear was unimpressive. The glossy back plate is made of plastic but a good one at that wit diamond-like texture to it, the design is generic. It has a curved, soft edges which is definitely ergonomic and cozies the palm but nothing spectacular in design.
The power and volume rockers are on the right and are easier to reach, on the left we find the SIM tray nicely carved on to the metallic side panel and it can be ejected with a pin that is included in the box. The bottom houses the speaker grille and the microUSB port, while on the top sits the 3.5mm audio jack and IR blaster. The Mi logo is seen on the top left, flanked by a sensors, earpiece and the front camera. The back again has the traditional ‘Mi’ logo on the bottom half and the 13MP rear camera with LED flash pecked a little below on the top.
Mi4 showcases a 5-inch, 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution (441 ppi) IPS panels made by JDI (a joint venture between Sony, Toshiba, and Hitachi). It’s an attractive, bright, vibrant and lively. The outdoor visibility is also very good.
The phone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5GHz which is a full blown high-end flagship material. Other healthy inclusions are 3GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU. While Xiaomi has both 16GB and 64GB onboard storage, the company has outed the 16GB variant with the promise of bringing the 64GB pretty soon. Since there is no option for external storage, you might have to take in account the storage factor if you are buying.
The phone comes with a 3,080mAh battery, I was told that you can manage to take out the back panel using a suction cup, but even if you manage you will only longingly look at the battery which is non-removable.
For a flagship device, it is a big disappointment that there is no LTE. With 4G gaining traction, this is a shame that a crowned jewel should come without it.
Software: MIUI 6 – the magic pill
The Mi4 runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat with MIUI treatment. For those used to stock Android experience, initial hands-on the the Xiaomi custom interface might be overwhelming. There are a long list of features you don’t normally see on Android.
Xiaomi likes to boast themselves to be a software company first and it is quiet evident in the MIUI, which is easily one of the best custom Android skin out there. MIUI 6 has a flat design with shades of the material design that Google espouses and is extremely colorful.
One of my favourite part of the MIUI is the themes section. There are thousands of themes to choose from, including country-specific themes and I love the India specific themes. The themes are not just superficial but changes the entire look and feel of the Mi Smartphones from the ground-up.
The charm of the MIUI lies in its feature-rich tweaks and tricks. It offers users to customize the phone that is not possible with the stock android.
From customizing the long press action of the three capacitive buttons to locking individual apps in the recent app trays, the options galore including block list feature for contacts, guest mode, changing notifications light, customizing lock screen, screen gestures and more. And, then you can also easily switch on the torch right from the lock screen which I quiet like in all the Mi phones. In-built apps like Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Clock, Weather, Recorder and others have gotten a new look too in the version 6 of the UI. The Mi 4 has no dedicated “gloves mode” but instead, it will always register your touches even if you’re gloved. Neat.
Mi 4 Camera
Xiaomi is never shy of the components it sources for their phones. Mi 4 camera set up includes a 13-megapixel , 6- lens from Sony with IMX 214 stacked sensor with a very wide, f/1.8 aperture lens , which focuses in just 0.3 seconds. The front houses a 8MP BSI camera which is a 5-lens Sony set up with Exmor R sensor and offers a 80° wide-angle lens for better selfies.
On the software side, the camera mode has a very neat layout, a simple swipe gesture takes you to various live filters (a few cool ones can be found) and list of options that includes HDR mode, Panorama, Burst shoot and refocus. There is also a built-in manual controls that let you adjust exposure and shutter speeds.
The shutter is snappy and you will be more than happy with the outcome of the camera. The HDR mode in particular is a pure delight. Even in low-light conditions, the camera takes fairly good pictures, especially if you know to use the manual mode.
As expected, the Mi 4 delivers top-notch performance expected of a thoroughbred pedigree. Interestingly, when I began the AnTuTu benchmark, the device asked if I wanted to use a high-performance mode or use the current balanced mode. The high-performance mode gave a very respectable score around 44,000. I figured out the high-performance mode and balanced mode has to do with the battery settings. Obviously, if you choose the later in the battery settings, it gives a better battery life.
In practical usage, the phone is no slouch. From the usual interface navigation to burning the tracks on the graphics intense Asphalt 8, the mi4 handles everything at ease. To bring the best of the hardware muscle while playing resource-crunching games, shift to performance mode.
The call quality is crisp and clear and the speaker volume is pretty good too. The 3080mAh battery is very capable and one of the best out there. For regular users, the battery can go past a day easily.
Mi 4 – For you or not?
Undoubtedly, the Mi4 is yet another top-performer and a value for money. The only dampener is the 16GB internal storage but the good news is for those who want more storage, the 64GB variant is round the corner. An excellent build quality, highly optimized and feature-rich software and superb performance makes Mi 4 yet again a winning horse but unlike last year when Mi 3 took the market by storm with no competitors, this time it faces touch challenges from equally capable models like Honor 6 and Lenovo Vibe X2 and of course, the OnePlus One.