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Xiaomi Mi 4i review: A premium smartphone with an awesome price tag

Published May 2, 2015, 10:43 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 7:33 am IST
Xiaomi’s Mi 4i has no relation with the Mi 4 in terms of specifications
Xiaomi has definitely managed to impress us with the quality and performance of the device
 Xiaomi has definitely managed to impress us with the quality and performance of the device

Xiaomi has been in the Indian market for less than a year now and it has been rocking the smartphone industry from the very beginning. The Chinese smartphone maker has set foot in India to take on the rival brands with premium quality smartphones on a pocket friendly price. With multiple smartphones already in its line, the Mi 4i was recently released especially for India. The device is placed in the premium mid-range segment, but commands a pocket-friendly price—a great device for those hunting for a good smartphone on a small budget.

 

The Xiaomi Mi 4i was launched towards the end of April in New Delhi. This is the first product from the Chinese brand that saw a smartphone being launched in another country. The smartphone is well-designed, sleek and powerful for daily conventional use, yet very economically priced.

The Xiaomi Mi 4i has a sturdy build. Sleek and slim, the handset is designed with a dual-tone unibody design. The front panel is completely made with an OGS display, which comprises of a full HD 1080x1920 pixel IPS display with the strength of Gorilla Glass 3. As usual, it sports a three-button capacitive back-lit control buttons on the lower edge and the earpiece and front camera, along with a series of sensors are seen on the top. With rounded corners, rear panel flushes neatly against the display glass, which adds to the device’s protection from light rain and water spills. Do note, the Mi 4i is not waterproof. The rear panel is not removable, which means the battery is a non user-replaceable type. The volume and power buttons are made of chrome and take up the right side of the device, while the top and bottom sport the earphone jack and micro USB port respectively. The left side sports an ejectable SIM card tray, which houses two micro SIM cards, side-by-side. There is no micro SD card, which means the internal memory cannot be expanded.

The rear panel sports the primary camera towards the extreme top-left left and besides it (on either side) reside the two-tone LED flash and the secondary microphone. Towards the bottom is a large speaker grille and the Mi logo. The rear panel has been engineered with a special grease-resistant coating, which feels soft and a tad rubberized. The coating protects the rear panel from dirt and sweat. Xiaomi claims that the rear panel can also challenge stains from a permanent marker. The Xiaomi Mi 4i is pretty lightweight and slim. It measures 7.8mm in thickness and weighs only 130g.

Below the chassis, the Xiaomi Mi 4i has a mighty hardware. Powered by a 64-bit second generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset featuring eight CPU cores clocked at 1.7GHz and an Adreno 405 GPU with 2GB or RAM, the device is powerful enough for most day-to-day tasks including moderate to high-end gaming. The display has been engineered to be thinner than usual, adopting OGS standards to eliminate the unwanted air gap between the LCD panel and the touch sensor. This helps reduce the thickness of the display panel to make the handset even slimmer.

For photography buffs, the Xiaomi Mi 4i sports a 13MP shooter from Sony/Samsung with an aperture of f/2.0, while the front camera sports a 5MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 80-degree wide-angle lens. The rear camera is provided with a two-tone flash, which helps in clicking pictures of the subject with respect to the background colours. One LED produces warm (yellow) light and the other, cold (white) light. In low-lighting, the two-tone flash can intelligently assess room color temperature to emulate natural lighting, capturing the subject perfect respect to the surrounding light conditions.

   

Shown above is the dual-sided PCB motherboard used inside the Mi 4. The motherboard features the chipset, RAM, camera, etc.

Sadly, the Mi 4i has an internal storage of just 16GB, and as mentioned earlier, you cannot expand the storage as there is no micro SD memory slot. However, the smartphone supports USB OTG, so you can plug in conventional pen drives using a USB OTG cable. The Mi 4i supports 4G network, with both SIM card slots supporting the 4G SIM. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual band wave 2 MU-MIMO), Bluetooth v4.1 (LE), GPS, GLONASS and BDS.

Shown above is the 3120mAh battery by Samsung/Sony

The other USP of the device is the large battery powering the Mi 4i. A Sony/Samsung 3120 mAh battery, which is re-designed for a slimmer profile, powers the Xiaomi Mi 4i, which should give you an all-day battery, and even more if used efficiently. The Mi 4i is powered by MIUI V6 and based on Android Lollipop.

On the ergonomics front, the device is bliss to hold and use. Thanks to the soft texture of the rear panel and the slim form-factor, it has a very comfortable grip. The user interface sports the MIUI operating system, a custom version of Android Lollipop, which is feature-rich with additional tweaks and skins. As usual, all apps are present on the home screen desktop itself and there is no app drawer. If you prefer, you can change the home launcher to your preferred one.

The MIUI V6 installed on the Mi 4i is the first to get Android Lollipop. Included in the firmware itself is a unique feature, a first from any smartphone vendor, the Visual IVR. The new feature includes the option to visually see and quickly get to the exact point on an IVR-based service. For example, if you are to get some information from IRCTC, you dial the helpline number and an IVR will initially greet you. Next you will have to listen to the features and hit the right number to go ahead. By the time you head to the exact location, you would have had to listen to all the IVR features, tap the necessary numbers and then finally end up with exact department. All this takes a while and is equally frustrating. To cut short the wait and directly head to the exact point in the IVR, MIUI developers have integrated the Visual IVR into the V6 firmware. So now when you dial IRCTC, the dialer app is intelligent enough to sense the number you have dialed, download the database of the respective IVR and give you the menu and flowchart on-screen. All you need to now do is tap into the respective department on the screen (which is named properly) and you will reach the desired location within no time. The intelligence behind the software will automatically create tone pulses and pauses for the IVR without you having to hear out all they have to say. Xiaomi is slowly implementing more IVR databases into the system and you should get updates as soon as they are released.

Speaking more on the user interface and performance, we were surprised to see that the 64-bit Snapdragon 615 chipset works flawlessly behind the MIUI Android interface. The Mi 4i did not seem to stutter, lag or break down anytime during the use. We used the device with all our apps that we use on our own handsets—indirectly making it our primary device for use. With almost 50+ apps loaded additionally to MIUI’s own applications, the smartphone was smooth enough to operate through the day. We did find that the UI transitions felt a tad sluggish, but fiddling with the speed settings in the developer mode set it right. Playing games to watching a movie or even using it for social media and internet surfing, the Mi 4i did not fail to impress us. You may find the unit heating up a little when playing power and graphic hungry games and watching online videos using the 3G network.

 

Shown above is a demo of the Sunlight display. On the right you can see the image automatically adjusting itself for better clarity when exposed to sunlight (simulated here with a torch)

The display is a 5-incher full HD IPS panel from Sharp and JDI (441ppi, 95% NTSC colour gamut, 178-degree viewing angle). Colours reproduced are vibrant and rich. The contrast level and colour gamut are well tweaked to give you true-to-life, crisp and sharp images. Speaking more on the display, Xiaomi states that they are glad to introduce the Sunlight display for the first time on their devices. With Sunlight display, the built-in hardware works together with the light sensor to sense broad daylight or bright lights hitting the display and change the quality of the picture on the screen. It does it by improving the legibility of the display and playing with the brightness and contrast to give out a legible picture in broad daylight. With the Mi 4i, you won’t have to squint into the display when clicking a photo or watching a video when outdoors.

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Also read: Snapdragon 615 chipset war: Mi 4i vs Galaxy A7 vs Desire 820 vs OPPO R5

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Above pictures are clicked in broad daylight. Click on the photo to see full resolution

The camera is another USP of the Mi 4i. Sensors supplied by Sony and Samsung, along with a 5-element lens make up the two (13MP and 5MP front-facing) cameras on the Chinese smartphone. Pictures captured by the primary shooter are crisp, vibrant and sharp. You can judge the images captured by the Mi 4i’s camera in the photos above and below. (Photos in the article are resized to thumbnails. Please click on the image to see the full resolutions.) The camera also features options to capture better photos in low-light by using LED flash as a light source. Simply turn on the flash to light mode and your subject will be continuously illuminated for the camera to focus and capture sharp details.

 

 

 

Non-HDR (left) and HDR (right). Click to see full resolution.

Lastly, the battery on the Xiaomi Mi 4i is engineered for a compact size and higher efficiency. Xiaomi has managed to pack in a sufficiently large 3120mAh battery from Samsung and Sony into the slim phone package. As compared to the other smartphones in the category, Xiaomi has definitely kept the handset’s profile slim with a larger battery. Using the smartphone for a couple of days at a stretch, we did manage to squeeze out more than a day till we hit the charger to juice it back. With moderate usage, such as calls, chats, photos, videos, internet and photography, the Mi 4i promises an all-day battery life. However, the battery life will completely depend on how you use it and what applications you install. Those who initially own the smartphone will see a shorter battery because you would be playing around with the camera, appreciating the display quality and experiencing the new user interface apart from showing off the device to impress onlookers and friends.

Above pictures are clicked in broad daylight. Click on the photo to see full resolution

Above pictures are clicked in indoors. Click on the photo to see full resolution

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Also read: Snapdragon 615 chipset war: Mi 4i vs Galaxy A7 vs Desire 820 vs OPPO R5

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To wrap-up the entire experience with the Mi 4i, we would want to state that Xiaomi has definitely managed to impress us with the quality and performance of the device. The Mi 4i is a premium smartphone in the mid-range category with a low budget and premium quality parts. The definitely recommend the smartphone to those hunting for a high-end premium-looking smartphone in a mid-range budget. With contenders such as HTC Desire 820, the Samsung Galaxy A7 and the OPPO R5, which sport identical hardware specifications and build quality, the Xiaomi definitely stands atop the list with the price tag of Rs 12,999, which is almost half the cost of the rest. 

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