MENTION Xiaomi and "affordable devices" are probably the first thing that comes to mind.
Now, the Chinese handset maker is releasing the Mi 4i, a 5-inch, full high-definition smartphone packed with technology sourced from top suppliers like Sony, Sharp and Samsung.
The Mi 4i is based on the Mi 4, which is not available in Singapore and designed for the India market. But the Mi 4i is not exclusive to India and was sold on Xiaomi's website for $279 without contract on Tuesday. It will be on sale again next Tuesday.
Only the white version of the handset will be available here for now.
Compared to the Mi 4, the Mi 4i uses a different processor - the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 instead of Snapdragon 801. The Mi 4i has only 2GB RAM instead of 3GB, and uses a slightly different camera module with a lower tier build.
But will the phone still hold up despite the more modest specifications?
The Mi 4i has a minimalist rectangular body with rounded edges and a smooth soft-touch matte finish. Constructed from a single piece of polycarbonate, the Mi 4i feels light and well-made. It does not feel like a plastic toy.
At 7.8mm thick, the phone isn't the slimmest around, but it feels about right and gives the Mi 4i a thick enough profile so that it sits comfortably in the hand. It weighs in at 130g.
As with most of Xiaomi's phones, the Mi 4i supports dual micro-SIM cards and will work with our local 4G frequencies.
The Mi 4i sports a 5-inch display with 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution (441 pixels per inch). Clarity is excellent, and both text and pictures look crisp and clean. Viewing angles are also fairly good.
The display is protected by Corning Concore glass, which has a similar toughness as Gorilla Glass 3.
Colours on the Mi 4 were generally accurate, if slightly more vivid than we would like. Both colour and contrast on the Mi 4i can be adjusted, so if you prefer a more neutral look, it is easy to achieve.
The default contrast is quite decent, although the blacks are not as deep as an Amoled display's.
Like all Xiaomi devices, the Mi 4i runs on a custom skin of Android called MIUI. MIUI is in its sixth iteration and is pretty similar to iOS in terms of looks and function. It is responsive and the large colourful icons make it easy to use.
The Mi 4i lacks expandable storage, and the only variant currently available here is the 16GB version, which may be insufficient for users accustomed to storing a large number of music and video files on their phones, or installing many apps.
MIUI and its pre-installed apps take up about 2GB, so the phone has just 11GB available right out of the box.
In a test that evaluates an Android device's central processing unit, memory, data transfer and 3D graphics performance, the Mi 4i - in "performance" mode - did surprisingly well, slightly outpacing devices such as the Mi Note.
But in the 3DMark Ice Storm test for an Android gadget's graphics processing unit, the Mi 4i did not perform as well as we expected, lagging behind the Mi Note and ZenFone 2.
The Mi 4i is armed with a 13MP rear camera module, which uses the same 1/3.06-inch Sony Exmor RS IMX214 CMOS sensor found on the Mi Note. Imaging quality wasn't too bad.
The Mi 4i is armed with a gigantic 3,120mAh capacity battery, which is huge for a 5-inch smartphone. Despite this, actual battery performance was slightly disappointing. It managed to last just under seven hours in our standard battery test.
This puts it ahead of the Redmi 2, but slightly behind the Asus ZenFone 2 and way behind the Mi Note, which actually has a smaller 3,000mAh battery but lasts nearly 10½ hours.
Xiaomi's Mi 4i brings a competitive package to the table, with an affordable price combined with reasonable performance and good build quality.
While it is not a phone you would consider if you are into mobile gaming, the Mi 4i performs reasonably well in common tasks such as surfing the Web, and its 5-inch full HD display rivals that of any flagship smartphone out there.
In terms of battery life, it will never be a road warrior. However, it will probably get you through your work day on a single charge.
The biggest drawback of the Mi 4i is its lack of expandable storage and just 16GB of internal storage.
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