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Featured Review: Xiaomi Mi 4i

June 13, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Xiaomi was founded in 2010, and it’s just amazing to see how much they’ve grown in just under 5 years. Xiaomi is arguably the most talked about smartphone maker in China, of course hiring former-Googler Hugo Barra definitely helped there. Recently, a number of smartphone manufacturers have started a major push into India. As industry insiders have stated that India will be the next big smartphone market, potentially being bigger than the US and even China.

The company just recently launched the Mi 4i in India – it’s actually only available in India and Indonesia right now. And it’s a pretty decent smartphone, it’s also the one we are here to talk about today. The Xiaomi Mi 4i is retailing for about Rs. 12,999 in India right now. Converted, that’s about $130, roughly the same price as the Meizu M2 Note, which we just reviewed. So how does the Mi 4i stack up? Is it worth the price? We’ll find out in this review.

Hardware

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Looking at the Mi 4i, it looks a lot like any other Xiaomi smartphone. It’s a 5-inch smartphone with a pretty massive 3120mAh battery inside. That’s pretty massive for the size of the phone. I met with Xiaomi in San Francisco at Google I/O, in which Hugo promptly tore down the Mi 4i (seriously! I’m not kidding). And showed us just how much of the inside is taken up by the battery of the Mi 4i. And how small the logic board and the rest of the internals are.

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The Xiaomi Mi 4i is available in white, black, gray, pink, blue and yellow. Typically when you have a plastic smartphone that’s in white, the back is glossy. As is the case with the Meizu M2 Note. But Xiaomi went with a matte finish. The main reason for this is so that it doesn’t attract dirt, and fingerprints. Which is very important to customers in Indonesia and india. I, myself prefer the matte finish to the glossy finish. Although with white gloss, you don’t really see fingerprints as much. However it is a bit more slippery in the hand.

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There is no removable back cover, which means no removable battery and no microSD card slot. It does have dual-SIM, and it’s dual micro SIM this time around, instead of nano and micro. Dual-SIM smartphones are quite popular in Asia. Typically one is used for Voice and Data, while the other is for Voice only. But does have EDGE connectivity.

Overall the hardware is actually quite nice. I mean this is a $130 smartphone, but you’d never really know that if I handed you the Xiaomi Mi 4i. You’d probably expect the price around $300-350.

Performance

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Inside, we have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor running the show. Its partner in crime is 2GB of RAM. Which is about normal these days for mid-rangers. In fact, that’s what the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 has inside. We do have Xiaomi’s MIUI 6 with Android 5.0 Lollipop on board – we’ll talk more on that in the software section.

For the most part, the Snapdragon 615 can handle the load. However, if you have a lot of apps going, or try playing some games you’ll definitely see the device slow down. Which isn’t surprising, I mean this isn’t the most high-end processor in the world. But it is a step above the Snapdragon 410. The RAM usage is pretty decent, I typically have about 400-500MB of RAM free, however more is always better.

Display

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Xiaomi has a 1080p display here on the Mi 4i, which is sourced from Sharp and JDI. So they aren’t “cheap” display panels by any stretch. What’s really nice is that the panel can go really dark and get very bright as well. The viewing angles are pretty good, maybe not perfect, but definitely better than some of the early Xperia Z models. The colors really pop out at you as well. This is most noticeable when using a colorful background. Like the stock lock screen wallpaper.

Battery Life

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Here we have a 5-inch 1080p display, paired with a 3120mAh battery inside. Battery life is pretty good actually. The battery is sourced from Sony and Samsung, so we may have issues later on of the battery life not being as good as it once was. The battery may not be as good as say, the Motorola Droid Turbo, but it will last you a full day, whether you’re on mobile or WiFi all day long.

Software

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Here we have MIUI 6.5.6 paired with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. It’s pretty much the same software as what we have on the Mi Note Pro, which we reviewed not too long ago. Some of the most popular features in MIUI have to do with the customization. There are plenty of customization options available here, starting with themes. With MIUI, you are able to theme just about everything. The lock screen style, the ringtones, the font, status bar icons and so much more. It’s really quite extensive.

You are also able to change up the notifications. Which by default, the notifications do not show up in the status bar, so you wouldn’t know what notifications you had, unless you pulled down the notification tray. But that can easily be fixed in the settings. You can also choose to show the connection speed, service provider, and a few other settings. Which is pretty neat.

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Xiaomi also has their Mi Account here, which allows you to control the Mi cloud, MIUI Theme Store, as well as other MI Services. Which is very helpful if you switch phones a lot. Seeing as it will back up your phone and restore it onto another smartphone. You do get 5GB of free storage, which should be plenty for most people.

One thing that definitely takes some getting used to is the lack of an App drawer. Which I’ve found to be standard practice with Chinese companies. It’s like iOS in the fact that it has all your apps on your home screen. Which means you essentially have unlimited home screens. Additionally you can make folders, which will hold as many apps as you want. Which is a nice touch, to get rid of apps you don’t use often, but need to keep installed on your device.

Camera

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Here we have a 13MP camera with dual LED flash on the back. It’s actually a really good camera, and has pretty decent HDR capabilities. The camera UI is pretty easy to use. Simply swipe over from the left and you’ve got the modes as well as settings. As far as modes go, we have panorama, timer, refocus, manual, beautify, and HHT. Swipe over from the right, and there are all sorts of filters you can use. Including mono, vivid, yesteryear, fish eye, mosaic, dawn, 1970s, Japanese, autumn, indigo, normal and mirror. The camera is quite fast, and takes some nice pictures, which you can see the full resolution samples by clicking on the Flickr button below.

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Final Thoughts

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While the Xiaomi Mi 4i is destined for India, and other Asian countries and won’t be making its way here, I’m a bit saddened. This is a great smartphone, a great budget smartphone. That I’d definitely recommend to everyone. It does work here in the US, with 3G and HSPA networks, but no LTE. For $130, it’s really tough to mention a smartphone that would be a better buy.

The only real complaint I have about the Mi 4i is the Snapdragon 615 processor. It does slow down a bit at times, which can lead to some possibly annoying lag. But otherwise, it’s a really great smartphone.