So you're looking to spend around $350-400 on a new phone and want the best for your money? There are certainly plenty of phones out there at this price point, but today we're going to look at two in particular: the OnePlus One and the Xiaomi Mi4. Both of these phones are Chinese powerhouses, coming from smaller manufacturers than something like Samsung or LG, and both promise to give you high-end specs for a mid-range price. Both use premium materials and feature fantastic screens, top-of-the-line processors, the same amazing camera censor, and some pretty incredible software, but which ones really wins the award here?
First let's look at what's inside both of these devices. Both feature the same 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor and Adreno 330 GPU for fantastic graphics rendering power. At 1080p both devices should perform nearly identically, baring only some minor changes here and there accounting for differences in the operating system. 3GB of RAM is provided on both devices as well, ensuring multi-tasking is a breeze and there's basically no redrawing going on in any app when switching back and forth. You're also going to be able to buy both devices in 16GB and 64GB variants, and since there's no expandable storage offered getting the larger one is more important than ever, especially since the price difference is only around $50 for each phone.
But what about the differences? Starting with the physical size you're going to find the Xiaomi Mi4 to be a much more one-hand friendly device with its 5-inch screen and super minimal bezels. The OnePlus One is a little bit larger with a 5.5-inch screen, and the bezels aren't quite as minimal either, making the phone just that much larger. If you're looking for a more hand-sized device the Mi4 wins here, no questions asked. Battery size is slightly in favor of the OnePlus One though, since it's a physically larger device OnePlus was able to sneak in an extra 100mAh on the battery. Display tech also is pretty similar, with 1080p IPS LCD panels you're going to get excellent viewing angles, great outdoor readability thanks to high brightness levels, and great color reproduction. The OnePlus One has a much less saturated panel though, giving it the edge in color accuracy and overall image accuracy, but since the Mi4's screen is physically smaller it's going to be the sharper panel.
Both phones use the Sony Exmor IMX214 13-megapixel sensor for the camera, and both produce fantastic images. We're going to reserve judgement for later when we have a full shootout between the phones, but it basically seems that the Mi4 has better HDR while the OnePlus One seems to produce overall sharper photos. Last but certainly not least is sound quality, which is important both on the speaker on the phone and the output through headphones or Bluetooth. The OnePlus One seems to have a better equalizer and sound hardware, producing louder, more full results when listening to audio through the headset or Bluetooth. The Mi4 has a better loud speaker during calls, but since it's only a single speaker it's not able to reproduce the sound quality that the OnePlus One's stereo speakers can.
Of course who can forget build quality? Both phones are built extremely well, with the Xiaomi Mi4 sporting a super-sexy metal frame with chamfered edges, although it ships with a slippery metal back. Soon enough though Xiaomi promises to have over a dozen different materials ready for sale via removable back plates, which will get rid of that nasty slippery plastic problem. OnePlus once upon a time was supposed to have removable back plates, but those have since been canceled. Still you can order the Sandstone backplate to replace yours if you want, and the Silk White is also available if you prefer the shiny slippery plastic over the gritty sandstone version.