The Mi 4i is Xiaomi’s latest smartphone. Even though the company insists on calling it a flagship device, it’s really a mid-range smartphone with some high-end specifications at a really attractive price.
The company had a global launch event for the first time in India. We had a brief hands-on with the device, and here are our first impressions.
The design of the Mi 4i is somewhat similar to the Mi 4. While the Mi 4 had a metal frame around the sides, the Mi 4i is made entirely out of polycarbonate. The back has a matte or glossy finish depending upon certain colors. Both feel good to touch, especially the matte finish, which feels more premium than what the cost of the phone would suggest.
The Mi 4i is also noticeably thinner and lighter than Mi 4. The size is comfortable thanks to the 5-inch display and the phone feels great in general to hold and operate. The build quality and attention to detail is commendable, especially in places such as the CNC milled speaker grille on the back with a tiny lip to raise the speaker from the surface, the stainless steel buttons on the side and the flush camera unit on the back.
The Mi 4i has a 5-inch, 1920×1080 resolution IPS display. The display is manufactured by Sharp/JDI and uses OGS or One Glass Solution to laminate the display to the Corning Gorilla Glass layer to remove any air gaps. Xiaomi claims a color gamut of 95% NTSC.
The display on the Mi 4i is really gorgeous. It has super saturated vibrant colors, that are just a tad too bright, and it almost looks like an AMOLED screen. The high pixel density also makes text and images look extremely crisp. The viewing angles are good, as are the black levels (for an LCD). The display also blends in almost seamlessly with the bezels when it’s off.
To improve the sunlight legibility of the display, Xiaomi is using a feature called Sunlight display. It automatically adjusts the brightness and contrast of the display to make images more clearly visible under sunlight. The effect is similar to HDR mode on the camera, where the darker areas of the image are boosted and the brighter areas slightly suppressed to prevent being overexposed and the phone does this in real time using the ISP on the SoC. Sunlight display allows you to see the screen more clearly outdoors without maxing out the brightness, so it saves you some power as well. In practice, the feature works quite well.
Hardware and Software
The Mi 4i runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor. Xiaomi claims this is the second generation model, as it is clocked slightly higher (1.7GHz +1.1GHz vs. 1.5GHz + 1.0GHz on previous gen). The GPU remains the same – Adreno 405. The Mi 4i also has 2GB LPDDR3 RAM and 16GB internal memory. A higher capacity version might arrive later but there are no plans as of now. The phone lacks a microSD card slot.
The Mi 4i is a dual SIM phone with 4G LTE support on both slots. It also has dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, GLONASS, and BDS. There is no NFC.
On the software side, the Mi 4i runs on MIUI 6 and is the first Xiaomi device running on Android 5.0 Lollipop. Unfortunately, while MIUI does incorporate Lollipop’s under the hood enhancements and features, on surface it looks almost identical to MIUI 6 on KitKat. Practically none of the Lollipop features, such as improved notifications, are present in the OS. Most importantly, there is no Material Design. You might occasionally get a screen here and there from a Google app or service that will have the Material Design look but MIUI 6 itself sticks to its own design and doesn’t want anything to do with MD.
Performance on the Mi 4i was in line with a Snapdragon 615 device. The general UI smoothness and speed is more similar to the Redmi 2 than the Mi 4. This is a bit disappointing because most other Lollipop devices, including the Moto E 2nd gen, are quite smooth on stock Lollipop. The Mi 4i runs along fine majority of the time but it’s not uncommon to see stuttering and dropped frames here and there in the UI. The smoothness is more in line with KitKat and not Lollipop, that is, even at it’s smoothest, it’s not the buttery smooth 60fps framerate that you see on most other Lollipop devices.
In gaming the phone does well in a majority of the games and only the most demanding ones have framerate issues.
The Mi 4i doesn’t have overheating issues as such but it does get noticeably warm around the camera during gaming, and the display gets pretty warm if you have the brightness turned up all the way. It can also get warm while charging and if you have Wi-Fi hotspot enabled. Not really a cause for concern but worth keeping in mind.
In multimedia performance, the phone managed to play up to 1080p60 videos perfectly fine, although 4K videos stuttered a lot as the Snapdragon 615 is not capable of handling 4K. The phone does support a wide variety of formats, including MKV videos with AC3 audio out of the box. The loudspeaker on the phone is fairly loud and has good sound quality.
The Mi 4i has a 13 megapixel camera on the back with f2.0 aperture. The sensor is similar to the one on the Mi 4 but has a different optical system (5 element f2.0 vs 6 element f1.8). There’s also a two tone LED flash and 1080p video.
As with the Mi 4, the camera on the Mi 4i is pretty solid, taking some great looking shots with good detail and color. The HDR mode also works well to eke out more details in the shadows and the highlights and produces generally pleasing looking images, although they can look unnatural at times. The two tone flash also does a good job of maintaining a good color temperature for when you absolutely must use the flash.
We intend to spend more time with the device and eventually come up with our full review but in our brief hands-on the Mi 4i proved to be a highly capable device. The design and build quality are great, the display looks wonderful, the performance is quite decent, and the camera is brilliant as well. The phone seems like a winner even before you take the price into consideration, which in India is just unbelievably low.
We’ll touch upon more aspects of the device in our full review, especially the battery life from that massive 3,120mAh battery, but if you’re impatient and want a quick yay or nay, the answer most definitely is yay.