As much as I love Xiaomi phones for their generous feature sets and competitive prices, I could never fully get behind MIUI, the brand’s take on how the Android operating system should look and feel.
Don’t get me wrong; MIUI has introduced several functions that were eventually imitated by Google’s stock Android itself, but the incompatibility with certain apps, pickiness when pairing with third-party accessories, and lack of an app drawer (or the option to bring it back) hinder an otherwise complete interface.
That’s why seeing a Xiaomi handset equipped with a pure Android OS got me so excited. Based on Google’s newly resurrected Android One platform, the Mi A1 has it all: a dual-camera setup, affordable price tag, and Pixel-like experience.
It isn’t all perfect as we had learned, however. Read on.
Look at that pure version of Android
And all-metal back with a couple of plastic antenna bands
Here’s a closer look at the Android One branding
The camera bump is unsightly and prone to scratches
Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is fast as usual
Like other Xiaomi phones, this one has an IR blaster
And yes, the newer USB-C port is at the bottom
How well does it perform?
This is where things get interesting. On top of owning stock Android — which entails having a clutter-free interface, consistent software updates to improve performance, and no bloatware — the Mi A1 uses one of our favorite processors, the Snapdragon 625. Every handset we’ve reviewed with this chipset has done well in our tests, including the ZenFone 4 and Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note 4X.
Combined with the industry standard 4GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage, you’re pretty much assured a smooth ride with any light app you throw at the Mi A1. Playing with the highest graphics settings on games like NBA 2K17 and Asphalt Xtreme is out of reach without some stutters here and there, but medium settings are doable.
Only a few non-Google apps come pre-installed; otherwise, the Android 7.1.2 Nougat we have here is as clean as it gets. This being part of the Android One program, I wonder why the Mi A1 doesn’t have Oreo already, which has been out for two months now. Although it’s sure to arrive within the year, I hope the rollout will be a little faster once Android P becomes available next year.
Can it take pretty pictures?
I’ll cover the main attraction first: the dual-camera setup. Both sensors at the back are 12 megapixels in resolution, with one offering a regular wide-angle lens and the other being telephoto for zooming in on subjects. You can see how it works with these samples:
The implementation is great; activating the 2x optical zoom is quick, and it helps take shots you’d normally miss on a smartphone. But even though both cameras seem equal on paper, the results aren’t as even. Photos from the telephoto lens are darker and sometimes blurrier than those from the wide-angle equivalent — nothing experience-ruining, however.
Both cameras also lack optical image stabilization, meaning they’re prone to shaky hands and producing blurry shots under poor lighting. It’s only when the conditions are just right and you get enough natural daylight that photos turn out as good as the ones we have here.
For more travel photos, check out our Creative Director’s trip to Busan, South Korea with the Mi A1.
Can it last over a day?
While not as large in battery capacity as its sibilings the Mi Max and Redmi Note 4X, the 3080mAh size is more than enough in most instances. During my review, I managed to get exactly a day of use with LTE constantly on and a screen-on time of five hours. That puts the Mi A1 in line with most modern smartphones, but way behind what the two aforementioned Xiaomi handsets pull off on a daily basis.
What sucks is the lack of fast charging, even though there’s a Qualcomm chip inside. It’s an enduring omission on lower-end Xiaomi devices, and makes full charges a total chore. It takes me two and a half hours to bring the Mi A1 to a hundred percent using the included charger. For comparison, smartphones with much larger batteries take less than two hours to top up when fast charging is present.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The fact alone that the Mi A1 is an Android One device integrated with Xiaomi’s excellent hardware and low pricing makes it a winner. Inside and out, this phone rarely disappoints, making a strong case for being the best handset in its tightly contested class. The nifty dual-camera setup is simply a cherry on top — a well-appreciated one at that.
Drawbacks are few: I’d prefer seeing the fingerprint sensor on the thick bottom bezel in place of the plain capacitive home button; fast charging would’ve also been grand, if not necessary for a more complete package. We can’t have them all, can we?
Our unit, which we acquired through Xiaomi India, retails for INR 14,999, which converts to around US$ 230. This pits the Mi A1 against some excellent options in this price range, but the Xiaomi product stands out for its purest form of Android and generous helping of dual-camera goodness.
Outside of India, you can purchase the Mi A1 at GearBest.com.
[irp posts=”21833″ name=”24 Hours in Busan with the Xiaomi Mi A1″]
Apple Watch Series 6 Review
Is it worth every penny?
The Apple Watch Series 6 offers more than just being a “luxurious timepiece”. Over the years, they’ve pioneered in what a true smartwatch can offer. From the ability to track your runs, cycles, and swims, as far as reading heart rate and even ECG. This year, the Watch Series 6 has a new SpO2 sensor that can read blood oxygen levels within the reach of your wrists.
But does all of that make up for a fancy price tag? Why is the Apple Watch a worthy investment for your health?
You can head on to our Apple Watch Series 6 review by clicking the link here.
Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review: Last of its Kind
Every year, Huawei’s Mate series dominate the smartphone world with hosts of new features.
This October, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro finally made its way out of the limousine. As usual, it’s packed with the latest and greatest internals minus the full Android experience. Albeit, you still get support for AppGallery and other existing Huawei services.
With all that mind, is it still worthy to invest your money just to buy this smartphone?
You can watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro review by clicking this link.
Infinix Note 7: Best underrated budget phone?
Does size matter?
The underrated brand, Infinix, is coming in with a perfect phone for when you’re strapped for cash. Infinix has consistently released great phones that deliver every bang for your buck and their recent release is no exception. What’s the latest addition to their great line-up? The Infinix Note 7
Show us what its got
The Infinix Note 7 is a dual-sim budget smartphone with a 6.95-inch HD+ and Corning Gorilla Glass display. It’s decked out in three different colors: Forest Green, Aether Black, and Bolivia Blue. Despite being encased in plastic, the Infinix Note 7 looks and feels premium. Just be more forgiving when the phone looks heavily smeared with your fingerprints — most phones tend to do so.
The phone features and specifications aren’t necessarily what people would view as technologically new or revolutionary. But, with phones on the same price range, this one delivers on all fronts of functionality, affordability, and durability. The phone has loud dual speakers, a great battery life, and reliable performance that makes it a stand-out in with its price tag.
Bang for your buck
The Infinix Note 7 is powered by a Helio G70 Processor paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. If you’re worried about storage, the phone has a dedicated microSD card slot. But, note that the phone has more than enough space to run apps on the Google Play Store without much of a hitch.
The Infinix Note 7 doesn’t falter on features when tested. The phone didn’t stutter or struggle when putting it through the stress test of scrolling, unlocking, and opening and closing multiple apps. On top of that, the Infinix Note7 has a 5000mAh battery that makes your daily grind of work and play look easy.
For gaming, the phone didn’t seem at all bothered with Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Genshin Impact, and Among Us. And, with the amount of storage the phone had, I’d downloaded all the games I wanted with reckless abandon. The phone held up to its dependable battery life too, despite a full day of work and play.
Does size really matter?
The Infinix Note 7 is big for a phone. Facts. If anything, it’s a love child of a phone and a tablet. With its 6.95-inch HD+ display and dual speakers, the phone makes watching Netflix or playing games an overall immersive experience. Despite Infinix sticking to HD+ on a bigger display, it doesn’t really impose on all the great features the phone has.
Remember: the Infinix Note 7 has a good price tag of PhP 7,990. If you’re asking it to feature 2k or 4k resolution, that good price tag isn’t even remotely ideal on top of the other features the phone comes with.
Is the cake a lie?
No, just misunderstood. Hear me out here: The Infinix Note 7 features a quad-camera set-up with a 48MP primary shooter, a 2MP macro lens, 2MP depth lens, and a 2MP dedicated video camera. On the front, the phone has a 16MP selfie camera. These specs can sometimes come misunderstood since Infinix does say the phone features a quad rear camera set-up. The phone technically features three with the fourth as its dedicated video recording camera.
The Inifinix Note 7 performed really well even with little lighting. I tried to photograph a dim sunset and most phones would often scrap some details in photos to compensate with the lack of lighting. That wasn’t the case for this phone. With a phone at its price point, it greatly outperforms phones in the same category quite easily. The phone delivers on detailed selfies with it 16MP in-display front camera and doesn’t struggle to focus using either rear or front cameras.
The phone doesn’t seem at all bothered with taking detailed photos. Sometimes the contrast can be a bit much but again, seeing a budget phone like the Infinix Note 7 perform well under tough circumstances that can just be from being nit-picky.
Is this your BudgetMatch?
If you need a phone to get you good shots and get you through a long day of non-stop work and play while delivering good photos overall, this is the phone for you. There’s nothing to complain about with this phone besides Infinix being utterly underrated for the quality of phones they put out. The Infinix Note 7 is a great phone for your daily grind if you’re looking for a phone that delivers on functionality, efficiency, and durability. It even delivers on good quality shots!
The Infinix Note 7 costs PhP 7,990 (US$ 165).
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