Geek Review: Xiaomi Mi A1

Companies such as Sony, Oppo, Motorola and HTC might tout mid-range devices at entry level prices, but China’s Xiaomi has it built into their DNA.

In fact, that mix of good hardware with an affordable price tag was what set them apart when they burst into the scene just a few years ago, and the company is better equipped, more than anyone else, to perfect that.

Which they have, with the Mi A1.

An aluminium chassis with thin bezels? Check. Hybrid dual SIM? Yes. Corning Gorilla Glass 3? Android Nougat? Dual camera lenses? USB Type C? Fingerprint sensor? It’s all there, for the low price of $349. That’s not a typo, but a sign that Xiaomi means business, even if it means earning what must be very little off this device.

Or maybe everyone else is charging way too much for their phones.

Regardless though, the one standout of the Mi A1 is actually none of the above. Xiaomi’s latest phone is also the first phone by the company that is not running its MIUI. Instead, it is part of the revived Android One program and the Mi A1 runs stock Android.

The fascination with a stock Android operating system is an interesting one. Some purists abhor the skinned interfaces offered by Android handset makers such as Lenovo, Samsung, LG and HTC, and prefer the original version offered by Google. This has allowed brands such as OnePlus to capitalise on the desire for a “pure” Android phone, even though the likes of Samsung and LG, with their own companion accessory offerings, have a reason to create a unique Android UI of their own, for compatibilities sake.

Then again, stock Android phones have one clear advantage – they are the first to receive Android updates, so there is no need for brands to update the software to match their devices, since the hardware is made for an original iteration of the software.

Because of this, the likes of Motorola and Lenovo have launched phones with no software modifications, but never with such hardware, and this low a price point. Other features include a 12MP dual rear camera, 2x optical zoom, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, expandable microSD card slot, a 5.5-inch Full HD display, 3.5mm audio port, and a 3,080mAh battery, all powered by Qualcomm’s 625 SoC processor.

The one thing lacking in quality here though is the camera. Because of the low price, something had to give and the camera quality here, despite having a dual lens, is just ho-hum. That’s to be expected, due to the low price, and like most smartphone cameras, it would well in normal lighting conditions, and falters in low light situations. For the dual lenses, the first sports a 26mm wide-angle lens, backed by a 1.25-micron pixels sensor with f/2.2 aperture. The second lens uses a 50mm telephoto lens with a 1.1-micron pixels sensor, as well as a f/2.6 aperture that offers 2x optical zoom.

And no, I didn’t miss out on the lack of NFC here, which means no Android Pay on this phone but again, the A1 isn’t catered to power users.



When it comes to entry-level devices that offers quality where it matters most (hardware and software), and ditches those that matter less (NFC, camera), the Xiaomi Ma A1 stands apart from the rest.

  • Aesthetics - 8.5/10
  • Build Quality - 8/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Value - 9/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 7/10
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