Xiaomi Mi 4i review—The best specs for $200, but not the best software

A Snapdragon 615 and 3120 mAh battery are a steal, but the skin needs updating.

Xiaomi Mi 4i review

  • Specs at a glance: Xiaomi Mi 4i
  • Screen 1920×1080 5.0″(441 PPI) IPS LCD
  • OS Android Lollipop 5.0.2 with MIUI 6
  • CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 (Four 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 cores and four 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53 cores)
  • RAM 2GB
  • GPU Adreno 405
  • Storage 16GB
  • Networking Dual Band 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
  • Ports Micro-USB 2.0 A/B, headphones
  • Camera 13MP rear camera, 5MP front camera,
  • Size 138.1 mm x 69.6 mm x 7.8 mm
  • Weight 130 g
  • Battery 3120 mAh, not removable
  • Starting price $200 unlocked
  • Other perks RBG notification LED, dual SIM slots, LTE, Quick Charge 2.0

Xiaomi is one of the more interesting OEMs out there. While some smartphone OEMs seem to be in autopilot mode, Xiaomi looks like it’s built for disruption. It combines great build quality and specs for prices that are often half that of the competition. We’ve mostly paid attention to the company’s flagship lineup—the Mi 4 and the Mi Note—but when even the high end stuff is only $480, what do the company’s lower-end offerings look like?

Today we’re looking at the recently launched Mi 4i, a Xiaomi phone that costs just $200. The price puts it in the same ballpark as the $180 Moto G, but compare the specs and you’ll see that Xiaomi blows away Motorola’s nearly year-old phone. The 2014 Moto G has a 5-inch 720p display, a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and an 8MP camera. The Mi 4i takes those specs and bumps just about everything up a tier. You get a 5-inch 1080p screen, a 1.7GHz (64-bit) Snapdragon 615, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a 13MP camera. Neither device has NFC, but the Mi 4i trades the microSD slot for a second SIM slot, and—oh yeah—the Mi 4i has LTE. The best part is the battery: the Moto G has a 2070 mAh battery, but the Mi 4i has a much larger 3120 mAh battery.

Xiaomi Mi 4i review

That’s a huge difference between the two devices. You might think it’s because the Moto G is from 2014, but the rumored 2015 Moto G specs are pretty similar. The difference, (besides the extra $20) is something we’ve seen over and over from Xiaomi: it has lower prices than anyone else.

The 3120 mAh battery certainly seems impressive, but it didn’t score as well as we were expecting in our battery tests. The battery life is comparable to the Moto G, but despite packing an extra 1050 mAh, the Mi 4i doesn’t blow it away. Still, it’s nice to see a battery this big in such a compact device. Almost all the smartphones we try out have great screens, fast processors, and speedy connectivity. In the battery department, we’re always looking for more.

When it comes to building a phone, Xiaomi seems to have something figured out that the rest of the industry hasn’t. The Mi 4i is solid, compact 5-inch device that feels like it’s worth a lot more than $200. It’s plastic—perfectly acceptable at this price range—but there isn’t an ounce of give to the body. It’s not a unibody milled plastic construction or anything, but it feels about as good as the plastic version of the $650 LG G4 we recently reviewed.

The Mi 4i feels a lot like a sturdier Nexus 5. The two devices are about the same size—138.1 x 69.6 x 7.8 mm for the Mi 4i and 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm for the Nexus 5. They both have a flat, matte plastic back that curves up around the mostly flat sides of the device. The Mi 4i’s compactness is very impressive. It manages to be thinner than that Nexus 5 and way thinner than the 11 mm Moto G.

The only minor build quality items we’ll complain about are the buttons. To start, the volume and power buttons have a cheap-looking glossy silver paint. They don’t jiggle much and the action is just fine, but it’s easy to scratch the paint.

For some reason, the Mi 4i also still has a hardware menu button. There aren’t really any menus in the software anymore, and pressing the “menu” button here actually opens recent apps. Yet Xiaomi never changed the icon from a menu symbol. Years of training—including with Xiaomi’s past products—have taught me that this symbol means “menu,” so when you press it and it isn’t menu, it’s a little weird. It creates an unnecessary cognitive load; you have to stop for half a second and think about what the button will really do. Even if you ignore the history of that symbol, the actual recent apps interface is either a horizontal list of app icons or a horizontal list of thumbnails, making three vertically stacked lines completely unrepresentative of what will happen on the screen.

Bukason

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