Xiaomi has always been known to be a company that has a knack for surprising new and even old fans. While the company has ventured into many other product segments i.e. notebooks, smart TVs, air purifiers and even luggage, I’m very glad to know that they haven’t neglected what made them a household name in the first place. Feature-packed and attractively priced smartphones that are at most most times, a fraction of the asking price of competitor devices.
As expected during a launch event about three weeks ago, the company announced the arrival of the Mi Mix 2, Mi Notebook Pro and the Mi Note 3. While those 3 devices definitely got tongues wagging, the device that really got everyone talking was the Mi A1, the company’s very first pure Android smartphone that is part of Google’s Android One programme. Yes. You read that right. PURE ANDROID and MIUI is nowhere to be found on this device. So how does the Mi A1 fare? Read on to find out.
Design & Build
First things first, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, the Mi A1 looks like an iPhone from the back but so do a lot of other smartphones. So I don’t think that’s something to gripe on about. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go back to talking about the Mi A1 without drawing comparisons.
Looks and build wise, the Mi A1 is essentially a twin of the Mi 5X. Place them side-by-side without turning on the screen and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. However, I find that to be a good thing as the Mi 5X is easily one of the most solid devices Xiaomi has ever built.
So, with that said, the Mi A1 is equally solid and does have a slight heftiness to it, which is nice. Although I don’t quite mind phones wrapped in glass or ceramic, the Mi A1’s full metal body definitely puts my mind more at ease as it just feels a lot less vulnerable to drops or knocks.
The device is available in three colours: Black, Gold and Rose Gold. I went out and bought one, and opted to go with the least ostentatious and classier one, Black. Note that for this review, it’s a gold unit.
While the Mi A1 does feature a 5.5-inch display, it really doesn’t feel very large as it is just 7.3mm thin, has very smooth and rounded edges and the display’s bezels are quite thin. Even with relatively small hands, I found the Mi A1 quite easy to handle and use one-handed.
Unlike some of the flagships in the market today that seem to be losing more and more hardware features, the Mi A1 still comes with all the stuff we know and love and even a little bit more.
On the bottom of the device, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack (YIPEEEE!), the USB Type-C charging port (WAHEY!) and the down-firing speaker grill, which is actually quite loud and produces very clear and bassy audio (YAY!).
On the top, right next to the microphone, we get an IR Blaster (WHOOP! WHOOP!). As for the sides, you have the hybrid SIM tray and on the left you get the very clicky and responsive volume rocker and Power/Lock button.
On the back, we have the fingerprint sensor and dual camera setup. The one little gripe I do have about the Mi A1 is the fact that the camera does have quite a pronounced hump and without a case, it’ll definitely be easy to scratch the glass. I also like how there’s an Android One logo emblazoned at the bottom of the device. It gives you a clue how serious Google is about this.
Overall, I really like the design of the Mi A1, although it does seem a little uninspiring. I like how it just isn’t too over the top and has a subtle sleekness and classiness to it. Kind of like nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan)–looks like plain white rice, but that flavour is so mouthwatering.