Xiaomi Mi4 hands on: All the makings of a great flagship

The Mi4 is well built, powerful and a looker.

Xiaomi has gone from a start-up to the number one smartphone company in China in four short years. Based on its flagship, the Mi4, Xiaomi’s lead will only grow.

Comparisons have been made between the Mi4 and the Apple’s iPhone 5S, and it’s not hard to see why. The Mi4 is a dead ringer with the cut of its aluminium frame, the placement of its buttons, the styling of its speaker grille and the design of its face all nodding to the Apple smartphone.

To resemble the iPhone 5S is to be one good looking phone. Some small differences separate the two smartphones with the back of the Mi4 deviating most. Plastic accounts for its rear and it attracts dust unlike any other we’ve seen. Over time its propensity to get dirty will annoy.

Further separating the two is the size of the Mi4’s display. It’s a large 5-inches, has a 1920x1080 resolution and a high 441 pixels-per-inch. Full HD screens find a nice balance between clarity and sustainable battery life.

Cursory impressions leave us fond of the screen on the Mi4. It’s prominently backlit, sharp and heavy on colours. Some come off as saturated, such as those used on the MiUI’s icons, but overall, the display is of high quality.

Technically the Mi4 runs Google’s Android 4.4 operating system. Xiaomi overlays the software comprehensively and yet the company gains praise for its handy-work because it’s backed by frequent updates. Fridays are known as “Orange Fridays” with weekly updates being pushed out, while more significant “stable builds” are released monthly.

A snapshot of the interface. Expect more in our review
A snapshot of the interface. Expect more in our review

Anyone looking for the functionality of Android, although in skin tinged with a new feel, will appreciate how Xiaomi has reworked the software. (We will go into much more detail on this on our review.)

Ensuring a brisk user experience is a cocktail of top-end hardware. There’s a 2.5GHz quad-core CPU from Qualcomm, 3GB of RAM and options of 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. This hardware is comparable to that featured in the Sony Xperia Z3.

A 3080 milliamp-hour is built into the enclosure. Our first day of heavy use, which involved a lot of YouTube-ing and streaming, the Mi4 lasted close to 20 hours before powering down.

Read more: Oppo breaks into Australian retail stores

An f/1.8 aperture on both cameras indicates commendable low-light performance, while the front camera benefits from a wide 80 degree lens.
An f/1.8 aperture on both cameras indicates commendable low-light performance, while the front camera benefits from a wide 80 degree lens.

Missing is the option of expandable memory and 4G Internet. The current Mi4 maxes at HSPA speeds, although Xiaomi has promised a 4G variant. Running a speedtest on the Vodafone Network resulted in downloads of 8.6 megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 2.86Mbps.

Most smartphones in a price bracket as low as the Mi4 tend to sacrifice the quality of its cameras. Not the Mi4, it appears, with a 13 megapixel camera on its rear and an 8 megapixel camera on its front. Both of these come courtesy of photographic champion Sony.

A test photo taken with the Mi4
A test photo taken with the Mi4

Xiaomi currently sells the Mi4 (3G, 16GB) in China for 1,999 RMB (approximately $US320). The smartphone is not available locally, although online retailer Yatango Shopping is selling the smartphone for $619.95.

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

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@slicktonyi

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