Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Android One makes the Xiaomi Mi A1 a phone you’ll want to use

If you’ve been tempted by Xiaomi’s often well-designed smartphones, but put off by the custom MIUI “theme” layered over the Android software; then the Xiaomi Mi A1 is the answer to your problems. There are no software tweaks from Xiaomi because the Mi A1 runs Android One — the Google operating system designed for low- and mid-range phones. It promises regular software and security updates, like a Google Pixel smartphone, plus all the usual Google apps including the Google Play Store pre-installed. In our Xiaomi Mi A1 review, we explain how it’s not just the software that’s a winner, but the hardware too.

There is one glaring flaw we should mention first: The lack of 4G LTE support in the U.S. The Xiaomi Mi A1, even the so-called Global version, won’t connect to GSM 4G networks in the U.S., meaning you’ll have to make do with 3G speeds. Buyers in the U.K. and much of Europe will be fine. We’ve had ours running on the O2 network in the U.K. without issues.

Great specs, low price

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how good the Mi A1 is. First, it costs 210 euros from the Mi Spain store, or somewhere around $210 to $250 if you use an online retailer in China. That makes it slightly cheaper in Europe than one of our current absolute favorite budget phones, the Honor 7X (the Mi A1 is a tad more expensive in the U.S.). For that you get a sleek, smooth metal body that’s 7.3mm thick, a 5.5-inch LCD screen with a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, a fingerprint scanner, and a dual-lens 12-megapixel camera on the back. It’s all powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, with 4GB of RAM.

Exactly what we want from a mid-range phone.

The Mi A1’s style is reminiscent of the Xiaomi Redmi 4X, and identical to the Mi 5X. It’s simple but attractive, and could be easily mistaken for the OnePlus 5  or an iPhone 7 Plus as well. It’s comfortable to hold, and super light at 165 grams. We carried it around while on vacation in Japan, along with several other phones, and it happily slipped into a pocket or bag without a fuss.

The build quality is good, although the volume rocker audibly rattles when you put it down on a table. There is a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, far from the camera lenses, and it is accurate and quick to respond. On the bottom is a USB Type-C charging port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Simple software, timely updates

Battery life is solid, with the phone easily lasting a day with its 3,080mAh cell. This is undoubtedly aided thanks to the Android One software and its uncluttered, and simple approach. Thanks to the Google software, the phone also delivered on timely security updates. Since using the phone, we’ve received October, November, and December’s Android security patch updates, along with another update fixing bugs and improving the device. It felt almost unnatural, having so many important software updates in such a timely manner on an Android phone. It’s the way things really should be.

xiaomi mi a1 review 3

There are a few pre-installed Xiaomi apps, including Mi Remote to use with the IR blaster, plus the Xiaomi camera app. The Snapdragon 625 processor isn’t that fast, and although scrolling and moving around Android isn’t slow, wading through some apps can be. We noticed hesitation and less-than-smooth scrolling in the Google Play Store, YouTube, and apps like Twitter. It’s not bad, but it’s noticeable, especially if you’re coming from a higher-performance smartphone.

We ran the Mi A1 through a few benchmark tests:

  • AnTuTu 3D Bench: 59883
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 4200 Multi-Core/867 Single-Core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 463

The results almost match what we saw from the Honor 7X, a phone which uses a Kirin 659 processor and also has 4GB of RAM. Ultimately for everyday tasks, with a little gaming thrown in, the Mi A1 is a perfectly usable and surprisingly capable companion.

Capable camera

That’s all before you start using the camera, which is excellent for such a low-cost phone and a solid competitor to the Honor 7X, and other similarly-priced dual-lens camera phones. The two lenses have 12 megapixels each, an f/2.2 aperture, and a 2x optical zoom feature. The front camera has 5 megapixels, as well as a portrait mode.

It takes vivid, natural, and interesting pictures in normal light, but the cameras struggle a little with noise when the light is poor. The dual-lens system for adding a blurred background for portraits works surprisingly well — it’s easy to use, fast, and produces some good results. We were very happy with the photos taken by the Mi A1 considering the price, especially for sharing photos on social media. The portrait mode adds plenty of fun, and is a feature many phones don’t share at this price. The video camera even has a slow-motion mode for extra creativity.

Downsides? Apart from the 4G LTE problems in the U.S., the Mi A1 doesn’t have NFC, so it can’t be used for Android Pay. We also found the gold rear panel scuffs easily just from sitting in a bag or pocket, so a case may be in order here. Also, compared to the minimal bezels around the Honor 7X’s screen, the Mi A1 doesn’t look quite so modern. Still, we vastly prefer Android One over Huawei’s EMUI user interface on the Honor phone. It ultimately comes down to what’s more valuable to you — timely software and security updates, or style.

Choose the Mi A1 and you will be very happy. It’s exactly what we want from a mid-range phone — no software clutter, a good camera, a pretty screen, a simple design, and a low price tag.

Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.

The Note 8 and S8 range now have access to the Android Pie beta

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.

The Mi Mix 3 is coming to the U.K. on January 16 for a bargain price

Xiaomi announced the Mi Mix 3, a smartphone with a massive screen, a cool slide-up camera module, up to 10GB of RAM, and in the future, a 5G connection. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Apple’s iPhone battery offer was reportedly way more popular than expected

As many as 11 million iPhone owners reportedly made use of Apple's cheaper battery replacement offer that launched in 2018 in response to the iPhone throttling debacle — some 10 times more than the company had apparently expected.

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Samsung rumored to mark 10 years of the Galaxy S line with a 5G model

Samsung is rumored to launch a 5G version of the Galaxy S10, called the Galaxy S10 X. The phone may be larger than the standard Galaxy S10 devices, and feature a very impressive specification sheet.

The most expensive Galaxy S10 could be the priciest Galaxy phone we've seen

Not long now; with 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.

Yes, Android apps can run on your PC, and it's easier than you think

Wish you knew how to run Android apps in Windows? It's easier than you might think and there are a number of different ways to do it. In this guide, we break down the steps so you can follow along with ease.

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019: Complete Coverage

There's no bigger show for mobile tech geeks than Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain: where flagship phones are born and intriguing new wearables shine. And this year, where foldable phones and 5G are likely to dominate the news. For…

C you soon? Rumors swirl of a USB-C port on 2019 iPhones

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.