The Xiaomi Mi 4i bridges the gap between the flagship Mi series and the Redmi lot, a likable gadget but not in the sense of a pet - it may be an affordable phone but not underpowered and full of compromise. No, on paper everything seems near perfect for the Mi 4i.
And for the most part, the Xiaomi Mi 4i lives up to its promise. Its 5" 1080p screen is great and the imaging department is quite capable as well. Both the 13MP primary unit and the 5MP selfie cam produce good images with great detail and subtle processing. The thoughtful design results in a great handling experience, the connectivity options are above average, and the battery backup is solid.
Among the few things the Mi 4i didn't get right video recording stands out, alongside the speaker quality and loudness. The higher clock speed of the CPU cores is causing some excessive heating. Occasionally, the Mi 4i would get dangerously hot and Xiaomi must've been aware of that. A firmware update arrived while we were testing, which did slightly improve the situation although at the expense of some performance.
This is the first Xiaomi phone to run Lollipop, but the MIUI 6.0 skins it inside out , so you'll be hard-pressed to spot many differences compared to, say, a Mi Note running KitKat and MIUI 5. The new stuff is under the hood, battery and performance optimizations. The OS is silky-smooth, while the latest MIUI is beautiful and capable.
Let's check out our key test findings.
Snapdragon 615-powered smartphones are multiplying by the day and the Mi 4i isn't short of competition. We've had the chance to test a few of those and we can say choosing the right one isn't a simple task.
Recently we reviewed the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, a water and dust proof 5-incher, with great design, powered by same S615 chip and matching the camera - but not the screen - resolution. While the 13MP images aren't as good as Xiaomi Mi 4i's, you can shoot underwater too, which is nice.
The stunning Oppo R1x is another 5" smartphone running on a S615 chip, with unique gemstone effect on its back and superb handling. It is a near perfect match for the Xiaomi Mi 4i, except it cannot quite meet its bargain price and thus you must really like the premium design to consider it.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 will give you a 5" Super AMOLED screen, but it comes with sub-par resolution and a less capable Snapdragon 410 chipset. The camera, video recording and multimedia performances are excellent, as is the battery life. The slim design with metal frame is nice, but we aren't sure those are worth the sharpness sacrifice.
The Lenovo Vibe X2 is another stand-out mid-ranger with enough horsepower under the hood. It's another match for the Mi 4i - a 5" 1080p display, a 13MP rear camera, an 8-core processor and Android Lollipop. Lenovo has been giving us a lot of great phones lately, so the tri-color Vibe X2 is a must-check before making any decisions.
Finally, if you need an even more affordable Xiaomi, the Redmi 2 would serve you great too. Opting for the original and more expensive Mi 4 is also an option, but it heats up too, so you won't be avoiding those issues.
Overall, most people are likely to have relatively low expectations of a phone like the Xiaomi Mi 4i. Some of them will probably be surprised at it actually over-delivering. Not if you've had any experience with Chinese brands of Xiaomi's level. Affordable without feeling cheap, the phone does most things quite well: design, including the interface, connectivity with dual-SIM support and excellent still images. Not everything is perfect but when you're not paying over the odds mistakes are very easy to forgive.
Special thanks to HonorBuy for providing the review unit.