Mi 4i Review – Poetry in a Phone

Xiaomi has made it a mission of sorts to make stunning devices at affordable prices. The Mi 4i is the latest addition to that list. It must be most certainly difficult to be Mi, given the high standards they set and beat at every device release. Let us take a look at the Mi 4i today

Mi 4i (16)

Xiaomi Mi 4i has a 5-inch 1080p full HD display with 441ppi pixel density. It has a powerful 64-bit 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 615 CPU Octa-core CPU with 2GB of RAM for multi-tasking and runs Android Lollipop. The Mi 4i has 16GB of non-expandable internal storage. The smartphone has a 13MP primary camera and a 5MP secondary camera which will appeal to most photography enthusiasts. Connectivity options included are Dual-Sim, 4G LTE connectivity, 3G, Bluetooth, WiFi and USB. It is backed by a 3120 mAh battery that the company says lasts up to two days with average use.

The phone feels like a block of marble in your hand. It makes you feel good to hold it. It has a plastic unibody design and when I say design, Xiaomi team are now masters at it. So given their own standards, this one is a bit underwhelming. I use a Mi4 and was waiting to be blown by the Mi 4i, but that did not happen. This one reminds me of an iPhone 5c, a lot! I mean this as a compliment when I say I expected a lot more from Xiaomi in design. But that being said, the phone still is one of the best looking and feeling devices in the mid-range segment. The phone is fantastic for single handed use. The best so far in that department.

The front panel is fully comprised of an OGS display, which has a full HD 1080 x 1920 pixel IPS display with  Gorilla Glass 3. It has the three-button capacitive back-lit control panel on the lower side and the earpiece and front camera, along with a series of sensors on the top. It has rounded corners, so the rear panel flushes neatly against the display glass, which considerably improves the device’s protection from water spills or a drizzle. Remember, the Mi 4i is not waterproof. The rear panel is not fixed, hence the battery is a non removable type. The volume and power buttons are made of chrome and are on the right side of the device, while the top and bottom sport the earphone jack and micro USB port. The left side has the SIM card tray, which holds two micro SIM cards, side-by-side. There is no micro SD card, as usual the internal memory cannot be expanded. My biggest botheration with Xiaomi phones. The 2 GB/16 Gb combo just doesn’t cut it anymore!

The rear panel houses the primary camera towards the extreme top-left left and surrounding it are the two-tone LED flash and the secondary microphone. The bottom has a large speaker grille and the Mi logo. The rear panel has a special grease-resistant coating,it is soft and a tad rubberized. It also protects the rear panel from dirt and sweat. Xiaomi says that the rear panel can also resist stains from a permanent marker. The Xiaomi Mi 4i measures 7.8mm in thickness and weighs only 130g.

Keeping in line with the current trend to lean towards larger screens, the Mi 4i comes with a 5-inch full-HD display — that’s 1,920×1,080 pixels, giving a pixel-per-inch density of 441ppi. This puts the ppi above the iPhone 6’s 326ppi and 6 Plus’ 426ppi.

Mi 4i has impressive hardware. It is powered by a 64-bit second generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chipset featuring eight CPU cores clocked at 1.7GHz and an Adreno 405 GPU with 2GB or RAM, the device is powerful enough for common tasks including moderate to high-end game-play. The display has been engineered to be thinner than usual, using OGS  to remove the unwanted air gap between the LCD panel and the touch sensor. This helps to very considerably reduce the thickness of the display panel to make the handset even slimmer and lighter I guess.

The phone is equipped with a built-in hardware feature called Sunlight Display, which uses local tone mapping to identify areas on the screen where it’s darker and brightens those areas better so that screen/image details become clearer under bright sunlight.

This is  a form of HDR for the 5-inch full-HD display. That’s how I’d like to think of it. This doesn’t work indoors unless you shine a bright light on the sensor, so if your image is relatively dark, these areas won’t be lit up unless you force Sunlight Display to activate!

This feature effectively brings down the amount of glare on the display, hence making it very usable outdoors, which is very useful in India as it is  usually bright and sunny. I tried it outdoors and it seems to help considerably! It’s sometimes hard to make out just when it kicks in.

The Mi 4i has a 13MP rear camera from Sony/Samsung with an aperture of f/2.0, while the front camera sports a 5MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 80-degree wide-angle lens. The rear camera has a nifty two-tone flash. One LED produces warm (yellow) light and the other, cold (white) light. In low-lighting, the two-tone flash can intelligently assess the existing color temperature to emulate natural lighting, capturing the subject perfectly with respect to the surrounding light conditions.

The device has an internal storage of just 16GB, and as mentioned earlier, you cannot expand the storage as there is no micro SD slot. The phone supports USB OTG, so you can plug in conventional pen drives using a USB OTG cable. The Mi 4i supports 4G network, with both SIM card slots supporting the 4G SIM. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual band wave 2 MU-MIMO), Bluetooth v4.1 (LE), GPS, GLONASS and BDS.

The Mi 4i has a large battery powering it. A Sony/Samsung 3120 mAh battery, which is re-calibrated design-wise for a slimmer profile, powers the phone, it will give you an all-day battery, and even more if used efficiently. The Mi 4i is powered by MIUI V6 and based on Android Lollipop.

Mi 4i (15)

The MIUI V6 on the Mi 4i is the first in the Mi line-up to get Android Lollipop. Included in the firmware is a unique feature, the Visual IVR. Something that will save you a lot of time and tension. It is the option to quickly navigate to an exact point on an IVR-based service. For example, if you need to get some information from IRCTC, you dial the helpline number then you will have to listen to the features and hit the right number to go ahead. By the time you head to the exact location, you would have had to listen to all the IVR features, tap the necessary numbers and then finally end up with exact option. All this takes a while and is extremely frustrating. To help make this better, MIUI developers have integrated the Visual IVR into the V6 firmware. So now when you call IRCTC, the dialer app will sense the number you have dialed, lookup the database of the IVR and give you the flow on-screen. All you need to now do is tap into the correct  option on the screen that is needed reach the desired location. The utility will automatically create tone pulses and pauses for the IVR without you having to waste time and plan seconds on it. Xiaomi will be slowly implementing more IVR data into the system in the coming days.

The device did decently well on the performance tests, the battery was also acceptably good. There were some heating issues, they were subsequently fixed with an update.

The phone is definitely not a flagship killer, but more aimed at the budget sensitive mid-range user. While I am a big MI fan, there are a few things that irk me about the phone. The first is the fact that on-board storage is just 16 GB and non-expandable, design as an excuse for that is something that I will not accept from a brilliant maker like Xiaomi. The next is the needless fetish with animations in the MIUI ROM, it gets frustrating when there is a call drop and you have to wait for the animation to finish before you can retry. Over time, the ROM tends to get laggy. I would love a toggle in MIUI to switch the animations off.


Given the specs, finish, camera and the price, it is a must buy! The first poetic mid-range phone! You can actually imagine Hugo and Manu reciting Shakespeare when you use this one! Brilliant value for money, killer specs and the Xiaomi Trademark Unbeatable camera optics! Poetry in a phone! That’s what it is!


About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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