Review: Xiaomi Mi A2 improves on its predecessor

  • Pros: Great package, good camera, battery life
  • Cons: No headphone jack, NFC, screen brightness low

 

Review: Xiaomi Mi A2 improves on its predecessor

 

IN OCTOBER last year, Digital News Asia brought you the review of Xiaomi’s Mi A1, a phone that is part of Google’s Android One programme that looks at producing a pure stock Android experience. The Mi A1 was actually the global variant of the China-only Mi 5X that was released in July 2017.

A year later, we now consider the upgraded version of the device, the Mi A2, which is also known as Mi 6X is some markets and the successor to the pretty popular budget smartphone the Chinese vendor is bringing to the market.

When the dust settled on the Mi A1 review, we concluded that for all intents and purposes, the Mi A1 is a good phone that boasts good build quality, a clean stock Android software experience and decent dual camera system. But it also had quirks; for one, the design was dated and the low-light photography wasn’t that good, even for the price range it was in.

So the natural questions is: How good is the Mi A2?

Design and build

As usual we start with how the phone is built and looks. The review unit had a matte black aluminium body and passingly does look like the Apple iPhone 7, albeit it’s not as close as the Mi A1 was. There are two other colours – blue and gold – to choose from.

The redesigned Mi A2 has dropped the capacitive navigation buttons, which is a good thing. Now, the buttons are integrated onto the screen. The front sports the front camera on the left of the earpiece while the right gets the ambient sensor.

 

Review: Xiaomi Mi A2 improves on its predecessor

 

At the back, the Mi A1’s horizontal dual-camera bar, incorporating the flash, now becomes a vertical bar to the left of the phone. This, for your information, is so iPhone X inspired, so this seems to be the ongoing trend with Xiaomi – copying Apple Inc.

The fingerprint scanner is pretty much where it was before. The SIM tray is to the left of the phone while the right gets the volume rocker and on/off button.

Overall, I would say the Mi A2 looks okay. I didn’t quite like the bump on the camera bar though, as it protrudes quite a fair bit, even more than the Mi A1. I liked the matte aluminium feel and the build quality, I believe, is consistent with a phone at this price range.

The Mi A2 sports quite good specifications. It’s a 6-inch IPS panel with a 1080 x 2160 pixels resolution and a 18:9 screen ratio. It runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 with a Adreno 512 GPU. Storage and memory are either 128 GB, 6 GB RAM or 32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM There is no expandable memory.

Camera specs are a 12 megapixel (MP), f/1.8 with a 1.25µm sensor; and a 20 MP, f/1.8, 1.0µm sensor with PDAF (phase detection auto focus). Front camera is a single 20 MP, f/2.2 1.0µm sensor camera. Charging is via USB-C, with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support and battery size is 3,000mAH. It comes in at 166 grams. More specs can be found here.

For a price range of between RM999 and RM1,299, the Mi A2 is pretty generous. Couple this with the use of Android One, and this puppy is what I would call a great set up. However, if you’re more of a Samsung, Xiaomi MIUI, or Huawei EMUI fan, then perhaps this is not the phone for you.

 

Review: Xiaomi Mi A2 improves on its predecessor

 

Screen-wise, I found the Mi A2 decent, although not the best-in-class in terms of colour balance and or dynamic range. Screen brightness is also a tad low when outside. Speaking of cons, the Mi A2 has gone the way of more expensive handsets – the disappearance of the humble 3.5-inch headphone jack.

Personally, I found this odd as I don’t feel the need to have taken this out given that it’s just a budget-type phone. In higher ranges, perhaps there’s an argument that with larger battery or more complex electronics (such as wireless charging, NFC), there is a need to do away with the jack. Alas, this was something Xiaomi decided to, so be warned when shopping for this.

While we’re at missing features – Yes, there’s no NFC on the Mi A2. For most, this wouldn’t be a problem unless you’re really big on e-payments. So this might not be a deal breaker in Malaysia, where payments over smartphones aren’t booming.

Lastly, the Mi A2 does continue the trend of an IR blaster for you to turn your device into a remote control, which was also present in its predecessor.

Next page: Fine choice for the budget-conscious

 
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