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Xiaomi Mi A2 Review: Best-in-class camera and good overall performer
Last year Xiaomi changed some rules for its product line-up and introduced the company's first-ever Mi smartphone running the stock Android UI. Xiaomi Mi A1 was a runaway success in budget price-point. It offered a capable hardware, impressive camera performance for the price-point and a lag-free pure Android user experience. Mi A1's success made it quite clear that the Chinese smartphone maker will continue expanding the Android One backed Mi devices line-up on yearly basis.
- Excellent camera for the price-point
- Stock Android UI
- Sleek and premium design
- Crisp Full HD+ display
- Smooth gaming performance
- No microSD card storage
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
- Display feels lifeless outdoors
Having said that, Xiaomi has today unveiled the successor of Mi A1 in the Indian market with some notable improvements. The new Mi A2 comes at a price-point of Rs. 16,999 (4GB RAM+64GB ROM) and flaunts a bigger and better display, snappier processor and improved cameras. Sadly, the smartphone also make some big compromises that can prove dealbreaker to a lot of mobile users out there. This makes Xiaomi Mi A2 a very interesting product and we couldn't wait to test it. So here's our review of Xiaomi Mi A2.
Design: Sleek metal Unibody construction
Xiaomi Mi A2 is made out of metal and feels a lot more premium than any other smartphone in its respective price-point. The closest competitor- Honor Play also offers a good built quality and a practical design, but I personally liked the in-hand feel of Xiaomi Mi A2. The Mi A2 is comfortable to hold, despite the fact that it is slightly wider than other smartphones. The smartphone has rounded corners and gentle curves at the back panel that gives it a very streamlined in-hand feel. The fingerprint scanner and buttons are placed at the right spots for convenient one-hand and two-hand use. The smartphone is also very sleek, a reason it ships with a humble 3,000 mAh battery unit.
The front fascia of Mi A2 flaunts a big LCD screen sporting an 18:9 aspect ratio. The display is covered with scratch-resistant 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 5. There's no notch at the top but a big bezel that houses a massive 20MP front-facing camera, earpiece, and light sensor. The bottom of the display also has a big bezel. The side bezels are comparatively much narrower.
Minimalistic rear panel but a big camera bump
The rear panel looks quite minimalistic and comes in matte finish. There's a vertically stacked dual-lens camera setup that protrudes out quite a lot. The camera bump is instantly noticeable and you simply cannot do anything about it. The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right side and the SIM card tray is positioned on the left. The top edge has the IR blaster and a microphone, whereas the bottom holds the speakers, Type-C USB port and a microphone. Overall, Xiaomi Mi A2 just strikes the perfect balance of looks and aesthetics, minus the ugly camera bump.
Display: Full HD+ screen is crisp but with brightness levels are an issue
Xiaomi hasn't blindly followed the latest notch trend in the display department. Resultant, Mi A2 does not offer the best-in-class screen-to-body ratio and looks somewhat dated at first. This is due to the thick bezels on top and bottom of the display, which results in 78% screen-to-body ratio. However, once you start using it, you will find that the screen feels wider and bigger to offer a very good viewing experience. The Mi A2 sports a 5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+ display that offers a resolution of 2160x1080p and a pixel density of 403PPI. The screen has 2.5 D curved Gorilla Glass 5 protection on top. The LCD panel punches vibrant colors and videos and games look immersive. And while the color reproduction is good, the outdoor visibility is not very impressive. Even at max brightness levels, it was a bit difficult to read messages and browse online content in direct sunlight. The screen on Xiaomi Mi A2 lacks that brightness punch for comfortable content consumption outdoors.
Camera: Highlight of the smartphone
The new Mi A2 sports a 12MP+20MP rear camera setup. The 12MP primary lens uses Sony IMX486 sensor and the 20MP secondary lens uses Sony IMX376 sensor. Both the lenses work on brighter F/1.75 aperture values. Importantly, Xiaomi has removed the telephoto lens for better low-light results. The 20MP secondary shooter has been added to capture portrait shots by analyzing the depth of field information and is also said to produce better low-light photos by applying ‘Pixel-binning' technology.
For the front, Xiaomi Mi A2 also uses a 20MP selfie camera with the same Sony IMX376 sensor, but it works on a slightly darker f/2.2 aperture. The selfie camera comes with HDR mode and uses 2.0µm super pixels for low-light enhancement.
Impressive Daylight Performance
Xiaomi Mi A2's camera is quite remarkable for the price-point. The pictures shot by rear camera show impressive detailing and punchy colors. The image processing algorithms on Mi A2 produces rich contrast levels and brings out good information in the overall scene. The camera sensors also handle challenging light conditions very well and the results are even comparable to smartphones priced much higher. The camera software could use some color correction as the overall output is slightly oversaturated sometimes. Besides, the images show lack of sharpness, but only at maximum zoom levels which is quite acceptable.
Low light performance
The camera setup on Mi A2 also allows you to switch to the secondary lens for low-light photos. The 20MP secondary camera applies Pixel-binning technology to bring out more information in low-light situations. Pixel-binning is basically a process of combining four smaller pixels to produce one bigger 2.0µm pixel for brighter and sharper image output. But there's a downside here. The brighter image output also brings along higher noise levels. For a detailed camera performance overview of Xiaomi Mi A2, you can click on the link. Here we have tried to test Xiaomi Mi A2 in different situations for the camera output.
Selfie camera output
The 20MP selfie camera on Xiaomi Mi A2 is an impressive performer and is probably the best in sub Rs. 18k price-point. The pictures show very good detailing, even better than the pictures clicked by the rear camera in many situations, despite the fact that it does not come equipped with autofocus. Mi A2's front-facing camera can offer software driven bokeh effect. Interestingly, the portrait shots captured from Mi A2's single shooter look better than the images captured by Honor's dual-lens selfie camera setups.
Software: Xiaomi smartphone with a Stock Android UI
A major highlight of Xiaomi's Mi A series is Google's stock Android base. Mi A2 is the second smartphone in the series and runs the stock Android 8.1. At the time of writing this review, the handset was upgraded with August 2018 security update from Google, which promises to improve stability and fixes bugs. The stock Android UI on a Xiaomi device feels refreshing and smooth for most of the part. There were some hiccups in the form of app crashes and screen freeze instances but nothing major that made things difficult. The app drawer needs some stability on Mi A2 as it froze a couple of times while unlocking the handset. There are no bloatwares whatsoever and you will find just three Xiaomi apps- Mi Drop, File Manager and a Feedback app.
Hardcore MIUI users will miss the customizations
If you have been using a Xiaomi phone from a while and are familiar with MIUI, you might not like the new Mi A2, unless you are a stock Android enthusiast. Unlike the Redmi Note, Redmi Y and the company's other smartphones, the MI A2 comes sans customizations and theme options. The settings menu is plain Android affair and there are no tweaking options to change display color tones, apply themes, icons, MI galley app, App vault, Silent switch, etc. In simple words, MIUI's deeper level customizations are simply nowhere to be seen on the new Mi A2. However, if you always wanted a Xiaomi device with stock Android, Mi A2 will do wonders for you.
Hardware: Mi A2 takes care of everything, wonderfully
Xiaomi has maintained a very good track record of delivering top-end hardware at aggressive price-points. The new Mi A2 is another capable smartphone that comes powered by the snappy Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset. The company has announced the 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM variant for now but will also bring the higher 6GB RAM variant later this year in India. Sadly, you cannot expand the internal storage on Mi A2, which can be a big setback for you if you like to store a lot of multimedia content on your device.
Heavy games also ran smoothly
As far as performance is concerned, Xiaomi claims that Mi A2 offers 79% improved performance over the Mi A1. In everyday usage, Xiaomi Mi A2 does feel snappy, minus the occasional software bugs that I mentioned above. The hardware ensures fast app loading, smooth gameplay and lag-free multimedia performance. It is impressive to find out that you can also enjoy heavy games like Asphalt 9 Legends and PUBG on this budget handset. Both the games ran well on Mi A2; however, the graphics performance is slightly better on the Honor Play which is priced at Rs. 19,999. The call quality is also good. Earpiece and bottom firing speakers produce loud and clear audio.
As far as battery is concerned, Mi A2 can last a day if you use it moderately and don't push the device to extreme levels. Battery will not last more than 16 hours if you conduct long gaming sessions and simultaneously use the handset to watch videos, Facebook, Instagram and extended phone calls. Mi A2 also comes equipped with Quick Charge 4.0 or as Xiaomi calls it- Quick Charge 4+ technology. I did not face any problems with phone's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and memory tasks. Mi A2 also performed
Xiaomi Mi A2 is a very interesting device. It is budget handset that adopts some controversial trends from high-end smartphones like OnePlus 6 and Apple mobile devices. At one side, it brings significant improvements over its predecessor in camera, design, and overall performance, but at the same time it also forces you to make notable compromises. If you care about 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage, Mi A2 will disappoint you. However; if you love clicking pictures and always wanted a Xiaomi device with stock Android UI, Mi A2 is the best bet. The camera is by far the best in sub Rs. 18k price-segment and captures impressive photographs. The smartphone can handle everyday tasks and even the high-end games without any performance drops.
I believe the screen should have some more luminosity as it was a bit tough to use Mi A2 in direct sunlight. Nevertheless, it works just fine indoors and when the days are not very sunny. Overall, Xiaomi Mi A2 is the phone I would personally like to buy and recommend to my readers and friends in budget price-segment.