Xiaomi is brand that has become synonymous with affordable smartphones with good performance. Over the past years, the company has made more waves in the news with some pretty out there products which include an electric scooter. So has the company lost it when it comes to smartphones? I’m looking to find out with their second Android One device: the Mi A2.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 doesn’t change much from its predecessor, the Mi A1, when it comes to design. The pretty vanilla design of the overall phone might be a nod to the vanilla version of Android that it has within. But its unassuming simplicity is what makes the Mi A2 a compelling device.
The Mi A2 has the now classic candy bar form factor. The front face of the smartphone is a simple, white or black panel (depending on the colour of the device), emblazoned with the FullView display, the notification LED and the front facing camera. You won’t see any capacitive or physical buttons on the face of the phone as all of them have been moved into the user interface of Android itself.
Head on over to the back of the device and you only see the a fingerprint sensor centered on the back in one of the most natural positions for larger smartphones. You also see the dual sensors of the main camera stacked on the top left side of the devices. The attenae bands frame the simplistic, elegance of the Mi A2.
On the sides you only have power button and the volume rocker on the right side while the dual SIM tray is on the left. The bottom is home to the USB-Type C socket and the speakers.
While the design is simplistic, the Mi A2 felt very natural in hand. For a square, blockish device, the A2 is actually weighted very well. It’s not too light nor is it too heavy. The Mi A2’s weight makes it feel like a proper smartphone. One built with purpose and premium materials.
The hardware of the Xiaomi Mi A2 feels very purpose driven in its assembly; from its processor to the cameras, the phone screams value for money and truly does deliver when it comes down to it.
The choice of using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 paired with 4GB or 6GB of RAM allows the user to get one of the smoothest stock Android experiences on the market. Of course, there is room for improvement, but the compromise does not take away from the user experience of the Mi A2.
The camera combination is also another plus point of the Mi A2. The combination of a 20-megapixel, f/1.8 sensor and a 12-megapixel, f/1.8 sensor in the main camera produces some of the best pictures I’ve seen to-date on the a smartphone. The selfie camera’s 20-megapixel, f/2.2 sensor isn’t too shabby either.
All in all, the hardware combination of the Mi A2 gives it good value for the money spent. Users won’t be missing out on much when it comes to the overall experience.
Here’s the full specifications of the Xiaomi Mi A2. Again, the compromises that Xiaomi made in making the A2 really do not degrade the overall expereince of using the device. Instead, I would say that the company has struck a really nice balance of performance hardware and value for money.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 (8 Cores)Quad-Core @ 2.2GHz|
Quad-Core @ 1.8GHz
|RAM||4 GB (As tested)/6GB|
|Memory||64GB (As tested)/128GB|
|Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)||Adreno 512|
|Display||LTPS IPS LCD|
FullView Display5.99-inches (~403 ppi)1080p Full HD+, 18:9 ratio (1080 x 2160 pixels)
|Operating System||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Battery||Non-Removable 3,000mAh Li-IonFast Charging (Quick Charge 4.0)|
|Connectivity||Dual SIMWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
GPS/A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Bluetooth 5.0 LE
USB Type-C (USB 2.0)
|Camera||REAR:20-Megapixel f/1.8, 1/2.8-inch focal length, 1.0µm pixel size|
12-Megapixel f/1.8, 1/2.9-inch focal length, 1.25µm pixel size
Phase Detection Autofocus
Dual LED Flash
4K Video recording (60fps)
20-Megapixel f/1.8, 1/2.8-inch focal length, 1.0µm pixel size
Dual LED flash
Full HD video recording (30fps)
|Miscellaneous||Always on display|
The Xiaomi Mi A2 is an Android One certified device. As such, the interface is pretty much stock Android. This is a huge departure from Xiaomi’s usual MIUI. The stock experience for Android has been fine tuned to make it a much sleeker and smoother experience overall.
The first thing you’ll notice about the interface of Android Oreo on the Mi A2 is that the interface is snappy. While it can be attributed to optimised animations and other graphic powered illusions, the first impression I got of the interface and using it is that it is definitely a lot more streamlined and easier to use compared to other versions of Android.
The gestures that Google implemented in the interface starting with the swipe up for the app drawer simply make sense. You don’t have to train yourself to get used to it. You just do. It’s brainless and pretty natural. You free up space on the quick apps for something you actually use regularly.
Quick settings on the Xiaomi Mi A2 is convenient. It holds essential settings in the immediately visible list and a quick swipe down reveals even more and other pages (if you have any). That said, adding more essential settings to the quick settings panel can be a little bit tedious as it involves quite a number of clicks. Aside from this it’s a breeze with the quick settings.
One of the things that I felt needed the most improvements were the screen off notifications. They were limited in the scope and there is no way to dismiss or act on them. Of course, this isn’t any fault of Xiaomi’s but is an inherent limitation of the Android operating system as a whole.
Aside from that, the overall user interface truly provides an enjoyable experience. It’s clean and easy to navigate. But most of all, it makes sense.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660. It’s an 8-core processor with 4 cores able to run at a maximum of 2.0GHz and another 4 cores at 1.8GHz. This combination translated to a pretty seamless performance overall in the smartphone. Simplistic tasks such as word processing and web browsing are no problem for the phone while more taxing tasks tend to draw a little bit more from the processors. That said, not many of us are trying to dominate the world through a smartphone – although I’m pretty sure that the Mi A2 will be able to cater to that too.
Call Quality & Connectivity
The connectivity on the Mi A2 is everything you’ll need when it comes to a smartphone; from WiFi to dual 4G standby. That said, I’m going to be looking at the connectivity and call quality of the smartphone.
Most users have a smartphone to stay connected. One aspect of being connected is calls. The Mi A2 performs pretty well when it comes to call quality. The person on the other end didn’t sound tinny or robotic, the speech was warm and natural. However, there were some instances where the earpiece volume would fluxuate – although this could be a problem with the overall network coverage and quality as well.
That said, the Mi A2 had more stable 4G LTE connectivity to both Maxis and DiGi when I tested it. In fact, it could connect to the 4G LTE networks when some of the other flagship devices struggled to connect. I’m pretty sure that’s a testament to the more than capable modem in the Snapdragon 660. It also outclassed some devices with the Snapdragon 835 which was surprising to me.
Other than that, the Mi A2 also has one of the better WiFi antennae in the market. It could connect to my home and office WiFi when other devices abandoned all hope. That said, it also had attachment issues. By this I mean that it needed to let go of the connection but didn’t. I had to turn WiFi off to force it on cellular.
When it came to GPS connectivity, the Mi A2 had a few issues during my time with it. In fact, I would say that the GPS needs a lot of improvement. Accuracy on Waze and Google Maps was spotty especially on cloudy days which I haven’t experienced on any device. It may have been a bug in the software but it did affect the overall experience. However, aside from physical disruptions, GPS worked fine.
With 4GB and 6GB of RAM, this device is definitely geared for mutlitasking. In fact, I was able to have YouTube and navigation running at the same time. Yes, it did take a toll on my battery life and run the phone a little warm, but it did smoothly. I was able to navigate YouTube seamlessly while still having active GPS tracking on Google Maps. (No, I did not do this while I was the driver)
The large display is definitely a boon to the device. It’s able to provide you with enough graphical real estate to do split screen comfortably. In addition, when using the picture in picture multitasking, the size of the picture in picture was able to be set to a more visually friendly size.
In all my instances multitasking, there was little to no lag or screen tearing. In fact, the phone breezed through and still lasted me more than a day with battery.
The Mi A2 is no slouch in the gaming department. While games like PUBG weren’t able to perform sreamlessly on maxed out settings, set on a slightly lower setting, the phone performs admirably. That said, the device does run a little warm when gaming. On other games such as Arena of Valor, the game’s settings were able to be maxed out.
Throughout my gaming experience with the Mi A2 I rarely had screen tearing. The only instance when I did was in PUBG when I was tying to max out the settings. While screen tearing did occur, there was little lag. The overall graphics when playing games was good, the colour and vibrance of the screen really added to the experience.
The audio experience with the Mi A2 while gaming was good but not great. The single down firing speaker of the Mi A2 struggled to keep with the ambient sounds and even explosions in games creating an unpleasant tearing noise when put too high. That said, loudness is definitely not a problem with the speaker on the A2. It can go loud, but whether you should – that’s another case.
The battery life on the Mi A2 is not bad. In fact, at its longest, I was able to get about a day and a half ov moderate use on the Mi A2. This is definitely a boon to overall user experience.
On a typical day, without me using my phone, it would be doing a lot of background synchronising with my multiple email accounts ( I have 7 for work only). That’s excluding the sunchronisation from my social media such as facebook and twitter. I also use my phone as an alarm clock. So the morning start with a lot of noise and background synching when it comes to my phone. This barely dented the batter of the Mi A2 going down only 2 to 3%.
I listen to podcasts on my commute, sometimes on YouTube with video. I also tend to pick up my phone to check social media quite a bit through the day as well as reply emails. That’s about a good 3 hours of screen on time.
At the end of a typical day, I’d have about 20% of battery left on the Mi A2; which is a lot more than I get with other smartphones.
The Mi A2’s IPS display is one of the better displays that I’ve seen on the market. For the A2’s price category, it’s possibly one of the best.
The colours on the screen are quite true to life. The display doesn’t blow out or over saturate colours. The colour tone is slightly on the cooler side but isn’t harsh on the eyes. The cooler tones seem to allow the panel to better reproduce colours and contrasts in pictures and images. That said, you don’t get the pitch blacks you see on AMOLED or Super AMOLED screens, but that isn’t a make or break factor.
The display is also comfortable to work on as it has just enough real estate to allow you to navigate PDFs and documents easily. Even working on videos on the go or even images is a sitch with the display.
All in all, the 5.99-inch FullView display provides an immersive experience that allows you consume your YouTube videos and even series on Netflix without much strain. Even working on the display is comfortable as the pixel density is just right.
The Xiaomi Mi A2 comes with an impressive 12-megapixel + 20-megapixel dual sensor. Of course, if you look at the market, every other phone has a dual sensor setup, so just what makes the Mi A2 stand out?
The main cameras of the Mi A2 are really impressive for a device at its price point. The large pixelage of the camera gives a lot of detail in the shots taken with the Mi A2. Of course, the amount of detail in a picture is highly dependant on the availble lighting when the shot is taken as well as the post processing done by the device and the software. That said, the Mi A2’s pictures have been some of the best pictures I’ve taken on a smartphone.
The sensor setup and also the design of the app make taking pictures a real breeze. Albeit, the Mi A2’s camera isn’t perfect, while it does take admirable night shots and low light photos, the camera does loose quite a bit of detail in the pictures under strained conditions. However, comparatively, the Mi A2 does stand above its competition when it comes to the camera. The sensors large aperture helps to compensate for light.
The front camera of the Mi A2 also performs quite well. The selfies taken with the Mi A2 are pretty good, given the right lighting conditions. Indoors, the camera tends to struggle a little bit but still gives pretty decent pictures overall.
Overall, the cameras of the Mi A2 deliver a consistent experience even after updates. The stability of the software and also the performance overall puts the camera experience a little above the competition.
Striking an Impressive Balance Between Price and Features
The Mi A2 is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the Mi as a company. The device build is solid with solid software performance. It strikes a unique balance between its price and the features that comes with phone; making it one of the best all rounders and value for money devices out there. Even with the higher specification version, the price is just right when it comes to the Mi A2.
If you’re looking for a good all rounder and aren’t looking to spend the amount of money needed for a flagship, the Mi A2 is pretty much the phone for you. That said, don’t expect the phone to out perform a lot of the flagship class devices out there; but you’ll get comparable performance with better battery life and a more stable software experience than most of them.
Also published on Medium.