Xiaomi Mi 4 review: Beautiful design and snappy performance combine to impress

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MIUI keeps every app in the home screens. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

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MIUI lets you quickly move apps around on the home screen. Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

One of the best things about MIUI is the ability to customize how it looks. You can easily load up the Themes app to switch things around. There are a whole bunch of free and paid themes you can download, and if you're feeling particularly fruit-flavoured, there's also the option to download an iOS 7 skin that even has the background parallax effect.

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For when you're feeling particularly naughty... Screenshot by Aloysius Low/CNET

On August 16, Xiaomi will launch a new version of MIUI, so things may be different by the time the Mi 4 hits markets outside China. We'll update this review with more information when that happens.

If you're importing the phone from China, bear in mind that version lacks Google Play services such as the Play Store and Gmail. You can add them by searching for Google in the phone's app store, the MI Market, and installing the app by Eric Xiang -- it allows you to easily download and install the required files.

Camera

One of the best things about the Mi 4 is its camera. The shutter is snappy and MIUI has built-in manual controls that let you adjust exposure and shutter speeds. If you don't need that, the default auto mode is good enough as well.

In my tests, the phone was capable of taking really good pictures even in low-light conditions. I'm really pretty impressed with it, especially when I used manual controls to shoot fireworks.

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Shooting fireworks while using the manual controls (click to enlarge). Aloysius Low/CNET

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Close up shot (click to enlarge). Aloysius Low/CNET

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Outdoor shot (click to enlarge) Aloysius Low/CNET

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Indoor test shot (click to enlarge). Aloysius Low/CNET

Performance

As you'd expect from a high-end device, the Mi 4 delivered slick performance comparable to other top-notch mobiles.

Interestingly, when I started the Quadrant benchmark, the phone asked if I wanted to use a high-performance mode or stick to the current balanced mode. It scored 24,055 in high-performance and 15,954 in balanced. On LinPack it obtained a blazing 901.961 MFLOPs over 0.19 seconds.

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Call quality

Calls came through crisp and clear, and the person on the other end reported no issues either. The speaker volume feels just about right. While it isn't the loudest, you likely won't be missing any calls while the phone is in your pocket.

Battery life

In normal use, the 3,080mAh battery managed to last a day and a half, though I suspect with the LTE model, this should fall to a day. We're still testing the battery life with our CNET Labs Video app, so check back later for the official result.

Conclusion

Xiaomi's advantage at the moment is that it can deliver decent devices at prices that blow its competition away. The Mi 4 is no exception. Sure, the design is more than inspired by Apple, but really, which modern smartphone isn't?

The Mi 4 easily ranks as one of the better smartphones this year, but you'd be hard-pressed to get hold of one right now. Expect stocks to be limited when it finally sells outside China, but the Mi 4 is an Android phone worth trying to get your hands on.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Xiaomi Mi 4

Part Number: Mi 4

MSRP: $400.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 5.26 oz
  • Diagonal Size 5.0 in
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