Xiaomi Mi 4, one of the hottest Chinese-bred flagships of 2014, got two modifications over the course of its lifecycle – that’s an achievement right there. The Mi 4i was more of an attractive mid-ranger rather than a Mi 4 spiritual successor, but the Mi 4c is what we call a flagship in disguise and a true successor of the Mi 4.
Xiaomi is supposed to announce the anticipated Mi 5 in just few weeks, but yet it surprised its loyal fans with a device so good that it’s almost impossible to resist. The Xiaomi Mi 4c looks absolutely the same as the Mi 4i. And this is where the ordinary talk ends.
The new Mi 4c is widely advertised because of the Fast Charging-enabled USB Type-C port. In fact, Xiaomi thought this was a major enough upgrade to add the letter ‘c’ in the name. But there is more about the Mi 4c than that. Take the powerful Snapdragon 808 chip for example. It’s the one to power LG’s latest creations – the top of the shelf G4 and V10, and Xiaomi is shipping this flagship-grade hardware at half the G4 asking price.
The camera got upgraded too – it is now capable of higher resolution panoramic images and higher resolution slow-mo videos. And there is the refreshed and stylish MIUI v7 coming right out of the box.
Like its forerunner the Mi4i, the Mi4C has an all-plastic exterior. The polycarbonate shell brings to mind the iPhone 5C, but the finish is matte rather than glossy, increasing grip in the hand. While metal-clad smartphones are becoming more common due to the premium nature of the materials, you can’t accuse the Mi4C of feeling cheap and nasty; the case is solid and well-made, with no creakiness to speak of.
This is partly down to the fact that the battery inside can’t be removed, ensuring that the unit can be sealed tightly and securely at the point of manufacture. With a height of 138mm and thickness of 7.8mm, it’s a pleasingly compact unit – certainly much smaller than the Nexus 5X, which boasts a similar-sized screen.
The front of the phone showcases the 1080p, 5-inch IPS LCD screen, which has the three traditional Android commands at the bottom. At the top you’ll see the Mi logo, earpiece and front-facing 5-megapixel camera. Around the rear are a 13-megapixel snapper, dual-LED flash and speaker, which is surprisingly loud and punchy.
The left-hand side has the micro-SIM tray – which can accommodate two SIMs, as is the tradition with many phones aimed at the Chinese market – while the right-hand side has the volume rocker and power button.
On the top of the phone you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone socket. Personally, I’d have preferred this to be along the bottom edge, like it is with the Galaxy S6. An IR blaster sits up here too, which turns the phone into a remote control for your TV or stereo.
On the bottom there’s the USB Type-C connector – a first for Xiaomi. This banishes the issue of plugging the power lead in the wrong way around, and also means the phone supports faster data transfer (assuming the other device also has Type-C) and quick charging.
There’s no fingerprint scanner, nor NFC inside, so the Mi4C won’t support Google’s contactless Android Pay system when it rolls out next year. The lack of NFC is disappointing when you consider how long it has been commonplace in other Android handsets, but Xiaomi has claimed in the past that very few people actually use it. That might have been true a few years ago, but thanks to Apple’s efforts in the contactless payment arena, it’s about to become a pretty essential feature – and it’s a shame the Mi4C doesn’t have it.
The lack of a microSD card slot may also put off some buyers. Instead you’re stuck with the standard 16GB of storage (32GB if you opt for the more expensive model, which also has an extra 1GB of RAM).
The 1,080 x 1,920 pixel IPS LCD screen on the Mi4C is 5-inches from corner to corner and boasts a 441ppi pixel density – more than adequate for a display of this size. For an LCD panel the contrast is excellent, with deep, convincing blacks mixing neatly with brighter, more vibrant colours. For a phone that costs this little, it’s a remarkable display in terms of quality.
Xiaomi has included a sunlight mode, which makes the screen easier to see outdoors. In general it works well – although the shininess of the glass that covers the display does sometimes make it hard to see past the glare and reflections.
While we’re on the topic of glass, it’s worth pointing out that Xiaomi hasn’t specified what material has been used here – there’s no mention of Gorilla Glass anywhere in the specification list. While this doesn’t preclude the use of some form of protective covering, I noticed that the screen on my review unit has already picked up quite a deep scratch, so it might be prudent to treat the phone with kid gloves.
One feature I really liked – which was disabled in the options menu by default – is the ability to double-tap the display to wake up the handset. I’m amazed that more mobile manufacturers don’t include this as standard in their products.
The similar-looking Mi4i was saddled with a Snapdragon 615, but Xiaomi isn’t cutting corners with its successor. The Mi4C has a Snapdragon 808 – the same chipset seen in LG’s flagship G4 and Nexus 5X devices. It’s backed with 2GB of RAM, although a 3GB variant – with more storage to boot – is also available.
Despite the technical parity with the Nexus 5X, I actually found the Mi4C supplied a faster, smoother experience overall. This is almost certainly down to the optimisations found within MIUI 7, which seems to prioritise touchscreen responsiveness and animations, giving the phone an iOS-like level of smoothness. However, like the Nexus 5X, the Mi4C becomes hot very quickly, which suggests that Qualcomm’s problems with the overheating Snapdragon 810 haven’t been totally solved with the revised 808.
In terms of benchmarks, the Mi4C predictably ranks alongside the Nexus 5X. Using Geekbench, the phone returns a single-core score of 1,285, while the 5X scores 1,263. The same app’s multi-core score is 3,336 for the Mi4C and 3436 on the 5X. That’s impressive in itself – after all, the 5X costs more than twice as much as Xiaomi’s phone – but the AnTuTu test is even more striking. The Mi4C scores over 50,000, placing it above the LG G4, Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 and HTC One (M8). While the price is undeniably a budget one, the handset is capable of delivering mid-to-top tier performance.
The Mi4C’s main mono speaker is located on the rear of the phone, which means when it’s in your pocket – screen facing in – you’re more likely to hear it in public. It’s not as loud as the one on the Nexus 6 or Galaxy S6, and there’s some distortion at full volume, but compared to the feeble speaker on the Nexus 5X, the difference is like night and day.
Thanks to a second noise-cancelling microphone, the Mi4C performs brilliantly when it comes to making and receiving phone calls. Audio quality is high, and I never experienced any issues hearing the person on the other end of the line.
If you’re with O2 – or use an operator that uses O2’s network, such as Giffgaff or Tesco Mobile – then you’ll be limited to just 3G data on the Mi4C. It supports the 1,800MHz and 2,600MHz 4G LTE bands, but not the 800MHz 4G band that O2’s network uses.
It wasn’t very long ago that mid- and budget-level smartphone owners had to endure terrible cameras with basic options and poor video recording, but those days seem to be well and truly behind us. The Mi4C sports a 13-megapixel sensor – made by either Sony or Samsung, depending on which production batch you have – with phase-detection autofocus, two-tone dual-LED flash, 1080p video recording and much more besides.
Colours are suitably rich
Photos are full of detail
Night time shots aren’t terrible
Compared to the unacceptably sluggish camera seen on the Nexus 5X, the one on the Mi4C feels fast and responsive – not quite Galaxy S6 standard, but certainly impressive for a phone in this price bracket. Focus time – even in low light – is swift, although the lack of optical image stabilisation does mean that some shots end up a little blurry. It’s a bit much to expect a budget device to come with OIS, however – Apple reserved the feature for the iPhone 6S Plus, but denied it to iPhone 6S owners.
The biggest gains are felt within the camera software, which Xiaomi has constructed from scratch, and – surprise, surprise – is heavily inspired by Apple’s own camera app. HDR, face detection and on-the-fly filters all come as standard, as do a few unusual features, such as a fish-eye lens effect and an audio-shutter option, which allows you to trigger the photo using your voice.
Manual controls are also supported, so you can tinker with elements such as the white balance and ISO. Compared to the frustratingly slow, buggy and feature-poor camera app on the Nexus 5X, this is a joy to use.
For a phone that’s so compact and svelte, it’s surprising to find that the Mi4C packs a 3,080mAh battery – quite a high-capacity unit for this kind of phone. By comparison, the Nexus 5X has a 2,700mAh battery and the Galaxy S6 has a 2,550mAh battery.
MIUI 7 comes with a power profile manager that allows you to scale back the processor in order to conserve juice, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we didn’t really need it. Even with moderate usage the Mi4C comfortably lasted well over a day, and in some cases we were able to wring almost two out of a single charge. If you choose to use both SIM card slots on the phone then you’ll see a considerable drop in stamina, however.
The fact that it supports USB Type-C and comes with a quick-charging wall charger also helps. While it doesn’t top up as quickly as the blisteringly fast Galaxy S6, the Mi4C doesn’t need long on the mains before it reaches 100%.
Display: 5.0 inch, 1920×1080 Pixel
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 64bit Hexa Core 1.44GHz
GPU: Adreno 418
System: Android 5.1 ( MIUI 8 )
RAM + ROM: 2GB RAM + 16GB ROM
Camera: 5.0MP with 85 degree wide-angle, f/2.0 aperture front camera + 13.0MP 5 element lens, f/2.0 aperture back camera
Sensor: Light sensor, G-sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall Sensor
Feature: Gyroscope, Electronic Compass
SIM Card: Dual SIM dual standby, Dual Micro SIM
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
|Basic Information||Brand: Xiaomi
Type: 4G Smartphone
OS: Android 5.1
Service Provider: Unlocked
Languages: Afrikaans, Indonesian, Malay, Bosnian, Catalan, Czech, Danish, German, Estonian, English, Spanish, Filipino, French, Croatian, Zulu, Italian, Swahili, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Rumantsch, Slovak, Slovenian, Finnish, Swedish, Vietnamese, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Russian, Serb, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Amharic, Hindi, Bengali, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Lao, Galego, Kurdish, Luxembourgish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese
SIM Card Slot: Dual SIM,Dual Standby
SIM Card Type: Dual Micro SIM Card
|Hardware||CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 64bit
Cores: 1.44GHz,Hexa Core
GPU: Adreno 418
RAM: 2GB RAM
External Memory: Not Supported
|Network||Wireless Connectivity: 4G,A-GPS,Bluetooth,GPS,WiFi
WIFI: 802.11b/g/n wireless internet
Network type: FDD-LTE+WCDMA+GSM
3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
|Display||Screen type: Capacitive (5-Points)
Screen size: 5.0 inch
Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 (FHD)
Pixels Per Inch (PPI): 441
|Camera||Camera type: Dual cameras (one front one back)
Back camera: 13.0MP
Front camera: 5.0MP
Video recording: Yes
Auto Focus: Yes
Camera Functions: Face Beauty,Face Detection
|Media Formats||Picture format: BMP,GIF,JPEG,PNG
Music format: AAC,AMR,MP3,WAV
Video format: ASF,MKV,MP4
MS Office format: Excel,PPT,Word
E-book format: PDF,TXT
|Other Features||I/O Interface: 2 x Micro SIM Card Slot,3.5mm Audio Out Port,Type-C
Sensor: Accelerometer,Ambient Light Sensor,Gravity Sensor,Proximity Sensor,Three-axis Gyro
Notification LED: Yes
Sound Recorder: Yes
Additional Features: 4G,Bluetooth,Browser,Calculator,Calendar,E-book,GPS,MP3,MP4,People,Sound Recorder,Video Call,Wi-Fi
|Battery||Battery Capacity (mAh): 3000mAh / 3080mAh (typ）Built-in Battery
Battery Type: Lithium-ion Polymer Battery
|Package Contents||Cell Phone: 1
Power Adapter: 1
USB Cable: 1
|Dimensions||Product size: 13.81 x 6.96 x 0.78 cm / 5.44 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
Package size: 18.00 x 12.00 x 6.00 cm / 7.09 x 4.72 x 2.36 inches
Product weight: 0.126 kg
Package weight: 0.500 kg