Mi4c Detailed Review: King of Budget Flagship?

Released last September 2015 in China, Xiaomi’s Mi4c is among the rarest gems you can buy, even today. Though not official available here in the Philippines, you can find it on online shopping sites like Lazada. Sporting flagship specifications for budget pricing. The device was a hit last November 2016 because of the very low price of less than P5,000. Garnering flagship level specs and favorable review, many users bought the device. Since then, it’s gaining popularity and is one of the most awaited sale by many.

NOTE: The unit reviewed here is the 16Gb ROM & 2Gb RAM variant running on MIUI 8 China Stable ROM. There’s also a 32Gb ROM & 3Gb RAM variant but with a much steeper pricing compared to the former.

Is the Xiaomi Mi4c the King of Budget Flagship? Does it hold ground against same units on the same price range? Read along to find out.

UPDATE: A user contacted Hellotronics, primary reseller of the unit, asking when they might restock Xiaomi Mi4. The reseller responded that it won’t restock the unit anytime soon.


[no_image: device screen while on aida64/droid info]

DEVICE SPECIFICATIONS

  • MIUI 7 (Android Lollipop 5.1.1 based)
  • MIUI 8 (Android Lollipop 5.1.1 & Android 7.0 Nougat based)
  • 2G, 3G, 4G LTE
  • 5.0″ IPS LCD 1080 x 1920 pixels (~441 ppi pixel density)
    • Sunlight Display Technology
  • Snapdragon 808 Hexa-core CPU
    • 4 x 1.4GHz Cortex-A53
    • 2 x 1.8GHz Cortex-A57
  • Adreno 418 GPU
  • 16Gb ROM + 2Gb RAM / 32Gb ROM + 3Gb RAM
    • No SD card slot
  • 13 MP (f/2.0, PDAF) rear camera w/ two-tone flash
  • 5 MP (f/2.0, wide-angle view) front facing camera
  • Dual microSIM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
  • Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • Loudspeaker, headphone jack, IR Blaster, Type-C 1.0 reversible port
    • Dedicated rear mic w/ active noise cancellation
  • Accelerometer, gyroscope, light sensor, proximity sensor
  • 3080 mAh non-removable Li-Polymer battery
  • 138.1 x 69.6 x 7.8 mm (5.44 x 2.74 x 0.31 in)
  • 132 g (4.66 oz)

Source: Blog LinkGSMArena


UNBOXING

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Simple and plain orange rectangular box with a simple MI logo in front

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Contents of the orange box

Inside the package are the following:

  • Mi4c (built in battery)
  • Quick Charge 2.0 charger
  • USB Type-C Male to USB Type-A Female data & charging cable
  • SIM ejector pin
  • Manuals on Chinese text

Xiaomi did everything to make the device relatively cheap, as they did not even include an earphone.The device might be already on low battery or empty state when first turned ON, so you might want to charge it before using. Thankfully, the device supports Quick Charge 2.0 and there is a quick charge supported charger included that support multiple power outputs (5V/2A, 9V/1.5A & 12V/1A). The included Type-C data & charging cable is good quality because of the thick and sturdy build.


DESIGN & BUILD

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Mi4c in the flesh (or plastic?). Photo credits to Edaño Jenny

The polycarbonate plastic material used on the physical build is firm and solid. Even though Xiaomi reused the design from previous Mi4i, the overall look and feel does not look cheap. There are no squeaky noises or loose parts even when light pressure is applied on the phone.

NOTE: Some users reported hearing a small noise when quickly tapping the back case, particularly near the camer. Feel no worries as this is just normal, as it’s part of the auto focus of the rear camera.

The five (5) inches display has relatively small black bezels on all sides in contrast to other five (5) incher phones; easier for gripping and sliding inside one’s pocket. The overall weight is also light; very handy and comfortable even at long usage.

The screen produces deep black levels color when turned off, a feature we mostly see on AMOLED and high quality IPS displays. The screen does not have any kind of protective glass, instead it uses Concore Glass on the display panel.

[no_image: device back cover]

The back cover ships with different colors such as pink, yellow, white, gray, black and blue. It comes with matte surface, offering better grip and minimizing fingerprint smudges. While not user removable friendly, it can be removed with use of special tools. Protective cases are preferred to be used on this device for additional protection.

NOTE: Beware on senior and clear cases as they might put dents and scratches on the back cover, instead  cases made of rubber material are preferable for long-term use and protection.


PERFORMANCE & GAMING

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AnTuTu benchmark score

Powered by Qualcomm’s Hexa-core Snapdragon 808 CPU with 2Gb/3Gb of RAM, the device is no slouch when it comes to overall performance and multitasking, mainly for light apps. Expect occasional force closes on  apps with the 2Gb RAM variant when switching between apps.  The animations when navigating the interface is fluid with minimal lags, though, some stutter or delay when multitasking but not really a deal breaker.

MIUI, already on 8th major version, is still a RAM eater as about 1Gb of RAM is often the available even after cold boot (2Gb RAM variant).

[no_image: device screen while playing game]

Gaming on this phone is top-notch, as it can play most demanding games on high settings with barely no or minimal lag or stutter, thanks to the powerful Adreno 418 GPU.

NOTE: With same architecture and design as Snapdragon 810, the Snapdragon 808 is also prone to overheating specifically when playing very demanding and 3D intensive games or apps. Thermal throttling will kick in once the device reaches a certain temperature, lowering the performance of the device dramatically by almost 20-60%. Long gaming sessions might make the device hot and will often lag or stutter. One workaround, to minimize heating, is to play only when the device has external cooling like an electric fan, air-conditioner or any cooling devices to prevent thermal throttling and preserve battery life.


PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO RECORDING

Rear Camera: Image Capture

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Rear camera: Image capture user interface

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Rear camera: Shooting modes

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Rear camera: Image filters

Very good image quality is produced in comparison with other devices with same price bracket. The saturation and color reproduction is also very good and accurate. Fair amount of noise even at high ISO settings. It also has manual mode offering manual controls on the white balance, ISO, shutter speed and focus.

NOTE: ISO Range: 100 – 3200, Shutter Speed Range: 1/1000s – 1/2s

HDR mode produces fairly saturated images, making the colors pop out from your screen. Perfect for nature shots and colorful images or if you want to reduce shadows and add vividness to your photos.

Additional modes include panorama, straighten, beautify, HHT (night mode) and tilt shift.

The Dual Tone flash is used to capture more real life colors. Very good and bright when used as a flash light during night.

Rear Camera: Video recording

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Rear camera: Video recording user interface

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Rear camera: Video recording modes

Despite having 4k video recording capabilities, camera on Mi4c can only record up to 1080p @ 30 fps. Good video quality, good sharpening and saturation of colors. There are no any form of image stabilization though, so some might experience shaky videos with hand-held use.

NOTE: Custom ROMs added support for 4k video recording

Tolerable motion blurring when used in low light with panning.

Video mode features single fixed focus or continuous auto focus.

An additional mic is located at the back to help capture sounds better.

Front Camera: Image Capture

[no_image: device screen shot in ffc image capture mode]

Good picture quality can be expected on the front facing camera mainly during outside or daylight. The low light and indoor performance is a downer because it creates a somewhat muddy quality and inadequate sharpening on the image.

It features adjustable beautify mode for better and flawless selfies.

Front Camera: Video Recording

[no_image: device screen shot in ffc video mode]

Good performance like the rear camera and also record up to 1080p quality. Average performance on indoor and outdoors. There are some noticeable lags in low light & indoors.


SOUND & CALLS

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Loud and clear loudspeaker during music playback and calls

The rear speaker produces clear and clean sounds from low to middle values. Has good treble but weak bass on particularly on loud volumes.

Using earphones or headphones is another story, as the sounds output might vary depending on the quality of those accessories.

The built-in equalizer can be used when an audio accessory is connected but is more tailored for Mi sound accessories.

[no_image: device earpiece]

Call quality is also very good because of the noise cancellation mic on the back of the device, eliminating background noises. Slight digitization of the voice but very tolerable. Same review when using loud-speaker.

When used at landscape mode, fingers/hand might cover the speaker so you have to adjust and get used to it or use sound accessories for better audio quality output.


DISPLAY & MULTIMEDIA

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Full HD display with vibrant colors. Photo credits to Edaño Jenny

The device is equipped with a Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) IPS LCD display panel. Very sharp display because of the 441ppi pixel density. The IPS OGS display makes it very thin and no sunken display can be seen. Accurate and good color reproduction on the display in any normal viewing angles. The display colors also pop, feel vibrant and lively in comparison with IPS display of other brands in the same price range.

[no_image: device backlit buttons]

Backlit capacitive buttons; Menu (used as recent app switcher in MIUI), Home and Back, are located at the bottom part.

Using Sunlight Display technology, the screen is viewable even on broad daylight by dynamically adjusting brightness and inreasing contrast. At night, the display can also be adjusted to a very dim brightness, in conjunction with reading mode (reduces blue tones thus reducing eyestrain), makes an excellent companion at night.

[no_image: device screen shot in dt2w & edge tap]

The device also supports double tap on the screen to wake (reducing wear & tear on the power button), assistive touch like controls and Edge controls (double tap on the side to go back or take a picture in camera app).


CONNECTIVITY

[no_image: device screen focused on signal bars]

The device supports 4G LTE bands of famous cellular networks here in the Philippines. Although there’s no support for 700MHz LTE (band 28). Not really a deal breaker mainly when there are still limited LTE coverage on the country. It has good network reception though, even on rural areas.

The WiFi reception and bandwidth performance is also very good. It also supports 5GHz band in addition from the common 2.4GHz band a/b/g/n/ac.

GPS locks pretty fast and accurate particularly when using WiFi network.


OPERATING SYSTEM & SOFTWARE

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Mi4c running on MIUI 8. Photo credits to Edaño Jenny

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MIUI 8 homescreen

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Themeable interface and controls

Like other smartphones and tablet products by Xiaomi, Mi4c is also running on skinned Android user interface called MIUI. Tampered MIUI 7 based on Android Lollipop 5.1 is the operating system installed on many of the new units bought from Lazada. It’s recommended to install Official MIUI 8 China ROM for better stability, minimize heating issues and bugs from the Tampered ROM.

If you want to know more about Android ROMs regarding Mi4c, head on here. Android ROM: Guide for Beginners

In my opinion, MIUI is one of the best implementation of a 3rd party Android user interface modification in the market. Vast and lots of features with consistent updates directly from Xiaomi. One advantage of MIUI is that the features and versions does not solely rely on the Android version, that’s why MIUI with Android Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat might have similar features.

To learn more about MIUI, go here: MIUI 8 New Features | MIUI – Wikipedia

Custom ROMs development is also abundant on Mi4c. It even has official support & development on Android Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat ROMs from popular Custom ROMs (MIUI EU, AICP, ResurrectionRemix, Mokee, Flyme etc.) as of writing.


 STORAGE, PORTS & SENSORS

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Lower right view: USB Type-C and mic at the bottom. Volume rockers and power button at the right side

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Upper left view: 3.5mm headphone jack and IR blaster sits on top. 5MP front facing camera,LED notification light, earpiece, proximity sensor and light sensor, together with MI logo, at the top bezel. The dual microSIM card tray accessible the left side.

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Back view: 13MP rear camera, dual tone flash and noise cancellation mic at the top. MI logo and speaker grill the bottom

Mi4c has 16Gb and 32Gb variants, both having identical specs & features, the only difference is the RAM, 2Gb and 3Gb respectively. The device does not have any SD card slot.

The 3.5mm headphone jack and IR Blaster (for controlling devices/appliances with infrared receiver) sits at the top while the new USB Type-C port and primary microphone are at the bottom.

[no_image: device screen shot in sensors]

The device has abundant of sensors like accelerometer, proximity, light sensor, gyroscope (for 360 videos and pictures; VR and AR apps or games), compass/direction sensor, orientation sensor, etc.

[no_image: device LED notif]

The LED notification light is located at the upper part of the screen, on the right side of the front facing camera, with 7 customizable colors.

Volume rocker and power buttons are located at the right side of the device. The left side houses the dual micro SIM tray.


CHARGING & BATTERY LIFE

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Mi4c supports Quick Charge 2.0 via included wall charger

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Battery usage

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Average screen on time

With Full HD display and 3080 mAh non-removable battery, battery life is almost the same on devices with identical specs. The device can last a day or more with very light and occasional usage.

With straight usage, these are the possible screen on time duration are:

  • WiFi, Facebook, Messenger & Chrome = 4.5 ~ 5.5 hrs
  • WiFi & Online gaming (3D & heavy)= 3.5 ~ 4.5 hrs
  • Cellular data, Facebook, Messenger & Chrome = 3.5 ~ 4.5 hrs
  • Cellular data & Online gaming (3D & heavy)= 3 ~ 4 hrs
  • Gaming only (3D & heavy)= 4 ~ 5 hrs

NOTE: The stats above are based on personal usage, screen on time might vary depending on usage and running apps. Installed ROM might also affect average screen on time.

The device supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, charging it from 0 – 100% in less than 2 hours.


CONCLUSIONS

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  • Solid and excellent physical build and design
  • Excellent performance on gaming and photography
  • Very good WiFi and network reception
  • Issues with Tampered ROM can be fixed by installing Official or Custom ROMs
  • Heating issue is tolerable but might be a turn-off for some users
  • Complete set of sensors with IR Blaster and NEW USB Type-C port
  • Non-expandable storage is a deal breaker particularly on the 16Gb variant
  • Good battery life on casual and heavy usage, Quick Charge 2.0 support is a plus

FINAL VERDICT

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Photo credits to Edaño Jenny

With newer devices from Xiaomi such as Redmi Note 3, Redmi 3/3S/3X, Redmi 4/4X/4A, etc. and from other brands, the throne for the King of Budget Flagship is now a tighter competition. Still, Mi4c holds ground against competitors and a recommended buy particularly if you want flagship performance and good camera for a low price.


CREDITS

  • Edaño Jenny for some of the pictures.
  • Xiaomi Mi4c Philippines & Mi4c Philippines for the user feedbacks and information
  • GSMArena for the detailed specifications and review

NOTES

  • Thank you for reading this long and detailed review of Xiaomi Mi4c
  • Comment your suggestions, recommendation, reactions or wrong/insufficient information below.
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