Introduction

Xiaomi is in no mood to slow down and the Mi 4 is ready to succeed one of the most popular Chinese smartphones, the Mi 3. Riding the new wave of made-in-China flagships, with the likes of Oppo, Meizu and Huawei, this one is a highly anticipated sequel that has its mind on shaking the market just like its predecessor.

Xiaomi Mi 3 paved the way with its spotless design, high-quality unibody build, top-notch hardware package and clean and responsive MIUI. Not to mention the affordable price tag, which is one of the key reasons why Xiaomi is so popular. Well, the Mi 3 is still not going anywhere, as it remains Xiaomi's flagship on a number of markets, but the next iteration will surely try and nudge it out of the spotlight.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4 official pictures

The Xiaomi Mi 4 has the same form factor and uses a similar 5" 1080p IPS display. So what's new about it? Well, for starters, it has a brand new glossy plastic shell for the rear cover, which can be replaced with a wide choice of optional patterns and textures, including bamboo and stone. The highlight of the new design however is the metal frame, which gives the Mi 4 a more solid, premium feel. The Mi 4 is also a tad more compact than the Mi 3.

As becomes of a new flagship, there are upgrades under the hood, too. Snapdragon 801 takes over from the older generation, bringing faster Adreno 330 graphics and more RAM (3GB). Xiaomi has also added LTE connectivity and enabled 4K video recording. A massive 8MP front-facer promises some of the best selfies in the business.

The Xiaomi Mi 4 runs MIUI v5 based on Android 4.4.3 KitKat, but it will most certainly be updated to the next version, currently in beta release. MIUI v6 brings flat iOS7-like interface, prettier and more feature-rich. Don't you worry Mi 3 owners, you will be getting it too.

So let's check the Xiaomi Mi 4's main feature list.

Key features

  • 5" IPS 1080p capacitive touchscreen of 441ppi
  • Android 4.4.3 KitKat with MIUI v.5, upgradable to MIUI v.6
  • 2.5GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU; 3GB of RAM; Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset
  • 13MP camera, f/1.8 aperture, LED flash, 4K video capture, HDR video, 1080p@30fps, 720p@120fps
  • 8MP front-facing camera; 1080p video recording
  • 16/64 GB of built-in memory
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated microphone
  • 3,080mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No Gorilla Glass
  • No microSD card slot
  • No user-replaceable battery
  • No NFC
  • Sold exclusively online

The lack of a microSD slot isn't unexpected. No Mi flagship, besides the very first one, has ever come with expandable storage.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4 live pictures

Other than that though, the equipment is flagship-grade. Xiaomi has put some extra effort into the Mi 4's design as well. Perhaps a bit too much even. The customization options are probably second to the Moto X only but going squarely after the iPhone is a questionable decision compared to the subtle but powerful Nokia-like aesthetics of the previous generation.

Anyway, we have the review to decide where we stand on that - and getting right to it. We're back after the jump for our traditional tour of the exterior.

We would like to thank XiaomiShop.com for providing this review unit.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi isn't keen on packing more than the very basics. Just like in the previous generation, the Xiaomi Mi 4's packaging is made of recycled paper and contains only an A/C adapter and a microUSB cable.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4 retail package

XiaomiShop.com, the provider of our review unit, throws in a bunch of freebies in every box and ours came with a screen protector, a fancy flip case, an EU adapter, a USB car charger plug, and a small capacitive stylus that conveniently plugs into the 3.5mm audio jack.

Xiaomi Mi 4

The accessories XiaomiShop throws in for free

Xiaomi Mi 4 360-degree view

Even though the Xiaomi Mi 4 has the same 5" display as the Mi 3, its footprint is smaller. This is possible thanks to the much slimmer screen bezels. The Xiaomi Mi 4 measures 139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9mm - half a centimeter shorter and narrower than the Mi 3. The Xiaomi Mi 4 has gained some weight compared to the Mi 3 (to a total of 149 grams). It's only 4 grams worth of a difference, hardly anything you'd notice, but the solid feel is there.

Design and build quality

Xiaomi took a U-turn with the Mi 4 design, dropping the polycarbonate unibody, which we praised, in favor of a metal frame with flat sides a la iPhone 5s, complete with a hard-to-remove rear cover.

The visual change is controversial. We really liked the Lumia-like design of the Xiaomi Mi 3, subtly and effortlessly elegant. The Mi 4 is by far more sophisticated but not as convincing. Maybe it'll have its fair share of fans too.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4

The back cover on the Mi 4 is certainly removable, proven by the assortment of swappable back covers to choose from, however it's certainly not readily removable. There are as many as 17 clips holding it tight and you would really need a small suction cup to undo them with pulling.

The stainless steel frame is definitely the highlight of the Mi 4's exterior. It adds to the phone's style and gives it the premium feel it deserves. The rear cover is made of glossy plastic, which is prone to fingerprints and smudges. If kept clean though, the Mi 4's back is nice, reminiscent of a glass shell.

Depending on where you reside, you might have an option to purchase some optional rear covers, which have the texture of wood, marble, bamboo, textile or leather. Those will definitely made your Mi 4 look unique compared to whatever smartphone you place it next to. Unfortunately, details are sketchy on the markets where those will be available.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The additional rear covers Xiaomi is offering (click to enlarge)

The front of the Xiaomi Mi 4 is occupied almost entirely by the 5" IPS display. There is nothing official on the kind of screen protection used, if any, and since it isn't mentioned anywhere we can safely rule out Gorilla Glass. This probably explains the supplied screen protector.

Here is a set of shots that shows just how different the Xiaomi Mi 4 is to the Mi 3. Instead of a polycarbonate unibody, the Mi 4 is built around a machined metal frame that houses all the components. We appreciate the effort but we find the understated look of the Mi 3 more appealing. One thing's for sure, as soon as those optional Mi 4 cases are available for sale, we might reconsider as it's mainly the slippery plastic back cover that ruins the high end feel and build quality.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 3 next to the Xiaomi Mi 4

The Xiaomi Mi 4 is as solid as it gets and even though its back might get slippery, the Mi 4 makes up for this with the grippy metal frame. There are no wobbles or squeaks, it feels great in hand and does slip easily in a pocket. It isn't the most compact handset around, but it's more compact than the Mi 3, we'll give it that.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Handling the Xiaomi Mi 4

Display

The Xiaomi Mi 4 features a similar 5" Full HD IPS display to the one we saw on the Mi 3. It has a pixel density of 441ppi, which places it among the best. This time around, the glass covering the display lacks any protection and it might be a good idea to apply a screen protector.

Xiaomi Mi 4

The 5" IPS display Xiaomi Mi 4

Taking a closer look at it under our digital microscope reveals a standard RGB arrangement of the sub-pixels that make up the Xiaomi Mi 4 LCD panel, much like on the Mi 3.

Xiaomi Mi 4

The display on the Xiaomi Mi 4 has a higher maximum brightness level compared to the one on Xiaomi Mi 3, while retaining the same good contrast and colors. Also compared to the Mi 3, the Mi 4 screen backlight is much more uniform and you can't easily tell the main source of backlight as you could on the Mi 3.

Subjectively, the Mi 4's display tends to produce cooler images, while the colors on the Mi 3 are warmer. Xiaomi is providing options for color temperature and saturation, so you can tweak the display to your liking.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Xiaomi Mi 3 0.18 142 809 0.61 557 907
Xiaomi Mi 4 0.17 164 940 0.73 679 929
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 201 404
LG G2 0.1 149 1522 0.45 667 1495
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Sony Xperia Z2 - - - 0.41 488 1195
Sony Xperia Z1 - - - 0.38 580 1513
Apple iPhone 5s 0.14 163 1145 0.49 596 1219
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
HTC One (E8) 0.2 250 1268 0.51 615 1208


The sunlight legibility has been improved as well and the Xiaomi Mi 4's display performs admirably outdoors and you will be able to see what's happening on the screen even on the brightest day.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

The high-sensitivity mode for Glove use is available here much like on the Mi 3, but you probably shouldn't leave that turned on if you don't need it, because it may drain your battery faster.

Finally, there is a way to prevent accidental screen unlocks, while the _phone_ is in your pocket. If enabled, you won't be able to unlock the screen while something is covering the proximity sensor. Again, that would probably take its toll on the battery life.

Controls

The Xiaomi Mi 4's controls are pretty much the same as what we found on its Mi 3 predecessor. Almost the entire front is occupied by the 5" display, but its bezels have gotten a lot thinner. Above the screen we find the earpiece, with a couple of sensors and the 8MP selfie camera around.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The 5" display • looking above and below the screen

Xiaomi once again has decided to keep the capacitive controls instead of wasting precious screen real estate. The trio yet again uses the older arrangement with Menu, Home and Back keys.

The microSIM slot is alone on the right and you will need a SIM ejector to pop it out. The right side of the Xiaomi Mi 4 has the metal volume rocker and power/lock key.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The microSIM slot on the left • the volume rocker and the power/lock key on the right

As usual, the 3.5mm audio jack is on the top and an IR blaster keeps it company. You have a choice of apps that you can install to make use of the Infrared port for controlling various home appliances such as TVs, media players, air conditioners, etc.

The bottom of the Mi 4 has the microUSB port and a rather big grille hiding the primary microphone and the loudspeaker.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

A peek at the top and bottom of the Xiaomi Mi 4

The Xiaomi Mi 4's rear features the 13MP camera lens with F1.8 aperture, which uses the latest generation of Sony sensors. There is a single-LED flash beside it.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The 13MP Sony camera is on the back

The 3,080 mAh battery hides beneath the plastic rear cover. To get to it you need a small suction cup to pull the cover open. The battery beneath it however is not user-replaceable. It's glued to the the phone and we didn't dare put a pressure on removing it in our review unit.

There is no microSD card slot on the Xiaomi Mi 4 either.

Battery life

Xiaomi has put a 3,080mAh battery inside the Mi 4, a solid enough unit for a 5" device. We ran our battery test and the Xiaomi Mi 4 scored a 68h rating, which means you can count on the battery to last just short of 3 days if you do an hour each of calling, browsing the web and video playback a day.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 was almost there too with a rating of 66h.

Xiaomi Mi 4

Perhaps this is the right place to mention that we didn't like how hot the Xiaomi Mi 4 became with the charger plugged in.

Connectivity

The Xiaomi Mi 4 runs on the capable Snapdragon 801 chipset which is LTE-enabled, unlike the one on the Mi 3. The Mi 4 also offers quad-band GSM connectivity and quad-band 3G connectivity with HSPA support.

The rest of the connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac support and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio.

The IR blaster is located on the top and coupled with the right software, you can use it to operate pretty much any IR remotely controlled home appliance, turning the Xiaomi Mi 4 into a universal remote.

Unlike the Mi 3, there is no NFC connectivity on the Mi 4. It seems the company thinks there are too few users actually using the feature.

A microUSB 2.0 port handles charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone's built-in memory and microSD card over a USB connection.

The microUSB port also supports USB On-the-go for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives.

Wireless screen mirroring is available via the Miracast protocol.

User interface - Xiaomi Mi 4 runs on MIUI v.5

Xiaomi Mi 4 runs on Android 4.4.3 KitKat skinned with company's proprietary MIUI v5. The MIUI ROMs have been around for quite a while and are fairly popular among the Android community. Xiaomi's customizations run very deep and replace everything including all Google services, but you can get them from the Mi Market app.

Xiaomi has already announced the new MIUI v.6. It brings is a complete UI overhaul with flat looks, updated system apps, among other updates. It should become available on the Xiaomi Mi lineup later this year.

The Google Services are not available on the Xiaomi Mi 4 phones that sell in China but those can be installed. Xiaomi has a different policy about those for the different markets so future regional versions will probably come with Google services preinstalled, but right now the Mi 4 is only sold in China so we had to install those manually on our review unit. That said, have in mind, we're reviewing the Chinese version outside of China so that may probably reflect some of the review conclusions. We've tried to be as impartial as possible.

Here's quick walkthrough of the MIUI v5 on video to get you started.

The lockscreen looks very familiar and we've already seen similar in Huawei's Emotion UI. There is centered circle with shortcuts in the four cardinal directions: a simple unlock to the South, start the camera to the North, messaging is to the East and the dialer/call log is to the West.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The MIUI v5 lockscreen

Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom, but you can dock up to five items. You can have any app there or even folders with multiple items.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The MIUI homescreens • there is no app drawer

There is no app drawer - anything you install pops up on your unlimited number of homescreens. There're no shortcuts and the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will uninstall the corresponding app. The thing is fool-proof and you can't accidentally uninstall essential apps like the gallery or email client.

Homescreen widgets are available, too - tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. Of course, you can get third party widgets from the Play Store.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Customization menu • widgets • wallpapers • transition effects

By the way, Xiaomi's proprietary Search widget does a similar job as iOS's Spotlight system-wide search.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

MIUI's Search widget

Homescreen effects are available from the customization menu. You can change themes, too. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Themes repository

The notification area has two tabs - the first one holds all notifications, while the second is a 4x4 grid of toggles. You can add, remove and rearrange toggles. The Quick Settings tab is the one that opens by default unless you have unread notifications. Nice touch though we saw some people get confused by this fact.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Toggles • Notifications • Expandable notifications

Xiaomi provides its own app repository and cloud service for content syncing between devices. While the Mi Market somewhat mirrors the Play Store functionality, Mi Cloud is a different story.

Each Mi Cloud account is granted with 5GB of free storage. You can use it to backup contacts, messages, your entire gallery, call log, notes, settings, voice recordings, Browser content (history, tabs, webapp data) and your music library. Sounds familiar? Yes, indeed! Xiaomi's sync and backup service shares lots of similarities with the Apple iCloud. There is even a free Cloud Messaging option that allows Xiaomi users to exchange messages over the internet connection instead of being billed for SMS.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Configuring Mi Cloud and Cloud Messaging

Finally, if you signed in with your Mi Cloud account, you can opt for the Find device function - a handy feature in case you misplace your Xiaomi Mi 4 or someone steals it.

As far as the smart assistants are concerned - you can either opt for the familiar Google Now (you can install Google Search if it is no available by default) or you can launch Xiaomi's proprietary Voice Assistant. The latter looks a lot like Siri in both user interface and functionality, but unfortunately works only in Chinese and we couldn't test it as our Chinese is a bit... well, rusty.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi's Assist

Performance

Xiaomi Mi 4 runs on the fastest Snapdragon 801 chipset currently available on the market with a quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 processor, overclocked Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The Mi 4 comes with a 1080p display, which means the smartphone should be on par with the current crop of flagships and even top the ones sporting 4K screens.

Our first test explores the raw CPU power and Xiaomi Mi 4 passed it with flying colors. It is on par with the S801-based HTC One (E8), Oppo Find 7 and Samsung Galaxy S5.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    3229
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3214
  • Oppo Find 7
    3178
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    3175
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    3011
  • Oppo Find 7a
    3093
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    2937
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2856
  • LG G3
    2687
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2638
  • HTC One (M8)
    2367
  • LG G2
    2243
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1895
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 S600
    1869
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    1837

Then we ran the AnTuTu compound test, which in addition to the CPU calculations, throws in GPU and RAM routines, too. The Xiaomi Mi 4 gets another excellent mark here, beating the Xperia Z2 and matching the Galaxy S5.

AnTuTu 4

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7
    38484
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    38119
  • HTC One (E8)
    37921
  • HTC One (M8)
    37009
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    36018
  • LG G2
    35444
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    35298
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    34972
  • Oppo Find 7a
    33344
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    33182
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    31109
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    30850
  • LG G3
    30482
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 S600
    27613
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    25812

We tried out the anti-cheat version of the popular Basemark OS II benchmark and we found the Xiaomi Mi 4 doesn't use any tricks to climb up the scoretable. Its overall rating in this benchmark is the best we've seen to date.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    1324
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    1289
  • Oppo Find 7
    1212
  • HTC One (E8)
    1146
  • HTC One (M8)
    1126
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1082
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1080
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1057
  • LG G3
    945
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    915

The single core performance is on par with the latest Snapdragon 801 devices, while the multi-core is a hair below the S801 gang, but still a great result. One thing's for sure, you shouldn't worry about any performance hiccups with this one.

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7
    2606
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2580
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    2579
  • HTC One (E8)
    2579
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2573
  • HTC One (M8)
    2428
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    2415
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2400
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2253
  • LG G3
    1787

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    15096
  • Oppo Find 7
    10391
  • Oppo Find 7a
    10256
  • HTC One (E8)
    10219
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    10063
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    10044
  • HTC One (M8)
    9860
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    9508
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    9007
  • LG G3
    8337

The Adreno 330 is a wide-spread GPU core, embedded within the Snapdragon 800 and Snapdragon 801 chipsets. It runs on a higher frequency over the S801, so we've expected slightly better results than the Xiaomi Mi 3. It turns out the Mi 4 is absolutely on par with its predecessor as it is with the S801-powered flagships out there such as the Galaxy S5. Xperia Z2, Find 7.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (M8)
    28.4
  • Oppo Find 7a
    28.4
  • HTC One (E8)
    28
  • Oppo Find 7
    28
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    27.8
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    27.6
  • LG G3
    27.6
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    27.4
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    27.2
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    26.3
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    23
  • LG G2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 S600
    17.1
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    12.3

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (M8)
    30.1
  • HTC One (E8)
    29.9
  • Oppo Find 7a
    28.8
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    28.7
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    28.2
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    28.2
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    28.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    26.7
  • LG G2
    23.1
  • LG G3
    20.6
  • Oppo Find 7
    19.9
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    12.4

The Open GL ES3.0 Manhattan test puts the Xiaomi Mi 4 among the best devices we've tested so far and it is once again on par with the Xiaomi Mi 3.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    12.3
  • LG G3
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (801)
    11.8
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    11.7
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    11.6
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    11.6
  • Oppo Find 7a
    11.4
  • HTC One (M8)
    11.1
  • Oppo Find 7
    11.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    9.9
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    9

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    12.9
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    12.2
  • HTC One (M8)
    11.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11.7
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    11.5
  • Oppo Find 7a
    11.4
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    11.3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    10
  • LG G3
    7.4
  • Oppo Find 7
    6.7

The BrowserMark 2.1 tests HTML 5 performance, while Mozilla's Kraken 1.1 is JavaScript-centric. The Xiaomi Mi 4 did great on Kraken, but somewhat below average on the compound BrowserMark 2.1 test.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    4911
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (801)
    6043
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    6137
  • Oppo Find 7
    6363
  • HTC One (E8)
    6460
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    6586
  • Oppo Find 7a
    6660
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    7041
  • LG G3
    7610
  • HTC One (M8)
    10296

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Oppo Find 7
    1452
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1398
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    1364
  • HTC One (E8)
    1362
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1327
  • LG G3
    1254
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1224
  • HTC One (M8)
    1069
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    861
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    744
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    706
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    432

While we tested the performance of the Xiaomi Mi 4 we noticed it tends to heat up quite badly at the back when under load. Even worse, the heating seems to affect performance. Several runs on one and the same benchmarks produce progressively worsening results most probably due to automatic throttling down. You may need to take extra care to keep your Mi 4 cool in the hot summer months so that it runs at its full potential.

Even with this downside, the Xiaomi Mi 4 and its Snapdragon 801 chipset deliver excellent performance and provide hiccup-free gaming and blazing-fast Android + MIUI experience just as its predecessor - the Xiaomi Mi 3. This means that if the upgraded chipset is your sole reason for upgrade from the Mi 3, might as well keep your Mi 3 for yet another year. It's an equally good performer for all practical purposes.

Contacts and telephony

The dialer and the phonebook share a single app although there are two shortcuts. The app uses a tabbed interface - recent with dialer, then there's the contact list and directory (a.k.a. groups).

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The Phonebook

The Directory tab is updated automatically online and has various contacts for bars, restaurants, health clinics, flight agencies, hotels, cleaning services, among others. Unfortunately those work only in China, but if you are going to use your Xiaomi phone in China - then this should be of extreme value to you.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Directory

Contact info is displayed as a list of all available details. Custom ringtones can be selected for each contact and duplicate contacts can be merged into a single entry.

The dialer supports Smart dialing just fine (looking up both names and phone numbers).

Xiaomi Mi 4 supports voice call recording and it can do it automatically on each call if you like. You can also assign an answer gesture, pre-define quick responses upon reject, there is even support for internet calling.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The Dialer • settings

There are even more call settings if you dig deeper into the menu - flip to mute the ringer, turn on/off the proximity sensor, lock automatically once slipped in a pocket, it can even mute calls from unknown numbers.

The Xiaomi Mi 4 scored a mark of Below average on our loudspeaker tests, meaning you are likely to miss some calls and notifications if you are in a noisy environment.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Xiaomi Mi 4 62 62.1 66.6 Below Average
Xiaomi Mi 3 64.9 64.8 66.6 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Gionee Elife S5.5 66.6 66.3 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
Oppo Find 7 69.8 70.3 75.8 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent


Messaging and email

The messaging department is pretty standard - there's a list of all bubble-styled conversations organized into threads, with New Message and Search keys at the bottom and a settings button next to it.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Messaging

Attaching multimedia to a message will turn it into an MMS. You can add everything from photos, videos, audio to general files. There's even a full blown slide editor if you want to make full use of the MMS standard. The Attach location option is pretty nice too.

Moving on to email, the Gmail app (if included) has handy shortcuts at the bottom of the screen and supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there's no unified inbox.

There is also a generic Email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple Exchange, POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

MIUI relies on Google keyboard for the text input - it has always been pleasure to use and is one of the most preferred Android keyboards out there. On this screen the keys are comfortably large in both portrait and landscape mode. There is support for gesture typing, handwriting and voice input.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Google keyboard

Image gallery

The Xiaomi Mi 4 comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to your camera roll with two shortcuts at the bottom that will take you to album view of your local images and album view of your cloud pictures. You can't change this view, nor can you customize the default folders.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Gallery

The available features when viewing a single image are pretty standard - set image as wallpaper/contact image, share it, delete it, enter edit mode or just get more info.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Viewing a single image • options

The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the shadows or the highlights.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Editing an image

Music player

The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well-laid out, easy to navigate interface. It has a huge visualization screen doubling as a Now Playing windows. Below you get four non-customizable tabs - All Songs, Artists, Playlists and Online.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Music Player

The Online tab is where you pay for the Baidu Music service, which allows you to listen to their huge online track collection. Here you can also find various internet radio stations you can listen for free.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Online music and online radios

The player has cool 3D effects, transitions and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Now Playing screen

Xiaomi's Music app offers customizable equalizers with a few default presets already available for use. You can also try Xiaomi's MiSound enhancer, which comes into play when you use headphones, and especially, a Xiaomi-branded set.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Audio enhancements and equalizers • Editing a song

Finally, you can edit song info and you can also enable automatic song info download in case the ID3 tags are empty. Lyrics can be downloaded, too.

FM radio

The phone has an FM receiver and supports radio recording. There is a sleep timer as well.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

FM radio app

Video player

Xiaomi's video player has very basic interface but rich video decoder support. It managed to play everything we threw at it save for WMV files. The AC3 audio codec is supported too. Interestingly, the player won't list MKV files, but it can still play them hassle-free, if you access them from the file manager.

The video player, just like the music player, offers access to a paid video streaming services for movies and TV shows.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Video player

Subtitles and pop-up play are not supported by the MIUI's Video app.

Audio quality hasn't improved enough

The Xiaomi Mi 3 did rather disappointingly in our audio quality test and we were hoping that its Mi 4 successor will fix that. Unfortunately, even though the new flagship did improve some of the scores of its predecessor it still remained a rather mediocre performer.

The performance with an active external amplifier was a mixed bag, combining below-par volume levels with disappointingly high stereo crosstalk and imperfect frequency response. The frequency response is actually a tad better than on the Mi 3 and there's no overly high distortion here, but there are still issues remaining.

It was more of the same when we plugged in a pair of headphones. Stereo crosstalk worsened a bit more, while distortion crept in. Not the best of showings by any stretch of the imagination, but probably good enough for less demanding users.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Xiaomi Mi 4 +0.26, -0.77 -92.1 89.7 0.0020 0.054 -67.3
Xiaomi Mi 4 (headphones attached) +0.01, -0.52 -91.6 89.4 0.158 0.145 -49.7
Xiaomi Mi 3 +0.11, -1.52 -91.5 89.5 0.0037 0.359 -68.9
Xiaomi Mi 3 (headphones attached) +0.63, -1.01 -91.5 89.6 0.0092 0.365 -44.2
Nokia Lumia 930 +0.12, -0.02 -91.4 90.7 0.0099 0.101 -90.3
Nokia Lumia 930 (headphones attached) +0.19, -0.43 -89.4 90.7 0.012 0.501 -55.8
Samsung Galaxy S5 +0.02, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0017 0.0089 -95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones) +0.01, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0095 0.018 -61.9
LG G3 +0.02, -0.08 -99.4 98.9 0.0016 0.035 -100.0
LG G3 (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.09 -93.7 93.3 0.0060 0.032 -78.5
Sony Xperia Z2 +0.02, -0.08 -88.2 90.1 0.0063 0.013 -88.9
Sony Xperia Z2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.04 -84.7 87.6 0.120 0.066 -60.2
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7

Xiaomi Mi 4 frequency response

Xiaomi Mi 4 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

13 MP camera does great

Xiaomi Mi 4 features a 13MP camera with backside illuminated 1/3" Sony-made sensor and 1.12µm pixel size. It has f/1.8 aperture, allowing it a place in a club of a select few smartphones.

The camera is equipped with a LED flash.

The interface is fairly standard - everything is placed at the two side bars. On the left you get front camera shortcut, camera/camcorder switch and flash settings. The right sidebar has the settings toggle, the camera shutter and the gallery shortcut.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Camera UI

The settings offer HDR, scenes, focus mode, white balance, exposure and ISO manual settings, among others. The Face Detection and Image stabilization switches are within the additional settings.

Xiaomi Mi 4's camera resolves plenty of detail, color reproduction is accurate and the white balance is right most of the time. We noticed little over sharpening here and there (the street lamps), but not enough to ruin the great impressions. The noise levels are above what we'd call standard, even at ISO 100, and that's especially noticeable in the shadows or in the sky.

Despite this drawback, we would rate the Xiaomi Mi 4 camera as excellent, much like the on the Mi 3.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4 camera samples

The HDR mode is conservative and rescues both the highlights and shadows without making the contrast too low.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

HDR off • HDR on • HDR off • HDR on

Panorama shots are available too - you can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos at about 180 degree. Shooting is easy but the stitching takes more than a minute to complete. The end result isn't as impressive as we've expected - the portrait shots come in 3400x1200px pixels while the landscape mode results in 4000x700px.

While the panoramic images are stitched very well, the quality and resolution are below the competition. The exposure is way off, too.

Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4

Panorama samples

Xiaomi Mi 4 features an 8MP front-facing camera for high-res selfies. It's a serious departure from the Mi 3 front snapper. The images come out nicely detailed. This camera is perhaps the best front camera we've seen on a smartphone - not because of the high 8MP resolution, but due to the excellent color rendition and the high level of resolved detail. Unfortunately, we could spot visible geometrical distortion on closeups of faces - nothing drastic but visible nontheless.

Xiaomi Mi 4

An 8MP picture taken with the front camera

Photo comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 4 is more than capable of carrying its own weight in our Photo Comparison tool. You can see it puts up a good fight against the other 13 MP snappers and comes on top in quite a few occasions.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Xiaomi Mi 4 in our photo quality comparison tool

Video recording goes 4K

Xiaomi Mi 4's camcorder shares the same UI as the still camera. It supports slow-motion videos and time-lapse with customizable snapping interval.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Camcorder UI

Image stabilization is available too and it manages to keep the video steadier, but as usual it will lower your field of view significantly.

You can also capture 6MP images during video recording. Here are two samples of such snapped pictures:

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Pictures taken while recording a video

The Xiaomi Mi 4 is capable or recording 2160p@30fps and 1080p@30 fps videos. The 4K clips have a bitrate of around 40 Mbps, audio is captured at 96 Kbps with 2 channels (read stereo).

The Full HD samples bitrate drops down to 15 Mbps, while keeping the audio quality the same.

Our review unit wasn't capable of recording higher framerate at 1080p resolution, however it did offer 720p@120fps slow-mo videos, which came out nice.

The detail levels in the 1080p videos are very high, colors and contrast are great too, while the framerate is very consistent at 30fps.

The 4K videos, even though recorded with such high bitrate, look somewhat soft and not as contrasty or clear as the 1080p videos. The colors look good but the white balance sometimes is off and you may need to tweak it manually.

Here is 2160p video we've uploaded on YouTube:

And here is a 1080p video we've uploaded on YouTube.

Xiaomi Mi 4 supports HDR videos in both 4K and 1080p recording modes, which is a first for a smartphone. Even though it rescues fine detail in the shadows and in the highlights, the HDR effect looks rather unnatural and we suggest you use it only in exceptional cases.

Check these HDR videos on YouTube:

You can also download some untouched video samples taken straight off the Xiaomi Mi 4.

2160p @ 30 fps video sample

2160p @ 30 fps HDR video sample

1080p @ 30 fps video sample

1080p @ 30 fps HDR video sample

Video quality comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 4 enters our video comparison too. There are plenty of 2160p and 1080p camcorders you can compare it with. It might perform average on 2160p mode, but it has proven to be among the best with great detail, colors, and contrast in the 1080p range.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Xiaomi Mi 4 2160p in our Video quality comparison tool

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Xiaomi Mi 4 1080p in our Video quality comparison tool

MIUI Browser works great, but eats more system resources than Chrome

The Xiaomi Mi 4 comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It does a great job browsing, syncing with your Google account, supports downloads, there is a night mode, too. It is as fast as Chrome, but does not support Find on Page or copy text (only links). On the positive side, it has a built-in Reading mode, which lacks in Chrome. It enlarges the text font and strips away unneeded elements, leaving only the article you are reading in focus.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Mi Browser

Unfortunately, the MIUI Browser turned less capable of handling pressure - it couldn't handle our battery-test browsing script for more than three minutes without crashing.

That's why we suggest you install Chrome, at least as a backup, just in case you need to avoid crashes or you need to find something on a page. Plus it can sync with your Google account easily.

Other pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Mi 4 offers a great file managing app called Explorer, but there is no document viewer/editor pre-installed. There are plenty of free options in the Play Store (even ones made by Google), so this shouldn't pose a problem.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Explorer

The custom Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Calendar

There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.

By the way, you can activate the torch from the lockscreen by a tap-and-hold on the Home key.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Voice recorder • Notes • Calculator • Weather

When it comes to getting around, the Xiaomi Mi 4 relies on Google Maps and Navigation. Naturally, if Google Maps isn't installed on your unit, you can get it for free from the Android Market. The app offers much of the same functionality as its web-based counterpart, although you will need a data connection to take full advantage of the navigation features. Street view mode with digital compass enabled is an especially neat thing that you should definitely check out if you haven't already.

Whatever you may be missing, you'll find it in Google's Play Store or Xiaomi's Mi Store for sure.

Final words

Well made, good-looking proper flagships with all the trimmings coming from China should be no surprise by now. Least of all, the Xiaomi Mi 4. Probably the biggest surprise here is it took Xiaomi less than a year to bring out the next generation.

Xiaomi Mi 4

True, the upgrades to the Mi 3 may not be too many but they're all made to count. 4K videos and 4G data speeds sure make it an apt choice of model name. A more up-to-date chipset brings about LTE and UHD video recording, the front camera is the whopping 8MP while an IR port and wired TV-out are nice things to have.

That's on top of the smartphone being blazing fast, with sleek and friendly MIUI skinning Android KitKat. All this at a bargain price. The Mi 4 also delivers excellent craftsmanship, a very capable camera with great picture quality, a solid battery backup and the kind of attention to detail one would only expect from world-renowned manufacturers.

Xiaomi didn't make it all about the camera with the Mi 4 marketing, but we have got to note it is probably the first cameraphone to come out with f/1.8 aperture, which should help its case in low-light photography.

Let's make a quick summary of our review findings:

Xiaomi Mi 4 key test findings:

  • Build quality is great, rich choice of rear covers
  • The display quality is OK, the sunlight legibility is very good
  • The battery life is very good
  • All-round connectivity package including LTE, wired TV-out and FM radio
  • We rated the speaker loudness as Below Average
  • The intuitive MIUI interface is based on Android KitKat and offers rich customization options but not that many proprietary features as other manufacturers
  • The benchmark performance is excellent, though the phone tends to heat up after prolonged intensive gaming
  • The audio output quality is underwhelming (as on the Mi 3)
  • Camera takes great photos and videos
  • Video player supports every audio and video codec except WMV

The thing we're not quite sure about is the new look. To be clear, the build quality is top notch but the stainless steel frame didn't let them go as slim as the polycarbonate unibody of the Mi 3. On a positive note, the Mi 4 is tangibly more compact and the back cover customization options are welcome. However the generic battery cover isn't the best we've seen. It's a give and take really. Personally, we like the Mi 3 for its seamless subtlety and the Mi 4 - it's just trying too hard to look like the iPhone.

A microSD slot would've been welcome for sure - after all the cheapest variant of the Mi 4 has 16GB of storage. Gorilla Glass is another omission. The unpleasant heating at the rear is frequently the cause of CPU throttling down and you may need to cool your Mi 4 in the hot summer months to keep it running at its fullest.

With a price tag of $460, the Xiaomi Mi 4 is a must see - it's packages like this one that have been fighting prejudice against China-made smartphones. With LTE connectivity, fast and responsive UI and excellent imaging credentials, one would say it's worth every penny they are asking for it. The Mi 4 is easily customizable too - and that goes for the interface as well. You can use whatever ROMs you like, you are not stuck with MIUI.

Of course, there're a few advanced features that you're only gonna get elsewhere. The 2014 flagships running Snapdragon 801 chipsets will offer either a memory card slot or waterproof bodies, or 4K displays, or a number of sensors to let you make the most of your handheld. All those come at a price though. For example, a Samsung Galaxy S5 costs the same but in euro.

Samsung Galaxy S5
LG G3
Sony Xperia Z2
Oppo Find 7

Samsung Galaxy S5 • LG G3 • Sony Xperia Z2 • Oppo Find 7

Last year's flagships will probably be able to meet the price - but not the performance - of the Mi 4. We can't think of a better illustration of just how far Xiaomi have come. The ex-flagships all run on Snapdragon 800 chipsets and boast 1080p displays but some of them have yet to get Android KitKat.

Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4
LG G2
Sony Xperia Z1
Oppo Find 7a

Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4 • LG G2 • Sony Xperia Z1 • Oppo Find 7a

Finally, there are a few that match the Xiaomi Mi 4 on both price and features. The Nubia Z7 mini is in fact a near perfect match with a 5" 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB RAM, LTE connectivity and the latest Android KitKat. It's cheaper, but comes short on battery capacity, the amount of RAM and the imaging skills.

ZTE Nubia Z7 mini

ZTE Nubia Z7 mini

The Gionee Elife E7 packs a bigger 5.5" IPS 1080p display, matches the chipset (the 32GB model), supports LTE and claims to have one of the best smartphone cameras ever made. We haven't met this one yet, but it surely sounds as an option worth checking. Gionee's launcher is quite similar to the MIUI v.5, so you might want to give it a try if it's offered in your region.

Gionee Elife E7

Gionee Elife E7

And finally, the OnePlus One, if you can get it, will give you a bigger display (but also a bigger footprint), Gorilla Glass 3 protection, and a similar choice of optional battery covers. It runs on CyanogenMod 11S, constantly improving, and it comes cheaper than the Mi 4.

OnePlus One

OnePlus One

In the Mi 4, Xiaomi has a flagship to be proud of and one that can compete even at the highest level. And we don't just mean the bargain price. Pre-orders have gone nuts in Asia. Xiaomi will be right to pat themselves on the back. Better yet, we'll do it for them - if they go refill the stock.

We would like to thank XiaomiShop.com for providing this review unit.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi isn't keen on packing more than the very basics. Just like in the previous generation, the Xiaomi Mi 4's packaging is made of recycled paper and contains only an A/C adapter and a microUSB cable.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4 retail package

XiaomiShop.com, the provider of our review unit, throws in a bunch of freebies in every box and ours came with a screen protector, a fancy flip case, an EU adapter, a USB car charger plug, and a small capacitive stylus that conveniently plugs into the 3.5mm audio jack.

Xiaomi Mi 4

The accessories XiaomiShop throws in for free

Xiaomi Mi 4 360-degree view

Even though the Xiaomi Mi 4 has the same 5" display as the Mi 3, its footprint is smaller. This is possible thanks to the much slimmer screen bezels. The Xiaomi Mi 4 measures 139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9mm - half a centimeter shorter and narrower than the Mi 3. The Xiaomi Mi 4 has gained some weight compared to the Mi 3 (to a total of 149 grams). It's only 4 grams worth of a difference, hardly anything you'd notice, but the solid feel is there.

Design and build quality

Xiaomi took a U-turn with the Mi 4 design, dropping the polycarbonate unibody, which we praised, in favor of a metal frame with flat sides a la iPhone 5s, complete with a hard-to-remove rear cover.

The visual change is controversial. We really liked the Lumia-like design of the Xiaomi Mi 3, subtly and effortlessly elegant. The Mi 4 is by far more sophisticated but not as convincing. Maybe it'll have its fair share of fans too.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4

The back cover on the Mi 4 is certainly removable, proven by the assortment of swappable back covers to choose from, however it's certainly not readily removable. There are as many as 17 clips holding it tight and you would really need a small suction cup to undo them with pulling.

The stainless steel frame is definitely the highlight of the Mi 4's exterior. It adds to the phone's style and gives it the premium feel it deserves. The rear cover is made of glossy plastic, which is prone to fingerprints and smudges. If kept clean though, the Mi 4's back is nice, reminiscent of a glass shell.

Depending on where you reside, you might have an option to purchase some optional rear covers, which have the texture of wood, marble, bamboo, textile or leather. Those will definitely made your Mi 4 look unique compared to whatever smartphone you place it next to. Unfortunately, details are sketchy on the markets where those will be available.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

The additional rear covers Xiaomi is offering (click to enlarge)

The front of the Xiaomi Mi 4 is occupied almost entirely by the 5" IPS display. There is nothing official on the kind of screen protection used, if any, and since it isn't mentioned anywhere we can safely rule out Gorilla Glass. This probably explains the supplied screen protector.

Here is a set of shots that shows just how different the Xiaomi Mi 4 is to the Mi 3. Instead of a polycarbonate unibody, the Mi 4 is built around a machined metal frame that houses all the components. We appreciate the effort but we find the understated look of the Mi 3 more appealing. One thing's for sure, as soon as those optional Mi 4 cases are available for sale, we might reconsider as it's mainly the slippery plastic back cover that ruins the high end feel and build quality.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 3 next to the Xiaomi Mi 4

The Xiaomi Mi 4 is as solid as it gets and even though its back might get slippery, the Mi 4 makes up for this with the grippy metal frame. There are no wobbles or squeaks, it feels great in hand and does slip easily in a pocket. It isn't the most compact handset around, but it's more compact than the Mi 3, we'll give it that.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Handling the Xiaomi Mi 4