Xiaomi Mi A2 review: A capable midrange smartphone with a sleek camera

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has refreshed its Android One platform-based Mi A-series with the launch of the Xiaomi Mi A2. Priced at Rs 16,999, this smartphone features a new design when compared with the predecessor, along with a better hardware, upgraded camera modules and stock Google Android Oreo, which would soon be upgraded to Android Pie, according to the company.

The Xiaomi Mi A2 is a midrange smartphone which has a design language identical to the one Xiaomi introduced with the Redmi Note 5 Pro. The new phone boasts an aluminium unibody covering the back and sides, and glass on the front. The back features a vertically aligned iPhone X-inspired dual-camera module that bulges out from the body, making the phone uneven on flat surfaces like table. It also makes the glass covering the camera module more prone to scratches and smudges. Like other Xiaomi devices, the Mi A2 also sports a circular fingerprint sensor at the upper centre on the back that is easy to reach and operate.

The front is dominated by a 5.99-inch LTPS IPS LCD screen that leaves thin bezels on the top and bottom. The phone’s display is a shift away from the predecessor's conventional 16:9 aspect ratio. It has also let go of the notch-based screen, which is currently the most used screen format, in favour of an 18:9 aspect ratio screen, which makes it look different from other current-generation midrange phones.

The Mi A2 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 system-on-chip (SoC), paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Unlike the predecessor, the Mi A2 does not support storage expansion via microSD card slot. However, the phone is expected to get a 128GB internal storage variant soon with 6 GB of RAM. Coming back to the 4GB variant, the phone gets free unlimited storage on Google cloud to store photos and videos as part of Android One benefits.

The phone boots Android Oreo 8.1.0 out of the box with no customised MIUI skin on top, so it offers vanilla Android experience. The user interface is sleek, free from clutter and swift to operate. It does not show any lag and manages most common day-to-day tasks like internet browsing, conversations over instant messaging apps, online music and video streaming and calling without any hiccups. The phone also handles games and other processor-intensive tasks with ease. However, extending gaming sessions sometimes consumes the phone’s resources and force-closes apps running in the background.

In terms of imaging, the Mi A2 boasts a dual-camera module on the back featuring a 12-megapixel primary sensor mated with a 20MP secondary sensor. Both the lenses feature a bright f/1.75 aperture that helps in low-light photography. Unlike most dual camera smartphone where the secondary camera is either a depth-sensing lens for bokeh effects, telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom or a wide-angle lens for more objects in frame, both the rear cameras in the Mi A2 work independently based on different light condition. In daylight conditions, the primary 12MP lens takes the photo, while the 20MP lens provide additional information such as depth, colours, HDR, etc. In low light, the camera switches to 20MP lens to take photo, while the 12MP lens provides additional information. Portrait mode is now assisted by artificial intelligence, which identifies the focus object and background to do proper segmentation, providing natural-looking portraits with no artificial halos around the object.

On the front, there is a 20MP selfie camera that also supports AI enhancements in portrait mode for enhanced bokeh effects. The camera's performance in the Mi A2 seems to be one of the best in the midrange segment. It can even be on a par with some midrange flagships.

Overall, the Xiaomi Mi A2 seems to be a package with most of the features done right. Being a midrange smartphone, the lack of a microSD card slot for storage expansion and 3.5mm audio jack for independent audio output and moderate battery life put it on the backfoot when compared with the predecessor and other midrange smartphones in the same price band. However, considering the power-packed performance, a clutter-free user interface and a top-notch camera, the phone is a solid deal. While the Mi A1 was an all-rounder, the Mi A2 seems to be more of a balancing act.


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