Mi A2 review: The spectacular camera makes low light photos and portraits look amazing


Price: Rs 16,999

Rating: ****

Specifications: Snapdragon 660 octa core, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage (non expandable), 5.99-inch IPS LCD (2160 x 1080 pixels), dual SIM, 4G with VoLTE, dual rear camera (12MP f1.75 + 20MP f1.75), 20MP f2.2 front camera with LED flash, WiFi ac, USB type C, Infrared, rear fingerprint, 3,010mAh battery, 166 grams

Pros: Premium design, spectacular camera quality that hits well above its price point, great performance, stock Android, supports Quick Charge 4.0

Cons: No memory expansion, no 3.5mm audio out (but USB C to 3.5 adapter provided), pronounced camera bump that makes it wobble on a table

In September 2017, Xiaomi launched the Mi A1 — a phone that was a clear departure from the norm. It was an Android One device with a stock version of Android & devoid of any pre-loaded apps. This was a big deal because Xiaomi’s custom software interface — called MiUI, is like a cog in a revenue generating machine. But the Mi fans were adamant about getting stock Android with Xiaomi hardware, so the company delivered.

Compared to the A1, the A2 has upgrades across the board: a new 18:9 screen with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 5, a powerful Snapdragon 660 (compared to 625 earlier) and massively better cameras. Design philosophy remains the same, with a metal unibody design and rounded edges. Viewed from the back, the A2 looks nearly identical to the Redmi Note 5 Pro thanks to the vertical dual camera module. Looking around the device, you’ll notice that it still includes the infrared emitter (for universal remote), has a USB type C port (with support for Quick Charge 4.0, although QC 4.0 chargers are still rare) and it skips the 3.5mm audio jack. This is Xiaomi’s second phone after the Mi Mix 2 to ditch the 3.5mm jack though for legacy users, a USB C to 3.5mm adapter is provided.

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In terms of software, the Google partnership provides a pure Android experience. A few Xiaomi apps are included to complete the experience though. The universal remote won’t work without the Mi Remote app. Mi Drop is included, which is a seamless way to share large files with any device. Other preloaded apps include Mi Store, Mi Community, Feedback and a file manager. Even though these apps are pre-installed, you can uninstall all of them except Feedback.

Apart from the software experience, the camera is the main feature on the A2. The dual rear camera does the usual portrait mode, HDR, filters and beautify. Manual mode gives you control over white balance, focus, shutter speed, ISO and the ability to switch between the two lenses. But here’s where it gets interesting — the 20MP secondary camera on the back and the 20MP front camera can do pixel binning. This is a technology that gives you clearer low light photos by combining four pixels to make one larger pixel (larger the pixel, the better the low light photo). Combined with the wide f1.75 aperture on both rear cameras (also a rarity), great low light results are almost guaranteed. And the A2 does not disappoint! Also most impressive is the A2’s edge detection in portrait mode. Although you can’t adjust the level of blur or change the focus point after capturing, the native edge detection algorithm is so good that you won’t find a reason to complain. Ditto with the front camera that makes natural looking blurred backgrounds look like child’s play. This kind of camera performance is hitting well above the price point of the A2.

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Overall, the immense value on offer makes the A2 an easy recommendation. There are a few quirks. For instance, the battery is a tad smaller than you would expect so power users might need a boost. It supports Quick Charge 4.0 (and 3.0) but the supplied charger is a regular 5V 2A (10 watt) one. And you’ll have to do without things like 3.5mm and expandable storage. A 6GB RAM variant with 128GB internal storage will launch soon at an estimated price of `20k. Most of the competition at this price has notch type displays: Honor Play is `20k (4/64GB), Huawei Nova 3i with quad cameras & 128GB storage is `21k and others like Oppo F7 and Vivo V9 are within striking distance too.





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