A couple years back, what was the best thing $300 could get you? In my case, it was a super crappy smartphone known as the UMi X1. It was basically a mashup of various other devices that existed prior to itself, including the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Meizu MX2. It had a dual-core processor (the FIRST one from MediaTek!), the MT6577 and promised blazing fast performance. Full points to MediaTek for making a really affordable dual-core processor, but then a lot also depended on how you implemented it. Which is something better left unsaid.
$300 now gets you a lot of smartphone. You’ve heard about the OnePlus One, right? Yes, you have (you can stop nodding) and that’s why you’re here. Like a runaway child prodigy, OnePlus popped out of nowhere and took centrestage. They’ve gone wrong, and they admit it; that is the sort of culture one would want to see.
All said and done, we’re here to talk about the OnePlus One — well, partly — and one other device. This other device comes from a phenomenon (at least for the Indian audience) called Xiaomi. It’s called the Xiaomi Mi 4.
Both phones have starting prices of close to $300 (ignoring the fact that not both are available all around the globe). So, you have a similar budget… which one to pick?
This segment is largely dominated by personal preference; I’ll only be telling you my side of the story. Since I tend to travel around the city (and otherwise) on the motorbike very often, it is but natural for me to go for the smaller phone, which in this case is the Xiaomi Mi 4. The device has a 5 inch screen, but bezels small enough so it hardly feels like one. It slides into the pocket easily, and is also operable with one hand without issues (unless you have really small hands).
The OnePlus One on the other hand is for those who usually move around more in trousers than jeans (the relation is sort of weird but totally makes sense). It is fairly difficult to operate the phone with just one hand most of the time, which makes it perfect as a home phone. Media consumption, web browsing, etc. are enjoyable on the 5.5 inch display.
As mentioned in the previous segment, a 5-inch 1080p panel on the Xiaomi Mi 4 goes against the 5.5-inch one on the OnePlus One. Unlike other segments in this review (as you shall read later) the pick between the two, solely on a screen quality basis is extremely easy. It is – the Xiaomi Mi 4.
Never have I seen such a beautiful screen on a Xiaomi before – not on the Mi 2S, not the Mi 3. The only smartphone which has a screen that’s close to being as good as the Mi 4 is the OPPO Find 5.
That said, it is worth knowing that the OnePlus One does have a kickass display as well. But, combined with a slightly poor picture quality, and the obvoius loss in pixel density, the Xiaomi Mi 4 wins hands-down.
Performance and Battery
Both beasts have a largely identical specifications set. Let’s take a quick look:
|Device name||Xiaomi Mi 4||OnePlus One|
|Display||5-inch 1920 x 1080p||5.5-inch 1920 x 1080p|
|Processor||2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801||2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801|
|Camera||13MP rear, 8MP front||13MP rear, 5MP front|
|OS||Android v4.4 KitKat based MIUI ROM||Android v4.4 KitKat based CyanogenMod ROM / ColorOS|
It is pretty evident from the table above that there’s virtually nothing to choose from between the two phones. The processor, main camera, storage, RAM and even the battery specifications are neck and neck.
However, there’s some difference in the performance. The OnePlus One does take the lead more often than not, because of the super-lightweight and near-vanilla ROM (CyanogenMod). It has to be noted that the Xiaomi Mi 4 that I’m using runs MIUI 6, which is still undergoing rapid changes.
Apps load a bit faster on the OnePlus One, just enough to make it noticeable, and that’s why the OnePlus One is the pick with performance.
Battery life is so similar across both phones that it’s hard to pick one. I’ll be honest – it’s impossible to pick one. But then, the OnePlus One has a larger screen which takes more juice; and that’s exactly why the One wins over the Mi 4. Both devices will generally return 5-6 hours of screen on time (depending on usage), which is as good as almost two days for many (including me).
Sony Exmor IMX214 13 mega-pixel sensor is what powers both devices on the imaging front. As you would expect, the performance is very similar. Both devices though, have their strengths and weaknesses even though its the same image sensor. This is because of the different software and lens arrangement employed on either device.
The Mi 4 tends to do a bit better on macro and well lit shots, whereas the OnePlus One is more of an all-rounder without any single strength outlining other points. Take a look yourself (I’ll save myself a thousand words in the meantime 😉 ).
I’ve never had to compare two smartphones that are this similar! It’s hard to make a choice between the two ignoring my personal usage pattern. Strictly on a device to device level, the OnePlus One wins for the slightly better performance and battery life; but if you’re a guy like me who doesn’t want to bother about his phones when outdoors, the Xiaomi Mi 4 should be the pick.
Both smartphone will soon be landing on Indian shores, most probably before the end of the year. Carl Pei of OnePlus said that the company was looking to push the 16GB version at a low price, and that is something that could hurt the sales of the Xiaomi Mi 4. But then again. I’m sure there are people who prefer smaller screens… so it’s going to be a battle worth looking out for.
While the companies sort their pre-launch issues, why don’t you tell us which one you prefer, and why? We’d love to hear from you!