There's a lot of fuss going about Xiaomi and I wanted to try them out to see if they are worth the hype. Their camera is also said to be very capable.
SpecificationsCPU: Qualcomm MSM8260 Dual Core Cortex A9 at 1.7GHz
GPU: Adreno 220
RAM: 1GB DDR3
OS: Android 4.0.3
Firmware: MIUIAndroid 2.10.12
Internal Memory: 1GB Apps, 3GB internal.
Screen Size: 4.0" ASV Sharp TFT
Screen Resolution: 854 x 480.
Webcam: 8.0MP BSI Rear and 2MP Front.
Battery: 1880-1930 mAH Li-Ion.
CostI bought it off Aliexpress.com from the seller Shenzhen Nonstop Technology Co., Ltd.
for USD310 with free DHL shipping using my USD10 coupon :). I love coupons.
The phone came with a small and simple box. It looks like its made of cardboard. Maybe Xiaomi is trying to be green here?
The phone in its full glory.
Inside the box was one battery, one charger and a USB cable. However, my supplier also gave me an extra 3-plug charger, a blue plastic cover and a brown pouch. All these for free :)
The phone with the free plastic cover installed.
Overall, this phone feels good. Heck, it feels like a premium phone compared to my previous ThL W3+. The back is plastic but is matte instead of being a glossy plastic like the ThL. No creaking anywhere and you can just feel its a solid device once you pick it up.
The front is just the screen, three capacitive buttons and the front camera.
8.0MP camera and the Xiaomi logo.
The side compared to the ThL. Top is the M1S.
The bottom. Top is M1S.
Another side with the volume buttons and a dedicated camera button.
Top is M1S.
Top parts with 3.5mm headphone jack and power button.
Comparing thickness to ThL W3+. The M1S is slightly thinner but it feels MUCH better in hands.
ScreenOverall, the screen is a good screen. However, from the specs we know that this is unfortunately not an IPS screen which is odd considering this phone ~USD70 more than the ThL W3+. The most obvious change from the ThL is the colour, it looks washed out and not as vibrant.
Head on, and this is the best case scenario of the M1S, the screen is very bright (brighter than the ThL) but even from this perspective the colour is not as vibrant.
Viewing from the side, the colours becomes worse. Note that this is slightly exaggerated as in reality although the colour does change, they are still visible and not as 'white' as in this picture.
When you don't compare the two phones side by side, the M1S screen does not look terribly bad.
Fortunately, the touchscreen is a pleasure to use. Typing on this phone is somehow much more easier as I somehow managed to type fast on the same keyboard with less typo than on the ThL.
Camera*Taking these pictures were much easier on the M1S due to the dedicated camera button. Often the images from the ThL turned out to be blurry as I have to click on the screen to snap a picture. Why can't all smartphones have dedicated camera buttons!
Without flash and plenty of light, the camera performed fine although a bit too noisy for me. The image on the right is from the M1S and on the left is the ThL. Colour is also less vibrant on the M1S but is much more closer to real life. Subjectively, the ThL also appears less noisy to me.
Performance with flash in total darkness is excellent. The flash is as bright as the ThL and can lit up a medium sized room. Curiously, in this type of setting, the M1S performs much better in terms of colour compared to the ThL while still being more detailed.
This is in with no light source other than the notebook on the back. Just for fun :)
To test this, I took a stroll in the city and snapped a few pictures. I did not bring my ThL along so no comparison shots here.
Like before, under well lit condition the M1S have more details but less vibrant colour than the ThL. For Skyping purposes both are good enough.
Speakers and Headphone jackI tried to record the audio from a fixed distance using my notebook's internal mic and as expected the results is horrible but I am still going to upload them :). Basically, the loudspeaker is awesome! Yes, it is unfortunately a mono speaker but one good speaker is better than 2 crap ones.
Note: All these recordings were done on a wooden table.
The speaker on the M1S is surprisingly warm and the mid-bass is audible which is not something you can say about lots of phones nowadays. In my opinion, the speaker of the M1S is way better than those on the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3. While these Samsung phones do produce louder audio but I find them to be sharp and harsh. Bass is also non-existent. Overall, a great job by Xiaomi!
However, the M1S is not perfect as the output on the headphone jack is clearly bass-heavy and while the volume is ample, the ThL is able to produce louder output on the same headphone. It is still acceptable, especially more so if you listen to bass heavy genres but if you like your mids to be forward then you would have to use media players with equaliser instead of the preinstalled player.
Battery LifeIt took ~3hours to fully charge the battery from 5% capacity using the supplied charger which is rated at 1A.
Generally, I would have to say that the M1S's have an acceptable battery life. It is a little bit longer (say 1hr or so more) than the ThL but you would definitely have to charge it at the end of the day after a heavy usage.
To be more specific, I usually charge my phone while I sleep so that when I woke up (around 8am in the morning) it would be fully charged. I would use my phone throughout the day with the wireless always turned on and the brightness on automatic setting. This includes browsing, constant checking of emails, messaging, listening to musics, watching Youtube videos and some brief phone calls. Once I get home around 7PM, I would still have around 35% battery left. I once forgot to charge my phone only to find out that it have around 25% left the next morning. So technically, it is possible to get more than a day of battery life but that would mean that you have to charge your phone the next day.
What is good though is that the battery percentage decreases linearly unlike the ThL which will drain like crazy once it reaches 15%. Also, what I have noticed is that the battery on the M1S does not deplete as fast as the ThL when you do CPU/GPU intensive operations like playing games, browsing and viewing Youtube videos. The M1S does not even heat up doing all these. However, keep in mind that the MTK6577 was meant for budget phones so it is not really fair to compare these two but unfortunately I only have the data for these two SOCs and nothing else.
Wireless PerformanceWhile I know that there are applications out there which can objectively measure the signal strength of wireless networks on Android devices, I still think that the best way to test the Wi-Fi performance is to actually use it. There have been times where the signal strength reported were strong enough but the device is still unable to use the wireless network and this might be due to the high noise level (due to factors such as terrible internal shieldings or bad antenna placement).
I used the M1S around my flat (I live in the basement) and the walls here are very thick ( two bricks thick) so sometimes the ThL W3+ does disconnect in places such as the corner of my room. The ThL phone's wifi is honestly quite good and it is understandable as to why it sometimes disconnect in this case.
Fortunately, the M1S wireless module is better than the ThL! It works at spots where the ThL used to struggle to stay connected although it shows just 1 bar of signal. Again, kudos to Xiaomi!
GPSTo test this, I tried to get a GPS fix indoors and then went out for a walk to test the GPS outdoors.
Understandably, since I live in the basement floor, I could not get a GPS fix at all. However, once I went up to the ground floor, the M1S was able to get a fix although you might have to wait a minute or two.
Outdoors, the phone performed much better taking less than a minute to get a proper GPS fix. It was refreshing to see that it just works without any efforts from my part.
Conclusion: The GPS works.
General Performance and MIUI
The phone is so smooth! I have yet to experience any stutters while using it but then again the ROM installed is a heavily modified version of Android. At first, it was kinda weird not having a menu button, one where you can see all your modified apps. Instead, in MIUI all your apps are shown on the homescreen. While this may/may not improve your productivity, I find it weird at first but after using it for a while, the decision kinda makes sense. One downside of this is that if you need to install any widgets, the widget app icons will also be shown on the homescreen as if it is an actual app and you can't remove them either unless you uninstall them.
Although I am still discovering the features of MIUI, I must admit that I already like it. Messages comes up as notifications where you can reply to them straight away. The default music player automatically find the album art and lyrics of your songs and the lyrics will be synchronized with the music currently playing making it easier for you to sing along. The themes is one of the major selling point of MIUI in my opinion as it totally changes your device. I cannot possibly explain this in words so I might upload a video later just to show how different the themes in MIUI are compared to the stock ICS.
Comparison with other SOCs-To be updated-
Call QualityThe phone worked fine during the few brief calls I made but I can not objectively test whether the noise cancelling features works as I do not have the proper equipments. Maybe someday I will actually invest in them but till then, all that I can say is "You can make phone calls with this phone."
IssuesI found out that the M1S's camera cannot focus properly in the dark if you are trying to focus on a white object. Somehow it just won't bother to try and change the focus but once you change it to objects of other colours, it will focus fine. No idea why this is so.
Also the included Bluetooth module is pretty slow. While I can't give any actual throughput numbers, the ThL sent the same 9MB file in less than 1min where it took the M1S about 2mins to complete the same task. It was said that the included bluetooth module in the M1S is version 2.0 and I think that is true.
Other than these two issues, the M1S is one admirable device. There is no real hardware problems, no overheating (or rather no heating issues) at all even if you are using Youtube or gaming. GPS works. Camera is good. Speaker is good. Touch screen is good. Play store works. An almost golden device compared to other Chinese phones I must say.
ConclusionI love this phone! The premium feel of the back, good loudspeaker and a polished UI sets it apart from most of other Chinese phones. The ROM will also be updated regularly at MIUIAndroid.com so any issues will most likely be fixed in few weeks time. Although the camera did not meet my expectations, it is undeniably still a good one. Other downsides are the lower than 720p resolution, non-IPS screen and dated bluetooth module used.
Considering the price, which is less than GBP200, it would be really hard to find mobiles with the kind of feature set the M1S phone have unless you are willing to buy used ones. If you looking for an Android phone and this phone fits your budget, I have no trouble recommending this phone as both the hardware and software aspects are as good (if not better) than the phones made by mainstream manufacturers at this price range.
Hmmm... Xiaomi Mi-2...........