Mi A1 Review

- Introduction -
- Physical features -
- Audio -
- Display -
- Bootloader unlocking -
- Repairability -
- Custom ROM & Kernel Availability -
- Other issues -
- Conclusion -

Introduction

Mi A1 - the second device I've played with, & the 1st A/B device I've ever used.

Physical features

The A1 feels forgettably fine.

On the top section, there's the secondary mic & an IR blaster, which you could use to control anything that needs a remote. I didn't really bother with this, but it's an addition nonetheless.

USB-C charging port, speaker, headphone jack, & primary mic on the bottom corner, with the headphone jack at bottom-left corner. The jack's position isn't the best, but at least it's there. The charging port is also flanked by 2 pentalobe screws.

Left section contains only the hybrid dual SIM tray.

Right section is home to the volume & power buttons.

Front side is reserved for the 5.5' 16.9 LCD, front camera, & earpiece. Below the screen also lies the 3 capacitive buttons - which can't be remapped & defaults to Recents > Home > Back.

The back holds rear cameras & fingerprint scanner.

For materials, Gorilla Glass 3 covers the front display, with aluminium covering the back, sides, & the buttons.

Audio Quality

The Mi A1 has all audio modules (headphone jack & mono loudspeaker, in that order) at the bottom of the device, flanking the USB-C port.

The speaker's quality is fine enough, despite being a mono.

The headphone jack quality is quite fine, with no major flaws whatsoever.

Display

The 5.5' 16.9 LCD display is decent, nothing more.

Bootloader unlocking

The bootloader unlocking process is foolproof & simple : plug PDA to PC, enable OEM unlocking & USB debugging in stock OS' developer options & fastboot oem unlock in fastboot. No connecting to internet (if you have the adb/fastboot tools ready).

Repairability

Repairability is an area where the A1 suffers. In theory, it is similar to Pocophone F1 & OnePlus 3T in which they start out by removing the back shell, however, the A1's back shell is somehow harder to open.

Inside however, everything is straightforward, except for the button, which connects with latches (not ideal IMO, considering the size & how fragile it is).

My repair story:

Initially, all I wanted to do was switch the back panel, gloss up the looks. As I pried the back shell, parts of the LCD frame broke off & I accidentally hit the power button, rendering it in a state where it works, but the button's feel is gone.

Months later, I tried again, with the intent of replacing both the LCD frame & the button. While the replacement worked, somehow the display's top section stopped responding to touches. I promptly sent it to a service center, concluding that I suck at this one. Turns out the service center somehow managed to fuck up the connection point between the button & motherboard - which basically rendered the entire A1 inoperable.

Custom ROM & Kernel Availability (as of 3/11/2020)

In terms of custom ROMs, the A1 is rich enough, considering that it's a budget PDA. One cool fact about all ROMs on the A1 is that they all run 4.9.x kernel.

Kernel development is unfortunately weak, despite being upstreamed to 4.9.x. The only custom kernel that's even maintained (if at all) is Lightning. Others such as Canting & MounKernel seem no longer maintained.

Other issues

Aside from the unfortunately bad performance & repairability, I couldn't find any other damning issues than:

Conclusion

I'd say it outright : The A1 is a decent cheapo PDA, that's all. It has some good perks, such as the standard bootloader unlocking protocol. It also has some bad flaws, such as difficult initial repair procedure, weak gaming performance, & not-so-intuitive button repairs.

I can only recommend the A1 as a backup PDA, and even then, there are better choices for backup PDAs out there.

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