They were both released with a great deal of fanfare. And they both attempt to redefine the mid-segment budget smartphone experience, highlighting different features. Both come from Chinese companies. Both sport dual cameras on the rear. And both are priced in the vicinity of each other. But which of the Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 7X is the phone for you if your budget around Rs 15,000 – the Mi A1 is officially priced at Rs 13,999, while the Honor 7X starts at Rs 12,999 and goes up to Rs 15,999 for the 4 GB/64 GB version? We pit the two devices against each other to find out.
Note: You can find detailed information, image samples and screenshots from each device in our reviews: the Honor 7X Review and the Xiaomi Mi A1 Review.
Who’s got the look
When it comes to design, there is only one winner. No, we are not saying that the Xiaomi Mi A1 is an eyesore. Far from it. It does cut a premium figure with its metal body and is impressively slim at 7.3 mm. But the bezels around the display (although not huge) let it down when compared to the 18:9 display of the Honor 7X, which has much smaller bezels. Yes, the 7X is slightly larger than the A1 – 156.5 mm in length as compared to 155.4 but it packs in a display that is almost half an inch larger in that frame. And then there’s the back, where the blue shade of the metallic back of the 7X pretty much takes the relatively plain (if smart) one of the Mi A1 to the cleaners. If you are going to flaunt a phone, the 7X is pretty much the one to pick, although the rose gold variant of the Mi A1 is pretty good looking too.
Winner: Honor 7X
The spec call out: displays, chips, processors, et al
If the Honor 7X takes the prize for appearance easily, the battle for the innards is a much closer one. On paper, some would consider this one to be another win for the phone from Huawei’s sister brand. After all, it has a larger display (5.93-inches as compared to 5.5-inches) and also one with a higher resolution (2160 x 1080 as against 1920 x 1080). But Xiaomi’s Android One player pulls that advantage back with its twin 12.0-megapixel cameras (one of which is a telephoto) against the 16 megapixel and 2.0-megapixel combo on the 7X (although the 7X does have a 8.0-megapixel front-facing camera as compared to the 5.0-megapixel one on the Mi A1).
There are also some who would feel that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor on the Mi A1 is a better-known performer than the HiSilicon Kirin 659 on the Honor 7X. Both devices have 4GB in the RAM department, but while the Mi A1 comes with a 64 GB variant, the 7X has 32 GB and 64 GB variants (both with 4GB RAM). Both support microSD cards if you can give up one of their twin SIM card slots. The Mi A1 has an infrared port and a USB Type C port, while the Honor 7X sticks with a micro USB one. The 7X, however, again scores with a larger battery – 3340 mAh as compared to a 3080mAh one. This is a neck and neck battle, but we think the bigger battery and display give the 7X the edge. Narrowly.
Winner: Honor 7X
Android, stock or stacked up?
Which brings us to the not-so-little matter of software. Both devices run Android, with the Mi A1 running on Android 7.1, while the 7X comes with Android 7.0. But the difference between the two UIs runs far deeper than just the 0.1 in version terms. While the Mi A1 comes with almost pure Android right out of the box (barring the camera app, which is Xiaomi’s own), the Honor 7X comes with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 UI skin, which is a very comprehensive overlay. Which is better? It really is a matter of individual preference – we know the geeks prefer stock Android, while most mainstream users prefer a layered, feature rich UI. However, given that the Mi A1 is part of the Android One initiative, it is more likely to get updates faster (Xiaomi is already testing Android Oreo on it) and given Honor’s less than impressive record here (although they do promise EMUI 8.0 update with Android 8.0 ‘soon’), we are handing the round to the Mi A1.
Winner: Xiaomi Mi A1
Cameras: Who should you say cheese to?
On paper, this should be a close contest with the dual 12.0-megapixel cameras of the Mi A1 going up against the 16.0-megapixel and 2.0-megapixel shooters on the Honor 7X. But in terms of actual performance, we found the Mi A1 easily outpointing the Honor 7X. It was not as if the dual shooters on the 7X were bad – no, they more than held their own against the Mi A1’s cameras in good lighting conditions. But we did feel that the 2X optical zoom offered by the Mi A1’s camera combination gave it an edge. Even when it came to depth of field, we found the A1 doing much better than the 7X, handling edges better in its portrait mode. The 7X was capable of occasional brilliance but was way too inconsistent for its own good. In most cases, the A1 ended up taking much better pictures in terms of detail and colors, even though it itself was not a role model of consistency. Both cameras come with some very comprehensive camera UIs, and we think that the 7X win it in this department but with Xiaomi having used its own camera app rather than the rather limited stock Android one, the advantage is not a massive one. In terms of selfies, neither device is a delight, but the 7X does fare much better with its 8.0-megapixel shooter than the rather ordinary 5.0-megapixel one on the Mi A1. Still, all said and done, the optical zoom and superior portrait mode win it for the Mi A1.
Winner: Xiaomi Mi A1
Battery life – the matter of lasting long
On paper, this would seem to be a starlight win for the 7X with its larger battery – 3340 mAh as compared to 3080 mAh – but the 7X’s larger display must be guzzling more power because this actually turns out to be a close battle. Both devices can see off a day of moderate to heavy use without too much trouble, but when really pressed, we saw the 7X make it to a second day more easily than the A1.
Winner: Honor 7X
Game on, multimedia, multi-tasking
This is again an incredibly close battle. Neither device is a high-end gaming wizard and neither is a benchmark buster either. But when it comes to regular tasks like handling social media, e-mail, and web browsing as well as the odd spot of casual gaming, both deliver rock solid performances. We did find some apps misbehaving on the Mi A1 initially but a few software patches seem to have ironed out these rough spots. Honestly, we could not see much that separated the two phones here. Yes, the bigger display does make the 7X a better proposition to play games and watch films on, but we felt the Mi A1 actually scored on the sound department. There are those who will feel that Stock Android runs more smoothly but we must confess that we had no issues with EMUI. We are calling this one a very tight tie.
…and everything else
Which brings us to the penultimate round – that of general performance in day to day use. And it is here that we see the 7X edge out the Mi A1. We felt call quality and reception was better on the Honor 7X, although it was certainly quite decent on the Mi A1 too. In terms of general handling too, we felt that even though it was slightly larger than the Mi A1, the 7X actually felt better to use. And while geeks will prefer Stock Android’s Spartan approach, most of the mainstream crowd (which we suspect is going to be the target crowd for the devices), will actually prefer the more feature-laden interface of the 7X. We are handing this one to the 7X.
Winner: Honor 7X
A matter of price
The Mi A1 retails for Rs 13,999 (it got a price cut even as this was being written, else it had been launched at Rs 14,999), while the Honor 7X comes in two versions: Rs 12,999 for the 4 GB/ 32 GB one and Rs 15,999 for the 4 GB/ 64 GB one. Given that there is not too much separating the two devices, we would say that in out and out price terms, the edge is ever so slightly with the Mi A1, as it is offering a 4 GB/ 64 GB device at a significantly lower price than the 7X, and is just Rs 1,000 more than the 4 GB/ 32 GB edition of the 7X. But once again, we would call it a very very close battle as Honor isn’t sacrificing the more important RAM on its base variant.
Winner: Xiaomi Mi A1.
So which one should you go for?
In sheer statistical terms, it would seem that the Honor 7X ekes out a 4-3 win over the Mi A1, with one round being even (so many could have been, actually). But as in all cases, the numbers do not really tell the complete story. So if you are torn between these two very good devices, here are our recommendations for different case scenarios:
- Those looking for a solid device that looks very good and flauntworthy would definitely prefer the Honor 7X.
- The geek brigade and those that value software updates as well as stock Android would prefer the Mi A1, especially given its Android One association.
- Those who want a phone for mainly viewing a lot of content, be it videos or websites, the Honor 7X seems the better option, thanks to its larger and higher resolution display.
- If you are on a super tight budget and every penny counts, the Mi A1’s price tag makes it the preferred one.