Xiaomi has just given those wanting to purchase a good smartphone for less than Rs 15,000 a very pleasant headache indeed. A few weeks ago, the company had announced a reductiuon in the price of its former flagship, the Mi 4 from Rs 19,999 to Rs 14,999, and today it followed it up by announcing a 32 GB variant of its Mi 4i for Rs 14,999 (it had earlier launched a 16 GB version for Rs 12,999). Both devices boast good hardware and design, and in a perfect world, one could pick up one of each and add to one’s vast phone collection (it would be vast if you went picking up devices in that fashion), but if you have just Rs 15,000 in your wallet and one Mi device to choose, which one would it be? Well, here’s our attempt to simplify matters for you:

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Appearance – A tale of plastic and a piece of steel!

Both the Mi 4 and Mi 4i are very smart looking devices, but in different ways. While the Mi 4 rests on a metal frame, the Mi 4i is an all-plastic affair. While the Mi 4 has a glossy back, the Mi 4i has one with a slightly matte finish. The Mi 4 has a much more solid look and feel to it, to be honest, but then we can see people liking the much slimmer and lighter Mi 4i – it is 7.8 mm thin as against the 8.9 mm, and at 130 grammes, significantly lighter than the Mi 4 , which is 149 grammes. It is a very close finish – the adherents of strength and solidity will prefer the Mi 4, while those who love the slim and sleek will opt for the Mi 4i. Speaking for ourselves, we would go for the Mi 4, although we would recommend slapping a cover on that smudge prone back.

Winner: Mi 4 (but only just)

Hardware – 4G and Storage against Chip and RAM!

On paper, many would have thought that the Mi 4 would pretty much boss the Mi 4i in the hardware department. After all, it boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB RAM, while the Mi 4i comes with a second generatation Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor with 2 GB RAM. But the Mi 4i has a few hardware aces up its sleeves – unlike the Mi 4, it is a dual SIM device and it also supports 4G LTE in India. And at that price point, it comes with twice as much storage as the Mi 4 – 32 GB against 16 GB, which is a massive factor when you consider that neither device has expandable memory. Both devices come with full HD 5.0-inch displays. On paper, the Mi 4i also comes with a slightly larger battery – 3120 mAh as compared to 3080 mAh on the Mi 4. But then, the Mi 4 gets back with an IR blaster and a much more powerful 8.0-megapixel front facing camera as against the 5.0-megapixel one on the Mi 4i (both have 13.0-megapixel rear cameras). It is really going to boil down to one’s needs: performance fanatics will love the faster processor and more RAM on the Mi 4, while those valuing storage and Dual-SIM 4G will go for the Mi 4i. Speaking for ourselves, we would again vote – very narrowly – for the Mi 4.

Winner: Mi 4 (by a margin as thin as the Mi 4i)

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Software: Android L against full-fledged MIUI 6

Once again, this would seem easy on paper – the Mi 4i runs Android Lollipop, while the Mi 4 runs Android KitKat. And as both run MIUI 6, Xiaomi’s UI over Android, you would have thought that this is a shoo-in for the Mi 4i. Well, not quite. For the fact is that the Mi 4 seems to have a slightly more full-featured version of MIUI 6, with more special effects, including the disintegration of apps into a burst of dots on being uninstalled. That said, we would go with the newer Android, and vote for the Mi 4i, but again, the margin is a slim one.

Winner: Mi 4i (by one version of Android)

Multimedia: Display magic vs Snappy power

And yes, we know this is getting to be a bit predictable but this again turns into one hell of a tussle – the Mi 4i’s display definitely seems better to use in bright light conditions, but the Mi 4 boasts the better rear and front cameras, even though the results tend to be slightly oversaturated at times (really bright reds, you know). In terms of sound too, we found the Mi 4 just winging past the Mi 4i, but those who store lots of music and videos on their devices, will love the Mi 4i’s additional storage. Pretty tight once again, but we would vote Mi 4 again.

Winner: Mi 4 (as close as a macro shot!)

Gaming and multi-tasking: A Tale of Two (Snap)Dragons

And the close battles come to an abrupt end. Let’s be blunt: if you are looking at a device to handle all your high definition gaming and content needs, the Mi 4 is well ahead of the Mi 4i. No, we are not saying the Mi 4i is a bad performer – it will handle most of the routine tasks that you throw at it – but get into HD and multi-tasking territory and you will see the lags creep in and the temperature rise a bit (although not as much as in the past, thanks to a software update), while the Mi 4 handles these with near effortless ease. This is where the extra GB of RAM and the Snapdragon 801 come into play, we think, defining the difference between a speedboat and a flagship. It is pretty much a cakewalk here, for the first time in the contest.

Winner: Mi 4 (by a lap in Asphalt 8)

General performance: A Close (Phone) Call!

Move on to general performance, and we are back in photo-finish land. The Mi 4 and Mi 4i are equally adept at functions such as handling phone calls, browsing the web, handling social networks, e-mail and the like. We think the Mi 4 has slightly better sound quality on both loudspeaker and headphones, though, and surprisingly, even though it has a slightly smaller battery, it actually managed to last much longer than the Mi 4i on a single charge – the Mi 4i last slightly more than a day if you use it heavily while the Mi 4 can get through close to a day and half. The difference in performance is barely noticeable, but all said and done, we would hand this to the Mi 4.

Winner: Mi 4 (by the turn of a Web page)

Conclusion: United by price, yet for different types!

So where does that leave us and our Rs 14,999? Well, they might share the same price tag but the Mi 4i and the Mi 4 are very different devices. If you are a power user – the type that messes around a lot with apps, plays high definition games and takes phone photography VERY seriously – then the Mi 4 has to be your weapon of choice, the absence of 4G and expandable memory notwithstanding. However, if you are a mainstream user who really wants a sleek phone with 4G and dual SIM connectivity and wants to have as much storage as possible for storing music and videos, the Mi 4i pretty much rules.

Got Rs 15,000 for a phone- go ahead, make your day (so sorry, Mr ‘Dirty Harry’ Callaghan!)

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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.