The situation of capitalizing on the notch trend, merely for popularity, has turned into something in which we would like to use the phrase “beating a dead horse”. This particular design element on the top of displays is possibly the most useless feature which can be found in many smartphones of today. Realistically, there is perhaps only 1 or at max 2 phones, other than the iPhone X, that can justify the presence of a notch. Every other phone is only having it wasted with no real purpose whatsoever.
Sadly enough, two more phones have joined this “I too have the notch” trend, and we have them today with us – Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite (Redmi 6 Pro) and the Lenovo Z5.
We have compared them not just to find out which one is a better handset, but also to see what “new” do they bring to this extremely competitive lower mid-range segment.
|Specifications||Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite||Lenovo Z5|
|Body||Aluminium body||Aluminium frame, Glass body|
|Display||5.84-inch IPS LCD, 1080p x 2280p||6.2-inch IPS LCD, 1080p x 2246p, DCI-P3 support|
|Processor & RAM||Snapdragon 625, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, Adreno 506 GPU||Snapdragon 636, 6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, Adreno 509 GPU|
|Operating System||Android Oreo 8.1 (Android One)||Android Oreo 8.0 with ZUI|
|Camera||Dual camera 12 MP (f1.8) + 5 MP, PDAF. Front 5 MP||Dual camera 16 MP (f2.0) + 8 MP, PDAF. Front 8 MP|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||3,300 mAh|
|Price||Not launched in India Yet||Not launched in India yet|
DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY
The Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite has a familiar build and overall fit-n-finish as its siblings like the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Mi A2 (Mi 6X) and the Redmi 5. The body is made of aluminium along with plastic antenna lines (quite wide) at the top and the bottom. It is slippery to hold but feels quite solid at the same time.
The Lenovo Z5, on the other hand, has an aluminium frame while the rest of the body is finished in glass making it quite vulnerable in case of a fall. And even though it doesn’t feel quite slippery once held, it is bigger than the Mi A2 Lite. So, it is quite a handful. After all, with a 6.2-inch screen, it can only be that compact.
Overall, both handsets are reasonably well-finished and look good, but since there is no wireless charging in the Z5, there’s no real purpose of having a glass back other than to make the phone look shiny. Also, the edges of the Mi A2 are smoother compared to the ones on the Z5.
DISPLAY, SOFTWARE & UI
The display unit is possibly the most interesting part in the smartphones of today. The reason is the notch, yes, that is it.
Why The Notch Is Being So Widely Adopted?
Originally, the notch is a solution, or a stepping stone to put it appropriately, towards achieving true full-body display (which means, no notch, no bezels at any of the four sides of a handset). Because as of now, manufacturers haven’t been able to incorporate the front camera and the mic (and the additional Face Unlock tech) under the display itself. Hence, the notch at the top which makes the screen go around these aforementioned sensors. And even though phones like the Vivo Nex and the Oppo Find X have shown some interesting alternative solutions, the notch is here to stay for some time to come.
Coming back to the display units of the Mi A2 and the Z5, both are IPS LCD and deliver Full HD+ resolution – 1080p x 2280p for the Mi A2 and 1080p x 2246p for the Z5. At the same time, the Z5’s display is larger at 6.2-inch compared to 5.84-inch of the Mi A2.
Secondly, both displays are pretty impressive and deliver good color saturation and are extremely close in terms of detail as well. The difference majorly lies in White Balance. The Z5 doesn’t offer any options related to the color and the warmth of the display while the Mi A2 has the following display settings – Default, Warm, Cold for Colors and Automatic Contrast, Increased Contrast and Standard for Contrast.
According to Lenovo, the Z5 display panel is DCI-P3 compliant but there’s no mention (or a related option) of that anywhere in the phone settings. As far as the overall quality is concerned, it is hard to choose between the two displays, but we felt that the Mi A2 is a touch more balanced overall. But really, both displays are more or less equally good.
Software & UI – Here, the Mi A2 has an upper hand purely because of the overall ease of use. It isn’t a drastic difference, but it is noticeable enough. Both handsets come with Android Oreo 8.1 out of the box but neither OS is stock. The Mi A2 comes with MIUI customization while the Z5 comes with Lenovo’s ZUI. It is very much a personal preference of an individual whether he or she likes company-provided customized UI or not. I do not, but the MIUI is still better overall than the ZUI.
Particularly, the ZUI does certain things in an irritating fashion and puts the user, especially someone new to ZUI, into confusion. For example, to hide the Navigation bar (Android function keys at the bottom), the user has to access a setting called “Lab Features” and then go inside “U-Touch” to pull off this trick. Whereas, the Mi A2 has a “Full Screen Display” setting and inside it, there’s an option to hide/unhide the navigation bar. The MIUI, in this regard, is clearly simple to understand. Secondly, inside the same Full Screen Display setting, the user can hide and unhide the notch. While there’s nothing this straightforward in the Z5 – it offers a “True Full Screen Mode” option under the Display settings, but it doesn’t hide/unhide the notch in a typical fashion. For example, this option works with YouTube in the sense that when the True Full Screen Mode is enabled, the video can be stretched towards all the four corners of the screen. And when it is disabled, the video can’t be stretched at all beyond its default full-screen size. However, this option doesn’t have any effect while watching an image in the Gallery. So, it is confusing and remains to be explored.
Other than that, the way the operating system responds is more or less similar given that it is the Android Oreo, after all, in both the phones.
In terms of brute performance, we expected the Z5 to be better given that it has 6 GB of RAM compared to A2 Lite’s 3 GB. That is twice the power! Furthermore, the Z5 has a Snapdragon 636 while the A2 Lite comes with Snapdragon 625. Clearly, the odds are in favor of the Lenovo.
And yes, the Lenovo Z5 is quicker in operation, and quite noticeably when it comes with launching apps and scrolling an app page. Also, while switching between open apps, the Mi A2 Lite tends to refresh almost all social media apps while the Z5 doesn’t it, at least not as much. Here, understand that the Z5 is nothing too impressive, but it does things with overall better smoothness and less jerkiness. For example, scrolling a Facebook or an Instagram page might feel a bit heavy on the Z5, but the action and the transitions between pages/screens is smoother compared to the Mi A2 Lite.
Gaming – This is another aspect of performance where the Z5 delivered better than the Mi A2 Lite. In this case as well, the on-paper specs of the Z5 – Snapdragon 636 with Adreno 509 and 6 GB of RAM – provide better gaming performance compared to the weaker chipset + RAM combination in the Mi A2 Lite.
Ideally, it may not really be a good idea to indulge in graphic-heavy games like the Asphalt 8 and the PUBG in handsets like the Mi A2 Lite (as well as the Z5, to be honest), but overall, these games can be still enjoyed more or less. The Z5 remains better in terms of overall smoothness and coping up with the framerate requirements, but it is nothing too impressive on its own either. There are visible and regular stutters in both phones while such heavy games, but more so in the Mi A2 Lite.
In normal daylight samples, we would say that the Mi A2 Lite has a slight advantage even though pictures from the both phones are quite similar. However, there are some key differences – details are slightly better from A2 Lite as well as the overall color saturation. In comparison, while the colors from the Z5 are good, they appear a bit flat when a direct comparison is made with the A2 Lite. Furthermore, the Z5 is slightly on the colder side in terms of the White Balance. The A2 Lite is a bit more natural.
When it comes to the daylight HDR samples, the tables turn in favor of the Z5, and quite convincingly. While the differences were minor between the two phone cameras in non-HDR samples, the Z5 does a solid job in the HDR department while the A2 Lite struggles.
First observation, the A2 Lite darkens the shadowy/dark areas even more in the HDR versions, which is not how it’s supposed to be. This invariably hurts the overall detail. At the same time, the colors remain good though. On the other hand, the Z5 is visibly enhances the detail from the shadowy or dark areas in the HDR versions, which leads to overall better detail. The overexposure remains well under control as well. The Z5’s color saturation and accuracy becomes better in the HDR samples.
The Z5 appears to be slightly better in terms color saturation, even though the Mi A2 Lite is not too bad either. However, because of the direct comparison, the colors from the Z5 camera appear to be slightly livelier in comparison. Also, the Z5 seems to produce a touch better detail especially in HDR versions. The problem, according to the above samples, with Z5’s slightly higher color saturation is that it tends rob off the colors of their realism. But it is not really a problem overall.
The Mi A2 Lite with its 4,000 mAh battery appears to have an advantage over the Z5 with its 3,300 mAh unit. However, the real world performance is not what it would seem. The Lite and the Z5 both deliver more or less similar runtime when the phone usage is normal without indulging in any kind of heavy usage (playing games for long, listening to or watching videos for long and such activities). The normal runtime in both the cases is around 1 and a half days (or up to 36 hours) which isn’t bad at all, but we expected more from the Mi A2 Lite’s 4,000 mAh battery.
Secondly, the Z5 seems to be more efficient with its battery management. For example, in our initial experience with both the phones so far, we observed that both phones tend to drop 14% to 18% battery, at least, while playing a game like the Asphalt 8 for precisely an hour.
Our experience with both the phones have revealed following observations—
Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite advantages over the Lenovo Z5:
– Sturdier build quality with aluminium body vs glass body (with aluminium frame).
– More compact size.
– Display appears to be slightly more neutral.
– Overall simpler UI experience.
Lenovo Z5 advantages over the Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite:
– Almost non-slippery to hold, provides better grip even when it is bigger to hold.
– Equally good display quality even when it is a little warm in terms of White Balance.
– Overall smoother performance in normal tasking as well as in gaming.
– Equally good battery life even with a smaller 3,300 mAh battery.
So, here it is. If you can live with the certain irritating options/functionalities of the ZUI interface, it is overall a better handset than the Xiaomi Mi A2 Lite. But if we look in isolation, the Mi A2 Lite can be easily lived with. We are awaiting the launch of both the smartphones in the Indian market.
At the same time, Xiaomi has announced the launch date of the Mi A2 Lite in India, and it is August 8. On the other hand, there is no information from Lenovo regarding the Z5. But given that it is a better handset overall, it might be a good idea to wait for it. What do you guys think?