With an all new design, the most powerful chipset on the planet, 4 axis OIS on the camera and a new fingerprint scanner the Xiaomi Mi5 should be the best thing since sliced bread, but is it?
After seeing the Xiaomi Mi5 at the media preview in Barcelona I was super excited to get my hands on the phone for a full review. I had the option to either get the phone sent for free (but return it afterwards) or to purchase the phone and keep it. I was fairly certain that I would love the Mi5 so I bought the phone and have been using it as my own personal phone since it arrived. Do I regret it?
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Design
There are a few things that I believe we can all agree on with the design of the Xiaomi Mi5. 1) the home button is ugly and 2) the black version of the phone is far better looking than the white model.
So let’s start with these two details. Firstly the home button is where the fingerprint scanner is located and it is simply terrible to look at. I don’t like the shape, the action doesn’t feel all that premium, and I actually don’t see the reason why it has to be a physical button (i would have preferred something like the scanner on the OP2).
The reason why the black version of the Xiaomi Mi5 is preferable is because it partially obscures the design of the home button and it also hides the black border around the display.
So we’re not off to a great start, and while I’m complaining let’s complain about the build quality. To the right of the Mi5 (as with all Xiaomi devices) there is a volume control and a power button. Both metal buttons are loose. The volume rocker is loose to the touch, while the power button looks as though it might eventually fall off at some point. Yes, I get the Xiaomi Mi5 is a 1999 Yuan phone, but I’ve handed Doogee phones with better physical controls than this!
Ok the complaints are over for now so now lets take a look at the rest of the phone.
In the hand the Xiaomi Mi5 is a superbly compact smartphone, in fact this is one of the major pluses for this phone. The narrow body, thin design and lightweight make it a very comfortable phone to hold.
It’s a bit of an odd width due to the 5.15-inch display (larger so that Xiaomi can fit more LED lights under it), but it is great to hold especially with that curved rear panel.
The glossy white finish of the Mi5 isn’t up to the same high quality as the Mi Note, and it also isn’t quite as slick so I haven’t had to worry about the Xiaomi Mi5 sliding off a table quite as much as I did with the Mi Note.
The curved rear also has a new curved metal chassis which is a really nice feature and again helps with the comfort and also gives the phone a really slim look from the sides.
A tour around the phone will show you the 8 mega-pixel front camera on the forehead of the phone. There is a hidden LED RGB light for notifications up there too.
On the chin there are two backlit hardware button on either side of that physical home button, neither has an icon but you can set them up how you like from inside MIUI. The home button itself protrudes slightly from the face.
Back to the top and on to the metal frame there is a IR remote, and 3.5mm headphone jack.
The left side of the phone has a dual SIM tray, the base has a single speaker, USB Type C and microphone and on the right there are the volume and power buttons (don’t worry if you can’t find the buttons just shake the Mi5 and follow the rattle).
From the back side of the Mi5 you could be looking at the rear of the Xiaomi Mi Note only a smaller version. The top left is where that 16 mega-pixel camera is with dual LED flash and the final detail is the Mi logo in silver.
What we can take away from the design is that Xiaomi have managed to cram a hell of a lot of goodies in the compact body, and in areas they really have made some nice touches, such as the curved CNC metal frame, but at the same time they seem to have forgotten how to make physical buttons.
Xiaomi Mi5 Revew – Hardware
Whatever you might feel about the design and build quality of the Xiaomi Mi5 it is hard to not be impressed with what the Beijing phone maker has managed to fit inside.
First off all let’s tick off the features then I’ll go in to a little more detail of each.
The Xiaomi Mi5 we have is the standard version so it gets 32GB internal memory, 3GB RAM and a 1.8Ghz Snapdragon 820 chipset. So its 1GB less in the RAM dept and slightly slower in the CPU department compared to the top of the range Xiaomi Mi5, but you will likely never notice the difference in speed between the two, they are both obscenely fast!
Each version of the Xiaomi Mi5 has the same 5.15 inch display with additional LED strips behind to help make the screen brighter plus the screen has Xiaomi’s own Sunlight Display technology which is meant to make the screen easier to see in sunny conditions. In the past I’ve tried it on the Mi4i and on the Mi5 I’m still unimpressed with it. Even with the extra LED’s the screen still isn’t all that easy to see when viewed in bright sunny conditions.
Inside and away from the sun the screen is nice, and at night it can be set to blind you.
Below the display we have the fingerprint scanner, and already you know I am not impressed with the design of it, but I’m also not impressed with the implementation either.
On earlier smartphones with fingerprint scanners the phone required you to first wake the device up before it can scan your fingerprint. We’ve seen this technology fade out and be replaced with one touch tech (like on the Redmi Note 3, Vivo X6 Plus, OP2 and even Elephone M series), but the Mi5 still uses an old implementation. I don’t know if this is a hardware limitation but you first need to press the physical home button in order to let your fingerprint be scanned and unlock the phone. It’s a fast process, but it seems to me the only reason to have the physical button is to wake the phone as it serves no other purpose at all. Surely a capacitive button like the version on the OnePlus 2 would have been better?
At the very bottom of the phone is the single speaker which has pretty decent audio. It’s nice and load with good quality.
The USB Type C can be used with Qualcomm’s 3.0 quick charge, but a fast charger doesn’t come in the box. Still a full charge with the included plug only takes around 2 hours.
The battery inside the phone is a 3000mAh model and with normal usage (i.e not gaming) you can get plenty of life out of it. Personally I am getting over a day and a half with mostly GPS, mail, photos etc. That said the screen on time the phone is reporting is really low at just 2 hours and 38 minutes.
At the very top of the phone there is the IR remote and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Mi5 will know when you plug in a set of earphones and let you set up the buttons how you want them and you can choose the audio features depending on the earphones you use. As this is a Xiaomi phone the presets are all for Xiaomi earphones, but you can play around with them to get your preferred sound. Audio quality is really nice thanks to the Snapdragon 820 chipset, but not up to the very high standards of the Vivo X6 Plus and Lenovo Vibe X3.
Connectivity is really very impressive. I can connect to my own WIFI network from inside the local coffee shop. On other phones I can see my network inside the coffee shop but not connect to it. Also, data connectivity is strong too. Our local Carrefour has no signal once you step inside, but the Mi5 was managing to stay connected most of the time.
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Performance
Performance, well what can I say about this except the Xiaomi Mi5 is a blazing performer. Forget the benchmarks just for a second and actually use the phone and you will have no doubt in your mind that this is one of the fastest phones on the market today.
Its not just about the Snapdragon 820 chipset and RAM though, but the speed of that super fast internal memory. You really do notice the difference in read and write speeds and this helps when taking and saving photos.
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Camera
Ok on to that camera. On paper the Xiaomi Mi5 has a seriously impressive camera with a 16 mega-pixel sensor, F2.0 aperture and 4 axis OIS. That they managed to get all of that in to the Xiaomi Mi5 is impressive to say the least.
It was really the 4 axis OIS that sold this phone to me. You can turn the camera on and wiggle the phone about while looking at the lens you can actually see it compensating, it really is impressive.
You can even wiggle the phone about and snap photos and them come out perfect. Remember of course that OIS is only to get rid of small bumps, nudges and shakes, don’t go running down and mountain and expect silky smooth images.
Speaking of the images well they aren’t quite as good as you might hope, but they are exceptionally good considering how fast the phone acts. Even with the phone locked I am able to get the phone in my hand unlock it, get the camera open then snap an action shot in just a few seconds, and the OIS means it will be shake free to boot. There is no other phone on the market that is able to do this.
If you are the kind of person who often misses a great photo opportunity because your phone is too slow then you are going to really appreciate the speed of the Mi5.
About that OIS though. Although it works well in photos, it seems to be disabled in video. The sample below was taken with me standing still with a little wind buffering the phone, its not as super smooth as I hoped it would be, take a look.
In good light the Xiaomi Mi5 really performs well, but I am shocked but how noisy images get when light is at a premium.
Xiaomi don’t market the Mi5 as a camera phone though, and I would say that camera performance is on par with other flagship phones from global players. Remember also that the speed of the Mi5 means photos are possible with the this phone which simply aren’t with other phones. However if image quality is what you are after then there are other choices.
Xiaomi Mi5 Photo samples
How fast is the Xiaomi Mi5 camera
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Specifications
|Sim Card:||Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)|
|Color:||Black | White | Gold|
|Capacity||RAM: 3GB | 4GB
ROM: 32GB | 64GB | 128GB UFS2.0
|Chipset||CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon 820
Dual-core 1.8 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
CPU frequency: 1.8GHz
GPU: Adreno 530 510MHz
|Screen||Display Size: 5.15 Inch 16 LED light display
Resolution: 1920 x 1080pixels, 428PPI
Screen Color: 16000K Colors
Other:95% NTSC ,600nit
|Camera||Rear Camera: 16MP
Front Camera: 5MP
|Network and Wireless Connectivity||4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7
TDD B38/B39/B40/B41: 2555-2655MHz
3G: WCDMA B1/B2/B5/B8, TD-SCDMA B34/B39
2G: GSM B2/B3/B5/B8
CDMA 2000:band BC0 / BC1
CDMA 1X:BC0 / BC1
GPS: GPS , AGPS ,GLONASS
Bluetooth: v4.2 , HID
WiFi: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n ,Wi-Fi hotspot, 2.4GHz WiFi, WiFi Direct ,WiFi Display
Full feature NFC
|Battery capacity and life||Non-removable 3000mAh(typ) / 2910mAh(min) lithium-ion battery.
Support Quick Charge 3.0
|Sensor||Fingerprint Scanner,Electronic compass, Accelerometer, Light sensor,Gyroscope, Infrared, Hall sensor, Proximity sensor,Inflared Technology|
|Size||144.55 x 69.2 x7.25mm
|Package||1 x Xiaomi Mi5
1 x Travel Charger
1 x Usb Type-C Data Cable
1 x Battery
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Gallery
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Unboxing and hands on
Xiaomi Mi5 Review – Conclusion
When Xiaomi started to tease the Xiaomi Mi5 they put a heavy emphasis on speed, and that’s what they have managed. They have created a phone with a super fast CPU, fast memory, fast charging (even without a fast charger) and super fast camera, but while it might be fast it isn’t fantastic.
The Mi5 is a great example of what Xiaomi can and cannot do. The Mi Note proved that Xiaomi can make a premium phone at a price, but the Mi5 proves that they cannot make a premium flagship with all the top features (fans have come to demand from them) at their traditional 1999 Yuan price tag.
In all honesty I wish the Mi5 had downgraded the processor, the odd size display (which surely cuts in to their budget), and 4 axis OIS in favour of better build quality, a less advanced OIS and concentrated on user experience.
The Mi5’s design could have been turned in to one heck of a functional phone if it wasn’t so loaded with top of the range hardware. All the flagship components could have waited for the Mi Note 2 and with it’s expected higher price we could have our Xiaomi cake and eat it.
So do I regret buying the Xiaomi Mi5? Well no not really. I still have the fastest phone on the market (in actual day to day use), the camera is perfect for action photos, and the size makes it easy to handle.