Xiaomi Mi 5: Powerful and stylish without breaking the bank
Xiaomi is well known by now for their affordable smartphones, making use of inexpensive hardware without skimping out on the kind of performance we expect from a flagship phone. In today’s market, it’s a tall order to compete with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 or the iPhone 6s. But the Xiaomi Mi 5 digs its heels in and rears up a well-designed phone which boasts quality and comes at a great price.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 brings together the best design aspects of its predecessors and improves upon them, notably the curved glass that contours the metal frame of the device. The physical home button offers both touch and tactile responses, doubling as a fingerprint scanner to boot. The scanner, in particular, is lightning fast, magical even and definitely one of the best I have seen on a phone. On either side of the home button are two illuminated capacitive keys, which are interchangeable in function and work well with Xiaomi’s software ideals.
While the glass back does give the phone a premium look and feel, it can be slippery on some surfaces. Just something to be cautious about. The phone feels solid and lightweight, making it a pleasure to handle. It far outstrips other phones in the same price range when it comes to durability. The Mi 5 uses standard USB Type-C connection ports, putting to good use Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 feature. Down below, I took note of the speaker on the side of the charging port, as well as the microphone on the other side. Generally, I prefer front facing speakers like the ones on HTC’s previous flagship phones. But the quality of sound emanating from the bottom-firing speakers on the Mi 5 is worth its salt. Volume and clarity were both great, but it still doesn’t make up for the positioning and distortion.
The smartphone has a modest 5.15 inch 1080p IPS panel which oozes vibrant and well-contrasted colors and manages great viewing angles. The built-in adaptive brightness adjusts comfortably when reading in sunlight, making sure you don’t need to fiddle around with the settings too much. The screen does pale in comparison to the more recent flagship phones like the Galaxy S7 which uses quad HD display, but the 1080p panels help reduce the cost, increase battery life and for general purposes the differences are unnoticeable.
Performance and Software
In my opinion, the undisputed selling point of the Xiaomi Mi 5 would have to be what’s under the hood. This phone packs in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, which is one of the fastest mobile processors on the market. There are two variants of the Mi 5 out right now, one with 3 GB RAM and another with 4 GB. When it comes to gaming, I had no problems handling both popular as well as high-end games thanks to the Adreno 530 GPU.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 comes with its own proprietary operating software called MIUI 7, which is their custom version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The basic feel of the design seems to be based off of iOS, which takes some time getting used to if you’re an Android user. It does offer a large amount of customization though, which is a big plus in my book. The multitude of features Xiaomi put into the MIUI is impressive and although I didn’t like some of them at first, they did manage to grow on me. Except for the age recognition software in the camera that thinks I’m 30. It seems I grew on it.
Speaking of the camera, novelty features aside, the quality of photos taken is great. The 4 MP front-facing camera gets the selfie-taking job done and the 16 MP main camera sensor is capable of taking spectacular pictures. The 4-axis OIS integrated into the sensor refines the camera's focus and stabilizes your shots. The overall result is great detail, low noise and sharper images. The dynamic range is high, which is a must for any flagship phone in today's market. The photos we took in daylight had accurate white balance and the colors were quite lively. However, the camera does fall short in low light situations.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 can capture videos in high resolution up to 4K@30 fps and the 4-axis image stabilisation assists in steadying the video here as well. However, there are some issues with the quality of the sound recorded in the videos and at times, the 1080p videos were difficult to focus properly. The Galaxy S7/S7 Edge is probably one of the few mobile phone cameras currently available that can beat the Xiaomi Mi 5 in pure quality, but the Mi 5 does hold its own remarkably. After all the amazing hardware specs we've been through, we expected there to be an average camera slapped onto the phone to balance it out, but Xiaomi went above and beyond with this as well.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 has a 3,000mAh battery, which is pretty much the standard for devices in today’s market. The phone easily lasted 24 hours with moderate usage, although with heavy use the battery life does drain just as quickly as any other smartphone. For example, playing a few hours of Pokemon Go cuts the battery life down, but that’s just the app. The Mi 5 and its bevy of features, energy conserving build and adaptive brightness make sure to keep the power usage in tow.
When you want to find the near perfect balance between cost and quality, the Xiaomi Mi 5 easily towers over most phones on the list. With hardware specifications that are up to standard, a top notch camera and classy design, there’s not much you’ll be wanting for when looking for a phone in this price range.