Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Is it worth the hype? review

Great flagship phone with some flaws

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Our Verdict

Xiaomi Mi 5 is capable enough to deliver a flagship performance but there are some noticeable flaws that are stopping us for crowing this as the best smartphone!

For

  • Crisp 1080p display
  • Sleek and attractive design
  • Good camera performance
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • No microSD card support
  • Software glitches
  • Heating issues
Scores in depth

Design 4.5/5

Features 4/5

Performance 3.5/5

Usability 4/5

Value 4/5

Chinese tech major Xiaomi needs no introduction. The company has managed to become a household name in India in a very short period of time. The reason for their growing popularity is attributed to their strategy of selling phones that are feature-rich and light on pocket. And this is not just a fact but the mindset of the company's CEO, Lei Jun, who believes that the flagship smartphones does not need to cost a fortune.

That said, Xiaomi's journey in the Indian market started in 2014 with the Mi 3, and the company has now launched the much anticipated flagship smartphone - the Mi 5 at Rs 24,999. One of the reasons why it is such an anticipated device is because it took almost two years to come. This is also Xiaomi's answer to pricey products from Apple, Samsung, LG and others of same league that comes at double the price-point of what Xiaomi is selling the Mi 5.

Besides, Mi 5 is also an important smartphone for the Indian market as it is the first handset to feature the Qualcomm's top of the line Snapdragon 820 CPU in the country, which promises to deliver supreme performance without the heating issues.

Specifications

Display:   5.15-inch Full HD (1920x100) display   
OS   : Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 7   
CPU   : 1.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC, 3GB RAM   
Storage   : 32GB storage (no microSD card slot)   
Cameras   : 16MP f/2.0 rear camera (dual-tone LED flash), 4MP f/2.0 front camera   
Connectivity   : Wi-Fi, 3G/4G/2G, GPS, Bluetooth, USB Type C charging port, USB OTG   
Battery   : 3,000mAh   
Dimensions   : 151 x77x 9.3 mm   
Weight   : 129 grams   
Price   : Rs 24,999

Design

For many smartphone enthusiasts, Xiaomi Mi 5 is an affordable Galaxy S7 when it comes to look and feel. However, the smartphone is built on the lines of Xiaomi's Mi Note smartphone, which never made it to the Indian market. Xiaomi Mi 5 is however smaller than the original Mi Note phone and hence fits more easily in the hand. It also looks more refined that the Mi Note.

The smartphone is crafted well to avoid any sharp edges and has a seamless design that feels really nice when sliding your finger along the sides. Chamfered edges take the sides and a chrome boundary runs around the edges of the display, on the home button and the camera sensor ring at the rear.

We really liked the way it sits in one hand and the fingers rests at the curved edges. The thumb can easily reach the power and volume rockers placed on the right edge and for anyone who is not fond of large screen devices, Mi 5 is the perfect handset. Moreover, Xiaomi has managed to design a 5-inch metal-glass handset that feels amazingly light in day-to-day usage. The Mi 5 is just 129 grams and is one of the lightest we have tested in a while.

But just like most of high-end metal-glass smartphones, Mi 5 also feels quite slippery that is perhaps because of its glossy back panel. We had to handle it carefully otherwise it can easily slip off from hands or from any non-flat surface.

Overall, we are quite pleased with what Xiaomi has delivered in terms of Xiaomi Mi 5 design.

Hardware

This is Xiaomi's flagship device and is backed by the Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 CPU, which is considered the fastest smartphone CPU of 2016 and is usually a feature of high-end pricey handsets such as LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 (US variant) and HP Elite X3. The CPU is paired with 3GB of RAM, which might not set the benchmarks in terms of market standards but offers enough power for regular users. We will talk about its performance in the later part of the review.

Xiaomi Mi 5 fails to offer the convenience of a microSD card, which is one feature deeply loved by the consumers in the Indian market. The smartphone's standard addition offers only 32GB internal storage that can be a deal-breaker for many potential consumers. Lenovo Vibe X3 is a better option when it comes to storage as it offers microSD card support by up to 128GB in addition to the in-built 32GB memory.

Read also: 5 reasons Xiaomi Mi 5 is a great deal and 5 reasons it's not

As far as connectivity goes, Xiaomi Mi 5 has a dual-SIM slot on the left edge to accommodate two nano SIM cards. The smartphone is 4G LTE enabled, supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS and also features an infrared blaster. Unlike Samsung's Galaxy S7 flagships, Xiaomi is offering the USB Type C port with the Mi 5.

Display

Despite the fact that Xiaomi Mi 5 features a 1080p LCD IPS display and not a QHD panel, we don't have much to complain about the display performance. The 5.15-inch screen is bright enough to offer a comfortable viewing experience in out-door conditions and can go dim to the levels that your eyes will not be strained when you are using the phone in a pitch dark environment.

The display also have a reading mode that changes the colour tone to mild red and restricts the blue light that affects the eyes. It can be turned on from the notification panel and comes quite handy during night while you read news, browse web pages or check your Facebook timeline.

Besides, the display offers good colour reproduction and contrast ratio, and watching full HD videos or playing games is an immersive experience on the handset.

Performance

While everything look good on papers, it is the real-life usage that matters the most and sadly, after using the Xiaomi Mi 5 for over a week, we are left a bit confused. There were instances when the smartphone easily handled everything we threw at it, be it some of the most graphics intensive games, 4K recording, image editing or any other tasks. But sometimes we had to continuously clear the background apps, just to get the smartphone back in action to use regular apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

There were frequent lags while scrolling the Facebook timeline, even though the automatic videos play feature was turned off. We also faced long pauses while uploading pictures to Picsart or while editing the pictures. Even while accessing the basic dialer app, we had faced some issues. We are more surprised by the fact that while we encounter these issues with the flagship Mi 5, the budget handset Redmi Note 3 did not give us any such trouble. There might be some unit specific problem or software issues because our unit shipped with the beta MIUI. And we would really like to know from our readers if they come across similar issues on their Mi 5 handsets running the stable build. We will be observing this for a while and will update this story based on that.

Talking about other aspects of the performance, Snapdragon 820 was able to handle the heating issues, but only while performing regular day-to-day tasks. The smartphone does get a little warm while charging, or when we were shooting 4K videos or playing games such as Asphalt 8, Injustice, etc.

Xiaomi Mi 5 has two speaker grilles at the bottom edge, which are no match against the Lenovo Vibe X3's front speakers. They are loud enough to use in a small room but if you want to watch an entire movie on your smartphone, then you might want to use the earphones.

We also faced some issue with the proximity sensor of the smartphone. The sensor is quite slow to respond in varying lighting conditions and we had to manually control the brightness level of the display a number of times.

Update

Xiaomi has rolled out a new update to the smartphone, MIUI 7- 6.4.14- Beta. Post the update Xiaomi Mi 5 has undergone a metamorphose and come out as a new phone altogether. The overall performance has improved significantly and we are not facing any heating problem that we had complained about earlier.

The frequent glitches while going through the Facebook timeline and dialer inconsistency has also become a thing of past. Besides, we are no more forced to clear the background apps to multitask on the smartphone.

Software

Xiaomi Mi 5 runs Android 6.0 with MIUI 7, which leaves no trace of stock Android. The software performance of the smartphone is not the best we have seen on previous Xiaomi handset. As we mentioned in the performance part, we faced frequent lags during basic tasks such as opening/ closing of dialer, while scrolling the Facebook timeline or even while shifting from one tab to another in Chrome. Xiaomi has promised regular update to user interface and we expect these issues to get resolve in the coming months.

Besides, the MIUI 7 offers a number of customisation's options - themes to give your UI a new look, options to change the functions of the capacitive buttons, display colour tone, audio effects and more. One nifty tweak that we really liked about the Mi 5 is the physical home button's capacitive mode. A tap on the home button can trigger the home function and takes you back to the home screen. So you don't need to press the button and just a tap will serve the task.

Android app permissions can confuse at start and you can customise them in Xiaomi's security application, which also features the cache cleaner, data usage stats, battery profiles and more.

Camera

The camera was one of the major highlights during the MI 5 launch event. Hugo keep on explaining the built-in technology of the 16MP rear Sony IMX298 imaging sensor, which comes with a sapphire protective glass and phase detection autofocus. What makes this camera sensor special is the 4-axis optical image stablisation, which for the first time will be seen on a smartphone. This aims to reduce the motion blur while shooting moving objects.

Specs apart, the 16MP rear camera and the 4-Ultrapixel front camera didn't us down even a bit. The rear camera is able to produce amazing shots while light is in your favour. The HDR mode works well in handling the variations in light and colours also look natural. The low-light performance is also decent but not something we would expect from a flagship device. The low-light images lack detailing.

Talking about the front camera, the 4-Ultrapixel sensor managed to offer the best selfie shots we have seen in a while with the 'Beauty' mode turned on. We found the results even better than most of the rear cameras of the smartphones selling in the budget price-point.

Another smartphone which impressed us with its camera performance is the Lenovo Vibe X3, which sells at Rs 19,999 on Amazon.in

Here are some sample shots

Battery

Xiaomi Mi 5 is backed by a 3,000mAh battery unit, which made it possible for the smartphone to easily last a full day's usage. We kept the smartphone on Wi-Fi and 3G throughout the day, used multiple email accounts, shoot videos, took a number of pictures, played games and Mi 5 managed to survive a 17 to 18 hour mark, which is quite acceptable.

Likes

Xiaomi Mi 5 offers a sleek and premium design. The display is crisp, camera is able to offer some amazing shots and the smartphone can easily last for a day.

Dislikes

Sadly, Xiaomi has not included a microSD card slot nor you will get a removable battery. Besides, the occasional but noticeable lags during basic day-to-day tasks were a big disappointment.

Verdict

Xiaomi took two years to come out with the Mi 5. While the smartphone is a value for money proposition for consumers looking for a flagship experience without burning a hole in the pocket, it will be unfair to say that it surpasses the industry leaders in all aspects.

At 24,999, the smartphone offers an amazing display, a design to turn heads, decent camera unit and an acceptable battery performance. What can stop you from buying the smartphone is the fact that it does not offer microSD card support. Additionally, you will have to buy the phone via flash sale. We really want Xiaomi to fix the software bugs as the MI 5 as we think it is capable phone.