Xiaomi Mi5 review

A beautiful phone at a beautiful price

Xiaomi Mi5 review

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At its reasonably modest price – depending on which model you buy – the Xiaomi Mi5 is nothing short of staggering value for money. This is a phone that offers the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 3GB (or 4GB in the high-end model) of RAM and 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage.

Add in a decent camera, solid battery life and stunning design, and far from being a phone of compromises, this is a phone of winning and awesomeness.

Quite how Xiaomi has achieved all this for a bargain price I don't know. It's also made this phone incredibly light, courtesy of a super-light aluminium frame and thin but strong Gorilla Glass 4.

All in all, there's a lot to like with this phone, and not much to grumble about – and for a grumpy phone reviewer to say that is really quite something.

Xiaomi Mi5 review

We liked

Camera performance was, honestly, a surprise. This phone shouldn't produce photos that rival those from high-end handsets, but it does. Perhaps images aren't quite as sharp as those from the iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S7, but they're damn close.

I love the design too. The Mi5 is light and feels premium, and that's a hell of a trick to pull off with a handset that costs as little as this – in the region of half the price of the competition. It's the weight that constantly surprised me; this phone feels like it's filled it with helium.

The price has to be the biggest plus with the Mi5. Its premium hardware is hardly unique, but getting it at this price is. There are so few compromises here that it's hard to believe how cheap the Xiaomi Mi5 is.

We disliked

I don't like the fact that Xiaomi, and other phone makers, are moving to USB-C. Cables for this standard aren't that common yet, which means you're going to have to buy new ones. In addition to that, it's not unheard of for cheap USB-C cables to blow phones up – all this just so you can have a reversible connector like Apple's Lightning.

While I got to grips with the Xiaomi user interface quickly enough, it's quite different to the standard Android UI. That's not a problem in itself, but unlike with Samsung's TouchWiz, customising the interface can be quite an involved process. I also love the fact that Samsung added the ability to search menus, and I wish Xiaomi would do the same.

However, these issues are really just nits to pick with a phone of this price and overall quality.

Final verdict

The one-word review for this phone is "impressive". That's the word I keep coming back to. The Xiaomi Mi5 is impressively designed, impressive in its battery life, and genuinely impressive in terms of power and performance.

It's reasonably easy to build a cheap phone these days, and it's reasonably easy to build a powerful phone – but you usually can't do both. For the £300 (US$450) or so that the Mi5 is available for you would expect a fair few compromises to have been made, but there are almost none.

The main weakness here is in the software, but I've seen a lot worse in phones that cost a lot more. And it's not something that will stop you enjoying the handset; it's just a different way of doing things.

Usually, when you've finished reviewing a phone you take out the SIM and go back to your 'main' handset. In this case I'm in no hurry whatsoever to return to my regular phone, or pick up the next review handset. The Mi5 has impressed me as much as the Samsung Galaxy S7, the iPhone 6S and similar phones at the high end; as for the low end, it leaves them in the dust.

It's impressive. Remember that when you're choosing your next phone, because it's a rare commodity.

First reviewed: April 2016