In this article we review the Xiaomi Mi5, which was announced early this year at the Mobile World Congress 2016. The phone was released in India last month and had a pretty good response in every flash/open sale the company did. Let us look at this device in detail.
Hardware, Look and Feel:
The Xiaomi Mi5 is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 32 GB inbuilt storage (no microSD expansion) and 3 GB of RAM. This is the first phone in India to be sold with this processor. According to the company, the MI5 is engineered for breakneck speeds and packed with latest breakthrough features like UFS 2.0 flash storage, LPDDR4 RAM, USB Type-C with Quick Charge 3.0, voLTE. Few of the areas where we could noticeably feel the speed of Mi5 is while applying themes (happens in a matter of 4 seconds), viewing trending or subscribed videos in youtube and while loading images in browser on search.
The Mi5 variant sold currently by Xiaomi is a clocked-down processor (1.8 Ghz as opposed to the 2.2 Ghz on the 64GB model); however, there is no considerable lag while you work.
The Xiaomi Mi5 is a 5.15” 4G Dual-SIM (Nano) device made of a premium glass body that curves towards the edges on the back and blends seamlessly to an aluminum metal frame that runs around the sides. The Front is protected by gorilla glass 4 and the rear is covered by 3D glass/ceramic depending on the variant that result in a premium design.
First thing that you’ll notice when you hold the phone, is how light it feels in your hand; yet solid and well-built in terms of design and quality. With phone’s thickness being just 7.25 mm and with the tapered edges on either sides of the back, the result is an incredibly thin form factor that snugly fits in your palm. You merely feel like holding a 4 or 4.5 inch phone in spite of the fact that the display is 5.2 inches. It’s easy to use the phone in one hand, with the phone being light and the software giving you an option for one-handed usage.
Couple of interesting hardware design thoughts for longevity of the camera and fingerprint sensor are the sapphire glass lens cover for the rear camera and a ceramic finish on the front home button that houses the fingerprint sensor. This is also Xiaomi’s first phone with a physical button. Another design change with MI5 is that, you now have an option to toggle the back and overview button.
The only sore point is the loud speaker quality and grille design. Loud speaker could have been better in terms of clarity and loudness for a flagship device. Also, while holding the phone in landscape mode and watching videos, the audio tends to get muffled, with fingers blocking the speaker grills.
In a smartphone era where QHD display is being used as a standard for flagships, the MI5 sports a 1080p FULL HD IPS display, which is kinda out-dated. However it’s not a bad thing at all and it actually helps in translating to a promising one day battery life which is excellent.
With 428 PPI resolution and the number of LEDs illuminating the display bumped up to 16, the MI5 is ULTRA BRIGHT with 600-nits of brightness and colors are vivid too. With Night Display, there is a wide brightness range available that provides dimmer options for reading at night. There is also a new READING mode when enabled, minimizes blue light radiation resulting in the display being easy on the eyes and reduces eye strain. The company continues with the Sunlight display in MI5 as well which provides excellent readability outdoors.
The Xiaomi MI5 has all the bells & whistles in terms of the camera settings. For example the characteristics of output image (sharpness, contrast, saturation) could be set to one of the 7 available levels as per user’s preference. MI5 inherits the 4 MP (2 micron-pixel) wide angle front camera found in the MI Note. Rear camera is a 16 MP shooter with dual tone LED flash, PDAF (phase detection auto focus), 4-axis OIS and f/2.0 aperture that quickly locks faces and snaps pictures faster. 4-axis OIS does a great job while shooting videos and the resultant footage is less shaky compared to other smartphones without OIS. The phone also has options for 4k video, slo-mo and time lapse videos.
For best results, use HDR mode while snapping landscapes, low light photos or anything that is immobile. For fast moving subjects in daylight, I recommend using manual mode with 1/1000s or 1/250s shutter speed for best clear results. Front camera takes really bright selfies even in low light.
Mi5 also offers a 32 seconds exposure for taking night shots. Check out the sample shot below which was shot in a very low light scenario around midnight.
Other additions in camera include a new Tilt-shift mode which does a better job than many 3rd party apps. Also, its worthy to mention the Sketch filter which delivers amazing results.
In addition to camera timer, there is a new Voice activated Trigger available, that snaps pictures within 3 seconds after a sound is heard. Check the other camera samples below.
— Vijay Raj (@rajvj) April 19, 2016
— Vijay Raj (@rajvj) May 6, 2016
Software, User Experience:
The Mi5 runs MIUI7 on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Few of the features that make users stick to MI phones is ease of use UI offered by MIUI, its plethora of UI customisations, theme support with 1000s of free themes available, privacy features, in-built utilities (FTP server, RAM Cleaner, Mi Mover, Data Saver, Virus Scanner, Battery Saver, Call Recorder) etc. With lots of features built-in (one-handed mode, double tap to wake, flip to silence, mute when lifted, do not disturb, blocklist) the necessity to install 3rd party apps is drastically reduced. The phone also offers support for Child Mode which is indeed a great addition.
MIUI is the most important component to Mi Phones that makes it stand out from its competition regardless of the budget segments. Sometimes this makes you wonder if Mi is a software company or a hardware one!
Unlike other phones like Le 1s, where IR blaster works just with the stock apps, the IR blaster in Mi phones work seamlessly with 3rd party software like peel which provides lot of options like support for Indian set-top boxes and channel guide.
Fingerprint scanner is fast and works perfectly every time. Since the finger print scanner is placed on a physical home button, the phone does not wake on touching the sensor. Instead the home button has to be pressed every time to unlock the phone from sleep mode. You can add up to 5 fingerprints on the phone.
Powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor, the phone is incredibly faster while opening apps, unlocking the device and watching videos. Thanks to the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance on the mi5 is great and there are no issues like frame drops or lag during game play. Call quality is decent. We could not test the voLTE feature that supports HD calls and high speed call connections due to the unavailability of network support.
The Xiaomi Mi5 supports Quick Charge 3.0. Unfortunately the Indian 32GB unit that is currently available ships with Quick Charge 2.0 adapter. Thanks to our government certification authorities, the QC 3.0 adapter is still in the process of getting certified. We hope the future units do get shipped with this adapter. However the good news is that, even with this adapter, the phone charges 60% in 40 minutes, 80% in 55 minutes and reaches 100% in 1 hour 30 minutes, which is good. With a high density 3000mAh battery, the phone easily lasts for a day with moderate usage. The phone does get warm near the rear camera while shooting photos/videos; however, this is pretty common in phones these days.
Pros and Cons, Value for Money:
If you are looking for a flagship android phone which has a great front & rear camera, fast processor which provides an excellent game play and a light weighted phone that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket the mi5 is an excellent choice, when compared to the other 2016 flagships. Currently the mi5 retails around 25k for the 32gb variant. We would really hope the other variants reach the Indian market soon. There has been a lot of talk online about the phone being overpriced at 25K. Lets be honest, this is the best bucks you can spend to get a SD 820 powered smartphone at this moment.
If you are an audiophile who stores music collection or an avid photographer who shoots 4k videos often, then 32gb variant won’t really suffice your need. I recommend, you to wait until the company releases the 64/128gb variant in India. Otherwise, you may end up taking backups pretty frequently.
Summing up, its a no brainer to recommend this phone to anyone who is looking at buying a great quality product which has the latest and greatest of smartphone technologies built in for today.
Do let us know your thoughts and feedback. Thanks for reading.
I recently came across online that the Mi5 broke easily in one of bend tests. While, I haven’t tried to bend the phone to confirm, it would be good to have a good quality protective case and an optional tempered glass to increase the rigidity.