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Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 review: the best budget fitness tracker gets a wellness upgrade

On: November 8, 2020

The Mi Smart Band 5 is Xiaomi’s latest entry into its popular Mi Band fitness tracker series. While the Mi Band lineup has evolved significantly over the years, the new iterations always bring in meaningful new upgrades. In fact, the Mi Smart Band 4 (review) and Smart Band 5 are nearly as powerful as budget smartwatches available in the market, with the exception of the smaller display and different form factor.

Also read: Xiaomi Mi Watch Revolve review: a commendable debut smartwatch

With the Mi Smart Band 5, Xiaomi hasn’t changed much with the design compared to the Smart Band 4, but has brought in several new features that transform the band from a basic fitness tracker to an overall wellness monitor. I’ve been using the Mi Smart Band 5 for the last few weeks to tell you all about it.

What new features does the Mi Smart Band 5 bring over the Mi Smart Band 4?

While the two bands look the same visually, the Mi Smart Band 5 has a larger 1.1-inch AMOLED display, compared to the Mi Smart Band 4’s 0.95-inch screen. The brightness has also been bumped from 400 nits to 450 nits for better sunlight legibility. The other major new feature is magnetic charging, which doesn’t require the module to be removed from the strap for charging. You also get 11 workout modes (vs 6 on the Mi Smart Band 4), menstrual cycle tracking, stress monitoring with guided breathing exercises, automatic activity detection, 24-hour sleep monitoring and a remote camera shutter control.

How does the Mi Smart Band 5 score on build quality and comfort?

I’ve been wearing the Mi Smart Band 5 pretty much 24/7 the past few weeks, and have found it to be very comfortable. The strap is smooth and flexible, and the entire unit is lightweight too. The strap doesn’t make your skin feel itchy even if you sweat, which makes it ideal for workouts. It’s also comfortable to wear while sleeping. I did find the clasp to be a bit flimsy though, with the strap often snapping open when it got lightly snagged.

What are the various fitness features on offer?

Compared to the Mi Smart Band 4 which offered 6 workout modes, the Mi Smart Band 5 offers a total of 11, including yoga, jump rope, indoor cycling and elliptical. I tried the yoga workout mode, and the only real data from the band displayed in the app was the heart rate for the duration of the session. It also showed the calories burned – 316 calories over 1.5 hours. I’m not entirely convinced about that number, given that walking 8,000-10,000 steps per day burns only about 150-200 calories, and my yoga session wasn’t very intensive.

I also want to point out that while the pedometer is pretty accurate, it does record steps if you’re in the car. On a 7-hour road trip from Bangalore to Chennai my band counted around 6,000 steps.

A new feature on the band is the automatic activity tracking, where the band can detect when you’ve started an activity and ask if you want to log it. This works particularly well if you’re walking. There’s also the PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) tracking which takes into account various parameters like gender, age, heart rate, fitness levels and activities to calculate a single metric. The initial goal is to get 30 PAI in 7 days, and bring it up to 100 PAI in the same period. While it’s an additional fitness tracking tool to have, you’ll have to motivate yourself to meet your goal, with no alerts from the band or the app to keep you going.

What is the battery life can I expect?

The Mi Smart Band 5 offers about two weeks of battery life in my experience. This includes checking heart rate every 30 minutes and notifications for incoming calls enabled. I found this to be about a week less than the Mi Smart Band 4, which I only needed to charge every three weeks or so. When I set the band to automatically track my heart rate every minute and enabled the sleep assistant, the battery life dropped to about 10 days.

The Mi Smart Band 5 takes about two hours to charge completely. The magnetic charger is a huge improvement over the Mi Smart Band 4’s glitchy charging cradle, and snaps on to the module directly, without requiring it to be removed from the band.

How good is the sunlight legibility and responsiveness of the display?

The display on the Mi Smart Band 5 measures 1.1-inches. It’s an AMOLED display, with inky blacks and punchy colours. The display is a touchscreen, although it sometimes registers swipes as taps. The sunlight legibility is pretty good for a budget fitness band, as long as your brightness levels are set to high. You can choose between five levels, but these are hidden deep in the settings menu which make them difficult to adjust on the go.

Is the stress monitoring feature useful?

A new feature in the Mi Smart Band 5 is stress monitoring, which calculates your stress levels through the day while you’re resting. Stress levels are classified as relaxed, mild, moderate and high, and you can see a pie chart and overall score of the day. I’m not entirely convinced how accurate this is though, since there are times I felt extremely stressed and checked the band, and it showed moderate stress levels.

If you do feel like you need to relax, there is a guided breathing exercise on the app, giving you both visual prompts and vibrations to let you know when to inhale and exhale.

What’s new when it comes to sleep monitoring?

Apart from the standard sleep monitoring data seen on previous Mi Bands like light sleep, deep sleep and awake times, the Mi Smart Band 5 now tracks REM (rapid eye movement). Additionally, the band now offers 24-hour sleep monitoring, which means it also logs naps – a much-needed feature.

How does the menstrual cycle tracking feature work?

Menstrual tracking is also supported by the Mi Smart Band 5, letting you log your cycle start and end dates from the app. Once done, the app automatically will display your ovulation and fertile period, as well as the predicted dates for your next cycle. This data can also be viewed on the band itself, in a useful vertical scroll.

Apart from this, the app also lets you log pain, bleeding levels and emotions. Overall, it functions like a regular period tracker, and  eliminates the need to have a separate app to track your cycle.

Bottomline

As always, Xiaomi’s latest Mi Band over delivers when it comes to expectations from a budget fitness tracker. The addition of 24-hour sleep monitoring, stress monitoring, menstrual cycle tracking, new activity and workout features and a larger, brighter display are some solid upgrades over the Mi Smart Band 4. If you own the previous-gen Mi Band, I would suggest waiting for another year to upgrade. However, for anyone else in the market looking for an affordable fitness band, the Mi Smart Band 5 is a no-brainer.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • 24-hour sleep monitoring
  • Menstrual tracking
  • Magnetic charger
  • Two-week battery life

What doesn’t:

  • Flimsy clasp
  • Display touch response needs improvement
  • No automatic brightness
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.