Xiaomi had an excellent run this year with the success of the Redmi Note 3 and the Redmi 3s. In fact, the Note 3 went on to be the highest-selling smartphone for Xiaomi in India! While the entry-level devices sold in huge numbers, its current flagship, the Xiaomi Mi5 didn’t do very well. The presence of phones like the Le Max Pro, the Lenovo Z2 Plus, and the popularity of the OnePlus 3 just made things a lot harder for Xiaomi. The Mi5, as a result, was forgotten.
Just like the OnePlus 3 to OnePlus 3T update, Xiaomi launched an upgraded version of the Mi5 called the Mi5s in China. While the Xiaomi Mi5s hasn’t launched in India yet, I got my hands on it and here is what I think about the device.
Performance: Power to Perform
I would usually talk about the design and feel of the smartphone before diving into the performance, but things are a little different with this Xiaomi. The highlight of the Mi5s is the Snapdragon 821 chipset that runs the show. It is the best processor to come out of the Qualcomm stable and is currently powering devices like the Google Pixel and the OnePlus 3T.
Xiaomi hasn’t pushed the chipset to its limits but has underclocked it to a still respectable 2.15 GHz (probably to keep heat and battery drain down, more on that later). This phone has 3GB of RAM on board as opposed to the 4GB of RAM on the Pixel and a savage 6GB of RAM on the OnePlus 3T. The 3GB of RAM does feel inadequate as the device only has 1GB of it free after the phone boots up. What that means is the phone keeps killing apps in the background to deliver a smooth experience. This will hurt if you are the one who multitasks between different apps throughout the day. Xiaomi does offer the Mi5s with 4GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage which would be the one to pick if you are a heavy user.
Running the Mi5s through the benchmarking apps revealed some impressive results. It scored 134439 in the Antutu Benchmark, the highest on a phone we have tested yet. It is interesting to note that the scores kept declining when we ran the test multiple times in succession with 96,372 being the lowest score registered. This indicates performance throttling so expect longer load times or slowdowns if you are gaming for a long time. Geekbench showed similar results with the phone scoring 1685 in the single-core test and 3881 in the multi-core tests. The benchmark results show that the OnePlus 3T is a lot better than the Xiaomi Mi5s thanks to the higher clocked chip and the 6GB of RAM. The Mi5s isn’t slow by any means; we experienced no lags or stutters while using it.
The phone pretty much ran everything we threw at it without hiccups. But, the entire back of the phone did get warm while running the tests and the battery took a huge hit as well. It would also heat up while playing games like Real Racing 3 at the highest setting, but it wasn’t uncomfortable to hold at any time.
Design & Feel: Ideal Size
Xiaomi has hit the nail on the head when it comes to design with the Mi5s. It is beautiful to look at and is pretty much the perfect size for a smartphone. The metal unibody design has sides that curve towards the display, that coupled with slim bezels make it extremely comfortable to hold in hand. This curved side design also makes it easy to pick it from a table as long as you don’t place it screen down, that can be quite a challenge.
The 5.15-inch display sports a Full-HD resolution and has to be one of the best LCD displays I’ve ever seen. It is accurate and colours simply pop, making you wonder if it is an AMOLED panel. There’s a USB Type-C port at the bottom with speaker grills on either side. But it’s the right one that houses the speaker while the other one has the microphone. The power button and volume rockers are on the right side of the device and well within reach. I must add that the buttons do offer good feedback when clicked. The left side is pretty much blank except for the SIM tray slot. The usual 3.5mm headphone jack sits on top of the phone.
The Mi5s does have a fingerprint scanner on the front, but it isn’t a physical button like the one on the Mi5. Xiaomi has opted for Qualcomm’s SenseID fingerprint scanner instead. Now, Qualcomm says that “By capturing the unique 3D characteristics of the user’s fingerprint, Snapdragon Sense ID technology offers a robust security method. This gives the mobile user a consistent experience.” But, my experience with the Mi5s wasn’t how they claimed it to be — it was kind of erratic. The scanner would just refuse to scan my finger on some occasions. However, it is quick to unlock the phone, but it isn’t as fast as say the OnePlus 3.
Software: Love it or Hate it
Xiaomi ships the phone with their MIUI 8 skin on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. As usual, there are tonnes of customizations to the operating system including the altered settings menu which will take some time getting used to.
For example, the Multi-user mode on stock Android has been replaced with “Second Space” which offers limited functionality in comparison. There is a different Permissions tab that lists all the apps and the permissions assigned to them. It was a quite a task on MIUI 7, but the implementation is better this time around. The “Security App” on the phone is a lot like the Cleaner apps found on the Google PlayStore and cannot be disabled. The default browser sends spammy notifications throughout the day, sometimes with questionable content.
Xiaomi also offers Dual Apps; this allows you to have two instances of the same app on the phone. So, you can have two WhatsApp accounts configured on the same smartphone. This can be done with almost all apps on the phone.
The Quick Ball function introduced in MIUI 8 looks inspired by the Assistive Touch feature found on iPhones. It lets you add up to 5 shortcuts that are completely customisable.
The Mi5s houses a 12-megapixel Sony IMX 378 sensor for the primary camera just like the Google Pixel. It is an updated version of the IMX 377, found in the Google Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. While the megapixel count doesn’t seem much, the sensor has a pixel size of 1.55 microns that helps it capture more light. The better sensor is capable of phase-detection autofocus and processing HDR images faster than its predecessors. Sadly, the Mi5s lacks OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and laser autofocus.
The camera app on the phone is pretty basic, but there are tonnes of modes and filters to choose from. The Auto mode is set by default and is good enough for casual clicks. However, if you want complete control, there is the Manual mode as well. The output from the Mi5s is impressive! The outdoor shots clicked during the day were crisp and had negligible noise. The camera is quick to focus and delivers a sharp image, consistently. HDR mode is also available, and the phone is quite fast in processing these shots. It improves the highlights and shadows but at the cost of colour accuracy.
The camera does struggle a little in low light, though. The viewfinder lags a bit, the time taken to focus is slightly longer, and it needs a steady hand to get a clean image. It has a 4-megapixel camera on the front that is good at capturing selfies.
The Mi5s is also capable of 4K video recording along with an option for Time-Lapse and SloMo video. While the primary camera has these options, the selfie camera has no settings to choose from. I also found the phone to unusually heat up while using the camera.
Battery and Connectivity:
The Xiaomi Mi5s sports a 3200mAh non-removable battery. The capacity is good considering the small footprint of the phone. It has enough power to easily last more than a day for the average user. I had to charge the phone every alternate day as my usage was limited to surfing the web, gaming, and taking a few calls. The Mi5s charges via the USB Type-C port and supports fast charging. The supplied charger was capable of topping up the phone completely in 1 hour 30 minutes.
The Mi5s is a dual SIM device and supports 4G and VoLTE on both the Nano SIM slots. It supports all the 4G bands in India and is good especially if you are considering using this phone on the Reliance Jio Network. It has dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n support, Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC support out of the box. The Mi5s then checks pretty much all the connectivity boxes.
The Mi5s is an absolute powerhouse and has no corners cut when it comes to the hardware. Where it does fall short is the MIUI software and the Sense ID fingerprint scanner. While the phone isn’t officially launched in India, it can be imported easily. With the prices currently fluctuating in the $350-$370 range, it costs roughly Rs 23,700 – Rs 25,000 before any import duties making it the cheapest phone with a Snapdragon 821. If you are comfortable with the MIUI skin and the finicky fingerprint scanner, then the Mi5s is good value for your money. Or you can spend a little more and get the OnePlus 3T.