Obsessed with technology?
Subscribe to the latest tech news as well as exciting promotions from us and our partners!
By subscribing, you indicate that you have read & understood the SPH's Privacy Policy and PDPA Statement.
Product Listing

Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Exceptional value in a beautiful package

By James Lu - 23 Jul 2016
Launch SRP: S$619

Overview & Design

 

Overview

Xiaomi has built a reputation on over delivering while under pricing and its latest flagship smartphone, the Mi 5, looks to further that legacy. Armed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor with 3GB RAM, the 5.15-inch phone has a Full HD display, 32GB built-in storage, and a 16-megapixel rear camera with a Sony IMX298 sensor, four-axis optical image stabilization, a sapphire glass lens, and phase detection autofocus.

While there are three versions of the Mi 5 available globally, 32GB, 64GB and the 128GB 'Pro' version, which also includes 4GB RAM and a faster processor, the only version officially available locally is the white 32GB model which we have for review today.

  Xiaomi Mi 5
  Xiaomi Mi 5
Launch SRP
  • From S$619
Operating system
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 7.0
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (Dual-core 1.8 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.36 GHz Kryo)
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.1-inches / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (428 ppi) / IPS LCD
Camera
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, 1/2.8" sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, OIS (4-axis), dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front: 4-megapixel, f/2.0, 1/3" sensor size, 2µm pixel size
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4+5GHz),DLNA, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, USB Type C
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,000mAh
Dimensions
  • 144.6 x 69.2 x 7.3 mm
Weight
  • 129g

 

Design

The Mi 5 builds on Xiaomi's previous designs and brings back the 3D glass rear of last year's Mi Note (if you can get your hands on it, the Pro version has a more premium, and more fingerprint-resistant, ceramic rear). While many people think Samsung started the curved glass on the back of the phone trend with the Galaxy Note 5, Xiaomi was actually the first to implement a 3D glass rear with the Mi Note, which was released eight months earlier.

Xiaomi has made some changes since the Mi Note, with the 3D glass now sporting softer edges and a taper that now curves all the way to the front of the phone. The end result is a more polished aesthetic as well as a more comfortable grip.

A slide from the Mi 5's launch event back in February.

Along the top and sides of the Mi 5 is a smooth aluminum frame with chamfered edges. I've inspected this phone all over and honestly, the fit and finish is pretty much as good as anything made by Samsung or even Apple. I can't spot a single flaw.

The new curvier rear on the Mi 5 makes it look and feel very similar to Samsung's Galaxy S7 and when you compare their dimensions, you'll see that they're actually very similar: 144.5 x 69.2 x 7.25mm for the Mi 5 and 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9mm for the S7. The only noticeable differences between the two is that the Mi 5 is slightly thinner, and also a bit lighter at 129g compared to the S7's 152g. 

While the Mi 5 doesn't boast any flashy design features like the S7's waterproof build, or the LG G5's modular design, Xiaomi was able to do something quite remarkable (but perhaps a little less noticeable) with the Mi 5 by basically eliminating the bezels around the display. This is what gives the phone its extra 0.15-inches of screen space while still maintaining the same dimensions as the 5-inch S7. Technically there's still a black border around the display - you won't get an image that runs quite all the way up to the bezel, but it's as close as you can get.

Below the display, for the first time on a Xiaomi device, there's a physical home button that doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scanner is incredibly fast and accurate. I tested it side-by-side with my iPhone 6s, which probably has the fastest and most accurate fingerprint scanner on the market today and I honestly couldn't tell the difference between them. They both unlock at exactly the same time. If the iPhone unlocks any faster, it's a miniscule difference.

To the left and right of the home button, there are two illuminated capacitive keys. By default, the layout of the keys are reversed from Android's standard layout, with the back button on the right and the menu button on the left - the layout Xiaomi has always used - but since they're just dots (instead of a back arrow and menu icon) it's easy enough to switch them to Android's standard layout in the Buttons Menu.

On the top of the phone, next to the headphone port, there's an IR blaster that allows you to control anything from your TV to your air conditioner with the assistance of Xiaomi's Mi Remote app (this comes pre-installed on the phone). You used to see this feature on Samsung's flagship devices, but it's curiously missing on the S7 and S7 Edge.

Like every Xiaomi device, there's a multi-colored notification LED next to the voice speaker that can be customized to light up in different colors depending on the incoming notification.

Both the power button and volume rocker can be found along the right edge. For a smallish phone this makes things a bit cramped, and putting the power button under the volume rocker isn't ideal, as you have to shift your thumb down a bit to hit it. Having said that, you can mostly ignore the power button as you'll be using the Home button's fingerprint scanner to wake and unlock your phone 99 percent of the time anyway.

A dual SIM card tray can be found on the opposite side. Unfortunately, unlike many phones with dual SIM trays, the second tray does not double up as a micro-SD card slot, so you're stuck with the rather small 32GB internal storage.

The phone uses a USB Type-C charging port, which can be found on the bottom in between two speaker grilles.

8.0
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 7.5
  • User-Friendliness 7.5
  • Performance 8
  • Value 9
The Good
Beautiful bezel-less metal and glass design
Lightning fast fingerprint scanner
Solid benchmark performance and battery life
Dual SIM
Great value
The Bad
Non-expandable 32GB internal storage
Some quirky UI issues
Slower version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor