Launched at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Xiaomi’s Mi 5 has managed to be sold out, as soon as it went on sale in India. Being one of the most awaited smartphones, it checks all the right boxes. But to get to that stage, the company spent two years rigorously refining the flagship. So here is our review along with Xiaomi VP, Hugo Barra giving us a teardown of the Mi 5 to offer a look inside. He walked us through the hardware that goes into this great looking piece of engineering, while highlighting the steady camera, gorgeous screen, massive battery and more.
A teardown of the Mi 5 with Hugo Barra
Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Definitely worth the wait
Xiaomi took two years to make the Mi 5 and in the end, it was well worth the wait. While speculations, leaks and rumours about their flagship smartphone made the rounds of the web, Xiaomi was busy iterating on design and parts to make the best possible phone they could. This time, Xiaomi even sent the phone out to reviews in the US, who had heard about Xiaomi because of their accessories sold there, but knew that the phones wouldn’t make it to the continent anytime soon. Even then, the Mi 5 managed to grab attention and impress. This time it wasn’t just about the unbelievably low price, but also the design, performance and appeal that a Xiaomi phone was being praised.
Xiaomi Mi 5’s design is a refinement of the Mi Note. It has a curved glass back that feel just too right in the hand. You will find yourself stroking the phone’s curved edges and gripping it without noticing that you might just be fondling your phone. However, a glass back and front means it’ll easily slide out of your pocket when sitting on a beanbag or low chair, so you might want to get a grippy case or laminate the phone. But if the slip-factor doesn’t bother you and cloaking on the great feel in the hand isn’t an option, feel free to carry it around in the pocket with your keys and coins. The glass is scratch resistant enough to have resisted any blemishes over a week of rough handling. The design on the Mi 5 is minimal while being elegant. It doesn’t allow the — acceptably accurate — fingerprint sensor (also the home button) and other elements on the front (Mi logo, speaker grill, camera and bezels) to take your attention away from the gorgeous screen. The Full HD 5.15-inch screen manages to be bright enough to be legible outdoors and dim enough to not strain your eyes at night. The front camera is only 4 MP, but comprises of larger pixels that lets you take brighter pictures in darker conditions.
The main camera on the back, has more tricks up its sleeve, but sits humbly in the Mi 5’s frame without protruding out. Something that Apple and Samsung are trying to minimise, Xiaomi has eliminated. Their abilities at photography and videography may remain debated, but you have to remember that this phone packs more punch for the price than either of the two ever will. The camera takes really good pictures with great detail and colour reproduction but isn’t really quick at locking down on the focus. With the MIUI camera app, you get the usual filter and manual controls as usual. What you also get is time lapse and slow motion modes. These features leverage the Xiaomi Mi 5’s 4-axis optical image stabilisation, which means extremely low jitters while making videos.
The metal and glass exterior houses the top-end Snapdragon 820, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB internal storage. Which might not be clocked at the highest speeds, but powerful enough for most users even while gaming, or juggling between a dozen apps open in the background. This smartphone is more about the experience and less about competing on specifications. The credit majorly goes to the MIUI team that is at the core of Xiaomi’s existence. The phone’s infrared sensor can be controlled by the Mi Remote app to anything from switching channels on the TV, to changing temperature on the AC. Apps launch acceptably fast on the Android Marshmallow-based MIUI 7, but several features like the Now On Tap seem to have been given a miss. MIUI already had the customisation option for permissions that apps are granted (access to contacts, storage, camera and messages among others) but also does optimisations in the background to save battery. The battery on the Mi 5 lasted me an entire day on single charge and heavy usage. However, the battery level can take forever (over two hours) to reach a 100%, despite the Quick Charge available via USB Type C port for the 3,000 mAh battery.
The Mi 5 isn’t my ideal phone, but it’s so close that it makes me want to settle. Against the competitors in its price range — Rs 20,000 - 25,000 — it is the most irresistible smartphone. The camera capabilities, design and specs make you shrug off the LG Nexus 5x, OnePlus 2 and Samsung Galaxy A8. And as usual, there’s a catch as with all the other features of the Mi 5, it’s going to be a hard phone to buy even if you’re ready to hand over the money immediately to them. Indians are being given three opportunities to buy them during the flash sales corresponding to the 6th anniversary of the company. Also, only the base version will be available, in just one colour — white.