Xiaomi Mi 5 review: A great phone, but just not perfect yet

Xiaomi Mi 5 is the new premium smartphone from the Chinese start-up. But does it live up to the hype? Here’s our full review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Written by Shruti Dhapola | Updated: May 10, 2017 4:29 pm
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Xiaomi Mi 5 is the company’s big attempt at going premium in the Indian smartphone market. This is their first phone that crosses the Rs 20,000 price tag (Rs 24,999 for 3GB+32GB storage) and is also the only phone in India shipping with the Qualcomm 820 processor as the Indian versions of S7, S7 edge come with Exynos, and the LG G5 has yet to launch in the market.

Xiaomi is telling consumers in India that they are offering premium specs, but it won’t cost you north of Rs 40,000 to get those. A 5.15-inch full HD display, a 16MP camera, 3000 mAh battery, the latest Snapdragon 820; on paper this phone is too good to be true for its price.

But does the Xiaomi Mi 5 live up to the hype? Can it truly challenge the big players? Here’s our full review of the smartphone

Specs: 5.15-inch full HD display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor clocked at 1.8 Ghz | 3GB RAM+ 32GB storage space | 16 megapixel rear camera with 4-axis OIS, 4 Ultrapixel camera front camera | 3000 mAh battery | MIUI 7 on Android 6 | Xiaomi Mi5 full specs

Price: Rs 24,999

Watch our video of the Xiaomi Mi 5

First up, let’s note that the original Xiaomi Mi 5 unit sent to me for review had to replaced, because it was prone to overheating when I used the camera. It would easily cross 40 degrees celsius, even hitting 43 at times. That’s not bearable as a user or acceptable as a consumer.

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Second, the MIUI 7 on Android 6 running on the both phones is in beta mode, and apparently Xiaomi is shipping a “different stable build” to customers in India who are buying the phone. So do note, that we might have some experiences, which regular users might not face on the stable build, or they could face a totally different issue.

From a design perspective, Mi 5 looks very good; the curved 3D glass back, the metal frame on the side, the way Xiaomi has managed to keep this phone feeling incredibly thin and light are all points in its favour. The camera unit on the back doesn’t jut out like with the Apple iPhone 6s or the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. The one problem with the Mi 5: the glossy back means that it is prone to slipping and I’ve had to be quite careful with this one. Get a sturdy cover for this, if you have bought the Mi 5.

So what’s good?

Other than the design, the phone’s 5.15-inch full HD display is impressive. It’s vivid, colours are fairly accurate and the blacks are deep. Personally, I prefer smartphones with smaller screens, and so the Mi 5 appeals to someone like me. Be it HD gaming, watching videos on Netflix, the display is perfect I’d say. Sure it’s not 2K display like the S7 edge, but it’s not a difference you are likely to feel. Plus remember this phone costs half of the latter.

In terms of general performance, the Mi 5 is more than capable of handling a user’s daily needs, but there are issues that flare up with some tasks such as gaming. More on that below. I’ve used this phone extensively for gaming, watching videos, browsing the web, and had basically made it my primary device for week. Overall, I’d say it is more than capable of doing most tasks. And yes on Antutu benchmark, 3D Mark, etc it does come in the top league.

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Also the call quality on the Xiaomi Mi 5 is the best among in all the phones from the Chinese tech start-up that I’ve used so far.

On the battery front, tests showed that it will last around 12 hours, which is good. I’d say it can last a user’s work day (moderate to heavy usage which is 10-12 hours). The standby time on this smartphone is pretty impressive; one night I didn’t charge it at all, and left it on with 20 per cent battery; the Mi 5 had not died in the morning and lasted for half the day without charge.

But the Type-C USB charging means that you should carry the cable with you at all times. Also for some reason, Xiaomi is shipping this phone with QuickCharge 2.0 in India and not 3.0, even though the same is supported by the smartphone.

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The 16 megapixel rear camera gives pretty good results in daylight, well-lit rooms, though the low-light performance is not so good. I liked the results from the selfie camera, and I’d say this is a smartphone camera you can whip out at dinner to take group photos, and expect some good results. But I had some concerns with the camera as well and I’ll address those next.

So what’s not good?

For starters, getting the auto-focus to work in one go was a challenge in some situations. In the first unit, I kept facing the issue and in the second one too, I’d say it was a struggle. Plus in the first unit, the camera app crashed twice. Despite the 16 megapixel camera sensor, I’d say the results don’t always have the level of detail that one would expect.

There’s also a tendency to oversaturate colours like reds and pinks, and yes it struggles in low-light.

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My other big problem with the Mi 5 has to be overheating, and this is an issue that has cropped up on both the units we tested. While in the first unit, it was the camera that triggered the heat, in the second one gaming or recording a 4K video causes the phone to heat up. A 15-minute session of Asphalt 8 or a Lara Croft Run and the phone easily hits 40. And that’s not such great news, especially for a device that is competing with the big guns.

The heating problem is surprising because this does not happen while the Mi 5 is charging, or when you are using it to browse the web. And yet I cannot say that the Mi 5 will stay cool at all times. It also means that gauging the real battery life is hard. Given that this is their flagship device, Xiaomi really needs to figure out why this happens and send an update to fix it.

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With the Mi 5, the beta version of the MIUI 7 on Android 6 is prone to bugs. For instance in the new phone, the fingerprint scanner is a bit of a hit and miss. Plus this same unit has rebooted on its own twice.

MIUI 7 also doesn’t support Android 6 features like Google Now on Tap, Doze Mode for better battery life, and the privacy features. App permissions are all granted in one go, and there are no pop-ups asking a user if they want to give access to this app or that app. To manage permissions one needs to go the Security app in MIUI. Again these are issues that Xiaomi can fix with software updates.

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Verdict

At Rs 24,999, it would be unfair to say or expect that the Xiaomi Mi 5 should better the top guns in the each and every department. And yes, the Mi 5 has a lot in its favour; a beautiful design, good performance and a decent camera.

It has great specs on paper, but it seems these features have issues coming together, at least in this Beta Build that I have running on my unit. This results in inconsistencies, especially the heating issue, and that’s what makes it hard for me to say this is a perfect phone. In my opinion, I’d wait till Xiaomi fixes all the issues, before buying this phone.

Also read: Xiaomi Mi 5 review blog: A good phone, but prone to heating

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