Technophile

Attractive flagship with mid-grade price tag

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 13, 2016

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Xiaomi's new Mi 5 has flagship-beating build, specs and performance, and has again taken on pricier competitors



If you’re a smartphone manufacturer seeking to disrupt the status quo, you don’t have a lot of options these days. After a decade of breakneck progress, mobile computing tech has plateaued. Everybody has the same hardware and software to play with now, so all you can realistically hope to do to make your phone better, is put it together in a prettier package than your competitor, throw in a few bells and whistles and price it lower. Xiaomi knows this strategy like no one else. In fact, the Chinese company practically invented it. Its latest offering, the Mi 5, offers all the performance and finesse of a flagship at a price that is only slightly above mid-range. The ultimate culmination of Xiaomi’s more for less strategy, the device is a potent threat to the exalted premium offerings of Samsung and Apple.

Design

Metal and glass is the standard for high-end smartphones these days and the Mi 5, being all about standards, sports as much of them as it can manage. The craftsmanship is top class and the smooth soldered edges and symmetrical proportions deliver a premium aura. The glass back is prone to picking up fingerprints though.

The front of the phone is dominated by the display, with extremely slim bezels on either side. With a brightness range that varies from 600 nits at its peak to 0.7 nits at its lowest, the 5.1-inch full HD display is one of the most dynamic panels available today. It offers excellent visibility under sunlight and with MIUI’s built in reading mode, it is also easy on your eyes in the night. We believe the Quad HD resolution is a wise sacrifice in the interest of battery life and performance.

Below the display is the physical home button with the integrated fingerprint scanner, flanked by capacitive backlit navigation buttons. The Mi 5, especially in white, is rather reminiscent of the way Samsung’s high end phones have been constructed in recent times, but in the absence of any major innovative design features, there really is not much point in crying plagiarism.

Performance

With the new Snapdragon 820 chipset powering it, the Mi 5 is, true to expectations, a speed demon. Normal apps are quite snappy and even the effects-laden MIUI’s interface is extremely responsive. The Adreno 530 is the best mobile graphics processor available and there are simply no games it cannot handle. And thanks to the 3 GB of RAM that is paired with the quad-core processor, multi-tasking is a breeze as well. Xiaomi is currently only offering a 32 GB version of the Mi 5 in India, which has processor cores that are clocked at frequencies a little lower than their maximum. The lack of expandable storage might bother users who live out of their mobile, but the clock speed difference is unlikely to make a difference outside of benchmark testing. The fingerprint scanner is ultra-quick, often unlocking the phone even before the depressed button returns to its resting position.

Battery life can only ever be adequate at best on such a powerful device and the Mi 5 just about met our expectations. Light usage will see it through a day, but if you’re going to stress it with gaming or heavy 4G usage for extended periods, the 3000 mAh battery will require recharging before nightfall. Luckily, quick charge is actually very quick on the Xiaomi, so a short 20-minute boost could see you through to the next day.

Camera

The 16 MP camera on the Mi 5 comes with all the features that are expected of a high-end smartphone shooter these days. Dual-tone flash, phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization are all on offer as well as 4K video recording support. For the occasional photographer, it will deliver excellent results but it stops short of the superlative performance that Samsung’s Galaxy S7 camera offers. Level of sharpness and detail are good, but not up to the high standards set by Xiaomi in the past. Low-light performance is a weak area for most smartphones and the Mi 5 too struggles in such conditions unlike the S7.

Software

Xiaomi’s MIUI has divided opinion over the years with its heavily customized interface loaded with transitions and effects. But it has matured into a highly capable OS with plenty of features and a level of polish that does not have many parallels in the Android world. There are still some questionable decisions involved, such as the hiving off many important settings into a separate security app or the haphazard organization of the settings app itself, but overall the MIUI does a fairly decent job of smoothing out Android’s rough edges and not degrading performance too much – which is the best that can be expected from a custom UI.

Verdict

Xiaomi has given the Mi 5 an excellent chance of success by getting out of the blocks early. At this stage of the game, its only competition is the Samsung Galaxy S7 which costs roughly double the price. More phones equipped with Qualcomm’s new generation chipsets will undoubtedly arrive soon, but whether they will be able to push the bar much lower in terms of price while retaining the quality offered by the Xiaomi remains to be seen. Right now though, the Mi 5 is the only option available for consumers looking for a cutting-edge flagship without breaking the bank.

Price: ₹24,999

Love: Performance, build

Hate: Camera

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Published on April 13, 2016
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