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Xiaomi Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro first impressions: powerful flagships that play with the big guns

|February 24 2016 |Mobiles, Android Phones, Xiaomi, First impressions, MWC 2016

"The Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro are Xiaomi's latest flagship smartphones, and we got a chance to go hands at a media preview event at MWC"

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_14

For users in India, there always seems to be an interminable wait for a premium Xiaomi smartphone. After launching the Mi 4 (six months after it was released in China), Xiaomi had become virtually mum on the flagship front in India. The much anticipated Mi Note (review) and Mi Note Pro piqued user interest, but Xiaomi never ended up releasing the smartphones in India. Now, a whole year later, Xiaomi has taken the covers off the Mi 5, and this time, an India launch is on the cards. The smartphone comes in a total of three variants, with the top-end model christened the Mi 5 Pro. The smartphones were launched in China earlier today, but there was also a separate media preview event at MWC in Barcelona, where we were present. We managed to snag some quality time with both the Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro, and here's your first glimpse at what they offer.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_10 Xiaomi Mi 5_5

The main difference between the three Mi 5 variants is on the inside. The base model offers 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 820 Soc, the mid-level variant features 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 SoC, and the top-end Mi 5 Pro features 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 SoC. Unfortunately, none of the devices feature expandable storage, but on the plus side, Xiaomi's done away with the 16GB base model. Additionally, the Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro feature different build materials, with the former using glass at the rear, and the latter employing a more durable ceramic, similar to what you get on the OnePlus X.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_7 Xiaomi Mi 5_4

In terms of looks and touch and feel though, it's virtually impossible to tell the variants apart. While the smartphones look gorgeous, especially in black, both ceramic and glass have a nasty habit of picking up fingerprints, and the units ended up looking very messy after just a few minutes of handling. You'll definitely need to put a case on the back if you want to avoid smudges, or otherwise, opt for the white or gold variants, which do a better job of hiding fingerprints. 

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_1 Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_2

The Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro will look very familiar if you've checked out the Mi Note, and feature the same rounded corners and thin metal frame. The Mi 5 looks much softer though, with the edges curving seamlessly into the rear panel, unlike the Mi Note, which featured sharp edges and a curved back. The Mi 5 is very slim at 7.25mm, and also lightweight at 129g. The ceramic Mi 5 Pro is a smidgen heavier at 139g. The front of the device is dominated by the 5.15-inch display, which extends almost to the edges of the fascia thanks to the razor-thin bezels on either side. A brand new feature you'll notice at the front is a fingerprint sensor integrated into the home button.

Xiaomi Mi 5_3 Xiaomi Mi 5_6

Xiaomi used a fingerprint sensor for the first time on the Redmi Note 3 Pro (which is incidentally launching in India next week), but the placement has moved from the rear to the front. The sensor is easy to set up, but we can't really comment on its accuracy until we use the device extensively. It's flanked on either side by LED-backlit Android navigation keys. The shape of the home button is eerily similar to Samsung's, but Xiaomi has visibly reduced the overall dimensions, which the company says helps to keep the bezels above and below the display thinner. Adorning the area above the screen you'll find the front camera, earpiece, sensors and Mi branding. 

While we've already mentioned the 5.15-inch display of the Mi 5, we haven't pointed out that it features 1080p resolution. At a time when most flagships sport QHD displays, we would have liked to see Xiaomi bump up the resolution. A 5.5-inch display for users who prefer larger screens would have also been appreciated, at least on one model. The screen boasts an impressive 600 nits of brightness, and coupled with Xiaomi's Sunlight Display tech, we don't think outdoor readability will be an issue. The screen also sports a high contrast ratio of 1400:1, which gives you the deep blacks we normally associate with AMOLED screens. 

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_11

Coming to the port and button placement, the right side of the Mi 5 features the power button and volume rocker, while the left holds an ejectable tray that accepts two SIM cards. That's right – both the Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro are dual-SIM devices. This was a pleasant surprise, and one that users in India will particularly appreciate.  The bottom edge of the phone features a USB Type-C port flanked by two identical grills, one of which is the loudspeaker and the other the primary microphone. The top edge houses the 3.5mm audio jack, secondary microphone and an IR blaster. The back of the device is minimal, with the primary camera and dual-LED flash at top left, and Mi branding at bottom centre. Xiaomi has made special mention of the fact that the camera sits flush with the rear panel, so you don't get an unsightly bump at the rear. Speaking of the camera, the primary snapper uses Sony's high-def IMX298 sensor, and packs in 4-axis OIS and PDAF to boot. The front snapper is the same one seen on the Mi Note – a 4MP sensor with 2-micron pixels. The camera interface offers a range of shooting modes and live filters, and seemed very snappy overall.  

Xiaomi Mi 5_7

In terms of the software, the Mi 5 and Mi 5 Pro are the first Xiaomi devices to run MIUI 7 based on Android Marshmallow. Among the new features Xiaomi has announced with the latest build of MIUI is a new app called Mi Video Call, which has a bunch of cool features, including real time beautification, the ability to minimise the video call window, have group chats and share files while making a call. The app wasn't pre-loaded on the Mi 5, but Xiaomi says it is available both for Android and iOS.  Fuelling the Mi 5 is a 3,000mAh fixed battery, and thanks to the use of the Snapdragon 820 SoC, you get Quick Charge 3.0. Connectivity features on offer include Cat 12 LTE, VoLTE, dual-SIM, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth and A-GPS. 

Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro_15

The Xiaomi Mi 5 has been priced at RMB 1999 (~ Rs 20,960) for the 32GB Mi 5, RMB 2299 (~Rs 24,106) for the 64GB Mi 5 and RMB 2699 (~Rs 28,300) for the Mi 5 Pro. While Xiaomi has confirmed that the Mi 5 is coming to India, we're not sure if the Pro variant will be available as well. Even so, at those prices (and we don't expect too much of a difference in India), the Mi 5 is looking like a very compelling device for users who want a powerful smartphone at an affordable price. Xiaomi will need to face up to some competition from the likes of the LeEco LeMax Pro, which offers similar specs. Xiaomi had fallen into a bit of a slump over the past few months, but with both the Mi 5 and Redmi Note 3 Pro on the cards, things are looking up for India's favourite Chinese brand.

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