POCO M5 review: a VFM handset that gets most right

Review Summary

Expert Rating
7.0/10

Design
★  
7.5
/10
Display
★  
7.0
/10
Software
★  
7.0
/10
Camera
★  
6.5
/10
Performance
★  
7.0
/10
Battery
★  
6.5
/10

Pros

  • Good design
  • Solid battery life
  • Respectable performance

Cons

  • Low light photography needs improvement
  • Ships with bloatware

The POCO M5 is the latest smartphone in the company’s affordable M-series lineup. The handset is backed by the recently-launched MediaTek Helio G99 SoC and sports a 90Hz refresh rate screen. It also comes with a catchy design, a 50MP primary camera, a 5,000mAh battery, and other essential features. In addition to that, the phone is available in three colour options: Icy Blue, Power Black, and Yellow. The latter is the trademark colour of the company and POCO sent us the M5 review unit with the same paint job. Here’s our review of the POCO M5 after using it for well over a week.

Verdict

The POCO M5 is a compelling affordable smartphone that gets most things right. The handset boasts a good design, a solid battery life, decent cameras, and respectable performance. If anything, the device might raise a few eyebrows as it isn’t 5G-enabled, but other than that, the POCO M5 is a complete package.

The lowdown

  • The POCO M5 takes its design cues from its predecessor, the POCO M4 5G. To wit, the M5 flaunts a dual-tone finish with faux leather back, which is soft to the touch, offers a great in-hand feel, and doesn’t attract any fingerprints or smudges whatsoever. The phone also sports flat edges which pave the way for a comfortable grip and touts a striking camera island that runs across the back panel horizontally. The latter keeps the POCO M5 steady while lying flat on the surface. Speaking of the camera island, the array encompasses a triple camera setup, as well as an LED flash module. The module also incorporates the company’s branding and comes stratified with a glastic layer, which is not fingerprint resistant.
  • The fingerprint scanner – which is on the right spine of the POCO M5, alongside the volume button – also doubles up as a power button. The left fascia has a SIM tray, which has a dedicated slot for a microSD card along with dual SIM card slots. As for the I/O, the USB Type-C port is sandwiched in between the microphone and speaker grille at the bottom edge, while the 3.5mm headphone jack can be found at the top edge alongside an IR blaster. Overall, the POCO M5 looks quite good, and despite its plastic build, the device feels solid and sturdy. The handset is even IP52 splash-resistant certified. That said, I wish the phone was slightly lightweight. As things stand, the device tips the scales at 201 grams, which could be construed as hefty, by many.
  • The POCO M5 sports a 6.58-inch tall screen which is of the IPS LCD variety. As for the rest of the display specs, the screen bears a FHD+ resolution, 90Hz refresh rate, and 500 nits of peak brightness. All this makes it a capable screen that is good to look at and consume multimedia such as movies and TV shows. The display gets plenty bright for the content to be legible even under direct sunlight, and the colours look punchy and vibrant. The viewing angles on the phone are acceptable, especially when you factor in the smartphone’s MRP. Further, despite the handset’s wide chin, waterdrop notch, and chunky bezels, the screen offers a reasonably immersive media consumption experience. The 90Hz refresh rate works well across the interface and most applications – just not the graphically-heavy ones. Be that as it may, the handset is Widevine L1 certified, which means it can stream HD content from Netflix and other streaming platforms.
  • The POCO M5 packs the all-new MediaTek Helio G99 SoC under the hood. It’s the most-advanced SoC in the company’s mid-range Helio G-series lineup yet, with 6nm fabrication technology and up to 2.2GHz clock speed. Starting with the benchmark results, the chipset scored 1,916 points in Geekbench’s multi-core test, while on AnTuTu, it netted 3,66,351 points. Unsurprisingly, the benchmark numbers secured by the SoC were marginally better than its predecessor – the MediaTek Helio G96 SoC. In the real world, the SoC offers lag-free performance during regular smartphone usage involving checking emails and messages, going through social media, browsing, and watching videos.
  • The MediaTek Helio G99 SoC can also take care of multi-tasking and some light gaming. I was able to play a game or two of Pool 8 and Real Cricket 22 without any frame freeze and drop issues. The handset can also run New State Mobile and other high-end games but offers an average experience. With that being said, the POCO M5 comes in a couple of configurations: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage and 6GB RAM + 128GB storage. The storage can further be expanded up to 1TB using a microSD card slot.
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  • Coming to the cameras, the POCO M5 ships with a 50MP ISOCELL JN1 primary sensor which has been paired with a couple of 2MP depth and macro sensors. The images clicked from a 50MP primary sensor in adequate lighting conditions impressed me with their details and dynamic range. The colour accuracy could have been better, but otherwise, the pictures looked visually appealing. The sensor was also quick to focus and process images. The portrait mode works well – mostly on human subjects, but doesn’t look very natural. As for the 2MP macro sensor, it fails to offer crisp shots of the close-up subjects in daylight due to its low resolution.
  • In low light, the performance of POCO M5 cameras, including the 50MP primary sensor, takes a hit. The results are usable, but you will have to deal with noise and loss of details and sharpness. The handset has a dedicated night mode that helps in reducing the noise level and bumps up the highlights. Lastly, the 8MP front camera overturns decent selfies. The skin tones would remain accurate, but the sensor smoothens out the details, which is a bummer.
  • Moving on, the POCO M5 ships with a 5,000mAh battery, which offers at least a day’s battery life on a single charge. On the PC Mark battery test, the handset scored 18 hours and 3 minutes, which is on par with competing smartphones in the segment. The handset supports 18W fast charging, even though you get a 22.5W charger in the box. The charging solution can take around two and a half hours to lift a dead battery to 100 percent. While there is no 5G onboard, the handset supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands for range and high-speed internet respectively. I had no trouble using the 4G LTE on this device. Apart from this, the bottom-firing speaker of the phone sounds just fine, whereas the side-mounted fingerprint scanner unlocks the M5 in a jiffy.
  • Software-wise, the POCO M5 comes pre-loaded with Android 12-based MIUI 13. The experience is similar to any other Redmi and Xiaomi smartphone. To give you some perspective, MIUI 13 is one of the most intuitive custom Android skins out there. It offers several customisation options, an array of wallpapers, and smooth animations, as well as call and screen recording features. That is not to say, the device isn’t plagued with bloatware. The handset comes with a bunch of apps pre-installed – some of which you can uninstall after the setup. I also want to point out that the handset is marred by annoying notifications that affect the overall experience.

Final verdict

The POCO M5 starts at Rs 12,499, and for the price, the handset comes across as a good proposition. The phone performs admirably and while the handset doesn’t come with a 5G-enabled SoC, the Helio G99 chipset powering the phone offers more raw compute than say, the Dimensity 700 powering the POCO M4 5G. It also helps that the handset comes with an interesting design that helps it stand out among its competitors. Interestingly,

Rest assured, the device is a worthy option to consider if you don’t prioritise 5G and instead, want a reliable smartphone at an affordable price.

Editor’s rating: 3.5/5

Pros

  • Good design
  • Solid battery life
  • Respectable performance

Cons

  • Low light photography needs improvement
  • Ships with bloatware

Key Specs

POCO M5
RAM4 GB
ProcessorMediaTek Helio G99
Rear Camera50 MP + 2 MP + 2 MP
Front Camera8 MP
Battery5000 mAh
Display6.58 inches (16.71 cm)
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POCO M5 Price
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Rs. 9,444.00
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