Xiaomi Mi 5 review: the obvious choice for a pocket-friendly flagship

Expert Rating
  • Gorgeous curved glass design
  • Crystal clear display
  • Snappy performance
  • Affordable price
  • Phone heats up occasionally
  • Camera is hit and miss
  • No expandable storage
  • Battery life is average

Xiaomi Mi 5_5

If you want to gauge how important a market India has become to Xiaomi, you don’t need to look any further than its flagship launches here. The brand’s debut device in India, the Mi 3, made its way to the country nearly nine months after it was unveiled in China. Its successor, the Mi 4, was launched here four months after it went official – an improved time frame, but still late. Fast forward to 2016, and Xiaomi’s flagship this time around is the Mi 5. Officially unveiled in February, the smartphone went on sale in China in March, and is now available in India less than a month later. Not only did Xiaomi significantly accelerate the Mi 5’s launch here, it also ensured that India was among the first wave of countries to get the smartphone after China, and that says a lot. Like previous Mi flagships, the Mi 5 sports top-of-the-line specs, including a Snapdragon 820 chipset, seen on other heavyweights like the LG G5 (first impressions) and international variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. As expected, the Mi 5 is available at half the cost of the competition, making it an obvious choice for people who want a powerful device at an affordable price. So how does it fare in real life usage? We’ve been testing the phone for just over a week to tell you just that. 

Specs at a Glance

Size5.15 Inch
ResolutionFull HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
CPU Dual core, 1.8 GHz + Dual core, 1.5 GHz, Snapdragon 820
Internal memory32 GB
Capacity3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Primary camera16 MP
Secondary camera4 MP
Network supportDual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
Battery Capacity3000
Operating systemAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow

Design: seamlessly sexy

Dimensions: 144.5 x 69.2 x 7.2 mm
Weight: 139 grams

Xiaomi Mi 5_6

The first thing you’ll notice about the Mi 5 is how familiar it looks when compared to the Mi Note. The glass back, lightweight metal frame and clean façade of the Mi Note have been adapted to the Mi 5’s smaller footprint, with a few added curves in tow. Suffice to say, the Mi 5 is a gorgeous smartphone. The design exudes premiumness, right from the quality of materials used to the ergonomics (or as Xiaomi’s Jai Mani insists on calling it, “hand-feel”). Our review unit was white, but you can also get it in black and gold. The black variant is definitely the sexiest of the trio, but the glass back panel can get smudgy after a while. We haven’t checked out the gold unit yet, but the white variant looks elegant, and does a great job of masking fingerprints too.

Xiaomi Mi 5_16

The Mi 5 is a very lightweight smartphone, tipping the scales at just 129g. It’s slim too at 7.25mm, but it actually feels much thinner, thanks to the tapered curves on either side. This also improves the grip, making the Mi 5 less slippery than we expected it to be. The 3D curved glass melts seamlessly into the frame, and you won’t find any creaks or gaps in the build even though the rear plate is technically removable. For some added protection, Xiaomi has added a layer of Gorilla Glass 4 to the rear.

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The front of the smartphone features the 5.15-inch display, which extends almost to the very edges of the frame. A slim bezel at the top features the front camera, earpiece, sensors and Mi branding. Below the screen you’ll find the elliptical home button which also integrates the fingerprint sensor. Incidentally, this is the second Xiaomi smartphone to feature a fingerprint sensor after the Redmi Note 3 (review). On either side of the sensor are two backlit LEDs for navigation. The metal frame running around the edges is contoured for a stylish effect, and the matte finish makes a nice contast with the polished rim. The port and button placement consists of the power and volume buttons on the right, an ejectable tray for the dual-SIM cards on the left, the USB Type-C port, primary microphone and loudspeaker at the bottom, and finally the 3.5mm audio jack, secondary microphone and IR blaster at the very top.

Xiaomi Mi 5_9 Xiaomi Mi 5_8

Instead of ruining the rear panel with ugly antenna lines, Xiaomi has placed them neatly on the top and bottom edge, a small touch we appreciate. The only adornment you’ll find at the rear are the primary camera module (which sits flush with the back), the dual-tone LED flash and more Mi branding.

Display: crystal clear

Size: 5.15 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 428 ppi

Xiaomi Mi 5_4

The Xiaomi Mi 5 retains the full HD resolution display of the Mi 4, and this is ok. For a display size of 5.15-inches, 1080p more than does the job, and doesn’t come with the battery compromises of a 2K screen. Interestingly, the reason Xiaomi opted for a 5.15-inch screen size instead of the standard 5-inches was to incorporate extra LEDs. There are 16 LEDs under the screen (check out this Mi 5 teardown for a closer look), which account for the display’s high brightness of 600 nits. The brightness, coupled with Xiaomi’s Sunlight Display tech, make for a screen that’s clearly visible even under the harsh Bangalore sun. Displays have always been Xiaomi’s forte (even the budget Redmi 2 has a lovely screen), and the Mi 5 is no exception. The saturation levels are high, owing to the high contrast ratio of 1:1500, and sharpness and touch response are superb. The icons and text sit very close to the screen thanks to the thin display panel, making for an exceptionally clear screen. Like the Redmi Note 3, the Mi 5 features a Reading Mode that cuts out the blue light for a more comfortable viewing experience, and a Night Mode that lets you turn the brightness down to very low levels for reading at night. There are also controls that let you fine tune the contrast and temperature. A layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protects the display against minor scratches and knocks. 

Software: Marshmallow-flavoured MIUI
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 6.0, Marshmallow

Xiaomi Mi 5_homescreen Xiaomi Mi 5_lockscreen

The Mi 5 is the only Xiaomi phone to run Android Marshmallow out-of-the-box, but that’s hardly apparent given that MIUI 7 masks the native Android user interface completely. While some might be disappointed that MIUI doesn’t give you any of the native Android visual enhancements, there’s no denying that MIUI remains one of (if not the) best custom Android ROM out there. We love the clean design of MIUI, and the little thoughtful tweaks scattered across the interface that make it intuitive to use.

Xiaomi Mi 5_themes Xiaomi Mi 5_security center Xiaomi Mi 5_mi remote

Among the pre-loaded apps on the Mi 5 you’ll find FacebookWPS OfficeSwiftKeyFleksy and Mi Store. The native Themes app gives you access to a range of themes and wallpapers, while the Security app features a virus scanner, data usage monitor, blocklist manager, memory cleaner, battery profiler and permissions manager. Since the Mi 5 is equipped with an IR Blaster, you’ll also find the Mi Remote app, which has been updated with support for most set-top boxes, TVs and other electronic gadgets available in India.

Xiaomi Mi 5_one hand modeXiaomi Mi 5_buttons Xiaomi Mi 5_child mode

In settings, you’ll find options to enable a one-handed mode and change the functions of the two navigation buttons. There’s also a Child mode, but the Lite Mode we’ve seen on other Xiaomi phones is missing. You can check out our previous Xiaomi smartphone reviews for more on MIUI, or watch this short video on the Mi 5’s user interface.

Cameras: hit and miss

Primary camera: 16 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 4 MP

For the Mi 5’s primary camera, Xiaomi has used a top-end Sony IMX298 sensor. The rear 16MP unit features a wide f/2.0 aperture, 4-axis optical image stabilisation and phase detection autofocus. The camera is also capable of shooting videos in 4K. The front camera is a 4 UltraPixel unit, utilising large 2-micron pixels to let in more light. The camera app is itself is the standard MIUI affair, with a large viewfinder and toggles for the flash, HDR and front camera. You can swipe down on the screen to bring up a range of filters that can be applied in real time, and swipe up to access the various shooting modes. Among those on offer you’ll find Audio, Beautify, Fish-Eye, Timer, Tilt-shift, Panorama, Manual and Handheld Twilight (HHT). 

Xiaomi Mi 5_camera interface Xiaomi Mi 5_camera filters

The camera loads in a flash, and is quick to focus, which is a bonus. And while we’ve managed some excellent macro shots, evenly-exposed landscape images and low-light photos with impressively low noise levels, the results were inconsistent. Some macro shots we took had trouble focussing, especially when the background was crowded. Some landscape shots turned out with near perfect exposure, while others were blown out in places. And the white balance is erratic, fluctuating rapidly when you’re looking at the viewfinder, but often settling on a very warm tone for daylight shots. We also had trouble with the camera module heating up when we took several images in succession (in full auto mode, for the record). Overall, the Mi 5’s camera can get you some really good shots, but it’s hit and miss. The front camera is more stable in its results, turning out great selfies even in low light, with accurate skin tones and low noise. Here are a few images taken with the Mi 5’s primary camera. Open them in a new tab to view them in full resolution, or head over to our Mi 5 camera review for more.

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Performance: trailblazer with a few pitstops

CPU:  Dual core, 1.8 GHz + Dual cor…
GPU: Adreno 530
Memory: 32 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH

Xiaomi Mi 5_about phone Xiaomi Mi 5_storage

Of the three Mi 5 variants that were initially announced, it’s unfortunate that Indian users are getting only the base model. Even though this version features the Snapdragon 820 chipset, it’s underclocked to 1.8GHz. There’s 3GB of RAM to work with, and 32GB of fixed storage (a little over 25GB user available). An Adreno 530 GPU handles gaming and graphics. We’re aware that the top-end variant of the Mi 5 (called the Mi 5 Pro) with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a ceramic body is in limited supply even in China, but we would have appreciated having at least the 64GB option available in India, considering there’s no microSD card on any of the models.

Xiaomi Mi 5_3

But the 32GB version should suffice for a majority of users. So how does it perform? In terms of day-to-day performance, the Mi 5 doesn’t break a sweat. Apps launch in an instant and multi-tasking is smooth and fluid. We noticed some sluggishness on the beta build of MIUI, but these seemed to be ironed out once we switched to the stable ROM. Overall, the phone is as snappy as you’d expect, with no unwarranted freezes or lags. Gaming is a real pleasure on the Mi 5 as well. The smartphone can handle any game you throw at it, with the gorgeous display and seamless graphics rendering making for a truly enjoyable gaming experience. The only issue we had with the Mi 5 was the seemingly random heating. It’s not as bad as what we’ve encountered on Snapdragon 810 phones, but it’s still there, and it feels erratic. The phone never got too hot to handle, but it’s an issue we’d like to see fixed.

Xiaomi Mi 5_fingerprint setup Xiaomi Mi 5_fingerprint settings

One of the key features of the Mi 5 is its fingerprint sensor, which is embedded into the elliptical home button. We still maintain that the fingerprint sensor on the Redmi Note 3 is among the best on any smartphone today, period. The sensor on the Mi 5 is also very accurate, but we’ve had a few instances when it failed to register. This is mostly owing to the fact that the surface area of the sensor is tiny, especially when compared to the Redmi Note 3. One of the things we love about the home button is that it also responds to capacitive touch. So you don’t need to physically press it to return to the homescreen – just a light tap will do the trick. Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to unlocking the smartphone – you need to physically press the button to both wake and unlock the device. We wish Xiaomi had opted for an entirely capacitive home button like the OnePlus 2, which directly unlocks the phone even from standby.

Regarding the connectivity, the Mi 5 is loaded to the gills. You get 4G dual-SIM, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac with MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.2, Bluetooth HID, NFC, GPS and an IR blaster.

Xiaomi Mi 5_battery use Xiaomi Mi 5_screen on time

The Mi 5 features a 3,000mAh sealed battery with support for Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0 tech, although the charger that ships in the box only supports QuickCharge 2.0. Unfortunately, the battery life is nowhere close to the Mi 4’s. Yes, it can probably last you an entire day – but not with heavy usage. Expect no more than 3.5-4 hours of screen-on-time. On a typical day, our usage involved a mix of Wi-Fi and 4G usage (mostly Wi-Fi though), an hour or so of phone calls, WhatsApp and social media, using the camera and watching 30-40 minutes of video on Netflix. Our video loop battery drain test confirmed our real life usage, lasting for just 8 hours 43 minutes, which is very average. On the plus side, it refuels really fast – the bundled charger charged it from 0 to 100 percent in 1 hour and 25 minutes. The battery life should suffice for the average user, but power users will need to carry a power bank. Just remember that since Mi 5 has a USB Type-C port, you’ll need to carry the included cable or an adapter (Xiaomi makes a neat one for under Rs 60 in China) with you.


Xiaomi Mi 5_2

The fact that we’re actually considering the Samsung Galaxy S7 (review) as competition for the Mi 5 should speak volumes for how far Xiaomi has come. The company has evolved tremendously over the last six years, and the Mi 5 is testament to that. We’re not saying the Mi 5 is perfect, nor are we saying that it’s an alternative to the Galaxy S7. But it’s close. The eccentric camera, erratic heating and average battery life are put-offs, but these are in no way dealbreakers, especially at its price of Rs 24,999. The other advantage Xiaomi has right now is the lack of competition. The timely launch of the Mi 5 means that the upcoming LeEco Le Max Pro (first impressions) isn’t a threat, giving Xiaomi a free run in the market, at least for now.  

With the Mi 5, Xiaomi’s finally playing with the big guns, and it’s going to give premium players like HTC and Sony a run for their money. It’s still got a while to go before it can catch up with the likes of Samsung, LG and Google’s Nexus range, but it’s close to bridging the gap, and the competition should be very afraid. 

Editor’s Rating: 4 / 5


  • Sexy curved glass design
  • Crystal clear display
  • Snappy performance
  • Affordable price



  • Phone heats up occasionally
  • Cameras are hit and miss
  • No expandable storage
  • Battery life is average