Mi 5 true to the Xiaomi tradition

The Xiaomi Mi 5 is excellent value for money, and the best phone you can get in that price range now.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 is excellent value for money, and the best phone you can get in that price range now.PHOTO: XIAOMI

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has produced a long line of flagship killers, and its latest offering, the Mi 5, continues that tradition.

It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, the same chip inside high-end phones such as some versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5.

Aided by 3GB of RAM (or 4GB in the Mi 5 Pro version, which is not officially available in Singapore), the phone felt really snappy. It also has an array of high-end features, including a fingerprint sensor, dual SIM support and fast charging.

Its 3,000mAh battery life was more than sufficient for me to get through a day with heavy usage, and its 16-megapixel camera is also primed to take on the best.

Impressively, the phone is priced at $619. Current phones with comparable specs hover around the $1,000 mark.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $619

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

    DISPLAY: 5.15-inch Full HD (428 ppi pixel density)

    CAMERA: (Rear) 16-megapixel, 4-axis OIS,f/2.0 aperture; (front) 4-megapixel, f/2.0, 80° wide-angle lens

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 6.0

    MEMORY: 32BG, 3GB RAM

    BATTERY: 3,000mAh (non-removeable)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    BATTERY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

When the phone was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, Xiaomi pitted its optical image stabilisation against that of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in a video, with the Mi 5 showing much less jitter and shake.

I did find it very fast to focus and its auto mode very quick to adjust to changes in environment and lighting. During my review, it captured a good amount of detail with a good dynamic range, although the colours tended to run a little warm.

The body of the phone looks great, with almost imperceptible bezels on either side, and a very clean, minimalist design.

The sides of the back of the phone are curved upwards for a better fit in the hand, reminiscent of the Galaxy S7.

So the Mi 5 works and looks great. What's the catch?

For one thing, its back is made of plastic, unlike the glass-and-metal construction of most high-end phones. While this makes the phone pleasingly light, at just 129g, it also feels rather flimsy and not very reassuring.

It is a pity that it does not have the same ceramic finish as the Mi 5 Pro, which is a lot tougher.

The power button and volume rocker on the phone's right edge feel quite rough around the edges, and the overall finish of the phone feels somewhat lacklustre.

Also, while the phone's 5.15-inch Full HD display has a respectable 428 ppi pixel density, it is much less than that of a high-end phone such as the Galaxy S7 (577 ppi).

Instead, it is on a par with devices from other Chinese manufacturers such as the Huawei P9 (423 ppi) and the Oppo R9 (401 ppi).

But the Xiaomi Mi 5 is still excellent value for money, and certainly the best phone you can get in that price range right now.

•Verdict: The Xiaomi Mi 5 has top-tier specs for a very reasonable price, although the phone's finish and screen reveal its mid-range roots.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Mi 5 true to the Xiaomi tradition'. Print Edition | Subscribe