Review by Sunetra Chakravati,1/10/2017 1:11:01 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Compact Size | Bright Display | Best in Class Camera
Iffy build quality | Horrible MIUI software | no sign of Nougat | Huge black bezels
Slip the lid of the Apple-esque minimalist box, and you're met with a lovely slab of metal and glass. Screen bezels are almost non-existant thanks to some trickery which we'll come on to later. Only a camera, earpiece and proximity sensor disturb the head of the phone while a rectangular ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is flanked to either side by capacitive navigation buttons underneath the display.
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Xiaomi opted to replace the ceramic on the first Mi 5 with a metal unibody, and it certainly feels good; just like any other metal smartphone. In fact, there's a beautiful curved design around the sides, and the small size makes the Mi 5s comfortable to hold. It's light too, but that's more to its detriment.
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The Xiaomi Mi 5s feels cheap, and a quick tap with your finger on the back reveals a phone that's oddly hollow. The power button also gives off an unsettling rattle although it, and the volume rockers, do feel very nice to press and click.
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Press that power button and the 5.15" Full HD display comes to life. Now we can see that those tiny bezels aren't so tiny anymore, with a sizable black border around the whole screen. The display is as you'd expect in a 2016 flagship; bright and beautiful.
Powering Xiaomi's latest is Qualcomm's newest SoC, the Snapdragon 821, helped with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Although this is the top tier version. Xiaomi has otherwise upped the base storage to 64GB while RAM stays static at 3GB.
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During initial set-up and use, the phone began overheating and became hot to the touch - not a reassuring sign. It did subside eventually, with much less overheating and CPU throttling than many other devices on the market today. As expected, the Mi 5s is a first-class performer in most areas, and there's no slowing down no matter how many Apps you want to open.
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Battery life is great too, with that Snapdragon 821 proving power efficient. Xiaomi has increased the battery capacity from 3,000 mAh to 3,200 mAh, all without increasing the footprint of the phone. You can expect to get two days of medium usage but if you're a heavy user, expect to charge it every night.
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The software powering the Mi 5s is MIUI 8.0 which lies atop of Android 6.0.1. Xiaomi has promised updates to Nougat for many of its current phones but surprisingly not the Mi 5s. There isn't a global ROM available either for the Mi 5s (there is for the Mi 5 and Mi 5s Plus) meaning you'll have to make do with mostly-accurate translations throughout the operating system.
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The worst part of MIUI 8 is the terrible design mismatch between Xiaomi's cartoon-like icons and Google's beautiful material design. Not even the thousands of available themes can mask the problem - it just looks terrible.
Xiaomi deployed Sony's IMX378 sensor in the Mi 5s - the same sensor inside Google's excellent Pixel range - and it doesn't disappoint. The Xiaomi Mi 5s' 1.55μ pixel, 1/2.3-inch sensor touts a strong low-light performance, and there's plenty of detail whatever the scenario.
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Xiaomi has oddly decided to remove OIS here too, something the original Mi 5 enjoyed. The sensor allows better and faster HDR processing, allowing you to leave MIUI 8's HDR mode set to Auto. Colour reproduction is accurate and white balance is solid each and every time. It can't push out the pixels of Sony's flagships, but in today's age of social media sharing, the 12- megapixel unit is fantastic.
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MIUI's camera interface gives us seven modes to choose. There is a very useful 'Straighten' mode which provides you with the perfectly level shot and a beautiful Tilt-Shift mode, allowing for bokeh included snaps.
Xiaomi's revised Mi 5 adds in some key areas, like camera quality, while leaving us wanting more in others. Built quality is suspect, and that much-hyped fingerprint scanner truly is one of the worst we've used - it only worked about 60% of the time.
Xiaomi has also removed the IR blaster, Gorilla Glass protection, and OIS, all of which could have been seriously useful. On the plus side, the phone is a screamer in the performance department and that camera is incredible. Oh, and at around £300, it's a fraction of the price of the Google Pixel - a phone which shares many of the specs of the Mi 5s.
And even if the Mi 5s disappoints, we cannot wait to see what the Xiaomi have up their sleeves for the Mi 6; it's rumored to be here as soon as February 2017.
Killer feature: Identical camera to the Google Pixel at a fraction of the cost.
Similar to: Google Pixel
Also Consider: Google Pixel, Sony Xperia XZ, OnePlus 3T
OS: Android 6.0.1/MIUI 8
Resolution: 1920 X 1080
Display: 5.15" IPS LCD
Processor: Quad Core Snapdragon 821 with 3 or 4GB RAM
Memory: 64 or 128GB; no MicroSD slot.
Fingerprint scanner: Yes, ultrasonic, in home button.