Given how well received the Mi 4 was, the Mi 5 has some pretty big shoes to fill. And it didn't help that the Mi 5's tagline is "All you ever imagined, and more".
Well, we're pretty imaginative here at Stuff, so we had plenty of high hopes for Xiaomi's latest and greatest phone. Did it disappoint in person? Read on to find out.
Harder, better, faster, stronger
The first thing anyone will notice about the Mi 5 is its design. This is the first phone that Xiaomi has put a physical home button on which has basically set the Mi 5 up to be the target of copycat accusations - but this time it's about Samsung, not Apple. It’s similarly oblong-shaped, though differently sized and narrower than Samsung's.
That’s not the end of the Samsung similarity though. There’s definitely a little mix of Samsung Galaxy S7 and Mi Note DNA in the Mi 5’s genetic makeup. You can see it in the sloping sides of the phone, where the glass back gently curves into the metal border seamlessly. It definitely makes for a more ergonomic and natural experience than if you were to feel jutty edges when you grip the phone.
The Mi 5 is apparently created through a meticulous 16-step process, which we kind of imagine to be a fire and brimstone hell that a smartphone goes through in order to achieve design perfection. Xiaomi also forged the Mi 5 Pro out of ceramic for greater durability. That means it should hold up better under drops as compared to the glass-backed Mi 5, which was a problem that plagued the Mi Note with chinks in its armour.
Unfortunately, the supervised session meant that we couldn’t carry out any drop tests to test that theory out even if it was the right demo model. Sorry.
Fast and furious
Xiaomi has been quite the tease in the weeks leading up to its first ever MWC launch, pushing out short trailers that hint at the speedy performance of the Mi 5's Snapdragon 820 processor. And today, we got wind of its lap time - a typhoon-worthy Antutu score of 142,084 which we’ll have to confirm it for ourselves once we get our hands on a review set.
Having said that, the demo set we tested today yielded nice and easy to most of our demands. Jumping from app to app was seamless, but there a little bit of hesitation was detected by our smartphone spidey senses when it came to the camera. We’ll have to fill ‘er up with a ton of apps and out usual multimedia file before we can reach a consensus on true performance, and also find out if it burns up under stress.
But that fingerprint sensor is iPhone 6s levels of crazy quick. You still have to depress the home button to wake the phone before the recognition kicks in, but once it does, you get instant access. That’s on the occasions that it does though.
Due in part to how narrow the home button is, there were a few times we had to go through a couple of attempts before we could unlock the phone.
Simply put, when it works, it’s magic. But when it doesn’t, it can be a little frustrating. We suppose when you win some display, you lose some home button real estate.
The snapper on the Mi 5 is a 16MP affair with fancy-sounding tech features like Phase Detection Autofocus and Deep Trench Isolation. All you need to know is that your photos will turn out sharper. From the few we snapped on the phone, we were impressed with the picture quality. Xiaomi wasn’t fibbing when they showed off those sample shots taken with the Mi 5.
It’s really low-light though that challenges a camera’s capabilities, and we weren’t able to put that to the test in the demo area.
The Mi 5 does come with 4-axis Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) which theoretically compensates better for any tremble in your hands than say the iPhone’s 3-axis OIS would.
While we could see the stabling effect of the OIS system in real time, the resulting photos that we snapped didn’t turn out as crisp as expected.
If you’re the type who thinks camera bumps are a blight on humanity (as seen on the iPhone 6s and Galaxy S7 still), you'll be glad to know that the Mi 5 has achieved the seemingly impossible - a camera that’s flush with the back.
Lean mean screen machine
The 5.15in full HD display is bright and bold. Throw in the Sunlight Display feature that was first introduced in the Mi 4i, and the all new 16 LED light display (for even more brightness) and you’ve got quite the pretty picture that’s easy on the eyes.
We’re curious about how it will really hold up for long periods of time under the sun, so we’ll be taking our future review unit to the poolside. For science!
The Mi 5 looks set to steal some hearts if and when it goes on sale here. While it didn't exactly surpass our wildest dreams, its specs are suitably impressive.
And when doubt might creep in, you just have to look at its price to put your mind at ease.
Sold yet? If you aren’t, just hang in there for our full review.