As promised by Xiaomi’s VP of International, Hugo Barra, at the Redmi Note 3 launch, the flagship from the Chinese phone maker – the Mi 5 – was launched in India on 31 March and went on sale on 6 April. This is only a month after its launch in China. The Xiaomi Mi 5, which was first announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has been two years in the making.
We had been hearing about its rumoured launch since last year. Xiaomi’s announcement at MWC 2016 – its first outside of Asia and in front of the global media – is a huge step forward for what was till now considered to be just a Chinese brand. Of course, Xiaomi has been selling its phones in India since 2013. But with the Xiaomi Mi 5, it certainly has ambitions that go beyond China, India and other southeast Asian markets.
Now that the product has finally arrived in our test centre, it’s time to do some detailed analysis to see if this is the flagship phone to go for.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 borrows a lot of elements from its Mi Note series of phones and was constantly referred to during the launch address. One look at the Mi 5 and you will see the similarities for yourself. Xiaomi has refined the 3D glass curve design, making it way more rounded than we’ve seen on the Mi Note. The metal frame merges seamlessly onto the glass back on the edges. The chamfering has a lot more slope. The Mi 5 looks elegant and with just around 7.25mm thickness and weighing around 129g, it’s impressive that Xiaomi has managed to have the camera flush with the plane of the body and included a 3000mAh battery at the same time. Apple certainly has some explaining to do. There is a 3D ceramic variant as well, which is not selling anywhere at the moment.
While the in-hand feel of the device is great and the Mi 5 looks the part of a flagship phone, one must be careful when holding it as we found it to be a bit too slippery for our liking. Also, while the bezels on the sides are much thinner than those at the top and bottom, the 5.15-inch display on the Mi 5 means that the phone has a taller frame. On the front, there is the slim ceramic home button (a first on any Xiaomi phone) which also functions as a fingerprint scanner (a second after the Redmi Note 3). The soft buttons beside the home button show two pin points which are backlit. There is no back or multi-tasking design painted on these as the MIUI 7 OS lets you assign your own functions to these keys.
The left hand edge has the nano SIM card slot and the right hand side has the volume rocker and power/standby button. There’s a USB Type-C port at the base surrounded by two speaker grilles. On the top there is the 3.5mm audio jack and an infrared port in the centre to help control home appliances. There are antenna cuts on the top and the base. The rear has a clean design, with just the 16MP camera placed flush on the top left hand corner and a dual-tone LED flash unit is beside it.
Xiaomi has gone all out as far as the spec sheet is concerned. Since Samsung released the Galaxy S7 / S7 edge with its Exynos 8890 chipset, this makes Xiaomi’s Mi 5 the first device to ship with Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 820 chipset in India. The Snapdragon 820 brings back Qualcomm’s custom processor cores. There are four Kyro cores (two clocked at 1.8GHz and two clocked at 1.4GHz) and this is paired with the Adreno 530GPU. The Xiaomi Mi 5 selling in India comes with a 3GB RAM and 32GB storage configuration. The top end Xiaomi Mi 5 with a ceramic back has 4GB RAM and 128GB storage along with the Kyro cores clocked at 2.15GHz. As we have seen with the last generation Xiaomi flagships, the Mi 5 too doesn’t allow you the option to expand storage.
The phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with the now familiar MIUI 7 OS skin running atop it. Sadly, in terms of design elements, there is no trace of Android 6.0 on the Mi5. We will explore this more in depth in the Software section. The Mi 5 comes in a dual-SIM configuration, taking in two nano SIM cards. It supports LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, an infrared blaster, NFC, GPS with A-GPS and more.
The Xiaomi Mi 5 sports a 5.15-inch full HD display which we thought was really reflective. It uses an IPS LCD panel which gives good viewing angles and the text appears sharp. Just as we had seen on the Mi 4i, the Mi 5 also supports Sunlight Display, which dynamically adjusts the brightness on pixels, so that you do not have to strain your eyes when out in bright sunlight. It works fine and we did not have any issues with legibility in the bright outdoors.