Spending the better part of my two-week vacation testing a phone seems like a terrible idea, but like my colleague Jessica Dolcourt, who took thefor a spin in London and Berlin, I took the Xiaomi Mi 5 with me into the frigid, beautiful north -- first to Iceland, then to London, where I also got a chance to compare it directly to the Galaxy S7.
The result? The Mi 5 is terrific, especially when you consider that Xiaomi's new flagship phone costs significantly less than the Samsung Galaxy S7 and, without compromising on its most important features. It's fast and has a good camera. And thanks to its two SIM card slots, I was able to roam on data with a local carrier, while still being able to use my phone number from back home in Singapore.
When I pulled out the pretty, lightweight Mi 5 in public, curious strangers who had never seen a Xiaomi phone before asked what it was -- many mistook it for a Samsung Galaxy.
The Mi 5 does lack unique extras such as the Galaxy S7's waterproofing and the LG G5's modular capabilities, but then it is half the price. It's just a shame that Xiaomi will only sell it to people in China and India. Other regions could use a handset like this.
There are actually three Mi 5 models
Xiaomi's Mi 5 doesn't just come in one flavor -- while all three do look alike, the difference lies mainly in the hardware specs. The most powerful version, dubbed the Mi 5 Pro, has the highest-end parts and a ceramic rear instead of contoured glass. Check out the table below for the key differences.
Xiaomi Mi 5 model comparison
|Xiaomi Mi 5 (32GB)||Xiaomi Mi 5 (64GB)||Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro (128GB)|
|Processor||1.85GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor|
|Rear material||3D Glass||3D Glass||Ceramic|
|Price||1,999 yuan ($305, £220 or AU$425)||2,299 yuan (355, £245 or AU$470)||2,699 yuan ($415, £295 or AU$575)|
Feature-packed and good looking
The Mi 5 is a beautiful device with a curved backing, a glass or ceramic finish and a premium feel. The rounded rear makes it comfortable to hold and I didn't lose my grip once even while wearing thick gloves. The phone is slightly smaller than the S7, but with a slightly larger 5.15-inch full-HD display. It fits snugly in your pocket. The screen is pretty bright, and a built-in feature adjusted the display to make it readable even in the bright outdoors. It works, and it works marvellously.
Great camera and zippy processor
Photos are never more important than when you're capturing memories of the trip of a lifetime. The Mi 5's 16-megapixel camera didn't let me down. I was impressed with the phone's lowlight performance, though it's not as good as the Samsung Galaxy S7 (I tested both myself in London and Barcelona). The rear camera takes beautifully bright pictures in good lighting, though colors can be a tad too saturated at times.
While the Galaxy S7 camera edges the Mi 5's, this camera can hold its own -- you won't be disappointed. Check out the gallery below for an in-depth look at the camera features and test shots.
To keep costs low on its flagship phones, Xiaomi usually uses a slightly older processor, reserving the newest chip for its top-of-the-line Pro model. That wasn't the case here; all three phones get the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, though the 32GB model isn't quite as fast, with a lower clock speed.