X
Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Xiaomi Mi 5 review: This fantastic phone gives Samsung's S7 a run for its money

Xiaomi's impressive Mi 5 is just as powerful as its top-end Android rivals, at half the price. It's a shame it's only officially available in China and India.

aloysiuslow.jpg
Aloysius Low
aloysiuslow.jpg

Aloysius Low

Senior Editor

Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.

See full bio
5 min read

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 the Samsung Galaxy S7 for 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.

xiaomi-mi-5-07.jpg
8.2

Xiaomi Mi 5

The Good

The Xiaomi Mi 5 has a sleek, lightweight design with a beautiful finish that's as good as any high-end phone. Great camera and dual-SIM features will let you use this as a travel phone too. It's top-of-the-line hardware at a low price.

The Bad

There's no microSD card slot like the Samsung Galaxy S7, or removable battery like the LG G5.

The Bottom Line

Xiaomi's impressive Mi 5 has the features to stand up against the very best, but it's a shame it won't be officially available worldwide.

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 LG G5, 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.

Xiaomi Mi 5 dazzles with low price and ceramic stylings (pictures)

See all photos

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 processor2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Storage 32GB64GB128GB
Rear material 3D Glass3D GlassCeramic
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.

xiaomi-mi-5-04.jpg

The Mi 5 has a brilliant 1,920x1,080-pixel display.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Xiaomi Mi 5's camera shines in international test (pictures)

See all photos

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.

The Mi 5 runs smooth as silk. Need to take a picture? Tap on the icon and boom, it's ready to take a shot. Switching between apps had nary a pause -- the phone has 3GB of RAM, enough to keep apps in memory without having to reload. If you're gamer with a penchant for great graphics, you're in good hands with the Mi 5. In short, this is a flagship phone with flagship performance.

Performance benchmarks

The Mi 5's performance was on par with the Galaxy S7, which you would expect given they have the same processor.

Xiaomi Mi 5 versus the Samsung Galaxy S7 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 820)

Xiaomi Mi 5 30,430 2,316 5,390Samsung Galaxy S7 29,031 2,323 5,429
  • 3DMark Ice Storm (unlimited)
  • Geekbench 3 (single-core)
  • Geekbench 3 (multi-core)
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Heavily customised Android 6.0

While the Mi 5 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it's a heavily customised version of Google's software. Xiaomi usually updates its interface, called MIUI (pronounced "me-you-eye") weekly with bug and security fixes, as well as occasional feature enhancements.

Like Apple's iOS, MIUI puts all your apps on the home screen instead of in an app drawer. MIUI has hidden touches for power users, like holding the home button to turn on the flashlight, or easily moving apps to another page by tapping and holding the app icon with one finger and using another to swipe to the page you want. It's a lot easier than dragging the icon across screens.

Xiaomi's Mi 5 doesn't have an always-on display like Samsung's S7 or LG's G5, but I didn't feel like I needed this feature since I could easily tap the home or power button to turn it on instantly.

The fingerprint sensor of the Mi 5 looks very much like the one found on Samsung phones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life

The phone easily lasted a full day's use, but Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 technology helps to supercharge the 3,000mAh battery, which lets you go from flat to 90 percent in an hour. In our standard CNET Video Labs test, which basically comprises of a looping video played in airplane mode, the Mi 5 averaged 14 hours in three tests, which is pretty decent, though not as long as the S7's 16 hours.

What you need to know

  • It's not available outside of China for now. The phone will eventually make its way to India.
  • Xiaomi has no plans to sell its phones in the West for now, though a US launch is set for the end of 2017.
  • You can, however, order it online from third-party retailers, but 4G will not work in the US.
  • 4G did work in the UK on the EE network where I tested it, as well as in Iceland (yes, Iceland has LTE).

Should I get one?

If you happen to be living in a place where the Mi 5 is sold -- China or India -- you should buy it, especially if all you want is a fast, no-frills phone with a great camera. If you're in the UK or Australia and don't mind taking a punt on a third-party reseller, you can find the 32GB model for around £340 or AU$800. It's harder to find in the US, but should be around $300.

I enjoyed the time I've spent with the Mi 5: It's a great all-rounder that bears comparison with its much costlier competition. It marks Xiaomi as a real challenger to Apple, Samsung and LG.

Xiaomi Mi 5 versus the rest

Xiaomi Mi 5Samsung Galaxy S7LG G5Apple iPhone 6S Plus
Display size, resolution 5.15-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.1-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels5.3-inch, 2,560x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 428 ppi576 ppi554 ppi401 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.69 x 2.7 x 0.28 in5.6x2.7x0.3 in5.88x2.90x0.30 in6.2x3.1x0.29 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 144.55 x 69.2 x 7.25 mm142.4x69.6x7.9 mm149.4x73.9x7.7 mm158x78x7.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 4.25 oz; 129 g5.4 oz; 152 g5.61 oz; 159 g6.8 oz; 192 g
Mobile software Android 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0 MarshmallowApple iOS 9
Camera 16-megapixel12-megapixel16-megapixel, 8-megapixel wide12-megapixel
Front-facing camera 4-megapixel5-megapixel8-megapixel5-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K
Processor 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor2.15GHz + 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processorApple A9 chip (64-bit)
Storage 32GB, 64GB, 128GB32GB, 64GB (varies by region)32GB16GB, 64GB, 128GB
RAM 3GB/4GB4GB4GB2GB
Expandable storage None200GB2TBNone
Battery 3,000mAh (nonremovable)3,000mAh (nonremovable)2,800mAh (removable)2,750mAh (nonremovable)
Fingerprint sensor Home buttonHome buttonHome buttonHome button
Connector USB-CMicro-USBUSB-CLightning
Special features Dual-SIM, fast chargingWater-resistantPull-out battery, two rear camerasN/A
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to $305, $355, $415AT&T: $695, Sprint: $650, T-Mobile: $670, Verizon: $672, US Cellular: $672US Cellular: $636, other carriers TBA$749 (16GB); $849 (64GB); $949 (128GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £220, £245 or £295£569£500£619 (16GB); £699 (64GB); £789 (128GB)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$425, AU$470 or AU$575AU$1,149AU$820AU$1,229 (16GB); AU$1,379 (64GB); AU$1,529 (128GB)
xiaomi-mi-5-07.jpg
8.2

Xiaomi Mi 5

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 9Camera 8Battery 9
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping