Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Core hardware & performance - how fast is the Xiaomi Mi 5?

As we mentioned in the introduction to this review, the top-end Mi 5 is capable of faster performance than we’ve ever seen from a smartphone. But this is not the top-end Mi 5. With a slightly lower-clocked Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor running at 1.85GHz and a smaller complement of RAM (3GB versus 4GB in the Mi 5 Pro), this Xiaomi Mi 5 might not be as fast as the Pro, but it’s still devilishly fast. (Compare the Xiaomi Mi 5's performance to all the phones we've recently tested in our article What's the fastest phone 2016?)

The only thing that will stop you in your tracks when using this phone is the odd Chinese-language notification that might pop up from the Mi App Store, or the again Chinese-language buttons that might appear on the keyboard (we recommend installing the Google keyboard rather than trying to use the preinstalled one). It certainly won’t be any issues with lag or an underpowered processor. Everything, and we mean everything, is accomplished in a split second on the Xiaomi Mi 5.

We did notice the Mi 5 became rather warm under test, but this is not at all unusual for a metal-bodied flagship - and it didn’t appear to affect performance.

We’ll start with our graphics tests, since they’re the most impressive when compared to the competition. Even against phones that have the same Adreno 530 GPU, such as the LG G5, the Xiaomi scored higher. That’s most likely because we run the onscreen versions of GFXBench T-Rex and Manhattan, and the Xiaomi Mi 5 has a lower-resolution screen than the G5. It scored a very high 59fps in T-Rex and 37fps in Manhattan; the LG G5 recorded 53fps and 29fps respectively, while the Samsung Galaxy S7 (also Quad-HD) scored 53fps and 27fps, and the iPhone 6s (a lower screen resolution than the Mi 5) scored 60fps and 52fps.

We use Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu to measure general processing performance, and in these tests the Xiaomi Mi 5 turned in 4777 and 108,355 points respectively. That’s a little faster than the iPhone 6s (which scored 4400 in Geekbench), but behind the LG G5 and Galaxy S7 (which scored 6466 and 5404 in Geekbench).

Geekbench 3 also has a battery life test. You won’t get more than a day’s life from the Xiaomi Mi 5 in our experience, but we run this test for the very fact that your usage will likely differ and therefore the experience may well be different to ours. The results were very good, with a battery life score of 5353 points and time of 8 hours 55 minutes. That’s behind the Galaxy S7 (9 hrs 15 mins, 5553 points), but ahead of the LG G5 (6 hrs 51 mins, 4111 points).

More importantly, in our opinion, is that when the battery runs down the Xiaomi Mi 5 is insanely quick to charge. In common with the LG G5 it supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3, which can charge phones up to four times faster than a traditional charger (and that more than makes up for its lack of wireless charging and removable battery in our book). A QC3 charger is supplied in the box, but it’s a two-pin model. If GearBest doesn’t send you a UK adaptor, you’ll find more examples of the best QC3 chargers in our article What is Quick Charge 3.0?

Our final test is JetStream, which looks at JavaScript performance in web browsing. To ensure a fair test we always run this test in Google Chrome, which we first downloaded from Google Play (having downloaded the Play Store from the Mi App Store - more on that later). The Mi 5 recorded 46.9, which is a little way behind the Galaxy S7 (61.0) and LG G5 (53.6), but a long way ahead of many of the cheap and cheeful Chinese phones we review. Also see: Best Chinese phones available to buy in the UK 2016.

Xiaomi Mi 5

Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Connectivity & extras

We touched on the Mi 5’s connectivity options earlier in this review, and they really are strong. We’d like to see the addition of microSD support, but there are more generous storage versions available without too much of a jump in price. (Plus it’s easy to add storage to Android.)

Something phone manufacturers still don’t get is that us Brits want dual-SIM phones just like the rest of the world. We’d like the opportunity to manage business- and personal numbers or home- and abroad plans on a single phone, too. The great news then is that Xiaomi’s Mi 5 is sold with dual-SIM (dual-standby - see what this means) compatibility as standard, and both Nano-SIM slots are capable of 4G (provided you’re not on O2 or GiffGaff as there’s no support for Band 20 LTE - see how to tell whether a phone is supported by your network).

Another ommision from a great many flagships but seen here in the Xiaomi Mi 5 is an IR blaster, while a NFC chip is also included that will let you take advantage of Android Pay (which is just around the corner for UK users).

Other connectivity highlights include the aforementioned fingerprint scanner, which works as well as any we’ve seen, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS and GLONASS.

Xiaomi Mi 5

Xiaomi Mi 5 review: Cameras

The Xiaomi Mi 5 is fitted with a 16Mp Sony IMX298 camera, which is paired with a dual-LED flash. It supports 4K video, which is even better when you consider this phone has four-axis optical image stabilisation - given the right conditions, it’s capable of some tremendous video footage and stills.

The primary camera is protected with a sapphire glass lens, and also boasts of DTI tech (that's the same used in the iPhone 6S camera), phase-detection autofocus and f/2.0 aperture. Again, in good light it takes a fantastic shot, with vibrant colours and lots of detail (click on the images below to see at 100 percent and you can make out individual bricks and road names); as the light goes down things go a little soft and grainy. But the Mi 5 is very quick to focus, and supports some useful camera modes (including Manual mode) and real-time filters (one of which is ‘Japanese’).

Xiaomi Mi 5

The app is a bit confusing to use until you realise you have to swipe in from the left to see the modes and options - the same as Google's camera app used to be until it relented and put a hamburger icon at the top in the new version.

There are plenty of options to tweak, even a long-shutter mode up to 32 seconds. But you can't shoot 1080p video at 60fps (it's limited to 30 as it is in 4K mode) and slo-mo is shot at 120fps rather than 240 as you get on the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S. But remember that this phone also costs around half the price of those flagships.

Aside from the occasional focus fail, the Mi 5 does a

Xiaomi Mi 5 test shot

Xiaomi Mi 5 test shot

At the front of the Mi 5 is a 4Mp selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture and large 2um pixels. It has that odd feature often found in Chinese phones that tries to guess your age, although we’re quite happy with it taking eight years off of ours.It flips the photo so it's like looking into a mirror and does a decent enough job (the example below shows it's soft on the left side, but sharp on the right). There's also the usual beauty mode for smoothing out skin.

Xiaomi Mi 5 review selfie

Here's a sample of the stabilised 4K footage, which also exhibits good audio quality:

Overall, the Mi 5 holds its own against the big boys, and you can see this with your own eyes in our best phone camera comparison.

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