Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 full review
As a journalist you never want to repeat yourself, but here in its sixth generation I am running out of ways to express my incredulence at the value offered by Xiaomi's Mi Band.
From the early days of the original Mi Band, through the Mi Band 1S, 2, 3, 4 and now 5, Xiaomi keeps finding new ways to add to the value proposition of its budget fitness band. As far as fitness trackers go it's up there with the best, even if the price has risen over time.
This time around, new features include a larger, brighter display, finally a solution to the fiddly charging setup, additional sports modes and new tracking functionality that includes menstrual- and stress tracking.
There's also a marked shift away from simple activity tracking to thinking more about what kind of activity you're completing - how and how often you are elevating your heart rate - with the addition of PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) scoring. This should lead to better overall health reporting, and it could prove an additional motivator to keep that score at 100 every day.
As before, there is sleep tracking (now including afternoon naps, to our delight), swim tracking, readable app notifications, weather reports, reminders, alarms, heart-rate monitoring, impressive scope for customisations... So, where is the catch?
Battery life has decreased - only slightly from Mi Band 4, with a 10mAh smaller battery inside and some new power-hungry features, but quite significantly from the original Mi Band that could go a full month. Even so, I got 10 days out of the 5 before needing to recharge it, and most people will see up to two weeks.
That's very reasonable so, in my view, more a 'not as good' than a 'not good' - although turning on all the tracking features will reduce battery life quite drastically, by as much as 50%.
Design & Build
A super-lightweight tracker with a slimline design, it's only the haptic feedback from notification alerts that will remind you Mi Band 5 is even on your wrist.
Some people love big, bulky watches or trackers that capture attention, but they're not for me. The minimalist design of Xiaomi's tracker is much more inline with my taste.
Of course, there are down sides to a smaller tracker. Though it's larger than on Mi Band 4, up from 0.95in to 1.1in, the display might be too small for some users - text is tiny, and you'll have to get used to deciphering notifications as the band can fit only 11 characters on a line. My short-distance eyesight is good, but some may struggle here.
Though it might be a small display, it is a nice one. This is an AMOLED panel, which is good for battery life and great for displaying vibrant colours, while the 126x294-pixel resolution makes for pin-sharp text and icons - all the more important at a smaller font size.
It's bright enough to see in sunlight, too, despite its high-gloss surface.
I found Mi Band 5's standard theme easy on the eye right out the box, but there are more than 100 to choose from.
You can also replace the matte black TPU band for a coloured option (not backward-compatible with Mi Band 3 or 4), and customise what's displayed on the screen or in the menus.
Something I'm really pleased to see in Mi Band 5 is a change to the charging system. Previously you had to remove the tracker from the band and insert it to a proprietary USB charger, and over time this weakened the band.
Now you just snap on a magnetic PoGo pin charger to the rear - it's still proprietary, but it makes life much easier and reduces wear and tear.
The band is hypoallergenic, which suits my sensitive skin, though I did notice some irritation where the protruding heart-rate sensor was in permanent contact with the back of my wrist - nothing serious, but worth mentioning.
As this is a waterproof fitness tracker (up to 5ATM), which also tracks your sleep, the intention is you take it off only to recharge (and, well, hopefully to wash underneath).
Mi Band 5 In Use
When you consider that I am reviewing the Chinese version of Mi Band 5, on which all menus and text were displayed in Chinese out of the box, the fact I think it is simple to set up should tell you something.
You install the Mi Fit app, tap the + icon to add a new device, select Band, then follow the instructions that basically involve holding the band somewhere near your phone and waiting a few moments.
Should you also end up with a Chinese- rather than Global version of Mi Band 5 (which isn't out of the question as you'll likely find cheaper deals via the likes of GearBest, which supplied our review sample), just launch Mi Fit, tap Profile, choose Mi Smart Band 5 under Devices, scroll down to Language and select English.
For its most pertinent features operation is automatic: Mi Band 5 will automatically track your steps and your sleep.
To turn on automatic heart-rate monitoring you will need to change the detection frequency in the settings, which by default happens only when you manually activate it.
You can choose to turn on continuous heart-rate monitoring, or only when you sleep, with the latter helping Mi Fit to provide more accurate analysis of your sleep patterns, including REM, but at the expense of some battery life. Mi Band 5 does not track resting heart rate.
For everything else some interaction is required, but can mostly be achieved on the tracker itself. Navigating the menu is a case of swiping up on the display, and tapping the capacitive button below to enter a menu (to exit you swipe to the right).
Using the Mi Fit app you can decide which items, if any, you don't want to appear in this menu - menstrual cycle tracking, for example, probably isn't much use to the lads (it also requires setup in Mi Fit first).
Available Workout modes include Outdoor running, Treadmill, Cycling, Indoor cycling, Walking, Elliptical, Rowing machine, Yoga, Jump rope, Pool swimming and Freestyle.
There's no built-in GPS, but Connected GPS means it can use that of your phone.
Remember that many of these activity modes won't activate automatically - you must remember to start, pause and stop them as required.
You might be wondering how accurate are these various sport modes and tracking tools, given the low price tag. In our opinion, it doesn't really matter how accurate they are in comparison to other bands - unless you intend to wear multiple devices.
When using a single tracking device, it simply needs to be constant in its daily measurements to show changing trends over time. We saw nothing here to cause concern.
You'll find some other functions in the More menu, such as the ability to remotely trigger your phone's camera and begin playing audio, along with things like a stopwatch, timer, world clock and alarm.
It has to be said Mi Fit isn't as immediately intuitive as some fitness apps, though it's easier to use once you get your head around the layout.
Mi Fit can also be connected to Google Fit or Apple Health.
Where to buy Mi Band 5
As stated, GearBest supplied our Mi Band 5 review sample. It is currently listing the Chinese version for £25.44.
Often it is cheaper to buy Xiaomi products from China than it is to buy them from official UK outlets, but you do need to take into account import duty (20%) when shipping to the UK, and sometimes slightly longer delivery times.
As it happens, Mi Band 5 is already sufficiently cheap that there aren't mega savings to be had from buying it abroad. The recommended retail price is £39.99/€39.99, and you can currently pick up Mi Band 5 direct from the UK Mi Store or discounted at Amazon.
You should note that there are two versions of Mi Band 5, and the one that includes NFC and built-in voice assistant compatibility (Xiao Ai) is available only in China. We'd like to see Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa functionality built into the next one. And here are some rumours about the Mi Band 6.
Xiaomi has once again impressed us with its latest budget fitness tracker. Mi Band 5 is not only affordable, but packs a range of features from basic step counting and heart-rate monitoring to sleep tracking and app notifications.
If you own Mi Band 4, we'd upgrade for the new charging system alone, no longer requiring you to remove the tracker from its band.
Also new in this version is a larger, brighter AMOLED display, new sports modes and tracking features - including menstrual cycles and stress - plus a PAI scoring system for health.
You will not find better value for money anywhere.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5: Specs
- 1.1in (126x295) AMOLED display, 450 nits
- PPG heart-rate sensor, continuous heart-rate monitoring
- sleep tracking (deep, light, REM)
- menstrual cycle tracking
- stress tracking
- 11 Sport modes: outdoor running, power walking, cycling, indoor running, pool swimming, freestyle, indoor cycling, elliptical, jump rope, yoga, rowing machine
- Bluetooth 5.0
- 5ATM waterproofing
- 125mAh battery (up to 14 days life)
- supports Android 5.0+ or iOS 10.0+
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