Xiaomi Mi5s full review

I’ve long been a fan of Xiaomi products, but I’ve always had one problem with its phones: for UK users who don’t speak Chinese and are familiar with Google services they can be confusing. Having to install Google Play and associated Google apps such as Gmail yourself, install an English keyboard and uninstall or hide away into the folders all the Chinese-language apps preinstalled on the device is too much of a push for less-techy users, and the Chinese notifications that continue to pop up merely add to the confusion. Also read our full Xiaomi Mi6 review

In fairness Xiaomi phones aren’t intended to be sold in the UK, and it’s not its fault if we don’t all speak the same language.Also see: Best Xiaomi Phones 2018

However, with that in mind I’m extremely pleased to see GearBest is stocking the International Edition of Xiaomi’s flagship Mi5s on its site. This version is preinstalled with Google Play and select Google apps such as Gmail (any others that you require can be downloaded from the Play Store), and it removes all the Chinese-language apps and notifications you don’t understand. This is an Android phone just like any other you would buy on the UK market, but with the added bonuses brought by the MIUI 8 user interface.

The Xiaomi Mi5s is in every sense of the term a flagship smartphone, with a spec easily able to take on the names we are more familiar with in the UK: the Samsung Galaxy S7, the LG G5, the HTC 10, the OnePlus 3T, the Google Pixel, even the iPhone 7. And it costs less than half the price. We cannot recommend it enough as a cheaper but just as good alternative.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Xiaomi Mi5s review: UK price and availability - how much is the Xiaomi Mi5s?

Usually in a smartphone review we’d tell you the RRP, plus for how much money you can currently buy it SIM-free and the rough price of any contract deals. Forget all that with the Xiaomi Mi5s. If you want this phone, you need to buy it through a Chinese importer such as GearBest, and the price you pay is the price you see.

GearBest supplies all our Xiaomi phones for review. It imports goods from China with free delivery to the UK, but you should note that because you are buying from outside the UK you will be liable to paying import duty if requested to do so by Customs. It’s not usually a huge amount, but you should factor it into the cost of your purchase (read our advice on buying grey-market tech for more information).

With these type of sites prices can fluctuate on a daily basis. They don’t always mirror product RRPs - they work simply on the going rate - and, since you have no alternative method of purchasing the product, that is what you will pay if you would like to receive it.

At the time of writing the Xiaomi Mi5s is available from GearBest for £282.75 ($352.69), which includes a 30 percent discount according to the site, and ships on 1 December 2016. This is a SIM-free smartphone, which means you can connect it to any network you like, and plump for the best pay-as-you-go- or contract deal to suit your needs. SIM-free deals typically are considerably cheaper, given that the total price of the plan doesn’t include the cost of the phone, so more savings can be made here - see our best SIM-only deals.

UK buyers should note, though, that the Xiaomi Mi5s does not support the 800MHz 4G band (band 20), which is the only 4G band supported by O2 and Giffgaff in the UK (other networks that support this band can also connect to alternative 4G bands that are supported by the Xiaomi).

Compare that SIM-free cost to some other big-name flagships in the UK and you’ll see what extraordinary value the Xiaomi Mi5s represents. (Prices correct on 29 November 2016.)

Phone Price Storage RAM
Xiaomi Mi5s £282.75 64GB 3GB
OnePlus 3T £399 64GB 6GB
Samsung Galaxy S7 £460.95 32GB 4GB
HTC 10 £495 32GB 4GB
LG G5 £385.49 32GB 4GB
Google Pixel £599 32GB 4GB
iPhone 7 £599 32GB 2GB

The Mi5s is also available with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a force-touch screen, costing £369.02 from Banggood.com. There’s also a Plus model, which has a 5.7in screen, a higher-capacity battery, a 13Mp camera and either 4- or 6GB of RAM. The 4GB RAM, 64GB storage Mi5s Plus is also available from GearBest for £383.37. We’ll detail the key differences between the Mi5s and Mi5s Plus, as well as its predecessor the Mi5, below. Also see: Best Chinese phones 2016

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Xiaomi Mi5s review: Xiaomi Mi5 vs Xiaomi Mi5s vs Xiaomi Mi5s Plus

We’re so used to seeing Xiaomi phone updates that merely tweak the design and processor that the Mi5s comes as something of a surprise. Xiaomi has completely updated the design, replacing the glass-coated plastic rear with a new unibody aluminium design. It’s slightly heavier as a result, now 147g. It’s removed the Mi logo from the top left of the phone, as well as the Gorilla Glass screen protection, and popped off the chrome-surround home button at the front. The fingerprint scanner remains in place in a gaping recess below the screen - now an ultrasonic model that uses Snapdragon Sense ID to more accurately and quickly scan your fingerprint. We’ll talk more about the design changes later on. Also see: Xiaomi Mi5 review.

Under the hood there’s a new processor, with a bump up from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 selected for the Mi5 to the 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 here. This chip offers a 10 percent performance increase over the 820, and is designed to bring greater power savings, too.

Storage has increased to 64GB as standard (up from 32GB), though there’s still no microSD slot. And the battery capacity has been bumped up from 3,000mAh to 3,200mAh.

The other key change in the Xiaomi Mi5s is a move from the 16Mp primary camera used in the Mi5 to a new 12Mp model. Don’t let the lower megapixel count fool you into thinking the Mi5s has had a downgrade, though. Leaving aside the fact it no longer supports OIS, this is the same industry-leading camera selected for its Pixel phone by Google. With a 1/2.3in- rather than 1/2.8in sensor and bigger pixels in theory it should record more detail and perform better in low light.

The Mi5s Plus is a larger version of the Mi5s, with key differences being the larger (though still full-HD) 5.7in screen (the Mi5s has, in common with the Mi5, a 5.15in screen), a higher-capacity 3,800mAh battery, a 13Mp primary camera and, potentially more RAM - whereas the Mi5s comes in 3GB and 4GB RAM options, the Mi5s has 4- or 6GB of memory. Understandably the Mi5s Plus is larger and heavier, measuring 154.6x77.7x7.95mm against the Mi5s’ 145.6x70.3x8.3mm.

Xiaomi Mi5s review