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Xiaomi Mi5s review: Design and build

We really liked the design of the Xiaomi Mi5, with its sleek glass-coated rear reminding us a little of Samsung’s line-up. Xiaomi has now moved away from that design with a unibody metal coat. As before the sides are curved at the rear, giving the impression of a device much smaller than you would expect in the hand, but its newly matte surface makes the Mi5s a lot more grippy, and less easy to drop on to the floor. That’s a good thing, given that for some unknown reason there is now no Gorilla Glass protective screen glass. Aside from that the Mi5s feels tough and well-made, like a phone that will last as long as your contract. Also see: Best Android phones 2016

Since metal bodies can cause problems with network reception, new antenna stripes run across the phone’s rear at top and bottom. A mic is built into the top stripe, while the camera sits flush just above it in the top-left corner. As we mentioned earlier this is a new camera (we’ll talk about photography later), and you’ll also notice that the dual-tone flash has now moved from its right- to its left side.

The edges are largely unchanged, though the speaker holes along the bottom are now larger, and with a metal screw on either side of the USB-C slot it would appear that there are more of them. As before you’ll find the volume rocker and power switch on the right edge, a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and a slot-loading dual-SIM tray on the left.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Chamfered at the top the edges glide smoothly into the 2.5D screen, causing the Mi5s to feel as well-made as it looks classy. The screen itself hasn’t changed - at least in this model - still a 5.15in panel with a full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and a pixel density of 428ppi. It’s sharp, it’s clear, and it’s vivid with colour. Xiaomi claims a brightness rating of 600 nits, and it’s certainly not going to cause any problems in direct sunlight.

Should you buy the 128GB Mi5s the screen has been upgraded to recognise force-touch, which works in much the same way as it does on the iPhone. Unfortunately our review model doesn’t support this feature, so we cannot comment further on that.

From the front the Xiaomi Mi5s is quite the departure from its predecessor. It has the same screen bezels, same size screen, same sensor and camera setup above the screen - something is just… missing. And we’re not referring to the Mi logo.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

As good as the fancy new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner is, we have to say we much preferred the design of the old one, integrated as it was into the home button with a nice chrome surround. The space allocated to the new fingerprint scanner is greater, and there is a recess in the glass front so you know where to press. But it just looks like someone forgot to attach the home button, or like it fell off.

It feels strange to refer to this as the home button when there is no physical button, but in fairness we’d also refer to the back and multitasking software keys that sit either side of it as ‘buttons’. (These are much easier on the eye, lighting up only in use, and their functions can be changed to suit whichever setup you prefer.)

As we all know, though, beauty is only skin-deep. And this fingerprint scanner is a vast improvement on the old one, which is particularly impressive when you consider that the old one worked pretty well. Whereas most fingerprint readers scan a 2D image of your fingerprint, this new ultrasonic model with Snapdragon Sense ID uses sound to more accurately analyse the ridges and grooves of your fingerprint, even when your finger is wet. This allows the scanner to work more better. And so it does. Also see: Best phone under £300

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Xiaomi Mi5s review: Core hardware and performance

For a phone you can buy brand-new for less than £300, performance from the Xiaomi Mi5s is breathtaking. In real-world use it can do no wrong, and it sailed through our benchmarks. We should point out, though, that we are testing the 3GB RAM version of the Mi5s, and the 4GB model should be capable of more still.

The hardware is still pretty tasty, though, with a brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor clocked at 2.15GHz. This is the same processor used by the Google Pixel and OnePlus 3T, both of which have more RAM than our Mi5s review sample. Not that you’d know it: it beat the Pixel in nearly every benchmark and came incredibly close to the OnePlus 3T.

You can compare the performance results of the Xiaomi Mi5s against its rival flagships below. Unfortunately we do not have Geekbench 4 scores for the Xiaomi Mi5, Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and iPhone 7 as these were all tested using Geekbench 3, and you should also take into account that the Xiaomi Mi5s has arguably been able to perform better in graphics tests dues to its full-HD screen (we use the onscreen benchmarks of GFXBench, since you’ll never find yourself playing a game on a phone where you aren’t using the screen).

That aside, performance is excellent, with a staggering 4137 points recorded in Geekbench 4 multi-core and a very high 141,433 in AnTuTu 3D. The Mi5s flew through GFXBench, turning in an easily playable 59fps in T-Rex, 43fps in Manhattan, 31fps in Manhattan 3.1 and 20fps in Car Chase. Even its 57.4 score in JetStream, the Javascript benchmark, is a decent result.

Storage is generous at 64GB as standard (up from 32GB in its predecessor and most of its rivals), which makes up for the fact this phone doesn’t have a microSD slot. This should be plenty of space for most users.

The battery capacity has also been increased from 3000mAh to 3200mAh, but given the more powerful hardware it’s unlikely you’ll see a huge impact on runtime - perhaps an extra hour if you’re lucky. This supports super-fast charging with Quick Charge 3.0, and depending on your usage should easily be good for a day’s use.

Xiaomi Mi5s review