The Black Friday sales season is here! The prices shown above are the best available now, though you may need to buy quickly as some deals will sell out.

Xiaomi Mi5s review: Connectivity

In common with so many of the Chinese phones we review, the Mi5s is a dual-SIM model that operates in dual-standby mode. It takes two Nano-SIMs, and will support Cat 12 4G LTE on one of these provided your network supports the 2100- and 2600MHz bands (the other is restricted to 3G). Dual-SIM functionality is great for managing your business and personal calls from a single phone, or perhaps managing local and home tariffs when you venture abroad. Also see: Best dual-SIM phones and How to tell whether a phone is supported by your network

Connectivity hasn’t changed much in this model, aside from the new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. That means as before you get dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS and GLONASS. There’s also NFC, OTG but sadly no longer an IR blaster.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Xiaomi Mi5s review: Cameras

The Mi5s is fitted with the Sony IMX378, which is also used by the Google Pixel. At that phone’s launch the company used DXOMark Mobile data in an effort to prove that it is the best camera ever seen in a smartphone, with a very high score of 89. Unfortunately Xiaomi hasn’t done as much to optimise the camera software as has Google, so the Pixel is still arguably the better model for smartphone photography. That said, the fat lady has not yet sung, and we’ll be updating the photography section of this review within the next couple of weeks once the results of our new smartphone camera group test are in.

The IMX378 is a 12.3Mp camera with an f/2.0 aperture and phase-detection autofocus, also capable of shooting 4K video. With large 1.55um pixels and a 1/2.3in sensor (previously 1/2.8in in the 16Mp Mi5) it can let in more light and capture more detail. Unfortunately, this camera lacks OIS which, according to Google at least, isn’t life or death.

“EIS and OIS have very different goals, so you can’t compare them to ask which is better/worse. OIS primarily improves low light photography by physically compensating for hand shake within each single frame, and EIS improves shaky video by maintaining a consistent framing between multiple video frames. OIS is primarily for photo, and EIS is only for video. Where OIS helps is still low-light photos. It compensates for hand shake, allowing longer exposures in low light, but this in turn increases motion blur within the frame. And it comes with all kinds of tradeoffs, starting off with its physical size,” Google said of the IMX378.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

The camera app in MIUI 8 is easy to use, with various real-time filters and photography modes available. We found the camera was lightning-quick to capture shots, and the results showed plenty of detail and good colour reproduction. And while it’s not the most amazing camera for low-light photography, the results are reasonable.

Below is just a taster of what the phone is capable of (in Auto and HDR modes respectively). Expect more test shots to come following our smartphone camera update.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

Xiaomi Mi5s review

The selfie camera hasn’t changed, and the Mi5s is still fitted with a 4Mp camera at the front. It offers the same real-time filters as the primary camera, plus modes including Timer, Audio and GroupShot.

Xiaomi Mi5s review: Software

Whereas the Mi5 ran MIUI 7 out of the box, the Mi5s is preinstalled with MIUI 8. This is a custom version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow with some cool extra features. And this is usually where you’d get a big BUT in one of our Xiaomi phone reviews - but the Xiaomi doesn’t support Google services blah, blah, blah. We don’t wish to undermine the importance of Google apps on an Android phone for UK users of course, but what it comes down to is this one does. Preinstalled with the International Edition of MIUI 8 (as sold via GearBest), the Mi5s reviewed here comes preinstalled with Google Play and Gmail, and you can install any other Google apps you like. There’s none of the usual Chinese-language apps and notifications - UK users can just pick it up and get started straight out the box.

Xiaomi Mi5s review

There are a number of changes in MIUI 8. The drop-down notification bar is perhaps the most obvious change, with new quick access icons running along its top. Xiaomi has also moved around a few items in the Settings menu, and introduced some new features such as double-tap to wake, Second Space (which creates a separate space on your phone), Dual Apps (allowing you to run a second version of an app on the phone), individual App Lock and Quick Ball (which places anywhere you like onscreen a button that allows you to quickly return to the home screen or perform other functions). There’s also support for Mi Wallet.

Other new features include an energy saving mode, enhanced video-editing tools plus some photo features that allow you to add doodles and stickers and quickly share your snaps, the new and supposedly easier-on-the-eyes Mi Lanting font, updated QR scanner and calculator apps, an enhanced multi-tasking menu, brighter colours and new lock screen wallpapers.

Read next: Best new phones

Specs

Xiaomi Mi5s: Specs

  • MIUI 8 International Edition (includes Google Play and services)
  • 5.15in full-HD (1920x1080) LED display
  • 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core 64-bit processor
  • Adreno 530 GPU
  • 3GB RAM, 64GB storage (4GB RAM, 128GB storage model also available)
  • Dual-SIM Dual-Standby (2x Nano-SIM)
  • 4G FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 12Mp rear camera with PDAF, dual-tone flash
  • 4Mp, f/2.0 front camera
  • ultra-sonic fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • 3100mAh non-removable battery
  • 145.6x70.3x8.3mm
  • 147g