Review: Xiaomi Mi 5, the best smartphone you can buy for under R10k

Xiaomi’s flagship MI 5 was launched in South Africa at the end of May, and we’ve received some stellar reviews, like this one from tech website Htxt

Here’s their review:

“ Our experience with Xiaomi thus far has been great.

The Mi 4 delivered a premium experience at a low cost and the Redmi Note 2 became one of our favourite low cost smartphones. Both of the aforementioned handsets did a great job at delivering awesome experiences at a low cost.
The latest handset from the Chinese stable is the Mi 5, which is quite pricey in comparison to the Mi 4 at R7 999 but, with a Snapdragon 820 processor, a minimum internal storage capacity of 32GB and a Full HD display, Xiaomi is in with a fighting chance at competing with the likes of the big names like Samsung, LG and even Apple.

Sitting happily atop our benchmark score chart is Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge, LG’s G5 and Huawei’s Mate 8, so the Mi 5 had to compete with these scores, and it did well.
Perhaps that’s the understatement of the century though, because for R8 000 the Mi 5 is now the third best smartphone we’ve had through our review pit in the last year.

What those numbers mean is that whether you want to play games, use your phone as your navigator or even do a bit of work on the go, the Mi 5 takes every task you can throw at in its stride.
For those that must know how fast the quad-core Snapdragon 820 chipset can run, we recorded a high speed of 1.8GHz. Paired with that you’ll find 3GB of RAM which is rather ample and we never saw any form of lag or performance dips, even at low power.
In regards to connectivity the Mi 5 has support for 802.11ac Wifi standards as well as support LTE.

During our time with the handset we never experience a dropped signal or terribly slow speeds here in South Africa.
Look, its not topping the charts but the Mi 5 comes close enough to those scores that if we were Samsung and LG we would be more than a little worried, especially at the price its at.
As for storage capacity, our review unit was a 32GB variant but there is also a 64GB and 128GB version (note that the 128GB version in South Africa does not have the ceramic body) for those that may feel the lack of a microSD card is egregious.
The fingerprint scanner housed in the “Home” button is snappy but doesn’t unlock at a touch. The unlock button or home button needs to be pressed first and but once the fingerprint scan starts it completes faster than you can blink.
You'll need to press a button to wake the screen but once its on you can scan your finger for near instantaneous results.
You’ll need to press a button to wake the screen but once its on you can scan your finger for near instantaneous results.

Powering the beastly innards of the Mi 5 is a 3 000mAh battery which gives you a full day (15 hours) of use with Wifi and Bluetooth on and the screen set to 100% brightness.
Once you start abusing the battery however you’ll notice it start to drain rather quickly. We clocked in a time of 9 hours which isn’t bad, though it isn’t the best we’ve seen.
Like the LG G5, the Mi 5 uses a USB 3.1 Type C to juice the battery up from the wall. There are two problems here. The first is that you will need to carry the cable around with you until more manufacturers make the switch to this connector type.
The second is that you will absolutely need a 5V/2A charger plug if you want the handset to charge at any speed faster than an elephant attempting to swim through a lake of mud.

When you do charge the Mi 5 properly however, it will reach go from 0 to 100% in just over an hour and a half.
At the back of the handset is a 16MP snapper with an F/2.0 aperture which is meant to improve low light photos. The key here though is “low” light. You absolutely need some sort of overhead, or natural light to make images taken in the dark acceptable.
The front facing 4MP shooter is a bit on the weak side, but in good lighting conditions your snaps will be worthy of a spot on your Instagram feed.
Video was a bit of a hit and miss for us. In low-light the footage is grainy and even in proper light the focus shifts far too much for our liking. That said you can record slow-motion video that works really well, and 4K video at 30 frames a second.
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For the most part the design of a phone has become rather humdrum but the Xiaomi has a quirk that we feel is worth pointing out.
The back of the phone is covered in glass which means that if the surface you put the handset on is not perfectly level it’s going to start sliding around. This goes for your bedside table, your desk at work and even the couch.
Sleek curves are great, but the Mi 5 is super slippery and prone to falling to the ground on surfaces that aren’t level.
This means a rear cover is absolutely vital, so factor that into your buying decision.

There is good chance that with this being the third Xiaomi review I’ve done that has been largely positive that the cries of “fanboi” will creep through the internet.
The fact of the matter though, is that this is a damned good phone, and it costs R7 999 which is astounding when you consider the next best phone is the LG G5 which is R13 999.
Perhaps the battery could have been a bit bigger and maybe opting for an octa-core rather than a quad-core could have pushed the Mi to the top of our charts but don’t take that as us complaining.
Smartphones like this make us get us excited because it shows that you don’t need to drop a month’s salary on a smartphone because you need absolutely mad performance.

It may not be hold the prestige of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, but in my opinion the Mi 5 is hands-down the best smartphone you can get today for under R10 000, and I have a feeling the only time that’s going to change, is when Xiaomi announces another flagship.

Details
Price R7 999
Display 5.15inch 1 920×1 080p
Operating System Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
System Chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 1.8GHz Kryo and dual-core 1.36GHz Kryo
RAM 3GB
Storage 32GB/64GB/128GB
Interface 3.5mm audio input/output, USB 3.1 Type C, Dual SIM, Fingerprint scanner, IR blaster
Front camera 4MP f/2.0
Back camera 16MP auto-focus, quick focus, f2.0 aperture,
Battery 3 000mAh non-removable Li-Po Battery
Verdict
Overall - 9
9
Mi Fav
The battery could be bigger and the camera could be a touch better but if what you need is a powerful workhorse that offers superb performance but can't afford the latest flagship, the Mi 5 is the best choice at the moment.
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