News by Luke Jones on Friday February 26, 2016.
|Sponsored links, if any, appear in green.|
Xiaomi bide its time when most of its rivals launched impressive new handsets at MWC, including highlights from Sony, LG, and of course Samsung. We have waited a long time for the Mi 5 flagship to arrive, so Xiaomi really had to deliver something special.It has been 20 months since the company unveiled the Mi 4, the world has spun many times since then and many of Xiaomi's rivals have launched two flagships in that time. It is an age in smartphone life cycles, so Xiaomi is really playing catchup with the Mi 5. Has the giant managed to keep pace with other devices? Yes is the simple answer, the Mi 5 is a tour de force, as we would expect from a flagship in 2016, but it is not quite enough to really stand from the crowd. Having said that, its unbelievable price will give Xiaomi another hit, there is no doubt about that. Before continuing, it is important to know that there are actually three distinct variants of the Mi 5 (Standard, High, and Exclusive), so we will do our best to discuss their core differences without things getting too confusing. Design Xiaomi is hardly known for aesthetic originality, and so it proves again with the Mi 5. We can see calling cards from numerous high end rivals, most notably the iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge (now the Galaxy S7 Edge). The result is a smartphone that looks excellent, because the designs it borrows from are excellent, so while we cannot complain about the aesthetic, we sure are tired of companies pulling this kind of wholesale design pinching. The Mi 5 Standard and Mi 5 high are made of metal and glass (lending further to the S6 Edge look), with Corning?s Gorilla Glass 4, while the Mi 5 Exclusive is a sumptuous ceramic and glass affair that Xiaomi has somehow managed to keep to just 129 grams. Specs With three different variants of the same device, this is where things can get confusing, so we will break down each model separately, even though they share some of the same core specifications. The handset boasts a 5.15-inch screen that the company has curiously decided to keep at 1080p Full HD, when most rivals are sporting Quad HD panels. Xiaomi has employed a Sony IMX 298 camera sensor for the 16 megapixel primary lens, which comes with such features as 4-axis OIS and 4K video. Around the front, there is a surprisingly modest 4 megapixel shooter serving selfie duties. A USB Type-C port will save you fumbling in the dark, while a 3000mAh battery should be ample enough for all variants of the Mi 5. Speaking of the variants, they are defined by the RAM and storage configurations, as well as build materials: The Mi 5 standard gets a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of native storage. The Mi 5 High gets a processor upgrade in the form of a Snapdragon 820 clocked at 2.15GHz, paired with 3GB of RAM, and a boosted 64GB storage capacity. The Mi 5 Ceramic Exclusive gets the same processor as the High, but here it is coupled with 4GB of RAM, and an appealing 128GB of loaded space. Price and Availability We think in just about every criteria the Mi 5 treads water with the competition. It is not wildly better than any flagship rival, but it is certainly not worse either. However, Xiaomi often has price as an ace card, and once again the company is playing the trick. The Mi 5, in whatever configuration you choose, is a bona fide bargain next to similarly spec'd smartphones. The Standard version costs 1999 yuan ($306), the High will see you pay 2,299 yuan ($352), while the top of the range Exclusive one will set you back 2699 yuan ($413). You will notice that all prices are in Chinese Yuan, which is telling. Yes, once again Xiaomi is ignoring Western markets and only launching its handset on home turf, with a possible roll out to other Asian nations at a push. Considering the quality and price, we doubt the company will have any problem selling this handset by the truck load ... just don't look at those profit margins. Summary Summing up the Mi 5 is a hard task, simply because we feel we are being too hard on the device. It is worth noting that these are just first impressions, but Xiaomi is still not differentiating itself from rivals, whether that's in terms of design, software, or hardware. This is not a bad smartphone, it is in fact an excellent one, with a price tag that is simply stunning considering what is on offer. We just think it is time that Xiaomi crafted a device that truly stands on its own two feet, and not on the shoulders of giants. As we said, it is harsh, but the bottom line is we like what Xiaomi does and want the company to really let the shackles of innovation off.
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.