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Xiaomi Mi 5: First Impressions

Chinese company Xiaomi's Mi 5 is one of those smartphones that have been preceded by no shortage of hype

Chinese company Xiaomi's Mi 5 is one of those smartphones that have been preceded by no shortage of hype.

Employing a clever strategy, Xiaomi let the US tech media first have a good look at the device -- which isn't even sold there -- and then handed it to Indian reviewers possibly hoping they wouldn't think of swimming against the tide when assessing the Mi 5.

Reviewers in the US however, seem to have gotten a look at the more powerful "Pro" version. What was ably presented by Hugo Barra, Vice President of International for Xiaomi was one of the variants -- a white 32GB with 3GB RAM instead of 4GB RAM. All the same, the Mi 5 is an interesting phone -- just not as groundbreaking as it's made out to be.

Carefully Crafted
Two years in the making, the Mi 5 is carefully crafted, according to the company. Every bit, from the curves to the size to the alignment, has been thought out and built with a purpose. When you pick up the smartphone, you could be excused for thinking there's no battery inside -- it's that light. In fact, it does have a 3,000mAh battery which easily takes you through the day. The 5.15-inch phone has been designed to feel compact and in a world where small holdable phones are becoming scarce, the Mi 5 is one to consider.

The back is made of what they call 3D glass. It's got slight curves and is layered on top of metal. But for all that work, I'm afraid it looks like plastic. If someone were to see a Mi 5 in your hand, they won't really know that it's not plastic but glass you're holding. In any case, like most good looking phones, you will probably need to protect all that crafting and fine-tuning inside a case because the device can be a little slippery due to the smoothness on the back.

Constantly compared with the Galaxy S7, the Mi 5 is often referred to as a copy of Samsung's phone. Of course, some also say the reverse is true. Disappointingly, Xiaomi did not showcase the gold version they believe looks like jewellery so we will just have to imagine it for now. Xiaomi is particularly proud of the way it has curved and angled the sides of the device to enhance in-hand feel and yes, it does feel good to grip and hold, though it must be said that the company has done an equally good job of that with its budget phone, the recently launched Redmi Note 3.

Fast as Light
The Mi 5 happens to have the fastest fingerprint sensor I have seen. It is integrated with the Home button and unlocks on a single press-down. It does so with such speed you just about don't see the unlocking action. Except after coming back from a total shutdown, which is the only time I find I have to resort to using a pattern to unlock, perhaps by design.

Everything else about the Mi 5 is also supersonic. It runs on the Snapdragon 820 processor, the first to bring it into India though Samsung's Exymos on the S7 devices is an equivalent. The Xiaomi interface, MIUI, working on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, is light and fast, making this phone a light one both in terms of hardware and software. "Fast as Light' is in fact the company's tag line for the device. The 3GB of RAM seem enough for this compact phone, but gamers will hanker for the 4GB version.

A memory card slot is not available to add to the 32GB on board, which is perhaps why they have a version with 128GB on board, though that is not yet in India with no word on if and when it will be.

Capable Camera
Much has been made of the Mi 5's 16MP camera, specially with its 4-axis optical image stabilisation, making it easy to shoot video (including 4K) without too much bumpiness. The camera has also been compared with that to other flagship devices including the S7 devices but doesn't really match up. Images in very low light indoors are noisy. But outdoors, the camera is quite capable and does give all but the absolute high end camera phones a run for their money. It's fast to start off and fast to focus and overall does a good job.

The Price
Indian fans were expecting the price for this variant of the Mi 5 to be between Rs.20,000 and Rs. 22,000, more in line with the price in China. In fact, it's Rs 24,999 and while this may not seem like a leap of a difference, it isn't matching the perceived value, which means a bit of a disappointment for potential buyers. The Mi 5 will be available tomorrow online via a flash sale -- an annoying way of curtailing the numbers sold when there aren't enough units in supply while at the same time 'creating a buzz.'


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Xiaomi's Mi 5 smartphones gadgets chinese mobile