The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is a true flagship with a large screen, big battery, and premium build. It was launched in the fall of 2016. Just half a year later, the mobile market has taken a leap forward with the releases of the bezel-less Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG L6. So, how does this phablet from China compete with the best of the best? Let’s find out!
I am a huge fan of the build quality and the materials of the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus. The front is your typical black slab, with a nice metal back and frame. There is no home button, but rather haptic keys that light up on the chin of the phone. The device sports a 1080p screen in the front, with dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor around back. The buttons on the side are very clicky and feel solid.
The screen measures in at 5.7 inches, and is beautiful. At 1080p, it doesn’t quite stack up to the likes of the Galaxy S8, but the colours are great and you don’t miss QHD after using the Mi 5s Plus for half a day. It’s a fairly bright screen, but the glass is so reflective that you still get some glare in the sun.
There is no expandable storage, but at 64 or 128 GB, you might not need it. Instead of an SD card slot, you have dual SIM cards. Dual SIM isn’t in high demand here in the States, but everyone wants multiple phones numbers on the same device elsewhere in the world.
The battery clocks in at a great 3800 mAh. It is not removable, which is okay considering the size of the battery. It also comes equipped with Quick Charge 3.0 if you’re in a bind.
I really like the fingerprint sensor. My main gripe with the Galaxy S8 is the placement of the fingerprint reader to the side of the camera. The Mi 5s Plus gets it right, with the sensor placed below the cameras, easily within reach. The phone unlocks quickly, and I rarely fumbled to find the reader with my index finger.
This phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 and either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. While the 821 is “so last year”, it is still very quick. Apps launch swiftly and I was hard-pressed to bog this thing down. The software takes some getting used to, as MIUI is Xiaomi’s VERY tweaked take on Android. It’s like a blend between iOS aesthetics and Android sensibility. It isn’t an ugly skin by any means, but I just wish everyone would leave stock Android alone – especially after Material Design rolled out some time ago.
The camera – err cameras, I should say – are very capable. They both measure in at 13 MP. One sensor is full colour and the other is monochromatic. You have the option of allowing the software to stitch the two images together for some great detail, or shoot in mono with the single black and white camera. The shutter speed is quick, and the Mi 5s Plus can even shoot in RAW. The front-facing (or selfie) camera, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about.
Here are just a few shots I took quickly in different types of lighting. These are completely unedited and uploaded straight off the phone.
The photos are decent in auto mode. The manual mode gives you so much more flexibility and control. That last photo in black and white was taken using just the monochromatic camera, which is fantastic.
Not everything is perfect in Xiaomi land, however. The ads that pop up occasionally are infuriating, especially when I’m tapping away on Twitter and accidentally install some rando RPG. The Mi 5s Plus has NFC, but Android Pay won’t work on it here in the US, which trips up my wallet-free lifestyle.
By far, my biggest complaint is the lack of waterproofing. I remember falling in love with the concept back when I had the Sony Xperia Z3. My Galaxy S7 Edge was IP68 certified, as is my current S8. I can drop those phones in a puddle, or watch YouTube in the shower, all without worrying about water damage. I can’t believe that a phone with these specs doesn’t offer the same protection.
Xiaomi founder Lei Jun insisted that there are two reasons why Xiaomi phones aren’t waterproof. He said he didn’t want the water resistance to become compromised if you drop your phone and get a nick or deep scratch. Not knowing that your phone is no longer waterproof, you might jump in a pool and ruin it. The second reason is cost. Waterproofing the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus would drive up the price by 20-30%. Yes, phones like the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 cost more, but they are certainly worth it!
Xiaomi: Apple Lite?
Xiaomi is a fascinating company. They are aggressive, innovative, and think differently than your typical Android smartphone maker. In fact, they’re a lot like Apple. So much so, that Lei Jun even unveils new devices dressed just like Steve Jobs! They have little flairs of iOS embedded in the UI, and many of their designs have been accused of copying Jony Ive and company.
Should You Buy the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus?
Overall, I really like the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus. Yes, it is bigger than it needs to be, and yes it has some shortcomings. However, you can’t go wrong for the price. Just make sure you double-check to see if your carrier’s frequencies will work on this phone before dropping a few hundred bucks!
What do you geeks think about this phone? Is it worth your time, or will you stick with more well-established cellphone makers? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think!