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Hands on: Xiaomi Mi 5 Pro

Xiaomi's Mi 5 Pro is a sexy, powerful Galaxy S7 impersonator with style

You could be forgiven for mistaking the Xiaomi Mi 5 for Samsung’s Galaxy S7 at first glance. From its aluminum frame and curved glass or ceramic back panel, down to the oval-shaped fingerprint sensor on its front panel, it screams Samsung. Some of the design notes, like the ceramic back, are reminiscent of the OnePlus X, too. However, the more you look at the Mi 5, you’ll discover subtle differences.

Xiaomi did its best to point out those differences, which are relatively few. There’s no camera bump on the back of the device, for example, and the camera sensor isn’t centered on the back. It’s positioned in the corner like the iPhone’s camera, instead. Xiaomi bragged that it more or less erased the bezels around the screen, so it appears as though there’s no border between the glass and the metal frame.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous phone, and the only real downside of the Mi 5’s design is that like, the Galaxy S7, it picks up fingerprints with remarkable ease. The Mi 5 is just 7.25mm thick and weighs 129 grams, which is even lighter than the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S7. The light weight adds to the comfort of the device and sets it apart from the Galaxy S7.

The sleek, ceramic back feels soft and warm to the touch. It’s a different feeling than you get from glass, but it still catches the light in a fantastic way. The Mi 5’s aluminum frame curves perfectly along the sides and cascades into the glass back seamlessly. The result is a phone that’s not just comfortable to hold, but gorgeous to look at.

A killer processor and sharp screen

When it comes to specs, Xiaomi went all out on the Mi 5. The only area in which it doesn’t match the Galaxy S7 or LG G5 is with its 5.15-inch Full HD screen, which sports a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution and 427ppi pixel density. The screen looks sharp and bright in person, and you honestly don’t need Quad HD. Sure, it’s nice and all, but it’s a battery drain that the human eye can’t even take advantage of or appreciate. Sadly, 1080p won’t be good enough for VR purposes, but it’s a trade off Xiaomi was willing to make.

The processing power behind the Mi 5, however, is top notch. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 and 4GB of RAM power the Pro version of the device, while the regular models will get the 820 and 3GB of RAM. The Pro also packs 128GB of storage, which is as good as it gets for a phone with no MicroSD card slot. The other models will get 32GB or 64GB of storage. Although we’ll need to test it more to really rate the processing power, on paper, the Mi 5 is a beast — no matter the configuration you choose.

A 16-megapixel Sony camera with a dual-tone flash, phase-detection autofocus, and 4-axis OIS sits on the back of the phone. It can record 4K video, and Xiaomi shared a number of gorgeous pictures that were taken with it, along with a video highlighting the powers of its OIS tech in comparison with the iPhone 6S Plus and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Xiaomi’s video appeared rock steady, but the other phones jumped all over the place. We can only imagine how they’d look with no OIS whatsoever.

On the front of the phone, Xiaomi popped on a 4-megapixel camera with a 2 micron pixel size. It’s supposed to do better in low light with its big pixels, but we’ll have to wait and see until we test it out.

A 3,000mAh battery should keep the Mi 5 running for at least a full day, but with Quick Charge 3.0, you can juice it up to 80-90 percent in one hour, Xiaomi claims.

A customized version of Android, but with updates

Almost every Chinese smartphone has a user interface on top of Android, and most of them are awful. The UIs are either clunky and cluttered, overly bright and cartoonish, or even worse — slow your phone down. MIUI 7 on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow looks less obtrusive, though it is obviousy not pure Android. The icons are flat and colorful, with a look that’s more iOS than Android, but in a good way. The simplicity is attractive, and there’s not as much bloatware as you’d find on most Chinese phones — let along a Samsung phone.

The Mi 5’s aluminum frame curves perfectly along the sides and cascades into the glass back seamlessly.

Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra, who hails from Google, boasted that Xiaomi pushes weekly updates to MIUI devices, which is something no Android smartphone maker can say. These rapid updates are especially crucial in the increasingly dangerous environment of malware and bugs like Heartbleed.

Xiaomi says the Mi 5 will arrive on March 1 in China for 350 Euros, or about $415. The company will then ship it off to India and other common markets where its phones have sold before. It’s currently unknown if the Mi 5 will reach Europe or the U.S. anytime soon, which is a big shame. At that price with those specs, it’d be an absolute steal.

Highs

  • Sleek, sexy design
  • Powerful processor and tons of RAM
  • MIUI is simple and attractive on Android 6.0
  • A killer phone for less than 400 Euros

Lows

  • Not a Quad HD screen
  • Not coming to the U.S. — yet