Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus review: Black & white

Black & white

GSMArena team, 02 November 2016.

Final words

Our review of the smaller Xiaomi Mi 5s left us with mixed feelings and we were quite eager to meet the Mi 5s Plus. We were secretly hoping that Xiaomi had implemented all the novelties they have into the Mi 5s Plus and thus erase the bitter-sweet feelings the Mi 5s encounter left us with.

And it did! The Mi 5s Plus is quite a different beast from its Mi 5s sibling, with a bigger screen, better design, more powerful hardware, better battery life, and better camera skills.

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus review

Xiaomi didn't stick to the Mi 5s design, which lacked a proper frame and all those curves at the back compromised the handling big time. Then Xiaomi chose to opt for the more powerful Snapdragon 821 chip instead of the battery efficient route, and yet the battery life turned out great. Finally, the color and monochrome rear snappers are one of the most powerful combinations on the market, and it reaches beyond the traditional MIUI fans out there.

Yes, the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is a better performer than its smaller sibling and an excellent flagship sold at a very attractive price. Sure, there is a thing or two, which might be deal-breakers for particular buyers. For instance, the small camera sensors aren't skilled for night shots or clips, while the lack of proper screen protection means you's have to resort to using a screen protector if you want it to retain its resale value better.

But the omissions are easy to swallow given the price, specs, and overall performance of the Mi 5s Plus. Here is what we found throughout reviewing the 4GB/64GB gold model.

Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus key test findings

  • Build quality is excellent, as is the grip thanks to the prominent frame. The lack of an adequate protective glass above the screen is the only caveat.
  • The display is great: it offers 650+ nits of brightness, high contrast, accurate colors, but just average legibility in direct sunlight. The minimum brightness of 1 nit is superb for night-time reading, the blacks are deep enough, and the viewing angles are decent.
  • Battery life is excellent with an endurance rating of 104h, and great battery performance across all individual tests.
  • Rich wireless connectivity options including IR blaster, but no FM radio.
  • MIUI 8 is a clean and light shell on top of Android Marshmallow and offers rich customization options. The new Dual Spaces and Dual apps options are great additions.
  • The Snapdragon 821 chipset offers stellar performance and the Mi 5s Plus easily tops other droids. It also runs cool, and there is no apparent overheating or throttling.
  • Audio output starts off great, degrades with headphones. The speaker loudness is average, but the sound quality is very good.
  • Color camera outs very pleasant daylight photos with rich detail, great contrast, and good dynamic range. The foliage often gets ruined either by noise reduction or by issues caused by the small sensor.
  • The mono shots came out very impressive with even richer detail, higher contrast and dynamic range. Those came out often underexposed, so manual exposure tweaks are necessary.
  • The results from the Stereo mode easily make up for the slow processing time in low light photography. Other than that, you'll be better off using the Normal camera mode.
  • Great 4MP selfies, one of the better selfie snappers on the market.
  • The image quality aspects of the 4K videos are average across the board - detail, noise, dynamic range, contrast. The 1080p videos have slightly more detail and sharper picture but suffer from the same uninspiring averageness as the 4K ones. The captured audio with low bitrate may come through sounding poorly in noisier environments.

There are plenty of options out there, but just few can match the price and specs the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus.

For starters, the OnePlus 3 is a close match for the price, and it has a more beautiful design and a punchy AMOLED screen. The only area where the OnePlus 3 might feel inferior is the camera. Otherwise its performance and Android experience are equally impressive.

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3

The ZTE Axon 7 bumps the screen resolution up to Quad HD onto an AMOLED panel, and also wraps everything into a metal shell. The chipset performance is rather on par with the Mi 5s Plus, while its main camera is in a different league at 20MP with wide aperture and OIS. Plus, the Dolby Atmos-certified speakers turned out impressively good.

ZTE Axon 7
ZTE Axon 7

The LG G5 has seen a significant price drop since its launch and also matches the Mi 5s Plus regarding performance. We won't be talking about the failed modular attempt, but instead, there is a higher-res screen and a unique dual camera - one takes a regular photo, and the other one is super-wide that shoots panorama-like stills with one click. The performance of the cameras, both in photos and video, turned out to be the best in business to this very date.

LG G5
LG G5

If you are prepared to pay more, then the Huawei P9 Plus will treat you with an AMOLED panel with force-press support, gorgeous design, and better camera because of the bigger sensors. Plus, you can use the mono sensor in manual mode, or part of the simulated bokeh mode, which is gaining popularity with the new iPhone 7 Plus lately. Unfortunately, the GPU is just an average performer, and the gamers might have an issue with that.

The smaller Huawei P9 is cheaper, but it sacrificies the AMOLED screen and the stereo speakers. For even less money, you can also get the Honor 8, which is pretty much the same as Huawei P9 save for the glass design and the limited use of the mono sensor.

Huawei P9 Plus Huawei P9 Huawei Honor 8
Huawei P9 Plus Huawei P9 Huawei Honor 8

LeEco's Le Pro 3 is a good match for the Mi 5s Plus with the same screen resolution, chipset, and a capable single-camera setup. It's cheaper and offers stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound over the Mi 5s Plus, but its availability is quite limited at the moment.

LeEco Le Pro3
LeEco Le Pro3

The Galaxy S6 edge+ cost the same as the 64GB Mi 5s Plus. It offers a higher-res AMOLED screen, very capable chipset, and great 16MP main camera with OIS. The S6 edge+ has a superior design and you may want to give it a try.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+

Finally, if the Xiaomi MI 5s Plus is too big for you, then the original Mi 5 is always an option with the same performance, smaller and more beautiful design, and an OIS-enabled 16MP main camera.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 2, on the other hand, is pretty much the same device as the Mi 5s Plus, but it swaps the IPS panel for an AMOLED one and ditches the dual-camera setup for a big 22.5MP sensor with the new EIS gyro-based stabilization. Oh, and the Mi Note 2 looks somewhat classier than the Mi 5s Plus, so there is that.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Xiaomi Mi Note 2
Xiaomi Mi 5 Xiaomi Mi Note 2

The Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus is an easy pick among the competition because of its unique feature - native monochrome photography at an affordable price. And with the two cameras combined, the Mi 5s Plus outputs some great photos even in challenging conditions.

The Mi 5s Plus is also the fastest Android smartphone today, with great screen and battery life. MIUI8 is a nice launcher, too. Unless you are after the whole Leica experience from Huawei or the water-proof body from Sony or Samsung, you would probably find the Mi 5s Plus to be an excellent deal that's really tempting.

Special thanks to HonorBuy for providing the review unit.

Reader comments

  • Peter

Mi note 3 is the best choise for the money, u can check reviews.

  • Ryan

Hi guys. I know this is 2018 already. But, I wanted to upgrade my redmi note 4 to something better. I'm confused to choose between redmi note 5 pro, mi note 3 or mi 5s plus. So please someone give some recommendations. Thank you

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