While Samsung and its Galaxy S7 mostly competes with high-end devices like the iPhone, Xiaomi makes its money attacking the mid- and low-end of the market. The company is all about bang-for-your-buck, often delivering very good specs at low prices. How low? Like most flagships, the Xiaomi Mi 5 sports the new Snapdragon 820 processor and a USB Type-C port, all for the distinctly not-flagship price of RMB 1999 (~$305). You could buy two of these for the price of a Galaxy S7 or LG G5. The catch is that the Mi 5 is currently only available in China.
But the Mi 5 might be the phone that Xiaomi uses to finally break into the Western market. Despite its name, Mobile World Congress generally focuses on phones for Europe and the US, and Xiaomi's first-ever appearance may be a sign of things to come. Xiaomi is also sending review units to a few US press outlets—we didn't import this one. The company opened online stores for products like its earbuds and headsets in the US, UK, France, and Germany, but the stores don't sell smartphones yet.
Design and build quality
SPECS AT A GLANCE: Xiaomi Mi 5
1920×1080 5.1" (428ppi) LCD
Android 6.0 Marshmallow with MIUI 7
Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Standard: (two 1.8GHz Kryo cores and two 1.6 GHz Kyro cores)
Pro: (two 2.15GHz Kryo cores and two 1.6 GHz Kyro cores)
Standard: 510MHz Adreno 530
Pro: Standard: 624MHz Adreno 530
Standard: 32GB or 64GB
Dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC
16MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus and OIS, 4MP front camera
144.6 x 69.2 x 7.3 mm (5.69 x 2.72 x 0.29 in)
129g (4.55 oz.)
Standard: RMB 1999 (~$305) unlocked
Pro: RMB 2699 (~$415) unlocked
quick charging, IR blaster, notification LED
The Mi 5 is very much a "budget flagship" phone: it feels and performs like a high-end device, but Xiaomi saves money by trimming features where most customers won't notice. The Mi 5's Snapdragon 820 only runs at 1.8GHz instead of the 2.15GHz you'd get on a Galaxy S7. The Mi 5 skips the crazy smartphone display resolution wars by going with a sensible 5.1-inch 1080p screen. The 428 PPI will lose a spec sheet battle with a 577PPI Galaxy S7, but when you consider an iPhone 6S only has a 326 PPI screen, 428 PPI is just fine. You get "only" 3GB of RAM, a full 1GB less than you'd get on the S7, but that's still plenty. There's no out-of-control spec creep, and you even get some important extras, like a fingerprint reader, NFC, an IR blaster, dual SIM cards, and the USB Type-C port I mentioned earlier.