Fixing all the quirks from the Mi Band 4, and then some

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The Xiaomi Mi Band 4 was launched in June 2019, coming up as a big upgrade over the Mi Band 3 thanks to its color display and other additions. In my review of the Mi Band 4, I noted how the Mi Band lineup has evolved over the years to the point that the Mi Band 4 had left behind very little room for improvement for the next generation. Now, the Mi Band 5 is here (or the Mi Smart Band 5, as they call it here in India), picking up the baton from the predecessor in this marathon of a healthy lifestyle. How does the Mi Band 5 perform? Read along as we figure out what Xiaomi has brought to the table with the latest evolution of its popular fitness tracker lineup.

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Xiaomi Mi Band 5: Specifications

Specs Mi Band 5
Size and weight
  • 47.2 x 18.5 x 12.4mm
  • Weight
    • Standard: 11.9g
    • NFC: 12.1g
Materials Polycarbonate
Wrist band Silicone
Compatibility Android, iPhone
SoC unspecified
RAM/Storage 512KB RAM, 16MB storage
Network NA
Display 1.1-inch AMOLED ( 126 x 294  px)
450 nits brightness
Connectivity Bluetooth v5 BLE
GPS Absent
Sensors
  • PPG Heart rate sensor; IR detection only on NFC variant
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • 3-axis gyroscope
  • Barometer
  • Proximity sensor
NFC payments Yes
Battery 125 mAh
Water resistance 5ATM or 50m up to 30 minutes in freshwater

About this review: Xiaomi India loaned us the Mi Smart Band 5 for review. This review is after 3 weeks of use. Xiaomi did not have any inputs in this review.


Design and Display on the Mi Band 5

The Mi Band 5’s display gets pretty bright, and is very easy to read from.

While the Mi Band 4 brought along a color touchscreen as a headlining upgrade, the Mi Band 5 does not attempt to fix what is not broken. Xiaomi has only added marginal improvements here, namely with a slightly larger display (1.1″ vs 0.95″) which gets brighter at up to 450 nits. The Mi Band 4 performed decently under bright sunlight, and the Mi Band 5 does even better on that end. You will have no issues reading the display under bright sunlight.

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On the display, what appears to be a bigger change is the ability to set a custom wallpaper on your watch face on the Mi Smart Band 5. The previous Mi Band supported multiple official watchfaces as well as unofficial watchfaces that could be sideloaded to bring in more customization. With the Mi Band 5, you can make a custom watch face from within the Mi Fit app, letting you choose from a few different clock and info layouts, then change the wallpaper (it can even be your own selfie if you want it to be), and change the font color. And of course, the unofficial watchfaces can still be installed, though you may need to be careful of the changes that Android 10 and 11 bring about with Scoped Storage (not Xiaomi’s fault in any way).

You can even switch watch faces from the Band itself, and some of the preloaded Bandfaces also have customizations to what information they can display. There are even animated official watch faces! Overall, there is a lot more customization possible on top of whatever the Mi Band 4 offered, and that is always a good thing.

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The Mi Band 5 fixes the flawed charger design from the Mi Band 4

But the biggest change of all on the Mi Band 5 is the fact that the wearable now uses a magnetic charging pin. Gone is the awkward and awful cup-like design from the Band 4 that did a very poor job at holding the band module in place. With the Mi Band 5, you no longer need to remove the band module from the silicone strap — just bring the magnetic charger close to the charging pin and it will snap itself into place. This elegantly solves my biggest complaint with the predecessor, and I no longer need to contend with tightly stringing around rubber bands just to get the band module to charge. The other end of the magnetic charger is still USB Type-A, so for the future, I wish Xiaomi makes the switch over to Type-C. But for now, it works and it works well.

Xiaomi-Mi-Band-5-with-charger-and-Xiaomi-Mi-Band-4-with-Charger

One of these is a far better solution than the other

A con with these changes — namely the larger display and the switch over to a magnetic charging design — is that bands for the Mi Band 4 and its predecessor are no longer compatible with the Mi Band 5. You can force the Band 5 module into a Band 4 strap, but you’ll likely end up with a broken or deformed strap instead of a clean solution. I reckon there will be third-party straps available for the Mi Band 5 on its own.

The Mi Smart Band 5 continues to omit NFC and microphone on units sold outside of China. NFC is barely used in India, so the absence of it is a non-issue.

Xiaomi-Mi-Band-5-back-clasp

 

Overall, my positive impressions from the Mi Band 4 have carried over onto the Mi Band 5. It retains the discreet and understated look, and brings along a few key changes that overall enhance the experience on the wearable. Remember, this fitness tracker sits within the cheapest segment of fitness trackers — so what you get for the price remains commendable.

User Interface and Experience on the Mi Band 5

I have extensively talked about the user interface and the experience on the Mi Band and the companion Mi Fit app in my Mi Band 4 review, so I urge readers to read those sections as the Mi Band 5 carries over all of those experiences, and then some.

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The Mi Band 5 adds in several new features, such as the ability to record more sports, the ability to track sleep better and even track mid-day naps, track menstrual cycles for people who get periods, help you relax with breathing exercises, give you an indication of how stressed you are, control your phone’s camera shutter from the Band, and even give you personalized activity tracking in the form of PAI.

More Sports Mode

The Mi Band 5 now comes with tracking for:

  • Yoga
  • Power Walking
  • Treadmill
  • Outdoor Running
  • Outdoor Cycling
  • Indoor Cycling
  • Pool swimming
  • Jump rope
  • Freestyle workout
  • Rowing machine
  • Elliptical

These sports modes should be sufficient for the large mass of average users who are just getting started on their fitness journey. Note that the Mi Band series does not come with GPS built-in, so for activities that involve route-tracking, the Mi Band relies on GPS information collected through the Mi Fit app on your phone.

Step Tracking

Tracking by itself is okay, a sentiment that becomes “good” when you factor in the price of the product. I still found the Band being a little over-sensitive for step tracking, usually counting a few steps for periods when I was asleep. The data is reliable within an error margin of less than 5% — I find this to be an acceptable margin for the simple reason of the Band being a starter tool and not for professional tracking. If you need devices that can deliver more precision tracking, you need to spend over five times the price of the Mi Band 4/5 — and with that in mind, the Mi Band 5 continues to do a pretty good job.

Sleep Tracking

For sleep tracking, my personal experience dictates that the Mi Band 4 was better at tracking sleep than the Mi Band 5, despite the new band claiming to come with upgraded sleep analysis tech. I usually spend a good amount of time idling in bed before falling asleep and after waking up — the Mi Band 4 was fairly accurate in capturing these, but the Mi Band 5 catches in the lowered body movement as an indication of sleep, perhaps to accommodate daytime naps? But then, there are instances when the Band said I was awake at night, which was simply not true. On a personal note, I am unable to nap during daylight hours, so measuring this conclusively was difficult. It’s also more difficult to sleep with two fitness trackers on my wrist, so I am unable to get comparison screenshots for the same night.

In the first screenshot above, I went to sleep at a good 2am, but the Band 5 already registered a sleep session when I was idling in bed. The last stretch of light sleep data is also wrong, as I had woken up by my 9am alarm. In the second screenshot, there are large periods of time when my Band 5 presumed I was awake, when in fact, I have no recollection of periods.

From personal experience, the Mi Band 4 is just better for sleep tracking. The Mi Band 5 does track REM state for sleep too, so if tracking this is important for you, you should only prefer the Mi Band 5 within this narrow context of sleep tracking. Otherwise, the Mi Band 4 is better for sleep tracking.

Period Tracking

The Mi Band 5 comes with period tracking features built-in, to better aid people who get periods. This section has been written with the assistance of a friend who gets their period.

You need to input an initial data set within the Mi Fit app first for onboarding the feature. Once your first entry is done with regards your period length, cycle length, last menstrual period date, and your consent to predict the next menstrual cycle, the Mi Fit app displays a calendar with information related to menstruation, fertility periods, and ovulation days, as well as the next cycle prediction if you chose that setting. You can enter data on a new menstrual cycle, and optionally, you can also input data on pain, bleeding, and emotions. The idea with this data collection is to maintain a history, in case you may need it for medical reasons. You can also get notified through the app on your phone, or have a notification sent to your band when your next cycle approaches.

Xiaomi-Mi-Band-5-Period-Tracker

The Mi Band 5, on the other hand, displays a timeline of period activity. You can quickly add in an entry if you get a period, but that is about it on the information you can add and interact with on the Band.

While I personally cannot hold an opinion on how useful this feature is, my friend mentions that the UI is decent, and the app displays what it can with the information provided. Period tracking usually improves as history builds up, so one should avoid judging the menstrual cycle predictions from a singular month of data alone. One point to note is that there is currently no way to add in sexual activity, as that is also vital information for period tracking, especially for figuring in delays or other unusual behavior. Period tracking apps also have a wider range of emotions that can be tracked, which is something that can be improved here. What I would add from my end is the fact that the app should consider adopting gender-neutral vocabulary to be inclusive of everyone. Even the Mi Fit app profile (your Xiaomi account) only has two gender options, so there’s room for improvement here.

Stress Monitoring and Breath Training

Another highlighting feature of the Mi Band 5 is the addition of Stress Monitoring and Breath Training. These features are pretty self-explanatory. In my daily usage so far, I did not receive any notifications related to being over-stressed (although we had just handled Techtober and some stressful workdays). The Band 5 did record a fair few periods (36%) of moderate stress, but for the most part, my sedentary lifestyle just gave me mild stress (64%), with no instances of relaxed states or overstressed states. Xiaomi notes that this data is calculated through HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and is for reference only, so I would advise readers to not read too much into it unless you get overstressed.

Breath Training is something I found useful. Essentially, you can set 1-5 minutes of training for relaxed breathing. The Band then guides you through inhaling and exhaling periods through an animation on the display and short vibration when the state is to be changed. At the end of the exercise, the Band displays your initial and your final heart rate, giving you an idea of how much you managed to calm yourself down. I love the inclusion of this feature. My wishlist for the same would be perhaps set a time of the day when the Band reminds you to do this exercise or perhaps customizing the Stress limits on which the Band could trigger a reminder notification for this exercise.

PAI – Personalized Activity Intelligence

This is a new addition to the Mi Band 5, although we have seen the same on more expensive wearables such as the Huami Amazfit GTR and Amazfit GTS

PAI uses the heart rate data collected during physical activity to provide a PAI score. The total PAI score is based on a rolling 7-day window, and the goal is to maintain a PAI score of 100 or more, which has apparently proven to provide maximum health benefits. The goal of 100 PAI was chosen as a normalized value, but what each person needs to do to achieve 100 PAI is also apparently unique to them. As you become more fit, it also becomes inherently more difficult to achieve 100 PAI which makes it appropriately challenging for all levels. Shamefully, my lifestyle, Techtober, and the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that I could only exercise irregularly and that too, for the sake of this review. My score never went above 7, which is worse than the 11 I had managed to achieve when reviewing the Amazfit GTS. I wouldn’t blame this on the Band.

Battery and Charging on the Mi Band 5

The Mi Band 5 charges easily, charges quickly, and lasts for weeks on a charge

All the Mi Bands have provided excellent battery life so far, and the Mi Band 5 is no exception. For wearables, anything above a 7-day life cycle is considered “good enough” in my books, as one can presume that there will be at least one opportunity to charge your watch once in a week. The Mi Band 5 has a bigger battery, but the display is also marginally bigger and fairly brighter, plus there are more functions. Xiaomi claims up to 14 days of battery life, and up to 21 days if you use the band in power saving mode. Their claims check out almost, as I was able to get 12 days reliably with most features enabled. Charging the watch up takes between 1.5-2 hours, and as mentioned before, connecting the charger is no longer a task in itself, so you can consider quick 5-10 minute top-ups every day. The Mi Band 5 aces the Battery and Charging section of the review, with no complaints.

Conclusion: The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 is a noticeable improvement from the great Mi Band 4

My Mi Band 4 review mentioned that “the Mi Band lineup from Xiaomi keeps improving and keeps surprising, year after year. Just when you thought the company has delivered the best value product, out comes another that raises the bar even higher.” The statements continue to hold true for this generation as well.

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We do need to take note of the fact that there has been a small rise in pricing for the Band series in India. The Mi Band 3 came in at ₹1,999, while the Band 4 came in at ₹2,299 and the Band 5 comes in at ₹2,499. The price increase is small, but it does admittedly affect how affordable this starter fitness band can be. Xiaomi also has introduced lower Bands in the form of the Redmi Band at ₹1,399, so the pinch from the Band 5 doesn’t hurt at much. For the price it commands, you do get a well-rounded product, and it is easy to ask potential customers to shell out another ₹200 and just get the newest product, completely justified by the change in the charger itself.

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The Mi Band 5 is a wearable that makes good fitness tracking affordable. You can achieve a lot of these functions from other wearables in the market, but Xiaomi has figured out the mantra on the Mi Band lineup. The only downside on this device is the lower reliability in sleep tracking, which the company could fix through software updates. If you are a hobbyist or an amateur just looking to get some motivation for your first week of running, the Mi Band 5 is an excellent purchase for a healthier lifestyle and a great option for gifting.

    Mi Smart Band 5 / Mi Band 5
    The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 is the latest fitness tracker from Xiaomi, and it deserves your attention.

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