The Mi Band has always been the default choice for an affordable fitness tracker in India ever since it launched in 2016. Xiaomi got a successful recipe right at the start and over the years has only perfected it, based on the yearly wearable trends. They haven’t been the most feature-rich but they sure did deliver a superb user experience. The Mi Smart Band 5 is the latest flavor for this year and Xiaomi has got another hit on its hands.
The Mi Smart Band 5 costs Rs 2,499 and it brings along some notable upgrades over the already impressive Mi Smart Band 4. The design remains unchanged but the fitness tracking features have increased. The Band 5 focuses a lot on wellness tracking rather than just activity tracking. Xiaomi has updated the charging system too. But are these changes enough to warrant a higher price tag than the Redmi Smart Band (review) – one which already left us impressed?
Design & comfort
The Mi Band series has always led the way with practical designs and unparalleled comfort. Xiaomi does not change it with the Mi Smart Band 5 and retains the stuff we already loved. The design is similar to the Mi Smart Band 4 from last year, carrying on the same pill-shaped tracker design and a plain strap. If you already have the Mi Band 4, the new model probably won’t be surprising you.
The display is one of the core features of the Mi Smart Band 5 and Xiaomi has made good use of its expertise in this area. It measures 1.1-inches and that’s big enough in the world of fitness trackers. Xiaomi is using an AMOLED panel which makes for popping colors against the black background. Most importantly, it helps to mask the thick black bezels along with some clever tinting. A back touch key sits below the display with a faint marking.
Despite being a small display, the Mi Smart Band 5 renders sharp texts and graphics. Text from messages is legible easily and even with smaller fonts, one should be able to read it easily. The touch input is decent for a fitness tracker of its category, although I was expecting the touch input to be more responsive. Nonetheless, the Mi Smart Band 5 never missed any of my swipe gestures, whether my fingers were wet or dusty.
The optical sensor protrudes slightly and if you wear the Mi Smart Band 5 firmly, it leaves its mark on the wrist. With some adjusting though, the Mi Band 5 nails it in the comfort department. The 12 grams tracker is barely noticeable on the wrist. The plastic strap with the soft-touch “rubbery” finish is easy on the skin. The Mi Smart Band 5 is one of the very few fitness trackers I find comfortable while sleeping. No skin irritation, no itching – nothing. Of course, your experience may vary.
The Health stuff
The Mi Smart Band 5 is first and foremost a wearable designed for fitness enthusiasts. The previous versions already covered a lot of activities and the new one only adds to that. There are a total of 11 professional sports modes that you can track. There is outdoor running, walking, indoor cycling, outdoor cycling, Indoor running, indoor swim, free exercise,
indoor riding, elliptical machine, rope skipping, yoga, and rowing machine.
If you practice any of the above-mentioned fitness activities, you can simply navigate to the menus and initiate the desired fitness mode. The band automatically detects walking and running activities – this is a feature that worked like a charm during my evening strolls.
If activity tracking is what you seek, the Mi Band 5 has an extensive list of things to track. You can as always track heart rate and it is comparable to the data from the Redmi Smart Band. Hence, you can count on the numbers. You can now track stress levels too and if you want to calm yourself, there’s a guided breathing exercise to help you do that.
Female-specific health tracking has long evaded Xiaomi’s fitness trackers and I am glad to finally see it in the Mi Smart Band 5. Female users can keep a track of their menstrual health. You need to log in the data once and the Band 5 will do it for you. I am not the right person to test this and hence, I cannot tell you how well it works. However, a few of my female friends found this feature appealing enough to buy a Mi Smart Band 5.
Xiaomi now borrows the PAI tracking system from Amazfit for the Mi Smart Band 5. The PAI system basically keeps a track of various parameters and awards scores based on the activity. The higher your PAI score, the more fit you are as a person. Sadly, we journalists on an average day can only score 3-4 points, sitting all day in front of our computers.
There’s also the usual the step tracking that’s gotten even better at avoiding false readings. Based on that, you can also find out the number of calories burnt and idle detection. The sleep tracking is good too, although I observed instances of false data recordings.
Helping the Mi Smart Band 5 to enhance the tracking experience is the Mi Fit app. If you have used a Mi Band before, the experience is the same. The app provides a diverse interface with colorful charts and graphics to represent your activities and health. The app is easy to navigate and every parameter is detailed. You can even change settings for the Mi Smart Band 5 from the Mi Fit app.
The Smart Stuff
While Xiaomi advertises the Mi Smart Band 5 for fitness enthusiasts, the lowly price of Rs 2,499 also appeals to the first-time wearable buyers. Over the years, I have met many who consider the Mi Band to be a smartwatch over a fitness tracker. Hence, it is important that the Mi Band 5 gets the smart bits right.
The good news is that it does indeed. Similar to the older model, the Band 5 tries to be an extension to your smartphone in its little ways. You can of course get notifications for messages and apps without any delay. I was able to read WhatsApp texts and Twitter notifications on the band display easily. Sadly, the band only supports English as its language and it cannot show emojis or other languages. This is something Xiaomi needs to take care of considering a majority of users do receive texts with special characters, different languages, and emojis.
You can even control calls and unlock your phone with the Mi Smart Band 5, provided that you are in Xiaomi’s ecosystem. Android users can even mute the phone directly from the band. On my iPhone SE, I was only able to cancel a call from the band. One can also use the Find Phone function with the Mi Fit app installed.
The Mi Fit app is crucial to the Mi Smart Band 5 as it delivers OTA updates to the firmware. I got one during my review period and the installation did not take much time. You can also choose from a wide variety of watch faces for the band. You have three faces on the watch at all times, out of which the third one can be changed. The app allows you to create custom watch faces with personalized backgrounds as well. Compared to other bands, the Mi Band 5 has a bunch of tasteful watch faces that customization freaks like me would love to play with.
Other smart features include the music control, weather details, and camera shutter. The music controls work universally with all streaming apps. I am impressed to see the Mi Band 5 letting you control volume levels from its tiny display. Additionally, the software on the Band 5 is tuned nicely with smooth animations and large colorful icons. Navigating through the menus even on its tiny display is a lot of fun.
Xiaomi claims the Mi Smart Band 5 can last up to two weeks on a single charge. As of writing this review, my unit hasn’t required charging in the ten days I have worn it. I enabled the automatic heart and sleep detection ever since I put it on my wrist. I also wore it through nights and throughout the day, it stayed connected with my phone. By all means, the Mi Smart Band 5 puts up with all the tasks without going thirsty for juice.
Eventually, the band will run out of battery but charging it isn’t a chore anymore. For years, one had to pop-out the tracker from the strap and put it in a weird charging dock. That system damaged the strap and, from my personal experience, made for injured fingernails.
The Mi Band 5 uses a magnetic charging dock with its POGO pins on the underside. This means that you don’t have to remove the strap while charging. Simply plug the cable to an adapter and snap the band to the dock.
Should you buy the Mi Smart Band 5?
At Rs 2,499, the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 pushes the benchmark for fitness trackers in the affordable segment. The feature set isn’t very different from the ones already on sale but it distinguishes itself with superior user experience. That alone is the key selling point of the Mi Smart Band 5 – a great user experience. The vibrant OLED display, the well-tuned software, a refined design, comfortable strap, and long battery life – they all add up to deliver a polished user experience.
Fitness tracking has improved and, with added wellbeing features such as stress tracking, PAI, menstrual health, and breathing exercises, it makes more sense as a wellness monitoring assistant on your wrist. Whether you want to track workouts or just keep a tab on your statistics, the Mi Smart Band 5 will keep everyone content. For those who want this to be their first “smartwatch”, there’s more than enough to play with.
While the Redmi Smart Band with its fitness-focused functions appeals to the majority due to the Rs 1,599 price tag, the Mi Smart Band 5 justifies the premium of an extra Rs 1,000 as a “fitness + wellness” monitoring device.