Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 review: budget band bosses the basics

But advanced features struggle under scrutiny
Xiaomi Mi Band 5
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The Mi Band 5 is the latest in the line of budget fitness trackers, that has become a global smash hit since 2015.

Taking the fight to Fitbit on features, but with incredibly low prices, a Mi Band 5 is available for just $49.99.

That price has crept up as Xiaomi has found it harder to keep up with the likes of Fitbit. The first Mi Bands were available for around $22, almost double that of the fifth generation.

And with the likes of Realme and Redmi offering fitness bands for as little as $15, Xiaomi somehow now feels like the premium offering in this new super-low cost micro-market.

But is the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 actually a good buy? Is it better than a Fitbit Inspire HR or, dare we say it, Charge 4? We’ve been wearing it to find out.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 features

  • Heart rate tracking
  • Waterproof and swim tracking
  • 11 sports profiles
  • Step tracking
  • Sleep tracking including REM
  • Music controls
  • Notification support
  • iOS and Android support
  • Price when reviewed: $44.99

Design, screen and features

  • Bigger brighter screen
  • Annoying and flimsy clasp

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 showing screen and strap

The design of the Mi Band 5 hasn’t evolved dramatically, but this is the biggest screen since the Mi Band launched.

It’s a 1.1-inch AMOLED display with a 126 x 294 resolution.

It looks great, bright and clear, albeit with quite a lot of information packed in. It’s certainly lightyears ahead of the Fitbit Inspire and Charge with the monochrome displays, which we criticised those devices for in our reviews.

There’s no physical button but a capacitive home button at the bottom, and you swipe/tap on the touchscreen to scroll through stats and menus.

Up/down scrolls through the main features such as daily status, PAI, heart rate stats, notifications, stress, breathing, events and workout modes.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 showing screen

Left/right scrolls through a weather widget, media controller and calendar.

Xiaomi packs a lot of information onto the screen, which can be a little hard to read, and probably not well-suited to those with poor eyesight or fat fingers. Scrolling down through pages of information can be a little fiddly.

The standard Mi Band 5 strap attaches with a pin-style clasp, which isn’t really that secure. We found it was easy to knock off during daily life and would often feel it hanging off our wrist.

However, you can pop out the module and replace the band, which we would highly recommend doing.

And we’re really pleased that Xiaomi has changed to a new magnetic charger on the back, that was convenient, easy and stayed attached well.

In short we’re fans of the bright display, and the general build is a little black and plasticky, although generally in-offensive.

Fitness tracking

  • Accurate step tracking
  • PAI score works, but it’s not motivational
  • No focus on resting heart rate

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 review: budget band bosses the basics

If you’re forking out for a Mi Band 5 then fitness tracking is likely to be high on your list.

We’ve defined fitness and sports tracking differently, with the former being daily activity and sleep goals, while the latter is actual tracking of workouts.

As a general fitness tracker, the Mi Band 5 does the job for the meagre price of $40. But we were certainly expecting better accuracy and more insights, given that the app experience and underlying hardware is pretty much the same as Amazfit’s.

On a base level you get step tracking, distance, calories and sedentary alerts to remind you to move. All of those are tracked on the device in the Status screen and in the Mi app.

And at this level, the Mi Band 5 is perfect.

We found accuracy here to be pretty spot on, with steps matching up to Garmin and Fitbit devices we compared to. Even a 10 mile walk tracked to comparable accuracy, so we have no qualms on recommending here.

All-day heart rate monitoring is part of the mix, and this too can be accessed from the device. You can see a spot check of your current heart rate and a breakdown of time spent in heart rate zones through the day.

However, the implementation of heart rate data in the app does feel less useful than rivals.

Resting heart rate over time isn’t tracked, which is a pretty common metric these days and one that can be useful to monitor as a picture of improving health, or fatigue.

To get these kinds of insights, you need to turn your attention to the PAI score.

PAI score

  • Medically validated single score
  • Takes a conscious effort to live the PAI life

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 PAI score screen

PAI is medically validated third party technology, which scores your weekly activity out of 100.

The aim is to keep the score at 100 for the week by spending time at elevated heart rate. Brisk walking, workouts and running will all get you PAI points, and the more you sweat the higher your PAI will go.

Focusing on PAI score and committing to it is a great way of ensuring you’re getting enough activity using the Mi Band 5.

We can see how many might find it a little abstract. The Mi app does recommend how to affect the PAI score, but its presentation is a little…boring.

By default PAI is tucked away in a menu on the device, although you can manually add it. And dive into the menu on the Mi app and the data is just fairly bland. You’ll need to motivate yourself to get fit via PAI.

Stress tracking

  • Interesting stress tracking data
  • Need to be turned on in the settings

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 stress tracking

The Mi Band 5 also tracks stress, and this is also displayed on the band and within the app. You get a score based on your heart rate across the day, again distilled into a single score.

We found this did correlate well with how we felt, and could be a useful score to take some time out and do some mindful medication or take a work break.

However, on its own the score doesn’t add much insight, although you can see stress tracked throughout the day.

This can help you match events to your physiological stress, which can be useful for working out what affects you, and how to change it.

Sleep monitoring

  • Outrageously high sleep scores
  • Good sleep insights and recommedations
  • Personalised and contextual data

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 sleep monitoring screens showing insights and sleep score

The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 will automatically detect sleep by wearing the device to bed.

In the setting you can turn on the sleep assistant, which adds REM tracking and personalized sleep tips to the tracking – but at the cost of battery life.

However, like much of the Mi Band 5 experience, we found it useful as a rough guide, but the data doesn’t stack up well under scrutiny.

Hours in bed were tracked fine, which will give you a helpful overview of sleep and wake times. This is actually fine for most people, as better sleep can be built on sleep consistency.

You can also see sleep stages, such as deep sleep, REM sleep and light sleep.

But the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 goes further and offers a sleep score to rate the overall quality of your kip. But we found this to be consistently outrageously high, and not in keeping with any rival trackers.

We tested against the Fitbit Charge 4 and Withings Sleep Analyzer (both validated by sleep studies) and found the Mi Band 5’s sleep ratings to be on another planet.

After a broken sleep in our heatwave, the Charge 4 detected 6hr 14 sleep and 1hr 32 mins of wake scoring 65/100. The Mi Band 5 detected 6hr 55 sleep, with 1 minute of awake (no where near correct) and scored it 95/100.

While we have called out the Fitbit Charge 4 for being way too harsh on sleep quality, to rate that sleep a 95/100 is just crazy.

And some of the poorer sleep scores tracked by the Mi Band often coincided with better scores from Fitbit and Withings.

We did like the sleep assistant that offered actionable analysis of things like bed-time schedule, as well as some generic tips on good sleep hygiene. Also, many stats such as deep sleep levels and sleep regularity are compared with your own averages and the user base, which is really neat.

And it’s important to note that all tracking is relative. Even if the Mi Band 5’s data doesn’t compare well to other validated systems, if you see a dip in sleep quality compared to your own Mi app data, then it’s still useful.

But we are concerned that sleep data was so far out of sync with both Fitbit and Withings.

Getting sweaty

  • 11 sport modes
  • Good swimming and gym data
  • Accurate running data

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 sports screen

The Mi Band 5 has 11 sports tracking modes, including running outdoors, treadmill, cycling, indoor cycling, walking, elliptical, rowing machine, yoga, jump rope, pool swimming, and freestyle.

And these modes are more than just a bunch of taggable profiles.

Swimming will record strokes and stroke rate, and the rowing machine mode will also count stokes and time pulling too. Jump rope will also count skips.

Elliptical, yoga and. Indoor cycling are all just time and heart rate activities.

Running and cycling will both take data from connected GPS, which uses your phone’s location data to track distance. Obviously this requires having your phone about your person.

We found accuracy to be fairly good against a Garmin Instinct Solar GPS watch in terms of distance, and also found stats like cadence and calorific burn to be in-line as well. However, if another app was using GPS at the same time it completely scrambled the data, so don’t do that.

The breakdown post-run is actually very detailed, with elevation nicely presented along with heart rate, which is also broken down into heart rate zones.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 run data, showing speed, laps and heart rate

Reading data on the Mi Band 5 itself was a little tricky in direct sunlight, but a quick wrist raise offers an easy guide on distance and duration.

We found scrolling down on the touchscreen fiddly with sweaty fingers, and it’s not really the device for closely monitoring live stats. If you want a proper run companion, look to a Garmin instead.

We did have a few issues with run tracking, and often we had to open the Mi app on our iPhone for the Mi Band 5 to get a GPS signal. It’s a little buggy.

Also, some runs were pushed out to Strava and others weren’t. But on the whole, if you like the occasional run, the Mi Band 5 does the job.

Heart rate

  • Accurate data for steady workouts
  • Data too laggy for HIIT

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 heart rate spot check on watch

Heart rate accuracy was fine on the whole, and we found that on steady workouts the data tracked was in line with both optical and heart rate straps.

A run tracked against our Wahoo Tickr was only a couple of bpm out over a 5KM run, with our peak bpm in the session also lining up.

It’s clear from the data that the sampling rate was lower, and there’s a lag in terms of responsiveness.

All optical heart rate sensors positioned on the wrist will suffer from rapid increases or falls in your heart rate data, and the Xiaomi is no different here.

The upshot is that for most people, the accuracy here is good enough. If you’re keen on getting spot on accuracy during high intensity activities, you’ll need to invest more in a specialist device – and probably one that uses a chest or arm strap.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 heart rate vs chest strap

Mi Band 5 notifications

  • Good control over notifications
  • Easy to read on screen

The Mi Band 5 will show notifications from a paired smartphone, and offers decent granular control over what you’ll see.

WhatsApp notifications are pretty easy to see on the small screen , although some apps such as Instagram with longer messages stack the text in a way that’s difficult to read.

We ended up turning most notifications off, as there isn’t a way of muting them smartly when you’re asleep.

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 review: this budget band should keep it simple

As we mentioned, there is a night time function, from where you can set up Night Mode, where brightness is lowered between pre-set time.

This prevents you from getting blinded in the middle of the night, but doesn’t reduce your access to notifications.

You can also turn the wrist raise off at night too, again by pre-selecting times, to avoid night time blindings.

There’s also a store within the app to download watch faces. There’s some pretty funky designs to choose from, although none really suited our tastes. Each is customizable, however, so you can select the colour that works for you.

Battery life

  • Decent battery life
  • Decimated by advanced features

Xiaomi Mi Band 5 showing low battery life and custom watch face

Battery life is quoted by Xiaomi at 14 days although we found significantly less in terms of real world use.

There are a few caveats. There are many of the features on the Mi Band 5 that are turned off by default. The first thing we did for our review was to turn them all on.

Automatic heart rate monitoring and sleep assistant, auto exercise detection, heart rate alerts and stress monitoring are all settings in the back end, and will drain battery life. We also turns screen brightness up, too. The upshot was 5 days battery life.

Turn these back off and you’ll get around the 10-14 day mark, although with far less data.

However, as we’ve seen issues with testing throughout our review period, the Mi Band 5 may be better suited to keeping data simple, and enjoying a longer battery life.



Xiaomi Mi Band 5
By Xiaomi
The overriding lesson from the Mi Band 5 is that you get what you pay for. For the price it’s a decent tracker with a range of fun features, that will help you keep tabs on an active lifestyle. In terms of the data analysis of sleep and the quality of app insights we wouldn’t rely on the data, and while PAI is good, it’s less motivational than other ecosystems. But for those looking for a budget fitness tracker, the Mi Band 5 is still the king.

Hit
  • Still a good price
  • Nice screen
  • Stress tracking works
Miss
  • Sleep tracking unconvincing
  • Really poor strap
  • No resting HR tracking