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POCO M5 Review: Stellar Performance At A Budget Price

POCO M5 AH HR Feature
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POCO M5 packs a serious punch for a sub €200 budget smartphone.

POCO M5
€189 and up
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Eye-catching hardware design
  • 90Hz IPS LCD display
  • Headphone jack, micro SD card support and NFC
  • Stellar battery life
  • Performance benchmarks are great considering the price
  • MIUI 13 offers a great overall software experience
Cons
  • Lacks an ultrawide camera
  • Selfie camera results aren't that great
  • Charging speeds are quite slow

POCO sent AndroidHeadlines the POCO M5 smartphone in black colr for review. As usual, they didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did they see an advance copy of the review before you. The review device was used for approximately two weeks before composing this review.

POCO’s latest M series smartphone, Poco M5 is now available globally. POCO M series consistently offers great performance and bargain basement pricing. Let’s dive in and see how the new POCO M5 stacks up against previous POCO devices and against the competition.

POCO M5 Unboxing

POCO M5 AH HR UB1
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POCO M5 AH HR UB1
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The yellow box reveals a yellow insert with a clear TPU case, screen protector, SIM tool, and paperwork. Underneath is the Black Poco M5 smartphone. Below the smartphone are an 18W charging brick, and a USB-C cable. The retail box has everything to get you going in terms of charging and device protection.

Hardware design is derivative yet eye-catching

POCO M5 AH HR Camera

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First impressions –at first glance the newer M5 looks more like the POCO M3 from 2020. The POCO M4 series didn’t include a base version hence there isn’t a predecessor from 2021 to compare the new POCO M5 against.

I like the textured plastic back cover that mimics faux leather. It resists fingerprints and smudges quite well and provides a good grip without a case. The rear camera module design is also eye-catching in my opinion. The POCO logo is large enough to be spotted from at least 10 feet away.

POCO M5 AH HR HW1
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The rails on the sides are flat and mimic the look of Redmi Note 11 series. On the top rail is a headphone jack and a microphone. Moving on to the left hand side, there’s a dual-SIM tray which also contains a slot for a micro SD card. Down on the bottom rail there’s a USB-C charging port, microphone, and a single speaker grille. The right-hand side rail has the power button with an integrated fingerprint scanner and above it is the volume rocker.

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Display has a teardrop to house the selfie camera

POCO M5 AH HR HWDisplay

The front display is a 6.58″ FHD+ IPS LCD panel. Refresh rate is 90Hz which is a nice touch for a budget device. Instead of the usual punch hole, the selfie camera is a teardrop and bezels are a bit chunkier than more expensive devices. To give you an idea about the bezels, mid-range devices that are physically the same size tend to sport around 6.8-inch displays.

One thing that I cannot wrap my head around is that the POCO M5 has a smaller 5,000 mAh battery versus the 6,000 mAh in the older POCO M3 and yet for some inexplicable reason is heavier. Both have the vegan leather back, plastic frame and Gorilla Glass 3. So I am not sure what is going on here.

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Despite the hefty 201 gram weight, the overall ergonomics are great but this is a large phone. So folks with small hands might want to check out the slightly more petite POCO M5s. The POCO M5 comes in Black, Green, and Yellow. Three versions are offered in terms of storage and RAM: 4GB+64GB, 4GB+128GB, and 6GB+128GB.  The Green looks the best of the bunch, unfortunately, we only got the Black color device for review.

The 6.58″ IPS LCD display is quite good

POCO M5 AH HR Display

The POCO M5 has a 6.58″ IPS LCD dot display. It has a 90Hz refresh rate and the ability to toggle between 30Hz/60Hz/90Hz depending on scrolling, video, or gaming apps. The resolution is 1080 x 2408 pixels, yielding a pixel density per inch of 401 PPI. The aspect ratio is 20:9 aspect ratio which is what most modern smartphones have. The 83.6% screen-to-body ratio is quite good for a budget smartphone, in my opinion.

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POCO kept the same Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect the LCD display which isn’t bad. Screen brightness is 500 nits, on an extremely hot and sunny day in Southern California, it still displayed enough information in direct sunlight. Check out the picture and decide for yourself.

POCO M5 performance is excellent for a sub €200 device

POCO M5 AH HR Performance

POCO M5 is powered by a MediaTek Helio G99 chip based on the 6nm manufacturing node. The choice of a better processor than the slightly more expensive POCO M5s is a bit strange. But I guess POCO/Xiaomi have enough marketing data to justify the hardware choices they made.

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Geekbench 5 scores are almost as good as the Snapdragon 7 series. Single-core score is 552 and the multi-core score is 1900. My current daily driver is a Pixel 5, and that device has a single-core score of 590 and a multi-core score of 1616. So you can see that from a performance perspective, the POCO M5 should not struggle with daily tasks including gaming at medium settings.

During my review period, the phone had zero hiccups with Twitter, YouTube, YouTube Music, and some light gaming. POCO sent us the top-end M5 with 128GB storage and 6GB RAM. MIUI 13 allows you to extend the onboard RAM by 2GB if you intend to use the phone extensively for gaming.

MIUI 13 is polished and stable

POCO M5 AH HR Software

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POCO M5 out of the box came with MIUI 13 and the August 2022 security update. POCO M5 is device number 12 for review in 2022 courtesy of POCO/Xiaomi. So it is safe to say that there isn’t something new to report as far as MIUI13 goes. I wasn’t able to find anything new to report in the POCO launcher as well.

Android as an operating system has matured quite a bit and MIUI is also now making incremental changes versus radical ones from a few years ago. And this is not a bad thing. Operating systems for modern smartphones have plateaued somewhat.

I like that the POCO launcher keeps things fairly close to stock Android or Pixel experience from around late 2020.  Another plus with MIUI is all the features you get across the entire range, from a budget smartphone like the M5 to the flagship POCO F4 GT.

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Now that we have all the platitudes out of the way, let’s address some of the software downsides. The obvious one is pop-up ads. To keep the price low, POCO/Xioami do bundle ads in the UI experience on their budget offerings. However, you can improve your software experience dramatically by getting rid of the pesky ads. Just follow our step-by-step guide shown below.

Step-by-step guide to turning off Ads

During initial setup, out of the box ensure that you turn off Personalized Recommendations. Once you have the phone set up and arrive at the home screen, then manually go into Themes, File Manager, Security, and Cleaner apps. Once you are in the app, go to Settings and turn off Recommendations/Ads in each of these specific apps.

After performing these steps you will be able to pretty much eliminate ads from showing up during daily use. Five minutes of extra effort is worth having an ad-free user experience.

POCO M5 has solid battery life

POCO M5 AH HR Charging

POCO M5 has a 5,000 mAh battery which is smaller than the older POCO M3. Losing 1,000 mAh doesn’t really impact the battery life much because the newer Helio G99 is based on a far more efficient 6nm manufacturing process.

On average during my review, I saw battery life hover around 7-hour screen on time. With more outdoor usage it would be slightly less than 7 hours and on Wi-Fi, you can even eke out close to 7.5 hours with this smartphone. If you are upgrading from the POCO M3 though be warned that the older reverse charging feature is no longer available.

For light to moderate users, this is definitely a two-day charge cycle smartphone. Even heavy users should not fear that they will run out of battery as long as they start the day with 100% in the tank.

The recharging speed is still 18W and there’s a charging brick in the box. Charging times are a bit on the slow side. Zero to 50% is about an hour and a full charge takes closer to just over 2 hours. So it’s probably best that you charge this phone overnight.

Camera performance is good for the price

POCO M5 AH HR Camera

There is a 50MP main camera on the rear of POCO M5. The other two cameras are just 2MP with f/2.4, one is for macro shots and the other helps with depth sensing. In the front, there is a 5MP f/2.0 selfie camera. So on paper, the main camera is a slight upgrade while the selfie camera is a definite downgrade.

The quality of the photos during the daytime is pretty good. Pictures tend to be colorful, and vivid with good detail. Colors are generally accurate although a bit on the cooler side with good dynamic range. Sharpness is good enough for the price. Overall this is a good camera for daytime still photography, especially outdoors.

Once you get into indoor lighting or twilight situations the results are not that great. Pictures tend to get noisy quickly and in nighttime lighting they can get blurry in a jiffy. Overall though, the results are good enough to remain competitive in the budget smartphone market.

Macro shots are definitely underwhelming. I wasn’t able to get one reasonably clear shot to include in the camera sample gallery. Portraits on the other hand in outdoor lighting come out great thanks to the main camera and the 2MP depth sensor. Details are preserved well and there’s good edge detection and background blur.

Selfie camera results tend to suffer from poor white balance and suffer from overexposure, especially in video mode. Portraits with the selfie camera are so-so with a hit-and-miss in terms of edge detection and background blur.

If you like to take videos you might want to invest in a gimbal because while colors, dynamic range, and white balance are good the videos are quite jittery even if you are shooting while walking at a slow pace. Selfie videos are not that great and the microphone recording quality is poor. Take a look at some sample pictures in our Flickr gallery below.

POCO M5 Camera Samples - Flickr Gallery

My main gripes are no ultrawide camera and a subpar selfie camera experience. Other than that the POCO M5 does the job in terms of camera performance for being a sub €200 phone.

POCO M5 Audio and Connectivity impressions

POCO M5 AH HR Audio

I was bummed to see only a single bottom-firing speaker on the POCO M5. And it is very easy to cover it up, especially while gaming. Usually, we see POCO/Xiaomi devices with dual speakers and top and bottom speaker grilles. So it is disappointing that the M5 has only one speaker.

There is one redeeming audio feature and that is the headphone jack. Output from the jack is quite good and the same is true while using wireless earbuds via Bluetooth.

POCO M5 AH HR Connectivity

The POCO M5 got LTE or LTE+ signal along with the VoLTE symbol out of the box on the T-Mobile network. I am based in a hilly region here in Southern Californi and so the data speeds aren’t that great. POCO M5 download speeds were around 1-2 Mbps but I blame my network and not the smartphone. My daily driver – Pixel 5 – gets equally poor data download speeds.

POCO M5 does all the regular tasks – calling, texting, updating apps, browsing the web, or watching videos with ease on data and Wi-Fi. MIUI 13 offers you additional connectivity options such as Mi Share, Nearby Share, Screen Cast, and IR blaster. Just like the POCO M5s, this POCO M5 has NFC which works great. And yes, it also has the constant NFC on notification bug. I hope POCO/Xioami fixes this in a future software update.

Is the POCO M5 worthy of your hard-earned money?

POCO M5 AH HR Verdict

The Poco M5 is a great budget smartphone. It has great-looking hardware, excellent benchmark performance, fluid software experience, superb battery life, and a fairly good 90Hz display. There are some nice perks like a headphone jack, micro SD card support, and NFC onboard.  And the main camera performance is more than adequate considering the price.

So what are the downsides you ask? Well, the single speaker is quite average, the charging speeds are quite slow, the selfie camera could be better and there’s no ultrawide camera.

For an entry-level smartphone, I believe the POCO M5 checks all the right boxes. If you want a smartphone that has better speakers, faster-charging speeds, and an ultrawide camera, well it’s easy. Just get the slightly more expensive POCO M5s. But keep in mind that the more expensive device has an inferior MediaTek processor. But for just €189 the POCO M5 packs a serious punch for a budget smartphone.