Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 review: The best budget fitness tracker just got better
By cuterose

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 review: The best budget fitness tracker just got better

09/09/2022  |   369 Views

The Mi Smart Band 5 is the latest in Xiaomi’s line of ridiculously affordable fitness trackers. The new model picks up right where the Mi Smart Band 4 left off, bringing improvements to the display and sensors and increasing the number of activities it can track.

Indeed, the Mi Smart Band 5 features 11 different activity-tracking modes that cover a wide range of popular sports as well as freestyle exercises. It also lets you monitor stress, sleep and menstrual cycles, and will log your overall activity levels using a simple scoring system. All in all, you’re looking at a very well-rounded fitness tracker that offers unbeatable value for money.

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For the princely sum of £40, you get a fitness tracker with an adjustable wrist band and a magnetic USB charger. The device itself is minimalist in design and comfortable to wear, although it does sit a little proud of the wrist. Since there are no physical buttons, navigation is performed via its 1.1in colour touchscreen and the single capacitive home button. Fortunately, its menus are intuitively laid out, and that touchscreen is nice and responsive.

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There are 11 distinct sports-tracking options: walking, outdoor running, cycling, indoor running, pool swimming, indoor cycling, elliptical, jump rope, yoga and rowing machine, along with a freestyle mode for anything not covered above. The band can also automatically detect when you start a walk or run, so you don’t have to prompt it to begin tracking.

Inside there’s a three-axis accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope, and an optical heart rate sensor. Together these are used to tot up your step count, track your calories, record your heart rate, stress level, log your PAI index score (more on this below) and monitor your sleep quality.

There’s no GPS built-in, so you’ll need to pair the device with your smartphone in order to accurately measure distance and review your walks and runs on a map. Xiaomi’s MI Fitness app is available on both Android and iOS, and is quick and easy to get up and running.

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Aside from health and fitness tracking, the Mi Smart Band 5 offers a number of other smart features, including the ability to receive message notifications, play and pause music, check the weather and even trigger your phone’s camera.

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At first glance, the Mi Smart Band 5 might seem hard to separate from its predecessors, but I’m happy to report that it’ll pack a few new tricks up your sleeve.

First off, though, it’s roughly the same size as its predecessor, although the screen is now 20% larger at 1.1in, and a little over 10% brighter. The advertised battery life has fallen to 14 days, down from the Smart Band 4’s 20 days but a new low-power mode allows you to claw back some of that lost ground if needed and fast charge means you can top it up in two hours or less.

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One of the most obvious improvements isn’t actually on the device itself, but the charger. The Mi Smart Band 4 required you to remove the lozenge-shaped tracker from the band and place it into a cradle for charging, which isn’t particularly user-friendly. The Smart Band 5 does away with all of that, with a simple magnetic charger that snaps onto the back of the device.

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As I’ve mentioned already, the number sport-tracking modes have also been bumped up to 11, besting the predecessor’s six. And a whole new science-backed tracking metric called PAI, or Personal Activity Intelligence has also been added. PAI takes your age, sex, and tracked heart rate data and presents you with a simplified overall score.

While initially, this score may not mean a whole lot to you, watching it change over time will give you an insight into your overall activity levels. PAI Fitness reports that maintaining a weekly score of 100 or more is associated with an average 25% risk reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality. The Mi Fit app keeps track of your score throughout the week and will give you exercise recommendations to help you hit your current activity goal.

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5 review: The best budget fitness tracker just got better

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The heart rate sensor has also seen an upgrade over the Smart Band 4. Xiaomi claims that the new optical heart rate sensor, in combination with improved algorithms, provides up to a 50% increase in accuracy over the previous model. That’s a fairly substantial improvement.

Additionally, there’s a new stress monitor, guided breathing and period tracking. Last but not least, the Band’s sleep monitoring now identifies REM sleep in addition to light and deep sleep phases.

With a decent selection of activity modes and monitoring of all important health metrics including heart-rate, stress and sleep, the Smart Band 5 covers all the fitness tracker essentials. Add to that the ability to receive smart notifications from your phone, and control music from your wrist, and it doesn’t feel like anything is missing as far as features are concerned.

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If this is your first wearable device, or you’re coming from using step-tracking apps on your smartphone, it’ll be a welcome addition to your walks and workouts. The bright, colourful display makes it easy to see key metrics at a glance, and with the wide range of exercise modes available you’ve got plenty of customised setups to choose from.

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Although the Mi Fit app isn’t the most fully featured, it’s reasonably easy to navigate, syncs quickly and intuitively displays your accumulated data. I’m particularly fond of the way it presents sleep data. Not only does it give you a detailed breakdown of your night’s rest, with insights into how much time you spent in REM sleep but it also gives you a score to summarise your overall sleep quality, as you find on newer Fitbit devices.

The app also lets you know how your sleep stacks up against the community of other users. And, because it tracks your sleeping habits over time, it’s possible to analyse which factors may be contributing to my improving or deteriorating sleep quality.

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The Mi Smart Band 5’s larger display means it also transitions into a very useful watch between workouts. Its watch faces are attractive, easy to read and customisable; call and text notifications are a nice touch, too.

As a nice bonus, I appreciated the integrated "find your phone feature". Essentially this enables the Mi Smart Band 5 to trigger your phone to ring, even while it's set to silent mode. This can be particularly useful if, like me, you have a tendency to forget where you've set your device down.

While it’s hard to pick out too many faults with the Mi Smart Band 5 at this price, I would like to see broader support for third-party fitness services in the Mi Fit app. At present, you’re only able to sync your workout data with Google Fit, which means no Strava, no Runkeeper and no MyFitnessPal among others.

For casual users only concerned with tracking personal goals, this may not be an issue. However, the inability to easily track, share and compare your workout stats with friends using other hardware will limit the Mi Smart Band 5’s appeal.

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Onboard GPS would also have offered a significant bump over the Mi Smart Band 5’s predecessor. It's true, GPS is an awfully lofty request for such a budget-friendly device but the sub-£50 Huawei Band 4 Pro proves it’s far from impossible.

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If you’re looking for an affordable fitness tracker to help keep you active and track your exercise routines, you really can’t go wrong with the Smart Band 5. It improves on its predecessor with a wider range of activity-tracking modes, a larger screen, improved charger, and new stress monitor. And, crucially, at £40, it’s still firmly within impulse purchase territory.

You won’t find the same community feel you get from the Fitbit app with a Xiaomi tracker, and it doesn’t interface with many third-party fitness services but, if these aren’t deal breakers for you, the Smart Band 5 is a great choice at a low price.