Poco M5 Review

Poco has made a name for itself in the sub-£200 budget mobile market. Handset prices have come down as quality parts get cheaper and easier to make, as shown beautifully by Poco’s range of mid-range phones. So, how does the M5 stack up against its competition in this market space?

Build quality

While we’re not really comparing the Poco M5 to Apple or Samsung’s latest and greatest, the M5 does look like the budget phone that it is. The plastic, leather-effect back isn’t quite to my taste and the raised edges feel similarly cheap. The plastic case it comes with is an off-clear colour that probably would have looked better had it looked less milky.

When I reviewed the Poco X3 Pro, I noted that its included case had a flap that cover the charge port that, while preventing dust getting in, was a little too finicky and made charging a pit of a pain. Well, be careful what you wish for, because Poco went the other way on this model and the flap refuses to stay shut. Were it not a review model, I’d have cut the flap off because it has been driving me up the wall!

While we’re talking about looks, we may as well address the biggest issue that the phone has: its max brightness leaving a lot to be desired.

Display

The Poco M5 comes with a 6.58” IPS LCD display, which runs at a meagre 500 nits. While that’s blindingly bright when in a dark room, it’s not particularly bright for a modern phone and it struggles in light outdoor environments. As a heavy Pokémon Go player, this is a major disappointment — games you need to play outside aren’t great when you can’t see what you’re trying to catch!

It’s also worth noting that you’re looking at performance of around 45fps and a 90Hz refresh rate in most other mobile games. While this isn’t the greatest performance in this part of the market — the more powerful Poco M5s performs at a much more comfortable 60fps — it is perfectly reasonable.

Camera

The other side to looks is how the camera makes things look. In a nutshell, it’s not great.

There’s a 50-megapixel (MP) rear camera and two 2MP cameras on the back for depth of field and macro shots. 2MP is pretty naff, even for fixed function cameras, and the quality of the images is about what you’d expect. Even on the main camera, there’s a slight shutter lag and the colours just don’t pop anywhere near as well as you’d hope.

As to the front camera is a 5MP camera which won’t make your selfies look much good either. Both front and rear cameras capture 1080p video footage at 30fps, but the lack of image stabilisation leaves you with pretty horrid footage.

All in all, the cameras here are awful, and are pretty much to be avoided. They’ll probably be a dealbreaker if you’re a big fan of mobile photography.


Full specs

  • Body: 164.0×76.1×8.9mm, 201g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass 3), plastic frame and back.
  • Display: 6.58” IPS LCD, 90Hz, 500 nits (HBM), 1080x2408px resolution, 20.07:9 aspect ratio, 401ppi.
  • Chipset: MediaTek MT8781 Helio G99 (6nm): Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A76 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G57 MC2.
  • Memory: 64GB 4GB RAM, 128GB 4GB RAM, 128GB 6GB RAM; UFS 2.2; microSDXC (dedicated slot on SIM tray).
  • OS/Software: Android, MIUI.
  • Rear cameras: Wide (main): 50 MP, f/1.8, PDAF; Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4; Depth: 2 MP, f/2.4.
  • Front camera: 5 MP, f/2.2, (wide), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm.
  • Video capture: Rear camera: 1080p@30fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 5000mAh; 18W wired.
  • Additional: Fingerprint reader (side-mounted); NFC; FM radio; Infrared port; 3.5mm jack; plastic protective case.

Battery and performance

One thing about this phone that is pretty impressive is the endurance, as it packs a 5000mAh battery. While it’s relatively slow to charge — at around 2.5 hours — it’s also slow to drain. You can happily spend all day playing games on it and have battery left at the end, which is always great on a gaming phone. I managed around 10 hours of heavy use and had battery to spare.

What’s even better is that despite all of this heavy use, at no point did the phone feel like it was struggling or overheating. In this regard, the Poco M5 doesn’t feel like a budget phone, and is one of the more comfortable phones I’ve used for gaming in recent years.

The issue in the battery category, again, is that the phone came with an EU charger, despite my living in London. While I love Europe, I love being able to charge my phone more. That’s twice that Poco has sent me a phone with the wrong charger, which is a curious to say the least.

Beyond that, it’s good to note that audio quality is decent, and the inclusion of the 3.5mm headphone port is always welcome for those of us who prefer wired connections. The fingerprint unlock is located on the power button on the right-hand side, which is quick, responsive and comfortable for both the left-hand index finder and right-hand thumb unlock.

Software and UI

Running MIUI, Poco’s version of Android, the interface and UI is about what you’d expect if you’ve used one of these phones in the past. It’s quick and easy to use, and comes with the usual Cleaner and Deep Clean functionality to keep your RAM and internal storage nice and empty.

This is particularly ironic, given that Poco really needs to can it with the bloatware. After the 2GB of pre-installed apps that came on the X3 pro, I was expecting a little — what I got was 3.1GB of trash that I first had to download as the phone updated, and then had to remove to make space for the games I wanted to play.

Summary
The M5 has a fairly quick processor and admirable battery life, but a terrible camera, a disappointing display and an all-round cheap feel. The M5 is a decent budget phone; it’s just not an exciting one — and it’s not the best on the market, falling short of its sibling, the M5s, which seems to give a lot more bang for only a little more buck.
Good
  • Great battery life
  • Decent processor and performance
  • It has a 3.5mm port!
  • Doesn’t get hot, even after extended use
Bad
  • Slow charging
  • Middling maximum brightness is poor in light environments
  • The cameras leave a lot to be desired
  • Once again comes with too much bloatware and the wrong charger
6
Written by
Barely functional Pokémon Go player. Journalist. Hunter of Monster Hunter monsters. Drinks more coffee than Alan Wake.