Xiaomi Mi Band 5 fitness tracker in practical test: What can the inexpensive fitness wristband do?
Equipment - Microphone without benefit
The tracker itself is only 18.5 x 46.5 mm in size and arrives assembled, i.e. integrated into the band, but can basically also be carried in a trouser pocket or around the neck. For the Mi Band 4 there were even appropriate accessories for it on Amazon.
The flexible strap made of thermoplastic elastomer with aluminum closure fits well on the wrist at 155-219 mm circumference. With the author it is only 150 mm, the longer end then almost completely wraps around the arm but still fits.
The 1.1-inch AMOLED display is made of reinforced 2.5D glass and has a grease-repellent coating. It displays up to 16 colors at 126x29 and is easy to read even in sunny weather.
The display does not remain on permanently; it is activated as soon as the arm is raised and then remains active for 6 to 10 seconds depending on the setting. According to Xiaomi, the brightness climbs up to 450 cd/m² but does not regulate itself.
Because there is no panel for quick settings and changing settings on the tracker itself is cumbersome, we left the brightness in the highest level permanently in the test. In the optional night mode, Xiaomi dims the brightness in the specified time window or alternatively after sunset.
The tracker houses a six-axis sensor for acceleration and rotation rate and a PPG sensor for heart-rate measurement. Contrary to what was speculated before, the Band 5 does not record SpO2 values. One of the rumors was the integration of Amazon Alexa. Although the Band 5 has a MEMS microphone, this cannot be used, at least in Germany.
The Mi Band 5 is charged via a magnetic connector, operated via the touch display and a sensor button below it.
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Setup and operation - via touch screen and touch button
The test device came with German quick-start instructions. When starting the device, only English was available among the western languages. Xiaomi has been delivering the German language package via the Mi Fit app since mid-August.
The app's setting options already reveal the enormous versatility of the small tracker. In addition to the options for heart-rate monitoring, notifications or night mode, the tracker can be equipped with a total of 19 functions, including reminders, weather information and a world clock, as well as remote control for a music player or music-streaming service currently active on the smartphone. A remote control for the smartphone camera identified the companion app as a lab version; in a test with a Google Pixel 3 it worked.
Up to 10 informative tiles can be reached one after the other by stroking horizontally across the tracker. In vertical direction you can scroll through the app menu with additional functions. The sensor key takes you back one level on the menu level. The selection of the displayed apps and tiles is done via the smartphone app.
However, practice has also revealed a few weaknesses: The timer doesn't run in the background, and you have to wait until it has run down before you can look at the clock again or view weather information, for example. In addition, the tracker does not automatically access the smartphone's GPS or Internet connection, even when it is connected to the smartphone. For this it needs the smartphone app. Therefore, before a run or bike training with route recording, one must always first take the smartphone and open the Mi Fit app. The tracker also synchronizes the weather information only via the app.
Telephony and notifications
The Mi Band 5 signals incoming calls that you can reject or mute and displays notifications of missed calls. The tracker displays and stores a text message immediately upon receipt, but you cannot answer. From more than one text message on, the Mi Band only tells you the number, and you have to use your smartphone.
To better distinguish inactivity warnings, appointments, calls and other events, you can assign different vibration patterns to them.
Health and Fitness
The tracker records heart rate, the number of daily steps, as well as the phases of deep and light sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phases when worn at night. It does not measure the blood oxygen saturation.
The interval for heart-rate measurement is variable. If it reaches a preset limit, the tracker triggers a warning. From the training data and heart rate, Xiaomi also creates a stress protocol and a status report on physical fitness.
The precision of the pedometer is impressive: During normal walking, the tracker counts the steps very precisely, and the deviation was less than 1% in several tests. Only when the movement is impaired, for example by carrying shopping bags on both sides, does the result become inaccurate; in this case the deviations increased to 6%. Similarly, cycling over bumpy terrain worsens the result, whereas in the test the tracker correctly counted 0 steps when cycling on the road and on level cycle paths.
If automatic activity detection is activated, the tracker reports after about half a kilometer when running or brisk walking, suggesting that a workout should be recorded. The Mi Band 5 only records the route if you allow it to connect to its GPS via the smartphone app.
For a targeted workout, there are 11 sports to choose from, including swimming and yoga. The tracker counts the calories consumed and, depending on the type of sport, individual parameters such as the number of strokes per minute on the rowing machine. The settings include the option of allowing a connected device to retrieve the pulse data from the tracker. What is missing is the possibility to define a target for time or calorie consumption before the workout.
Xiaomi's indicator for fitness is called PAI. All detected movements, including steps and workouts, flow into this value, which analyzes the last seven days.
Usually, manufacturers increase the battery capacity from model to model. Xiaomi has lowered the battery capacity of the Band 5 from135 mAh to 125 mAh compared to its predecessor, the Mi Band 4, reducing the battery life estimate from 20 to 14 days of normal use. Since the band does not have its own GPS, training outdoors does not additionally shorten the running time, as is the case with trackers with GPS.
The Mi Band 5 took 1 h 50 m to charge from empty in the test.
For just 39 Euros (~$46), online sometimes even less, the Mi Band 5 makes itself useful in the course of the day, with weather information, as a remote trigger or tea timer.
Xiaomi packs many useful functions into its fitness tracker that you would not expect from the apparently simple wearable.
It is easy to read the display both inside and outside. But most of all, the precision with which the tracker records your steps is a delight.
It is impractical to open the smartphone before the outdoor workout in order to activate the tracking. Even weather information was not available on the tracker if the app was inactive for a long period of time. Since it looked as if Xiaomi would make its band fit for mobile payment and voice assistance, we naturally miss these features, as well as an SpO2 measurement. Of course, you can't complain about that in view of the low price.