Poco M5 Review : Glitzy Budget Phone With 50 MP Camera | Tech Review
Poco recently released two budget phones that come with a striking design, a 50 MP camera and an interesting chipset. We tested the Poco M5 , which is for sale for 189 euros. In this review you can read whether it is worth the purchase.
Poco is Xiaomi’s subsidiary brand that focuses entirely on striking designs and good value for money when you look at the specifications. This spring we tested the Poco F4 GT , a midrange phone with flagship specs. After that, we also extensively discussed the more affordable Poco F4 .
This time it’s up to the cheapest phones from Poco. The Poco M5 and M5s certainly have a striking design, and with the M5 the 50 MP main camera and the new MediaTek Helio G99 are particularly interesting features. Has Poco released real budget toppers in the lowest price segment, or do you look better at competitors?
– Read more under the specifications –
|POCO M5||POCO M5s|
|Dimensions and weight:||164 x 76.1 x 8.9 mm, 201 gram||160.5 x 74.5 x 8.3 mm, 178.8 gram|
|Main screen:||6.58 inch, Full HD+ LCD (2408 x 1080 pixels), 20:9, 401 ppi, 90 Hz||6.58 inch, Full HD+ AMOLED (2400 x 1080 pixels), 20:9, 401 ppi, 60 Hz|
|Processor:||MediaTek Helio G99||MediaTek Helio G95|
|Random access memory:||4 GB||4 GB|
|Storage Memory:||64 GB (UFS 2.2)||128 GB (UFS 2.2)|
|Rear cameras:||50MP Main Camera, 2MP Macro Camera, 2MP Depth Camera||64MP Main Camera, 8Mp Wide Angle Camera 2MP Macro Camera, 2MP Depth Camera|
|Front Cameras:||5 MP selfie camera||13 MP|
|Battery:||5000 mAh, 18 watt fast charge||5000 mAh, 33 watt fast charge|
|Android version:||MIUI 13 based on Android 12||MIUI 13 based on Android 12|
|Extra’s:||Fingerprint scanner on the side, microSD, bluetooth 5.3||Fingerprint scanner on the side, microSD, bluetooth 5.0|
|Colors:||Black, Green, Yellow||Grey, Blue, White|
|Recommended retail price:||189 euro||209 euro|
What’s in the box?
- POCO M5
- 22.5W charger
- Instruction manual
- Transparent plastic case
Nice design with leather look
We were already very enthusiastic about the original design and the quality that the Poco F4 series radiates. Although we naturally asked the question whether that originality and solidity is missing if the brand has to push the price even more, as with this affordable M5.
The Poco M5 pleasantly surprised us and in terms of design it has everything we can realistically expect from a phone in this price range. The phone has a plastic back and frame that consists of one piece. The back is finished with a beautiful leather look that also feels nice when you hold the phone in your hand. And important for budget phones, the plastic housing and buttons feel sturdy and don’t creak.
All buttons, ports and more
Poco’s M5 phone has a water drop notch on the front, which is still common in the low price segment. There is also a noticeable chin at the bottom. On the back, there’s a three-camera setup and a large camera island, which looks nice but also catches some dirt with its glossy plastic finish.
On the right there is a fingerprint scanner in the power button and there are also the volume buttons. On the left you will only find a microSD slot and at the top is a 3.5 mm audio jack, the telephone speaker and an ‘infrared blaster’. The latter is still regularly seen in phones from Chinese brands, and you can use your phone as a remote control for electronic devices. That works via the Mi Remote app. Finally, at the bottom is a microphone, a USB-c port and a speaker.
Bad Free Phone Cover
The Poco M5 therefore gives a good impression with its design and build quality, only we are not fans of the free case that comes with the phone. Such a supplied case is a good idea if it also feels solid and effectively well protected. That is certainly not the case with the Poco M5, and so it can sometimes end up in the trash can unused. Plastic waste that could have been avoided.
Screen On The Lower End
If we compare the M5 and the M5s on paper, the brand presents consumers with a choice. The slightly more expensive M5s works with an AMOLED panel that is slightly brighter. On the other hand, the regular M5 has a larger LCD panel with a higher refresh rate of 90 Hz.
It is noticeable that Poco does not use the best possible LCD panel, because it clearly lacks the realistic black elements and vivid colors that AMOLED panels do have. On the other hand, the screen brightness is also on the low side in the most intense sunlight, and that could be a second reason to choose the M5s or another budget phone instead.
Have you used a phone that had a screen with a higher refresh rate before? In that case, there is a good chance that you will appreciate the 90 Hz screen of the Poco M5. With a 60 Hz screen, animations will then look jerky, because the image refreshes visibly slower in one second compared to what you are used to.
If you look at everything together, we can say that the Poco M5 certainly does not have the best screen panel that you can find with a smartphone within this price range, then we rather look at the budget devices from Samsung.
Performs well, lacks optimization
In June, chipmaker MediaTek only unveiled its Helio G99, a relatively energy-efficient 6nm chipset for low- and mid-range phones. The processor of the cheaper Poco M5 has a higher clock speed and is more efficient than the 12 nm Mediatek Helio G95 that is in the Poco M5s.
However, on the other hand, the M5s has more storage, namely 128 GB compared to the 64 GB that comes with the Poco M5. There are no major differences in terms of the WiFi and 4G modem, but the Poco M5 does support Bluetooth 5.3, the latest version of the standard. The phone will therefore have a more stable connection to connected Bluetooth devices and it will also have a longer range.
In practice, we notice that the phone performs well in most apps, although we sometimes notice annoying delays when we browse through the interface. Some animations run less smoothly than we’d like, and the phone seems to be missing some optimization here. Other budget phones have left a smoother impression, but the MIUI software shell that Poco M5 uses does have a reputation for weighing a bit more heavily on performance. However, according to Xiaomi , one of the spearheads of MIUI 13 was that the software shell is now more efficient. The Poco M5 is also suitable for light games, but when more graphical computing power is required, you will of course run into frame drops.
Good battery life, long charging
The Poco M5 comes with a relatively large 5,000 mAh battery, which means you can use the phone for about a day and a half with normal use. That’s a strong result, and it’s more common for phones in the low and mid-range to boast better battery life than most flagships.
What is less pleasant is the charging. The large battery takes almost two hours to reach 100 percent. Poco supplies the M5 with a 22.5W fast charger, but the phone itself supports a power of 18W. If you think fast charging is important, you better look at the M5s that can charge with 33W.
Great fingerprint scanner and speakers
The Poco M5 has a fingerprint scanner on the side and it is pleasant to use. It’s not the fastest – which makes sense given the phone’s price – but it’s accurate. Furthermore, the phone has a single speaker on the bottom. This one is certainly not exceptionally good, but it is fine considering the price of the Poco M5. The tones lack some depth, but the sound is not distorted too much.
Poco likes to use the 50 MP main camera of his M5 phone, but as you can see in the specifications below, the camera setup comes without a wide-angle lens. That can be a painful compromise for users, especially for those who like to take landscape photos. Below you will discover our camera test.
- 50MP main camera
- 2 MP macrocamera
- 2 MP depth camera
- 5 MP selfie camera
Poco manages to deliver images that are sharp and low in noise with the phone’s 50 MP main camera. Still, you can see that the Poco M5 has a relatively small camera sensor, because the phone manages to capture too little light, so that images sometimes seem too dark. In that case, the image processing prefers images that are too dark rather than photos with noise.
The colors of the photos are more natural, but the balance is not always right. If you zoom in, you can also see that the Poco M5 produces less detailed images than some more expensive models with a 50 MP camera, due to the lack of optical image stabilization (OIS) and the small sensor that is used. The dynamic range of the photos is also rather limited, ie the contrast between light and dark elements in a photo. If we take everything together, you could call the shooting performance of the main camera average within its price range.
Main camera at 2x zoom
Like most budget phones, the Poco M5 comes without an optical zoom telephoto camera, so for the photos below we had to get started with the digital zoom. If you look at images in detail, you will notice that the quality is visibly reduced. Still, the photos are fine for sharing online or for practical purposes.
The Poco M5 has a 50 MP main camera, but it takes pictures at 12.5 MP by default, which is the well-known ‘pixel binning’ technique. The Poco M5 can also take photos at 50 MP via a separate mode. This works especially well when there is enough light, and the files of such photos are extra large.
In this Google Drive folder you can view the 50 MP photo, compared to a 12.5 MP image. If you put the photos side by side, you will notice that the 50 MP photo does not actually reveal any extra details in the image. That’s a shame, because as a result you mainly get photos that take up more storage.
The M5 comes with an extra depth camera that determines the distance of objects around you. This allows him to add blur in the background in a more realistic way. The result is quite good, because the head of the statue below is nicely sharp, without the contours being blurred.
We, on the other hand, are less enthusiastic about the 2 MP macro camera on this phone. The quality of a 2 MP camera is just too bad to take usable photos, and you can see that in the comparison below. The photo on the right was taken from a greater distance with the main camera, and it was cropped afterwards. This image has more details and nicer colors than the macro photo you see on the left.
Top : photo taken with macro mode. Bottom : cropped photo taken with the main camera
You should not have too high expectations of a small 5 MP selfie camera. The photos below lack details, and the camera struggles with the slightest bit of backlighting. We see the latter more often with phones in this price range.
Top : a regular selfie. Bottom : a selfie portrait
The Poco M5 films at a 1080p resolution and at 30 frames per second. The phone doesn’t come with any kind of image stabilization – which is also normal considering the price of the M5. You can view the result below. The phone also has a slow motion function, timelapse and a short video function. With the latter you can make vertical videos like on TikTok, and share them immediately.
MIUI 13 is not for everyone
The Poco M5 works with Xiaomi’s MIUI 13 software shell, which is based on Android 12. At the same time, it does use its own launcher, the Poco Launcher 2.0 , which does more of a standard Android launcher, in addition to some handy features. The Poco Launcher runs smoothly and it categorizes all apps in the app drawer, reminiscent of Smart Launcher 6 , a well-known launcher app. Still, the Poco Launcher has barely improved since its introduction.
Despite the fact that Poco Launcher comes without too many quirks, you should certainly not expect to get your hands on a bare-bones version of Android with this phone. Xiaomi, Poco’s parent company, is making low profit margins of up to 5 percent from the sale of its phones, and the company hopes to earn a little extra by running ads everywhere. You see them in the interface and in the many pre-installed apps. It is possible to limit the advertising with settings, but that is not equally accessible for every user.
Sometimes that advertisement is also hidden, such as with the ‘background carousel’. Those are beautiful pictures on the lock screen, accompanied by an ad. When setting up your phone, you can choose not to use this feature, which is good. Only Xiaomi makes it remarkably easy to unintentionally activate the function afterwards. One swipe on the lock screen is enough, but turning the feature off is a little more difficult.
Another point that will not please everyone is Xiaomi’s Control Center that separates the notifications and settings with two separate menus. To switch those menus you have to swipe to the left, a gesture that people are not used to, and the accompanying animation is also very slow. With some technical skill, you can opt for a more standard screen with notifications and quick settings.
MIUI 13 Features
With the MIUI 13 shell, Xiaomi puts the focus on stability, energy efficiency and privacy. Nevertheless, we stated earlier that MIUI still feels like a demanding software shell when we browse through the interface.
Also new is the sidebar according to information from Xiaomi , and with this bar you can quickly use your favorite apps by swiping to the left. Unfortunately, we haven’t discovered any features on the Poco M5, even though it’s said to be in the “Special Features” menu.
We could use another MIUI 13 handy, a privacy function. Inside the Poco M5’s camera app is a built-in document scanner that does a great job of recognizing the edges of a document automatically and accurately. You can now also add a watermark to documents via the Gallery app, which is an added value when you share sensitive information.
Bloatware in Xiaomi-apps
One point that has remained the same are the pre-installed apps. These range from a large load of Xiaomi apps to third-party apps. Some of those Xiaomi apps are quite useful, such as the excellent calculator that also allows you to exchange currencies. Other apps like “Security” are pretty useless, and you still can’t remove all apps from your phone.
Xiaomi often offers alternatives to existing Google apps such as the Mi Browser, Mi Video and its own Clock app. Still, the Chinese manufacturer takes over other Google apps such as Messages and Phone.
Uncertain update policy
When you buy a Poco phone, you don’t have to expect more than the minimum when it comes to update support, the brand made that clear from the start. It means that the phones will receive security updates for two years, at least quarterly. Whether he will get an update to Android 13 is highly uncertain. Today there are other phone brands that support their devices – even the cheaper ones – for longer.
The Poxo M5 in the glitziest budget phone we’ve seen here in the editorial. It has a striking design with its camera and the leather look is a hit. Furthermore, its long battery life is a plus, as is the performance of the MediaTek Helio G99, the excellent fingerprint scanner and speaker. The camera is average to good for its price, but it is certainly not extraordinary.
There are also plenty of reasons to choose another budget device instead, such as Poco M5s or a Samsung Galaxy A13 for example. The phone comes with an LCD panel, a 5 MP selfie camera and it doesn’t have the best fast charging performance. In addition, Poco’s update policy is uncertain. And MIUI 13 may be strong with themes, but the advertising, bloatware and launcher lag is less positive.
Yet we also see plenty of reasons why people can get excited about the Poco M5. The phone has its nice appearance and the specifications are certainly not bad considering the price. Alternatives to the Poco M5 are: the Samsung Galaxy A13, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11, the Samsung Galaxy A22, the Motorola Moto G42 and the Nokia G21 .