“The two best affordable flagships in the market go head-to-head”
Chinese manufacturer OnePlus is the latest to step up its game in the smartphone arena with the launch of its latest flagship, the OnePlus 3 (review). The successor to the OnePlus 2 (review), the handset brings some much-needed updates and improvements over its predecessor. Just like last year, the company unveiled the device at a special VR event for which it even gave away some Loop VR headsets. That said, the consumer market is saturated with intense competition thanks to some top-notch offerings from the likes of companies like Xiaomi. The Mi 5 (review) has been in India for quite a while now, and it’s time we compared it with the next big thing from OnePlus. Will it be the Mi 5’s compact form factor that comes on top, or will the OnePlus 3 run away with its new features? Let’s find out.
OnePlus has done away with its iconic Sandstone back panel in lieu of a more streamlined metal-clad look. While it’s sad to see the Sandstone design go away, it’s a change that feels more ergonomic and premium in the hand. But if you still prefer the old look, the company has also launched cases for the OnePlus 3 in Sandstone, Kevlar, Bamboo and Black Apricot and Rosewood. The Mi 5, on the other hand, sports a glass back that curves around the edges to make it sit comfortably in the hand. It’s surrounded by a metal frame to give it that extra boost when it comes to design aesthetics. The company also unveiled a more durable Ceramic variant in China, which is sadly unavailable in India as of now. The OnePlus 3 is taller, wider and heavier than the Mi 5 owing to the larger canvas it has in store. That said, both smartphones have a slim waistline measuring just a tad bit above 7mm. As expected, both smartphones feature a fingerprint scanner in the front home button, but the OnePlus 3 has a capacitive key unlike the physical key on the Mi 5. If you’re a person that prefers a compact form factor, then the Mi 5 might be the one for you. But if you are in for a phablet experience then the OnePlus 3 will prove to be the perfect choice in terms of design. After all, look are always going to be subjective.
The OnePlus 3 flaunts a larger canvas than the Mi 5 measuring in at 5.5-inches diagonally compared to the 5.15-inch display of the Mi 5. Both smartphones feature full HD displays, meaning that the Mi 5 has a higher pixel density thanks to the smaller screen real estate. But hold on… there’s a stark contrast in the display technologies that the companies have opted for. While the Mi 5 sports a more traditional IPS LCD panel, the OnePlus 3 is fitted with an Optic AMOLED display resulting in deeper blacks, high contrasts, and high colour saturation. This even requires less juice to run than the Mi 5’s display. However, Xiaomi’s Sunlight Display technology gives the Mi 5 an upper hand when it comes to outdoor legibility.
Both the Mi 5 and the OnePlus 3 are powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 530 GPU. That said, the SoC found in the Mi 5 is clocked lower than the one in the OnePlus 3. When it comes to multitasking, the OnePlus 3 takes a huge lead with its 6GB of RAM. For comparison, the Mi 5 comes with just 3GB of RAM. A few months ago, we didn’t think 6GB of RAM would be standard on a smartphone, that’s how it is, in the fast-changing world of technology. The Ceramic Pro variant of the Mi 5 comes with a higher clocked processor and an upgraded 4GB of RAM, but sadly that’s not available in our country.
At the back, both smartphones feature a 16MP Sony IMX 298 sensor with optical image stabilisation. The Mi 5 (camera review) features 4-axis OIS technology, while the OnePlus 3 combines OIS and EIS (electronic image stabilisation). The OnePlus 3 on the other hand gets PDAF (phase detection autofocus) for snapping photos in a jiffy. Sadly, the OnePlus 3 (camera review) gets a single LED flash, whereas the Mi 5 sports a dual-tone LED flash for a more natural lighting. It’s worth noting that the rear snapper on both smartphones are capable of 4K video recording, and come with a manual mode built right into the default camera app.
For the selfie fanatics, the OnePlus has an 8MP front camera compared to the 4MP front shooter of the Mi 5. That said, the larger pixels in the Mi 5’s camera should account for more light capture and result in brighter and better selfies in low light situations. It’ll do the work for you as long as you don’t zoom into a selfie. When it comes to image quality though, the OnePlus 3 gets our vote, for its snappy autofocus and better image processing.
Storage and Battery
On the storage front, the Mi 5 is available in India in only a 32GB storage variant. There’s also a 64GB variant, and the 128GB ceramic Pro variant of the Mi 5 that are yet to make their way to the country. For comparison, the OnePlus 3 offers 64GB of onboard storage which should be enough in most scenarios. Unfortunately, both smartphones skip the microSD card slot and the internal storage is all that you will have for your apps, media, and other data.
Neither of the devices come with a removable battery. And although both smartphones feature a 3,000mAh battery with fast charging, it is the OnePlus 3 that charges quicker, thanks to the brand’s new ‘Dash Charge’ technology. It can charge your OnePlus 3 up to 60 percent in just about 30 minutes. In our battery drain test too, the OnePlus 3 outlasted the Mi 5 significantly, with a result of 15 hours and 36 minutes, as opposed to 8 hours and 43 minutes.
Software and Connectivity
Xiaomi’s smartphones are characterised by the brand’s custom MIUI skin. And the Mi 5 is no different, as it runs MIUI 7 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The UI lacks an app drawer, but more than makes up for the loss with tons of customisations, themes and added functionality. And with MIUI 8 already in beta stages, we can expect the update to hit the Mi 5 soon. On the other hand, OnePlus continues with a refined take on Android with the OxygenOS 3-powered OnePlus 3. The UI is based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. OxygenOS feels a lot like stock Android, with some new features and customisations thrown in by the company. For instance, you can choose between on-screen and capacitive navigation buttons, change the accent colours in the UI, enable a system-wide dark mode, or make use of gestures to perform various functions. But unlike the Mi 5 where you need to learn the features of MIUI, you can choose to completely ignore the additions in OxygenOS and use the device just like stock Android.
On the connectivity front, both phones feature dual-SIM support, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, mobile hotspot, Bluetooth, and A-GPS. NFC makes an appearance in both the smartphones, and so does a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer.
As mentioned earlier, only the 3GB / 32GB variant of the Mi 5 is available in India. You can buy one in white colour from the company’s website mi.com, as well as other e-tailers like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Tata Cliq at a price of Rs 24,999. On the other hand, the OnePlus 3 can be yours for Rs 27,999, and is available only on Amazon India. Currently, the device is only available in Graphite, with a Soft Gold hue slated to join soon. And yes, we did not mention anything about invites, because the company has finally done away with the rigorous and kind of irritating invite system it had earlier. You can just hop onto Amazon India, and buy one for yourself. As a part of launch offers, OnePlus is also offering 12 months of premium subscription from Saavn, double data offers for idea users and Rs 500 credit on the Kindle app. The company is also bundling 12 months of accidental damage protection for free with the device.
While both smartphones look and feel premium, it is the OnePlus 3 that comes on top, thanks to its premium metallic construction and powerful hardware. The higher clocked processor and ample amount of RAM increase the lead it has over its rival, the Mi 5. And although the Mi 5 makes some ground with its camera, the OnePlus 3 takes it away with a brilliant display and some nice launch offers to top it off. If you’re one who prefers stock Android, then there’s no question the OnePlus 3 is for you. But if you are an ardent fan of Xiaomi’s MIUI and want a more compact device, you can give a look at the Mi 5, which is also a decent device, but just not the winner of this comparison.