Introduction

The Chinese miracle.

Those are the words often used when speaking about the boom of the Chinese economy in the last few decades, but they could well apply to the largest smartphone maker out of the People’s Republic - Xiaomi (pronounced ‘shaw-me’). The company has recently made strides and reached the top 3 of the world’s largest phone makers, and it has built dominant positions in Asia. We now have its flagship, the Xiaomi Mi 4 (or just Mi 4) in our hands, and it’s time to take a look at how it compares against the mainstream Android flagship of 2014 - the Samsung Galaxy S5.

First, let’s make it clear - the Mi 4 is a flagship-grade smartphone sold at nearly half the price of a flagship. It’s a great value for the money, and that is by design - while many call Xiaomi the Apple of China, its business model with its own app store and merchandise is a lot more like that of Amazon. That is, it is selling devices at low margins, and makes money from the ecosystem, not solely the device.

With this in mind, we can outline the battle of the Mi 4 versus the Galaxy S5. Both being 5-inch-ish 1080p devices with Snapdragon 801 under the hood, it boils down to differences in design, the MIUI (pronounced ‘Me You I’) skin vs Samsung’s TouchWiz, the camera experience, and a few other peculiarities. Let’s explore them in more depth!

Design

The Mi 4 is a compact 5-incher that features a sturdy metallic frame, with only the glossy plastic back spoiling the premium experience, while the Galaxy S5 is an all-plasticky affair.

The Xiaomi Mi 4 breaks the traditional perception of ‘cheap plastic Chinese phones’, as it comes with a sturdy stainless steel frame that gives it a lot of character. The back of the phone is still made from uninspiring glossy plastic that might be practical, but is still a fingerprint magnet. Still, the phone is reassuringly solidly put together. The Galaxy S5, on the other hand, feels much less rigid, and its all-plastic body does not exude any feeling of premium quality as one would expect from a flagship device. The back cover of the S5 features a dot-pattern and we actually do prefer its softer finish over the glossy plastic of the Mi 4, though it's mostly a question of personal preference.

There is also a fairly tangible difference in the size of the Mi 4 and the S5 that one cannot just explain with the tiny variance in screen size (5” on the Mi 4, and 5.1” on the S5). It is rather mostly due to the very thin bezel on the Mi 4, while the S5’s display is surrounded by a much thicker bezer. This makes the Mi 4 easier to operate with a single hand as it is the narrower device - 2.7” wide versus 2.85” for the S5. The S5 is just a tad bit thinner and less tall, though.

In terms of buttons, Xiaomi uses virtual, on-screen navigation keys, while the Galaxy S5 is equipped with a large, physical home key with a fingerprint scanner inside, in addition to two virtual keys on its sides. All else is physical buttons. Those are crafted beautifully on the Mi 4 - they are all on the right hand side, made of aluminum, and are quite clicky. The S5 has its lock key on the right, and volume rocker on the left, and while not terrible, they do not feel as responsive.

The Xiaomi Mi 4, however, cannot brag about any water and dust protection capabilities, while the Galaxy S5 is fully sealed and proudly carries an IP68 rating, meaning that it is completely sealed from dust and can survive immersion in up to 3 feet (1 meter) deep fresh water, for up to about 30 minutes.


Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4

Dimensions

5.48 x 2.7 x 0.35 inches

139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm

Weight

5.26 oz (149 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Xiaomi Mi 4

Xiaomi Mi 4

Dimensions

5.48 x 2.7 x 0.35 inches

139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm

Weight

5.26 oz (149 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

The 5-inch 1080p display of the Xiaomi Mi 4 is a bit off with a slight bluish tint, but it is sharp and offers calibration settings to please different tastes, while the S5’s slightly larger 5.1” 1080p display comes with a noticeable greenish tint.

The Xiaomi Mi 4 comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920-pixels (Full HD), while the Samsung Galaxy S5 features a tad larger, 5.1-inch screen using a different, Super AMOLED panel, but the same 1080p resolution. Both appear practically equally sharp, with no pixelization noticeable as pixel density on the two is very high: 441ppi on Mi 4 and 432ppi on the S5.

The bigger difference comes in color reproduction. We were disappointed with the lack of proper calibration on Samsung’s Galaxy S5, as it has a very noticeable greenish tint that spoils the experience. You can pick between different screen modes on the S5, but the issue persists even in the better ones.

The Xiaomi Mi 4, on the other hand, also offers control over the colors: you can pick between warm (~7400K), standard (~8400K), and cool (~9500K) for the color temperature, and for each of these options you can also pick between ‘standard’ and ‘brilliant’ color saturation. Color purists will be happiest with the warm setting for color temperature as it is closest to the reference 6500K value, and ‘standard’ saturation mode where there is no artificial overblowing of colors. This is also the option where gamma sits at exactly 2.2, which is the reference value and this indicates balanced brightness levels throughout. In terms of colors, the Mi 4 display adheres to the sRGB color gamut, but the slight blue tint drives colors off their targets, and overall calibration could be better.

We should also mention that the Mi 4 display is laminated, resulting in very low screen reflectance and great viewing angles. AMOLED screens like the one on the Galaxy S5 have also proven to have outstanding viewing angles.

For outdoor viewing, both do a very good job. The Mi 4 and S5 have a very similar peak brightness of around 440 nits, and both filter out reflections nicely, so you can read the screen easier outdoors.



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24 Comments

1. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

XiaoMi has 3gb ram Samboy : I don't care Sammy win XiaoMi has 3080mah battery Samboy : I don't care Sammy win XiaoMi has 8mp front camera Samboy : I don't care Sammy win XiaoMi priced only $300 Samboy : cheap XiaoMi, galaxy s5 is more premium

5. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

XiaoMi: Get your phone spoiled IDC(Lack of service centres XiaoMi: Software updates unreliable and unstable IDC. Xiaomi: Camera sucks compared to Sammy IDC. Xiaomi: Data leaked to China servers IDC. Xiaomi: Drop your phone in water IDC. Xiaomi: Fingerprint scanner.. What? IDC. Xiaomi: Copying Apple style IDC.

7. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

We found another winner, who complain everything on $300 device and willing to compromise every single cons on $600 I thought only Apple fan do this?

12. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

1. You can just buy two for the same price. 2. MIUI gets updates all the time and is extremely stable. 3. Camera is a mater of opinion. 4. You can't prove it, and it wouldn't affect you in any way. 5. It's your fault if you do. and XiaoMi offers $16 accidental damage insurance. 6. Swipe-style fingerprint scanners suck and are hard to use. 7. ???

21. alexvv

Posts: 165; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

You are mostly right but Samsung leaks your data to south korea, practically America, what's the difference ? Everyone leaks steals your data not only bad Chinese xiaomi.

6. UglyFrank

Posts: 2193; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Xiaomi: No Gorilla Gass 3 Xiaomi: Worse battery life despite large battery(based on trustable gsmarena test) Xiaomi: no memory card slot, stuck with 16gb Etc

9. pulkit1

Posts: 354; Member since: Jul 03, 2014

price ?

10. Noonting

Posts: 135; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Samsung has better audio quality Samsung has better camera quality Samsung has better optimization Samsung has more service center Xiaomi Fanboy : I don't care Xiaomi is cheaper! There are reasons for cheap price

19. ardent1

Posts: 2000; Member since: Apr 16, 2011

Yes, because Xioami doesn't have a $200 gross profit margin (aka mark-up) scam like Samsung. It's common knowledge Samsung smartphones are over-valued and dumb or naive buyers support Samsung due to their embarrassment of over-paying for crappy phones. A number of business articles talk about how the S5 has not sold as well (versus Samsung's expectations) and the unsold units are collecting dusts in the warehouses. Now, Samsung is discounting unsold S5's and that destroys the resell value of the S5. Samsung could only fool so many people for so long. At the end of the day, it's an android device and therefore it's a commodity. I have predicted this on phonearena.com many years ago.

16. laughmi

Posts: 283; Member since: Oct 28, 2014

Agreed but not a single person would buy a Xiaomi if they are priced in the range of $100 less than Samsung (for mid-high range). Thats the truth and it hurts!! Samsung spends alot on R&D, Innovation, brand value and thats why they kick ass of even older brands like HTC, sony let alone the Chinese brands.

2. hboy857

Posts: 367; Member since: Jun 03, 2013

mi4 kills S5. (mi kills sammy) Go Xiaomi, disrupt the monopoly.

3. darkskoliro

Posts: 1092; Member since: May 07, 2012

omfg mi4 has free music streaming?? :D

4. rocksy

Posts: 67; Member since: May 06, 2014

Breaking News - Bad news for Xiaomi. Xiaomi banned from selling, importing phones in Indiahttp://m.ibtimes.co.in/delhi-high-court-impose-sanctions-xiaomi-over-ericsson-patent-infringement-case-phone-sales-616798

15. laughmi

Posts: 283; Member since: Oct 28, 2014

Xiaomi's run looks short in India. They outsell all brands except Samsung but the issues with patent infringing, copying, Worst service center, worst Redmi series phones, sending data to Chinese servers, security risks, phones getting badly heated, worst battery backup etc. have made sure this company just has a short run and would get turned to laughmi soon.

8. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

Mi 4 has on-screen buttons that aren't on the screen??? Also the S5 has IP67.

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 30972; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Best looking android phone by far, not surprising being as iPhone inspired as it is.

13. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

IMO the Mi3 was way better. The Mi4 looks a lot like the Galaxy Alpha though.

17. salaal

Posts: 109; Member since: Dec 08, 2013

The MI4 came out before alpha lol.

14. hotcaptain

Posts: 4; Member since: Dec 02, 2014

thank you for the review. indeed very informative. However, i still go for samsung s5 for a safer option.

18. chloeblack

Posts: 16; Member since: Nov 18, 2014

It seems that XiaoMi is facing big challenges and resentments.

20. 09131809121

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 16, 2014

I don't like xiaomi

22. effimote

Posts: 20; Member since: Jan 06, 2015

s5 is better undoubtedly ,but if consider into the price , xiaomi 4 is cost-effective cellphone .i bought one xiaomi 3 from kingsbuying.com cost about 250 . working great .but just got heated easily

23. mirexcool

Posts: 65; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Bought at Aliexpress. Satisfied! s.click.aliexpress.com/e/VJ2rjEMrZ

24. Ricky14

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 12, 2015

For safety i choose Samsung galaxy s5 instead of Chinese phone.And i own galaxy s5 so far one of the best smart phone.

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