It's time to see if the OnePlus 3 has what it takes to beat Xiaomi's Mi 5.

Xiaomi announced the Mi 5 at Mobile World Congress to a lot of fanfare, with the phone offering incredible hardware for the equivalent of $370 (₹25,000). With curved edges and a glass back and strong hardware in the form of a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 820 SoC, 3GB of RAM, and a 16MP camera, the Mi 5 offers incredible value for money.

With the OnePlus 3, we're looking at a new direction in terms of design that sees OnePlus eschewing the Sandstone back for an all-metal look. NFC is back, and the phone offers even more bang for the buck with 6GB of RAM, a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 SoC, and much more.

If you want the latest hardware for half the cost of a "true" flagship, these are the phones to consider. Read on to find out which handset is worth your time.

1. Hardware

OnePlus 3 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5

The OnePlus 3 is an all-metal affair, while the Mi 5 sports a glass back. Both phones feature curved sides and rounded edges, but the OnePlus 3 feels much more durable and sturdy. The minimalist design of the phone — with the antenna lines at the top and bottom — isn't anything new, but OnePlus' execution is commendable. Everything from the placement of the 3.5mm audio jack, USB-C port, and the speaker — which are all located at the bottom — to the gently sloping curves at the front speaks volumes to the amount of thought put in by OnePlus on the design of its latest handset.

Meanwhile, the 3D glass at the back of the Mi 5 curves along the sides, which as you can imagine leads to great in-hand feel. The smaller 5.15-inch Full HD screen facilitates one-handed usage, but the sharp curves at the front — where the screen meets the metal frame — make it slightly uncomfortable to use the phone one-handed for a prolonged duration.

In terms of hardware, you're getting a lot for your money, particularly so with the OnePlus 3. Both phones offer the Snapdragon 820 SoC, but the one on the Mi 5 is clocked at 1.8GHz, whereas the variant on the OnePlus 3 is the fully-enabled 2.15GHz version. The OnePlus 3 also offers 64GB storage and an astounding 6GB of RAM, whereas the Mi 5 comes with 32GB and 3GB of RAM. The added RAM makes a lot of difference when juggling between several apps and games.

When it comes to day-to-day performance, you're not going to see any slowdowns from either phone, although the Mi 5 still has lingering software bugs. The weight of the Mi 5 at 129g is also an issue, as the phone feels too light and flimsy. It stands up to tumbles and knocks very well though, but when it comes to the overall fit and finish, it doesn't match what's on offer with the OnePlus 3. That's nothing to say of the buttons on the Mi 5, which have gone mushy in just over a month's worth of usage.

As for the OnePlus 3, the power button and the SIM card slots are located on the right, and the volume rocker as well as the three-stage Alert Slider are to the left. The Alert Slider lets you quickly switch between all, priority and no notifications, and needs to be implemented by other manufacturers.

Category OnePlus 3 Xiaomi Mi 5
Operating System Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
OxygenOS 3.1.1
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Display 5.5-inch Full HD Optic AMOLED display
401ppi pixel density
Gorilla Glass 4
5.15-inch Full HD IPS display
428ppi pixel density
Gorilla Glass 4
SoC 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820
Adreno 530 GPU
1.8GHz Snapdragon 820
Adreno 530 GPU
Storage 64GB
No microSD slot
No microSD slot
Rear Camera 16MP with f/2.0 lens
OIS, 4K video
16MP with PDAF
OIS, 4K video
Front Camera 8MP 4MP
Connectivity LTE (Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/38/40/41), Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC LTE (Bands 1/3/5/7/38/39/40/41)
Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi ac MU-MIMO, NFC, IR blaster
Charging USB-C
Dash Charge
Quick Charge 3.0
Battery 3000mAh 3000mAh
Dimensions 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35mm 144.6 x 69.2 x 7.3mm
Weight 158g 129g

The OnePlus 3 comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display covered by Gorilla Glass 4, which is significantly nicer than the washed-out IPS panel that was used last year. Colors are vivid, with deep blacks and great contrast levels. The calibration is off, and the screen does not do sRGB (yet), but you can adjust the color temperature of the screen from the settings. There's also an ambient display mode that lets you glance at incoming notifications without having to switch the display on.

The Mi 5 wins out in terms of overall brightness thanks to its 16 LEDs. The Full HD panel on the phone is one of the best LCD's available in the market. If you're in the market for a phone with a great screen, you cannot go wrong with either phone.

The OnePlus 3 has class-leading hardware.

The other area where the Mi 5 stands out is the fingerprint sensor, which is a physical button that doubles up as a touch-sensitive key. The OnePlus 3, on the other hand, features a capacitive button that's slightly recessed. While having a physical button is great, the sensor on the Mi 5 isn't as fast or accurate as that of the OnePlus 3. It's still a great sensor, but the unit on the OnePlus 3 is one of the best I've used on any phone to date. It is lightning-quick and always active, which means that you can put your finger on the sensor even when the phone is sleeping and unlock to the home screen.

If you were to remove fingerprint security for some reason, you won't have to re-register your fingerprints should you wish to enable the feature once again on the Mi 5. The phones stores your fingerprint information even after you've removed biometric security, and there's an option to manually remove the data. That isn't the case on the OnePlus 3 — if you get rid of fingerprint security and are looking to enable it again, you'll have to start afresh.

2. Software

OnePlus 3 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5

Both phones come with Marshmallow out of the box, but the implementation couldn't be more different. The OnePlus 3 sticks to a stock Android user interface layered with a few custom features in OxygenOS 3.1.1, whereas Xiaomi offers a heavily customized skin in MIUI 7.

OxygenOS 3.1.1 is based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and OnePlus has added several customization options, such as the ability to enable a system-wide dark mode, choose accent colors, edit quick toggles and status bar icons, and so much more. You can customize the LED notification light for individual apps, alter icon and app drawer sizes, and enable gestures for launching the camera, music controls, waking up the screen, and toggling the flashlight. You can also choose between on-screen or capacitive navigation buttons, change the layout of the recent and back buttons based on your preference, and assign actions for each navigation button.

OnePlus 3 OxygenOS

A new feature is Shelf, which takes up the leftmost home screen by default. Shelf gives you quick access to your frequent apps and contacts, and can be customized by adding widgets. You can also quickly jot down notes and add reminders to them.

OxygenOS 3.1.1 offers the best of both worlds.

The Mi 5 also runs Marshmallow, but you'll be hard put to notice that given the customization. There's no app drawer, and while you get dozens of customization options, there are a few basic services missing. MIUI 7 doesn't include Now on Tap, app permissions are not enabled by default, and the notification shade has remained the same since the KitKat days. MIUI in itself feels very bloated, and comes with several pre-installed apps that cannot be removed.

In that regard, the OnePlus 3 does a better job. There's not a whole lot of bloatware, and you get an interface that's vanilla Android along with enough options to customize the phone to your liking. That said, the issue of software updates is a point of contention. Marshmallow has just started rolling out to the OnePlus 2, eight months after becoming available. The OnePlus X — which made its debut in November — is yet to pick up the Marshmallow update.

Xiaomi isn't any better when it comes to software updates, as the Mi 5 is yet to make the switch to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Both vendors are doing better in terms of security patches — the Mi 5 and the OnePlus 3 are on the June security patch, but platform updates need to get the same amount of attention.

3. Camera quality

OnePlus 3 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5

You don't have to shell out big bucks to find a phone with a great camera anymore. Even budget phones like the Moto G4 Plus offer a very capable shooter, which sets the bar higher for mid-range phones. The OnePlus 3 comes with a 16MP imaging sensor (IMX298) with 1.12-micron pixels and an f/2.0 lens along with optical image stabilization, PDAF and Auto HDR. You can shoot 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, and 720p video at 120fps. At the front, there's an 8MP shooter.

Both phones have the same camera sensor, but the OnePlus 3 produces better shots.

You can quickly launch the camera with a double press of the power button, and the camera app itself is similar to Google's stock camera offering. You'll find toggles for Clear Image, flash, and HDR up top, with the timer, grid lines, and image aspect controls located in the settings icon at the bottom. A slide-out menu from the left lets you toggle time-lapse, slow motion, panorama, and manual shooting modes, as well as switch between stills and video recording. The manual mode offers settings for white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and manual focus.

The Mi 5 also offers the same 16MP camera sensor (IMX298) with 1.12-micron pixels, an f/2.0 lens, and OIS. You also get PDAF, Auto HDR, and 4K video. The camera app is loaded with features, and you get options to beautify images, and select from 12 filters.

Both phones are extremely quick at taking photos, although there is a noticeable difference between the images as you can see below. The OnePlus 3 manages to produce more detail in daylight and artificial lighting, and blows the Mi 5 out of the water when it comes to low-light imagery.

OnePlus 3 camera sampleXiaomi Mi 5 camera sample

OnePlus 3 on the left, Mi 5 on the right.

OnePlus 3 camera sampleXiaomi Mi 5 camera sample

OnePlus 3 camera sampleXiaomi Mi 5 camera sample

OnePlus 3 camera sampleXiaomi Mi 5 camera sample

OnePlus 3 camera sampleXiaomi Mi 5 camera sample

Even in bright conditions, images taken using the Mi 5 lack the same amount of detail as those from the OnePlus 3. As for front cameras, the 8MP unit on the OnePlus 3 manages to outshine the Mi 5's 4MP camera. The front camera on the Mi 5 has larger 2-micron pixels, but when it comes to overall clarity, the OnePlus 3 wins out.

4. Battery life

OnePlus 3 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5

The battery on the OnePlus 3 has seen a decrease in the capacitive from 3300mAh on the OnePlus 2 to 3000mAh. However, battery life has improved from its predecessor, as the phone runs an entire day on a full charge. Even with a whole day on 4G and SOT of around three hours, the phone made it to 10PM with about 30% of its charge intact.

Meanwhile, the Mi 5 has very fickle battery life. The phone runs a day on Wi-Fi, but as soon as it switches to 4G, battery life deteriorates rather alarmingly. While testing battery life on 4G against the OnePlus 3, the Mi 5 switched off at 6PM, with just over eight hours on 4G and an hour and a half of screen-on time.

You'll love Dash Charge on the OnePlus 3.

Talking about quick charging options, Dash Charge on the OnePlus 3 is awesome. The ability to charge up to 60% of the phone's battery capacity in 30 minutes is a massive advantage. The downside is that Dash Charge only works with the bundled charger and cable, as the technology behind it — OPPO's VOOC flash charge — has the power control circuitry and heat management built into the adapter. In doing so, the phone doesn't heat up while charging.

The Mi 5 is no slouch when it comes to fast charging either as the phone supports Quick Charge 3.0, although the bundled adapter runs Quick Charge 2.0. Although both phones have 3000mAh batteries, the OnePlus 3 manages to deliver battery life consistently.

5. The bottom line

OnePlus 3 vs. Xiaomi Mi 5

Both the OnePlus 3 and the Mi 5 push the limit for what's possible in the mid-range segment, and both handsets have a lot going for them. However, the OnePlus 3 is the standout winner with its impressive design and build quality, as well as the stellar hardware on offer.

The phone not only beats out every other handset in the mid-range segment, but takes the fight to flagships priced nearly twice as much. If you're in need of a powerful phone for under $400, there isn't anything better.

Thankfully, you can get either handset without waiting for flash sales or going through an invite system. The OnePlus 3 is available direct from OnePlus, but the Mi 5 doesn't look like it will be available outside Asia anytime soon.

See at OnePlus

In India, the OnePlus 3 is available from Amazon for ₹27,999 ($415), and the Mi 5 can be purchased from Xiaomi's website in India.

See at Amazon