POCO M5s review: Punching above its weight

With an appealing design that doesn't look cheap, the POCO M5s appeals to budget-conscious users.

POCO M5s back panel
(Image: © Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

The Poco M5s is easily one of the best entry-level phones money can buy, with solid build quality and head-turning design, impressive battery life, and general performance. However, its software falls short of the quality hardware, bringing the phone down a notch.

Pros

  • +

    Vibrant AMOLED display

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    Ultrawide lens

  • +

    Great endurance

  • +

    Fast charging speed

  • +

    Attractive design

  • +

    Impressive dual speakers

Cons

  • -

    No 90Hz screen refresh rate

  • -

    Buggy software

  • -

    Poor low-light camera performance

  • -

    No 5G support

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When I reviewed the POCO M5 a few weeks ago, I thought it was lacking in a handful of areas, including the camera and charging speed. Its more expensive sibling, the POCO M5s, fills those gaps with an impressive overall performance.

There's a huge difference between the POCO M5s and its cheaper sibling, most notably in design. It is essentially a rebranded Redmi Note 10S, which launched early last year in certain markets, including Europe and Asia. This means it doesn't have the faux leather found in the POCO M5, instead opting for a matte polycarbonate back with a metallic finish and a plastic frame owing to its budget positioning. Xiaomi's influence can also be seen in the camera design despite POCO claiming that it's independent from its parent company.

While POCO has released numerous budget phones since the Poco F1 launched in 2018, the POCO M5s is one of the closest things to a true successor to that device. It has a few high-end specs you could want at a reasonable price. But will its aesthetics and build quality be enough to bring POCO to the top of the budget segment? We'll find out in this review.

POCO M5s: Price and availability

POCO M5s in hand showing the back panel

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

The POCO M5s is available in three colors: grey, blue, and white. The phone ships in three memory variants. The 4GB/64GB configuration is priced at €209, the 4GB/128GB at €229, and the 6GB/128GB at €249.

In the UK, the color options and memory configurations are limited. The POCO M5s is only available in grey, with the 4GB/128GB costing £189. Meanwhile, the 4GB/128GB configuration retails for £209. Unfortunately, the device isn't available in India, though it is rumored to launch in the country in November.

POCO M5s: What's good

POCO M5s back panel

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

There's something to be said for Xiaomi's relentless design iterations. While the POCO M5s lacks a significant aesthetic upgrade over many Xiaomi-centric phones, it retains all of the key tenets that make the POCO M lineup appealing to budget-conscious users. The phone revives the once-outdated gradient back design, making it fashionable once more.

While the POCO M5s ditches the glass back for plastic, nowhere does it look cheap. It's arguably one of the most attractive budget phones I've ever seen. The matte finish, in particular, is stunning, particularly in blue, and the dual-tone finish adds a nice touch to the aesthetics.

POCO also deserves credit for including features in the M5s that most modern smartphones do not have, such as a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The phone also edges out the POCO M5 in the audio department, with one of its standout features being the dual stereo speakers that aid in the overall listening experience. In contrast, the POCO M5 only comes with a single speaker, which may disappoint if you watch your favorite Netflix series without a pair of headphones.

The POCO M5s features an IP53 rating for splash resistance, which is rare for a handset in this price range. That said, it is better than nothing at all.

Despite its low price, POCO did an excellent job of tuning the display and design of the M5s to make it feel more premium.

Unlike the POCO M5, the M5s uses an AMOLED panel that does wonders for a budget phone. Nonetheless, it has a slightly smaller display than the M5, measuring 6.43 inches as opposed to 6.58 inches on the latter. Where the phone lacks in screen size, it makes up for it with vibrant colors and excellent contrast with accurate saturation.

The screen is clear to see even in harsh sunlight thanks to its 700 nits of brightness. POCO claims its display brightness can go as high as 1100nits. The only drawback to the screen is the lack of HDR support, but you can't expect much from a low-cost phone.

POCO M5s screen

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

The POCO M5s holds its own in day-to-day use despite a relatively old processor (MediaTek Helio G95). I rarely experienced any major issues other than a few negligible stutters when navigating the interface. However, it's a different story when launching a game, which I'll review later.

Like many of the best cheap Android phones, money can buy, the POCO M5s sticks to a 5,000mAh battery, which seems to be the bare minimum for the budget segment. The phone's battery life does not disappoint, easily lasting the day with enough juice left over to get you through the night. In my experience, I got about eight hours of screen on time for moderate use like phone calls, social media, and web browsing.

However, your mileage can vary. The battery can last up to five hours when streaming Netflix shows or playing heavy games.

The POCO M5s is also notable for its quick charging speeds. It took about one hour and fifteen minutes to charge the phone from zero to 100%. Furthermore, a 30-minute charge provides approximately 60% of the battery's capacity, which should be sufficient for a full day of use.

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CategoryPOCO M5s
Operating SystemAndroid 12 (MIUI 13)
Display6.43 inches, FHD+, AMOLED, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
ChipsetMediaTek Helio G95 (12 nm)
RAM6GB (4GB in some markets)
Storage128GB (64GB in some markets)
Rear Camera 164MP wide angle, f/1.8
Rear Camera 28MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 118 degrees
Rear Camera 32MP macro sensor, f/2.4
Rear Camera 42MP depth sensor, f/2.4
Front Camera13MP wide angle, f/2.4
Battery & Charging5000mAh, 33W
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0
SecurityFingerprint (side-mounted), facial recognition, PIN
ColorsGray, Blue, White
Dimensions160.5 x 74.5 x 8.3mm
Weight178.8g

While the rest of the POCO M5s is a step up over the previous models in this series, POCO has stuck to its typical camera array for the phone. The setup comprises a 64MP primary camera, an 8MP ultra-wide shooter, a 2MP macro sensor, and a 2MP depth sensor.

In broad daylight, the phone has got image quality right, with photos leaning toward a natural look with just the right amount of contrast. Even in shadowy areas, there are sufficient details. The phone also has a decent HDR performance, as evidenced by how well it balances shadows and highlights.

Another thing about the POCO M5s that impresses me is the addition of an ultra-wide camera, which is missing from the M5. And it takes passable images, though its dynamic range is compromised in low-light situations.

I'm impressed by the macro photos from the POCO M5s as well. The 2MP depth sensor allows you to get up close with what you're shooting at a reasonable distance. That said, it is obvious that POCO is trying to make the shots look good through a lot of post-processing, which leads to some quirky photos.

POCO M5s camera samples