Infinix S5 review: The best one, yet

To say that this is the best smartphone that Infinix has made this year may seem like a big overstatement. It isn’t. And I am out to convince you so. Any failure to do that convincing bit proper should be attributed to the messenger and their way of delivering that message more than things being actually the opposite.

READ:  Infinix S5 specifications

You’ve probably read a lot of the reviews I have penned on Infinix devices this year and, given the near similarity of the devices, they almost always sound cliché. Depending on where you sit, that can be good or bad. Good for all the old folks that love familiarity for familiarity’s sake: afraid to try out new things. Bad for everyone else (myself included) who loves bold approaches to just about anything and hates “same old, same old”.

To be honest, the Infinix S5 has a mix of both.

In fact, besides the obvious tweaks and improvements in the design department, it stays largely the same. What makes you change your perception of it and end up judging just about every other Infinix smartphone you have used this year, like I have, is how it makes you feel after you have interacted with it. Remind me about what they say about people (and now, things) and what they make you feel…

Design and Display

Launched at the end of last month, the Infinix S5 brings with it a refresh to the S4′s design last year.

In place of the teardrop notch that defined the front of last year’s model, there’s an “Infinity-O” design approach that sees the camera cutout shrunk to a simple punch-hole. That, as we will see as we explore other aspects of the device, brings with it its own set of challenges. Aesthetically, though, it is pleasing to the eye.

As is the glint from the back of the Quetzal Cyan colour model that I have had for review.

Everything just falls into place. The buttons and the ergonomics that dictate their placement, the rounded corners to ease handling, the bottom-firing speaker (that is, meh)… Infinix has made sure to do very little to offend the nitpickers among us.

There’s still good old micro-USB to satisfy the ordinary user who has stuck so many of the old generation cables and anger those of us who desperately wish every other budget smartphone maker could just decide to move forward once and for all.

Other than it’s outright failure to be very bright when used outdoors in the Equatorial midday sun, there’s not much not to like about the expansive 6.6-inch display (it doesn’t feel like it).

Camera

Check out our camera focus article here.

Software

While the Infinix S5 stands out for just about everything – both the hardware and the software – it is the software that tries too hard to antidote everything. And it does so effortlessly by Infinix being, well, Infinix.

There’s your daily dosage of lock screen ads. Those useless article suggestions they fetch from their network as part of that annoying intrusive ads package? Check. The many unnecessary apps they bundle with the device? Check. I mean, these are things you could’ve predicted will be there even without bothering to read this far, let alone give the device a spin.

As if that is not enough, they have gone a step further and added an unnecessary hoop that users have to jump through as they set up their device for first-time use: signing up for or signing in to Infinix’s own user forums, XClub. They really have been learning a thing or two from sibling Tecno, haven’t they?

That the so-called Zero Screen, Infinix’s own left-side-of-the-home-screen addition, kept being pushed down my throat despite having disabled it through the home screen settings didn’t sit well with me.

I used the Infinix S5 as the primary device connected to another device I have been testing, Huawei’s new entry-level wearable, the Band 4e, and I liked everything about how the device handled it. Especially on the software side of things.

Since Infinix employs some aggressive battery management (thanks to AI, they say) just like most device makers in the market, it does let users make exemptions for some apps. This is what I needed for Huawei Health, the app that allows syncing of the Band 4e, and just about every other Huawei wearable, to work. Once prompted during its setup to whitelist it, which I did, the device just respected that and didn’t change its mind halfway, something that Huawei devices have been notorious for over the years. Even better, the device would silently disconnect Bluetooth when no one is looking and silently restore it when the app is in action without requiring any further action on my end. Do you know how I’ve had to keep remembering to turn off Bluetooth on my other devices?

Infinix does have its own wearable that it is offering online for free with any purchase of the S5 and I hope it gets similar, if not better, treatment.

I also liked how XOS would immediately kick in in the wake of the signal of the hotspot I am connected to getting weaker and recommending a quick switch to the connected mobile network. I have seen this many times before on other devices, but it is nice seeing it on the Infinix S5. Auto-switching to mobile data when the Wi-Fi that one is connected to, as always, is possible and can be turned from the network settings.

Performance

The Infinix S5’s excellent performance is what has made me class this device as the best one the Infinix brand has availed in the market this year.

See all those shortcomings with the software highlighted above? They are made to appear small because the device just flies through everything. And I have only had the variant with 4GB memory. Imagine how the one with 6GB RAM behaves if it is optimized correctly?

There is not much I can say other than that the Infinix S5 won’t disappoint you when it comes to how it responds to everything you demand of it.

Battery

The Infinix S5 is not your usual “powerbank phone” from Infinix. Its priorities happen to be different. However, it doesn’t compromise on the battery. Leave the house in the morning with it fully charged and you will be back at whatever time in the evening or the night with still enough juice left to do something else before plugging it for the night.

Plugging it for the night may not sound like something you should be doing often but given that this device will take well over 2 hours to get full, you don’t want it being the reason you are late for work or school the next day, do you?

The good

  • Good design
  • Excellent performance
  • Good cameras
  • Long battery life

The bad

  • As usual, the software experience is wanting

The low down

From the various budget smartphones that I have used and reviewed this year, I have a favourite from each brand.

For the Samsungs, it has to be the Galaxy A20: it’s very affordable and just about gets everything in a smartphone right. Generous storage, a design that isn’t cringeworthy, USB Type-C and long battery life. What more could you ask for at that price?

For the Huaweis, it is the Huawei Y9 Prime 2019: an all-round excellent smartphone. I have reservations about the camera even though it remains largely satisfactory for a budget device (you see, it even makes you want and desire more than it reasonably can offer) but it checks the boxes in just about everything else. That shiny new Y9 series member that Huawei introduced recently? At its marked price, it doesn’t stand a chance for as long as the “outdated” Y9 Prime 2019 remains on sale in this market. As do the Huawei P30 Lite new and “old” editions.

You know where I am going with this, right?

Infinix has a way of every once in a while getting it when it comes to its smartphones. It did that with the Infinix Note 5 – which was an Android One device – and now it has repeated the same feat with the S5. Sure, the latter is no Android One phone but damn, you wouldn’t imagine it still uses Infinix’s own custom software because it really flies.

The Infinix S5 is the best Infinix smartphone I have used this year. Not for all the things that Infinix says it is good at but for being a good device all around. No, the advertised 4-day battery life won’t materialise unless all you do is use the device as an alarm clock. But it will be close. The camera they don’t make so much noise about? It will surprise you with very cool snaps. That pairing of the Helio P22 with 4GB of memory? It works wonders. This device has flown since I unboxed it and remains so. So much that you will easily overlook all the quirks that one can usually associate with Infinix’s terrible software. And for that, it is every bit worth your consideration the next time in the near future you go shopping for a new budget device.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com