While flagship smartphones are certainly fun to use, it's the budget segment that's been the most exciting this year. The fact that Xiaomi has managed to overtake Samsung in terms of smartphone shipments is testament to the ever-increasing demand in the budget space. As manufacturers try to one-up each other, the consumer has benefited the most. It's not uncommon to see AMOLED displays, large batteries, and quad cameras advertised as features of smartphones at around the Rs 10,000 mark now.
The Infinix S5 is a recent offering in the sub-Rs. 10,000 segment, boasting of a large hole-punch display, four rear cameras, and generous helpings of RAM and storage. At Rs. 8,999 for the sole configuration on offer, is this good alternative to phones such as the Redmi Note 8 (Review) and the Realme 5 (Review)? Let's take a look.
The Infinix S5 is one of the few phones at this price with a hole-punch display, which helps it stand out. The display is a large 6.6-inch IPS LCD panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio but the resolution is only HD+. At regular viewing distance, icons and text look pleasing enough, but videos aren't very sharp.
The panel itself is quite bright and colours have good saturation, but the lack of an ambient light sensor is very disappointing. This means we had to manually adjust the brightness depending on where and when we were using this phone, which is not something anyone should need to do in 2019. The camera hole itself isn't too distracting, and the display has relatively slim bezels all around except for the chin at the bottom.
The body is built entirely of plastic and the back has a glossy finish, which is a big magnet for fingerprints. We got the Quetzal Cyan version, but the Infinix S5 is also available in Violet and Nebula Black trims. The back has a “feather” pattern, which looks nice and gives the effect of having a glass back. The fingerprint sensor at the back is differently textured from the rest of the body and is easy to reach. We also liked that the camera module doesn't protrude too much.
The left of the Infinix S5 is where you'll find one tray for two Nano-SIM cards and a separate one for a microSD card (up to 256GB). The power and volume buttons are placed on the opposite side, and ergonomics and tactile feedback are good. On the bottom, we have a headphones socket, speaker, and Micro-USB port.
In the box, the Infinix S5 ships with a TPU case, screen protector, Micro-USB cable, SIM eject tool, and 10W charger. You don't get a headset with this phone.
In terms of power, the Infinix S5 packs an entry-level MediaTek Helio P22 SoC, which does a decent job powering the HD+ display but is not as powerful as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 or Helio P70, which are also found in phones in this price segment. The S5 has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and there are no variants at the time of this review.
Other features include Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi, FM radio, GPS, and USB-OTG. The ambient light sensor might be missing, but a compass and gyroscope are present. This phone has only Widevine L3 DRM certification, which is not a big deal considering its display resolution and price.
There's a lot going on with the Infinix S5's software, which can be overwhelming even for seasoned smartphone users. It's called XOS Cheetah, and is at version 5.5.2 which is based on Android 9 Pie. The Android security patch on our unit was from August 2019, which is a little dated.
Unlike some heavily customised UIs such as Vivo's FuntouchOS, navigating XOS Cheetah is pretty straightforward. The quick settings and notifications are on the top; there's an app drawer; and you get Google's Digital Wellbeing in the Settings app. However, there are a tonne of customisations and UI additions, many of which feel a little unnecessary. For example, in addition to the Play Store, there's Palm Store and AHA Games, both of which offer curated apps and games, and neither of which can be uninstalled. These apps also spam you with annoying notifications, which we couldn't seem to disable.
XOS gives you the option to mask the notch area if you find it interfering with the apps you use. The standard three-button navigation bar can be swapped for gestures; you can change themes through the XTheme app; and Game Mode lets you set DnD, free up RAM, take screenshots, and capture gameplay though a slide-out menu in any game.
You also get plenty of other apps and a few basic games preinstalled, but these can be uninstalled. There's a feature in the Settings app labeled ‘Intelligent voice broadcast,' which will announce the name of an app that has sent an alert or the name of a caller. This can be enabled for only certain apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram.
The Infinix S5 is a fairly tall phone and isn't the easiest to manage comfortably in one hand. Having said that, it doesn't feel too heavy at 178g and is fairly slim at just 7.9mm. The glossy finish makes it a little slippery at times.
For general use, we found the S5 to perform quite well. The custom UI ran smoothly and we were able to do a fair bit of multitasking without the phone getting bogged down. However, some apps were a little sluggish, such as Google Maps. The SoC isn't the most powerful, and this was reflected in benchmark scores. In AnTuTu 8, we got a score of 92,126 points, while the T-Rex test in GFXbench returned just 26fps.
Simple games ran fine but heavier titles struggled to run at their ideal graphics settings. Call of Duty Mobile defaulted to the ‘Low' graphics preset, which made it playable but without visual frills. Videos, unfortunately didn't look so good. YouTube videos streamed at the maximum supported resolution (720p) lacked sharpness and the edges around objects in motion often exhibited slight shimmering. The speaker on the bottom sounded a bit tinny but did get quite loud. It was also easy to block the speaker with our palm when we held the phone horizontally.
The fingerprint sensor was quick at authentication and unlocking the phone. There's face recognition too, which was decently quick as long as there was ample light in the room.
The 4000mAh battery didn't fare particularly well in our HD video loop test, and the Infinix S5 ran for just 13 hours and 24 minutes. Actual usage was a lot better, though. We easily managed to clock a day and a half of runtime, with typical usage including making calls, playing games, and using the cameras. Charging wasn't very quick either. Using the bundled adapter, we managed to get this phone up to just 39 percent in an hour. To charge the phone fully, it took a little over three hours. Fast charging would have really helped, and it's a shame that the Infinix S5 lacks this feature, when budget phones such as at the Redmi 8 (Review) offer it.
At the back, the Infinix S5 features a primary 16-megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture and PDAF. Next, we have a 5-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, which is also used for ultra-close-up photos. There's a 2-megapixel depth sensor for use in portrait mode, and Infinix says the fourth one is a low-light sensor, but hasn't disclosed its resolution. We're not sure how much of an impact this last sensor has, since blocking it with a finger made no difference to the final output.
Even with PDAF, the main camera took a while to lock focus at times, even under good light. HDR processing wasn't the best, and most of the photos we took had uneven exposures in either their dark or light areas. Dynamic range was also weak. Close-ups fared a bit better, with decent edge sharpness and colours. You can switch to Super Macro mode by tapping a toggle in the viewfinder, which switches over to the wide-angle camera. Here, we were able to get even closer to subjects, but details were quite average.
In addition to the Super Macro toggle, there's another one to switch to the wide-angle camera. Sadly, the resolution and image quality left a lot to be desired. Even on a clear, bright day, colours looked pale and details were murky. There wasn't much barrel distortion, but the overall quality wasn't very good, even for casual social media posts. Photos captured in Bokeh Mode looked dull, and our subject was always a little out of focus.
At night, the primary camera captured decently bright images as long as there was some light around, thanks to the wide aperture. Colours looked a little boosted at times and details weren't very good once we zoomed in to each picture. In low light, subjects had weak details and the absence of a Night Mode meant that there was no way to improve quality other than to use the flash. The ultra-wide-angle camera captured comparatively poorer detail and struggled with exposures.
The front of the Infinix S5 houses a 32-megapixel selfie camera, which captured fairly detailed selfies. However, it saved images in the full 32-megapixel resolution which gave us rather large files to deal with. You can drop the resolution to 16 megapixels in the same 4:3 aspect ratio. Infinix says it does some kind of oversampling but we didn't notice much of a difference in quality. In low light, image quality was not great. Grain was visible and details were weaker.
Video resolution tops out at 1080p for both the primary and the wide-angle cameras. There's no electronic stabilisation, which means footage looked shaky when we moved about. Continuous autofocus didn't work very well either, and we often had to tap the viewfinder to make the camera focus properly. In low light, the main camera delivered a steady framerate, although it did hunt for focus a lot. Footage shot with the ultra wide-angle camera had visibly less detail and exposure was poor.
The camera app has an AI beauty system, which can be used when shooting stills in the Beauty shooting mode. Other shooting modes include AR Stickers and Panorama. There's no manual mode or extra video shooting options. You get a shortcut to access Google Lens, next to the shutter button. The camera app is functional but could use some refinement. For instance, the toggles for switching to the different cameras don't change orientation when turning the phone, but the other text and icons do.
The Infinix S5 is one of the few phones under Rs. 10,000 to sport a hole-punch display, and this sets it apart. However, the rest of its features and capabilities don't really add up to a very good experience, and in this respect, we feel that phones such as the Realme 5 (Review) and the Redmi Note 8 (Review) offer better value for a little more money.
Real-world battery life is good, even though this phone didn't do too well in our video loop test, but again, the lack of quick charging is disappointing. Infinix is banking on the four rear cameras as a big selling point but the truth of the matter is that they simply aren't very good and some of the sensors barely contribute at all. Other things such as the lack of an ambient light sensor, Micro-USB port instead of USB Type-C, and the spammy custom UI make the Infinix S5 not worth recommending.