With the arrival of the Xiaomi Mi Band 6, owners of the Mi Band 5 might be wondering if they’re missing out on some big new features.
The budget fitness tracker is one of the biggest selling wearables of all time, and each generation has brought big fitness tracking features at a fraction of the price of rials.
We’ve been living with the Mi Band 6 and Mi Band 5. Here’s our guide to the key differences – and which is the best fit for you.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Price and alternatives
Xiaomi’s Mi Band range has been all about offering fitness tracking on a budget. If you don’t have a lot to spend or want to spend a lot, this is one to look at. There are cheaper trackers out there, but Xiaomi manages to cram in more features than its rivals for that low price.
Now, we don’t have a Mi Band 6 price for the global version of the tracker we tested, so our prices below are based on converting the 229 yuan price it has gone on sale for in China:
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 price: ~$35
Xiaomi Mi Band 5 price: $49.99
When the Mi Band 6 goes on sale outside of China, we fully expect it to come in at around the same price as the 5.
To put that pricing into context of its competitors, the Amazfit Band 5 costs $49.99, the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 launch price was $49.99 and the Fitbit Inspire 2 costs $99. So, the competition is getting closer. Well, apart from Fitbit.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Design and screen
Mi Band 5 (left) and Mi Band 6 (right)
Put the Mi Band 5 and Mi Band 6 side-by-side and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. They have the same sized band and case and are made from the same materials.
They also offer the same 5 ATM water resistance rating, making them suitable for showering and swimming in water up to 50 metres depth.
There are some small differences when you look closer at the dimensions. The Mi Band 5 measures in with a 46mm case and is 12.45mm thick. The Mi Band 6 has a 47mm case and is thicker at 12.7mm – so the differences in size are extremely marginal.
But the big difference here is the screen. While the Mi Band 5 has a 1.1-inch, 126 x 29 resolution AMOLED display, the Mi Band 6 has a larger 1.56-inch one with a 152 x 486 resolution.
They look like they’re the same size as the body doesn’t look all that different. But what Xiaomi has done is scale back the black bezel surrounding the screen to give you more pixels to play with.
Both have the same 450 nits of brightness so offer a nice, bright display but there’s neither have an always-on display mode. What you gain on the Mi Band 6’s screen over the Mi Band 5 is some increased sharpness and richness and colours. It also means you can fit more on the display at once. So, two app icons as opposed to one, and more details in weather update screens.
Those are the biggest benefits we experienced, but it’s worth mentioning that the Mi Band 5’s screen is still a great one to find on a device at this price and still impresses more than some newer trackers that have launched this year.
If you care about colors, the Mi Band 5 comes with six different color bands. There’s yellow, teal, green, blue, orange and black. The Mi Band 6 is available in black, orange, yellow, olive green, ivory white and blue. So there’s a fair share of options here.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Fitness and health tracking features
Mi Band 5 (left) and Mi Band 6 (right)
Both Mi Bands offer a wealth of features to monitor your health and fitness, with some differences on the sensor and tracking front that might sway you towards the newer Band 6.
They largely match in the sensor department, with both using accelerometer and gyroscope sensors to track motion and optical heart rate sensors to continually monitor heart rate and during exercise with a break down of time spent in heart rate zones. That heart rate sensor also powers stress tracking and PAI scores, which both Bands support.
The Mi Band 6 additionally includes an SpO2 sensor that will let you take on the spot blood oxygen measurements and can also be used when you switch on the sleep breathing quality feature.
This means it can be used to help detect breathing disturbances, which may could help offer insight into why you might have had an interrupted sleep. Whether that’s related to exercising late or having a drink. Xiaomi is keen to stress though that it’s not to be used for medical purposes and doesn’t carry any sort of regulatory approval.
You also get the same sleep monitoring with a breakdown of sleep stages including REM sleep, which is tied to memory and learning. You’ll get a sleep score, some analysis and let you see how your sleep compares to other users. The Bands largely offer up a similar performance for sleep tracking, which can have its good and bad moments on the accuracy front.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6
It’s also a solid daily activity tracker, counting steps, distance covered, calories burn and offering idle alerts when you stay stationary for too long. It largely matched up with trackers from Garmin and Fitbit in our testing, though the Band 6 was on occasion quite far off step counts of the Fitbit.
You also have the PAI score, which measures time spent at elevated heart rate, scoring your weekly effort out of 100. If you pay attention to the figure, you can be sure you’re getting the WHO-advised 150 minutes of activity per week, not just a count of steps.
A lot of these metrics rely on the heart rate monitor, and we’d say it’s a bit of a mix bag in terms of what we experienced on the Band 5 and Band 6. The former performed well for continuous heart rate data but was iffy for high intensity exercise. In our testing, the Band 6 generally posted significantly higher continuous data and during exercise.
If you’re looking for the most accurate heart rate tracking, this might not be the device for you. But it can still offer useful guidance about your activity – as long as you’re not using heart rate data for medical purposes.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Sports tracking features
Mi Band 6 (left) and Mi Band 5 (right)
For sports tracking, the way you track exercise is the same. The Mi Band 5 offers 11 dedicated workout modes and the 6 has 30, but core sports like running, cycling, swimming (pool only) are available across both as are indoor rowing and jump rope, which offer skipping and rowing-specific metrics.
The Mi Band 6 has profiles for things like basketball, volleyball, cricket, bowling and boxing. You just won’t be able to track jabs or your slog sweeps. It’s just workout duration and heart rate data only.
Performance-wise, the Band 5 and 6 offer similar experiences. For outdoor activities, you can use connected GPS to map routes, which uses your phone’s tracking capabilities if you take it out with you. But ensure your phone has a good line of sight to the sky, where possible, to ensure it can track accurately.
Indoor activities like rowing and skipping work well and heart rate monitoring for workouts is good for steady paced exercise time, but does unsurprisingly struggle at high intensity.
All of your data lives inside the Mi Fit app, and you do have the option to send data over to Google Fit and Strava.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Smartwatch features
Mi Band 6 (left) and Mi Band 5 (right)
For smartwatch features, everything you get on the Mi Band 6 you already get on the Mi Band 5. Both work with Android phones and iPhones and cover those smartwatch staples.
You can view notifications, control music, view weather forecasts, set alarms and reminders, view the time from different time zones and have your pick of a rich collection of watch faces.
What you don’t get here is payments, apps, a music player or smart assistants. Only a handful of those features are really available at this price, so that’s no surprise.
The features that are present work in pretty much the same way. You can’t respond to notifications for instance, and can look a little cramped on the small screen. The larger display on the 6 though does mean things like music controls and weather information can show off more data.
They’re level pegged in this department with both offering a good, problem-free experience based on our time with them.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Battery life
Both Bands use the same 125mAh capacity battery, which should get you up to two weeks of battery life. To get that maximum number, you’ll need to sacrifice features like continuous heart rate monitoring or opting for a larger interval recording time. You’ll also need to turn off all-day stress tracking and advanced sleep monitoring and go easy on screen brightness.
Based on our testing in similar usage with all features enabled and regular use of workout tracking, the Mi Band 5 got us a week. The Mi Band 6 got us closer to 10 days. So it looks like the 6 is able to push things a little further despite using the same battery here.
Ultimately, you’re going to get a solid week’s worth of tracking with all features in use on both fronts, with the 6 seemingly able to edge you closer to those maximum 14 days.
Xiaomi Mi Band 6 v Mi Band 5: Which should you buy?
So, if you have the choice, do you go new Mi Band or old Mi Band? Well, the key differences is that improved screen, larger number of workout modes and the SpO2 sensor here that you get on the Mi Band 6 that you don’t get on the Band 5. Those additions that really make the 6 more desirable though is that more impressive screen.
The display on the Mi Band 5 though is still very good though and while you might miss out on squeezing in an extra app icon, it’s still a bright, colourful place to check the time and your stats. While the 6 offers more workout modes, the core ones that offer richer metrics are already in place. The extra are really more about giving you a better way to tag activities with just duration and heart rate on offer.
The uses of the SpO2 sensor on the Mi Band 6 don’t feel hugely insightful (yet), but that could change if Xiaomi makes the data more actionable in the future.
If you have a Mi Band 5, we honestly don’t think there’s huge reasons here to rush to upgrade. If you’re choosing between the 5 and the 6, it’s such a small price difference that grabbing the 6 makes sense.