FiiO X5 3rd gen unboxing
- Mature design
- Great sound
- Ability to install 3rd party apps
- Good Price point
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Dual card slots
- Fast charging
- Slow start up
- Slight play in buttons
- Sotrage trays not the most convenient
- Screen’s outdoor legibility
- Dimensions: 114.2mm x 66.2mm x 14.8mm
- Operating system: Deeply customized Android 5.1.1
- Frequency response: 5 Hz – 55 kHz (-3dB)
- SNR: ≥ 115 dB (A-weighted)
- THD+N: ≤ 0.003% (1 kHz)
- Channel separation: 73 dB (1 kHz)
- Output impedance: 1Ω (32-Ohm load)
- Formats supported: APE, FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, OGG, MP3, DFF, DSF,DXD, ISO
Fiio have become rather clever with their packaging. It doesn’t look or feel cheap, but it doesn’t scream premium either. This is ok, though, as any and all packaging costs will eventually be passed onto the consumers. What we get, is a relatively simple but colourful box. Oddly enough, There’s no mention of the X5’s name on the front of the box. The majority of the packaging is black and offers quite minimal information. The back, for example, lists some of the features, but not really any of the detailed specifications such as power output, frequency response, supported file formats, or battery capacity. All in all the packaging seems sufficient enough not to diminish the relative value of the device.
What’s in the box?
- FiiO X5 3rd Gen.
- Silicone case
- Leatherette case
- Micro-USB cable
- COAX adapter cable
- Quick start guide
- External storage tray removal tool
Fiio surprised us here by including 2 different cases for the X5iii. The one is a clear, soft silicone case, and the other is a black leatherette case which features red stitching. However, neither cases are of particularly good quality. The silicone case features some “plugs” which cover the balanced, lineout/COAX, and USB ports. However, after just a few days the cover for the micro-USB port no longer “fits” the port due to having to bend it out of the way to attach the micro-USB cable. The leatherette case, on the other hand, has a typical artificial leather look and feel, so keep a look out for a real leather case from Dignis if you want a more premium case. But the fact that Fiio included a leatherette case at all is much appreciated, and would suffice in terms of protecting the majority of the device from scratches.
A slight disappointment is that Fiio did not include a charger for the “international version” X5iii, whilst the ones sold in China do come with one included in the box.
Also included is a COAX adapter cable, but it should be noted that the RCA end of the COAX cable is a female, so you will need another adapter if your external DAC does not have a male connection.
In the past, Fiio always included at least 2 screen protectors (one already applied to the device from the factory), however, this time round they’ve only included the single pre-applied tempered-glass protector. Whilst this is a nice upgrade in terms of being tempered-glass, perhaps they should have included an addition protector just in case the pre-applied one does become scratched or cracked. No apparent information has been given as to whether or not consumers will be able to purchase replacement protectors.
Body and layout
There’s no denying it, FiiO X5 3rd Gen is a handsome, yet elegant little bugger. Fiio have come a hell of a long way with their DAP designs. It’s quite possibly their most mature and refined design to date. Gone are the scroll-wheels, and just like the X7, your main interaction with the device is through the touch screen. Some physical buttons have been retained, but most notable is the addition of an analogue volume pot. This is a total first for Fiio, in terms of their dedicated audio players, and a welcomed change at that. Along the right-hand side is the power button, as well as the dual MicroSD card slots. Fiio went for something quite interesting here, designing the card slots to function the same way as the Sim-card trays on modern smartphones. This means that the card slots are sealed and sit flush with the body of the device, and also require the use of a special pin to eject each tray. Whilst this certainly does make for a very sophisticated and clean looking device, some people may find this a bit annoying if they either lose or forget to take this pin with them in case they need to swap or replace either card. On the left-hand side is the play/pause button, a rocker switch for skipping between tracks, and the aforementioned volume pot. The most interesting thing about this volume pot is how Fiio have orientated it. Whilst much of the device’s overall design borrows from the likes of Pioneer and Astel&Kern, the volume control is rather different. Fiio’s design is a much more ergonomic design for one-handed use. The volume can easily be adjusted with just your thumb, whereas the orientation on other players really require the use of your other hand to adjust the volume. However, it should be noted that the entire layout of the device does feel more comfortable and ergonomic to use in the left hand, rather than the right, mainly due to the location of the volume pot. This seems a bit odd as most people are right-handed. It may very well have been a better design to leave the play/pause and volume buttons on the left, and simply move the volume pot to the right-hand side of the device. But, even for right handed people, holding and operating the device in the left hand does not feel completely uncomfortable or awkward.
The most apparent annoyance with the button layout seems to be the position of the power button, especially when the device is laid down. When pressing any button on a device’s sides, you inevitably need to apply some kind of force on the opposite side too with one of your other fingers. Because of this, trying to press the power button can be annoying and/or frustrating, as it is positioned directly opposite the play/pause button. So, when pressing the power button, you’d often end up pressing the play/pause button too. You could try and position your fingers in a way to avoid this, but the margin for error is pretty slim, even less so when using the leatherette case.
Along the bottom you’ll find the COAX/Line-out combo jack, the Micro-USB port, a 2.5mm Balanced jack, and the usual 3.5mm jack.
FiiO X5 3rd Gen features a large 3.97-inch IPS touchscreen. Screen resolution is 480×800, which gives a pretty mediocre pixel density of 233pi. This is roughly the same screen density as you’d find on a 6.3-inch 720p display.
The biggest problem, however, is how reflective the screen is. This isn’t nearly as bad as the utter embarrassment found on Fiio’s own M3, but it does make outdoor legibility fairly challenging. It’s a pity really, as the rest of the device is so beautifully designed and crafted, so much so that the screen almost feels like a bit of an after-thought. Perhaps if Fiio creates a theme which features better contrast for their music app, it would make things easier outdoors. Auto-brightness is also not possible with this device.
It should be pointed out, though, that the X5iii does have a tempered-glass screen protector already applied out of the box. This screen protector may, or may not, be contributing to the high levels of reflectiveness, but unfortunately this couldn’t be tested as Fiio did not include an additional screen protector in the box
Thankfully, interacting with the screen is quite responsive though. Not quite as good as what you’d get on a flagship smartphone, but really not all that far off.
Start up is pretty darn slow. In order to turn on the device, you need to hold the power button down for now less than 2 seconds. Anything less than this and the device won’t turn on. Once you did hold the button down for those 2 seconds, the next 4 seconds or so are a period of uncertainty as nothing appears to happen. It’s only after those 4 seconds that the blue LED in the centre of the power button light’s up. At this point, feel free to go make yourself a cup of coffee, because you’ll be waiting another 45 seconds until the device is fully powered on and ready to use. This means that it takes roughly a full minute for you to turn on the X5iii…talk about slow. This seems to be the X5iii’s biggest flaw though.
Sometimes the UI can seem a little slow, but this is mainly due to Android’s screen animations and transitions. Fortunately, we can apply a very basic little Android tweak to speed things up. Head over to Settings, scroll down to About device, then tap on Build number a couple of times in quick succession. This will enable the Developer options. Go back to the main Settings screen, and right above About device you’ll find Developer options. Enter Developer options and scroll until you find Window animation scale. Tapping on this will reveal some options, and by selecting Animation off will turn off the transition. Do the same for the following 2 settings, Transition animation scale and Animator duration scale. You should now notice a more responsive interface.
In the past there has been a lot of criticism thrown at Fiio for releasing their players with incomplete software. It seems that Fiio finally listened and decided to delay the release of the FiiO X5 3rd Gen to markets outside of China. This was a very good move on their part, as the initial software on the device was a bit buggy, but nowhere near as buggy as the release software on their past devices. There have been 2 software updates so far, and things have improved. As of writing this review, no major bugs or silly mistakes seem to be present in the software. So major kudos to Fiio for putting in the effort to get things right before releasing the device to its worldwide audience.
Whilst the software found on the X5iii is a deeply customized and slimmed down version of Android 5.1.1, You can still install 3rd party apps such as HibyMusic, Tidal, and Spotify.
Back when Fiio introduced us to its X7 player, they implemented Android in the same manner. They also introduced us to their idea of having the device operating in 2 different modes; Android mode, and Pure Music mode. Android mode, as the name suggests, is when the device operates much the same way as any other Android device. Pure Music mode, on the other hand, is when the only app allowed to run is Fiio’s own Pure Music app. On the X7, switching between these modes required the device to reboot. On the X5iii, however, the switch is quick and simple, and requires no reboot.
Fiio have made some changes to their Pure Music app, including 2 different themes, the option to view a VU meter, as well including Viper Effects. Anyone who is accustomed to installing custom ROMs on their Android devices will no doubt be familiar with Viper4Android. This app/service basically installs its own audio drivers and allows the user to make quite a few changes as to how the audio is processed and presented. Fiio have basically imbedded this app/service within their own Pure Music app, pretty much the same idea as what you’d find with Cowon’s Jet Effect processing. Unfortunately, the way Fiio have included Viper Effects, much of its functionality need to be unlocked by paying for the various features
Something that Fiio’s various players and devices always do well is to stay true to the very purpose of the device; to do audio, and to do it well. FiiO X5 3rd Gen is no different here, and Fiio have managed to step things up from their past devices.
The X5iii features Fiio’s usual “slightly warmer than neutral” sound signature, but is arguably their best sounding device to date, featuring a very natural presentation. The dual AKM DACs offer plenty of detail, resolution, and soundstage, and it doesn’t seem likely that anyone would be utterly disappointed with the performance. The X5iii can handle PCM formats up to a whopping 384kHz/32-bit, and DSD formats up to DSD128, although it only supports up to 192kHz/24-bit when used as a USB DAC.
Something that is pretty much completely absent with the X5iii’s sound is sibilance. The AKM DACs have so much control over the sound that they only time you’ll notice sibilance is with overly bright headphones/IEMs or tracks which are inherently sibilant. Fiio have managed to give us a very smooth and refined sound, resulting in hours of enjoyment with very little (if any) fatigue. This does mean that micro details can sometimes not come across quite a resolving as on other players, but this only adds to its overall natural tonality, rather than a downright clinical or analytical sound. Perhaps that is how the sound signature should be defined: Wonderfully natural. At no point does the sound feel forced or artificial.
The sound stage isn’t quite as wide as, for example, the iBasso DX80, but it is awfully close. It’s not as immersive as something like the IFI Micro iDSD BL, but there aren’t many devices that can duplicate the IFI’s awesomeness either. But we need to keep in mind here that we are dealing with a standalone audio player; an all-inclusive package. As such, it’s perhaps unfair to compare it to an external DAC like the IFI, especially considering that the X5iii is a fair bit cheaper than the IFI.
The only minor complaints are very slight hissing (only with really sensitive IEMs), and the pops and clicks when inserting or removing a cable from the headphone jack.
FiiO X5 3rd Gen also offers Apt-X for Bluetooth streaming; a very welcomed addition. Bluetooth range is also excellent, almost matching that of the Samsung Galaxy S7.
All things considered, the X5iii offers exceptionally good sound for such a compact device.
It’s difficult to decide which of Fiio’s DAPs has the best value; the X5iii or the X1ii. Whilst the X1ii has Bluetooth and sounds fantastic at its price point, the X5iii features dual card slots, Apt-X, WiFi, the ability to install 3rd party apps, can be used as an external DAC, has a balanced output, and a gorgeous design. So perhaps, despite costing nearly 4 times as much as the X1ii, the X5iii is on par in terms of value. Everything is an upgrade, which very well might make the X5iii the best value portable player available as of right now. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone who purchases this device will be left feeling disappointed with it. But perhaps the most interesting thing about the X5iii is what it means for Fiio’s future devices. It’s certainly a major leap in the right direction, and other manufacturers are really going to have to pull their fingers out if they want to keep up with Fiio. We could very well end up seeing Fiio become a total market leader simply due to how much value they’ve packed into this product.
The NO BULL rating system is designed to take as many aspects of the device into account as possible. As such, we have a basic rating, as well as a final rating. The basic rating rates the product purely as a high quality portable audio device, and is generally a good indicator of how it stacks up to its rivals in terms of standard features and specs. The final rating, however, grants bonus points for any extra features and specs that aren’t quite as common, and is a great way to judge the product as a complete package.
Look and feel: 7 / 10
Screen protector: YES
Protective case: YES
Quality control: 8 / 10
Seems durable: YES
Screen quality: 7 / 10
Intuitive interface: 9 / 10
Responsive interface: 8 / 10
Comfortable button layout: 7 /10
Internal storage: YES
Accepts external storage: YES
Relative silence when inserting cables: 5 / 10
Sound stage: 8 / 10
Detail retrieval: 8 / 10
Sibilance: 9 / 10
Instrument separation: 8 / 10
Neutrality of sound signature: 8 / 10
Ability to EQ: YES
Plays lossless audio: YES
Plays 24-bit: YES
Hiss: 7 / 10
Small size: 7 / 10
Relatively low weight: 7 / 10
battery life more than 8 hours: YES
Competitive price-point: YES
Relative value: 9 / 10
Released the device with relatively bug-free software: 9 / 10
Is prompt with software updates: 7 / 10
Is active and prompt on forums/social-media: 9 / 10
Basic Rating: 7.7 / 10
Bass boost: –
Various digital filters: 4
Allows 3rd party apps: YES
Number of cables included: 2
Number of gain positions: 2
Fast charging: YES
Premium case: –
Premium look and feel of the device: 9 / 10
Number of digital connections: 2
Number of analogue connections: 3
Power adapter included: –
Balanced output: YES
Dual card slots: YES
Touch screen: YES
Dual DAC setup: YES
Premium DAC chip(s) used: YES
Screen protectors included: 1
Use of metal and/or glass: YES
Plays DSD: YES
Plays 32-bit: YES
Ultra low power-saving mode: –
Wireless connection quality: 9 / 10
Gapless playback: /10
Final Rating: 9.2