When prime flagships are revolving around the price of some $1000, the Pocophone F1 came out of nowhere and took the smartphone market by storm. A $300 phone having flagship specs got everyone intrigued and even raised a few eyebrows. And then came all the comparisons, even against those smartphones that cost three times its price. And yes, you probably have seen a lot of reviews on the Poco F1. But, here are my impressions on the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 after a month of usage.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 Specifications:
- Operating System: Android Oreo 8.0
- Display: 6.18-inches IPS LCD
- Resolution: 1080 x 2246 pixels
- CPU: Octa-core 4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 385 Silver
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- GPU: Adreno 630
- RAM: 6 or 8 GB
- Storage: 64 or 128 or 256 GB
- Rear Camera: 12 MP f/1.8 + 5 MP depth sensor, Dual LED flash, Panorama, HDR, etc.
- Front Camera: 20 MP f/2.0
- Battery: 4,000 mAh Li-Po non-removable with Quick charge 3.0
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/c/b/g/n, WiFi Direct, Hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0
- Sensors: Fingerprint (rear- mounted), Accelerometer, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer, Compass, Infrared Face Recognition.
- Price (6/64GB): INR 20,999 (Rs. 33,600 or $300)
- Price (6/128GB): INR 23,999 (Rs. 38,400 or $343)
- Price (8/256GB): INR 28,999 (Rs. 46,400 or $415)
- Price (Armoured Edition, 8/256GB): INR 29,999 (Rs. 48,000 or $429)
Well, let’s start by talking about the most intriguing feature of this device, the Snapdragon 845 chipset with the liquid cooling system. With a flagship chipset and more than enough RAM at disposal, I played a lot of games on this phone and the performance was fluid. I did not face any sort of lags or stutter even while playing in high settings.
After my success with PUBG, I tried installing Asphalt 8 and Asphalt 9 as well. However, the phone does not support these games. Although Jai Mani, the head of the product branch of Pocophone announced via tweet that the issue with the Asphalt 9 was resolved, I am still having some problems with it. I couldn’t find Asphalt 9 on the Play Store in the Pococphone. And when I tried to download it through my browser, it redirected to Google Play, which, simply mentioned that the device didn’t support it. So you have that.
I also played other high-end games like Dead Trigger 2, Shadowgun Legends, and Dream League Soccer. And I enjoyed it. One thing that I really liked it how the phone stayed relatively cool during gaming sessions, which was quite great. All thanks to its Liquid Cooling technology, and also the plastic back, which dissipates less heat. This is a really cool feature for a smartphone available at $300.
Another good thing about this device is the camera setup. The Poco F1 offered me a pleasant surprise while capturing the images. I did not have much expectation from the phone since the Xiaomi phones had fairly disappointed us in the past on the camera department. But with the Poco F1, you can get images with plenty of details, decent color accuracy, and respectable dynamic range.
Under ample lighting conditions, you can get some amazing photos. However, the low light shots were not that impressive. The images contain noises and grains as you can see in these images.
The pair of camera on the back is meant only for depth sensing. The portrait images do have great edge-detection and intelligent background blurring. And in most of the times, the portrait photos captured from the Poco F1 does look like they are shot from the premium handsets.
Even on the video side, the Poco F1 is equally great. Although the phone lacks Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), there is an Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) to keep the shakes and vibration in the videos to the minimum. And the captured videos do have quite a stability to them. Subjects in the videos too possess sufficient amount of sharpness in them. So I don’t have complaints here. What I liked among all the features in the phone is the ability to shoot HD and Full-HD videos at 240fps. While this feature really comes handy when capturing slow-motion videos, the slow-motion is not as good as you’d find on other phones.
Talking about selfies, there is a 20MP selfie shooter. Selfies taken from the phone looks really great with abundant details in them. There is also a beauty mode to enhance your selfies for enhancing the skin tone and removing acne and facial blemishes.
On the Poco F1, you get portrait mode even on the selfies. This does take your mainstream selfies to another level but it is not particularly impressive. Since there is just a single camera on the front, detecting the edges and blurring the background is done entirely through the software. So, the portrait selfies are usually a hit or a miss. But, there are plenty of phones that manage to take better portrait selfies even with a single selfie camera.
Comparing the camera with the Galaxy Note 9 and the One Plus 6, the Pocophone F1 holds its own against the beast. There are some differences in the pictures, as it falls short of the Galaxy Note 9 and One Plus 6 image quality, but that’s not very noticeable. The difference is justified by the difference in price among these phones.
To check out all the images in high resolution, Click here.
Design and Build
The other thing I am not particularly impressed with on this device is the design and build. The design of this device is nothing exciting. With a thickness of 8.8mm, it really looks bulky and kind of unattractive. And it has a polycarbonate back, which is just a fancy name for plastic. The plastic back has surely cut down the weight and made it lighter, but it feels cheap on the hold and on the use.
Xiaomi is known for providing metal backs even on their budget phones. Yes, it’s technically not Xiaomi, it’s the sub-brand Pocophone, but this compromise on a so-claimed “flagship killer” does not seem like a plausible step for me. But it’s here, if you don’t like it you can apply a case as well.
There are some advantages with the back as it does not attract fingerprints, so, I did not have to clean it like some of the other flagships. Also, flagship phones with glass usually slip through my hands but since it has a sturdy polycarbonate back, even after the falls, damages were pretty minimal. You can see it for yourself, even after I have dropped it a few times, it still looks good as new.
And talking about something that is NOT new here is the software experience. Xiaomi has added its custom skin MIUI 9.6 on top. MIUI has always lacked an app drawer all these years. But this time, they provided an app drawer in this one, due to which, browsing through apps is relatively easier.
But still, it has not given up on the bloatware. Putting the bloatware issues aside, the Poco F1 is also being criticized for having the DRM or the digital right management Security level of L3 and not L1. This means that you can view contents on Amazon Prime and Netflix only at the maximum resolution of 540p. Streaming HD and Full-HD videos is not possible when the security level is at L3.
The reason for the lockout is that these services are protected by digital rights management (DRM) to prevent the copying and unauthorized redistribution of these kinds of video files.
Most of the smartphones like the OPPO F9, VIVO V11 still have that issue and many people are cool with it. On a small screen of the smartphones that is not quite noticeable. And in the countries like Nepal and India, where the internet is not so fast to stream even the 540p videos, users can barely notice the difference. There are also rumors about fixing the issue with a software update, and I really wish it to be true.
However, this phone is also susceptible to advertisements. What I mean by that is, if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, you will see various ads even when you open File Manager or settings. As annoying as that can be, these are one of the reasons the Pocophone is cheap. So, this is something you have to get used to if you have the Pocophone.
On the Poco F1, there’s a speaker on the right grill and the earpiece forms a stereo speaker setup. With this setup, the sound output from the phone is quite loud and clear. Now it may not have the depth in sound for various genres of music like the flagship phones do but is not that disappointing either. And while playing games, even if the bottom-firing speaker gets obstructed, the sound makes its way to you through the earpiece.
Even on the connectivity side, I have no complaints about the Poco F1. Wi-Fi connectivity and download speed are really great. There was appreciable voice clarity in the phone calls and I did not face any call drops using both the NTC and Ncell SIM cards.
Digging deep into the connectivity side, I found that the phone lacks NFC feature. It might be another aspect where Xiaomi made a cut. Although the absence of the NFC is not a huge deal in the countries like Nepal and India, users in US and European regions may not be able to get along without the feature.
The area where Xiaomi has been generous is in the security. This phone comes with a Fingerprint scanner and Face Unlock feature as a biometric authentication tool. The fingerprint on the phone is really fast. It unlocks the phone almost instantaneously. And for the Face Unlock feature, the front camera and IR sensor come into play. With this setup, the facial mapping is accurate and unlocking the handset with this feature is abrupt as well. Even on the pitch-dark condition, the unlocking speed was somewhat similar. And there was no additional problem whatsoever. So I must say the Infrared sensor has done a really good job here.
On the front, you get a 6.2-inch IPS Panel. Although the IPS display does fail to reproduce pitch black and inky colors like the Super AMOLED displays, I was not disappointed with the color accuracy on the phone. I was fairly impressed with the viewing angle, contrast ratio, and the color saturation. However, the thick bezel at the bottom and a wide notch on the top are definitely something you need to live up with.
Xiaomi has squeezed an earpiece and various sensors including the IR sensor in that notch whereas, the chin houses a notification LED. It is really a weird place to put a notification LED and it took a lot of time for me to get used to it. Whether it be in a weird place, having one is definitely better than having none. So I was ok about it after spending some time with it.
Continuing with the display, the Poco F1 features Full-HD+ resolution and looks sufficiently bright. It has good sunlight visibility. So, even on a bright sunny day, I did not have any problems while viewing the contents on the phone. The phone is also said to come with an old gen Gorilla Glass 3 protection. But since I am absolutely careless with my phone, I put on a tempered glass before I started using it.
Now, I had mentioned earlier that the phone looks bulkier with a thickness of 8.8mm, and the battery is one of the reasons for it. Poco F1 sports a massive 4000mAh battery, which backed me for more than a day on the normal usage. At the end of the day, I always ended up with 25% to 30% on my phone. So I was fairly satisfied with the backup. Charging the battery is also quite hassle-free on the phone. Unlike the iPhones, the smartphone comes bundled with a quick charger Version 3, with which the battery is refilled in around 1 hour and 45 minutes. The phone does support Quick Charge 4+ but availability is an issue here in Nepal.
Conclusion and Verdict
The Poco F1 has made some compromises to keep the prices low. And the plastic back is one of them. However, it is not a huge deal and users can surely live with it by putting a premium case. Since the phone is targeted to the Asian users, the absence of NFC is not that noticeable as well. And talking about the Digital Right Management, I believe that the Poco F1 was pushed forward as a scapegoat. A lot of popular phones are still running with the DRM Security level of L3. So nitpicking that flaw on Poco F1 might have been intentionally brought to kill the hype of the Poco F1.
To sum it up, Poco F1 is a great phone, which costs one-third the price of iPhone XS or the Galaxy Note 9 and nearly half the price of the “flagship killer” OnePlus 6. So needless to say, the Poco F1 offers a great value for money. Except for a few downsides, Poco F1 is obviously one of the best smartphones on the market for the money. We do not deny that there are plenty of rooms for improvements on the phone. And we hope that Xiaomi will come with all the issues fixed and with better hardware & design on the Poco F2.
Unfortunately, as great as this phone is, its availability is pretty limited. It doesn’t cater to markets like US, Canada, or such. And even though it goes on Flash sales in India, as of now it’s not available in Nepal. For now, we can only rely on Xiaomi Nepal to make it available here soon.
Poco F1 Pros and Cons
|– Affordable Price||– Cheap design|
|– Top Class Performance||– Average low light camera performance|
|– Superb Battery Life|
|– Good Cameras|