Product: POCO F1

Launch price: 20,999

Key specs: Snapdragon 845 SoC, 4,000mAh battery, 6.2-inch Full HD+ display

Rating: 4/5

When Xiaomi sub-brand POCO launched the POCO F1 last week, it focused on providing a more functional device to a very niche category of smartphone users – the enthusiasts. However, after a week of use, we have come to the conclusion that it can cater to people outside its target audience. Let’s find out why.

POCO has taken more of a utilitarian design approach for the F1. It skips the glass back to provide a more durable polycarbonate coating, which is practically crack and shatter proof. It also trades off a slimmer profile to accommodate a larger battery. It’s interesting to note that the phone has the same thickness as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but weighs less than it.

It securely fits in the hand and, thanks to the material, it doesn’t have the tendency to slip off. The buttons are well placed and will always be in reach.

The polycarbonate back reinforced with kevlar has started wearing off on the Poco F1
The polycarbonate back reinforced with kevlar has started wearing off on the Poco F1

The polycarbonate back has started wearing off a bit from the corners within a couple of weeks of use, which is my main area of concern with the choice of material.

There’s also a tiny protrusion present centrally on the bottom of the rear. It is a part of the main frame, so to accommodate it Xiaomi has made a hole in the rear covering. My guess is Xiaomi put this to balance the phone better on a flat surface, similar to a Google Pixel. It has another function I discovered during my time of use — cleaning your pockets, as it is a lint magnet.

The tiny protrusion below the POCO logo is a lint magnet
The tiny protrusion below the POCO logo is a lint magnet

Coming to the front of the phone, the POCO F1 features a 6.2-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 2246x1080 and a pixel density of 403ppi. The screen is alright, it is adequately bright outdoors, reproduces colour pretty well and has decent viewing angles. But as is the case with most LCD displays, they lack the vibrance and contrast that AMOLED screens offer.

We didn’t face any issues with the screen while playing games, watching movies and even regular browsing.

It does possess a notch bigger than most other phones, but that’s because of the flood illuminator and the infrared camera it houses, apart from the selfie camera and the earpiece. The chin is also considerably bigger, but that trade-off works for it as well because it makes the phone easier to hold and you’ll grow used to it in no time.

Coming to the internals, the phone is rocking a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC coupled with an Adreno 630 GPU. Storage and memory options are spread across three variants: 6GB RAM with 64GB internal storage, 6GB RAM with 128GB internal storage and 8GB RAM with 256GB storage. This phone comes with Xiaomi’s thermal solution called LiquidCooling, which helps keep the CPU temperatures low. This is not a marketing gimmick – it does help the power hungry Snapdragon 845 stay cool and provide its peak performance. Even after about an hour of gaming and watching videos, the CPU temperature remained around 40 degrees, which is not bad at all.

Using the phone for day-to-day tasks like browsing and scrolling through your feed is just like on any other flagship smartphone – fluid and effortless. The speakers are decent too, if not the loudest, so your video watching experience will also be good.

The gaming performance is very good – no frame drops or CPU heating issues. I’ve tried a mix of casual and hardcore games along with a few video editing applications on the device, and it handled all of them very well. The only minor issue I had was while playing Asphalt 9 – I noticed the graphics didn’t look very good even at the highest settings, as there was noticeable pixelation of the cars. It may be a software problem, but that really marred my experience with the phone, since it is one of my favourite games to play. PUBG and video editing software ‘Quik’ performed buttery smooth on this phone.

Benchmark scores for the POCO F1: AnTuTu (left) and Geekbench (right)
Benchmark scores for the POCO F1: AnTuTu (left) and Geekbench (right)

The phone is backed by a 4,000mAh battery, which lasts a day and a half in light to moderate use. I didn’t have to worry about it even if I started my day with 80% charge. On a lazy weekend with heavy use involving gaming and Netflix streaming, you’ll drain it out within 9 hours, which is also not bad.

The camera set-up – a 12MP+5MP dual rear camera on the rear and 20MP camera on the front — renders daytime photos rich in detail, sharpness and colour. Dynamic range is also on point. It focuses fairly quickly and has nearly no shutter, so I had no problem clicking photos in a hurry. Night photography was also good for a phone this price — noise wasn’t an issue and the photos were relatively crisp.

The selfie camera beats a lot of its competitors during daytime use. Photos taken at night appear to be a little soft, but still usable. Overall, you won’t have to worry about your Instagram game with this device.

POCO F1’s camera performance indoors, Note: Photo is resized for web
POCO F1’s camera performance indoors, Note: Photo is resized for web
POCO F1 Macro performance indoors. Note: Photo is resized for web
POCO F1 Macro performance indoors. Note: Photo is resized for web
POCO F1’s selfie camera performance. Note: Photo is resized for web
POCO F1’s selfie camera performance. Note: Photo is resized for web

On the software front, the POCO F1 runs Android Oreo 8.1 with POCO Launcher, based on MIUI, atop. It’s the standard Xiaomi affair – if you’re a MIUI user, you’ll have no issues getting used to the interface.

The new launcher comes with better customizability and categorisation, so you won’t be looking around for your apps here and there. You can sort apps in the app drawer according to their genre and even search for them.

I’m not a big fan of it, so I put a launcher on it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

At the launch event, Jai Mani, product head of POCO, announced that POCO will receive the Android Pie update later this year, so those looking for upgradability are also sorted.

Wrapping up, the phone is so fiercely priced for a package this well rounded that it is hard for us to not recommend it to anyone, doesn’t matter if it is above or below your budget. No doubt, it does cut a few corners to keep the price low, but it gets right what’s being advertised — speed.

If you’re interested in knowing how the POCO brand is trying to dethrone OnePlus as a flagship killer, you click here.

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