Poco by Xiaomi is the company’s new sub-brand that wants to launch a global flagship. The first product is the Poco F1, a phone with flagship-level specifications and a price (Rs 20,999 starting) that makes you wonder just exactly how Poco arrived at this.
Poco F1 was launched in India first, and the brand has also introduced the flagship in other markets like France, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. With Poco, the idea is clearly a global brand, though India is obviously getting all the attention.
At a starting price of Rs 20,999 going to up to Rs 29,999 for the most premium Kevlar edition, Poco F1 causes a lot of hype in India, where specifications often dominate the conversation. The other obvious connection that’s being made: Poco F1 is here to destroy OnePlus, which has managed to dominate India’s premium smartphone segment (above Rs 30,000).
But price aside, does Poco F1 live up to the hype? After all an affordable flagship is no guarantee of great performance? Here’s what we thought after reviewing the Poco F1.
Poco F1 specifications: 6.1-inch Full HD+ display | Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor | 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage | 12MP+5MP rear camera | 20MP front camera | 4,000mAh battery | Android Oreo 8.1 with MIUI 9.6 on top.
Poco F1 price in India: (Kevlar edition) Rs 29,999
Poco F1 review: Design and Display
Poco F1 has an interesting proposition in terms of design. There’s no metal unibody, there’s no glass at the back like the OnePlus 6, which looks very premium and polished. Instead Xiaomi’s sub-brand Poco has gone with plastic polycarbonate body. In a world where metal unibody is seen as the benchmark of premium, this design choice is likely to invite some criticism. But it looks like Poco understood this could be one of the problematic points.
So they also have a Kevlar Armoured Edition with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, which is supposed to be the premium variant. In fact, the review unit we got is the premium Kevlar Armoured Edition. This particular variant has Kevlar fiber at the back, which gives it a very different touch and feel, without the slipperiness and fragility that a glass or metal body often brings.
For those who are wondering, the Kevlar edition is not bulletproof, though Kevlar is usually used in bulletproof jackets, etc. Still Poco F1’s Kevlar variant has a unique design and my preference lies towards this variant. The polycarbonate body variants, while they come in some interesting colour options like Red and Blue, do not really feel that premium.
Still I had no trouble using Poco F1 with one-hand, and the device does feel like a flagship. Poco F1 is compact for a flagship with a 4000 mAh battery.
Coming to the display Poco F1 has a 6-inch display with full HD+ resolution. Poco is sticking with the LCD display like we have seen on other Xiaomi branded phones. It also comes with a notch on top, and the aspect ratio is 18.7:9.
This is might not be an SAMOLED display like on Samsung phones in this price range, but for videos and games, the screen is good value for money. Coming to the notch, users have the option of hiding it, which might come as relief to many. I used the display extensively for watching movies, gaming, etc and there’s very little to fault here.
Poco F1 review: Performance, Software
Poco F1 creates a lot of hype in the performance department, and so far in the course of my review it has managed to live up to most of the claim. Now, keep in mind that I have the premium variant for review which has 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. Still the Snapdragon 845 processor means that performance is not a problem on this device.
Switching between apps, opening multiple apps, running games like Asphalt 9, Nova Legacy, etc, all of it works without any problems. Does the device heat up significantly? After all liquid cooling is one of the big claims made by this phone. I did not notice that during the gaming sessions with Asphalt 9, though I have to admit I’m not playing PUGB, etc on this.
But I have to admit, ‘Speed’ has not been an issue on the Poco F1, which is a key feature being promised by the company. In the benchmark tests, Poco F1 scored among the top five devices on Antutu (2,65,501) and in GeekBench it scored 2461 in single-core and in 8938 multi-core, which is higher than the other devices on the list and in line with other flagships running this processor.
Poco F1 also gets its own launcher called the Poco launcher. The phone is on Android Oreo 8.1 with MIUI 9.6. For one, it brings an app drawer to the MIUI phone, which has so far been missing on Xiaomi phones. The apps are grouped according to categories, though it doesn’t quite get all the categories right. I mean what is Google Maps doing in lifestyle. You can even arrange apps according to the colour of the icon, which is an interesting take on the user interface.
Poco F1 also has Face Unlock with Infrared feature to ensure it works in total darkness. So far, I found the Face Unlock to be quick and accurate. Yes it works fine even in total darkness and opens the phone without any fuss. Poco also claims the Face Unlock can’t be fooled by photos of you, though when you are setting up the feature it does warn that biometrics are not as secure as say relying on PIN or pattern for your phone security.
Poco F1 review: Camera
Poco F1 has a 12MP+5MP camera and 20MP front camera. The big question for many: Is this better than the OnePlus 6 camera? I would say it comes close in some scenarios, though in Portrait mode, Poco F1 is not my favourite.
Nonetheless, the camera did surprise me. It is capable of capturing some stunning shots in outdoor lighting, and compared to other Xiaomi flagships I’ve tried in the past, this is certainly ahead of them.The photos have enough details, the colours are vibrant and even shots taken indoors look good.
Portrait mode does deliver some good results, though again a lot of it adjusting, patience and getting the right angle. One thing I did notice is that in indoor lighting, details in Portrait are often not sharp, since there is a lot of software-level brightening taking place for the photos. The loss of details in some portrait shots is obvious in these scenarios.
The AI mode is not so bad either and does not tweak photos to the point that they appear unnatural. Selfies are actually quite impressive and on par with what the competition offers. However, Portrait mode in selfies is not entirely accurate and at times your hair, etc might be blurred.
Poco F1 review: Battery
Poco F1 also comes with a 4000 mAh battery which is easily one of the biggest pros of the phone. It will easily last a day. I watched 2 movies on this (around 2 plus for each) along with YouTube, WhatsApp messages buzzing in, etc and the phone dropped to only under 50 per cent. One thing is clear, with Poco F1, one does not have to worry about charging this every day. Still charging the phone does take longer than two hours.
Poco F1 review: Verdict
For many users, the biggest talking point about this phone will be the price. At Rs 20,999 Poco F1 is a steal, though the plastic body might be a sore point for some users. Still for those who want something more premium Poco F1 has a Kevlar option that is affordable compared to the competition.
So far, Poco F1 gets it right with performance, camera and battery life, which is important on any phone. Is this phone better than the OnePlus 6? I’d still give the edge to the OnePlus 6’s camera, performance. Yes, that glass design, while adding fragility, also makes OnePlus 6 seem much more premium.
In my opinion, Poco is trying to carve a niche in the Rs 20-30,000 price range, where the options can often vary in terms of performance, camera and battery life. This is not to say Poco F1 will be a best-seller by end of 2018. After all, it took OnePlus years to establish itself in the Indian market. Still I would say that for those who want a flagship under Rs 30,000 right now, Poco F1 is certainly a favourable option.