Xiaomi Pocophone F1 Review

Xiaomi Pocophone F1

Xiaomi Pocophone F1

Xiaomi

August, 2018
6.18" IPS LCD display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass.
EUR:€290 | USD:$331 | PKR:45,910 | INR:23,499

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Xiaomi Pocophone F1 Review

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 Review


Introduction

Xiaomi launched its new sub-brand, Pocophone, a few days ago and it has taken everyone by surprise. It's a brand especially introduced to cater to enthusiastic crowd as Xiaomi's Redmi series failed to create major impact in the market. With Poco brand, Xiaomi is targeting at consumers who want flagship level phones at a midrange price point, similar to what OnePlus does with their phones. What people were not expecting by Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is how ready it is to rival top smartphones in market, such as OnePlus 6, Huawei Honor Play and even phones which are priced near thousand-dollar price point, like Samsung Galaxy S9. This is truly the most hyped smartphone in quite a while as it is truly exceeding expectations of people for the price it comes for. So, let's dive deep into the phone and find out for ourselves how exciting and good this phone really is.

Design

Xiaomi isn't known for making best-looking budget phones, despite being one of the most popular brands in subcontinent. Their design is not ugly, but it's not as fancy as Honor's premium glass body finish. They usually opt for a more practical approach by using aluminum on body, which of course is more durable. With Xiaomi Pocophone F1, company chose a similar approach. Phone looks and feel rather generic as obviously, no one was expecting Samsung Galaxy Note 9 like levels of design refinement, but it still falls short compared to competitors in its price range, and even some cheaper alternatives. Phone's body is completely made of polycarbonate plastic, with a plastic frame to hold it all together.

At front of phone, there's a large notched display with thick bottom bezel and visible side bezels. Notch is pretty wide as compared to other Android phones but that does come with its advantages. There's an earpiece, selfie camera, proximity sensor and an IR camera for facial recognition packed inside notch, while bottom bezel is left clean.

Back of Xiaomi Pocophone F1 comes with a plastic body, having a metal like finish which tries its best to salvage some premium look on device. There's a dual camera setup in top middle of device, with dual LED flashlight on right side and a fingerprint scanner right below camera setup. Rest of back is kept clean with Pocophone branding at bottom with further manufacturing info below it. Phone also comes in an Armored Edition on which back is completely made of Kevlar carbon fiber giving phone a very rugged yet premium feel.

At right side of device, you'll find a power button with volume keys while left side is where you can have access to sim-tray. At top of phone, there's a pretty motivating sight of a 3.5 mm headphone jack, while at bottom, there's a USB Type-C port and speaker grills.

Xiaomi's logic behind using polycarbonate is that all-glass body phones are more fragile, and people usually apply a case which hides their aesthetic appeal anyway. Metal body, on the other hand, means they have to compromise on either battery size or weight of phone. However, with polycarbonate, they don't have to deal with those problems and of course, it is cheaper which helps them keep the cost of phone within budget. For people who still want a better looking and feeling phone, there's Armored Edition which has soft-touch Kevlar back and feels relatively better in hands, but that feel is exclusive to the highest-priced model. What all this means is that Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is clearly not a head turner when it comes to design. In fact, competitors like Asus Zenfone 5Z and OnePlus 6 would better fit in that category. Even Nokia 7 Plus and Xiaomi's Mi A2 feel more premium.

Having said that, at a low price, you can't have it all. Extraordinary value that phone's base variants offers that we'll talk about next totally makes this design more than forgivable.

Display

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is first Xiaomi phone in to come with an Apple iPhone X-style notch and a good screen. Phone sports a notched 6.18-inch IPS LCD Full HD+ display with a resolution of 1080×2246p, aspect ratio of 18.7:9 and pixel density of 403 ppi. It's a bright display which can achieve 500 nits of maximum brightness. At default settings, Xiaomi Pocophone F1's screen offers decent colors and contrast. However, I found that screen looks much better when I fiddled a little with colors. With good brightness level, sunlight legibility wasn't a concerned for me either with this device.

Xiaomi is quite consistent with their IPS LCD panels for some time now, and same goes for Xiaomi Pocophone F1. Screen looks identical to the one on Xiaomi Mi 8, which is a sub-par panel for a phone of this range. Obviously, it is not as good as an AMOLED but does the job pretty good. Had it been an AMOLED panel, black borders next to notch would have looked evenly-merged with, but that's not the case here. Like most Xiaomi displays, this one also has muted colors and a bluish tint over white, which can be adjusted using increased contrast mode to have punchier output. All in all, it's a good display to read and watch content.

Display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and overall, is quite good for midrange segment. It is certainly not the best display on a phone, not by a mile, but there's nothing particularly bad about it either.

Hardware

Hardware is where things get interesting and Xiaomi Pocophone F1 starts to glitter. I cannot emphasize the fact enough that this phone carries raw power under its hood, which is what makes it such a special device, especially at a price of just $300. Phone is powered by top flagship level processor, Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630 GPU. You get option to choose from 6 GB of RAM with either 64 GB or 128 GB of onboard storage or 8 GB of RAM with 256 GB of storage. If you need more storage, there's MicroSD card support as well with up to 256 GB of external storage support. While 8GB RAM and 256GB storage variant does everything seamlessly, it's unlikely to find any performance issue on the 6GB variant as well. In comparison to OnePlus 6, there's a very small overlap in terms of performance. OnePlus 6 feels slightly quicker while navigating through its interface, and that's mostly because of OxygenOS, which is impressively designed and optimized.

However, that doesn't mean Xiaomi Pocophone F1 lags behind. While playing PUBG, experience was similar to how it is on big dogs such as Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Apple iPhone X or OnePlus 6. It's just a lack of AMOLED panel that has a slight impact on overall gaming experience. Otherwise, it's insanely speedy and powerful for its price. On AnTuTu benchmark test, phone scored 258,149 on 6GB base variant which is a higher score than that of Samsung Galaxy S9+. On 8GB/256GB variant, phone scored a whopping 277,350 which makes it the third highest scored smartphone to date, just below OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Black Shark.

What makes it more interesting is its dedicated thermal management mechanism to keep chipset from overheating, which evidently prevents any CPU throttling and hence, impacts longevity of phone. Xiaomi calls this technology LiquidCool, which has dedicated copper pipes carrying vapors absorb heat from chipset and dissipates it uniformly across body. While this is not something new, it's still a plus to have on a phone that costs much lesser, and also logic explained behind this inclusion makes sense.

These high-end specs continue with dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, GPS and a USB-C port. NFC appears to be market dependent and if you don't need to use microSD card slot, then you can always pop a second SIM. Although there are speaker grilles on either side of USB Type-C port, only one of them is actually speaker. Audio quality is pretty impressive with plenty of volume on offer without too much distortion. A small amount of sound also comes out of the earpiece at the same time which makes this phone have a stereo speaker like effect. For security, phone has a super-fast fingerprint scanner on rear and you can also use face unlock which is more secure than on OnePlus 6. Thanks to an IR scanner, it promises to work in all conditions, even pitch-black darkness and boy oh boy, it works fast.

If I have to describe hardware experience on Xiaomi Pocophone F1 in a few words, I'd say that it has everything power users want, a top-notch performance, loads of memory and silky-smooth experience. For this price, this truly is the best value for money you can get in market right now.

Battery

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 might weigh 180g but for those who wish for a slightly thicker and heavier phone if it means better battery life, then rejoice. There's a 4000mAh battery here which is around a quarter more than average in smartphone market at the moment. This means that phone will last a full day, and with light usage, even a day and half. Inside of battery section in menu is a little complex but there are handy features beyond your usual battery saver. Phone's software can tell you what specifically is using power and indicate how many extra minutes you'll get by sorting it out, whether killing an app or switching off GPS.

During my battery test, I was able to get around nine hours of screen-on time on a single charge, with screen set to 50 percent brightness and a mix of watching video, browsing, using Reddit Sync, and some gaming. There's no wireless charging here, of course, but you can charge your phone quickly via USB Type-C and benefit from Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 which can charge your phone from 0-100% in just over 1 hour 45 minutes. You also get a bundled 9V/2A charger in box which supports Quick Charge 3.0. All this means is that Xiaomi Pocophone F1 certainly wins in battery department as compared to its competitors, as for this price, you won't get it any better.

Camera

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 seems to share most of its internals from Xiaomi's recently launched in Xiaomi Mi 8, when we talk about camera department. This is one of the areas which POCO team emphasized on and something power users care about. Phone is backed by a dual camera setup that includes a 12MP primary shooter with Sony IMX363 Sensor having large 1.4µm pixels, f/1.9 aperture and dual pixel phase detection. Second sensor is a Samsung made 5MP depth sensor used for portrait shots. Both cameras get AI features for photos and Xiaomi says this AI intelligently identifies and optimizes images in real-time by judging the scene. It is pre-fed with 206 scenes across 25 categories which is there to optimize settings for you to take the perfect shot.

Camera app on Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is same as on all other MIUI running phones. Layout is simple and clean and sliding finger left or right changes camera modes. There are a couple of toggles like flashlight, HDR and AI which are given at top. Phone's camera offers adequate results if you keep its price in mind. In daylight conditions, images taken on Xiaomi Pocophone F1 camera have good dynamic range, appear crisp and are pretty sharp on screen. At times though, camera has a tendency to oversaturate some shots. In low light conditions, phone kicks in HDR mode almost every time. In such lighting conditions, photos clicked can either be a hit or miss. This is probably due to the aggressive noise-reduction algorithm of Xiaomi Pocophone F1 dual cameras that often reduce detail and create a pastel color effect in photos, rendering low light photos with lots of noise.

Second sensor on phone is for depth effect and I'm impressed by bokeh on offer here. There's watermark on but you can always turn that off. Shots taken appeared great, with good edge detection and plenty of focus on subject in picture. At front of phone is same 20MP camera found on Xiaomi Mi 8, having an f/2.0 aperture and Super Pixel technology which combines detail of four pixels into one helping reduce noise and increase quality. What I can say is that front camera can take great shots, but many come out blurry if your hand isn't steady enough.

In terms of video, phone can shoot up to 4K at rear and 1080p at front. There are also other modes including time lapse and slow motion. There's also a short video mode that records for 10 seconds, which I assume is for apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Though, none of these cameras have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) so videos come out shaky as compared to some other phones in premium segment. However, EIS is there to support some stabilization when you shoot from primary camera at 1080p.

Overall, it's a good camera, better than what I was expecting from a device priced so low. It is one of the areas where this phone truly exceeds expectations.

Software

As it's a sub-brand of Xiaomi, phone ships with MIUI over Android 8.1 Oreo. First of all, biggest and much asked change has been done in MIUI for Xiaomi Pocophone F1. Xiaomi provides its software expertise and phone runs a tweaked version of MIUI 9.6 with added optimizations on top of it. The most notable feature addition is app drawer, which was long-awaited on MIUI. This makes half of UI navigation job easier considering number of apps you will install on a 256GB or 128GB phone. Much like Pixel and Samsung phones, a swipe up from any part of screen guides you to apps.

Another addition is automatic segmentation of apps as per their type. It automatically sorts apps into categories such as Communication, Entertainment, Games, Tools, Lifestyle, and more. You can rearrange order of these categories as per your need as well. Another useful addition is ability to install third-party icon packs directly from launcher. Sadly though, it brings along some bloatware applications like Xiaomi's own suite of apps and third-party partner apps like Amazon, UC Browser. While you can uninstall these third-party apps, you cannot do anything about Mi apps if you want to stick to MIUI for POCO. Interestingly however, UI doesn't feel bloated anymore on this phone. It looks much neater and easy to navigate, with help of these small additions. Animations are also faster on Xiaomi Pocophone F1, which has left me admiring its speed and smoothness. After all, that's what decides if phone is enjoyable to use or not.

Xiaomi has also mentioned that phone will get MIUI 10 very soon Android 9.0 Pie update by end of 2019. It also offers Treble, which is said to allow you to play with custom ROMs. Kernel files for this phone are said to be released by end August. All of this makes Xiaomi Pocophone F1 have one of the best custom Android experience you can get in market, shortly behind OnePlus's Oxygen OS.

Conclusion

Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is going to be available in India on 29th August and in Global markets from September. Phone's 6GB/64GB version is priced at 20,999 Indian Rupees, 6GB/128GB at 23,999 Indian Rupees while 8GB/256GB variant is priced at 28,999 Indian Rupees. Xiaomi Pocophone F1's armored edition (8GB RAM, 256GB storage, Kevlar back) is priced at 29,999 Indian Rupees. That makes base variant of this below $300 and that is amazing for a phone having Snapdragon 845 Processor and 6 GB of RAM.

Phone offers extraordinary value for money and while it may not be glamourous as OnePlus 6 or Asus Zenfone 5Z, I can still wholeheartedly recommend it to power users looking for a mid-range phone. It's offering great hardware, a reasonable set of cameras, and long-lasting battery. These are precisely attributes that mid-range buyers look for and they are also tough to score in this budget. Xiaomi clearly wants to compete with OnePlus 6 and Huawei Honor 10, but besides similar performance at a much lower price, it doesn't produce strong reasons to pick up Pocophone F1, which lacks refinement of its more mature competitors.

However, with such aggressive pricing, Xiaomi is certainly going to kill all competition ranging in broad price bracket of Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. Also, it'll be interesting to see where Pocophone line up goes from here, and how Xiaomi keeps up with huge demand, as it is bound to happen at this price point. I personally believe that midrange segment is becoming extremely important for smartphone manufacturers and for a price of just $300, this phone is a straight win for all power users out there.