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POCO F3 Review – The Midrange Killer!

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With the pandemic and global shortage supply of chipsets, OEMs are scrambling to purchase old chips from 2020 and 2019 just to answer the demand of the market. POCO, previously under the umbrella of Xiaomi, has also been affected by this trend. So this year, the company couldn’t afford to use Snapdragon 888 — the current best chip — for its under P20,000 segment. Instead, it’s relying on Snapdragon 870 that gave birth to the POCO F3 — the mid-range killer!

READ: POCO X3 NFC 6-Month Review – Now a Bad Purchase?

Design

OEMs usually sacrifice the design schematics of a device to pave way for either better camera, performance, or bigger battery. Fortunately, that’s not the case with POCO F3. Available in frosted-finish white and glossy-finish black, the white version is the most appealing of the two if you’re looking for a clean and non-fingerprint-y experience. What makes the build more special is that it’s lightweight and very thin in the hands. I think it’s almost the same as the Mi 11 Lite 4G that was released recently. 

Both back and front glass are protected by Gorilla Glass 5, but POCO made it much better with the added IP53 dust and splash resistance. The railing seems to be of plastic with a metallic finish and the camera module is contained in this plastic-like material that adds depth and uniqueness to the design, especially since POCO F3 resembles the more expensive Mi 11 phone. 

While I have to admit that the flat panel makes the device wider than other mid-range phones, the thinness makes it easier to use and navigate despite the requirement of two hands when typing. POCO, however, have to cut cost by implementing a fast and reliable fingerprint scanner embedded onto the power button instead of a more innovative in-display scanner. But what’s more worth noting is the lack of a headphone jack, fortunately, POCO includes a USB-C-to-3.55mm adapter in the box. 

The design is often overlooked by value brands such as POCO and Xiaomi to deliver better performance on a budget, but POCO F3 is a step above its price tag in terms of looks and functionality, hence making it a more appealing device to use every day.  

Display

Unlike POCO X3 Pro, POCO F3 is delivering everything you need in a high-end display in 2021. There’s a 120Hz refresh rate for fast and smooth animation and gaming, as well as an AMOLED panel for that punchy, bright, and colorful picture quality. POCO boasts the F3’s display capable of reaching up to 1300 nits in HDR, and that seems to be accurate based on my Netflix testing. But due to poor design control, the brightness slider of POCO F3 can only go up to 500 nits manually. And at around 30-80% of the slider, you’re only controlling around 200-300 nits. The brightest you could get is 700 nits, but you have to toggle on auto-brightness just to achieve that. 

As for that pinhole selfie camera, it’s definitely one of the smallest I’ve seen on a phone. It’s not distracting during my usage. 

poco-f3-review-the-mid-range-killer

For the refresh rate, I noticed that there’s no more option to use 90Hz, which was available in Xiaomi Mi 10T. On the flip side, there’s a ton of control for colors, such as DCI-P3, Auto, and Standard, among others. You can even schedule the blue light filter.

All in all, POCO F3’s display is one of, if not, the best at its price range. While it’s not as great as high-end AMOLED devices, it’s definitely getting there. 

Camera

One area where POCO had to be conservative is the cameras. The company couldn’t include a 108MP that we’ve seen on the Redmi Note 10 Pro and realme 8 Pro since that would only jack up the price — in fact, they couldn’t even use a 64MP sensor and had to opt for a 48MP main sensor. That sensor, by the way, is paired with 8MP ultrawide and 5MP macro. 

In the real world, that downgrade in sensor did take a toll on POCO F3, with some shots lacking in clarity indoors and in low light scenarios. But if you give it enough light, the quality is good enough. I also noticed that photos tend to be on the processed side, instead of being natural, which is definitely not a bad thing since they do look good with more contrast and saturation. You can also use the 5MP macro that outputs decent quality, especially when paired with flash or sufficient lighting. 

The 20MP selfie camera can hold its ground, even at night, thanks to its own Night Mode. Unlike the photo quality of the main cameras, it has natural colors and bright output whether shooting a video or photo. 

Speaking of video, POCO F3’s [email protected] recording comes with EIS, so they are sufficiently steady when panning and walking. The dynamic range is pretty good and the colors are natural. But again, the 48MP sensor struggles both indoors and low-light as it tries to retain clarity at the expense of grainy and noisy quality. Unfortunately, the ultrawide only supports up to [email protected] with worse dynamic range and overall quality. However, it’s still decent and better than other mid-range devices.

To sum up the camera experience, POCO F3 will offer you great shots during the day and good photos at night. But if you’re looking for a video-centric phone that can do it all, you have to spend a little bit more.

READ: POCO X3 Pro Review – Worth the Downgrade?

Performance

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With Snapdragon 870 SoC, not only you’re getting a do-it-all performance but also 5G for future-readiness. Although my area doesn’t support 5G yet, I did put POCO F3 through its paces. I played Genshin Impact for hours and met with no problems, asides from frequent stutters early in the game. You can adjust the settings to max, but that will only give you 30-45fps gameplay. Other games like PUBG, Wild Rift, and CoD are still waiting for high refresh rate support from their respective developers, so you won’t be able to take advantage of the 120Hz refresh rate of the POCO F3, as of this writing. Due to the thin and light build of POCO F3, it does heat up easily. However, the heat didn’t result in any kind of performance throttling. 

As for day-to-day usage, MIUI 12 for POCO (based on Android 11) is one of the most polished versions that I’ve seen yet. It’s smooth and fluid across the board, including the Settings where I usually get frame drops when using mid-range devices. But if there’s one thing I have to mention — that’s for MIUI to not be overly aggressive in killing apps in the background, particularly when receiving notifications. Usually, I’d get my notifs at least half an hour late, and that’s not a good sign for a phone that’s also capable of being a device for work. 

Benchmark Scores
Antutu 712,688
Geekbench 5 Single-Core (CPU) 866
Geekbench 5 Multi-Core (CPU) 2709

POCO F3 comes in two configurations — 6/128GB and 8/256GB. The model that I tested is the former, thus giving the impression that 6GB RAM is still plenty in 2021.

Audio

POCO F3 is sporting stereo speakers — one channel on the bottom and the other beside the earpiece. There are speaker holes on the top portion of the railing, but blocking them with your hands doesn’t really muffle the sound. The F3 doesn’t have the best stereo-sounding speakers, but it delivers clear dialogue with more attention to treble than bass. 

I paired the POCO F3 with a Mi True Wireless Basic Earbuds 2s and had no problems or whatsoever. I did appreciate, though, that there’s a pop-up indicator every time my earbuds auto-pair with the phone, kinda like how iPhones are with AirPods.  

Battery 

Battery Endurance 42 hrs
Capacity 4500mAh
Charging Time (0-100%) 1 hour 3 mins
Average Screen-on Time 5 hours

POCO had to reduce the battery capacity from 5000mAh to 4520mAh to make the design thin and light. In 120Hz mode, the battery is above average with incredible standby time. POCO F3 can last up to two days with around 4 hours of screen time and 24 hours of standby time. With normal usage of 16 hours of standby time a day, I usually get 5-6 hours of screen time with an hour or so of gaming. But if you opt to use Always-on Display, make sure to disable the part where AoD turns on whenever notifications come in as it can drain your 30% battery overnight. 

Charging-wise, getting from 0-100% only takes a little over an hour. I ended up with 63 minutes, which is slightly longer than the advertised 52 minutes. 

Verdict

In its entirety, POCO F3 is looking more like a mid-range killer. That flagship killer moniker, I think, is reserved for the Redmi K40 Pro with 64MP or the K40 Pro+ with 108MP. Unfortunately, those phones have yet to land in the Philippines. But with POCO F3, you don’t have to wait for the other two as the Snapdragon 870 is more than enough to get the job done, whether it’s gaming. Sure, you get a slightly worse camera setup, but if you set your expectations right, the F3 can deliver a great experience without breaking the bank. It’s basically a phone that can last at least two years, solely for the chipset.

Now when it comes to pricing, POCO F3 6/128GB and 8/256GB come with suggested retail prices of ₱17,990 and ₱20,990. Those prices are a bit high in terms of Xiaomi or POCO’s standards. But, the company usually goes on sale every month — putting the price of the F3 down to ₱15,990 and ₱18,990. At those price points, saving up a little bit more is definitely worth it than getting the X3 Pro. In a nutshell, the F3 is the polished version of the X3 Pro.

READ: Redmi Note 10 Pro Review – The P12,000 Flagship Killer?

POCO F3 specs, price, availability in the Philippines

  • Display: 6.67″ 120Hz AMOLED HDR10+ 1300nits peak, MEMC, DCI-P3, 360Hz touch rate
  • Design: Gorilla Glass 5 (front and back), aluminum frame
  • Dimension and Weight: 163.7 x 76.4 x 7.8 mm, 196g
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8250-AC Snapdragon 870 5G (7 nm)
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×3.2 GHz Kryo 585 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 585 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 585)
  • GPU: Adreno 650
  • RAM: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 non-expandable 
  • Main Camera: 48 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2″, 0.8µm, PDAF
    8 MP, f/2.2, 119˚ (ultrawide)
    5 MP, 50mm (macro), 1/5.0″, 1.12µm
    | video up to [email protected] EIS
  • Selfie Camera: 20 MP | video up to [email protected]
  • Connectivity & Ports: 5G, 4G/LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, USB-C, NFC, Infrared port
  • Security: face unlock, side-mounted fingerprint scanner
  • Battery: 4520mAh(33W – 100% in 52 minutes)
  • Audio: loudspeaker, 24-bit, aptX HD
  • OS: Android 11, MIUI 12
  • Colors: Black, White, Aurora
  • Price: P17,990 and P20,990 – early bird price of Php15,990 and P18,990
  • Release Date: February 2021 (China), March 2021 (Philippines)

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