Poco F4 5G review: Back in the game

The Poco F1 reincarnated.

Poco F4 5G review
Poco F4C 5G price in India starts at Rs 27,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Here’s Poco F4 5G in a nutshell: Poco has taken some of the best bits from the Poco F3/Mi 11X and F3 GT, gave them some extra spit and polish, and put them all under a nice new sleek chassis. The end result, though it’s familiar in many ways, is easily the best piece of hardware that it has ever made.

DESIGN & DISPLAY

The Poco F4 is the most plain-looking Poco phone since the Poco F1. The design scheme is modern, but restrained. The choice of colours is muted. The branding, too, is minimal. It’s a detour from Poco’s recent launches, most of which have been loud and whimsical, eyeing a dedicated fan base. The F4 should appeal to more people.

The back is made of flat glass. This has a subtle gradient and is smooth to the touch. The outer frame is made of plastic and has a matte finish. This is completely flat, too. The corners are rounded. The power button –on the right—doubles as a fingerprint reader. This is fast and accurate. The volume rocker sits above it. Both offer excellent tactile feedback. The camera assembly is two-stage.

The phone has a glass back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The real draw are the phone’s dimensions. Poco phones are generally not known for great ergonomics. They’re big and chunky, mostly. The Poco F4, even though it’s a big phone and weighs quite a bit, measures only 7.7mm. This means it’s quite slim to hold and use relative to say a phone like the Poco X4 Pro (review) — another phone with flat sides. We have absolutely no doubt in saying, the F4 is the most ergonomic and well-designed phone that Poco has launched in recent memory. It’s also probably one of the few phones around its price point to bag an official IP rating— this is IP53.

If you’re a spec nerd and have a vague recollection of the Mi 11X’s class-leading display credentials, well, the Poco F4’s screen is essentially a new and improved version of that. The specs are largely the same— 6.67-inch E4 AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate, 360Hz touch sampling, 1300 nits of peak brightness and HDR10+ support. You get Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. There are two big differences, though.

The screen refresh rate is dynamic. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The refresh rate, here, is dynamic and is free to toggle between 30/60/120Hz depending on content to save battery life. This works as advertised, without any ghosting, something we’ve observed in early Poco phones. The other highlight is that the Poco F4 is getting support for Dolby Vision playback on Netflix. The only other phone that’s capable of doing this, at around this price point, is the Xiaomi 11 Lite NE 5G.

Poco has thrown every spec that you could probably think of and put them to good use, too. Content consumption is an absolute delight on the Poco F4. The phone can upscale standard videos to give them an HDR look using artificial intelligence. MEMC option is available if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also a version of Apple’s true tone to automatically adjust colour temperature as per ambient lighting.

PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE

The Poco F4 has the same processor as the Mi 11X (review). This is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870. But it seems like version 2.0. We’re not sure if it’s the new “Liquidcool 2.0” cooling or some serious optimisation wizardry – or maybe a combination of both— but the F4 feels like a whole different beast in comparison.

It’s fast, which was expected, but more importantly, it is able to sustain its speedy performance, too. The phone can get warm when pushed but there is no throttling, no matter how you push it. For those seeking benchmarks, the F4 scored 7,07,198 on AnTuTu, which puts it ahead of the Mi 11X (6,70,108) and even the Dimensity 1200-powered F3 GT (6,06,173).

You get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

In simpler terms, the Poco F4 can do almost everything you throw at it, be it day-to-day tasks or high refresh rate gaming, with ease. The SD870 is one of the few flagship midrange chips around that can do-it-all and the F4 makes good use of all that potential.

You get fast memory, up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS3.1 storage (this is non-expandable), and support for 10 5G bands (the Mi 11X supports just two), bringing good amount of future-proofing which is always a nice thing to have.

There is support for 67W fast charging. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Battery life is good, not great. Casual users will be able to eke a full day’s worth of usage out of the F4’s 4,500mAh battery but you can kill it very quickly if you play too many games on it. Good thing is, you get 67W fast charging with this phone with the bundled charger taking about 46 minutes to top it up from 0-100% — not the fastest in this segment, but still very fast.

CAMERAS & SOFTWARE

The triple camera system in the F4 may seem very similar to the one on the F3 GT but it’s not. Like the rest of the phone, there are some notable upgrades coming here as well. The main 64MP sensor, for instance, now sits behind an optically stabilised lens— a first for any Poco phone. It can, also, record at up to 4K@60fps. Software tuning, too, is getting some refresh so much so that it won’t be wrong to call it Poco’s best camera phone to date.

The primary camera takes good photos with lots of detail, rich –if a little boosted—colours, and fairly wide dynamic range when lots of light is available. Under tricky and low lighting, also, it can pull good amount of detail with little to no noise. Night mode works well enough to brighten a low-lit scenario with exposure mostly on point. There’s not a lot to complain as far as picture quality is concerned.

The 64MP main camera has OIS. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The same is true about the 8MP ultrawide. It generally takes more true-to-life photos. Distortion is handled well automatically in the background and only the most discernible eye will be able to point out any corner softness.       

There is a 2MP macro camera in this phone as well but it’s mostly a spec-filler. Lack of autofocus means, getting a clear, blur-free closeup is a hit or miss affair more often than you’d like. Even if you do manage to get a decent shot, the resolution is just not good enough to justify having a third camera when the brand could simply have added autofocus to the ultrawide and let it double as a macro.

You can record videos at up to 4K@60fps on the Poco F4. These come out nice and crisp with natural tones and wide dynamic range. 

On the front, you get a 20MP camera. It takes good selfies and pleasing portraits in good light. Low light selfies are serviceable. Video recording tops out at 1080p@30fps.

Software is MIUI 13. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Software-wise, you get MIUI 13 with Android 12. Poco calls it “MIUI for Poco” and surely, there are no ads or many spammy notifications here, like a Redmi, but the number of bloat/duplicate apps has shot up over the years. You can uninstall some, but some spring cleaning is much needed from the brand’s side.

Functionally, it’s all still MIUI which is to say, there are many extra features, some of which are very useful. Alternatively, Android purists would have a hard time finding core Android 12 features as is, or find them missing altogether (like say material you theming), due to Xiaomi’s heavy— iOS-inspired –skinning. For what it’s worth, the phone is well optimised. We did not encounter any weird bugs or lags during our testing.

POCO F4 5G | SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

Some say the Poco F1 was ahead of its time. Despite its many quirks, it’s remembered and cherished even today. Back in the day, the F1 was sold on the premise that it had everything that you –ever— needed from a phone in 2018. Performance was a big metric and while everything else would revolve around this one aspect, the phone’s low price made it a stellar deal. The rest of the package, too, wasn’t very far behind its peers, by the way.

Poco would go on to launch several phones in the years that followed, seemingly inspired from the legend itself, but none of them could truly replicate the F1 magic. Until the F4 happened.

This is the best phone Poco has ever made. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

This new phone from Poco is the first to properly justify the “F-series” branding it carries on its shoulders. It carries the same blueprint, which is to say, it’s high on performance, while giving you everything you need from a phone of its class in 2022. This includes a fair bit of flair and polish as well, something that the original was lacking.

The pricing is a throwback, too. Poco F4 5G has been launched in India at a starting price of Rs 27,999. This is for a version with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. The F4 is also available in 8GB/128GB and 12GB/256GB configurations for Rs 29,999 and Rs 33,999, respectively. What’s not to like?

Cut to the chase: the Poco F4 is not just the best phone that Poco has ever made, it’s also among the best phones that you can buy at around Rs 30,000 today.

Also Read | iQOO Neo 6 review: A no-brainer gaming phone that also delivers great value

ProsCons
Solid glass buildGets warm under stress
Gorgeous displayMacro camera a spec-filler
Fast performanceBloated software
Capable main camera
Good battery life, quick charging
Loud stereo speakers, good haptics
IP53 rating
Great value

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