Poco M2 Pro review: Best value phone under Rs 15,000

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Updated: Jul 07, 2020 1:48 PM

Poco M2 Pro is most certainly a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro (or a Redmi Note 9 Pro with some tweaks), but its sheer existence is a win-win situation for everybody. We review.

POCO M2 PROPoco M2 Pro has been launched in India at a starting price of Rs 13,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Poco M2 Pro is the second phone to launch in India under the newly spun-off Poco brand and the third phone to launch here under the Poco branding after the popular Poco F1. With it, Poco is going lower down the price ladder, and while it is most certainly a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro (or a Redmi Note 9 Pro with some tweaks), its sheer existence is a win-win situation for everybody.

Redmi phones are terrific value for money but they are also infamous for some of their software quirks, particularly their pesky ads. The Poco M2 Pro is a Redmi Note 9 Pro without ads (and other MIUI software quirks). That’s it. That’s its headlining feature.

Poco M2 Pro has been launched in India at a starting price of Rs 13,999 (4GB/64GB) going all the way to Rs 16,999 (6GB/128GB). The phone will also be available in 6GB/64GB for Rs 14,999

Design and build quality

The Redmi Note 9 Pro has spawned multiple versions and I am not sure why that is. The Redmi Note 9 Pro that is sold in India looks nothing like the one that is available in European markets. The Poco M2 Pro borrows its design from the latter, no strike that, the Poco M2 Pro looks identical to the Redmi Note 9 Pro global variant. Clearly, this is a conscious decision that the brand Poco has taken so as to offer some variety at least in India, even though it’s purely visual.

Poco is using the same high-quality materials here which means that we’re looking at Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back (joined together by a plastic frame). The phone has a dual-tone back with the top half being plain, while the lower half is patterned; though on the whole, it is glossy which invariably also means that it is a fingerprint magnet. As is usually the case with a lot of budget phones these days, Poco will be also offering the Poco M2 Pro in a choice of “attractive” colours. The green one that I have for review, even though it gives out Huawei vibes, looks striking and very premium.

POCO M2 PROThe Poco M2 Pro has a P2i coating and is splash-resistant. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

That’s the general theme of the entire phone in fact. The Poco M2 Pro looks like an expensive phone, but it isn’t expensive at all. It feels like an expensive phone too. Remember, this is a 6.67-inch phone with a 5,000mAh battery, it ought to be thick (8.8mm) and chunky (209g), and it is, but because it’s built so well with an almost even distribution of weight, you don’t feel it overpowering you. You get used to it quickly which is a good thing. The squared-out camera module juts out a little but not so much that it becomes a nuisance.

I really like the smooth matte finish on the sides and the buttons are nice and clicky, though the volume rocker’s higher up positioning means it can be hard to reach for people with small hands. The power button doubling as an always-on fingerprint scanner is a nice touch. It is fast and reliable too.

Display

The Poco M2 Pro has a mainstream display relative to its slightly more premium sibling, the Poco X2. We’re basically looking at a 60Hz IPS LCD panel with a 1080p+ resolution and punch hole cutout that entails an aspect ratio of 20:9 (same as the Redmi Note 9 Pro). The phone is also Widevine L1-certified.

POCO M2 PROThe Poco M2 Pro looks like an expensive phone. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The quality of the display is quite good for the price. It gets plenty bright and viewing angles are also good. Colour reproduction is not the most accurate straight out-of-the-box but the phone gives you three options to toggle, including one that lets you selectively tweak the colour temperature, so you can pick one out as per your preference.

The only other phone with a higher-end display, at this price point, is the Realme 6 which ships with a 90Hz panel but then Poco gives you a larger screen and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection, so I think that evens things out and even gives the Poco M2 Pro an edge if one was to talk about pure value.

Software

Software is what really differentiates the Poco M2 Pro from the Redmi Note 9 Pro. At their core, both phones run Xiaomi’s MIUI, but Poco phones come with a slightly tweaked version (of MIUI) with a Poco launcher, among other things. But their biggest feature, or the lack thereof, is that Poco phones don’t serve you ads, at all, something that almost all Redmi phones (all but Redmi K20 and K20 Pro) notoriously do now. Poco phones are like the new-age Mi phones in this regard, though they won’t cost you a bomb.

The Poco M2 Pro has a lot of pre-installed bloatware including many Xiaomi apps (some of which you can’t uninstall) but Poco does not show you ads inside any of them. You don’t even have to be careful about enabling or disabling any setting while setting the Poco M2 Pro up for the first time since ads are switched off by default and unless Poco decides to flip the switch on that, it should stay that way for infinity and beyond (okay, maybe that was an exaggeration but I am sure that you get the gist).

POCO M2 PROPoco phones don’t serve you ads. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There is a difference between ads and app notifications. The latter are quite prevalent on the Poco M2 Pro but you shouldn’t confuse them with ads. Every now and then, the security app will ask you to try app lock, or the themes app will suggest new custom wallpapers that you can download, but you can turn them off directly from the pull-down notification pane if they bother you. In fact, the secret sauce to having a pleasurable experience on a Poco (or a Mi or even a Redmi) phone is to start with disabling all the notifications from all the apps you’re likely never going to use.

A Poco phone without Xiaomi ads and push notifications is just like any other phone out there, only its significantly better hardware means, you get even more bang for your buck. It just makes the deal a whole lot sweeter.

There are a few other things that make Poco’s take on MIUI better (and more useful). One is of course the app drawer interface so you’re not stuck with an iPhone-like springboard of apps and widgets on an Android phone like it is in Mi and Redmi phones. That Poco launcher is also available for all Xiaomi phones in the Google Play Store by the way. The Poco launcher is smart too in that it automatically groups your apps into categories, like communication, entertainment, games, shopping and more. You’re also free to hide apps from prying eyes.

Another big feature of MIUI designed for Poco is that it lets you manually set app defaults. You can choose Chrome over Mi Browser for instance. MIUI for Poco also lets you alter notification shade styling to make it look like a stock Android affair. You can change app icons too. Plus, you can set Google feed as your minus one screen. All in all, Poco’s take on MIUI gives you significantly more options to customize a phone like the Poco M2 Pro mostly to your heart’s content, something that a Redmi phone (in this price range) doesn’t.

Rest of the deal is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from MIUI in 2020. The Poco M2 Pro runs Android 10-based MIUI 11 and like any other Xiaomi phone, software on this one also prefers aggressive RAM management (that’s to extend battery life). All your typical Android 10 features like navigation gestures, system-wide dark mode, digital wellbeing, and granular app and permission controls are baked in and available for use. Hallmark Xiaomi features like game turbo and second space also come bundled with the Poco M2 Pro.

Performance and battery life

The Poco M2 Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s new India-focused Snapdragon 720G processor. Not only did Qualcomm launch it first in India (in January), the Snapdragon 720G is also its first mobile chip to support the NavIC satellite positioning system developed by ISRO. There’s a lot of other tech too but key standouts include faster LTE connectivity via its integrated X15 LTE modem and Snapdragon Elite Gaming features (the “G” moniker also indicates the SD720G has high-end gaming capabilities on a budget).

In terms of technical specs, we’re looking at an octa-core configuration with two Cortex A76 cores (up to 2.3GHz) and six Cortex A55 cores (up to 1.8GHz) paired with an Adreno 618 GPU. The Snapdragon 720G is in fact an underclocked version of the Snapdragon 730G seen inside the Redmi K20. And we’ve also already seen it in action inside the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max.

POCO M2 PROPoco M2 Pro is powered by Qualcomm’s new India-focused Snapdragon 720G processor. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Even though the Snapdragon 720G is not the most powerful chip powering a phone in this price range (MediaTek’s Helio G90T inside the Redmi Note 8 Pro offers more raw power that’s also reflected in synthetic benchmarks but not by much) it’s very reliable in terms of both performance and thermal efficiency (plus it’s brand new). The latter comes because of its more efficient 8nm-based manufacturing process (the Helio G90T is a 12nm chip).

The immediate benefits of the Snapdragon 720G are two. The Poco M2 Pro literally breezes through day-to-day tasks with ease and without breaking a sweat. I haven’t had a single instance of the phone freezing or slowing down “abruptly” during my review. It also has a lot to do with MIUI’s aggressive RAM management for background apps, but you can always pin certain apps you think you’re likely to go back to so they always remain open. The same pleasurable experience extends to gaming. The Poco M2 Pro can play most high-end games, including PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty, effortlessly even at the highest-end setting. The Helio G90T-powered Redmi Note 8 Pro will be a wee bit faster but it also tends to heat up. The Poco M2 Pro also gets warm when you’re pushing it (like when you’re playing PUBG for long hours continuously) but it’s also fairly quick to cool down. The Poco M2 Pro is just better at heat management and this is something that also translates to the phone’s “phenomenal” battery life.

The 5,000mAh battery inside the Poco M2 Pro can last for “days” on a single charge depending on your use case. Our video loop test got us over 20 hours of usage on a single charge. Even the most demanding users can easily get a full day’s worth of usage from the Poco M2 Pro’s “monstrous” battery. The Poco M2 Pro also supports a whopping 33W fast charging (fastest in this price range) and Poco is bundling a compliant charger in the box, which is nice.

Cameras

The Poco M2 Pro cameras are a mixed bag though this has got nothing to do with the specs. The phone has impressive camera credentials for the price (again, they are the same as the cameras on the Redmi Note 9 Pro) and the results are also good mostly, but nothing that we haven’t seen already. Here’s the technical low-down:

— 48MP main sensor with PDAF that’s sitting behind an f/1.8 aperture lens

— 8MP ultra wide-angle sensor sitting behind an f/2.2 lens

— 5MP macro

— 2MP depth

— 16MP front camera

The Poco M2 Pro cameras are quick to focus and shutter speed is also good. The phone also doesn’t keep you waiting for long when shooting in night mode. So, those are the big positives here.

POCO M2 PROPoco M2 Pro has four rear cameras. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

As for image quality, the Poco M2 Pro’s main camera (that shoots 12MP photos by default) can capture pleasing photos with good detail and little or no metering issues in abundant light. You can switch on AI (HDR) if you prefer punchier colour tones in photos. You can also choose to shoot in 48MP though it’s not advisable since Poco is using a Samsung sensor (and not a Sony sensor) that uses lots of software interpolation to “digitally” add data rather than giving you the real picture. It’s good every now and then, but details go out for a toss, so does colour temperature, plus the file size is large too.

The 8MP ultra wide-angle photos are serviceable and get the job done with satisfactory amount of detail and generally warmer colours.

In tricky (indoor) and low lighting, the main camera aims for aggressive noise reduction which entails mushy photos. Night mode helps bring out slightly more detail though there’s room for improvement. The ultra wide-angle camera is just disappointing in low light (it doesn’t support night mode either).

The 5MP macro steals the show however though your mileage may vary.  For a macro camera in this price range, it can capture lots of detail in close-ups without much focus hunting, which is nice, but colours are almost always off in many of these photos.

The 2MP depth camera is a hit or miss. In good lighting, it produces one of the best bokeh photos we’ve seen in this price range with good edge detection but the camera starts to struggle as the intensity of light goes down.

The 16MP front camera takes good selfies with colours that are mostly true to source in good lighting. Like clockwork, turning off beautification brings more detail in photos. Low light selfies could be better.

The Poco M2 Pro can record 4K videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at 60 and 30fps. Video footage recorded with the Poco M2 Pro (even at 4K 30fps without stabilization) is surprisingly good especially for the price with good contrast and details across the board.

Poco M2 Pro as an everyday phone:

  • The phone comes with P2i coating which makes it resistant to accidental splashes of water.
  • It comes in three configurations, 4GB/64GB, 6GB/64GB, and 6GB/128GB. Poco is using LPDDR4X RAM and UFS2.1 storage. There’s support for expandable storage (of up to 512GB) via a dedicated microSD card slot.
  • The phone’s bottom-firing mono speaker gets plenty loud but there is some digitization at peak volume.
  • Phone calls made with the phone are of good quality across the board. I did not face any odd call drops (beyond the usual) with my review unit. The phone supports 4G LTE and dual-SIM.

Should you buy the Poco M2 Pro?

POCO M2 PROPoco M2 Pro is a Redmi Note 9 Pro without Xiaomi ads. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Now I review a lot of phones, but this one has to be the easiest. Yes, the Poco M2 Pro is a rebranded Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro, but I don’t think that it means anything. What’s important is what Poco did with it. Did it improve upon it? Did it add more features that make sense? Did it make it more value for money? Yes, yes and yes.

There’s nothing wrong with Xiaomi hardware. The company still offers one of the  most high-end specs at the most rock-bottom prices. It’s the software side that’s taken a huge turn over the last few months. Ads and the whole privacy concern around Xiaomi apps like the Mi Browser are a major con in Redmi devices today, and all of this comes at a time when tensions with China are at an all time high.

The Poco M2 Pro tries to break from all that by offering everything you need (which is good hardware at an aggressive price) and nothing you don’t (Xiaomi ads). And this is what makes it the best value phone under Rs 15,000 today.

Pros:

  • High-end hardware at rock-bottom price
  • Premium looks
  • Capable cameras
  • Outstanding battery life

Cons:

  • Lacks distinct identity

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