Yet another Poco phone punching way above its weight in terms of pure value.
Poco X3 in cobalt blue. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
Poco X3 is a very familiar phone and yet it is different. The Poco X2 and Poco M2 Pro that came before it, were essentially rebadged Redmi phones. The Poco X3 is the first phone from Poco — since the original Poco F1 broke cover in 2018 — which feels original. That is what makes it different. It is familiar because it is still a typical Poco phone punching way above its weight in terms of pure value.
The Poco X3 clearly stands out from the Poco X2 in almost every perceivable way and it does this with a new and unique design barely eight months after, so that is impressive. Question is, will all this be enough to sway buyers into its direction ahead of the festive season. Well, let us find out.
Design and build quality
The Poco F1 was all about minimalism. The Poco X3 is just the opposite. Not that the Poco X2 was subtle or anything, but the Poco X3 takes things to an all new level. The phone has a dual tone back with a vertical stripe in the middle. At its one end lies the phone’s camera module, which looks rather odd if you ask me. It is sort of like a rectangular pill-shaped platform sitting on top of a circular base. The bottom half has a Poco branding so massive, you can’t escape it.
So many things are going on here that it ends up looking like one big chaotic mess. Poco’s colour choices, particularly the blue variant I have for review, don’t help its case either. It is striking alright, but the Poco X3 is a phone designed for Poco fans through and through. Everybody else must be absolutely sure about what they are getting into should they be looking to get it. Personally, I liked the design of the Poco X2 more.
Then again, design is subjective. What matters is how it is built and how it feels. Well, it is built well even though on a technical level, the Poco X3 is a step down from the Poco X2 (or even the Poco M2 Pro). It is made of plastic and that is not a deal-breaker at all. As for how it feels, while it does feel nice and solid, it is also very bulky. The Poco X3 in fact is one of the heaviest Android phones in the market today. You’d think that 6,000mAh battery has something to do with it, but a Samsung Galaxy M51 with a plastic body and even larger 7,000mAh battery is both lighter and slimmer in comparison. Why the Poco X3 weighs so much (225g) and why it is so thick (10.1mm) is a mystery to me.
But what is fairly obvious is that the Poco X3 is not a phone meant for extended usage — it will most certainly weigh you down. Also, because it is a big phone and the volume rocker is placed higher up above the power button, reaching out to it is quite a task. The power button doubles as an always-on fingerprint scanner. This is fast and accurate.
Rounding off the package is IP53 rating which makes the Poco X3 a rare sight among budget phones South of Rs 20,000 to come with official splash-resistance.
Like the Poco X2, the Poco X3 also comes with a 6.67-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate (240Hz touch sampling), and support for HDR10. The screen is also protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
There is a big difference in the way that high refresh rate display functions though. Like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Poco X3 is capable of automatically adjusting to the available content to offer the best possible refresh rate as a measure to extend battery life. Poco calls it “dynamic” switch and says refresh rate will be 50Hz for static images, 60Hz for videos, and between 60 and 120Hz for gaming. The idea is a stroke of genius no doubt, especially for a phone at its price, but Poco’s implementation needs work.
Ghosting or random stutters are common on the Poco X3 when you are browsing through a page that involves different elements like text, images/GIFs, or videos. This hampers all-round experience as the phone does not feel as fast (and responsive) as it should in such cases even though it has all the necessary hardware to pull those things off. The Poco X2 with its screen set to 120Hz feels faster in comparison because there is no dynamic adjustment happening there. I am not sure if a software update can fix this issue but Poco should definitely look into this.
As for the overall display quality, it is good but not the best in class. It does not get very bright and viewing angles could be better. Colours appear muted as well. Samsung’s AMOLED-toting phones like the Galaxy M31s offer better quality though you’ll also have to make do with a conventional 60Hz panel.
Performance, battery life
The Poco X3 is the world’s first smartphone to be equipped with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 732G processor. The Snapdragon 732G has a faster CPU compared to the Snapdragon 730G seen inside the Poco X2. The Adreno 618 GPU inside the Snapdragon 732G is also claimed to be 15% faster in terms of graphics rendering. Poco is pairing this with a new liquid cool plus technology with a 70% larger heat pipe in comparison to the Poco F1 for sustained performance. The phone has up to 8GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage which is also expandable via a hybrid slot.
Simply put, the Poco X3 is the most powerful phone under Rs 20,000 in India today and it also puts that hardware to good use. The phone runs mostly cool and even when it does get warm, which is during long gaming sessions or camera use, it is quick to cool down. Poco has done well with the thermals here.
As for battery life, the Poco X3 is also the best phone under Rs 20,000 in this regard. The 6,000mAh battery inside the phone simply refused to die before a full day (sometimes even more) during my review period with heavy use even with its display set to 120Hz at all times. Our battery loop test gave us over 30 hours of usage on the Poco X3 which is easily among the best that there is across price points. The phone also supports 33W fast charging.
The Poco X3 runs Android 10-based MIUI 12 without Xiaomi ads — Poco calls it MIUI for Poco. Over the course of time, Xiaomi has gone on to borrow many features from Poco that made its software unique. The app drawer interface is one example. Google feed on the minus one screen is another example. I think that it is alright though. Over the course of time, Xiaomi has also gone on to add many privacy-focused features to MIUI — plus a handful of very useful features. That’s true for features baked into the software at large as well as additional steps like shipping its phones with Google dialler and SMS apps as default. But Redmi phones still show you ads.
A phone like the Poco X3 can leverage all the features of MIUI 12 including universal dark mode, control centre view of quick settings, ultra-battery power saver and floating windows, and weed out its most glaring concern — pesky ads. The software is fairly fast and fluid too most of the time. The Poco X3 has a lot of pre-installed bloatware though, some of which you can’t uninstall. It is nice that Android has finally matured enough to let you control all the notifications — that can be a nuisance — that these apps keep throwing at you frequently.
Poco has tweaked the cameras on the Poco X3 a little, though it is still basically the same setup as the one on the Poco X2. There are four cameras. The primary camera is 64MP and is using a Sony IMX682 sensor (this was IMX686 in the Poco X2). This is paired with a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera (this was 8MP in the Poco X2) and two 2MP cameras, for macros and depth photography respectively (same as the Poco X2). On the front, the Poco X3 has only a single camera. This is 20MP.
The cameras here are good across the board. They are fast to focus and shutter speed is also good in varying light conditions — though switching between individual cameras is jerky some times. As for quality, it is mostly in line with what we have come to expect from budget Xiaomi/Poco phones. In good light, the Poco X3’s main camera (that shoots natively at 16MP) can capture good detail with good dynamic range and pleasing colours. There is a dedicated pro colour mode in the settings should you be looking to bump the saturation, but it often entails unrealistic photos so I did not find myself using it that much. The real star of the show for me has been the ultra-wide-angle camera. It is one of the better ones in this price range capturing natural colours in photos. The depth and macro cameras are serviceable but not that great.
Things get slightly out of hand in tricky and low light though. The phone’s aggressive noise reduction leads to mushy photos. You can get slightly more detail by using the night mode but there is surely room for improvement. Competing phones from Realme and Samsung offer better results in similar circumstances.
The 20MP front camera takes pretty detailed selfies in good light with beautification set to off. Low light selfies could be better.
The phone can record 4K videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at 60fps. Video footage recorded with it is surprisingly good with good contrast and generally good detail.
Should you buy the Poco X3?
The Poco X3 is a very likeable phone despite some of its quirks. It is built well, it has a big, immersive display with class-leading 120Hz refresh rate, it has very capable hardware and cameras, it has loud stereo speakers and splash resistance, and it has outstanding battery life. The Poco X3 is priced well too. In fact, one can tell Poco has gone the extra mile to keep its price just under Rs 20,000 — and boy, did it manage to just do that.
Those quirks are a little difficult to ignore though. It is original but bulky. Also, the display here does not do justice to all that technology that Poco has built into it. Take these two aspects away and the Poco X3 is not all that different from the Poco X2. Yes, there are visible upgrades in all areas, but they are not enough to make me want to pick this one up over the Poco X2. The Poco X2 is still fabulous value for money.
The Poco X3 is a phone designed from ground up to grab eyeballs through its flashy design and over-the-top specs. Problem is, and this is something I have highlighted in the beginning of this review, only hardcore Poco phones might truly see what the Poco X3 is all about. And even for that audience I think, the Poco X2 makes a lot of sense unless Poco decides to pull the plug on it anytime soon. For everybody else, there are better options available.