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POCO F3 Review: The Budget Champion

Over the past couple of months, POCO has significantly improved its brand visibility in Singapore with the launch of several exciting smartphones in the local market including the POCO M3, POCO X3 Pro, as well as the POCO F3.

These devices continue to build upon the brand’s philosophy “Every you need, nothing you don’t”, which allows the company to allocate resources efficiently to ensure users are treated to the best experience in what matter most in their daily usage. This means you can expect to get the best smartphone display, mobile chipset, camera system, battery capacity and charging speed within its price range.

It’s a well-thought-out strategy which has proven to be successful, as the company expanded its presence to more than 35 markets globally with more than 6 million smartphones shipped towards the end of 2020.

POCO F3 Rear Design -1

The new POCO F3, which we will be looking at in this review, is the company’s latest attempt to showcase their strength in bringing ultra-value smartphones to consumers, allowing them to enjoy flagship performance at nearly a fraction of the price of other high-end devices in the market.

Design

On the outside, the POCO F3 is undeniably a gorgeous-looking smartphone. The mirror-like finish of its rear panel reminded me of the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro (Review) which looks unique and attractive – something that makes this color option stands out from the typical iridescent or solid colorways.

POCO F3 Rear Design -2

Topped with a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 at the back, the POCO F3 not only looks elegant, but also feels premium and sturdy on hand. It is in fact one of the small handful of mid-ranger smartphone that actually flaunts a glass back, since this feature is largely limited to expensive flagship phones due to it’s higher cost.

POCO F3 Rear Design -4

At 7.8mm, the POCO F3 is slimmer than most devices within the segment, and is just 0.2mm thicker than the ultra-slim OPPO Reno5 Pro (Review). Along with those gentle curves that run across the two sides of it’s rear panel, the POCO F3 is a joy to hold and is works well for single-handed use too.

POCO F3 Rear Design -3

It comes with a strikingly different camera housing from the rest of the POCO smartphones, but matches perfectly with the overall design and color of the phone. Similarly, its also great that the camera bump is kept minimal on the back panel.

POCO F3 Front Design -1

Over to the front side, we’ll be greeted by a 6.67” AMOLED display that dons a central hole-punch design. If you’re one of those who dislikes curve display, you’ll be glad to hear that the POCO F3 actually has a flat panel upfront.

POCO F3 Front Design -2

It’s an AMOLED display offers a sharp FHD+ display sweetened by a buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate – a perfect combination for a smooth and immersive graphical experience on a smartphone.

While that sounds like a staple feature among flagship phones, but it’s definitely a feature unheard of within this price bracket, and its impressive how POCO had managed to squeeze them in at such low-price.

Aside from that, the POCO F3’s front display can also get really bright with a peak brightness of up to 1,300 nits. This means you can be well-assured that the screen remain clearly visible even when you’re directly under the sun.

Just like its rear panel, the front display of the POCO F3 is also shielded by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 to protect the screen against accidental drops or scratches. It’s the same version that’s found in other flagship phones including the OPPO Find X3 Pro (Review) and OnePlus 9 Pro.

Performance

Under the hood, the POCO F3 is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 870 mobile platform that sits between the Snapdragon 865+ and Snapdragon 888 chipsets based on it’s benchmark results across popular platforms like AnTuTu and Geekbench.

This means you’ll get to enjoy flagship-grade performance despite its low-price, giving it a competitive edge over majority of the smartphones within the same segment. So, if performance is what you’re looking for in your next smartphone, then the POCO F3 should definitely make it to the top of your list.

Indeed, the Snapdragon 870 chipset makes multi-tasking felt like a breeze on the POCO F3. Even when playing resource intensive game titles like PUBG Mobile or COD Mobile, I hardly experience any stuttering during my game play.

To keep the device cool during intensive gaming runs, POCO also equipped the phone with a highly-capable cooling system known as the LiquidCool Technology 1.0 Plus to ensure the phone doesn’t get overheated.

In the memory department, there are two configuration for you to pick from, namely 6GB+128GB and 8GB+256GB. Both variants are equipped with blazing-fast LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 flash storage technologies.

Cameras

For photography, the POCO F3 relies on a triple-camera system which is lead by a 48 megapixels (f/1.79 aperture) main camera alongside an 8 megapixels (f/2.2 aperture) ultra-wide unit and a 5 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) telemacro camera.

Just like majority of the high-resolution cameras, it’s main camera employs a 4-in-1 pixel binning to output 12 megapixels images with improved low-light performance.

POCO F3 Main Camera Sample -2
Main Camera Sample #1
POCO F3 Main Camera Sample -1
Main Camera Sample #2
POCO F3 Main Camera Sample -3
Main Camera Sample #3

Overall, images shot by the main camera are generally great with aplenty details and wide dynamic range. Those clicked during the daytime also appear sharp and natural without any notable sign of over-processing.

POCO F3 Night Mode Sample -1
Night Mode Sample #1
POCO F3 Night Mode Sample -2
Night Mode Sample #2

In low-light environment, that’s where the POCO F3 shines most. The dedicated night mode feature on the POCO F3 literally allows the camera to “see in the dark”, turning a near pitch dark scene into a flattering scene with good contrast and exposure.

The POCO F3 no doubt, has one of the best low-light performance among all mid-ranger phones and is even comparable (or better) than those we saw from the upper mid-range segment.

POCO F3 Ultra-Wide Sample
Ultra-wide Sample

Coming to its ultra-wide shots, you still get an amicable amount of details and dynamic range for daylight shots. However, the low-light shots of the ultra-wide camera appear slightly dimmer and flatter than those we get from the main camera. That’s probably due to the larger aperture of the ultra-wide lens.

As for zooming, the POCO F3 is able to support up to 10x digital zoom through the usual cropping technique. While we do have mid-ranger phones that offer up to 20x digital zoom, but 10x zoom is honestly more than sufficient for most users including myself.

POCO F3 2X Zoom Sample
2X Zoom Sample
POCO F3 5X Zoom Sample
5X Zoom Sample

Most importantly, the quality of the zoomed-in images are impressive on the POCO F3. It did a great job in keeping noise level down to ensure images doesn’t appear grainy. Anywhere between the 2x to 5x zoom factor, you’ll get images that remain highly usable.

Last but not the least, the 5 megapixels telemacro camera is also another major highlight of it’s rear camera system. It’s fun to use, and is definitely a great feature for those who enjoy snapping close-up images of insects or floras.

POCO F3 Macro Sample -1
Macro Sample #1
POCO F3 Macro Sample -2
Macro Sample #2

Details are ample and the background bokeh effect looks pleasing to the eyes. It certainly outperforms other 2 megapixels macro cameras found in other smartphones within the segment.

Upfront, there’s also a 20 megapixels shooter that’s capable of clicking well-detailed selfies with excellent contrast and dynamic range. It do comes with a dedicated beautification mode which is on by default, but you can easily turn it off if you favor more natural-looking selfies.

Battery & Charging

To keep the device up and running, the POCO F3 is fueled by a respectable 4,520mAh battery that can comfortably last me through the day with more than 40% power remaining. Even with several hours of gaming in between, I still manages to end the day off with 15% battery left in the cell.

On top of that, the phone also supports up to 33W fast-charging that’s capable of delivering a full charge under an hour mark. It sits below the Realme 7 Pro (Review) in terms of charging speed, but is still comparatively faster than a number of flagship phones like the Sony Xperia 1 II and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Review).

Verdict

At S$549, the POCO F3 is an absolute steal. Besides featuring the most powerful chipset within it’s price bracket, it also brings along other exciting features including an immersive front display, versatile camera system, long-lasting battery life, as well as fast-charging support that make the phone a joy to use.

Just like last year’s Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro, the POCO F3 is another smartphone that makes us scratch our head and wonder if it’s even profitable selling the phone at such unbelievable price. As such, the POCO F3 is certainly a worthy successor to 2018’s POCOPHONE F1, and is no doubt a feather in the company’s cap when it comes to offering flagship performance at an affordable price.

For those who’re interested, you can take home the POCO F3 at S$549 and S$599 respectively for it’s 6GB+128GB and 8GB+256GB trim via both Lazada and Shopee.

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