Poco is one brand that has both surprised and shocked the smartphone market. It surprised me with Poco F1 in 2018, which even today, seems too good to be true. Then the company shocked the market by not releasing a new smartphone for nearly one and a half years. In smartphone market terms, that is as good as an eternity. However, it did revamp itself last year in the form of Poco 2.0. As an independent brand, it launched Poco X2 early this year and is now launching Poco M2 Pro. Also Read - Realme Narzo 10 Review: Expanding options in the budget segment
With the two smartphones launched by Poco, the theme seems to be offering even more affordable devices. The Poco X2 was in the Rs 15,000 – Rs 20,000 price segment. The Poco M2 Pro falls in the Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000 price segment. This is a price segment dominated by the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo and Realme. When you look at Poco M2 Pro, it makes you wonder whether the company is actually going after Xiaomi and its Redmi sub-brand in the country. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy M31 Review: Not much has changed since last year
There is no denying the fact that Poco M2 Pro borrows a lot from the Redmi Note 9 Pro series. In my review of Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, I wrote that you should get this device only if you want 33W fast charging else the non-Pro model is a better option. At that time, I didn’t wonder what would happen if a new smartphone with the same specifications as the Redmi Note 9 Pro was launched with support for 33W fast charging and identical price. Yes, you would be right to say that it will be an instant hit. That seems to be the case with Poco M2 Pro as well. Here is our review. Also Read - Poco X2 Review: Better than the Realme X2?
Design and Display
Xiaomi introduced the Aura design with Redmi Note 9 Pro series in India early this year. With the Poco M2 Pro, we are seeing the evolution of that design. This evolution is so subtle that you might even miss it at the first blink. For starters, the Poco M2 Pro uses a metal and glass sandwich design that we saw with the Redmi Note 8 series last year. There is Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the back and the chassis is made from metal. This is as premium as it can get in the sub-Rs 15,000 price segment.
The evolution, I referred to earlier, is also visible on the back panel of this device. The single tone finish is replaced by a dual-tone look. The upper side of the back panel, which houses the rear camera module, is glossy but the lower side is textured like micro abrasions inside the glass. That is not the true process but it is a clever way to bring out unique design to this price segment. Well, I’m obliged to mention that this design language first appeared on the global variant of Redmi Note 9 Pro. So, I’m not sure if Poco deserves credit for thinking about something new in terms of design.
C Manmohan, General Manager of Poco India, said that this design is a homage to the kevlar finish offered with Poco F1. I agree with that notion because this surface feels as smooth as the kevlar one did on the Poco F1. When you can’t afford real leather, you go with faux leather. Similarly, when you can’t make kevlar affordable, you bring it’s design vibe to this price segment. Our review unit is called two shades of black that became interstellar black seen with Redmi Note 9 Pro series as soon as I slapped that included case.
The back of this device is so slippery and prone to fingerprints that I don’t think you can use this device without a case. Otherwise, the things I said about the Redmi Note 9 Pro series holds true here as well. The overall weight distribution of the device is excellent. It never felt too heavy and typing experience is one of the best. Poco M2 Pro seems to use the same haptic motor first seen on its Redmi sibling, which offers better feedback that linear actuators. The device is definitely tall and I found it difficult to use the device one-handed, which now seems like a feature.
At the front, the Poco M2 Pro is equipped with a 6.67-inch IPS LCD display that has a punch-hole for the selfie camera. Yes, you guessed it right. This display is the photocopy of one we saw on the Redmi Note 9 Pro series. [Editor’s Note: The theme of this review is not how Poco M2 Pro is different but instead how it’s similar to the latest Redmi Note series]. It does not have a high refresh rate but since it’s LCD and not OLED, you don’t really feel the need for it. The display is plenty bright and the color reproduction is good. I don’t think this display will disappoint the consumers looking to binge watch on this big canvas.
Performance and Battery Life
This is where the Poco M2 Pro performs exactly like the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. Under the hood, it has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G mobile platform with Adreno 618 graphics processor. Our review unit is equipped with 6GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage. The processor is built on an 8nm process node with Kryo 465 CPU cores and up to 2.3GHz clock speeds. The graphics processor is the same as the one we saw on the Snapdragon 730G. While it may seem to be below Snapdragon 730G in the naming scheme, the Snapdragon 720G holds its own ground really well.
In fact, it is a newer chipset in the Snapdragon 7 Series Mobile Platforms and thus brings the latest from the house of Qualcomm. It is even better than Snapdragon 730G in few areas like image signal processing. In terms of performance, I did not see any issues during the daily usage, which involved apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Duo. Since most of us are now at home and spending a lot of time connecting with friends and family, I found the device to be ideal for such a use case.
There is a reason that Snapdragon 720G has a “G” branding to it. This means that this chipset is designed specifically for those who want to play games on their smartphone. During my time playing PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty: Mobile on Poco M2 Pro, I got frame rates closer to 60fps and was able to play PUBG Mobile at the highest graphics setting. The performance only got better with games with Asphalt 9: Airborne and Real Racing 3. While I did play PUBG Mobile, I want to be honest that I have been playing Sky: Children of the Light more than these graphics intensive games.
This is where I realized how Snapdragon shines against Kirin or MediaTek chipset. The animation while moving through the various worlds was satisfying and the moment, when you fly, the transition was extremely smooth. This is something that ARM Mali graphics cannot achieve easily. If you are playing a lot of Ludo, then know that you have more power than you will ever need. I’ll borrow from McLaren driver Carlos Sainz to describe this as one of the “smoothest operator” in this price segment.
The smooth performance is backed by a stellar battery life. The Poco M2 Pro houses a large 5,000mAh battery and it works for days on end. During my time with the review unit, I averaged between 6 and 8 hours of screen-on time and it depended on what I was using the phone for. With gaming and other apps, I got screen-on time of around 6 and 7 hours but when I was using the phone primarily for networking, I was able to push past the 8 hour mark. For most people, this will be a two-day phone but if you push, there is a charger that fills the battery really quick. This makes Poco M2 Pro a better option than the Redmi Note 9 Pro, which has a slower 18W charging.
In terms of camera setup, the Poco M2 Pro seems to have borrowed the exact same setup we liked on the Redmi Note 9 Pro. In my review of Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, I said that the 64-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL GW1 has more pixels but not rich details seen with the 48-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL GM2. Poco is not confirming the sensor here but I have the hunch that it is the same sensor. We have already established that these devices are identical so expecting the same sensor won’t be a far-fetched thing here.
This main 48-megapixel camera is paired with an 8-megapixel ultra wide-angle shooter, a 5-megapixel macro sensor and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. I would refer you to read my review of Redmi Note 9 Pro for an in-depth analysis of these sensors. Here is the bottomline though: the 48-megapixel main camera is impressive. It has a color temperature that seems more natural than the 64-megapixel GW1 sensor. Be it the reds or the greens, they are true to source. The balance of overall composition is also done better here. This sensor is another proof that more megapixels don’t mean better pictures, unless the sensor is also tweaked by the manufacturer.
I am not really a fan of the 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle shooter on this setup. It is good but I have seen better. At 119-degrees field-of-view, it captures more of the scene than a flagship like the Huawei P40 Pro but the details seem to be lacking. The colors also looked muted to my taste. If your question is whether you can stand at Marine Drive, take an ultra-wide shot and post on Instagram then the answer is Yes. You can easily do that but there is not much modulation to it. However, the 5-megapixel macro shooter is a start in this setup where it is a considerably smaller number.
As you can see from the samples above, you can not only get closer to the subject but also capture an adequate amount of details. The fact that I was able to capture details on this butterfly’s wings shows how much Poco (actually Xiaomi) has made progress with the camera hardware and software. Poco X2 impressed me with its portrait mode and that continues with Poco M2 Pro as well. The depth sensor and the algorithms work together to capture a good amount of details and then isolate the subject from the background. You would have seen this work with humans but it also works with pets.
If there is one area where I found Poco M2 Pro struggle is with night mode. Yes, it has longer shutter and exposes the subject for a bit more than standard mode. However, the result tends to have a yellow tint and I would give it a pass since this has to do with hardware limitations in this price segment. The 16-megapixel selfie camera works similar to the one seen with Redmi Note 9 Pro. It captures natural color tone and works reliably and this time, there is even support for night mode. Poco M2 Pro’s camera is loaded with features and I think most people would try Pro Color Mode and Movie Mode at least once.
Verdict: Should you buy?
Poco M2 Pro is basically the Redmi Note 9 Pro with faster 33W charging and a minor design change. There are no two ways about it. Poco announced that it is now an independent smartphone brand. The two new products – Poco X2 and Poco M2 Pro – makes me question that notion. The Poco X2 was a rebranded Redmi K30 4G while the Poco M2 Pro is a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro. If Redmi is an offshoot of Xiaomi then Poco seems like an offshoot of Redmi. It is not a bad thing but these products don’t prove that this is an independent smartphone brand. In the start-up world, one term that comes up more often is “minimum viable product”.
The Poco M2 Pro is that minimum viable product where most of the elements are already built by Redmi. Poco seems to be doing one thing: fix what is not right.
It has fixed the charging by opting for a 33W proprietary fast charger instead of the 18W PD charger. The second thing it has fixed is appearance with that textured back finish. You might not notice it but it is there for good measure. The basics, however, is the same as the one seen with the Redmi Note 9 Pro. You get reliable performance and battery life. The display is not only big but also sharp. The cameras are excellent for the price and the side-mounted fingerprint sensor is quick. The software is fine and now gives the option to choose between Google Discover and AppVault. Priced at Rs 13,999 for the 4GB RAM variant and Rs 14,999 for the 6GB RAM variant with 64GB storage, Poco M2 Pro is definitely better than Redmi Note 9 Pro. However, it is not a new device.
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