Poco X2 is a great smartphone. There is absolutely no doubt about it. However, the decision mainly depends on how great you wanted the device to be. If you wanted it to be Poco F1 great, then you would be disappointed. If you wanted it to be mid-range segment level great then you will be pleased. India’s smartphone market is stuck in a quicksand. There is no meaningful difference between the best smartphone and the second best. Poco X2 is the best case yet for that narrative. The launch event made it clear that this device is meant to be the challenger to Realme X2 and nothing more. This singular focus also ends up making the smartphone a strong competitor to Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro.
The summary of Poco X2 is basically some good choices here and some questionable choices there. It even has some big ticket features that are too hard to discern for a regular user. Say you bought the Samsung Galaxy Note in 2011 then that stylus stood out as a differentiator. In 2020, a high refresh rate display is being pitched as that differentiator. However, you are hard pressed to notice that difference. As I said before, the Poco X2 is a great smartphone. However the real question is should you buy into that 120Hz display? Or should you sit out this smartphone cycle hoping MWC 2020 will bring better devices at even cheaper price. We answer all of that in this review. Read on.
The display can be described as the claim to fame for the Poco X2. It sports a LCD display that measures 6.67-inches diagonally and outputs resolution of 2400×1080 pixels. The display size or panel or resolution is not the real deal. The topic of interest here is the support for 120Hz refresh rate. This is only the second smartphone, after Asus ROG Phone 2, to feature such a high refresh rate. The first phone to launch with a 120Hz display was the Razer Phone back in 2018. So, this is by no means an industry achievement, but Poco does that at a great price point. Do you need a display with 120Hz refresh rate? No. During my time with the Poco X2, I almost immediately started missing the OLED display.
For instance, Poco X2’s big display is useless when the screen is turned off. Yes, it does not have always-on display since LCDs are not good at lighting individual pixels. They say the devil is in the details. In the case of Poco X2 that devil was expected to be seen in the display. However, I could not really see any major difference to sell me on this device. The Android interface itself does not seem to take advantage of the fast refresh rate. The higher refresh rate is supposed to make actions appear on the screen faster. It does achieve that to some extent. So, while scrolling through Instagram or hundreds of applications, you see a smooth scrolling action.
However, I did not find it to be as buttery smooth as the ProMotion display on the Apple iPad Pro. You need to do some pixel peeping to really understand the difference. A small set of people who saw Poco X2 with display set at 60Hz and 120Hz, found no difference either. Even games didn’t take any meaningful advantage of this panel. If I had to choose between 60Hz OLED and a 120Hz LCD panel, I will choose the former. The OLED panel serves better purpose with display of accurate colors right now. If you are a gamer then you would be better off getting the Poco X2.
However, we must warn you that the advantage is not quite noticeable even with some of the games that support 120Hz display. It is clear that 2020 will be the year when almost every major device will sport a high refresh rate display. Poco X2 is making that leap ahead of many of its rivals. It is a good effort that aids with things like flow of user interface and applications where scrolling is of utmost importance. The only thing you need to know is that this LCD display is great but it is not quite the game changer we hoped for.
The second area where Poco X2 competes with Realme X2 is in the camera department. Poco X2 has a total of six cameras – four at the back and two at the front. Poco has equipped it’s second smartphone with a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor. As observed in our initial impressions, this sensor tends to produce images that are soft in nature. By this, I mean the exposure is soft and autofocus is not balanced across the frame. But this camera stunned me with its color profile. This is among the first non-iPhone smartphones to produce colors that are true to source. It is not easy but Poco X2 pulls it off as if it’s no big feat.
When you shoot at 64-megapixel, the Poco X2 captures images that are usually between 20 and 30MB in size. The large size results in opportunity to crop the image further. When you crop the image shot in 64MP mode, you will see details that are not easy to capture in the 16-megapixel mode. If you look at the results side-by-side, the Realme X2 will look good to your eyes. But Poco X2 looks natural and accurate, which is a pleasant surprise. The ultra wide-angle shots from the 8-megapixel camera have little distortion. The results are almost identical to competitive devices in this price point.
Another area where Poco X2 shines is with macro photography. It allows you to get as close as 2cm from the subject and works well even when the lighting conditions are not really favorable. However, the portrait mode is not impressive. There is inconsistency in the results and the edge detection is not always on point. The easiest way to describe this is that Redmi K20 Pro from Xiaomi did click better portraits than Poco X2. Selfies is an area where Poco X2 does really well. The tried and trusted 20-megapixel camera with 2-megapixel depth sensor allows for very good portrait shots.
Poco X2 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G and Adreno 618 graphics processor. It comes in three different storage options: 6GB+64GB, 6GB+128GB, and 8GB+256GB. With its 256GB storage model, Poco is catering to power users. The native performance is really good and I did not see any issue. There wasn’t any kind of slowdown or stutter during my testing. Even while playing games, the device remains cool and comfortable to play. However, games like Alto’s Odyssey, Real Racing 3 and others output 60 frames per second even when the display is set to 120Hz.
Because of liquid cooling, the Poco X2 stayed warm even through a long session of games like PUBG Mobile. Initially I thought that lack of in-display fingerprint sensor would be a bummer. However, the side mounted fingerprint sensor is easy to use and also much more reliable than the optical fingerprint sensor. The speakers are not quite loud and I found covering it while playing games all the time. It houses a 4,500mAh battery and charges via the included 27W fast charger. With the display set at 120Hz refresh rate, I averaged screen on time between 4.5 hours and 6 hours. This is more than what Poco promised during a product briefing.
Design and Software
As stated multiple times before, the Poco X2 is the rebranded Redmi K30 available in China. It offers glass back and is heavy at 208 grams and thick with the protruding rear camera. However, this bulging rear camera does not make the device wobbly when placed on a flat surface. Despite being heavy, the smartphone is easy to hold in one hand. The calling performance is really good but I observed that internet speeds were slower in some areas where it is not usually the case.
In terms of software, the Poco X2 runs MIUI 11 based on Android 10 and December security patch. There is a Poco Launcher, which makes the device look different from Redmi Note 8 Pro. However, the difference between the two devices is not that huge. The inclusion of apps like Mi Video and Mi Music makes me wonder how independent this brand is from Xiaomi after all. Poco has a great track record with software and I hope the same continues with Poco X2 as well.
Verdict: Should you buy?
When Poco F1 launched in India in 2018, the smartphone was a unique device in a number of ways. It had flagship level specs, an impressive camera and a price that remained surprising for quite some time. Since then, we have seen Realme storm this smartphone market. It seems to be following in the footsteps of great hardware at a really low price. Poco X2’s biggest failure is that it is not as unique as the first smartphone from the company. It always had tough shoes to fill and it has not succeeded.
Honestly, that is par for the course. Poco X2 was not launched as the successor to Poco F1. It was launched as a mid-range smartphone with few unique features. It is a great smartphone fundamentally, but novel features like 120Hz display don’t take your breath away. Also, it is not quite a leap over Realme X2. You won’t be making any mistakes if you get the Poco X2. But if possible, I would wait to see what MWC 2020 has in store and make a decision post that event.