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Review

Xiaomi Poco F1 hands-on, first impressions: A smartphone with flagship ambitions

The Poco F1 is a new approach to flagship smartphones, but is a Xiaomi phone deep down inside. I've had a chance to use it, and here's what I think.

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Highlights

  • The Xiaomi Poco F1 is powered by Snapdragon 845 SoC, with up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage.

  • The phone is priced from Rs 20,999.

  • It promises a flagship experience without the typically high prices associated with that experience.

I’m certain you’d agree that the smartphone industry is crowded. As a race, we’re obsessed with devices. Smart or otherwise. To supplement this voracious consumer appetite for devices, manufacturers have taken the cause upon them to great detail. The result is that newer devices are launched in the market at an alarming rate, with renewed vigor. This trend has only paced up over the past few years. In fact, we’re only nearing year-end festivities across e-commerce portals that push deals to boggle your mind – if you’re looking to buy one.

Depending on how you look at it (read who you’re smitten by), the industry is split between Xiaomi or Samsung as the market leader. Coincidentally, both companies have interesting launches in India around this time. As Samsung unveils its Galaxy Note 9 flagship device in India, Xiaomi is writing a new chapter in its India story. It’s not just a device lineup, but a new brand altogether.

What is the Xiaomi India story?

If you dissected the Indian market and analyzed trends, and had the task of picking two leaders, you’d inevitably pick Xiaomi and Samsung. The choice is simple. You simply cannot match Samsung’s depth and reach in the business and market as a whole. Yet, in the same breath, you can’t ignore Xiaomi’s resourcefulness, which is evident in its entire product portfolio.

As quality of life improves, and aspirations take shape, don’t we all feel the need to evolve from bare necessities to value and fulfilment? It’s the same story with every society, and the Indian consumer is no different. Our appetite for great value seems to know no boundaries. And if you follow consumer business, you’d have heard of the age-old marketing mantra – where there’s a need, there’s opportunity. That’s how the most successful value provider in the smartphone business decided to ramp up its offering. Today marks the birth of Poco.

The package

Before we look at the device, the package itself has a refreshing yellow color. Now it may not mean a lot, but I personally feel yellow belongs to the youth; it symbolizes vibrancy. And that sets it apart from most other devices in the market today. Once you open the box, you’ll find the new Poco F1. I’ve used the top end 8GB/256GB variant with a unique Kevlar back. The other variants have a plastic back and are available in bright red, Blue and Graphite Black variants. The package also includes a transparent case, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0-standard fast charger for the Poco F1, which tops up the 4,000mAh battery.

What makes the device interesting is the Snapdragon 845 chipset that powers gadgets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (the global variant), OnePlus 6, Asus Zenfone 5Z, and the LG G7 ThinQ, among a few others. You’d need to take off the Galaxy Note 9 from the list, because in India, it doesn’t sell the Snapdragon version. Instead, what you get is an Exynos chipset.

On the rear are two cameras – a 12-megapixel primary sensor, and a second 5-megapixel module for depth sensing. At the front is a 20-megapixel camera for selfies that you can show off on social media. Despite the depth sensing face unlock feature, the Poco also has a fingerprint scanner. Just in case face unlock isn’t ideal in any particular scenario. From initial use, it seems that Poco could have very well done away with the fingerprint sensor on the F1; just like on the Apple iPhone X, you can manage without it.

What you see

Once you switch on the device, you’ll notice the color reproduction on the LCD screen is impressive. Switch to the camera, and you’ll notice the typical controls offered by MIUI. Poco claims that the camera can identify from among 25 touchpoints. It can differentiate between food, landscape, people, pets, and accordingly use the image processing algorithm.

At the top of the display is a wide notch, which you can’t ignore. But you can hide it by blackening it out and having apps run below it, thanks to the software. The speakers are decent, with about half the volume level enough for personal consumption.

WATCH: Poco F1 Armoured Edition First Look

The Poco F1 quick charge via a USB Type-C connector. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get a standard 3.5mm audio jack. Times have changed, and bundled audio is no longer a deal breaker, but the option to continue to use your favorite pair of headset is still welcome. In the past, companies have claimed boldness in moving away from the 3.5mm audio jack like it was an accomplishment, and that has only resulted in inconvenience when you find yourself in dire need to connect to a critical phone call, only to realize you don’t have a pair of Bluetooth headsets handy.

In addition, the Poco Launcher, albeit close to MIUI seen on other Xiaomi phones, has been tweaked to look as close to stock Android in terms of notifications, and gestures. Also, there’s a feature that lets you search apps based on the color of their icons. At the bottom of the screen is an array of colored dots. Tap on Blue, and you’d see Facebook show up on the screen, along with Linkedin, Twitter and other apps. Similarly, tapping on Yellow would show Snapchat among others. If you’re like me with a fixed set of apps, with only the active apps on the device at any time, this may not be as useful. But it’s resourceful nonetheless.

Hot or not?

At the core of every transaction you make, two factors always stand out – what you give, and what you get. In the case of the Poco F1, what you give is its price of Rs 20,999. What you get in return is a package that offers you much of what devices costing tens of thousands more rupees do.

Opinions and perceptions can differ. Some may prefer plastic for the advantage with weight, while others may prefer metal. I found the Kevlar back very comfortable to hold. The edges of the device are pretty ergonomic given the prominence of curves and an ingenious design approach that makes the device feel slimmer than it actually is, so you’re able to grip on to it very well.

From initial impressions, the Poco F1 comes across as a device that holds promise. However, we can be certain only after some prolonged use. We will evaluate the device and try and answer as many concerns you may have in a more detailed review. Stay tuned.

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Xiaomi Poco F1

20999

Android 8.1 Oreo
Snapdragon 845 octa-core SoC
12MP + 5MP
  • Published Date: August 22, 2018 1:50 PM IST
  • Updated Date: August 22, 2018 7:38 PM IST