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Pocophone F1 Review: Breakout Smartphone of the Year

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It came to us as a surprise when Xiaomi announced a new sub-brand called Pocophone. We admit, we hate the darn name but that’s just the thing we hate about it. Then the Pocophone F1 came out and people and tech bloggers alike have been raving its $300 price tag. In the Philippines, it costs only Php 17,490 (as of this writing, prices change all the time). It offers flagship specs at a truly low price. So, how was it as a daily driver? Here’s our review.

Pocophone F1 specs:

  • 6.18-inch Full HD IPS LCD display (1080 x 2246 pixels) 18:7.9 aspect ratio
  • Octa Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • Adreno 630 graphics
  • 6GB RAM/64 or 128GB internal memory
  • 8GB RAM/256GB internal memory
  • Expandable storage up to 256GB
  • 12 MP (f/1.9 aperture, dual PDAF) + 5 MP (f/2.0 aperture, depth sensor) rear facing cameras with dual LED flash
  • 20MP (f/2.0 aperture) front facing camera
  • Dual SIM, Dual Standby
  • 4G/LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, Face Unlock, Fingerprint Scanner
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • 4,000 mAh battery with QuickCharge 3.0
  • Android 8.1 Oreo (MIUI 9.6)

HARDWARE AND DESIGN

With all the impressive specs, you might be asking, what Xiaomi did to cut corners to offer this phone at a very jaw dropping price? The answer is in the hardware. The design is not bad by all means but you might find it boring or bland. No glass construction, fancy features like the Galaxy Note 9, no wireless charging found on the latest iPhone and not AMOLED display.

There’s nothing special here but the plastic construction has its benefits. First, you don’t need a case to protect your phone. The matte finish gives a secure grip to your hands and it doesn’t wander off the table like glass smartphones do. No fingerprints and smudges to worry about. If you accidentally drop your phone, a plastic phone does not break like a glass or chip off like metal phones do. It will survive. There’s no IP rating (water resistance rating) but we used it under the rain and it worked fine. We believe that Xiaomi may have put some water resistance to it but did not pay for certification to cut costs.

DISPLAY

Like we said, its no AMOLED like what Samsung, Huawei and Apple has on their latest phones. It is just an IPS LCD panel but it does get the job done. Sunlight legibility is average, again, nothing mind blowing here. Colors are not that accurate by default and we have to adjust the color and contrast to standard settings .

SOFTWARE AND PERFORMANCE

Just like we’ve mentioned on our first impressions, we are not fans of Xiaomi’s MIUI¬† on top of Android because of its cartoonish and sometimes confusing user interface. It also has no app drawer like other Chinese branded smartphones do. With the Pocophone F1, Xiaomi added¬† a Poco launcher on top of MIUI and Android 8.1 Oreo. It paved way for an app drawer in which Android fans love. Go into settings, send a text message and the UI feels MIUI still.

As for the performance, the Snapdragon 845 offers top-tier performance to all tasks including gaming. When the tough gets going on gaming, the phone has a liquid cooling system that prevents the phone from overheating. When we tried PUBG Mobie and played for hours, the phone get a little warm but not to the point to bother you.

If you watch Netflix or any video streaming app of the same platform, there was an issue circulating about the phone unable to play movies on HD or Full HD because of phone’s issue of DRM (Digital Rights Management). You can still stream videos on Netflix but it will stay on 480p resolution. This is the same problem occurred on OnePlus’ phones before and was fixed with a software update. We do hope Xiaomi could fix this problem especially for those who love video streaming.

CAMERA

Xiaomi did include a dual camera system on the Pocophone F1. One is a 12 megapixel main sensor and a 5 megapixel depth sensor for bokeh shots. Most of the photos we’ve taken were very impressive as long as you have the light with you. Low light shots are quite okay but you will notice some noise if your eyes are sharp enough to notice it. For selfies you have a 20 megapixel sensor. Selfies are great too as long as you have the light but it gets a little grainy in low light.

Check out some of our camera samples

Selfie with bokeh and standard

Rear camera photos

 

CONNECTIVITY

We used the phone as a daily driver and inserted our Smart SIM to test its connectivity. So far, we were impressed on how stable Smart’s signal is especially on areas where we know the network has strong coverage. Calls are clear with no issues. 4G/LTE works very well too and we were able to get good speed tests too.

BATTERY

Putting a large 4,000 mAh battery plus QuickCharge 3.0 is a good decision especially if you have plugging in your phone twice a day. On heavy use, we manage to get around 6 hours of screen on time and more than a day of battery juice before the phone asked to be plugged in.

VERDICT

The Pocophone F1 is a simple flagship phone that gets the job done. It has a good camera, though not as great as the Galaxy Note 9 or the new iPhones. It offers smooth performance same as other flagships and a design that may be boring but durable and functional. Not to mention that it has great battery life. Update to Android 9.0 Pie is said to be coming before the year ends. If you don’t like to spend more than 50k for a flagship, then better get this phone!