The Poco C3 is a budget smartphone that squarely sets its sights on the price-conscious smartphone buyer. At Rs 7,499 for the 3GB + 32GB variant, and Rs 8,999 for the 4GB + 64GB variant, the Poco C3 is one of your best bets at under Rs 10,000 in India. It competes against the likes of the Redmi 9A (Rs 6,799 for 2GB + 32GB), the Realme Narzo 20A (Rs 8,499 for 3GB + 32GB), the Samsung Galaxy M11 (Rs 9,999 for 3GB + 32GB) and more recently, the Micromax In 1b (Rs 6,999 for 2GB + 32GB and Rs 7,999 for 4GB + 64GB).
In such competition, it clearly does not undercut the competition’s pricing. However, it does aim to play up its specifications in order to liven up its offering. The list of specifications include the MediaTek Helio P35 SoC, up to 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage (the variant we are reviewing here), a 5,000mAh battery with 10W charging, a 6.43-inch HD+ display and most notably, a 13-megapixel triple rear camera unit. It also runs MIUI 12 based on Android 10, which is the latest custom interface that the Xiaomi group of phones (Mi, Redmi and Poco) have on offer. Is it worth your money, then? Or does it, like other competing budget smartphones in the market, fall to the typical traits of smartphones that try to offer too much for the price they quote?
Performance: Marred with too many lags
The Helio P35 SoC on offer in the Poco C3 clearly offers good value to smartphone makers, since devices such as the Redmi 9, Realme C12 and the Micromax In 1b have also favoured it over counterpart chips from Qualcomm. That, however, does not mean that the Helio G35 SoC is a good one. General performance on the Poco C3 is on the weaker side, with lags at every stage that are all too frequent. Even at a relatively empty state, where the Poco C3’s cache is reasonably clear and not too many apps are installed or are crowding the phone’s buffer memory, the general performance seems rather weak.
This affects how the phone works at every step of the way. The phone takes a while to work smoothly after booting, and most menu swipes take that annoyingly extra one second. While this may seem like a reviewer’s spoilt-for-choice eccentricity on overall terms, the Poco C3 really does take too long for simple things. For instance, if you have the gesture navigation feature turned on, doing a long swipe up to reveal the list of recently used apps will need you to swipe up carefully and hold on for a bit too long, before the used apps list shows up.
The same applies for simple tasks such as browsing emails, changing something in the settings menu, opening the image gallery, accessing the camera and other increasingly everyday tasks. The Poco C3 is clearly not the champion of overall performance, and as a result, you will need to use the phone in a light-handed manner. Once you get used to the sedate pace that the Poco C3 is comfortable working at, you’ll feel the phone to be easier to use. However, if you’re looking to get something done fast, this will annoy you a fair bit.
Gaming performance is comparatively better, but the Poco C3 renders most games at low graphics resolution. As a result, while playing Asphalt 9 did not render as much frame drops as I’d expected, the overall quality of graphics produced by the phone looks almost as if from a generation ago. Credit where it’s due, though — the Poco C3 does optimise the games to make sure that they are playable, rather than amping up the graphics and inducing stutters and lags.
To be fair, the Poco C3 does as well as you’d expect from a phone that costs Rs 7,499. It actually fares well in the gaming department given its competition. However, if you are looking for a phone that performs better, you may want to spend slightly more (about Rs 1,000) and get the likes of the Realme Narzo 20A and the Motorola Moto G9 — both phones that offer almost 2.5x faster performance than the Poco C3 here (as per Geekbench 5 benchmark scores).
Cameras: Not awe-inspiring, merely functional
The Poco C3’s big bet is the inclusion of triple rear cameras. However, it is not about the number of cameras in the module, but the quality of the photographs it produces, that should be the ultimate benchmark. The Poco C3, on this note, fares a strictly average score. In bright daylight, the Poco C3 can produce acceptable results, which is what you’d expect from cameras in this segment. However, the overall quality does take a hit the moment the lighting is dim or diffused or overly warm… or anything beyond the standard bright daylight conditions.
The 13-megapixel main unit is what does much of the heavy lifting here, with the other two being a 2-megapixel macro and a 2-megapixel depth unit, respectively. The macro mode actually comes in handy should you wish to take a random close-up of a small object, but given that this camera produces strictly average results, the use of an ultra-wide unit might just have added more utility. There is an inherent softness to details, and colours are surprisingly under-saturated. I personally prefer this, since increasing saturation while editing photos can save more details in a photograph in terms of texture and dynamic range, than otherwise.
The front camera of the Poco C3 is placed in a waterdrop notch, and uses a 5-megapixel sensor. Its facial recognition capabilities are better than average, since it can recognise your face up until you are in complete darkness. Selfies, like shots taken by the rear camera, have a soft edge and slight desaturation about them. However, I did find the front camera to be more functional than the rear bunch, summing up what is a very average camera performance from the Poco C3.
Display and sound: Ticks most checkboxes
The 6.43-inch LCD display on the Poco C3 is not one that would blow your mind, or stun you with striking details. However, it does the job fairly well. Viewing angles are decent, but not the best in class since the display shows far-edge dimming at acute angles. The overall colour accuracy of the display is acceptable, but things are tuned to be slightly lower in saturation. We’re not entirely sure if this is a unit-specific issue, or Poco has programmed it to work this way.
At any rate, the Poco C3 display works just how you’d expect a budget phone display to. It offers decent touch response, and the large size is an added bonus for budget phone buyers. It is a rather large phone, but those looking for a budget smartphone with a big display will certainly appreciate this. In terms of sound, there is little to no presence of bass on the Poco C3’s native speakers, but the overall audio from the mono speakers is quite clear and legible.
Design and ergonomics: Acceptably decent
The Poco C3 unit that we reviewed came in a rather strong shade of blue, which Poco calls Arctic Blue. It has striated patterns for the most part save the upper quadrant, which is plain and houses the triple camera unit and an LED flash in a square, significantly raised module. I personally found the phone to be quite sleek and easy to hold, but those with smaller palms would find the Poco C3 to be rather big. It is not bulky for sure, but the tall dimensions mean that it isn’t the easiest phone to keep in pockets.
I like the matte plastic build that the Poco C3 comes with, and even though it is quite light, it feels reasonably well built and not flimsy by any standard. On overall terms, the Poco C3 does acceptably well in terms of its design, and ergonomics are fine as well.
Software and battery life: Lasts long, takes forever to charge
There’s not a whole lot new to talk about MIUI 12, and I can simply redirect you to our review of the Poco X3 to know more about it. The permissions issue that I have with MIUI is persistent here as well, and if you’re concerned about giving too much access to Xiaomi’s apps, you can always rely on third party ones to make do with. However, it is good to note that MIUI 12 allowed me to turn off advertisements even in a budget device such as the Poco C3 — good on Xiaomi to not restrict ad blocking to only its more expensive devices.
The battery life is the best bit of the Poco C3. It has a 5,000mAh battery that uses a 10W microUSB charger to juice up, and this process, frankly, lasts forever and ever. It took close to three hours to charge the Poco C3 fully, with 30 minutes of charging juicing the battery up by 19 percent, and 60 minutes charging it to 36 percent. On the up side, however, the Poco C3’s battery life is quite good. The phone is optimised to last long, and light usage can produce battery life of over two days. With heavy usage entailing multiple calls, messages, navigation, music and video streaming, constant screen-on reading time and about 30 minutes of gaming, the Poco C3 lasted me comfortably more than one day, which is good.
Verdict: One of the options
All things considered, the Poco C3 is not so bad that it cannot be in your shortlist, at all. At Rs 7,499 onward, the Poco C3 is one of the least expensive MIUI experiences that you can have, and if Xiaomi is your preferred brand, the Poco C3 is certainly a budget smartphone to consider for you. However, if you want better overall performance and camera quality, the likes of the Realme Narzo 20A and the Moto G9 may be better options to look at. The Poco C3 also makes a case for itself in the battery department, which squarely keeps it in the list of phones worth buying in India at under Rs 10,000.
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