Poco X3 Review: Ably Rivals Realme, Samsung With Great Display, Cameras and Battery
When Poco first introduced itself in India, it came in as a brand that promised flagship grade performance at an affordable price point. While that is the eventual goal for every smartphone brand, Poco has since journeyed into varied price points and specification sheets. The Poco X3 is a proof of the brand’s journey. It is a smartphone that comes in at Rs 16,999, and is the first smartphone in the world that runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G mid-premium range gaming SoC. At this price and specifications, the Poco X3 is no longer trying to play the specifications battle, it is instead focusing on other things that make a smartphone good and fun to use.
For starters, the Poco X3 comes with a polarising design that you will either hate or really like. To stand out from its competition, the Poco X3 gets features such as a fast, 120Hz display, and a large, 6,000mAh battery with 33W fast charging. It gets a quad rear camera setup headed by a 64-megapixel main sensor, and gets up to 8GB RAM and 128GB – which ticks off the specification checkboxes for enthusiastic users, too. At this price, the Poco X3 directly rivals the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy M31s, Realme’s 7 Pro and Narzo 20 Pro, the Motorola One Fusion Plus, and Poco’s sibling brand Redmi’s highly reputed Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. With such stiff competition at hand, here’s what you can expect from the Poco X3.
Display: Gorgeous sharpness and 120Hz fluidity
The first thing that really strikes you about the Poco X3 is its striking display. The 6.67-inch display uses an IPS LCD panel, which thanks to its high contrast ratio and artificially balanced high saturation point, produces deeper blacks and clearer whites that look all-round impressive. Xiaomi offers fast, 120Hz refresh rate on this display, along with faster touch latency that really shows when you type or scroll fast, and of course, while gaming. The deep contrast of the display makes streaming videos at night a particularly enjoyable experience, thanks to the crisp display sharpness.
When it comes to gaming, the 120Hz fluidity really comes into its own. It is particularly beneficial in games such as Call of Duty: Mobile and Mortal Kombat, which require fast touch responses. The parallax shift effect while scrolling through menus look smooth, and all things considered, the Poco X3’s display is one of its key strengths. There is no discernible colour shift on the display when viewing from angles, and sunlight visibility is decent as well. The only qualm I have in the display department is the automatic brightness adjustment, which is surprisingly erratic, and is nowhere close to the ambient display brightness adjustment that the likes of OnePlus and Apple deliver on their phones.
Design and ergonomics: Sturdy and hefty, but looks are polarising
When it comes to the overall design language of the Poco X3, the general verdict can be rather polarising. It is among the thicker smartphone bodies, measuring over 10mm and weighing over 225 grams. As a result, the Poco X3 feels a tad too bulky to hold. You can certainly feel the heft as you use it on a regular basis, and if you have smaller palms, the phone would feel a tad too large and heavy to use. However, those with larger palms would find the Poco X3’s heft reassuring to an extent, instead of being bulky.
The bulk and weight contribute to the overall sturdiness of the phone, which is encouraging. The rear has a plastic surface, but has an overall glass finish that looks fairly good. However, the massive ‘Poco’ logo is too disruptive for my liking, and while the general gradient blue finish is good, the contrasting textures applied beneath the Poco branding somewhat ruins the overall aesthetic. The large camera module is a bit too large, and while the overall design language does tie everything together, it all looks a bit garish, and a more minimal approach could have worked far better here.
Performance: Smooth at gaming, efficient at multitasking
The Snapdragon 732G inside is a follow-up to 2019’s Snapdragon 730G mid-premium range gaming chipset, which offers a slightly more powerful peak performance core for gaming and other heavy tasks. On overall terms, the Poco X3’s performance is smooth and reliable, and most everyday tasks are taken care of without breaking much sweat. What adds to the overall performance is the smooth, 120Hz refresh rate, although MIUI’s heavy layer of animations do attempt to mask loading times with parallax effects. For the end-user, the resultant is fairly smooth performance that would not annoy you with lags.
Most heavy and graphic intensive games, such as Call of Duty Mobile, Mortal Kombat, Asphalt 9 and others load quickly, and run without too many hiccups. Even with keeping in account that it is unlikely for new phones with decent specifications to show performance strain, the Poco X3’s overall performance is reasonably smooth even with 6GB RAM, and the 8GB RAM variant should give more headroom to multitask with heavier apps, such as switching between a quick video edit on apps such as GoPro’s Quik or FilmoraGo, and a heavy social app such as Facebook in the background. Switching between two active games also does not show stutters, but there are intermittent loading times on the Poco X3 that attempt to mask these lags.
On overall terms, the Poco X3 is a fairly strong performer that offers you good value for your money at close to Rs 15,000. The Snapdragon 732G chipset promises 15 percent better graphics rendering speed than the Snapdragon 730G, and the performance benefit really shows on the Poco X3.
Cameras: Impressive stills, smooth usage
For the most part, the Poco X3’s photography performance is quite strong. Its primary camera uses a 64-megapixel sensor with f/1.9 lens, with additional units being 13-megapixel ultra-wide with f/2.2 lens, 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel depth cameras. This configuration produces results that are typical to Xiaomi’s premium range of phones, such as the Redmi K20 from 2019. Overall photographs show a slightly high level of colour saturation, while contrast and depth of colour tones are on the higher side, too. The Xiaomi camera on the Poco X3 attempts to reserve as much of the sharper details as it can, and for the most part, it produces good results.
However, the Poco X3 struggles with autofocus when exposed to moire, such as checkered or striped surfaces. It also produces intermittent lines upon shooting highly detailed surfaces, and the noise reduction algorithm in lower light or night environments end up producing soft edges and coarse grains. That said, the Poco X3 is pretty able at shooting night-time portraits, and its portrait mode works impressively as well. Videography is strong as well, with the Poco X3 offering 1080p video shooting at 60fps, and also 4K videos at 30fps. The addition of the high refresh rate display panel further makes the viewfinder a good one to use on overall terms.
MIUI 12: A mixed bag of convenience and annoyance
The Poco X3 runs on Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 interface, which for the most part is rich in features and offers a pretty interesting fork of Android to use. However, the interface is too full of apps that ask for unwarranted permissions and request you to agree with completely unnecessary terms of usages, even for the simplest of tasks. For instance, if you wish to use a calculator on your phone, you really should not be needing to sign acceptance of data privacy disclosures for such simple tasks.
Xiaomi also does not let you uninstall apps such as Mi Credit and Mi Pay, and as for the MIUI interface itself, you have to make sure that you turn off all data collection, analytics, advertisements and suggested services to ensure that not everything around you is going to track what you do on your phone, at every moment of the day. This paranoia can be horrible for those who take their online security seriously, and can be a major deal breaker.
Intriguingly, Poco India pushed a MIUI 12 update shortly after I set the phone up about two weeks ago. The update was small, but its changelog was hidden from user access. This further added to my security paranoia, and effectively, meant that even if I was ready to overlook the design bit about the Poco X3, MIUI 12’s antics with permissions, data access and security make it rather hard to just ignore.
According to a Poco India executive with knowledge of the matter, this was done because the update holds common for both the Poco X3 NFC and the standard Poco X3 that sells in India, and Poco did not want the NFC branding to appear on the update page, to avoid any confusion among users regarding the features on offer. While this makes somewhat sense on overall terms, it is not quite the perfect explanation for hiding everything that your phone's update brings. As a user, you must know the details of the updates that you are downloading.
Battery and charging: Robust stamina, swift charging
Despite being a heavy power consumption device thanks to a bright display and a performance oriented SoC inside, the Poco X3 offers excellent battery life thanks to a massive, 6,000mAh battery that is complemented by 33W fast charging. Along with robust standby battery life, the massive battery charges at a good speed, reaching 90 percent charge in a shade over 75 minutes. In terms of battery consumption, one hour of streaming a video live to a social platform eats up 24 percent power, which is actually pretty impressive. Even an hour of gaming, which is less intensive than streaming a live video online, eats up about 8-10 percent of the battery.
Beyond its overall performance and camera prowess, the battery stamina is one more reason that makes the Poco X3 a good phone to buy.
Verdict: Design, data permissions aside, a great phone to buy
So, with all things considered, does the Poco X3 make for a good smartphone to buy, and should you shortlist it in your sub-Rs 20,000 smartphone buying list? To sum up – definitely. Even with the massive Poco branding and the undecided play of textures on the plastic back that pretends to be glass, the Poco X3 does not look ‘bad’ per se. Its camera module looks like it means business, and under the hood, the Poco X3 looks and feels like a phone that you can rely on for most things. It games well, handles everyday tasks with ease, has a good camera, an excellent battery and a gorgeous display – in short, everything that you would want in your phone.
If only the Poco X3’s MIUI 12 interface asked for a little less data that belongs to me, it might just have been an easier recommendation to make.