In the most recent development in the Android smartphone of things, we have a new brand called Pocophone. It’s by Xiaomi. Piggybacking Xiaomi’s fame and reputation, the Pocophone shook the world of smartphones by announcing the Pocophone F1 – the true flagship killer.
The reason why it’s the true flagship killer is simple – Snapdragon 845 with 6GB of RAM at just RM1,299 after SST. But how did Xiaomi make the price so low? What are the trade-offs? Here we’ll dive deep into the Pocophone F1 and discover why the price is so low.
Thanks to Xiaomi Malaysia for providing us a unit of the Pocophone F1 this early for us to do our in-depth review. Should we actually call it the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 or just Pocophone F1? Or Poco F1? I’m still quite confused – but I’m settling for Pocophone F1.
The Pocophone F1 comes in a beautiful black and yellow packaging design – which I find it to be uniquely simple and bold yet somewhat different from other smartphones out there. It has the words “Pocophone by Xiaomi” at the front and that’s it. Not even the model name “F1” is shown here.
Flipping the box over, we can see the list of specs of the Pocophone F1 together with some feature highlights. At the bottom right corner, it highlights the Pocophone F1 that we have here is in Graphite Black color and it has 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage.
Opening up the box reveals more yellow color. Even the accessories compartment is in yellow.
Underneath the accessories compartment we can find the Pocophone F1 itself.
Under the Pocophone F1, we find the usual – charger and USB-C cable alongside with the SIM ejector tool.
In summary of all the contents, the Pocophone F1 comes with a charger, USB-C cable, some documentation, the phone itself, a SIM ejector tool, and also a TPU case. Pretty basic, if you ask me. Still, the black and yellow color theme of the packaging is something that I think is special.
Xiaomi even included protection on the camera lenses with a piece of sticker – which is the first time we’ve seen such a thing!
At first glance, the Pocophone F1 has nothing in common with other Xiaomi smartphones that are in the market right now. Unlike some other smartphone brand that literally copy pasted templates of smartphone designs, the Pocophone F1 has a fresh new design that is distinctive.
The Pocophone F1 is relatively similar in terms of physical size to many other smartphones in the market. Thanks again to development of longer, notched displays, the Pocophone F1 looks large but fits comfortably in the hands.
Speaking of familiarity in the hands, the Pocophone F1 has a very, very slight curvature at the back. It’s not that noticeable to the eyes, but can be felt and detected if you place the phone on a flat surface and rock it sideways.
While at the back of the phone, we can also touch and feel the polycarbonate back of the phone. Essentially, it’s high quality plastic and it is one of the few ways Xiaomi managed to keep the price of the Pocophone F1 this low.
Then comes the TPU case. To be frank, it’s one of the thinnest and cheapest TPU case I’ve used and it caught fingerprint grease on the instant I touched it. The included TPU case does have the little grains to create the separation layer, though – which is good.
The case itself doesn’t offer much protection to the screen too. The included TPU case does not have a lip around the screen – so don’t ever think about laying the Pocophone F1 with the screen facing downward. Remember – it is reported to only have Corning Gorilla Glass 3.
The TPU case still allows the buttons to be pressed easily, by the way.
[nextpage title=”Connectivity and ports”]
In the world where everything is connected and speed is important, the Pocophone F1 falls short. Instantly off the bat – the Pocophone F1 does not support LTE-A CA, which means there is no 4G+ support.
On the other hand, the Pocophone F1 does support 802.11ac WiFi – which is good.
Other than that, the Pocophone F1 does not have IR blaster for remote control. However, there is an IR blaster and receiver at the notch for face unlock. It works surprisingly well and yes – it is super speedy.
At the top of the Pocophone F1, there’s nothing to be seen other than a microphone and the 3.5mm audio jack. Looking at the bottom, however, we can find the microphone and speaker grills together with the USB-C port. It only works in USB 2.0 standard, by the way. There’s a stylish notification LED right above the USB-C port as well – which does give its design some style points.
On a side note, the earpiece on the notch also doubles as a front-facing speaker, albeit at a low volume with sub-par sound quality. Still, at least the Pocophone F1 has a front-facing speaker – unlike the Honor Play.
On the left side of the Pocophone F1 is where the card tray slot is found. Here we can see a the common configuration of SIM1 + hybrid slot, where the hybrid can house another nano SIM or microSD.
Housed with a large 6.18-inch 18.7:9 aspect ratio display with 2246×1080 pixels in resolution and a humongous notch at the top of the screen, the Pocophone F1 actually has around 82.2% screen-to-body ratio.
You can also hide the notch via software, if you like.
Unlike many other smartphone manufacturers in the market that uses 2.5D glass that curves into the edges around the sides, the Pocophone F1 has a very small and subtle curve only. Essentially, almost the entire screen is flat – which makes it more favorable for those who want to install tempered glass screen protectors.
You’ll need a tempered glass screen protector as the Pocophone F1 is reported to be using Corning Gorilla Glass 3 only. Throughout my usual review usage of the Pocophone F1, I’m already seeing microscratches around the screen. And yes, it’s another way for the Pocophone F1 to cut cost as well.
Though, the colors that the Pocophone F1’s screen produces isn’t particularly beautiful. It’s noticeably washed out. There is an option to change the contrast of the phone and also the entire color wheel for you to choose what color tint you want. The brightness, however, is actually quite good. I’ll just leave everything in default and automatic contrast.
The radius of curvature of the screen on the rounded corners is a bit too extreme. Some elements in games (PUBG Mobile for example) is cut off. We’ve actually seen this occurrence in the ASUS ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 5z.
When I first saw the announcement of the Pocophone F1, the only thing I was worried about is the camera. The Mi A2 which we reviewed recently has a great camera – but what about the Pocophone F1?
When comparing the camera’s specs, the rear-facing camera of the Pocophone F1 is identical to the Redmi Note 5. However, we don’t have a Redmi Note 5 with us to do a side-by-side comparison.
By copy-pasting the rear-facing camera modules, the Pocophone F1’s price can once again be reduced.
Take a look at the specs:
- Rear-facing cameras (same as Redmi Note 5)
- 12MP sensor, 1/2.55-inch sensor and 1.4µm pixel size with f/1.9 aperture lens; dual-pixel PDAF
- 5MP f/2.0 depth sensor
- 20MP f/2.0 selfie camera
Only one thing remains – is the Pocophone F1 camera any good? Take a look at the picture samples down below.
I have to say – the camera surprised me. The shots look surprisingly good with high amount of details, vibrant and accurate colors, and good white balance.
However, the shutter is slow even in office lighting conditions and did cause a lot of shots to be blurry. The lack of stabilization – either optically or digitally – is part of the blame as well. However, in brightly lit conditions, the Pocophone F1’s camera is fantastic.
The Pocophone F1 has an “AI” mode as well. The differences are quite apparent, like brightening up the sky when it’s slightly gloomy and makes the green leaves greener. It might be a little too much sometimes, though. The scene detection is quite accurate, and toggling it on and off is also easy.
Here’s another comparison.
I honestly prefer without AI, honestly.
Night shots with the Pocophone F1 is doing well too – if there aren’t any moving subjects. The scenic night shot of this playground looks decent enough to be used in social media. Don’t bother zooming in and viewing at 100% crop – it’s noisy like my aunt.
The 20MP selfie camera is actually not as good as I want it to be. My first indoor selfie shot using the Pocophone F1 turned out blurry – which means the shutter isn’t that fast or the sensor compensates the darkness by prolonging shutter speed. The second shot I took was under a light bulb and that turned out quite okay.
Either way, the 20MP sensor with a fixed focus lens means that selfies aren’t sharp but they look decent. Once again, good enough for social media use.
Once again the Pocophone F1 has the same UI like the Xiaomi Mi A2 that we reviewed here, which does have its pros and cons.
The UI is relatively clean, but changing modes could be a pain in the rear. There is no method to “scroll” from the fully-automatic Photo mode to Manual mode instantly. You’ll have to go through the intermediate modes like the Square mode before ending up to Manual – which is quite a hassle.
The amount of modes remained more or less the same. “HHT” mode is missing but I suppose it’s already integrated as a part of the “AI” mode.
[nextpage title=”Software – Android 8.1.0 with MIUI 9.6 POCO Edition”]
Without any surprise, the Pocophone F1 was announced to use Xiaomi’s MIUI. Once again, we expect it to be a cost-saving step. However, Xiaomi did make it a tad bit more special for the Pocophone F1 – it’s using MIUI 9.6 POCO Edition.
So what’s new with the MIUI 9.6 POCO Edition? Truth be told, nothing spectacular. There is a new theme made for the Pocophone F1 called POCO. Yes, I’m not joking – take a look at this screenshot.
Other features are just copied over from existing smartphones that are using MIUI. To their credit, MIUI’s gesture navigation is the best I’ve tried. It’s intuitive, responsive, and works all the time. Still, it takes some getting used to.
Xiaomi never once marketed the Pocophone F1 as a “gaming smartphone” in the product page, but it would be better if we can see something like Samsung’s Game Tools built into the MIUI 9.6 POCO Edition. I mean, many people are already looking at the Pocophone F1 as a gaming smartphone.
In terms of bloatware, yes – there are a few. Still, it’s only a small matter. They can be uninstalled. Actually, I find them useful – except for Skype.
Funny enough, during the setup process, I was prompted about setting up my fingerprint data for unlocking purposes – but I was never prompted about the face unlock. The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 actually comes with an infrared sensor that is dedicated for face unlock – which you have to navigate here to set it up.
Overall, in terms of software, the Pocophone F1 has nothing out of the ordinary. Then comes the next question – is the Pocophone F1 optimized for gaming?
[nextpage title=”Performance & Gaming”]
We all know the Pocophone F1 has one main selling point – the “master of speed” with Snapdragon 845 built in. While that’s true, we did discover some weird quirks about the Pocophone F1. First, let’s take a look at the specs first:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- 4x Kryo 385 Gold @ 2.8GHz + 4x Kryo 385 Silver @ 1.8GHz
- Adreno 630 GPU @ up to 710MHz
- 6GB LPDDR4X RAM
- 64GB UFS 2.1 internal storage
- 4,000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery
- Android 8.1.0 Oreo with MIUI 9.6 POCO Edition
From the look of it, the core specs of the Pocophone F1 is pretty to other Snapdragon 845 devices like the ASUS ZenFone 5z – but in benchmarks, it did show some differences.
Comparing the benchmark score of the Pocophone F1, the CPU performance – be it single- or multi-core, it performs just as good as other Snapdragon 845 smartphone. However, when it comes to GPU performance in 3DMark, we’re unsure why the Pocophone F1 falls short. In other benchmarks, the GPU performance seems to be fine.
It might be because of the Pocophone F1’s software isn’t particularly well-optimized yet. In whichever case, let’s talk about gaming.
Gaming on the Pocophone F1
I have to say – gaming on this phone is great – as expected. Firstly, I played the usual games – Honkai Impact 3 at the highest of high settings. It runs at a full 60FPS with zero hiccups even on Sakura’s 3D open-ish world adventures. Then I moved on to PUBG Mobile, and I can play on the Pocophone F1 with the highest possible graphical settings with – once again, zero lag.
When it comes to thermals, Xiaomi did tout that the Pocophone F1 comes with “LiquidCool technology”. In truth, it means that the Pocophone F1 has a heatpipe. Though, when I played a round of PUBG Mobile, the phone stays in a relatively cool temperature despite having a polycarbonate back and with the TPU case installed. The screen did get a little warmer around the center, but other than that – it’s pretty good.
Compared to the Honor Play that we reviewed here, the Pocophone F1 is performing far better in terms of performance and keeping the phone cool. The Honor Play doesn’t even have a heatpipe!
[nextpage title=”Battery & Charger”]
Out of the box, the Pocophone F1 is equipped with a 4,000mAh battery. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be this high capacity. For its price, I’d be happy with whatever capacity it has – but Xiaomi didn’t cheap out on this. The 4,000mAh battery is one of the main feature highlight of the Pocophone F1 – because gaming drains a lot of juice.
In our PCMark Work 2.0 battery life test, the Pocophone F1 can last for 13 hours and 52 minutes – that really impressive. Even better than the Galaxy Note9 that has a 4,000mAh battery with a Super AMOLED screen and scaled down to 1080p resolution.
Gaming is a different story – about 30 minutes of PUBG Mobile drained around 12% of battery. Not too bad.
The charger itself is white in color – and so is the USB-C cable. Inspecting the charger itself, it has the Xiaomi logo with a Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 logo as well. Yes – the Pocophone F1 supports QC 3.0. This charge can output 9V 2A and also 12V at 1.5A.
Albeit with a 4,000mAh battery, at 18W of power, the Pocophone F1 can charge to 50% at just 32 minutes, and then reaching 75% battery at 54 minutes. To reach 100% battery, it takes 108 minutes. Remember – you have a 4,000mAh battery here, so having 50% charge can last you a long time.
We also tested with a 5V 2A charger, and yes, obviously it’s a lot slower.
[nextpage title=”Wrapping up the Pocophone F1 review”]
Alright – our reviews only tell you the truth – and truth about the Pocophone F1 is simple. You get a lot great performance – but there are quite a lot of features that are lacking. For example, the Pocophone F1 is using few-generations old Corning Gorilla Glass, a polycarbonate back (essentially plastic), and a sub-par earpiece loudspeaker. There’s no 4G+ support either. Also, the included TPU case is just terrible.
With that said, the Pocophone F1 does actually come with a pretty decent camera camera, infrared face unlock, large battery, Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, and also a heatpipe that prevents the Snapdragon 845 chipset from overheating.
Obviously, there are more things to nitpick about the Pocophone F1 – particularly the software. I wish that it’s more than just the addition of a POCO theme and for them to actually add the Widevine L1 support.
All these power and speed for the low, low price of just RM1,299 after SST – which is surprisingly magical. I can easily recommend the Pocophone F1 to everyone looking for cheap and powerful Android device.
You want speed? Pocophone F1. You want gaming? Pocophone F1. You want battery? Pocophone F1. You want camera? Perhaps not, but Pocophone F1 is a good choice and you get a lot more than just camera.
Comparing to the Honor Play – which is around the same price point and targeting at the same market segment, the Pocophone F1 is vastly superior. Like we said, the Pocophone F1 sets an important precedent in the smartphone industry, and we can only speculate and spectate what happens next.