The name “Flagship-Killer” will always be associated with OnePlus by the smartphone fans. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 6 arrived at a selling price of 580$ and the concept of much hardware for little money lapses. Xiaomi, however, remains the absolute front runner when talking about outstanding price/performance, also without aggressive marketing. We were really surprised that Xiaomi, with the sub-brand POCO, directly competes with the Xiaomi Mi 8. Xiaomi means “little rice” in Chinese and Pocophone means “little mobile phone” in Spanish. Of course, this does not concern the size of the smartphones, but Xiaomi’s underdog status is emphasized by the subsidiary brand. This means that the big brands in Europe have to wrap up well, as Xiaomi’s expansion has only just begun. The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 offers flagship specifications at a toughly calculated price that even makes a Xiaomi Mi 8 look small. But first, the device has to convince in our test. We have tested the Pocophone F1 8 days long in daily use. With a Snapdragon 845, the Pocophone offers the currently strongest mobile processor, as well as the Liquid Cooling System of the Blackshark for excellent performance even after long gaming sessions, a dual camera, as we already know it from the Mi8 SE, and a powerful 4000mAh battery.
Design and build quality
The 6.19-inch display covers the entire front of the Poco F1 and is interrupted at the top by a very large notch. The Poco smartphone is 155.5mm long, 75.2mm wide and 8.8mm thick. In a direct comparison, a Xiaomi Mi8 with a 6.21-inch display of 154.9 x 74.8 x 7.6mm is built slightly more compact. The thickness of the Pocophone is due to the large 4000mAh battery and that’s okay. The Pocophone F1 (182g) is also 7g heavier than the Mi8 (175g). With their weight, both smartphones provide a valuable feeling in the hand. We used the normal edition with plastic rear for the test, but there is also a special edition with a Kevlar rear. Not only the rear is made of plastic, but the stable frame also consists of plastic. At first, we even thought it was metal, as the frame feels so high quality. The power button and volume control are actually made of metal. You can’t really say that you’re missing anything about high-quality materials here. The Pocophone F1 is excellently built and gets you a high-end feeling just like any other high-priced smartphone. And let’s all be honest for a moment: Most people use a case on their phone anyway. This is exactly what is included in the scope of delivery, along with the charging adapter, USB type C, short instructions and SIM ejection tool.
The notch at the top is just as huge as with the Mi8 and offers accordingly little space for icons. But the Xiaomi Mi8 test already dealt with this topic. The bezels left and right are 3mm, noticeably larger than those on the Mi8 with only 2.5mm. The screen-to-body ratio is nevertheless convincing with the price in mind. Instead of the usual on-screen buttons you also have the possibility to use MIUI’s full-screen gestures. These swipe gestures simply replace the home, back and multitasking commands. The gesture control is one of my absolute favorite features, which I always appreciate in daily use. A notification LED pulsates at the place where the home button used to be, only in the color white. As with the Mi8, an infrared camera is responsible for Face Unlock, which unlocks the Pocophone F1 without any noticeable delay. There is simply no difference between normal switching on without lock and switching on with Face-Unlock. But beware, this method is of course not as secure as a fingerprint sensor or even a PIN. However, simple pictures are not enough to trick the Face-Unlock. On the rear, you will also find the well-known fingerprint sensor below the dual camera, which is not only accurate, but also damn fast.
The dual camera doesn’t protrude significantly from the rear. The design is reminiscent of Nubia due to the red circles. Also, a dual LED flash helps the camera. At the bottom, you’ll find the loudspeaker, the microphone and the modern USB-Type-C connector. The Pocophone also offers the well-known 3.5mm jack connector, which almost all manufacturers except OnePlus do not use in their flagships anymore. The Pocophone also offers a hybrid slot, which is also hardly represented with high-powered models. If you do without 2 SIM cards, you can expand the memory by up to 500GB with a Micro-SD.
To get an excellent design and a premium feeling, you don’t have to dig deep into your pocket anymore. There are also cheaper mobile phones that prove this without any problems. Glass or metal is still the standard with a flagship, but you will hardly miss it with the Pocophone. The mobile phone has an excellent build quality and the varnished plastic feels high-quality. Moreover, you hardly have visible fingerprints and greasy marks. Storage expansion and a jack connection are available additionally.
Xiaomi only offers Full-HD displays, and so, the Pocophone comes with a clean screen of 2246 x 1080 pixels. But it’s not an AMOLED like the Mi8 has, but an ordinary IPS LCD with 6.18-inches in 18.7:9 format. Thus, the pixel density of the Pocphone F1 reaches a solid 403 pixels per inch and you won’t find any individual pixels. The color representation is pleasantly natural and in the standard with the automatic contrast also pleasantly strong. In the options menu, you can adjust the color representation continuously and adapt it to your personal preferences. The terminable read mode (blue light filter) and the well-known option “double-tap-to-wake” are also available here. The display also scores well in terms of brightness, even though it cannot keep up with the OnePlus 6 here. The maximum brightness is 450 cd/m² and that’s enough for good outdoor use, even on a sunny day. However, the OP6 is better readable in direct sunlight. In terms of contrast, the Pocophone of course also loses in comparison to the Mi8 and OP6, as can be seen in particular when the notch is turned to black. With the Poco F1, the areas left and right to the notch are grey rather than black, with the Mi8 almost black and with the OP6 really black. Xiaomi states a contrast of 1500:1.
The touch screen provides accurate input with up to 10 points of contact simultaneously and the finger glides comfortably over the display surface. A Corning Gorilla Glass protects against scratches and falls, even if Xiaomi doesn’t state the exact version of the glass. The Pocophone F1 convinces in the category display also compared to flagships like a Oneplus 6 or Xiaomi Mi8. AMOLED fans may be disappointed, but those who like natural color representation are all the happier.
System and performance
The Pocophone F1 currently runs on Android 8.1. It also uses Xiaomi’s strongly adapted MIUI interface in version 9.6. Soon, there will be version 10 and an Android 9 base, Xiaomi has already confirmed that. Instead of the normal user interface, Xiaomi surprises with a so-called “MIUI for Poco”. But the changes only affect the look and you now have an app-drawer (overview page with all apps), which can be created by swiping from bottom to top. So, not all apps land on the home screens like with normal MIUI, but you can control less used apps with the app-drawer. Under “Design”, you can find “Standard MIUI”, the new “limitless” and now also the POCO-Launcher, which optically adapts everything. The standard and limitless design also feature the app drawer and the Stock-Android typical notification points on the individual apps. However, I prefer the red numbers of the normal MIUI. All features of the MI operating system like the security center, notification management and the popular full-screen gestures are of course integrated, nothing changes.
In terms of bloatware, you only find Microsoft Office and Skype. But those apps can be uninstalled without any problems. Only Xiaomi’s own apps such as QR code scanner, calculator, FM radio, etc. cannot be uninstalled. MIUI for Poco runs wild under the Snapdragon 845. Delays when opening apps or when switching in the multitasking view are hardly noticeable. The performance in the system is in no way inferior to any other flagship. You might have some problems using certain functions like the theme center or the Face Unlock, if you choose certain countries as preferred region. If it doesn’t work, we recommend selecting India or Italy. You can still use any other language as the system language.
“Master of Speed”, at least that’s how Xiaomi called the device. A somewhat funny title, which perhaps points out that there is no smartphone in this price range that can even slightly compete with the power of a Snapdragon 845 powered device. The actual news by Xiaomi to the rest of the smartphone manufacturers is to install such a processor in a smartphone that costs 350$. The performance monster with an Adreno 630 GPU not only handles all current titles in full resolution with ease, the Pocophone F1 is also super cooled. After one hour of PubG, we were able to measure almost 38° at the warmest point, which is hardly noticeable. In the relevant benchmarks, the Pocophone F1 is, as expected, on a par with the other Snapdragon 845 devices, only that all the others cost a lot more money.Antutu Result Geekbench Multi Result 3D Mark Result
The optional 6 or 8GB large DDR4 RAM provides a nice multitasking experience with transfer rates of 13.5GB/s. The internal storage (either 64 or 128GB) is also really fast with a reading/writing speed of 683/158 MB/s. There is a small problem for Netflix and Amaton users. Widevine L3 limits Netflix and Amazon to HD-Ready 520p quality. Unfortunately, Netflix does not specify which resolution it really is. If someone knows how to check it, I would be happy to hear your comment and test it immediately. In practice, this is far less bad than you would think. Remember, this is a 6.2-inch smartphone and not a 50-inch television. Accordingly, it is hardly possible in a direct comparison to separate the presumed 520p content from the presumed 1080p content. But YouTube and numerous other streaming providers run quite normally with resolutions up to 4K.
In summary, Xiaomi does everything right here. The app-drawer in the “MIUI for Poco” is a nice bonus that many people will like. Otherwise, the system is already very well optimized. Using the currently fastest chip, combining it with a lot of RAM and fast UFS storage is not uncommon, but selling the whole thing for 350$ is simply madness. Not only does the SD845 offer future security in terms of performance, Xiaomi’s UI also receives updates like no other system and will be supported for a very long time. MIUI 10 will be available also for many older devices.
In order to compare the image quality, we used the images taken by a Oneplus 6. The Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is equipped with the same dual camera on the rear as the already tested Xiaomi Mi8 SE and also delivers identical results. The Sony IMX363 is the main sensor of the Xiaomi Mi8 and is supported by an almost meaningless Samsung s5k3t1 sensor. The only task of the second sensor is the separation of foreground and background in bokeh shots. The telephoto lens with 2x zoom is reserved for the Mi8. The main sensor works with large 1.4µm pixels and has an aperture of f/1.9. So like with the Mi8 SE, you have a slightly smaller lens aperture and no optical image stabilizer compared to the Mi8. Xiaomi’s artificial camera intelligence can be activated and most of our test shots were shot with it. I still don’t really understand the results. Sometimes, the smartphone recognizes buildings, but in the open almost always clouds. What finally happens is a bit unclear. With the Mi8, there was a strong contrast and color boost. With the Pocophone, almost nothing happens. In fact, it wasn’t possible to distinguish photos taken with the AI from photos taken without the AI.
All this results in sharp, very detailed images with excellent contrast in good lighting conditions, even if the HDR mode is not activated. The AI probably uses the HDR mode as well. HDR doesn’t really have to be used with the Pocophone F1. The shots are sharp even at the edges.
In poor lighting conditions, however, the Pocophone is clearly inferior, compared to a Oneplus 6 or Mi8 the images are simply too noisy. Low-light images are also appropriate for the price range, but they are not on a high-end level.
Bokeh shots are taken quickly and easily, as with most Xiaomi smartphones. The background is almost perfectly cut off, but occasionally you can see inconsistencies in the hair. Also the selfie camera can produce bokeh shots, these can also be taken fast and are first-class in terms of quality. The 20 megapixel Omnivision sensor isn’t known yet, but it could be that Xiaomi uses either the OV7251 or the Sony IMX376 known from the Mi8 SE and Mi6X. The sensor in our Pocophone F1 test device has 20 megapixels with a lens aperture of f/2.0. The standard beauty mode should be deactivated for us Westerners first, but then the Poco F1 shoots excellent selfies with many details and accurate face colors. In the dark, however, the noise quickly sets in and the images are blurred.
The Mi8 SE can be used as a direct model in terms of video recordings. 4K is supported in the MIUI camera app and just like 1080p only with 30 FPS. The recordings are very detailed and 1080p is also well stabilized (EIS). 4K however then looks different and the stabilization works, if at all, only minimally. Considering that the Redmi Note 5 also stabilizes 4K with an additional camera app like Opencamera, I don’t really understand that. If you use the Opencamera app with the Pocophone F1, the focus no longer works properly. Otherwise, the dual pixel auto focus is a blessing and focuses precisely and quickly even when moving.
Somewhere, you have to notice the price difference and you do so with the Pocophone’s camera. In daylight, the image quality of the main camera and the selfies can easily keep up with the smartphone elite. But this is no longer the case with low-light shots and videos. Here, you can have a look at the images in direct comparison with the Oneplus 6:
Connectivity and communication
Since the Pocophone is especially designed for the international market, there are of course all frequencies required in Europe! Of course, the smartphone supports 2 SIM cards at the same time, like all China mobile phones do. VoLTE can be activated with the code: “*#*#86583#*#*” and then used normally.
GSM (2G): B2 / B3 / B5 / B8
WCDMA/UMTS (3G): B1 / B2 / B4 / B5 / B8
FDD-LTE (4G): B1 / B2 / B3 / B4 / B5 / B7 / B8 / B12 / B17 / B20
The call quality of the Pocophone F1 is excellent and the noise-canceling microphone reliably filters out ambient noise. The speaker is OK, but the filtering doesn’t work as well here. Perhaps because of the plastic, the reception with the Pocophone is noticeably good and better than with most smartphones. The SAR values are 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g) SAR Limit: Head: 0.66 W/kg, Body: 1.18 W/kg.
The same is true for GPS and WiFi. WiFi of course works with ac-standard and in 2.4 and 5GHz networks (2×2 MIMU). Range and data throughput are excellent and the transmissions are impressively constant. The GPS determines the position even in buildings quite quickly and connects to up to 26 satellites outdoors. In addition to GLONASS, Galileo is also supported and the position is determined reliably and constantly to an accuracy of 2-3m. A compass reliably supports pedestrian navigation. Bluetooth 5.0 also works perfectly and supports AptX and Aptx-HD with Bluetooth headphones.
In addition to the 3 standard sensors (acceleration sensor, proximity sensor and brightness sensor), a gyroscope, barometer and Hall sensor are also installed. As a special extra there is an FM radio receiver, which can be used with the pre-installed MIUI App. OTG is also available as usual. The Pocophone F1 does not support NFC.
A real highlight for some users will be the jack connection. So you can plug in your high-class headphones without an additional adapter. The result is an accurate and clean sound, but the volume is only on average. The stereo loudspeakers consist of a loudspeaker on the bottom and are additionally supported by the auricle. The sound here is hardly really stereo, but differentiated and, if desired, very loud. The overall quality is rather on average.
In times when the smartphone industry is struggling with old-fashioned features like wireless charging, the Pocophone F1 goes a pretty easy way to stand out from the crowd. The large 4000mAh battery provides the best battery life of any flagship on the market. In combination with MIUI not only the stand-by run time is awesome. In the PCMark battery test, the Pocophone lasted for 10 hours. In daily use, I got a DOT (time with the display switched on) of 7-8 hours on 2 test days. These are very good values and, considering the use in the test with benchmarks and gaming, outstanding for a flagship.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours
Also Qualcomm Quick-Charge 3.0 is available; well, a Mi8 might have QC4, but you can’t use it, because there are no QC4 charging adapters! With Quick-Charge 3.0, you can charge the phone from 0 to 100% in 2 hours. If you need some power in between, you get from 20 to 80% in just 50 minutes. In 15 minutes you get almost 20% of battery, depending on how full or empty the battery is. No peak values, but it’s fast anyway.
Conclusion and alternative
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*Prices include shipping and toll. Intermediate changes of prices, ranking, delivery time and costs possible. Prices last updated on 20.01.2019