Poco F1 first impressions: Will disrupt the flagship smartphone segment

The Poco F1 was launched in India on 22 August for a jaw-dropping starting price of Rs 20,999.

Xiaomi has been ruling the budget smartphone segment for quite a while now. Its Redmi Note 5 Pro has little competition in the Rs 15,000 segment. But there hasn’t really been a flagship level device from Xiaomi that has really created as much of an impact. Looks like Xiaomi realised that and instead of continuing to expand its existing portfolio of Mi devices, it has decided to start from scratch and has created a completely new sub-brand called Poco, which will be focussing on enthusiast smartphones

Poco F1.

Poco F1. Image: tech2

The first device from this sub-brand the Poco F1 was launched in India on 22 August for a jaw-dropping starting price of Rs 20,999. The reason I say jaw-dropping is because it is a smartphone housing the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC with 6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, 4,000 mAh battery with QuickCharge 3.0, dual rear camera setup, infrared face unlocking sensor and much more. So far the most affordable Snapdragon 845 SoC sporting smartphone was the Asus ZenFone 5z at Rs 29,999. At that price, you now get the Poco F1’s top end variant which has a Kevlar coated back, Snapdragon 845 SoC, 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage!

It’s an understatement to say that Poco F1 will be disrupting the market with these kinds of price points for flagship SoC sporting smartphones. Everyone from the Honor PlayOppo F7, Honor 10, Asus ZenFone 5z, OnePlus 6, Nokia 7 Plus and more should be feeling the heat, as the Poco F1 along with its four variants covers the Rs 20,999 to Rs 29,999 price range.

While the Poco F1 review is underway, here are our first impressions of the device which is surely going to shake up the under Rs 30,000 price segment. The Poco F1 will go on sale exclusively on Flipkart and Mi.com on 29 August at 12 pm.

Build and Design

Poco has decided to take a bold decision with the F1 and go with a polycarbonate back. In addition to the polycarbonate back we also have the Armoured back edition which comes with Kevlar coating. As far as 2018 flagships go, we have come to expect either metal unibody designs or glass backs, so the Poco F1 is greatly different in that department. And looking at the pricing that it's going for, that decision makes perfect sense. I got the Armoured edition for testing which offers a really good grip and I wouldn’t want to snap on an additional cover. Poco is also selling skins for the F1 which start from Rs 299, and some of them look cool like the one in the photo below. 

Poco F1. Image: tech2/Nimish Sawant

Poco F1. Image: tech2/Nimish Sawant

It's not the best-looking flagship devices around as Poco has focussed more on the functionality of the design. The phone feels solid in the hand and measures around 8.9 mm thick and weighs 187 gram. That’s not the lightest or thinnest smartphone there, but you need to take into consideration that it houses a 4,000 mAh battery. There’s a 6.18-inch display up front with a significant notch which not only houses the front camera and earpiece speaker, but also an infrared face unlock module.

Around the phone, you have the hybrid dual SIM card slot on the left-hand side, the volume rocker and power/standby buttons on the right-hand side, a USB Type C port at the base and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top. The dual-rear cameras on the back do not protrude out much and the fingerprint sensor is smartly located where your index finger would rest.

Display

The Poco F1 comes with a 6.18-inch LCD display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 2246 x 1080 pixels. The display looked bright and while I still have to test it out properly, there wasn’t any immediately noticeable flaw. The text was sharp, colours and viewing angles were good. You also get an option to disable the notch, but I would advise against it as the portion beside the notch isn’t completely dark and sees some backlight bleed. The display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. 

Poco F1. Image: tech2/Nimish Sawant

Poco F1. Image: tech2/Nimish Sawant

Chipset, RAM, Storage

Considering the Poco F1 is targetting the enthusiast crowd, it has not left out any of the flagship features. It houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC which is the flagship SoC at the moment with Adreno 630 GPU which should take care of most of your apps and gaming needs. Of course, we will be putting it through the paces to see how well it performs. In order to ensure that the performance does not degrade over time due to heat build-up, Poco has incorporated a LiquidCool technology, which basically dissipates the heat quickly from the SoC using a heat pipe to do that.

Poco F1.

Poco F1.

The Armoured edition I am testing comes with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of UFS 2.1 storage. The storage is expandable using a micro SD card slot, but you will have to let go a SIM slot for that. The other variants include 6+64 GB and 6+128 GB and the 8+ 256 GB, all with polycarbonate backs.

Operating System

Poco F1 will be going with Android 8.1 OS with MIUI skin atop it. According to Poco, the MIUI OS has been optimised specifically for the F1 and it will also feature its own Poco Launcher which will have the provision for an app drawer, the ability to group app icons based on categories or based on the colour of the apps. It was also announced at launch that the Poco F1 would be getting the Android 9 Pie treatment in Q4 2018. You can also hide app icons, in case you want to keep some apps visible only for your eyes. The Poco F1 claims to have over 20 deep system integrations, which I will be able to elaborate on only after thoroughly testing the device.

Poco F1

Poco F1

Camera, Battery

Dual cameras have become de-rigeuer for flagship smartphones, and even for mid-range ones. The Poco F1 also sports a dual camera setup on the back with a 12 MP primary camera and a 5 MP depth-sensing camera which Poco calls the AI Dual camera. The sensor comprises a dual-pixel AF and has a 1.4 micron pixel size. According to Poco, its camera can identify up to 206 scenes and adjust the settings to enhances the final output. These scenes include some which are relevant for India as well.

On the front, you have a 20 MP camera which supports pixel binning, where it combines four pixels into one super pixel. According to Poco, this assists with low light selfies. All these camera claims will be put to test in the complete review of course, but in the meanwhile, here are some sample shots that were shot with the Poco F1 which should give you some idea of what’s in store.

Poco F1.

Poco F1.

Poco F1 houses a 4,000 mAh battery and it comes with QuickCharge 3.0. Poco has also bundled a QuickCharge 3.0 compliant charger in the box, which is quite thoughtful.

Conclusion

Xiaomi had created a disruption when it launched in India back in 2014 with the Xiaomi Mi 3 which was priced at Rs 14,999 back then. It came with the then flagship Snapdragon 800 SoC which was only found in phones selling twice or three times that price point.

 

Poco F1.

Poco F1.

The Poco F1 has all the potential of disrupting the market in a similar fashion as it has got the price point of the flagship Snapdragon 845 SoC sporting phone to almost Rs 10,000 lower than its nearest competition. I can’t wait to put the phone through its paces to see if the Poco F1 indeed delivers on all fronts in terms of performance, as it does with the price. Do check back for a full review of the Poco F1 soon.

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