Poco was a brand I knew very little about before reviewing this phone. Xiaomi’s latest budget smartphone, the Poco X3 Pro, packs a surprising punch though, and if you’re looking for power without the price, this may be the phone for you.

Processing

The first thing to know about this phone is that it’s home to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 processor. For those who don’t know the ins and outs of processor chips, this marginally outperforms the OnePlus 7 Pro, which Dom called “uber powerful” just 18 months ago. Sure, there’s now more powerful chips on the market, but a top-end 2019 phone is no slouch in 2021, and the big difference is that, at around £200, this phone costs about a quarter of most high-end phones.

It’s an impressive to see how far you can push this phone because of this. An in-built app cloning function lets you run an app multiple times at once, and so I immediately used it to clone Pokémon Go. The Poco X3 Pro will happily run two copies of the game at the same time, letting you switch seamlessly between the two. I’ve swapped mid catch, walked 100m catching a dozen Pokémon and switched back, and had no issues with either app crashing.

The Poco X3 Pro handled everything I threw at it with ease.

Testing on newer, more resource-intensive games, like MTG Arena, is a little different. Although Arena runs beautifully on this phone, it doesn’t stay open and idle in the background anywhere near as readily as other apps. If you want to text and scroll Instagram while your opponent takes their turn, you’re out of luck.

The phone has its limits, but you’ve got to go pretty far to reach them. Nicely, the phone never throttled due to heat. The heat sink works remarkably well and it only ever became mildly warm while playing my favourite games for hours on end.

Build

Built around that chipset is a nice looking phone. There’s a striped design running down the back that is fairly snazzy, with a shiny “POCO” branding the empty space below the large, round camera array. That juts out horribly if you don’t use a protective case. The 6.67” screen that you’ll spend most of the time looking at is big and bright, with an emphasis on big. This is not a phone for little hands, and at 242g, it’s not lightweight by current standards.

Yes, I leave stickers on phones. Sue me.

Everything else about the Poco X3 Pro is standard affair — 3.5mm jack, USB-C charging, a micro SDXC slot (or a second SIM slot, depending on your need), and a fingerprint reader and front-facing camera to unlock the phone. The Gorilla Glass front is durable and phone itself is IP53 dust and splash resistant. There’s also an IR blaster, if you need that.

While the face unlocking works well, even after shaving off a 6 week bear – in fairness I’m a white guy, and facial recognition is currently biased toward faces like mine – but I found the fingerprint reader built into the lock button a little odd. It generally works, but since you don’t need to press the button to unlock the phone, it can unlock by mistake when taking it out of your pocket.

What’s in the box?

The phone comes with a bundled protective case, which is great… until you realise how cheap it looks and feels. It’s also a nightmare to get on and off of the phone, and the flap covering the charge port gets in the way more than it should, making charging a bit of a hassle at times.

Talking of charging, the phone came with the wrong charger for me; despite being very much in London, I was sent a European charger. You’re getting negative points for that, Xiaomi.

Thankfully I could charging it off the mains supply for my MacBook Pro, the phone able to take 33W of power, and getting juiced up to the tune of 1 percentage point per minute.

The bundled case is a nice touch, but it feels very cheap.

Battery

The battery on this phone will not let you down. This 5160mAh battery is something of a monster, and will keep you going all day with ease. If the numbers mean little to you, I have portable powerbanks that are smaller than this!

Even on game-heavy days, walking around catching Pokémon for around 6 hours, while tethering a second phone to it and listening to a podcast with Bluetooth headphones, I still had oodles of battery life to leave it overnight and wake up with a good 20% battery left.

Camera

As mentioned, the quad-camera on the back of this beast is hard to miss. With a 48MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor, it would seem that you’re very well equipped. Flip it over and you have a 20MP hole-punch camera for all your selfie needs.

Despite this wealth of options, the X3 Pro pales in comparison to high-end phones. The main and ultrawide cameras perform pretty well with great quality when zoomed all the way in and excellent colour matching on the pair. It’s a shame that you have to manually select 48MP whenever you want to take an ultra-high resolution shot.

Alongside them, the 2MP macro and depth sensor are both a bit useless, though the front camera performs well, and video recordings are decent. They’re just not much to write home about.

There’s a lot of camera lenses, but they are just OK at best.

Display

The other side to that coin is, of course, the display. The 6.67in IPS LCD screen is perfectly capable of all your HD needs. Although it’s no AMOLED, it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re using a budget phone based on that screen.

With 120Hz refresh and 240Hz touch sampling rates, the display is clean and your games feel responsive. The screen is bright enough for both daytime and night conditions, which is always a bonus. The fact that you get such quality in a budget phone speaks volumes to how far tech has come over the past decade.

The one thing I found odd was the default colour settings, which seemed very muted. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of colour settings you can work with here to adjust the phone to suit your needs —  it’s worth remembering that IPS LCD will never have the same dynamic range that OLED screens will.

OS/UI

The user interface here is, by far, the Poco X3 Pro’s biggest weakness. MIUI, Xioami’s heavily modified UI, feels clunky and horrible. Not only did the phone come with 2GB of bloatware like PUBG — truly the U2 album of Android phones — but the interface is just awful to work with. Even ubiquitous apps like Facebook Messenger don’t overlay correctly in bubble mode, allowing you to see either the text field or the keyboard. Additionally, the phone is the slowest to receive push notifications I’ve ever seen. Notifications from the likes of Instagram came through 16 hours late at their worst.

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