To say that POCO’s foray into the Indian smartphone market was a rip-roaring success would be an understatement. Back then, the company introduced the Snapdragon 845-toting POCO F1 (review) smartphone which immediately caught the eye of budget-conscious buyers – after all, it’s not every day you see a phone with a flagship-grade processor retailing for under Rs 20K. Unsurprisingly, the smartphone sold like hot cakes, netting the company over Rs 200 crores within just five minutes of its first sale.
Suffice it to say, the POCO F1 was an enormous success and was considered by many to be a one-off…until now. Recently, the brand introduced the POCO X3 Pro in India which, for the uninitiated, is a souped-up version of the POCO X3 (review) and comes toting Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 860 processor. I’ve been using the phone for a hot minute now and here’s everything you need to know about it.
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The POCO X3 Pro offers the best performance under Rs 20K, albeit misses out on an AMOLED display and a good camera stack. Still, the smartphone should be the first choice for gamers on a budget.
The POCO X3 Pro is first and foremost, a performance-centric phone and has been priced rather competitively – think of it as a flagship killer’s killer. Consequently, the company didn’t dwell too much on the smartphone’s aesthetics and has recycled the same chassis as found on the POCO X3. To that note, the smartphone comes enveloped in a polycarbonate shell with the company’s logo plastered on its back. The device is available in three vibrant hues including Phantom Black, Metal Bronze and Frost Blue, and features an appealing two-tone finish on the back. Moreover, much like the POCO X3, the handset still touts a rather large camera bump too, albeit doesn’t wobble when laid on a flat surface, which is great. On the whole, if you were a fan of the X3’s aesthetics, then you will find plenty to like about the Pro model too.
Visual similarities aside, the X3 Pro is a tad sleeker at 9.4mm, as opposed to the X3’s 10+mm girth and weighs 10g less (215g vs 225g) too. Therefore, while still not one-hand friendly, the X3 Pro’s chassis offers much better ergonomics and I felt quite confident in using the phone without a case. The icing on the cake is that the handset’s display is layered with Corning’s Gorilla Glass v6 – a first for this price bracket – and correspondingly, you should be able to get away without any scratches or scuffs should you accidentally drop the phone.
As for I/O, the X3 Pro ships with a treasure trove of ports and offers a high-res certified 3.5mm headphone jack, along with a USB Type-C port and an IR blaster. The smartphone also offers a clicky volume rocker, along with a side-mounted fingerprint sensor which worked admirably during my stint with the device. Speaking of biometrics, there’s face unlock on board too which worked just as well and managed to get me into my home screen in the blink of an eye. All things considered, the POCO X3 Pro adds much-needed refinements to its predecessor’s design so now, let’s take a closer look at the smartphone’s display.
The POCO X3 Pro’s window to the world is a 6.67-inch IPS LCD panel that offers FHD+ resolution and refreshes at 120Hz. While the spec sheet alone would have enthusiasts salivating, the icing on the cake is that the display is among the nicer LCD panels in the mid-range segment. For one, the screen gets adequately bright at 450 nits and I didn’t face any issues using the phone outdoors. Secondly, the smartphone comes with Widevine L1 certification too, albeit misses out on HDR chops.
Still, the screen is a joy to consume media on as it offers punchy colours along with reasonably good viewing angles and slim bezels. Moreover, thanks to its snappy 240Hz touch sampling rate, the panel is responsive enough for gamers too and I didn’t face any tracking issues whilst playing fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty Mobile on the phone. And, of course, you can lock the panel at 120Hz and enjoy buttery-smooth scrolling on apps like Twitter, etc as well – all good stuff, really.
Interestingly, the DRM Info app highlights that the X3 Pro’s panel isn’t just locked to 60Hz or 120Hz and instead, also supports 30Hz, 48Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz and 90Hz refresh rates, akin to the LCD screens found on some recent Xiaomi flagships. And sure enough, with the DisplayChecker app relaying real-time refresh rate to my screen, I noticed that the refresh rate would drop to 48Hz whenever I was consuming content on Netflix, and to 60Hz for some UI elements.
Consequently, you will notice minimal screen tearing on the POCO X3 Pro as the display should, for the most part, adapt to the content you’re viewing on the screen. As for audio, the POCO X3 Pro is among the handful of phones to offer dual front-firing speakers under Rs 20K. The speaker setup sounds great for the price and offers ample loudness and doesn’t distort at higher volume levels either. Of course, you also get a high-res certified headphone jack for when you want to listen to some tunes or play games on the phone.
Obviously, you’re here to know more about the POCO X3 Pro’s performance, so let’s get straight to it. As prefaced previously, the smartphone ships with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 860 processor which offers some minor improvements over the Snapdragon 855+ platform announced a while ago. My review unit ships with 8GB of LPDDR4X memory and 128GB of built-in, user-expandable UFS 3.1 storage – that’s right, the X3 Pro comes equipped with the fastest mobile storage platform yet and it shows – apps launch swiftly, multi-tasking is a breeze and I didn’t run into any performance-related slowdowns during my time with the phone. Now, granted, the read and write speeds outputted by the device aren’t the best and fall short of what I’ve seen on other UFS 3.1-based devices. While I don’t know what’s causing the bottleneck yet, I will admit, the device felt stupendously rapid for a sub-Rs 20K phone.
I did run a slurry of benchmarks and games on the phone and to no one’s surprise, the handset completely obliterated the competition. Call of Duty Mobile, for instance, could run at the highest graphics and frame rate preset comfortably, and that’s with the ragdoll effects and anti-aliasing enabled. In a similar fashion, I was able to push the graphics on Injustice 2 and Garena Free Fire to the absolute limit, without incurring any frame drops. Rest assured, the POCO X3 Pro carries the F1’s legacy forward and is a no-brainer for gamers on a budget.
Moving on, the POCO X3 Pro scores high in the connectivity department too. While the handset isn’t 5G-enabled, you do get other niceties like support for NFC with the phone. Furthermore, I didn’t face any issues with the handset’s LTE connectivity in Delhi NCR on my Airtel postpaid SIM either – calls were relayed seamlessly and I was averaging good download and upload speeds too. The battery life has been stellar so far as well, and I was able to get a day’s worth of use out of the phone’s 5,000mAh cell. For those wondering, that amounts to over six hours of screen on time with the display set to refresh at 120Hz, which is fantastic.
The charging speeds were pretty good too, thanks to the bundled 33W brick and I was able to top-up the phone completely in just one hour and forty minutes. Software-wise, the handset boots MIUI v12 on top of Android 11. Since this is a POCO phone, your notifications won’t be riddled with ads, which is great. The software also ships with the brand’s POCO launcher that offers a slew of customisation features, chief among them being support for third-party icon packs. Other than that, you can expect a wealth of other utilities that usually come bundled with MIUI on the phone including screen on and off gestures, a private vault to keep your files safe, Google’s Digital Wellbeing suite as well as a theme store.
While the software experience on the phone is good, there’s still some room for improvement. For instance, the smartphone comes bundled with a ton of bloatware and duplicate apps that eat into the phone’s storage and take up a good chunk of the memory resources too. Also, some UI elements stick out like a sore thumb and need to be addressed. For instance, the folder design needs rework as the apps seep out through the edges – quite distracting when you’re using the phone day in and day out. And that’s not all as for some odd reason, the POCO launcher doesn’t allow users to uninstall apps from the app drawer – instead, you will be directed to the settings menu to uninstall the app.
Moving on, let’s talk about the POCO X3 Pro’s camera setup and here, the handset comes equipped with an inferior setup compared to the one on its predecessor, the POCO X3. Spec-wise, the smartphone features a 48MP main shooter which works alongside an 8MP wide-angle shooter with a 119-degrees field of view and a pair of 2MP depth and macro sensors. For selfies, the POCO X3 Pro ships with a 20MP front camera.
Now, I didn’t have high hopes from the POCO X3 Pro’s camera setup, to begin with, but after using the smartphone for a bit, I can say that the smartphone has exceeded my expectations. Daylight shots, for instance, offer ample vibrancy and details, and the dynamic range is spot on too. In the shot of the pink hotel, the handset managed to bring out the details in the leaves of the tree towards the front perfectly, without over-exposing the rest of the frame. I admit, the colours aren’t as authentic but, the smartphone somewhat makes up for it by offering bountiful details and stellar dynamic range.
Unfortunately, the quality of the photo takes a dip the second you switch to a different sensor and the wide-angle images I clicked with the phone lacked sharpness around the edges. Plus, there was a noticeable colour temperature disparity between the photos shot from the main and the wide-angle sensor. The same goes for the macro sensor too, which can click passable images provided you can keep your hands extremely steady. Else, you’ll mostly wind up with a blurry shot. The lowlight performance of the POCO X3 Pro’s main sensor is nothing to write home about either. The images shot without the night mode offer good noise control, albeit have glaring lens-flaring issues. With the night mode enabled, the handset tackles the same well but oversharpens the subjects ever so slightly. Also, the colour of the sky appears unnatural in many shots.
As for the selfie camera, the X3 Pro can click serviceable photos under the sun and the images do in fact, offer a good amount of details. That said, the image is flush with punchy colours and the blur effect in portrait selfies isn’t the best either.
The POCO X3 Pro starts at Rs 18,999 in India and for the price, is the fastest Android smartphone one can buy under Rs 20K. Consequently, if you prioritise your next phone’s processor over everything else, look no further than the POCO X3 Pro – the smartphone will play most current-gen games at the highest preset and should last you a good few years too. That being said, the POCO X3 Pro has a tunnel vision in all matters of performance and correspondingly, might disappoint some buyers in the camera and design department. Consequently, if you’re okay with not playing games at the best graphics preset, you can pick up more well-rounded offerings like the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (review).
All things considered, the POCO X3 Pro is a fantastic smartphone that’ll undoubtedly serve power users well. It might not be part of the same series, but the X3 Pro looks set to shake things up in the affordable segment, just like the POCO F1 did.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Class-leading performance
- Long-lasting battery life
- Good audio setup
- Bulky design
- Sub-par cameras
Photos by Raj Rout