The Indian smartphone market is currently teeming with handsets being marketed as 5G devices. Realme kicked off the budget 5G smartphone category with its Realme 8 5G smartphone, which was the cheapest 5G offering starting at Rs 13,999, but not for long. Enter POCO M3 Pro 5G, which not only has an almost identical spec sheet, but also shares the starting price of Rs 13,999.
While the Dimensity 700 processor — which powers both Realme 8 5G and POCO M3 Pro 5G — is enabling smartphone brands to launch affordable 5G devices, the real question is whether should you board the 5G hype train or go for more powerful 4G offerings in this price range. We have already reviewed the Realme 8 5G and found that while it’s an affordable 5G-ready device, it could do with some upgrades.
I have been using the POCO M3 Pro for the past week, and here’s what I think about the affordable 5G handset.
Design and display
- 161.81 x 75.34 x 8.92mm, 190 grams
- 6.5-inch LCD, FHD+, Adaptive Sync Display (30Hz/50Hz/60Hz/90Hz), 360-degree ambient light sensors, 500nits, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
While Realme 8 5G has what we felt is a done-to-death design, POCO M3 Pro 5G comes with a refreshing aesthetics that helps it stand out from the crowd. The POCO M3 Pro 5G comes with what the brand is calling “SwitchBlade Design”, which refers to the black rectangular accent housing the triple camera island and the POCO branding in the top left corner.
POCO is offering the M3 Pro in Power Black, Cool Blue, and POCO Yellow colours. I received the first one and the glossy plastic back panel picks up fingerprints like there’s no tomorrow. If you don’t wish to spend a large chunk of your day wiping the phone clean, I suggest putting on the transparent protective case included in the box.
Even with the big 5,000mAh battery inside, the POCO M3 Pro is just 8.9mm thin and weighs 190g. Needless to say, it’s comfortable to use POCO M3 Pro for longer durations and the rounded corners with curved edges add to the overall ergonomics of the device. The volume buttons and the recessed power buttons are located on the right and the SIM tray is placed at the top-left side. The power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner, which was pretty fast and accurate in my experience.
At the bottom, there’s a speaker grille, USB Type-C port, and a single noise-cancelling mic. On top, you will find another speaker grille on the right and the 3.5mm audio jack on the left. This is all there’s to the design of the POCO M3 Pro 5G.
Moving on to the display, the POCO M3 Pro 5G is equipped with a 6.5-inch IPS LCD panel. The display offers FHD+ screen resolution, 500nits of peak brightness, 405ppi pixel density and a 90Hz refresh rate. The display comes with Adaptive Sync feature, which means it can switch between 30Hz, 50Hz, 60Hz, and 90Hz depending on the content being displayed on the screen. Users can only choose between 60Hz and 90Hz from settings, with Adpative Sync turned on by default for the latter. Apart from this. users can toggle dark mode and choose from three colour schemes – Auto, Saturated, and Standard.
The daylight visibility and viewing angles are decent on the display, and I faced no issues with the legibility during my time with the phone. The POCO M3 Pro features Widevine L1 DRM and I was able to stream content on platforms like YouTube and Prime Video in Full HD resolution. The display panel is has a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which should protect it from minor nicks and dings. Unfortunately, there’s no splash protection or water resistance.
- Rear: 48-megapixel primary sensor, 2-megapixel macro sensor, and 2-megapixel depth sensor
- Front: 8-megapixel
In the camera department, POCO has opted for the most basic setup one can get at this price point. You get a 48-megapixel primary camera, which is backed by a 2-megapixel macro lens and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. On the front, there’s an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The camera app has features like Macro mode, Pro mode, 48MP mode, Portrait mode, slow motion, time-lapse, and up to 1080p video recording at 30FPS.
The pictures taken during daylight turned out to be pretty good with accurate colours, and balanced dynamic range. However, the details are soft and at times smudged when it comes to plants and leaves. In case you prefer vibrant colours, turning on the Pro Colour mode gives a saturation boost to the pictures.
The main camera captures images by default in 12MP mode and you can manually switch to 48MP mode if you want higher resolution images. The dedicated 48MP mode clicks pictures with good details, however, I noticed noise in some of them. As for low-lighting, the camera clicks noisy pictures with smudged details. Turning on the night mode increases exposure but the noise and crushed details issue remains.
Coming to the dedicated sensors, the 2-megapixel depth sensor does its job really well, and portrait images have impressive subject isolation with aesthetic blur in the background. The 2-megapixel macro camera takes some getting used to. The focus distance is fixed at 5cms and it will take a steady hand to get sharp macro shots from this phone. However, the quality of both dedicated cameras dips as the sun goes down and you will see lots of noise in images.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front takes good self-portraits in ideal lighting conditions. If you are someone who clicks a lot of selfies, the POCO M3 Pro 5G will not disappoint you. The pictures are sharp and have rich details. The selfie portrait mode is also commendable but you may get soft edges in some cases, due to stray hairs or other elements.
Performance, software and battery
- Android 11 with MIUI 12
- MediaTek Dimensity 700
- 4GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB
- 5,000mAh battery, 18W fast charging (22.5W charger in box)
The POCO M3 Pro 5G features the affordable 5G offering from MediaTek – Dimensity 700. The brand is offering the smartphone in two variants – 4GB + 64GB and 6GB + 128GB. Notably, this is the same chipset that powers the Realme 8 5G, and POCO M3 Pro offers the same performance as its competitor. The day-to-day performance of the smartphone is quite commendable and I was able to multitask without a hitch. The 90Hz refresh rate further helps the cause as the whole experience feels quite snappy.
The POCO M3 Pro 5G also handles games decently but only if you stick to the default settings picked by the processor. I played my usual set of games including Forza Street, Alto’s Odyssey, Genshin Impact, and COD Mobile. While the first two ran without any hiccups, COD runs great on medium settings and Genshin Impact is playable but you’ll face stutters at times.
Out of the box, POCO M3 Pro 5G boots Android 11-based MIUI 12 with POCO launcher on top. There are no intrusive ads that are found on Xiaomi and Redmi devices. However, you’ll find the usual set of bloatware like Mi Credit, Mi Pay, GetApps, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Prime Video, and LinkedIn. Apart from stock Mi apps, everything else can be uninstalled to free up resources. The POCO Launcher also offers features like auto-categorised app drawer, customisation options, and improved privacy features, among others.
Coming to the battery, the POCO M3 Pro 5G features a 5,000mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging. However, POCO is surprisingly offering a 22.5W fast charger in the box. Due to hardware limitations, the smartphone charges fully from zero in around 2 hours. During my stint with the phone on moderate usage, I usually had around 30 percent battery left at the end of the day.
In the end, the question you need to ask yourself is whether 5G is a must for you or would you rather give it a miss and opt for better performance instead. In case you’re dead set on having a 5G smartphone in budget, POCO M3 Pro 5G and Realme 8 5G are your options with identical spec sheets. You do get a 16MP front camera with the Realme 8 5G. However, POCO M3 Pro 5G gets my vote simply because of the refreshing design, which helps it stand out.
If 5G is not a deal-breaker, which it shouldn’t be anyway since 5G is still a year or two away, options like Realme 8 (review) or Redmi Note 10 (review) will serve you better. The former features a Snapdragon 678 processor, whereas the Realme 8 comes with an Helio G95 SoC, both of which are more powerful than the Dimensity 700. Additionally, you get much sharper Super AMOLED displays and better camera setups with these two options.
Pricebaba rating: 7 / 10
- Refreshing design
- Clean software
- Decent performance
- Good battery life
- Glossy back panel
- Poor low-light imaging
- Battery takes a while to charge fully