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POCO X3 review: a fully-loaded mid-ranger

On: September 29, 2020

Xiaomi Mi 3, Motorola Moto G, and OnePlus One – what do these phones have in common? These are some of the most popular smartphones, which disrupted the market in their respective price segments. Another such offering was the POCO F1, which offered the flagship Snapdragon 845 processor at a price of Rs 21,000.

Also readRealme Narzo 20 review: an iterative upgrade

While POCO hasn’t continued the F-series in India, it did launch a brand new X-series lineup with the POCO X2 earlier this year. The POCO X2 (first impressions) was the first smartphone to bring a 120Hz display in the sub-Rs 20,000 price segment. Its newly-launched successor, the POCO X3, retains its headlining features while adding a few extras, including a bigger battery and the new Snapdragon 732G processor. I have been using the POCO X3 as my primary driver, and here’s how I feel about the latest X-series phone.

Design and display

The POCO X3 is a bulky phone thanks to its massive 6,000mAh battery. And if you slap the provided case on it — which you will have to, since the smartphone is a smudge magnet — it gets even more unwieldy. Even if you have large hands, operating the POCO X3 one-handed is no easy task.

Moreover, the smartphone is top-heavy, which doesn’t help the overall ergonomics of the device. This brings me to my second grievance, the camera module. While I love the quirky camera design, it juts out quite a bit and wobbles when laid on a flat surface. The camera module is a rectangle with rounded sides housing four cameras and an LED flash in an unique X-shaped array.

However, this is where my complaints with the design end. The POCO X3 flaunts a gorgeous design and is an attention grabber. POCO is offering the smartphone in Shadow Grey and Cobalt Blue colours, of which I received the latter. The blue colour and elicited quite a few stares during my usage.

This time around, POCO has taken a leaf from Realme’s stylebook and opted for bold POCO branding on the back. The camera module and POCO branding are both placed in a strip of diagonal lines running across the middle. This makes the back panel look symmetrical and aesthetic.

Moving on to the sides, there’s the ejectable hybrid SIM tray on the left, and power and volume buttons on the right. The power button also doubles up as the fingerprint scanner and takes some time to set it up due to the narrow form factor. However, once you are past the initial setup, the fingerprint unlock is fast and accurate.

On the top edge, you’ll find the IR blaster and a noise-cancelling mic. At the bottom, there’s the 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port, microphone and loudspeaker grill. POCO has also placed a tiny LED notification light inside the earpiece above the display.

Speaking of the display, the POCO X3 features a 6.67-inch IPS LCD panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio and 2,400 x 1,080 pixels resolution. Apart from the super smooth 120Hz refresh rate and faster response thanks to the 240Hz touch sampling rate, I was pleasantly surprised by the LCD panel itself. While it’s not the most stunning screen out there at this price point, it’s bright, vivid and crisp. I didn’t have any issues with the brightness even when the sun was directly overhead, though viewing angles are nothing to write home about.

The display also comes with support for HDR10 and Widevine L1 certification, the latter enabling you to enjoy high-resolution video streaming online on OTT apps. Consuming media on the POCO X3 is pretty immersive too, thanks to the tiny 3.8mm punch-hole cutout for the selfie camera that stays out of view.

Cameras

The POCO X3 features a quad-camera module on the back with a 64-megapixel primary Sony IMX682 sensor. The main camera is backed by a 13-megapixel ultra-wide lens, 2-megapixel depth sensor and 2-megapixel macro unit. In the front, the punch-hole cutout accommodates a 20-megapixel camera for selfies. POCO has loaded the camera app to the brim with useful features such as vlog mode, clone mode, pro colour, live filters, beautification features, AI scene recognition, macro, pro colour, movie frame and 64MP mode, among others.

The 64-megapixel primary camera takes stunning pictures during the day. Images are detailed with punchy colours. There’s also a Pro Colour mode, which boosts the saturation even more if that’s something you like. I was impressed to see the dynamic range on the pictures clicked by the POCO X3. The first picture in the gallery below was clicked directly against the sun and the camera managed to keep the exposure balanced and retain details. 

The pictures taken are ideal for social media, but have visible smoothening when cropped. This is where the 64-megapixel mode comes into the picture. If you are planning to take prints of pictures or use them as wallpapers, you can use the dedicated high-resolution mode to keep the details. However, when viewed on the smartphone’s display, there’s not much visible difference in images taken using the standard and 64MP modes.

At night, the camera captures well-exposed shots in the standard mode, but these are noisy. However, what surprised me is that while the night mode captures brighter photos, the noise reduction is quite aggressive with details blurred around the edges.

Moving on to the wide-angle lens, the 13-megapixel snapper captures decent images that are not as rich in details, which is to be expected. In portrait mode, I found the 2-megapixel depth sensor having trouble detecting the edges on more than one occasion, with noticeable soft edges. Lastly, the macro lens allows users to get as close as 4cms to the subject, but the pictures are hazy.

Coming to selfies, the 20-megapixel camera in the front captures pretty good pictures. If you are into natural-looking selfies, I would suggest clicking on the icon resembling a shooting star in the top corner of  the viewfinder and tapping on the “Clear” button to turn off effects like slender face and skin smoothening. The portrait mode however struggles with edge detection, especially when there are elements like a stray hair.

Performance, software and battery

The POCO X3 is the first smartphone to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G chipset. The chipset is an 8nm octa-core unit backed by Adreno 618 graphics. POCO is offering the smartphone in 6GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB and 8GB + 12GB configurations. I received the second variant from the brand and it offers around 110GB out of the box.

In my day to day usage, the POCO X3 was smooth and fluid even with the heavy multitasking that I subjected it to. I am yet to encounter any lags or freezes on the smartphone. Additionally, the smooth animations and app transitions due to the 120Hz refresh rate make the interface feel super fast. As for gaming, I played Forza Street, Riptide GP and Temple Run on the phone. All three games run pretty smoothly on the POCO X3, however, I found the phone warming up after longer sessions of Riptide GP and Forza Street.

The POCO X3 boots the latest MIUI 12 with the POCO Launcher based on Android 10. In India, the brand has announced that the smartphone will receive three years of software updates, which is good news for potential buyers. MIUI 12 comes with several goodies like Game Turbo, animated UI elements, Digital Wellbeing & parental controls, video toolbox and second space, among others. There is bloatware present including stock Mi apps and other third-party apps. Only the latter can be removed to free up resources. While I noticed ads inside some of the Mi apps, thankfully these are not present in the interface itself.

The POCO X3 comes with a massive 6,000mAh battery with support for 33W fast charging support. I have been using the smartphone for WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and a little gaming every now and then. With this usage, the phone easily lasted me till the end of the second day. The 33W fast charger provided with the handset tops up the battery from zero to 100 percent in around 90 minutes, which is pretty fast considering the size of the battery.

The competition

The POCO X3 has been priced at Rs 16,999, Rs 18,499 and Rs 19,999, respectively for the 6GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB and 8GB + 128GB variants. At this price, the smartphone competes with the likes of the Realme 7 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max.

The Realme 7 Pro features a smaller (6.4-inch) display with a richer AMOLED panel but standard 60Hz refresh rate. It misses out marginally in terms of performance because of the Snapdragon 720G processor at its core. The phone also has 64-megapixel quad cameras, but a higher resolution 32-megapixel selfie camera. The highlight of the smartphone is 65W fast charging, which is unheard of in this price segment and can charge the 4,500mAh battery fully in a little over half an hour.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, on the other hand, has a 6.67-inch FHD+ IPS display, also with a 60Hz refresh rate. Similar to the Realme 7 Pro, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max also features the Snapdragon 720G chipset, which is a downgrade from the Snapdragon 732G. The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max also offers a higher resolution 32-megapixel selfie camera and 33W fast charging, but features a smaller 5,020mAh battery.

Bottomline

The POCO X3 comes in as a solid upgrade over its predecessor, the POCO X2. It retains the headlining 120Hz display and brings several upgrades across the board. For a starting price of Rs 16,999, the POCO X3 is hard to beat with its smooth display, stylish design, good performance, capable primary camera and a massive battery backup. If the bulky build isn’t a deal breaker, the POCO X3 is among the best phones under Rs 20,000 at present.

Pricebabas rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • Stunning design
  • Smooth 120Hz display
  • Long-lasting battery 
  • Good performance

What doesnt:

  • Camera module protrudes significantly
  • Sub-par depth and macro cameras
  • Bulky form factor
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.