Xiaomi has been on a roll over the last couple of years with blockbusters like the Redmi Note 5 Pro. But almost all the success has come in the ultra-competitive budget segment. You have to go back to the Mi 5 in 2016 for a Xiaomi bestseller priced above Rs 20,000. It’s a different landscape now from the time the Mi 5 debuted. Device manufacturers are busy at work, aiming for those perfect ‘sweet spots’. OnePlus dominates one such price band (Rs 30,000 – Rs 35,000) with its 2018 flagship killer – OnePlus 6. POCO, Xiaomi’s brand new sub-brand doesn't just train its guns on the OnePlus 6 but does it at a sticker price that has left most geeks and industry observers gobsmacked.
The key to the F1’s ambush strategy is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, the class-leading processor for 2018. It’s what you will find under the hood of the OnePlus 6 or the ZenFone 5Z, except the POCO F1 is Rs 10,000 cheaper (for the base version). This phone is clearly targeting the power users. There’s a choice of three variants – (6GB RAM / 64GB ROM, 6GB RAM / 128GB ROM and 8GB RAM / 256 GB ROM), four if you add the top of the line ‘Armoured Edition’ that comes with a special Kevlar back. You can augment the storage thanks to a hybrid slot that supports Micro SD cards up to 256GB. The device blazed through our AnTuTu benchmark tests with scores in the same zone as the OnePlus 6. We also found that the device kept a cool head thanks to Xiaomi’s LiquidCool Technology during our gaming and multi-tasking trials. No excess heating or device lags even as we pushed it over the top. The hardware prowess doesn't end here. The 4000 mAh battery is quite solid; you should sail through a day even with some camera and multi-media usage.
Function over form?
So, it’s clear that the POCO F1 cuts no corners with its hardware spec sheet. It opts for a polycarbonate back instead of glass, that’s the new standard for flagship killers like the Huawei Nova 3 or the OnePlus 6. The display isn’t quite seamless too. You will notice the slightly thick edges and the notch is a tad bigger than rival devices. We checked out the top-of-the-line Armoured Edition with the Kevlar back (similar to the surface on the OnePlus 2) and we really like how this feels in our hand. It’s certainly not going to make head turns like some of the all-glass devices in blue and red, but scores with its subtlety. It is also easier to grip and you might even consider using it without a back cover, since it is less prone to scratches. It’s probably a case of function over form and it might well come down to personal preference with respect to the build quality and finish.
Our one-line verdict for the F1’s rear camera – great but not exceptional. The rear camera combines a 12MP (f/1.9 aperture) lens with a 5MP lens. Images in ambient light were almost as good as rival devices like the Huawei Nova 3 but it didn't quite match up to flagship killers like the OnePlus 6 in lowlight. However, we were quite impressed with the results on the 20MP selfie cam. You have to keep one eye on the excessive beauty mode but the front cam clicked some very sharp portrait selfies. The camera UI is quite pleasing while the pro-mode allows you to mix things up.
Expect a shake up
Disruption is an excessively used phrase in the smartphone space but make no mistake, the POCO F1 is surely going to shake things up with its aggressive pricing strategy. The device has some minor chinks like the thick bezels but these are minor cribs. It’s lightning quick – something we experienced even while using the fingerprint sensor or the face unlock feature. It sports a vibrant 6.18-inch screen (1080 x 2246 pixels / 82.2% screen-to-body ratio) and comes with a robust battery. Unless you’re hung up on glass or need your camera to go that extra mile (especially in lowlight), the POCO F1 certainly warrants your attention.
The POCO F1 comes in four variants and price points—
Rs 20,999 (6GB RAM / 64 GB ROM),
Rs 23,999 (6GB RAM / 128GB ROM),
Rs 28,999 (8GB RAM / 256GB ROM),
Armoured Edition at Rs 29,999 (8GB RAM / 256GB ROM)