2018 is turning out to be one of the best and most memorable years for smartphone enthusiasts. I am sure most tech enthusiasts will remember this year to be the one when the prices of flagship hardware-toting devices fell to unbelievable levels and at a never-seen-before pace.
The trend started off with ASUS launching its impressive Zenfone 5Z (Review) at an unbelievable sub-Rs.30,000 price tag for the base variant. Huawei’s sub-brand Honor followed it up with the gritty Honor Play that brought down the price of a flagship-class-SoC-toting handset to sub-Rs.20,000 levels. Just when one thought things couldn’t get any better, Xiaomi decided to respond to the changing market dynamics with the introduction of a new sub-brand called the POCO. The sub-brand’s first product, the POCO F1 is the newest flagship killer in town. We were the first publication to exclusively report that the POCO F1 would be launched in India. We had also correctly reported that the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage variant of the phone would be priced somewhere around the Rs. 25,000 mark. However, even we were surprised to see the incredibly low price of the base variant (6GB RAM + 64GB storage): Rs. 20,999.
The POCO F1 is here with us for the review and I thought now is a good time to give you folks my initial thoughts on the device.
POCO F1: Look and Feel
The POCO F1 is a nice-looking device. The unit that I received for the review was the top-of-the-line 8GB RAM + 256GB storage variant in the premium ‘Armoured’ finish. This version gets the super tough DuPont Kevlar aramid fibre that makes the rear panel extremely resistant to damage. People who are not aware of Kevlar, however, could mistake it for plastic. For the same reason, it is plausible that competing devices with metal or glass rear panels might look and feel more premium. I also liked the fact that the Kevlar-clad rear panel makes it less slippery and therefore less susceptible to drops and related damage.
From the front, the device looks like just another notched screen device from 2018. The large display is in the unusual 18.7:9 aspect ratio and measures 6.18 inches diagonally. It gets a resolution of 2246×1080 pixels and has curved edges as well. The panel gets a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 for added durability. The notch is where the handset integrates the IR Face Unlock hardware setup, the front facing 20-megapixel camera, and the earpiece.
POCO F1: Software, Performance
The POCO F1 runs a customised version of MIUI which might appeal to you in case you are used to MIUI. For some reason, I did not find the UI to be as smooth as I expected it would be. But that was probably because I was just transitioning from using the stock Android toting Zenfone Max Pro (M1). I should be able to provide you with deeper insights once I properly review the device. And lest I forget, you do get a brand new launcher called the ‘Poco Launcher for MIUI’. Thanks to Poco Launcher, MIUI officially gets an app drawer which I am sure many amongst us would appreciate.
Xiaomi had to create a whole new brand to bring a dedicated app drawer to MIUI.
— Asif Iqbal Shaik (@AS1F_IQ) August 23, 2018
The phone is powered by the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform which is currently one of the fastest chip available for Android smartphones. Thanks to this chipset, you can expect flagship-grade performance when it comes to gaming and multi-tasking. I did install the Asphalt 9 game on the device and played it for a while and it had no issues handling the graphics.
POCO F1: Is the Camera Any Good?
One of the most frequently asked questions about the POCO F1 is whether Xiaomi compromised on the camera hardware to keep the price of the handset low. While I am yet to comprehensively test the camera, initial impressions are that the camera is quite competent on the Poco F1, especially in its price range. In case you are wondering, the phone gets a 12-megapixel primary camera at the rear and to help it in clicking portrait images is a 5-megapixel secondary unit. At the front, the phone gets a 20-megapixel selfie camera. I will post my findings on the camera quality in my full review of the POCO F1.
In the meantime, however, why don’t you watch our first impressions video of the POCO F1 by my colleague Rushil. We also have an ongoing giveaway for the POCO F1 where you stand a chance to win as many as four brand new POCO F1s.