With its new brand “Pocophone”, Xiaomi aims to dethrone OnePlus and Honor as the best value for money. Sold 359 euros, the smartphone is given as a smartphone a high-end price broken. There is truth in this statement … if you are willing to ignore some flaws.
At the end of August 2018, Xiaomi caused a sensation with Pocophone, its new brand of “ultra low cost” products. Already famous for its competitive prices, the Chinese brand wanted to drive the nail, just to hunt on the lands of Honor and OnePlus, the subsidiaries of Huawei and Oppo.
Sold 359 euros (64 GB of storage) or 399 euros (128 GB), the Pocophone F1 includes a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 GB of RAM and an infrared facial recognition system. Features that are usually found on the most upscale models … and have never been offered at this price level. Is the Pocophone F1 the flagship killer flagship promised by Xiaomi?
Savings on design
Who says broken price, necessarily says sacrifices. The design is the first victim of this Pocophone. No glass back like at the stars of mobility, but a metal plastic imitation back. In hand, we immediately feel the difference. The smartphone is heavy, thick, and gives more the impression of belonging to the category of entry-level.
If we omit the cheap aspect of F1, Xiaomi still managed a great job in the finishing of his product. Everything is symmetrical, and the Pocophone logo stands out in glossy letters and raised on the back of the camera, quite discreet and flattering to the eye. There is a USB-C port at the bottom of the smartphone, and a jack at the top.
In the front, the Pocophone F1 is substantially identical to a Xiaomi Mi 8. Same notch at the top, same border at the bottom. Note, however, a considerable difference: the use of a LCD panel rather than OLED. It’s cheaper, and much easier to produce.
With a size of 6.18 inches, the screen of the Pocophone F1 is still of excellent quality. Definition Full HD +, very good contrast ratio of 1: 1663 … Its only defect is that its maximum brightness of 474 cd / m2, perhaps a chouïa just to see its notifications in full sun, and again. With a Delta E index measured at the 5.27 probe, the color fidelity is not exceptional but it does not shock the naked eye.
A very good autonomy
With its high capacity battery of 4000 mAh, the Pocophone F1 is presented by Xiaomi as a champion of autonomy. The laboratory of 01net.com measured a versatile autonomy of 13:43, confirming the words of the Chinese brand. The device is extremely enduring, and can ensure a day of intensive use – or two if it is not reasonable – without going through the box recharging. In communication, F1 holds 20h18, a good score but far from breaking records.
Compared to the OnePlus 6 (12h57) and Honor 10 (11h28), its two main rivals, the Pocophone F1 has a much better autonomy. More surprising, it is less than the Mi 8 (14:15), yet equipped with a smaller battery of 3400 mAh. What hope for a better result after possible update to optimize energy consumption?
Faster than lightning
With its Snapdragon 845 processor and 6 GB of RAM, the Pocophone F1 is one of the fastest devices on the market. The benchmarks confirm it, but it is especially the use that it feels. Everything is going very fast, almost too fast. Xiaomi removed most of the smartphone animations that usually transitions between the home screen and apps, to make it look instant. It’s similar to what OnePlus offers, and the wow effect is felt immediately.
Like any Xiaomi smartphone, the Pocophone F1 uses MIUI, the operating system created by the Chinese brand as a back up of Android. It nevertheless has a special feature: an application drawer, as on the “classic” version of the Google OS. With this overlay, you can search its applications through the color of their icons, which is quite fun. Convenient to easily find the one we had forgotten the name.
Apart from this change, MIUI for POCO only has the name Poco. Note that the infrared facial recognition does not appear in the settings when the smartphone is configured in the France region, and you must choose the one from Hong Kong or Singapore to make it appear. A strange bug that should be corrected in an upcoming update. The brand surely deploys this function in a progressive way.
A medium camera
With Mi 8, Xiaomi has proven its expertise in photography. The Pocophone recovers the main unit of 12 Mpix (f / 1.9) from its cousin, but replaces the secondary lens with a 5 Mpix sensor, dedicated to shooting with bokeh effect.
Overall, the photos are rather successful in broad daylight, but we quickly notice a lack of detail. The autofocus of the smartphone, too slow in too many conditions, even makes some shots blurry.
One of the many examples where F1 fails miserably. The portrait mode of the Pocophone F1, although rather satisfactory, remains perfectible at the level of the clipping.
In low light, the camera has a lot of difficulty managing the different lights. The device lacks speed at the trigger, resulting in shots often missed. In short, a feeling of disappointment is flat, but all this remains to put into perspective given the price of the smartphone.
Too many sacrifices?
Except for our reproaches on the design and the camera of the Pocophone, all the previous part of this test seems to go in the direction of Xiaomi. Unfortunately, the Pocophone F1 had to make other concessions to reach this very low price … and we regret them.
First, the absence of certain technologies. No NFC with Pocophone F1, which makes it incompatible with contactless payment, or mobile tickets. It’s stupid, but it’s serious considering when the Navigo pass prepares to land on smartphone, and where NFC transactions are accepted in more and more shops. Buy a Pocophone, it is the insurance to remain cloisonne the good old ticket of subway … Other disappearing, the infrared port, dear to the fans of Xiaomi.
Pocophone also sacrifices streaming in high definition. In the absence of the chip that handles Widevine L1 DRMs, services like Netflix, myCanal or Molotov are automatically limited to SD quality, which is downright unfortunate. Note also the lack of support of 700 MHz frequency bands, gradually used in France by some operators for 4G. The Pocophone F1 is perhaps cheaper than a OnePlus 6 or a Honor 10, it also comes with many more limitations … Everyone has to choose, depending on what he is ready to do without.