Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro Review: Performance over everything

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The Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro is the spiritual successor to the extremely well received Poco F1. With the device, the manufacturer intends to deliver a no-compromise experience at an affordable price tag. And it is safe to say that Xiaomi has done it again.

Design and build quality

In what is one of its only low points, the Poco X3 Pro is hardly a striking device. It shares the design language found on the Poco X3 complete with the same bold Poco branding. Its edges are made of a matte poly-carbonate plastic wheres centrally, it remains glossy. This dual-tone is a nice touch but the glossy region accumulates too much dust. In light of this, a fully matte finish would have been just a bit more aesthetic.

The Poco logo on the back of the smartphone has iridescent colours

Despite the plastic back and frame, the Poco X3 Pro is hefty in a good way. At 215g and 9.4mm thick, the device feels solid. Some might feel it is a bit too chunky but that is not our perception. In fact, we think Poco has done an excellent job of weight distribution with the device. We were able to comfortably handle the smartphone with one hand and feel most people will be able to do the same just fine.

We used the IR blaster a few times throughout our usage

Connectivity for the Poco X3 Pro includes an IR blaster and the secondary microphone on the top edge with a 2-in-1 hybrid nano-SIM card slot on the right. On the bottom, you find a good quality 3.5mm headphone jack, the Type-C USB port, the primary microphone and a speaker. Lastly, the right edge houses the power and volume buttons. Both of these are positioned well in reach of a typical grip, with the power button also doubling as a responsive and accurate fingerprint sensor.

Having an LED notification light on the Poco X3 Pro informs you of your notifications

Albeit not full IP68 certification, the Poco X3 Pro does come with basic IP53 resistance. While this does not give you protection from a dunk in the pool, it can definitely withstand a light rainstorm with no problem. Some other notable features towards the front of the device include the earpiece, which also doubles as a speaker for a stereo experience and an LED notification light. The latter has become a rarity nowadays but works well given the lack of Always-On Display (AOD) support.

Display and multimedia

The Poco X3 Pro sports a Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protected 6.67-inch FHD+ IPS LCD display. This flat punch-hole style panel may not replicate the deep blacks or saturated colours of a typical AMOLED screen however it is extremely high quality. With Widevine L1 certification, watching content on Amazon Prime or Netflix is great. And even on YouTube, we saw the smartphone supported HDR content where available.

The IPS LCD panel on the smartphone is high quality

One notable aspect of the display is also its brightness. With a maximum of 450nits, the Poco X3 Pro panel is usable even under direct sunlight. Especially for a budget smartphone, this is outstanding. But Poco has not stopped there. The IPS LCD display sports up to a 120Hz high refresh rate. In the smartphone’s settings, you can toggle it either at 60Hz or 120Hz but we stuck to the latter for the most part.

We used the Poco X3 Pro at 120Hz at all times

You notice a significant difference between these refresh rates, with 120Hz being extremely smooth. Its effect is visible when scrolling web-pages, multitasking and even when typing. But at times, the Poco X3 Pro seems to drop frames. Initially, this was visible when re-arranging the home screen. But since we got an update to the smartphone, this has been fixed. Despite of this, scrolling through YouTube or Chrome is visibly jittery. We are not sure if this is a bug for the particular application however, we have not noticed this on other smartphones before.

Having a stereo speaker experience and a high quality headphone jack is useful

To sum up the display and multimedia experience, it is only fair to talk about the speakers on the Poco X3 Pro. With dual-stereo speakers, the audio experience is much fuller than a typical single speaker. Its quality is good, whether you are listening to music or podcasts. Additionally, you can use a pair of 3.5mm wired or wireless headphones to improve this further.

Performance and gaming

It is slightly odd to label a sub-Dh1,000 smartphone as gaming-centric, but that is exactly what the Poco X3 Pro is. Inside, it sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 octa-core chip, which is a redone Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with 4G instead of 5G and an improved image signal processor (ISP). On our unit, this is backed by 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage and 6GB of RAM.

We ran a few benchmarks on the smartphone and you can see the results for yourself. But as always, we value real-world performance more. And in that regard, the Poco X3 Pro has given us nothing to complain about. General performance remains fluid, RAM management is great and as a package, you never feel like you are using a budget smartphone.

Extended gaming can make the Poco X3 Pro feel warm but this is not unusual

This carries over to gaming as well. Combined with the high refresh rate display and stereo speakers, you get a stand-out gaming experience. We tested PUBG: Mobile on the Poco X3 Pro, which managed to stay between 58-60fps on Smooth + Extreme settings. In the past weeks, users of the device have complained about the smartphone overheating. However, it was not the case in our testing. The smartphone reached 47-48°C with the region around the camera feeling warm. Although, it did not get uncomfortably hot at any point, even after 45 minutes of continuous gaming.

User experience and software

Perhaps the most subjective part about using the Poco X3 Pro is its software. Running over Android 11 is a special MIUI 12.0.6 version for Poco. At face value, this is similar to the traditional MIUI 12 we have seen on other Xiaomi devices. But with Poco launcher available, the user interface is slightly different. Firstly, you find access to an application drawer which is great. But there are also subtle changes to pre-installed applications and icons.

We wish the multitasking pane on MIUI was like stock Android

Speaking of the latter, when we first set up the device, icon consistency was all over the place. Some icons were square whereas others were circular. But ever since we got the latest April 2021 security update, all icons are now more consistent. The typical Xiaomi applications and services still come with the smartphone out of the box. And unfortunately, you cannot uninstall these.

There was no obtrusive advertisement in our notification pane throughout the weeks we have used the Poco X3 Pro, however you do find some annoying folders or advertisements when downloading an APK file outside of the Google Play Store. The ‘More apps’ folder for instance promotes a list of applications that one should download but we ended up deleting that folder completely. Otherwise, the multitasking pane or the settings menu on the Poco X3 Pro is just like any other Xiaomi device. We still miss the default Android 11 multitasking menu but unfortunately, you have to adapt to Xiaomi’s version when using MIUI.

Having such advertisements and applications baked into the user experience is not good

One aspect of the experience that felt a bit lacklustre though was notification management. We had mentioned this earlier in our Redmi Note 10 review and the issue still persists. But on the Poco X3 Pro, it seems like there is some aggressive management going on in the background. More often than not, I missed notifications from applications. Only when I checked the application did I find new messages or pings. We feel the whole notification framework is perhaps one of the most important things MIUI needs to fix in the near feature.

Primary camera performance

The trend with budget smartphones is that they sacrifice on camera performance. Yet, with the Poco X3 Pro, we did not find that. User experience dictates if someone likes the camera on a smartphone or not. Usually, the camera application on budget smartphones tends to be slow especially when using it via a third-party application like WhatsApp or Instagram. But noticeably good performance already gives the Poco X3 Pro a great head start.

The quad-camera setup on the Poco X3 Pro is designed well

In terms of hardware, the device comes with a quad-camera setup. You find a Sony IMX582 48MP wide sensor alongside an 8MP ultra-wide, a 2MP depth and a 2MP macro lens. We found that with good light around, both the wide and ultra-wide cameras performed well. Photos had a good deal of dynamic range and detail with highlight retention also done fairly well. But in such situations, we still found the shutter speed on the Poco X3 Pro to be slightly slow. This means that if you intend to capture split-second occasions, the camera experience may let you down.

Likewise, zoom photography is not something you can expect from the device. With digital zoom, up to 2x crop is passable however zooming in more than that range will show some rapid degradation in photos. Much like the trend on budget smartphones, you find additional 2MP sensors for depth and macro photography. While the depth sensor helps with portraits to some extent, we found performance from the macro sensor to be underwhelming.

If you are familiar with the MIUI camera experience, you will feel right at home

As we moved to low-light situations, we saw a degradation in photo quality. To Xiaomi’s credit, it was not as severe as expected. There is support for night-mode on the Poco X3 Pro which took 2-3 seconds extra to process the photo, but the end result seemed comparable to a photo without night-mode. Where its effect kicked in the most was with ultra-wide angle photos.

Primary video performance

There is rarely much to talk about with video performance on a budget smartphone. But we did find that the Poco X3 Pro is quite a capable contender here too. With only gyro-EIS support, videos involving a lot of movement will not be very good. But if you can stay stable when shooting, both 1080p and 4K 30fps video looks quite good.

Selfie camera performance

The front of the Poco X3 Pro houses a punch-hole 20MP camera. With this, you can take some nice selfie images with good dynamic range. The portrait feature for the sensor is decent, with it able to maintain dynamic range at the expense of edge detection and a softer look. We did feel that the sensor was a bit cropped in so group selfies might require some adjusting but otherwise, you will not face too many issues on this front either.

Battery life

We mentioned how the Poco X3 Pro is quite a thick device. But its 5,160mAh battery is what may make it so thick. We have seen thinner smartphones with a large battery however, with battery performance like on the Poco X3 Pro, we have no complaints. Our usage has been mixed throughout the duration we have used the smartphone. More often than not, we registered a 6-7 hour screen-on time threshold at all times.On some days, usage involved extensive data whereas on other days, the phone stayed on WiFi. When you use the camera or game often, battery may drop a bit faster than usual.

However, we still think backup is satisfactory especially given our usage was at 120Hz refresh rate. To recharge, you can use the brick and cable provided in the box. According to Xiaomi, the 33W charger can take the Poco X3 Pro from 0-59 per-cent in 30 minutes however in reality, we got to 43-45 per-cent. A full charge takes 1 hour and 12 minutes. This is slower than what the company has claimed but with us relying on overnight charging for the most part, it did not hurt our experience.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Poco X3 Pro does well on many fronts. Especially for its Dh899 price tag, it may be one of the most versatile budget smartphones on the market. We think the reason for its exceedingly good performance is thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860. This not only allows for a fluid experience but also impacts your photo and video quality given it is responsible for the ISP. One could say that the IPS LCD type panel instead of an AMOLED one is a major drawback but we think this sacrifice is fine for all the good you get. In either scenario, if you are in the market for a powerful gaming smartphone, the Poco X3 Pro is hard to beat.

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