The Poco X3 NFC is one of those “if it’s too good to be true” handsets. Offering what appears to be mid-top tier specs for an eye blinking, head shaking, can’t believe it, €199. So what’s the catch?
In 2020, the smartphone world has offered us some strange options as consumers. We’ve seen devices like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra demanding just shy of €1500 for their top spec variant, while a number of devices have seen a shift in focus towards a traditionally mid-range price structure with a mid-high spec sheet.
With this conscious effort to decrease cost of course comes with a compromise in internal hardware. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 700 series has helped OEMs offer customers a really solid processor while driving down prices. You’re not always going to get the speed you’d expect from a flagship phone, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. This device is just €200, so where’s the real compromise?
It’s now largely considered unrealistic to expect to pay anything between €500-€700 for a high end smartphone. We’ve finally reached the good/cheap balance. Good phones are getting cheap, and cheap phones are getting very good. But just as we were getting settled POCO X3 NFC enters the chat, offering more than just good for less than €200.
Everything about the POCO X3 NFC tells me that it shouldn’t feel or look this good. It’s a charming, well put together slab that feels incredibly “premium” compared to the majority of its peers. It projects the attitude of that one kid in high-school who had a beard and moustache at 15 who didn’t get asked for ID at the bar.
On closer inspection you will notice that the back panel is polycarbonate, a more popular choice for mid-low range handsets, it’s fine and doesn’t look bad. The Poco X3 NFC it certainly a worthy opponent to the Pixel 4a with it’s strengths evident in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G chipset, bigger battery and higher refresh rate display, a whopping 120Hz.
The overall aesthetics are striking and while the colour I received was “Shadow Gray” there is definitely a ever so tiny blue reflection, finished with gradiated stripes and a somewhat large POCO logo under the polycarb back plate.
Back, top and center you’ll find the unique looking camera module. A round sided horizontal rectangle, presumably not circular to increase strength. The design and layout of the module doesn’t bring much more to the table other than housing the quad camera array..
The case is IP53 splash resistant a welcome gesture. There are even dual stereo speakers an IR blaster, headphone jack and must not forget to mention NFC ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The flat 120Hz panel looks great flanked by a small chin and forehead. A huge 6.67-inch edge-to-edge FHD+ LCD with the punch hole camera not imposing too much on your viewing experience. I have only one gripe, that being overall brightness, if would be great to have those extra nits to use in direct sunlight, On the whole though this LCD panel takes some of slack from the slightly lacking hardware.
The typing experience is satisfying, the haptic feedback is strong and subtle. it could be improved but it is not at all jankey like traditional cheap handsets.
The quad-camera setup on the Poco X3 NFC on paper is very impressive. The 64-megapixel sensor gives you sharp, detailed in good lighting conditions, however in classic Xiaomi style the shots are quite contrast and noise reduction rich.
As a rule with any Xiaomi device i turn off AI tuning or beauty mode whenever I set the device up. While the results are generally quite good the contrast and exposure can be so hit and miss. you either get a colour rich contrasty shot or it turns out flat and miserable looking.
The inclusion of the Ultra-Wide camera is great, and it compliments the main sensor and 2x tele lens. The macro and depth sensors however feel more like an afterthought to boost the spec sheet. I’m not complaining, it’s just I wish that Xiaomi had perhaps added optical image stabilisation to the main sensors instead.
The front facing “selfie camera” is great and produces a nice crisp exposure. AI beauty mode will make you look so artificially beautiful and your skin will be so smooth that you’ll definitely break instagram. Lighting conditions will affect results, in a similar fashion to the rear camera setup. If you are a selfie maniac you might want to consider the Pixel 4a for a reasonably priced excellent camera phone.
Battery life is fantastic, over 5100mAh is perfect for consuming media and will offer a good day’s worth of use. The inclusion of a 120Hz panel in a €200 phone cannot be overlooked, that’s just crazy. Baked in ads are my only major concern, I see what Xiaomi have done here, it’s clever but the extra steps and screens that they’ve created during some actions feel a little bit disingenuous. Then i remind myself that this phone is less, than, €200.
While MIUI 12 isn’t the perfect Android skin or even as pretty as threadbare as Android 11 on the Pixel 4a, I’ve not felt like I’m missing out on anything in particular. Except, maybe swipe back gestures and a nice solid selfie camera.
The Poco X3 NFC is probably the best value phone of 2020. I’m sitting here summing up trying to think where I have seen a phone offering this much for so little, but I can’t. The blatant ad impressions in the menus and camera shortfalls are too easy to forgive. In fact, you probably won’t even notice them at all after a few days. If you are in the market for a brilliant smartphone on a restricted budget you will be hard pushed to find anything that can match what POCO and Xiaomi are offering here.