With great hardware come great price tags. Or at least that is what 2018 seemed to teach us. After a period in which flagship phones seemed to be getting more affordable, 2018 saw them get into kidney-selling land again — the iPhone shot across the Rs 1,00,000 barrier, the Note remained high end as did the Pixel and even the relatively affordable OnePlus touched the Rs 50,000 mark with its McLaren edition (read more about it here).
So was this the year in which you had to pay a bomb to get a flagship phone? Nope. Because this was also the year in which Xiaomi launched its sub-brand Poco. And its very first phone, the Poco F1, proved that flagships could be affordable. Here is why:
We are not going to get into heavy design details — the Poco F1 is designed for smartness rather than stunning looks and sleekness. It looks decent enough but will not turn heads (unless you buy the red edition). But the hardware the Poco F1 features is top of the line in many ways — the 6.18 inch display is not the brightest we have seen but has a full HD+ resolution and is decent enough.
The star however is the Snapdragon 845 processor which was the most powerful processor in Android for most of 2018 — the same that you see in the Google Pixel 3 and the OnePlus 6 and 6T. Memory is at 6 GB and 8 GB and storage is available at 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB, and you can expand it too. And yes you have all the connectivity options in place from 4G to USB type C to even a 3.5 mm audio jack. The phone also has both face unlock (with an infrared sensor, something that remains a relative rarity at the time of writing!) and fingerprint unlock. Some people might say that AMOLED displays are better but even by the most strict standards, the Poco F1 ticks most high end flagship boxes comfortably — it has more RAM than the Pixel 3!
Cameras are often the casualty of cost cutting but those on the Poco F1 are surprisingly good. The 12 and 5 megapixel front cameras take some brilliant shots in normal light, and are even reasonably good in low light conditions. There are some very good studio lighting and bokeh effects there, and the execution is very good too. The 20 megapixel selfie camera is superb as well. Honestly, the phone’s cameras can easily compete with devices that are twice as expensive — we think they are better than the ones on the OnePlus 6T.
The Poco F1 runs a variant of Xiaomi’s MIUI software, on top of Android 9. Some will think it is more complicated than stock Android but purely from a traveller’s perspective, we think that the additional features that it brings to Android add value. It is nice to get a device with a good file manager, voice recorder, a wireless file transfer system and so on, and what’s more you also get access to Xiaomi’s music and video services free of cost. The software itself is updated regularly so do not get too worried about things getting bugs – Xiaomi has perhaps the best software skin of any Android player out there.
All of these are not just stats on paper — the Poco F1 is actually a very good performer. We found that it handled everything from high-end games like PUBG and the Asphalt series to running multiple applications without even breaking into a sweat. It actually does not even heat up, thanks evidently to some cooling tech that Xiaomi has used.
And one of the best parts of the Poco F1 is its battery. The phone might not be insanely thin or feather light, but it does come with a massive 4000 mAh battery. And that means it can easily last close to two days of normal use on a single charge. That is way better than what we have seen on the OnePlus 6T, the Galaxy Note 9 or the Pixel 3 XL. So you not only get a great processor, but also very very good battery to keep it running for a while. Before you ask, it charges fast too!
With all that hardware — the processor, the battery, those cameras – you would have expected the Poco F1 to come with a stiffish price tag. However, it starts at Rs 19,999 for the 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage version and goes up to Rs 28,999 for the 8 GB/ 256 Gb variant. That is much lower than devices from Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Nokia, which come with more expensive price tags for relatively inferior processors. Honestly, at that price the Poco F1 is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a phone not just below Rs 20,000, but even Rs 30,000.
Traveller’s Tip: The Poco F1 does not come with high level dust and water resistance. It is splash resistant, though, so while it can survive the odd spell in the rain, we would recommend slapping a good case on it when you are carrying it in wet or dusty conditions.