Taking on the OnePlus 6

Xiaomi is coming full circle. The company that pioneered the “affordable flagship” model is launching a new sub-brand to sell even more affordable flagships. Ironically, Xiaomi is taking cues from Huawei and BBK, who copied Xiaomi with their budget-focused sub-brands, Honor and OnePlus.

Meet the Pocophone F1, the first phone from Xiaomi’s new brand. The device hasn’t been officially announced – the Pocophone sub-brand was just introduced last week – but we managed to get our hands on a unit.

Here’s what you need to know about the Xiaomi Pocophone F1.

Note: We’re still weeks away from the Pocophone F1’s official release. The software on our unit is likely not final, which could explain some of the bugs we encountered. Performance and camera quality may also be impacted.

pocophone f1 displaying the android authority website

The brand

We know, the name is a little crazy (un poco loco, you could say). However, Xiaomi has already committed to it, in two versions no less. The brand will be called “Pocophone by Xiaomi” globally and “Poco by Xiaomi” in India.

pocophone f1 retail box

The branding and the simple design of the retail box are a good clue of what to expect from Pocophone devices — a no-frills experience at a good price.

Pocophone F1 specs

  Pocophone F1
Display 5.99-inch IPS LCD, 1080 x 2246 (Full HD+), 18:9, 416 dpi
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 10nm, octa-core, liquid cooled
GPU Adreno 630
Storage 64GB, expandable
Cameras Rear: 12MP+5MP dual pixel autofocus
Front: 20MP
Audio 3.5 mm audio jack
Battery 4,000 mAh
Quick Charge 3.0
IP rating No
Sensors Fingerprint (rear mounted)
IR face unlock (TBC)
Network GSM 900/1800
UMTS band 1/8
LTE band 1/3/7/8/20/38/40
Connectivity USB Type-C Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-Band, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.0 LE, A-GPS, Glonass, Beidou
Software Android 8.1, MIUI 9.6
Dimensions and weight TBC
Colors Blue, Graphite Black

Flagship performance

Pocophone Head of Product Jai Mani teased a “back to basics” approach to product design, saying the F1 will focus entirely on speed. From what we can tell so far, the first Pocophone delivers.

The phone comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor clocked at up to 2.8GHz and 6GB of RAM, along with 64GB of storage. There’s also a liquid cooling system that’s supposed to enable sustained high-speed operation.

The Pocophone F1 feels very fast, despite the non-final software our unit is running. Everything is as smooth as you’d expect from a Snapdragon 845 phone, with no lag or jarring episodes of jankiness.

pocophone f1 display software

Running AnTuTu on the Poco F1 results in scores of around 240,000. That’s a very respectable performance for a phone that sells for around 430 euros (~$490) – in fact, it’s about the same score as the Galaxy S9 Plus, which goes for twice the price. Some rumors suggested the F1 could reach much higher scores, over 280,000, which would put it ahead of the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi’s own Mi 8. We didn’t reach such scores in our testing. It’s possible there’s a Pocophone F1 variant coming with 8GB of RAM, which could help it rise through the ranks.

The Pocophone F1 feels very fast. Everything is as smooth as you’d expect from a Snapdragon 845 phone.

Cutting some corners

Obviously, you need to cut some corners to create a faster and cheaper phone than the competition. On the Pocophone F1, the biggest compromise seems to be the plastic back, which is something we haven’t seen on a high-end phone in years. Plastic isn’t inherently bad, and most users won’t care once they slap a case on the phone. That said, the F1 definitely feels cheaper than some competitors.

pocophone f1 cameras back

The feeling of cheapness is aggravated by the screen, which picks up oils like crazy. If there’s an oleophobic coating on it at all, it’s the worst we’ve ever seen on a brand-new phone.

pocophone f1 usb type cpocophone f1 dual cameras fingerprint sensor
pocophone f1 headphone jackpocophone f1 buttons

A nice display — with a notch

The display is a Full HD+ IPS LCD spanning 5.99 inches. An OLED would’ve been nice, but we can’t blame Xiaomi for sticking with LCD, especially considering how nice color reproduction is on the Pocophone F1.

The phone’s fat notch feels completely unnecessary. It’s not like Xiaomi crammed a ton of components in it.

We didn’t like that the screen “floats” over the metallic frame – the glass sticks out a millimeter or so, meaning it will get no protection in case of a face-down drop. Invest in a good case, the one that’s bundled with the phone leaves the display exposed too.

pocophone f1 design speakers

Finally, the phone’s fat notch feels completely unnecessary. It’s not like Xiaomi crammed a ton of components in it, and the thick bezels going around the screen make the notch look out of place. After all, the main reason we even put up with notches is to get rid of those pesky bezels.

pocophone f1 display notch
pocophone f1 screen

If you just want something that lasts a long time, you don’t need to pay $1000 for the Galaxy Note 9 and its 4,000mAh battery.

The battery is great

If you just want something that lasts a long time, you don’t need to pay $1000 for the Galaxy Note 9 and its 4,000mAh battery. The massively cheaper Pocophone F1 has the same battery capacity. We easily got six to seven hours of screen-on time between charges with medium usage.

pocophone f1 display

Bits and pieces

The Pocophone F1 features a fingerprint sensor on its back and it’s extremely fast — probably the fastest I’ve ever tested. Other hardware tidbits include a USB Type-C port and very loud single speaker on the bottom of the phone.

pocophone f1 usb type c port speakers

According to the Pocophone F1’s retail box, the device should feature IR-based facial recognition. The notch includes a secondary front camera, but we couldn’t find the software setting required to activate face-unlock. This is likely because the phone isn’t running finalized software.

Mediocre cameras

The Pocophone F1’s dual camera pairs a 12MP main sensor with a 5MP secondary one. The camera does a decent job in good lighting, though we occasionally ran into overexposure in situations when overexposure shouldn’t have been an issue. Other times, pictures turned out washed out or slightly blurry even in broad daylight. The portrait mode also needs some work.

pocophone f1 cameras fingerprint sensor

The front camera features a 20MP sensor, using Xiaomi’s pixel binning technology to combine data from four individual pixels. The end result is a 5MP image that’s supposed to look better than what you’d get from a conventional sensor. In practice, we weren’t blown away by the results.

pocophone f1 camera

It’s entirely possible Xiaomi is still tweaking camera performance on the Pocophone F1. We’ll reserve final judgment for when we get a review unit.

Good software, with some bugs

Despite a few bugs, software on the Pocophone F1 feels quite solid and polished. MIUI 9.6 – based on Android 8.1 — is feature rich and a pleasure to use, a few usability gripes aside.

pocophone f1 software display
pocophone f1 software

We ran into a weird issue where the notifications icons didn’t show up at all in the status bar, making it almost completely useless. It’s possible this is just a bug to be fixed with an update. Another bizarre, slightly embarrassing slip-up is the mispositioned clock on the lock screen, which is cut off by the notch.

pocophone f1 screen

Who is this phone for?

Even in its current unpolished state, the Pocophone F1 lives up to Xiaomi’s promise to “focus entirely on speed.” If you want an affordable phone that performs great — even in a couple of years — the F1 may be a great choice for you.

If you want an affordable phone that performs great — even in a couple of years — the F1 may be a great choice for you.

If you’re looking for a more complete package, the Pocophone F1 is harder to recommend. It’s not exactly a looker, with its fat bezels and plastic back. The cameras are pretty mediocre, at least in their current state. The software is not as good as, say, Oxygen OS.

Ultimately, it could come down to the Pocophone F1’s price. The 64GB model we obtained was briefly put on sale by a European retailer for the equivalent 430 euros. In the same country, the OnePlus 6 sells for 530 euros (~$603), the Asus ZenFone 5Z for 515 euros (~$585), and Xiaomi’s own Mi 8 for 500 euros (~$570).

The 15-20 percent price difference is nothing to scoff at. If Xiaomi manages to maintain it in other markets, the Pocophone brand could be off to a strong start.

We should find out the full details about the Pocophone F1 on August 22, when the phone is officially unveiled. In the meantime, let us know what you think about it.

Hands-on: Xiaomi’s Pocophone F1 takes aim at OnePlus 6

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