Back in 2014, OnePlus One was released, offering flagship specs and features for a fraction of what flagships used to cost. But over the past few years, pricing of OnePlus devices have increased steadily, so they are no longer as affordable.
To fill this gap, Xiaomi created the sub-brand POCOPHONE and launched the very appropriately named F1. Like OnePlus One, F1 offers flagship specs at a very affordable price, which Xiaomi achieves by cutting down on things that are of less priority.
In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at the brand new POCOPHONE F1 by Xiaomi. The POCOPHONE F1 can be purchased from any Mi Stores in Singapore at S$449 and S$529 for the 64GB and 128GB version respectively.
Summary – Budget Phone for Gamers
- Insane performance for price
- Jelly case included
- Good display
- Supports microSD card
- Very capable cameras, even at night
- Great sounding speaker”s”
- Beastly >2 days battery life on moderate use
- Quick Charge 3.0, supported charger included
- An improved MIUI experience
- Doesn’t look and feel as nice as some competitors
- Thick bezels
- Photo file size bug
- Focusing issue with slow motion
Unboxing – BOLD!
POCOPHONE F1’s packaging is very different from what we are used to from Xiaomi devices. The lid of the box is black, with very striking yellow words on it. The container below is of the same yellow color. A very bold color combination.
Removing the lid, you will find a very yellow box containing the paperwork, as well as a clear jelly case. I really appreciate the fact that Xiaomi has been including a jelly case with most of their phones recently, even on the most affordable ones.
Below, you will find the POCOPHONE F1 itself, as well as a wall adapter, USB Type-C cable and SIM removal tool. Some people complain about the lack of earphones, but considering how affordable Mi Earphones are, there is no reason to complain.
Design – All Plastic, But Still Looks Good
Design was not one of Xiaomi’s priority when they came up with the POCOPHONE F1. So to make it as affordable as possible while retaining its amazing specs, Xiaomi cheapened out on design, opting for a plastic housing instead of glass or metal.
While plastic housing will never feel as nice in the hand as a glass or metal one, it can still look good if done well and I feel that Xiaomi did a fine job. It isn’t as fanciful as some of its competitors, but no way does it look dated.
In Singapore, POCOPHONE F1 is available in only two colors at the moment: Graphite Black and Steel Blue. Both colors are a little dull and has a little bit of the gamery vibe.
On the top is the headphone jack and a microphone hole. Below, we have two speaker grills, but only one of them is for the speaker while the other houses a microphone. In the center is something you will love: a USB Type-C port.
Power and volume buttons are on the right side of the device as usual. SIM tray can be found on the left side, with one hybrid slot and one Nano SIM slot. Being able to insert a microSD card on a flagship-grade device is not common these days.
If you hate notches, this is not(ch) the phone for you. The POCOPHONE’s 6.18″ 18.7:9 display comes with one. Unlike many notched phones I have tested recently, the bezels on this one is thick, with a sizable bottom chin, making it less appealing.
Overall, the POCOPHONE F1 is far from being the most eye-catching phone at its price point, but that doesn’t really matter. Its intended audience doesn’t really care about looks. What they do care about though, is that sweet sweet gaming performance.
Display – Not a Bad One
POCOPHONE F1 uses an IPS LCD display, so blacks aren’t the deepest, but viewing angles are great and the screen can get very bright. Xiaomi may have cheapened out on design and build quality, but the display used here is still very good.
The display looks over-saturated and is a little on the warm side. The latter can be fixed in the settings app. Unlike on other Xiaomi devices, MIUI for POCOPHONE F1 gives you great flexibility in changing the display’s color to your liking.
Performance – How is This Only S$450?!!!
The biggest selling point of the POCOPHONE F1 is its Snapdragon 845 processor and liquid cooling system. This makes the POCOPHONE F1 the most affordable smartphone with flagship-grade performance. So how does it perform?
In benchmarks, POCOPHONE F1 killed it with scores significantly higher than what you would get from a S$450 phone. AnTuTu gave it a whopping 258245 and it was no slouch in Geekbench 4 either, scoring 2457 single-core and 8997 multi-core.
To put this in perspective, the 64/6GB variant of OnePlus 6 which costs close to twice the price scored slightly lower for Geekbench 4 in my review. However, the OnePlus 6 did fare quite a bit better in AnTuTu, with a score of 281519.
In actual usage, the POCOPHONE F1 is fast! MIUI runs so smoothly on the F1 you won’t believe it is actually MIUI. Basic tasks like scrolling through social media or even playing light games ran without a hitch during my time with the device.
Now, the true moment you have been waiting for. How does the POCOPHONE F1 handle graphic-intensive games? In PUBG Mobile, the phone ran smoothly even with graphics set to HDR, frame rate set to high and style set to colorful.
Moving to ultra frame rate, the POCOPHONE F1 does drop frame rates a little. But in a game like PUBG Mobile, you will want the smoothest gameplay experience possible, so if you are going to play it on the POCOPHONE F1, reduce frame rate to high.
Back in 2016, Xiaomi also had a really powerful yet affordable device called the Redmi Note 3, powered by the Snapdragon 650. It ran most games without a hitch, but it did overheat, especially after I played The Greedy Cave for hours.
Thankfully, the new POCOPHONE F1 stayed cool after long periods of The Greedy Cave. Maybe the Snapdragon 845 processor is a lot more efficient, but the liquid cooling system in the F1 might have also helped it disperse heat more effectively.
POCOPHONE F1 handles lighter games like a beast. Brawl Stars ran without any stutter, as long as the WiFi was reliable. Knife Hit, a game that can easily be ruined by lag, was super smooth on the F1. Insane performance for a S$449 device!
Rear Cameras – Beautiful Photos & Videos, Daunted by Ginormous File Size
As you may already have inferred from the title, the file size of photos and videos taken with the POCOPHONE F1 are huge! Most smartphones that I have reviewed typically produce image with file sizes of ~2-3MB, sometimes a little more.
Info of image taken with portrait mode
But the POCOPHONE F1’s regular photos are already about 4-6MB each. Portrait mode gets much worst at an average of 10MB. However, if you just crop the images ever so slightly, you can reduce the images to under 3MB. Is this a bug?
Same image after cropping slightly
I only noticed this issue after writing my Roidmi F8 review. All my photos on that review were taken with the POCOPHONE F1, but I had to compress them significantly due to the insane file size. (I only have 6GB of media storage for this website)
Here are some images taken with the POCOPHONE F1. The images below have been compressed to save space and your precious mobile data, but you can view the original, untouched images on Google Drive, linked here.
As you may expect from most smartphones these days, images taken with the POCOPHONE F1’s rear camera look sharp when take in great lighting conditions. Colors look very appealing, though not that accurate. Focus is really quick.
At night, photos turn out really nice under adequate lighting, with little noise and great colors. When there isn’t sufficient light, the camera will crank up brightness, but you can expect some noise and less detail in the image taken
For the photography enthusiast, there is a manual mode that is a lot more complete than what is found on other similarly-priced phones. Changing of shutter speed actually works here, with a maximum duration of 32s. Sweet!
Videography on the POCOPHONE F1 is no slouch either. The F1 can record up to 4K videos, though to get EIS you can only record up to 1080p. Below are some videos I have recorded using the POCOPHONE at various resolutions.
Recording at 4K
Recording at 1080p with Image Stabilization
You can also record slow motion videos up to 1080p 240fps with the F1, but I notice that it has the tendency to refocus every few second, ruining the video. Hope this will be fixed via an update.
Front Camera – Great Looking Selfies
On the front of the POCOPHONE F1 is a 20MP selfie camera that is capable of taking great looking selfies. Dynamic range is above average for a front-facing camera. At night, it loses a bit of details, but overall still looks acceptable.
Sound – Superb for Games and Movies!
Audio is surprisingly another area where the POCOPHONE F1 does a pretty good job at. Both the bottom-firing speaker and the earpiece on the front are used to play music, sound from the earpiece is just too teeny to make a difference.
At max volume, it is as loud as the Redmi 5. But the sound it produces is warmer and more impactful, providing a more immersive experience. This is great if you love to watch movies or Netflix and game on your smartphone.
Meanwhile, listening to music via the headphone jack is equally impressive. Testing with my JBL Synchros S300i, audio output is quite a bit louder than the Redmi 5 and sound a bit more lively due to a tad bit more emphasis on trebles.
Battery Life – Xiaomi’s Back With Another Battery Beast!
Keeping the POCOPHONE F1 powered is a huge 4000mAh battery. While I have already reviewed a couple Xiaomi devices with such a large battery, this is the first time since the Redmi Note 3 that I can get through 2 full days with moderate use.
Since this is a hardcore gamer oriented device, we shall do things a little differently. For the light-to-moderate usage test, I played graphic-intensive games, but only for a short duration each time, multiple times throughout each day.
Doing so, I was only able to drain the POCOPHONE F1’s battery down to 14% by 9PM of day 2, with a total screen-on time of 7h 25min. Under less intensive usage, you probably can get up to 2.5 days of battery life on this beast!
- Total = 1d 14h 48min
- SOT = 7h 25min
- 1h 15min PUBG Mobile
- 1h 41min The Greedy Cave
- 15min Asphalt 8
- 30min Facebook
- 41min music playback
Next, I tried to drain the F1’s battery as much as I could by playing graphic-intensive games and I was able to drain it to 9% at the end of the day, with a total screen-on time of 7h 14min. For a device with flagship-grade performance, this is amazing!
- 9% remaining
- Total = 14h 25min
- SOT = 7h 14min
- 3h 41min PUBG Mobile
- 1h The Greedy Cave
- 57min Asphalt 8
- 2h music playback
You know what is better than the long battery life of the F1? Being able to charge that huge battery really quickly! POCOPHONE F1 is capable of Quick Charge 3.0 and the wall adapter included in the box finally supports it. Nice!
With the phone on standby, I started charging it with 5% battery remaining. After 30min, it hit 40%. At the 1h timestamp, it went up to 77% and fully charged in 1h 45min. Not the fastest, but for a battery this large, this is really quick already.
Software – A More Customizable MIUI
Like all other Xiaomi smartphones, POCOPHONE F1 runs MIUI, but this is a very special version of MIUI. One of the most common complains people have about MIUI is the lack of app drawer and on the POCOPHONE F1, there is one.
To do this, POCOPHONE F1 uses a launcher Xiaomi created called POCO Launcher, which will also be available for download on other devices. The app drawer of POCO Launcher is really smart, sorting out apps by category automatically.
Everything else is very similar to what we have on regular MIUI, at least on the surfaces. Xiaomi claims that there are special optimizations that allows the F1 to load apps super fast and from my usage, everything is indeed lightning fast on the F1.
Xiaomi also promises super fast updates for the POCOPHONE F1 and it seems like they are living up to it, at least for the moment.
Others – IR Face Unlock
The fingerprint scanner on the rear is pretty quick, but you also get a face unlock option which is even quicker when paired with lift to wake. Many phones these days can also do the same, but this one uses infrared. Is it more reliable? I can’t tell.
Conclusion – Built for Gamers
Do not get the POCOPHONE F1 just because everyone on the internet says that it is good. Don’t get me wrong. It is an excellent phone, just not the ideal phone for everyone.
Despite having such a good pro-to-con ratio, the POCOPHONE F1 is not something I would recommend to everybody. If performance, especially gaming performance, is important to you, then yes, I would highly recommend the F1.
But not everyone needs flagship level performance; Some people care more about looks and feel, some care more about selfies. There are phones that do a better job in those areas than POCOPHONE F1. In those cases, there is no reason to get the F1.