POCO X3 NFC Review — conquering new grounds
The new POCO X3 NFC sees POCO try and tackle an all-new frontier: the lower-mid range segment as it arrives with a sub-RM1000 price tag. Can POCO repeat the success that the POCOPHONE F1 and POCO F2 Pro enjoyed, or will it fade into obscurity in this ridiculously competitive price segment? Well, read on to find out.
1 Year Warranty
+ Comes with 33W charger in the box
+ Unique, eye-catching design
+ Sweet 120Hz display makes everything smoother
+ Great performance for its price
+ Humongous battery counters increased power draw of high refresh rate display
+ Stereo sound from loudspeakers can outclass flagships
+ MIUI 12 with POCO Launcher is a joy to use
+ Main camera and ultra-wide angle camera perform admirably in most conditions
+ Excellent value for money
- Glossy plastic back is a fingerprint magnet
- Macro camera is slightly disappointing
The POCOPHONE F1 which started it all offered a flagship chipset at an unprecedented price, and so did the POCO F2 Pro. The POCO X2 was a decent mid-range device too, and today we will be looking at its successor. On paper, the POCO X3 NFC does look extremely impressive, so I do expect a mid-range device that’s on par with their flagships that offered exceptional bang for buck versus the competition. Well, let’s see if it is actually has what it takes to live up to the POCO brand.
As customary of POCO, the POCO X3 NFC comes in a simple box featuring the signature yellow-on-black color scheme. Weirdly enough, while POCO has adopted yellow as its main color, there aren’t any yellow phones yet from them.
There isn’t much in the box aside from the phone, the SIM ejector tool, a soft TPU case which sports a cover for the USB-C port and the sweet 33W fast charger. Yes, the POCO X3 NFC comes with a 33W fast charger in the box, when some significantly more expensive phones can only offer you a 25W power adapter in the box, or even worse, 5W.
POCO is going all in with their branding this time around. While previous devices were easy enough to distinguish from the rest of the devices, the POCO X3 NFC sports much more noticeable branding on the back, just in case you mistake it for something else. For those who were expecting the premium build of the POCO F2 Pro, well you will be slightly disappointed to know that it is polycarbonate here. But hey, even RM4000+ flagships offer plastic backs today, so I guess it is absolutely fine in the POCO X3 NFC’s price segment.
The POCO X3 NFC’s camera hump is really unique, with flattened top and bottom sides so you won’t mistake it for the F2 Pro even with a case on. It does look quite distinctive with the diagonal lines along the centerline of the device, but I do wish that they weren’t there for a cleaner look.
A sweet 6.67″ 120Hz LCD panel dominates the front fascia of the POCO X3 NFC. Interestingly, the bezels are relatively narrow all around, which is quite rare for a device in this price segment. Instead of the POCO F2 Pro’s popup camera, the POCO X3 NFC serves up a center punch hole instead.
As you might expect, the POCO X3 NFC sports a headphone jack. The frame appears to be plastic but POCO does list an aluminium alloy frame in the POCO X3 NFC’s specifications, so I guess that it is plastic on the outside but there’s an aluminium frame in there somewhere to provide additional structural strength. I do wish that the sides weren’t glossy though, as it doesn’t feel great in my hands, nor does it feel grippy enough for me to confidently use it without a case.
On the right side of the POCO X3 NFC is a fingerprint scanner integrated into the power button, along with the volume rocker. Over on the left flank you get the SIM tray, which can also fit a microSD card, a feature that’s becoming increasingly uncommon today.
The top of the device is quite busy too, with POCO throwing in an IR blaster and also stereo speakers. The larger hole you see on the left is a port for the upper speaker. We will discuss a bit more about the audio in a bit.
POCO X3 NFC Specifications
|CPU:||Snapdragon 732G (2 x Kryo 470 Gold @ 2.3 GHz + 6 x Kryo 470 Silver @ 1.8 GHz), 8nm|
|Display:||6.67″ FHD+ (2400 x 1080) 120Hz LCD display, 91% screen-to-body ratio
240Hz touch sampling
87.4% DCI-P3 gamut, HDR10, 450-nit brightness
|Storage:||128GB UFS 2.1 (expandable via microSD)|
64MP f/1.89 Sony IMX682 + 13MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle camera + 2MP f/2.4 macro camera + 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor
Night Mode, AI scene detection, auto HDR, portrait mode, Beautify, AI Skyscaping 3.0, ultra-wide angle distortion correction, 1080p60/4K30 video, ShootSteady video, Vlog mode, up to 1080p120/720p960 slow-mo
AI Beauty, AI Portrait, AI scene detection, Night mode, 1080p30 video, 120 fps slow-mo selfie
|OS:||MIUI 12 based on Android 10|
|Connectivity:||LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20/28/38/40/41
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
3.5mm headphone jack
|SIM:||Dual SIM (hybrid dual SIM)|
|Battery:||Li-Po 5160mAh (non-removable)
33W fast charging (USB-C)
|Dimensions:||165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4 mm|
Right off the bat, we see that the POCO X3 NFC is significantly faster overall when compared to the Mi Note 10, which offers a Snapdragon 730G. The Snapdragon 732G however is not much faster than a Snapdragon 720G though, which is a bit disappointing.
Geekbench sees a much smaller gap between the Snapdragon 732G, Snapdragon 720G and Snapdragon 730G devices. The Kirin mid-range chips are offering pretty great figures here.
3DMark sees the gap between the POCO X3 NFC and the Snapdragon 720G device in the charts widen, which was exactly what I expected considering the faster GPU. It still is far from the fastest mid-range chipset, but it should be the fastest mid-range 4G chipset in the market right now. The Adreno 618 GPU is in fact faster than the Snapdragon 821 which powered flagships just a few years ago.
In PCMark, the POCO X3 NFC posts middling performance, which is what you would expect from a mid-range smartphone. Nonetheless, these are still very impressive scores. The Snapdragon 732G in the POCO X3 NFC allows it to outperform significantly more expensive devices across the board, which is definitely worth noting.
Battery life is also excellent, especially when you consider that the POCO X3 NFC sports a 120Hz display. A run with the display set to 60Hz actually resulted in worse battery life, which did seem abnormal, and the reason why we decided not to list it here.
Due to to the tight schedule, we will be running the test again at 60Hz after this review is published. After repeated runs at 60Hz and 120Hz, the battery life results were too similar between the two modes.
In my normal day-to-day usage with the screen set to 120Hz, the POCO X3 NFC provided 6 hours and 31 minutes of use over 18 hours away from the plug, and that was with me using the camera and firing up some games to test its performance. Recharging the battery is a really quick affair, with the battery going from 17% to 61% in just 30 minutes. Essentially, you would be getting about a day’s use with just 30 minutes of charging.
POCO does position the POCO X3 NFC as a mid-range gaming smartphone, and I must say it does live up to its ambitions. We can easily achieve 60 FPS in COD Mobile, and less intensive titles that support 120Hz refresh rates like Alto’s Adventure run at that frame rate for some smooth skiing action. It is also worth mentioning that the POCO X3 NFC keeps its display at 120Hz despite COD Mobile running at 60 FPS, which resulted in a slightly smoother than usual visual experience.
Overall, we would say that POCO did a much better implementation of a 120Hz screen than the competition offering 90Hz displays in the mid-range segment. Thermals are handled quite well too, with the device barely warming up after about 30 minutes of COD Mobile.
Aside from gaming, the 120Hz display offers a very smooth scrolling experience, which is great for me as I do a lot of my browsing on my smartphone. Unfortunately it is an LCD display, presumably to accommodate the tight budget constraints here, and the one here definitely can’t match OLED screens in terms of response time. It does seem better than all the high refresh rate LCD smartphones I have seen though, which is nice to see, literally.
The punch hole is also relatively clean, without the darkened halo issue that plagues quite a few punch hole smartphones with LCD displays. The lower-edge of the panel is marginally dimmer, which is common for LCD panels.
As the POCO X3 NFC offers stereo audio capabilities, the earpiece here does double duty as one half of the dual speakers of the POCO X3 NFC. Most mid-range offerings will offer you a much weaker secondary speaker if they even claim to offer you stereo sound, but I must say that the POCO X3 NFC’s earpiece and main loudspeaker over at the bottom are surprisingly well matched.
What you get is loud, even stereo sound with exceptional clarity that would compare well against many recent flagships. Movies, games and music sound great on the POCO X3 NFC, with the sole complaint I have is the lack of bass. Oh and as if it isn’t busy enough up here, there’s a notification LED crammed up into the earpiece grille too.
The overall user experience of the POCO X3 NFC is further enhanced by MIUI 12, although I might be biased considering that I have used MIUI devices since 2018. Coupled with the smooth display, responsive touch and also a nice haptic feedback motor that offers precise, tight vibrations, I must say that I am very happy with the overall feel of this device, especially given its price range.
The camera UI is very familiar, and is definitely very feature packed, but the processing speed is definitely held back by its processor. There’s a somewhat significant waiting time for Night shots, but not exactly anything out of the ordinary. I just wish it was faster. At least 64MP shots are pretty quick to process, and you will be ready to take the next shot almost immediately.
Images taken with the POCO X3 NFC are quite good in good lighting, and even night shots are pretty nice. Weirdly enough, the Night mode makes images too sharp and the vibrance is turned all the way up, occasionally making the images look even worse than taking the shots with the standard mode. I do think POCO can further optimize the image quality on it.
Unfortunately the Night mode is not available for the ultra-wide camera, but I must say it is fully capable of taking some rather nice images even in low-light conditions in the default mode. I am disappointed with the macro camera, as while the POCO F2 Pro had the best macro camera in a smartphone ever, the POCO X3 NFC is the worst one I have ever seen in a Xiaomi smartphone. I must mention that while it is still on par with most of the competition, fixed focus and a low 2MP resolution is not the best combo here. You can check out the full-sized images here.
You will want to take note of your hand’s position though, as the lens closest to the upper left corner is the main camera, and in a normal landscape orientation, you would be holding it with your left hand somewhere around the area… So yeah, if you want usable shots, do make sure to not block the main camera. POCO designers could have easily avoided the issue by putting the main camera in the center, but I guess the size of the 64MP Sony IMX682 and the lenses it require prevented them from doing so.
POCO offers their fans a strong mid-range option in the sub-RM1000 price range, with some features that are even better than their flagship POCO F2 Pro, like the high refresh rate display, longer battery life and stereo loudspeakers. The 128GB variant we reviewed here will set you back RM1099, but you can easily save some money and just get the 64GB variant which is offered at RM899, and throw in a microSD card if you think you will be using the camera extensively.
My only complaints would be the fingerprint magnet of a plastic back that will invariably collect scratches later and the fixed focus 2MP macro camera which doesn’t keep up with the other two great cameras. Aside from that, I would wholeheartedly recommend the POCO X3 NFC as an excellent mid-range device for very little money, especially if you don’t buy into the 5G hype.
Our thanks to Xiaomi Malaysia for sending us the POCO X3 NFC.