Poco F2 Pro Review – Flagship Gaming At Around Half The Usual Cost

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Poco F2 Pro shines as a budget flagship with great gaming features but falls short in some important areas too.

Poco F2 Pro
$561
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • 67-minutes to 100-percent
  • 10+ hours of screen-on time on a single charge
  • Up to 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM
  • Up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage
  • Game Turbo & Optimizations enable top-tier gaming experiences
  • Snapdragon 865
  • Touchscreen is responsive and latency-free
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1support
  • NFC works as expected
  • Infrared blaster for universal remote control capabilities
  • 3.5mm audio jack is included
  • Styling and customization is both straightforward & extensive
Cons
  • Fingerprints and dust collection are a real problem
  • Overall design feels underwhelming
  • Single bottom-firing speaker is underwhelming
  • Pop-up camera technology still feels too slow
  • Fingerprint reader is accurate but slow
  • 60Hz refresh rate is disappointing
  • Night Mode is noticeably worse than other phones in terms of clarity and color
  • Software is more bloated than is desirable

Poco F2 Pro is, despite its price at just €499 or roughly $561 as of this writing, proves itself to be a full-fledged flagship when placed under review. Or, at the very least, it is where it really matters for those who want a gaming handset. This phone not only offers the latest specs to deliver a smooth everyday and gaming experience. It delivers on customization and theming to suit its category. And on fool-proof-easy gaming-related software to match.

It delivers that without getting too warm and without significant battery drain too. Stunningly, for a gaming device let alone a flagship, this phone can easily last two days. Charging is fast to accent that fact, meaning that there's going to be less downtime between sessions.

But, as is also betrayed by its price tag. This absolutely is not going to be the best daily-drive flagship on the market. Its design is more about aesthetics than anything, just for starters. And it doesn't have any of the flashy external lighting features that so many of its contemporaries offer. The design is prone to collecting particulates and fingerprints too. At least in the color that I tested.

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While the camera is fine for most captures, it does not do well in extreme low-light and night mode is a pixelated mess. The 60Hz refresh rate of the display means that videos and games are quite as smooth as competitors either.

Of course, that's all just a start. There's a lot to love about this phone and, in what sometimes feels like equal measure, plenty not to. That means that there's a lot to cover for those who may be considering a purchase. So let's dig in.

The hardware here is underwhelming but not because of how it looks or because of the quality

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Poco F2 Pro comes in four colors, with my review unit being the Cyber Gray variation

Poco sells the F2 Pro in four colors, including Electric Purple, Neon Blue, Phantom White, and Cyber Gray — the last of which was sent out for review. And it's a genuinely nice color. Coupled with the Gorilla Glass 5 coating and aluminum edge-work, it gives off the appearance that the entire design is metal. That's a nice touch, although it will still break if dropped too much or from too great a height.

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The design itself isn't necessarily top-notch. Although this is a personal preference, I found the comfortably rounded edges and round quad-camera housing — with a brushed-metal-look ring — to be a bit off. That may, in fact, come back to the fact that the camera hump raises the back of the device up substantially. And that means it's likely to get damaged in a drop or scratched from being set down and picked up.

But I also found the red accent on the power button to be a bit too retro-looking when paired with the silver coloration.

Another aesthetic problem with this smartphone is that it attracts and collects dust like crazy. Fingerprints also stick out on the back and front glass. So it's extremely difficult to keep this handset looking clean.

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There are a few nice touches as well, however. The front-camera is embued with an LED notification light that can be adjusted in color. The LEDs surrounding the lens can be customized too — as can the sound effect when it pops up or in. The company missed an opportunity here by not including a white LED to serve as a front-facing flash. But it's a neat bit of customization all the same. And it fits well with other customizations we'll cover in the software segment.

That camera also serves to ensure a more symmetrical look for the front display, which is almost evenly surrounded by razor-thin bezels.

In terms of in-hand feel and quality, the design is straightforward and durable. None of the ports, the cameras, or the IR blaster offer any sharp edges to get caught on anything. And the included slim clear-case undoubtedly offers good protection without taking away from the in-hand feel.

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The ports are also snug, with cables clicking in or out satisfactorily. The buttons do the same, giving off the sense that they'll last for quite some time. And the camera at the top is firm, with no signs whatsoever of looseness or wiggle. Instead, it feels sturdy and like it won't degrade much over the life of the phone. It's also slow to rise, which is an issue. But, since it's often still much faster than the fingerprint reader, that's not too big a problem.

Otherwise, the phone feels exceptionally well made and fits smoothly in-hand. That's undoubtedly thanks to the use of glass and smooth metal edging. But whatever the reason, this phone absolutely fits the flagship bill in terms of how it feels to hold and the attention it garners.

This phone is purpose-built for performance

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Finding the gaming mode is a bit tricky but, once set up, it's automatic

Now, unlike many other gaming handsets, the Poco F2 Pro doesn't feature a dedicated gaming suite. That meant that accessing deeper settings takes users to the Settings app rather than a dedicated app. But that doesn't mean this phone isn't purpose-built for gaming. Once I discovered the location of the Game Turbo settings, about a fifth of the way through my review period, the Poco F2 Pro really sprung to life.

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Once I had visited the app and adjusted a few settings, games that I downloaded were automatically added too. And the game mode launches automatically alongside the game. Settings that are set, remain in place between launches as well.

As for what settings are available, Do Not Disturb is a big part of settings, with plenty of extra options to ensure gaming sessions aren't interrupted. The sole exception is in terms of emergencies. And the settings for that include a ton of system-level adjustments from call answering and notification shade control to restricting auto-brightness and screenshot gestures. Memory management and other performance optimizations are included, as are other screen-locking features.

On an individual basis, games can be adapted in terms of screen sensitivity, visual enhancements, and touch-resistance in select zones.

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Setting aside other customization features we'll discuss later on, in most games, all of that was entirely unnecessary. Even with just 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage and 6GB LPDDR4X RAM — my review unit for the Poco F2 Pro was the base model — this phone handled everything just fine. There was no jitter and no latency either while any app I tested was running or during intense gaming sessions.

This phone can and will power through anything you can throw at it, including intensive multitasking. And it isn't going to slow down either thanks to its Snapdragon 865 flagship processor.

For those who want to spend a bit extra, up to 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage are an option. But, given how well this phone performed under testing, that really seems excessive. Storage may be the only reason to go that far, while the extra RAM may come in most useful for those who want to game and be able to edit media locally. The more capable variant costs around €599 — or $673.57 as of this writing.

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The 60Hz display panel is one of Poco F2 Pro's few serious shortcomings

Poco F2 Pro's display packs a punch with one major drawback when compared to other 'flagships'

As noted in the headline here, the display on the Poco F2 Pro is one of the only serious problems I noticed during my review. And, it's fair to say, unless you're used to a high-end gaming monitor or newer flagship, you won't notice it at all. Namely, that's the fact that the display only has a refresh rate of 60Hz.

Now, it was immediately noticeable to me during my test of this device. That's because I'm accustomed to a newer high-end smartphone and have similarly been using high-end televisions and computer monitors. So the drop from 90Hz or more to 60Hz was obvious. But for those users who haven't been quite so spoiled, or who care more about resolution and performance than refresh rate, it's not going to present a problem. It is, in fact, one of the reasons this device is so affordable.

For those that do care about refresh rate more than others, this is going to be a dealbreaker.

Setting aside the refresh rate, Poco engineered both rear and front panels on this smartphone from Corning Gorilla Glass 5. And the display resolution is set at 1080 x 2400 pixels with a 20:9 ratio. There's almost no room left for bezels either with a screen-to-body ratio of 87.2-percent. At its peak brightness, the display goes all the way up to 500nits.

As noted above in the performance segment though, the screen is also one that responds quickly to touch. And there's no real complaint to be made on either responsiveness or latency either. Instead, Poco has taken a step further to ensure that the sensitivity of the display is adjustable with control over dead-zones for a better gaming experience.

Colors are well-represented and highly accurate too. And that's setting aside that doesn't change when brightness moves up or down. So, for all intents and purposes, aside from refresh rate, this is a truly great display panel for the price.

Poco F2 Pro delivers solid battery life and fantastic charging

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30W fast charging refuels the Poco F2 Pro in just over an hour

This handset is very clearly a gaming phone and that means special considerations for performance as that relates to battery life. But, under review, the Poco F2 Pro was more than just long-lasting. It also charges up its 4,700mAh battery exceptionally quickly. In my battery test, the included charging hardware took things to over 50-percent in under a half-hour. More directly, to 53-percent in just 26-minutes.

Getting to 75-percent charge took just 40-minutes. And a full charge took just an hour and seven minutes.

That's not quite as advertised. But, in fact, it's only four minutes slower than the company says it should charge up and that's a lot better than some other smartphones have tended to do.

Battery life isn't half-bad either and, with consideration for the size of the battery, this could be among the best around on that front. I saw a grand total of 11-hours and 28-minutes of screen-on time. As a matter of course, battery life is going to differ substantially from user to user. So my experience should not be taken as typical. But it should also be said that I kept screen brightness turned all the way up and volume at half for my review of the Poco F2 Pro.

So the numbers here are significant since those aspects can pull down battery life quite a bit. Breaking down exactly how that time was spent helps provide a clearer picture of what this phone is capable of.

Since this is a gaming handset, I focused my battery test on games that tend to be intensive. Those aren't necessarily those that are most popular but include some that are known to drain the battery. Gaming accounted for five minutes past three-and-a-half hours here. Video and audio streaming were responsible for six hours and five minutes. I spent a total of one hour and one minute sending messaging, browsing the web, and adjusting themes, among other minor interactions.

In terms of other activities, I spent twenty minutes making calls, ten minutes with the flashlight on, and fifteen minutes in the camera. Again, this was just for the battery segment of my testing process.

Those numbers only become more impressive with consideration for the fact that I spent 21-hours and 2-minutes with the device on standby. With every six-hour period of standby draining around three percent of battery, this is a phone that could easily last two or more days.

Audio with the Poco F2 Pro is underwhelming but well-balanced

The Poco F2 Pro headphone jack doesn't support FM radio but is a welcome inclusion

Poco didn't include a dual-speaker setup for its latest gaming device and it didn't include FM Radio hardware to support its 3.5mm audio jack either. The single bottom-firing speaker isn't the most punchy, deep, or clear either. In fact, the bass punch is lacking in more complex songs almost entirely when used for listening to music.

That's a long way away from the experience on offer from some phones put out by Poco's one-time parent company, Xiaomi. Perhaps worse, the speaker is tuned in such a way that it performs at its best when a hand is cupped over top. But it's equally easy to accidentally stifle audio completely due to its placement. Particularly if it's not held just so. That means that users are going to have a fairly inconsistent experience. And not just from user-to-user. But even from listening-session-to-listening-session.

With that said, the tuning is more than good enough to hold up during a game session. And, under review, the Poco F2 Pro did prove better than other phones priced in the same bracket. The sole reason it came across as being so disappointing is that this is billed as and specced like a flagship. And users have come to expect something just a bit better from those devices.

Audio through the headphone jack is nothing to write home about either. But, like Bluetooth audio, it is decidedly better than the speakers. In other words, it's par for the course for smartphones since speakers this size almost never perform as well as might be hoped.

Poco F2 Pro software is going to be familiar to those who've used MIUI 11

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MIUI 11 offers a familiar Android experience with plenty of over-the-top customizations

The software experience with the Poco F2 Pro is still very much Xiaomi. That's despite that the company is now very much separated from Xiaomi. And that's because Poco is still using MIUI 11. But that's not a bad thing at all.

Not only does that mean that users get access to Xiaomi's wonderfully well-optimized gaming mode in a package that's simultaneously both decidedly Xiaomi and near-stock. Not only is it going to be incredibly similar to anybody who's used a Xiaomi handset in the past. Both gesture and navigation button methods for navigating are available with adjustments in settings. Standard fare such as dark mode is included out-of-the-box.

It's also an extremely polished experience with very little to complain about.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing at all to be annoyed at. As has often been the case with Xiaomi gadgets, the bloat here is real. And it's obnoxious. Poco includes the MIUI browser, it's own file and device management tools, a theming app we'll cover momentarily, and a few other tools that stack atop the suite of included Google apps. Those can't be removed and aren't just eating up space. They also eat up screen real estate in the app drawer and home screens.

Extra apps that can be removed include an office suite, Netflix, LinkedIn, and Facebook on the one hand. On the other, no fewer than five somewhat repetitive and run-of-the-mill puzzle-type games are included too.

Each of those categories is assigned to its own home-page folder. Which goes further down the road of annoyance to include a dedicated 'promoted' apps segment. And automatically downloaded icons for even more apps the user can accidentally click on and install. And it breaks entirely away from the free and open Android ecosystem feels like it's supposed to be.

Bearing all of that in mind, the experience is, at the very least, buttery smooth. And there are plenty of theme options and other customizations to consider. Each of those very nearly makes the bloatware forgivable.

To begin with, Xiaomi's theming app is part of the build. That allows for truly deep customizations from the icons and wallpapers to the boot animation and associated audio. All of the system-level apps such as the messaging app can be themed there too. And themes can be intermixed with one another for those who want deeper customization.

In the device settings, conversely, users can also adjust theming for the LED notification ring-light built into the pop-up camera. Or at very least when that comes on or doesn't. Notifications themselves can be styled and adapted to suit the user as well. The lights to either side of the pop-up camera lens — and the screen-side glow — can be adjusted too. There's more there than could be covered in a single review and I spent a good amount of time exploring the options but never really got bored with it.

Then, there are the always-on display adjustments that can be made and the on-screen pop-out bubble Poco calls a "Quick ball."

The latter of those works a lot like the edge display features on Samsung devices, giving quick access to system-level actions such as the flashlight or camera. Conversely, apps can be placed there too. That's all very easy to adjust and convenient

The wealth of features found on the software side of the equation, coupled with a smooth experience makes this device an absolute pleasure to use. Even if there's a good deal more bloatware than is really acceptable on a flagship.

Everything about this camera is great except for its night mode

The cameras found in Poco F2 Pro aren't the best around but they come pretty close

For cameras, Poco included a quad-sensor snapper at the back and a single camera at the front on this device. At the back, the square configuration of those lenses is led by a 64-megapixel, f/1.9 aperture phase-detect autofocus camera. That's backed up by a 2-megapixel f/2.4 lens for depth sensing and a 5-megapixel f/2.2 telephoto camera with a 50mm focal length and autofocus. Finally, a 13-megapixel snapper with an f/2.4 aperture and a 123-degree viewing angle round things out.

On the selfie and video fronts, this camera is just as well-specced as the primary snappers. The video capture from the primary camera works at up to 8K at 24 or 30 frames per second. 4K captures bump up to 60 frames per second. And 1080p captures can go all the way up to 960 frames per second. Stability is managed by a gyro-based EIS system. For the front camera, comprised of a pop-up 20-megapixel f/2.2 snapper, complete with HDR support, the story changes up a bit. That's capable of 1080p video at 30 frames per second or 720p video at up to 30 frames.

But those specs fall just short of top-notch with consideration for the fact that some handsets actually feature a 108-megapixel primary snapper. But they also don't give a real indication of how those perform in real-world use. Neither does the fact that this phone is packed with top-tier features such as a dedicated night mode. So let's take a closer look at how the performance translated to the sample gallery at Flickr.

For starters, under review, the Poco F2 Pro cameras performed quickly and smoothly. That's not unexpected considering the fact that it utilizes a flagship processor. But the autofocus for both front and rear cameras was snappy too. The same held true for the front-facing camera with one exception. That lens peeks out and hides somewhat slower than I'd have liked to see. Especially since this technology isn't new by any stretch of the imagination.

Where the camera performs, it performs at a level near the top of what's available elsewhere. Colors and lighting are accurately captured. Details shine through with clarity. And there's very little to complain about aside from the occasional lens bloom caused by overly-powerful backlighting. But that doesn't mean that everything here is perfect. Even if almost all of the included features work precisely as expected.

While most end-users won't be able to notice discrepancies between this camera array and others in the flagship market, night mode is going to be noticeably worse here than elsewhere.

Not only are the shots more pixelated on closer inspection. They also don't capture quite the same level of detail and come out somewhat blurred if no tripod is used. You won't be capturing stunning Milky Way shots with this camera unless you can get out where there's almost no light pollution to speak of. Even then, it's far from as good as gadgets like Google's Pixel can capture. It isn't necessarily "bad." But it's far from the experience I was hoping for, even with moderate environmental lighting.

Connections here are obviously geared toward mobile gaming

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Poco F2 Pro actually gets better 4G coverage at my home than other flagships I've used

Whether it comes down to antenna placement or some other optimization, Poco F2 Pro actually received a 4G LTE signal better at my home during this review than my daily driver. In fact, it received better signal by almost two bars. That's a great starting point for a phone that's more than $500 cheaper. And being used in a region where it isn't sold on a carrier it's not designed to work with. For clarity, that's in the US on Google Fi using T-Mobile and US Cellular bands.

This phone will almost certainly not ever see 5G support in the US, although that's not guaranteed. But regardless, it served me well on that front. Not only did calls come through clearly and messages send almost instantaneously. Connections were solid on Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth too. It's patently obvious this phone is made to snag and maintain a solid connection for gaming sessions.

In terms of what this GSM handset actually supports, the company includes support for up to Wi-Fi 6. That includes Wi-Fi Direct and hotspot capabilities. Bluetooth 5.1 is part of the build, as is GPS across all current types of positioning. NFC and Infrared are included here too. There's no radio for FM listening. But a 3.5mm audio jack is there. As is OTG via the USB 2.0 Type-C port.

None of those suffered any issues under this review of the Poco F2 Pro at all.

Is Poco F2 Pro going to be a good smartphone to buy?

Poco F2 Pro is a slightly flawed handset, priced to move for those who want a great game experience on the go

Pricing for the Poco F2 Pro is going to be its biggest differentiator as it compares to other 'flagships' and, as this review shows, it's a very big differentiator. Now, this phone may not offer the greatest experience around in terms of cameras, design, audio, or its fingerprint scanner. But there are plenty of reasons why that's worth overlooking. Not least of all, those caveats aren't really dealbreakers here. Those aspects just don't quite equate to what the best devices are offering. They couldn't be described as "bad."

Where it really matters, on the other hand, this phone excels. And it's worth pointing out, again, that it does so for right around half of what top flagships cost. At just over $561, as reviewed, the Poco F2 Pro is an astonishingly good device. Not only does it offer a top-tier processor with the Snapdragon 865, backed by UFS 3.1 storage at up to 256GB. It also packs up to 8GB RAM, with software optimizations heavily geared toward making the best use of those assets. Particularly as that concerns mobile gaming applications or similarly, graphics-intensive apps.

Backing that up is a great 6.67-inch Super AMOLED display panel for deeper contrast and HDR10+ compatibility. The only drawback there is going to be that screen's 60Hz refresh rate.

Poco took things a step further too, adding in great connectivity options in support of great gaming. It included Wi-Fi 6 support as well as Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC. It stacked an infrared blaster atop to make controlling external displays and other gadgets easier.

Power Delivery 3.0 and Quick Charge 4+ couple under everything with 30W fast charging and one of the longest-lasting batteries around too.

It isn't a perfect smartphone by any stretch of the imagination. But anybody aiming to purchase a gaming flagship at a mid-range price would be seriously remiss to overlook the Poco F2 Pro.