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Poco M3 Review: The Best Budget Phone of 2020

Poco M3 AH HR Feature
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Poco M3, An Unbeatable Price to Performance Ratio.

Poco M3
$149
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • Hardware design punches above the price point
  • Superb ergonomics and weight distribution
  • Big 6.53" Full HD+ display
  • Capable of playing graphics intensive games easily
  • 6000 mAh battery with reverse charging
  • Two day battery life with 7+ hours screen-on-time
  • Main camera takes good pictures even in low light
  • Audio quality is way ahead of the competition
  • Headphone jack and even an IR blaster
  • Unbeatable price to performance ratio
Cons
  • No ultrawide camera despite a triple camera module
  • Bluetooth connectivity is spotty past 15 feet
  • Some software quirks like only square icons possible

Poco provided AndroidHeadlines with a review unit of the Poco M3. This review was written after using the device for more than 7 days. The phone is running MIUI 12 on top of Android 10 with the October 2020 security patch.

Poco’s latest entry-level smartphone, Poco M3 is now available for sale worldwide. Poco has consistently provided excellent value for the money over the last couple of years. But with a launch price of $150, the newest Poco M3 might arguably be the best value for money device in the entire Android device landscape.

So let’s dive into the full review of the M3 to see if it truly lives up to the hype of being the King of Budget Phones.

Poco M3 Unboxing

Poco M3 AH HR UB

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The yellow box reveals a yellow insert with a TPU case, screen protector (which for retail version will be applied from the factory), SIM tool and paperwork. Underneath is the Power Black Poco M3. One layer below is a 22.5 W charging brick, a USB-C cable, and a few POCO wrist bands.

Hardware Design is quite stylish

First impressions – this is a big phone. The overall design is a bit muted but there are some nice touches to not make it feel like a cheap device. The black frame is plastic but the texture is so well done that you would mistake it for an aluminum frame. There’s plastic on the back too but Poco opted for a rubberized faux leather finish. This actually makes it easy to hold/grip the device and provides a unique look in a sea of flat surface designs.

And then at the top of the back is the triple camera module in a large rectangle with the Poco branding. Camera wobble is present but it is minimal. The overall look is bold and I for one support Poco for leaning into their branding. Hopefully, this means more people can recognize a Poco device from far away. There’s some branding at the bottom which isn’t too distracting. Without branding, this device would look really chic and unique in my opinion.

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On the top, there’s a speaker grille, headphone jack, and a microphone. The bottom rail has cutouts for the microphone, USB-C charging port, and a speaker grille as well. Dual speakers are normally not the norm at this price range and it’s great to see them on the M3. Left side rail has a triple-slot tray to accommodate dual-SIM and a micro SD card. On the opposite side, you get the volume rocker and the power button. The fingerprint scanner is built into the power button which is a nice touch.

At the front is a massive 6.53″ FHD+ display with a center teardrop for the selfie camera. The bezels are uniform at the top and sides and the bottom chin is slightly larger. No points can be docked for the slightly larger chin as other devices in this price range sport even larger bezels at the bottom. Overall the look in the front is clean although a bit dated due to the teardrop but hey it is a $150 phone!

As far as ergonomics go, despite a massive 6000 mAh battery, the M3 does not feel heavy. Poco has put in some good engineering effort to make the M3 feel extremely well-balanced to hold and operate.  Poco is offering the M3 in Black, Blue, and signature Poco color yellow. So customers will have plenty of choices in terms of a device to suit their preferences. For a budget phone, the Poco clearly punches above it’s weight class when it comes to hardware design.

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Let’s talk about that massive 6.53″ display

On the front of the Poco M3 is a fairly large 6.53 inches Full HD+ 60Hz refresh rate dot drop display. The resolution is 1080 x 2340 pixels, yielding a pixel density per inch of 395 PPI. Poco continues the modern smartphone tradition of offering a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen to body ratio is a respectable 83.4% primarily due to that slightly larger bottom chin. Keep in mind that a comparable Moto G Fast has a smaller screen, a lower screen to body ratio, and only a 720p display panel.

Poco M3 AH HR Display

Poco also did not skimp on the front display glass by opting to put Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the screen. Screen brightness is 400 nits which is right in line with the price range. I mean phones twice the price only manage about 450 nits of brightness so what the M3 has is more than adequate. On a bright sunny day in Southern California, I did not encounter any issues in terms of outdoor readability.

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MIUI 12 offers a lot of customization options for display as usual. So you can tweak the color scheme settings to your personal preference. I had no issues with the default color scheme. Dark mode and reading mode are available to further tweak the display. All in all the display is actually really good probably one of the better ones in this price range.

Performance is great for a budget device

Poco M3 AH HR Performance

Powering the Poco M3 is a Snapdragon 662 Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Kryo 260 Gold & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260 Silver) processor with an Adreno 610 GPU. Paired with 4GB RAM and UFS 2.1 storage in either 64GB or 128GB configuration (my review unit has more storage) the phone does day to day tasks without any issues whatsoever.

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Benchmark scores are in line with other phones running on the Snapdragon 662 platform.  On Geekbench the Single-Core score is 315 and Multi-Score is 1392. Open CL score is 376 and AnTuTu is around 180K. However, benchmarks definitely don’t tell the full story for this phone from a performance standpoint.

Poco M3, although it is a budget phone is able to play games like Call of Duty and PUBG at normal settings. There’s plenty of YouTubers showing off the gaming prowess of the M3. Average games like Hill Climb 2 or Subway Surfers are a breeze to play on this phone. And playing for extended periods of time didn’t generate any significant amount of heat either which is definitely a plus. In addition, the stereo speakers and a headphone jack are both great features that become quite useful when gaming.

Of course, 4GB RAM means occasionally you might need to do a little bit of management in terms of apps running in the background. But with Game Turbo there is plenty of performance in this phone to enjoy it on the big 6.53″ display.

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Poco has done an excellent job of providing a smartphone for $150 that can go the distance while providing excellent performance.

MIUI Software has a few unexpected quirks

Poco M3 AH HR Software

My Poco M3 is running MIUI 12.0.4 Global version on top of Android 10.  Android security patch for October 2020 was available as soon as the phone was setup. As usual, MIUI is a polarizing software skin – some people will love it and others will want to put Nova launcher on to make it look more like stock Android. In my case I put in a Pixel experience theme to mimick my current daily driver which is a Pixel 4a 5G.

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I have seen MIUI evolve all the way from Redmi 2 into what is MIUI 12 today so was really looking forward to seeing the progress from a software viewpoint. However, there are quite a few quirks this time around that require some intricate steps in order to access some simple settings.

For example, getting to switch navigation button setup requires going into ‘Full-screen display’ settings and then toggling the mirror buttons on or off. Another quirk was not getting the icons to look circular despite selecting the default theme or not getting square icons despite choosing the Limitless theme. Tapping the MIUI software version in ‘About phone’ enables Developer mode/options. Of course, these are tucked away in ‘Additional settings’ and then within those still no luck with getting icons to the correct shape. So I am hoping that Poco/Xiaomi fix this in a future MIUI software update.

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Aside from these quirks though MIUI has a lot of features that work like Dark mode and Digital Wellbeing. Google Assistant is onboard and a swipe left from the homescreen brings up the Discover feed just like on a Pixel. There are a few extras tucked away in the Tools folder which are all fairly useful apps including FM Radio. Bloatware is absolutely minimum – Amazon Shopping, Facebook, and Linkedin, which are all uninstallable.

Let’s talk about the notifications which I believe are done really well along with the quick notification menu although they derive their inspiration from the newer versions of software from a nameless company based in Cupertino. Well you know what they say, imitation is the best form of flattery so I think in this case it is a good feature on the M3.

The one gripe though is that you keep getting ads when you download apps from the Play Store for other apps and games which have no bearing at all. This does leave a slightly bad taste as far as the software experience goes. Aside from these minor quirks, the OS runs fine and it is easy to set up the device to look like a stock Android phone despite having MIUI 12 on the Poco M3.

Poco M3 is a battery life champ

Poco M3 AH HR Battery

Battery life on the Poco M3 is easily two days. I consistently got 7+ hour screen on time over two days. And that huge 6000 mAh battery inside this phone makes it a small power bank. So with the right cable, you can use reverse charging USB-C port on the Poco M3 to recharge your wearables in a pinch if necessary.

And as usual, MIUI has a lot of battery saver options to stretch the battery life even further. These options include providing granular level control for individual apps from a battery usage perspective.

Recharging is also not that slow thanks to the 22.5 W charging brick in the box that supports 18W fast charging. Despite the fast charging topping up a 6000 mAh does take over an hour to charge the phone fully.

Battery life is one area where the Poco M3 easily outclasses pretty much most devices regardless of price.

Audio quality is surprisingly excellent for a budget device

Poco M3 AH HR Audio

Dual Stereo speakers for a phone that costs $150? Surprisingly enough even mid-range devices don’t have this feature in some cases. By including dual speaker audio at this price point Poco is really driving home the point of how chock full of features the M3 is.  The speakers are plenty loud and the quality of audio output is quite decent as well.

There’s a good old-fashioned 3.5 mm headphone jack as well which provides excellent quality audio when paired with wired AKG earbuds. Again MIUI provides multiple options to tune the audio output further via equalizer settings or if you happen to have Mi earbuds/headphones of various types. There is also the option to connect earbuds via Bluetooth. Audio via BT is decent but not as good as the wired option.

As far as call quality goes the audio is just fine in either handset or speakerphone mode. Overall from an audio perspective, the Poco M3 gets a 5/5 in my book.

Poco M3 main camera delivers some great pictures even in low light

Poco M3 AH HR Camera

I got giddy seeing a triple camera module in a smartphone costing $150. But my enthusiasm was dashed when I discovered there’s one 48MP f/1.8 main camera and no ultrawide. The two 2MP f/2.4 cameras are for depth sensing and macro shots. On the front, there’s an 8MP selfie camera with f/2.1 aperture.

Selfie camera results are definitely decent enough for sharing on social media. Portraits via the Selfie camera are reasonably decent as long as you don’t indulge in too much pixel peeping.

The quality of the photos during the daytime is pretty good. What’s surprising is that in low-light conditions, photos using Night Mode are actually quite good too. The camera app has a lot of options in terms of Pro Mode, Panorama, and Portrait mode. Take a look at some sample pictures in our Flickr gallery below.

POCO M3 CAMERA SAMPLES - FLICKR GALLERY

Video from the rear and front camera is capped at 1080p at 30fps. There is a bevy of options for video as well. You can choose from slow-motion, time-lapse, and short video in the camera app which can come in handy in certain situations.

Expecting 4K video from a phone that costs $150 is unrealistic. So if that is what you are looking for then look elsewhere. I just wish somehow Poco managed to sneak in an ultrawide in this phone. Because that would absolutely put this smartphone over the top. No other device in this price point could then touch the Poco M3 in terms of camera performance.

Connectivity is excellent for a non-US albeit Global device

For a global unlocked smartphone, the M3 gets 4G LTE on T-Mobile in the USA out of the box. Data download speeds are comparable to other 4G devices based on my observations during the review period. However, there is no support for VoLTE or Wi-Fi calling at least on T-Mobile. I believe this will most definitely not be an issue outside the USA with other carriers.

Poco M3 AH HR Connectivity

Calls sounded clear both ways in handset or speakerphone mode. Texting was also a breeze with RCS chat features supported right from the get-go. I had no issues streaming music during my daily workout or watching videos on YouTube on the go. The one minor issue I noticed is that the Bluetooth range is on the low side. A little over 15 feet and the connection between the phone and BT earbuds gets shaky.

There are other connectivity options such as Screen Cast, Nearby Share, and ShareMe. Oh, and if you want to control your TV there’s an IR blaster along with the Mi Remote app. Additionally in countries where there are other Xiaomi devices available those can be controlled via the Mi Remote app.

So there is no dearth of connectivity options despite the absence of NFC for contactless payments. Keep in mind that in a lot of countries around the globe contactless payments require scanning a QR code instead of NFC so there’s that. On a parting note, if the M3 had NFC this review would end right here. And that is because there’s no other device at the $150 price point that can match the Poco M3.

Poco M3 – the hype is real

Poco M3 AH HR Verdict

Poco M3 is a smartphone that actually looks really stylish and something you can really be proud of having in your pocket. Sure there are a few minor quirks here and there. And a couple of features like an ultrawide camera or NFC are missing. But those expectations need to be tempered with the retail price of the M3 which is $150. Because for the price the Poco M3 packs a wallop in terms of actual performance across multiple categories.

The Poco M3 hits a home run in performance, display, battery life, camera performance, and hardware design. It’s almost as if Poco made the M3 to show that their tagline is not marketing hype. The M3 is truly ‘Everything you need, nothing you don’t’. Poco even includes a yellow wristband with their slogan in the box as a nice little bonus.

With the M3, Poco has raised the bar in terms of what a bare minimum smartphone should look like. And to be frank, it looks pretty damn good. Here’s the final verdict after using the Poco M3 for over a week. There’s a new sheriff in town as far as budget smartphones go and his name is Poco M3.