Poco X3 Pro is the latest device from Xiaomi’s global brand Poco. The Poco X3 Pro gets some great hardware upgrades for a slight bump in price.
The Poco X3 NFC launched in September 202 and six months later Xiaomi/Poco has a better version out. The new Poco X3 Pro is basically the same device as the Poco X3 NFC. The main difference is a better Snapdragon 860 processor and a bump up to 128GB UFS3.1 storage.
At just $229 for the base 6GB/128GB version this is probably the best budget gaming smartphone with a Snapdragon 8xx processor on board.
Unboxing the Poco X3 Pro
The black color box cover gives way to a yellow box with a yellow Poco insert which is classic Poco branding. Inside the insert, we have a TPU case, SIM tool, and some paperwork. Underneath is the Phantom Black Poco X3 Pro review unit. Underneath the card insert is a USB-C cable and a 33w fast charging power brick. The phone comes with a factory-applied film screen protector. Still nice to see everything included in the box to get started versus having to buy additional accessories on top of the smartphone.
Design language is unchanged from the X3 NFC and that is just fine
In typical Xiaomi fashion, the review unit is again black in color. However, unlike a flat matte black (Redmi Note 9T) or a mirror black (Poco F3), the Phantom Black on this device shows off some interesting shades of deep maroon or burgundy depending on the light reflecting on the backplate. I am a big fan of this color-shifting black color and wish this was done by more manufacturers in the budget smartphone range.
Besides the color there is still the big POCO branding in the middle hashed chroma stripe. Based on the light hitting the stripe you get the logo to show a color gradient from blue to almost magenta. Supposedly this textured back should improve fingerprints but I don’t think it is as effective it should be.
Another hardware improvement is a Z-axis linear motor for vibration feedback. The haptic feedback is definitely better than most smartphones in this price category. However, you need to select the ‘Highest’ setting to feel the stronger haptic feedback.
Other than these two things the rest of the hardware design is identical to that of the Poco X3 NFC. This means, the same camera module layout along with the snappy fingerprint scanner built into the power button. The IR blaster is still there on the top rail along with the headphone jack on the bottom.
While other smartphone manufacturers are removing charging bricks from their retail packaging, Poco bucks the trend and gives you a nice matte surface clear TPU case along with a fast charger! There is also a factory film screen protector on the display. which has Gorilla Glass 6 protecting the LCD panel. Speaking of the display it’s the same as before so nothing new to report there.
Overall it is a well-built smartphone with no obvious flaws or design miscues. I mean the plastic back does collect fingerprints but either clean it once or twice a day. Or you can just put on the case that comes in the box.
Looks-wise the Poco X3 Pro is pretty good and the IP53 protection is almost unheard of at this price point. With a large screen, top-tier specs, and a big battery means it is a big phone that is a bit on the heavy side. In summary though, for just $229 there is a lot to like about the hardware and what you get in the retail box.
Display is great for the price but I wish Poco found a way to give us an AMOLED screen
The last few Xiaomi devices that came to me for review all have a high refresh rate AMOLED display. So getting the Poco X3 Pro with a high refresh rate LCD panel was a bit of a step back.
The display is a large 6.67-inch panel with a 1080 x 2340 FHD+ resolution (395ppi) which is a carryover from Poco X3 NFC. The IPS LCD screen supports an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate (240Hz touch sampling rate) and the standard 60Hz. For my review, I chose the higher refresh rate of course. Then there are a few other options you can tweak within the display settings which is very common for MIUI.
This is an HDR10-compatible 120Hz refresh rate IPS LCD with pretty good color accuracy. To top it off it does get plenty bright for reasonably good outdoor visibility. But side by side you can see how much better the AMOLED display panel on the Poco F3 is. Of course in a vacuum, this is me playing armchair CEO but for the MSRP what you get on the Poco X3 Pro is probably one of the best LCD displays all around.
Performance on the Poco X3 Pro is definitely top-tier
Unlike the Poco X3 NFC which had a Snapdragon 732, this device gets an impressive bump up to the Snapdragon 860 7nm processor. It is the first smartphone to run on the Snapdragon 860 which is essentially a rebadged Snapdragon 855+ processor from late 2019.
The change to Snapdragon 860 gives the X3 Pro a remarkable bump in performance across various benchmarks ranging from 45% to 60% further cementing its status as a top budget gaming smartphone. Even though the Adreno 640 GPU is two generations old, it is far better than most devices running the 7XX series processors.
On AnTuTu (v8) the score for the X3 Pro is 453223 versus 283750 for the older X3 NFC. Same story with GeekBench (v5.1) multi-core score of 2575 versus 1777. But the biggest surprise is GFXBench (ES 3.1 onscreen) test where the X3 Pro gets 38fps versus a measly 16fps for the predecessor. This means playing fairly intensive games like PUBG or Call of Duty mobile should now not be an issue whatsoever.
The other big story is the upgrade in terms of storage. The Poco X3 Pro has 128GB UFS 3.1 storage on the base model versus 64GB UFS 2.1 on the X3 NFC. Thankfully Poco kept the micro SD card expansion slot still available for those needing even more storage capacity. However, you have to give up Dual-SIM use if you decide to use a microSD card so that’s that.
There is zero absolutely no slowdown in playing games including the high refresh rate ones, watching videos, or doing any other daily task with this phone. This includes taking pictures using Night mode.
As usual, there is Game Turbo which boosts graphics performance and also optimizes interruptions, touch-related items. But the base bump in processor horsepower means there is less reliance on software with the X3 Pro.
The Poco X3 Pro is available in two configurations – the review model is the base version with 6GB RAM/128GB of storage. There is another version with 8GB RAM /256GB storage for a bit more. In either version RAM is LPDDR4x and the storage is the UFS 3.1 type. For the retail price of $229 for the base version, there isn’t a better device available in terms of sheer hardware performance that can compete with the X3 Pro.
Battery life is still excellent despite a more powerful processor
The Poco X3 Pro keeps the same 5160 mAh battery, just like the Poco X3 NFC. In daily use, I saw Screen-on-Time of 6+ hours consistently which means you can stretch it to a two-day charging cycle. This is if you are not gaming on it for long stretches of time which is the primary reason to get this phone. So with heavy use expect a full day without too much fuss with the Poco X3 Pro.
Once you need to top it up there is fast charging support and it is nice that the 33W charging brick is in the box. It is 2021 and now we have to give props to smartphone manufacturers that include a charging brick in the box. Xiaomi claims that the 33W charger will charge the battery to 59% in 30 mins and 100% in 59 mins. While not blazing fast these are definitely pretty fast recharging times for this price point.
I think this is still one of the better devices in terms of battery life that you can buy in the budget segment.
MIUI 12 with Poco Launcher has gotten better but still needs some work
MIUI 12 software on the X3 Pro is identical to what I reviewed on the Poco F3. So go check out that review for an in-depth look. I couldn’t find any discernable differences in terms of MIUI 12 software on either device. I am liking that Google integration is getting better, icon shapes look like stock Android and annoying ads are quite limited in newer MIUI versions.
Audio quality is excellent and the headphone jack is back for 2021
Poco X3 Pro bucks the trend in terms of poor audio output which runs rampant in the sub $300 price bracket. Instead, we have a proper dual stereo speaker setup. There is the usual bottom-firing speaker and for the top speaker, the sound comes through the earpiece grille and an additional hole on the top rail.
The sound itself is loud and the quality is quite good and balanced. Yes, the bass could be a bit better. Indoors I rarely had to bump the volume level past 50% while playing games or watching videos despite the slightly lower bass.
One thing Poco did right this time around is that they brought the headphone jack! Yes, I know it is another of those things we have to gush about since this is 2021. And in case you were wondering, the audio output via the jack is excellent. The same is the case via Bluetooth earbuds as well. In addition, if you have any Mi earbuds there are quite a few sound equalizer and custom audio profile options available within the sound settings.
While Poco kept the Hi-Res Audio certification, the Dolby Atmos support is missing in the new version. Also, the X3 Pro has Bluetooth 5.0 support instead of 5.1. So I guess there is a bit of behind the scenes trimming to keep the costs low despite a massive bump in processor hardware
To summarize this section, I think the X3 Pro quite good in the audio department and definitely at the top of its price category.
Poco X3 Pro Camera hardware is a slight downgrade
While Xiaomi did a great job with bumping hardware specs on the X3 Pro the camera department got the short end of the stick. The Poco X3 Pro has a quad camera on its back with a 48MP primary, an 8MP ultrawide, a 2MP macro, and a 2MP depth sensor. While on paper this setup is not bad. However, the regular X3 model in 2020 had a 64MP main and a 13MP ultra-wide camera along with the two 2MP sensors. So at least on paper, this is a downgrade as far as the main cameras on the back go. Thankfully, there is no change to the front 20MP selfie camera.
The main camera on the Poco X3 Pro is 48MP and uses the Sony IMX 582 Quad-Bayer 1/2″ sensor with 0.8µm pixels, 25mm f/1.8 lens. It has PDAF which means in daylight it is easy to focus on subjects/objects. And this sensor also has support for Night Mode. Luckily there is Night Mode support available on the 8MP Ultrawide camera as well.
I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the two 2MP cameras. One is a macro camera and the other is a depth sensor. The macro camera lacks autofocus and I found the Ultrawide camera to give good results of close-ups compared to the actual macro camera.
The selfie camera which is unchanged is a 20MP Samsung S5K3T2 ISOCELL Plus 1/3.4″ Tetra-pixel sensor. The aperture is f/2.2 and the focus is fixed.
Photo quality from the two main cameras in daylight is good
The main camera takes decent pictures in daylight with reasonable detail and good dynamic range. Color accuracy is also quite respectable with low noise. But low noise does impact detail a bit. Perhaps a software update in the future might make things better. I did not use the 48MP option since the file size starts to get very large and eats up storage space quickly. Also, there isn’t a huge discernable difference between the 48MP versus the 12MP output.
The 8MP ultrawide camera in daylight yields nice photos with good contrast and detail. However dynamic range is not as good as the main camera. The barrel effect is also minimal at the edges and corners.
I like the portrait mode on the Poco X3 Pro. The 2MP depth sensor does help the main camera quite a bit in Portrait Mode. The images have good natural-looking blur and edge detection has fewer failures than other cameras in this price range.
Lowlight camera performance is quite decent for the price
The main camera results are acceptable in low light. Exposure and colors are good but details are lacking. I believe the noise reduction algorithm is a bit too strong. And this results in a loss of detail especially evident in nighttime pictures.
Night Mode takes about 2-3 seconds to take a picture, which is quite decent for a phone in this price segment. Night mode pictures do have lower noise and more detail. In most situations, Night Mode results are better than standard point and shoot.
The ultrawide camera performance isn’t good at night so best to steer clear of it. Unless you plan on using Night Mode on it. It takes a bit of practice to get decent pictures with the ultrawide camera in Night Mode though, so there’s that.
Selfies and Video recording observations
The photos from the selfie camera have accurate colors, reasonable detail, and contrast. Portrait selfies are available but results aren’t as good, especially in terms of edge detection for hair and ears or eyeglasses.
The Poco X3 Pro can shoot videos up to 4K 30fps with its main camera. The ultrawide camera video maxes out at 1080p 30fps. And, I would not bother taking a video with the macro camera since it only supports 720p video resolution.
Electronic stabilization is available on the primary and ultrawide cameras. SuperSteady mode on the main camera works well but videos are cropped in the center and max resolution is only 1080p.
As far as video quality goes, main camera videos have good color, contrast, and dynamic range. Ultrawide camera clips in daylight offer good color and contrast but details are quite lacking.
I am not sure if there is a big change in overall camera performance. Even though in terms of specs there is definitely lower-spec hardware on this newer Poco X3 Pro. I think most users will be happy with the camera output from this smartphone.
Connectivity is only 4G LTE without VoLTE support in the USA
One area where the price point of this smartphone comes into play is connectivity. Even though there is a Snapdragon 860 it is only 4G LTE compatible. So you are going to miss out on getting 5G speed downloads until your next smartphone upgrade. Having said that 5G rollout is still slow in a lot of countries. So perhaps this might not be that big an issue for a lot of buyers.
Since this is a 4G LTE device, so unlike 5G devices, your battery life isn’t going to take a hit. Even the $349 Google Pixel 4a is a 4G LTE smartphone that is selling quite well. So maybe the Poco X3 Pro having only LTE connections isn’t too bad a thing.
Data speeds on the X3 Pro are comparable to my spare Pixel 4a. But the main issue here is that there is no support for VoLTE. Hence, calls were a bit spotty on the X3 Pro for me. I am in Southern California and am on the T-Mobile network. So I think in the USA this device may run into some issues even on GSM carriers. Overseas, in other markets, this shouldn’t be a problem based on my experience with the Redmi Note 9T.
Besides the regular connectivity items such as Bluetooth, Mi Share, Nearby Share, Cast, and IR Blaster there’s also NFC available in select markets. My review unit did include NFC and I had no trouble using Google Pay on it.
Verdict: Poco X3 Pro is an excellent budget gaming smartphone
The Poco X3 Pro has stellar hardware, one of the best high refresh rate LCD displays, excellent battery life, and 33W fast speedy charging. All of this for an extremely low price. To top it off, you also get IP53 splash protection, dual stereo speakers, and decent camera performance as well.
There aren’t that many devices that offer all of these things together in a cohesive package in this price range. The Realme 7 Pro has an AMOLED screen but a lower-grade processor. Then there is the Redmi Note 10 Pro. It has a better AMOLED screen and a 108MP camera but again has a lower-grade processor. If you want a better screen or camera then perhaps you might want to look at these two devices. But if gaming performance is your top priority then I think Poco X3 Pro is a better buy.