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Poco X3 GT Review: Best Budget Gaming phone just got even better!

Poco X3 GT AH HR Feature
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Poco X3 GT is arguably the best mid-range gaming smartphone on the market right now.

Poco X3 GT
€ 260
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • Design is sharp and modern looking
  • Gorgeous 6.6" 120 Hz LCD display with HDR10 support
  • 67W Fast charging with factory supplied charging brick
  • Battery life is excellent
  • Dimensity 1100 performance is excellent
  • Superb dual audio speakers tuned by JBL
  • Main camera performance is quite impressive even in low light
  • 5G dual-SIM support with NFC and IR blaster capability
Cons
  • Micro SD card slot is no longer available
  • Headphone jack is gone but dongle is included in the box
  • Selfie camera performance is lacking
  • Plastic back requires an unreasonable amount of effort to keep it lint and dust free

Xiaomi provided AndroidHeadlines with a review unit of the Poco X3 GT in Stargaze Black color. This review was written after using the device for more than 7 days. The phone is running MIUI 12.5 on top of Android 11 with the June 2021 security patch. Xiaomi did not have any input into the review and is seeing this review at the same time as you.

Poco X3 GT is the latest smartphone from Xiaomi’s global brand which has been releasing one phone after another in 2021. Earlier in spring, we reviewed the excellent Poco F3 and Poco X3 Pro which was an excellent follow-up to the earlier Poco X3 NFC.

With the Poco X3 GT, it seems that Xiaomi decided to chart a slightly different course from the prior X3 devices. The round camera array at the back is gone and we now get a rectangluar array in the top left corner. This layout is more 2021 but also more generic-looking in my opinion.

Poco kept a lot of the X3 components in the newer X3 GT but instead of a Snapdragon this time around there is a MediaTek Dimensity 1100 series processor. Most of the other tweaks besides the camera array and processor are minor but still result in a quite capable handset. At this point in Poco’s journey, it has the luxury of looking through Xiaomi’s very large parts bin to mix and match various components in order to hit the right performance to price ratio. And the Poco X3 GT is basically a direct output of this corporate parts bin raiding exercise.

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So let’s dive into the full review to see if all the various tweaks by Poco/Xiaomi add up to make the Poco X3 GT worthy of your hard-earned money or not.

Poco X3 GT Unboxing

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At this point, all of Poco devices have the familiar black outer box with a yellow insert. The insert has a TPU case, SIM tool, headphone jack dongle, and some paperwork. Below the insert is the Stargaze Black Poco X3 GT. For some bizarre Marketing/PR reason, we reviewers never get the colorful units for review. It is always the black color model without fail. Below the phone are a hefty USB-C charging cable and a 67W fast-charging brick. Since this is a pre-production unit there was no factory applied film screen protector but I suspect the retail units will have one.

Now that there is a 67W charging brick in the box you may not need to lug around a separate charger for your laptop or Chromebook so that is quite nice.

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Design is now more similar to Redmi Note 10 series

Poco X3 GT AH HR Design

The Poco X3 GT loses the circular camera array which was unique to the X3 series. Also gone is the color-shifting backplate with the hashed lines. Instead, we have a rectangular camera array that is similar in design language to the one on the Redmi Note 10 Pro.

Poco X3 GT AH HR HW5

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I do like the color-shifting glossy backplate with a light to dark gradient from top to bottom. Another interesting feature is a glitter that starts at about halfway and continues towards the bottom end of the backplate. This results in like stars in the sky at twilight type look – you do have to look hard for this effect though. But I think this is why Poco calls this color Stargaze Black.

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There are a few other tweaks differences compared to the X3 Pro as well. The fingerprint scanner/power button is now raised instead of being recessed on the right-hand side rail.  On the top, we still get the IR blaster and the second microphone but there is also a speaker grille. The left-hand side rail still has the dual SIM card tray slot. The big change on the bottom rail is the removal of the headphone jack.

Poco X3 GT AH HR HW2

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Poco X3 GT has the same 120Hz LCD display with a center hole punch for the selfie camera. There is however Gorilla Glass Victus now protecting the front display which is a nice upgrade.

Poco X3 GT AH HR HW9

There is IP53 splash protection built-in which is good to see in a lower mid-range device. A 67W fast charging brick is a nice add-on. I think Poco did a reasonable job of making the tweaks – extra speaker grille, mainstream camera array layout, Gorilla Glass Victus to name a few. I do not endorse the removal of the headphone jack but in Poco’s defense, they do include the headphone jack dongle for free. Overall the design changes result in a muted but extremely functional smartphone.

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Display is great but Poco should have gone AMOLED route

Poco X3 GT AH HR Display

Lately, most of the Xiaomi devices have a high refresh rate AMOLED display. So getting the Poco X3 GT with the same high refresh rate LCD panel as the Poco X3 Pro was a bit of a downer.

The display is now slightly smaller 6.6 inches vis 6.67 inches. But we still get 1080 x 2340 FHD+ resolution (395ppi) and HDR10 compatibility. The IPS LCD screen has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate with a higher 240Hz touch sampling rate. There is an option in the settings to toggle the refresh rate down to 60Hz for increased battery life. For this review, I left the display refresh rate at 120Hz.

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Let’s talk about some positive aspects of the LCD display. This is an HDR10-compatible 120Hz refresh rate IPS LCD with pretty good color accuracy. And it does get plenty bright for reasonably good outdoor visibility and a decent contrast ratio of 1400:1.  But side by side you can see how much better the 90Hz AMOLED display panel on the Mi 11 Lite is which is roughly the same price as the Poco X3 GT.

I think the display is fine in general but Poco should have opted for the AMOLED panel in a smartphone bearing the GT moniker.

MediaTek Dimensity 1100 delivers great performance on the Poco X3 GT

Poco X3 GT AH HR Performance

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One big change from the previous X3 device is the processor powering the Poco X3 GT. Gone is the Snapdragon 860 and instead we get the new MediaTek Dimensity 1100.  However, the change from Snapdragon 860 to the Dimensity 1100 does not result in any loss from a benchmark performance standpoint.

Speaking of benchmarks, on AnTuTu (v8) the X3 GT scores 506800 versus 453223 for the X3 Pro. While on GeekBench (v5.1) multi-core score of 2892 is higher than that of the X3 Pro’s 2575. So actually there is a reasonable bump in performance. Kudos to Poco for bumping the processor performance with this new iteration.

Thankfully there is no change in the GFXBench (ES 3.1 onscreen) test where the X3 GT still gets 38fps just like its predecessor. So you will continue to get impressive performance when playing PUBG or Genshin Impact.

Storage is still UFS 3.1 which is a good thing and the base model comes with 128GB which is kinda necessary since the micro SD card slot is gone. My review unit came with the 256GB storage option. I suggest that you get the higher storage version if you currently do use a micro SD card.

In summary, you get better performance now but lose the option for expandable storage so overall things are a wash in terms of performance in my opinion.

MIUI 12.5 is good but some quirks still remain

Poco X3 GT AH HR Software

My review unit is running MIUI 12.5.2 which is Android 11 and has the June 2021 security patch. There is an extensive amount of Google integration which works quite smoothly on the Poco X3 GT. Phone, Messages, Contacts, Google Discover Feed are all identical to my daily driver which is a Pixel 4a 5G.

As usual, there’s a little bit of bloatware but you can uninstall every single app without any hassle which is nice. I would rather Poco not put any unwanted apps but we’ll save that for some other day. Unlike some previous Poco devices, I did not encounter too many annoying ads within the UI.

There is an app drawer and on the Poco devices, MIUI automatically organizes your apps into categories. The first category is ‘All’, meaning it has every single app on the phone. Then follow Communication, Entertainment, Photography, Tools, New, and Business. If you don’t like this you can edit these categories or even disable them altogether. I just ignored this aspect during my review period.

Notifications on MIUI 12 by default mimick what the iPhones do. You access them in the same way as on an iPhone, pull down from the top left part of the screen for the Notification Center, pull down from the right for the Control Center. If you like the Android version look then it is better to just disable the Control Center.

Software-wise there are more options than you will ever need or use but Poco gives you enough options so that you can tweak MIUI to your heart’s content. If you already have a Xiaomi/Poco device, you will feel right at home with MIUI 12.5.

Battery life is still excellent despite a slightly smaller cell capacity

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There is a 5000 mAh battery onboard which is slightly smaller than the 5160 mAh cell on the Poco X3 Pro. But the Dimensity 1100 is a 6nm processor which results in good power efficiency.

During my review period, I consistently saw Screen-on-Time of 6+ hours which translated to charging the phone every other day. On days where there was a bit more gaming the phone still lasted a full day without any hassle.

And the big story here is that top-up times are excellent now with the 67W fast charging brick included in the box. While Samsung is busy removing charging bricks from its boxes, Poco is basically giving you a free laptop charger in the box which I think is just awesome. You can fully charge the phone in under 50 minutes and get a 75% charge in just half an hour. Those are some pretty fast recharging times indeed.

From a battery life and recharging perspective I think Poco X3 GT is right at the top of the segment it competes in.

Audio quality is excellent but the headphone jack is gone

Poco X3 GT AH HR Audio

Poco X3 Pro released earlier in 2021 brought back the headphone jack but just 4 months later Poco decided to reverse that decision. So while we get JBL tuned dual speakers – which sound amazing by the way – we lost the headphone jack on the Poco X3 GT.

The speaker audio output is great thanks to a separate grille on the top rail for the top speaker. Audio output via the USB-C port (using the dongle in the box) is great as well. The same goes for audio output via Bluetooth. Nevertheless, the loss of the headphone jack is a bit irksome.

In another twist, the Dolby Atmos support returns on the Poco X3 GT after losing it on the X3 Pro. So the theme of adding one thing and subtracting another continues in the audio department as well.

In short, the X3 GT has great speakers, loud but balanced sound, JBL tuning, Dolby Atmos support and no headphone jack.

Cameras get an upgrade and that is a good thing

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The Poco X3 GT features a triple-camera that’s placed on a rather large rectangle in the back on the top left corner. There is a 64MP primary camera, an 8MP ultrawide, and a 2MP macro camera. Both the main and ultrawide cameras are better than the prior version. Even the flash is now dual-LED dual-tone which is a small upgrade.

Essentially the main and ultrawide cameras are now from the Mi 11 Lite series. The main 64MP camera has a 1/2″ OmniVision OV64B sensor with a Quad-Bayer filter. The sensor has 0.7µm pixels and sits behind a 26mm f/1.79 lens. The main camera supports PDAF but does not have optical image stabilization. Another thing to note is that there is 4:1 pixel binning so essentially you get a 16MP picture from the main camera.

The ultrawide camera is an 8MP 1/4″ Sony IMX355 sensor with an ultrawide-angle 16mm f/2.2 lens. And the last macro camera is a 2MP sensor which is the only carry-over camera from the X3 Pro. The 2MP depth sensor on the X3 Pro is gone and frankly speaking you will not miss it much on the X3 GT. The selfie camera goes down from 20MP to 16MP as well to match what is on the Mi 11 Lite.

Photo quality from the main camera is excellent

The default 16MP photos from the main camera are probably some of the best you can get in the mid-range segment. Photos have plenty of detail, good color accuracy and overall results are natural-looking. In some instances, the algorithm is a bit aggressive in terms of sharpening. However, this doesn’t happen all the time so overall results in point and shoot mode are quite good.

Poco X3 GT AH HR Camera

There is no telephoto lens but if you use the 64MP mode and then crop in digitally results are more than acceptable. One of the few devices where using the higher resolution mode actually yields useful results. Note that this feature works well in good outdoor lighting. In dark conditions, you will just consume more of the storage on your phone with no incremental benefit to picture quality.

Portrait shots from the main camera are more than acceptable. Removal of the depth sensor doesn’t impact the portrait shot quality one bit. Colors are good, separation between subject and background is quite decent. Edge detection and simulated blur are in line with what you can expect from a device in this segment.

Night mode results from the camera also punch way above the mid-range category. Manual night mode works well and you get better highlights and color saturation but lose a bit of sharpness in exchange.

Overall I would argue that Poco/Xiaomi have some of the best pictures in terms of main camera performance outside of Pixel and Samsung.

Ultrawide performance is adequate

The Poco X3 GT takes decent 8MP ultrawide pictures. There is a reasonable amount of detail since the sensor is small in contrast to the main camera. Pictures have good contrast, decent dynamic range, and noise is on the low side. Color accuracy is not as good as the main camera which is a consistent Poco/Xiaomi theme for some reason. That said overall ultrawide pictures are decent enough for general social media sharing.

Take a look at the pictures in the Photo Gallery below to decide for yourself.

Poco X3 GT Camera Samples - Flickr Gallery

Selfies and video performance are satisfactory

The Poco X3 GT snaps natural-looking selfies when the lighting conditions are good. There is good color and contrast in pictures but they lack in detail while the dynamic range is average.

Two ways to overcome the selfie camera results. First, there is reverse upscaling with the selfie camera so resizing the pictures down to 4MP is likely to yield better results. The second is to ensure that lighting conditions are good so pictures do not come out soft-looking.

Portrait shots aren’t that great in terms of edge detection so it is best to try and steer clear of it for most selfies.

The Poco X3 GT can do 4K at 30fps, as well as 1080p at 30fps and 60fps using the main camera. The ultrawide can only do 1080p at 30fps. I would avoid the macro camera as far as video recording is concerned.

Videos in 4K from the main camera look great in terms of detail, sharpness, color, and contrast. They also have good dynamic range and white balance. So for everyday videos, I recommend using the main camera for videos in 4K or 1080p modes.

Now if you switch to the other cameras the resolution of the video will automatically lower the main camera resolution to that of the lowest resolution sensor that you choose. And you will have to adjust it manually again when you want to use the main camera alone so keep that quirk in mind.

Overall I think the video recording performance is quite good on the Poco X3 GT.

Connectivity gets a bump up to 5G speeds

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The switch to Dimensity 1100 means 5G speeds out of the box even in the USA. I think this is one of the best upgrades on the X3 GT compared to the previous X3 Pro. A 5G compatible device means it is slightly more future-proof.

Here in Southern California on the T-Mobile network, the Poco X3 GT performed just as well as the Pixel 4a 5G in terms of data speeds. During voice calls however, the X3 GT automatically toggles on 4G mode. I suspect that this issue is carrier-specific and overseas in other countries, this should not be an issue.

As usual, there are other regular connectivity items such as Bluetooth, Mi Share, Nearby Share, Cast, and IR Blaster. My review unit also includes NFC and I had no trouble using Google Pay on it. Full points to Poco for having a fully-featured smartphone chock full of the latest connectivity options.

Verdict: Poco X3 GT is an excellent 5G gaming smartphone

Poco X3 GT AH HR Verdict

Poco X3 GT has a lot of little upgrades which make it a worthy upgrade over the prior X3 Pro. There is a better processor onboard with 5G connectivity. The design language while being less unique is arguably more modern. Despite a slightly smaller battery, we get identical battery life and a heftier charging brick. We lose one 2MP camera but overall results from the triple camera module are better than before.

The Poco X3 GT still keeps IP53 splash protection and gets an upgraded Gorilla Glass Victus. The only two slightly irksome changes are the loss of the headphone jack and no micro SD card storage. But there too Poco gives us JBL tuned dual Dolby Atmos speakers and a dongle in the box. And I think with all the upgrades the overall price is still unchanged from X3 Pro so you can spring for the 256GB storage for just a little bit more compared to the base version. For that inconvenience, you get a lot of upgrades which should help make the X3 GT more future-proof.

Poco X3 GT is an excellent smartphone with premium features at an attractive price. That sounds like a winning formula to me.