India

POCO X2 review: One step down, two steps up

The best midrange phone money can buy

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POCO made its debut in the second half of 2018 with the POCO F1. It was the first phone to house a flagship-grade processor at half the cost. Back then, POCO was a sub-brand of Xiaomi and sales were off the roof. Marketing revolved completely around how fast the phone was. In fact, the POCO F1 created a niche segment for itself and continues to remain unchallenged.

However, the brand was dormant throughout 2019. No new phone was launched, which is surprising considering Xiaomi’s track record of flooding the market with options. Fans asked every day, when will the next phone come? Their demands were finally met a month ago with the launch of the POCO X2.

This time, POCO has been spun-off as an independent brand of Xiaomi. And, the POCO X2 isn’t a successor of the POCO F1. It’s a different lineup, targeting a new price segment.

It doesn’t have an infamous flagship-grade processor. But, it has a lot of nifty tricks up its sleeve. I’ve been using the phone for a couple of weeks and my verdict may surprise many of you. With a starting price of INR 15,999, it’s lighter on the pocket, but what about features? Let’s test it out!

The design has improved leaps and bounds

I have the Atlantis Blue variant and it looks stunning at first sight. The POCO F1 had a polycarbonate body and build quality was surprisingly cheap. Thankfully, the POCO X2 doesn’t carry forward that legacy and comes with an all-metal body. The back has a glass covering that gives it a premium as well as a flashy look. The glass also adds up to give a holographic design, slightly changing color depending on the angle you look at.

The camera array is surrounded by a circular optical illusion that’ll make you believe it’s a bump. But it isn’t. Seems like POCO took some inspiration from OnePlus 7T’s “manhole”.

In their defense though, it looks strikingly different and has a design language of its own. The glass on the front as well as the back is Gorilla Glass 5. I’ve never used a case on phones I review to judge their susceptibility to regular wear and tear. The POCO X2 has survived with flying colors.

The power button and volume rockers are on the right side of the phone and the power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. I remember the Nextbit Robin had a similar setup and it was extremely convenient. The same goes for this one. However, the power button is located slightly inward, forcing you to push it with a little more effort.

The POCO F1 had an IR blaster for faster and more accurate facial detection. The POCO X2 skips this feature but the default Face Unlock is fast enough. I used a combination of the two authentication systems and it worked seamlessly.

Lastly, on the bottom is a USB-C charging port, a headphone jack, and the speaker grill. The speaker is loud enough and clear, just like you’d expect it to be.

It has an LCD display and that’s fine

On the front is a 6.7-inch LCD display with Full HD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. This is the first phone in this price segment to have a 120Hz refresh rate and you can feel the difference instantaneously. The smoothness while scrolling is extremely satisfying and delivers an overall premium experience. Although, POCO needs to optimize its software (MIUI 11) to fully leverage the hardware.

Even though it has a higher refresh rate, the UI often tends to stutter while scrolling on apps like Twitter or WhatsApp. I’m sure this can be further refined via an OTA update.

Playing games that support a higher refresh rate like Alto’s Adventure tends to get addictive. The refresh rate automatically falls back to 60Hz in the battery saver mode. When you switch to 60Hz, the change is immediately felt, but you’ll get used to it within a few minutes.

The inclusion of this display completely fills up the gap of not having a flagship-grade processor. You use the display every second you power on the phone, how often do you leverage 100 percent of a flagship processor? At the end of the day, this setup is actually able to provide better user experience, without cutting back on any other functionality.

Lastly, it may not be an AMOLED panel, but LCD surely doesn’t translate to “bad”. This phone has a top-notch panel that can produce perfectly saturated colors, has great viewing angles, and deep enough contrast. There’s also a punch-hole setup on top right and it houses the front camera.

Is it as fast as the POCO F1?

We at GadgetMatch don’t believe in judging a phone by benchmark numbers. Powering the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor and my unit has 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage. It’s clear that POCO X2 isn’t built to be a hardware beast and is a budget contender. Considering the price, the Snapdragon 730G is one of the best midrange SoC options available in the market.

It’s able to handle day-to-day tasks with ease and challenging games like PUBG, Mobile Legends, and even Rortos Flight Simulator are playable smoothly. Additionally, games like Alto’s Odyssey support a higher refresh rate and are extremely intuitive to play. The POCO X2 comes with a liquid-cooled vapor chamber which helps heat dissipation and ensures a seamless experience over an extended duration of heavy usage.

Stunning cameras that’ll get better over time

The quad-camera setup on the back includes a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 2-megapixel macro camera for taking close-up shots. The 64-megapixel isn’t enabled by default and has to be switched on manually.

The camera interface is neat and easy to navigate. The macro mode shows on the main screen and is quickly accessible. It also lets users tap to focus. The close-up shots look really impressive and are great for taking shots of drops or items that are too small. The AI mode livens up photos that might have looked a bit dull otherwise.

We expect the IMX686 sensor to be Xiaomi’s favorite choice of camera this year and could be found onboard many more upcoming phones. This means the company will have a huge data set of test images coming in, in turn, fine-tuning the algorithm.

Though, don’t get me wrong. The sensor is also up to the mark and delivers stunning photos. The Night Mode needs some enhancement, but it’s nothing major.

Lastly, for selfies, the POCO X2 features a 20-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel depth sensor for more accurate edge detection. The primary selfie camera captures clear facial details in selfies, but there is a slight bit of skin smoothening even when the beautification mode is turned off.

How long can it last?

The POCO X2 is equipped with a 4500mAh battery which can easily last through a day with moderately demanding use. Locked to 120Hz, I was easily able to get a full day of use from the hardware. Drop it down to 60Hz and you should make the phone last a whole lot longer.

The POCO X2 comes with a 27W charger which is rated for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0. While recharging, the POCO X2 takes slightly more than an hour to go from nada to 100 percent.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

In one sentence, I’d say this is the best phone you can get under INR 20,000 (US$ 275). Actually, I’d even say this is the best phone under INR 30,000 (US$ 410) in India. It gets everything right and is a perfect midrange phone.

The design has improved radically, the performance is top-notch, cameras are exceptionally capable, and the battery will easily get you through a day of heavy usage.

From a usage point of view, this phone is ideal for gamers since the chipset is powerful enough and the software is well optimized. In case you’re looking for a work phone, MIUI 11 has a host of unique features that often come very handy. This includes a high level of customization and power tools.

Lastly, there’s no other phone that’ll offer a 120Hz display at this price point. It’s safe to say, POCO X2 is a breath of fresh air that delivers an experience, and not just on-paper “first” features.

Apps

App that removes ‘China apps’ now trending

TikTok could be the most affected

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An Android app going by the name “Remove China Apps” is trending on the Google Play Store in India. The app says it can identify apps that are made in China and help you uninstall them. It has already crossed five million downloads and is currently at the top spot of Google Play’s top free apps list.

Not just India, but other countries like Australia are also actively downloading the app according to App Annie. The app is fairly easy to use. You just need to install it and it’ll show you all the China-made apps installed on your phone, for example, TikTok.

The app was launched on May 17 by an Indian developer going by the name OneTouch AppLabs. It had crossed one million downloads within 1o days of launch. It holds a rating of 4.9 out of 5. Obviously, much of this has to do with the nationalistic notion attached to it.

India went into a complete lockdown when Coronavirus threatened to ravage the country. While the country prioritized life over the economy, a two-month lockdown has drastically hit the economy and experts suggest it could dip into a recession soon. To revive the economy, the Indian Prime Minister urged everyone to support locally sourced products and reduce dependence on imports.

While India is actively fighting the virus, China has escalated border skirmishes in the north. It’s no wonder that the many have developed anti-China sentiments radically and a few developers are taking advantage of the situation. Furthermore, TikTok clones like “Mitron TV” have popped-up as local alternatives of the Bytedance controlled social platform.

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Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S are the most affordable TWS offering

The price is unbelievable

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In India, Xiaomi’s Redmi division looks after the affordable segment while Mi-branded products are for the premium segment. On the side, POCO is now an independent brand. Continuing with the new strategy, Redmi today announced the launch of their new TWS earbuds, the Redmi Earbuds S.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 were announced in the country but they are far from affordable. To bridge this gap, the Redmi Earbuds S has been unveiled. It’s worth noting that they are the same as the Redmi AirDots S, which were launched in China earlier.

The Earbuds have 7.2mm drivers and are IPX4-rated for water resistance. The individual buds weigh only about 4.5g each. The company’s marketing has focused on how good their bass is, but we’ll be able to confirm that in our review later.

For connectivity, it leverages SBC codec, a commonly used protocol via Bluetooth. However, a low-latency mode has also been added to aide gaming. The earbuds are said to deliver four hours of playback on a single charge and the case can extend this to 12 hours.

The Earbuds S also has a physical button on either side to control media playback or skip tracks. The gaming mode can be triggered by pressing the function key thrice.

The Redmi Earbuds S will cost INR 1,799 (US$ 23) and will go on sale starting May 27 via Mi.com and Amazon.

These earbuds are an entry-level option for someone who’s looking for a pair of TWS earbuds. Instead of rich features, the point of this product is to offer an affordable option to the end-user.

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India

Realme Watch launches with a touchscreen display and HR tracker

High on features, light on the pocket

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This is the first watch from Realme and we’ve been waiting for it for a long time. The company teased its existence multiple times and considering the brand’s reputation, we knew it’ll have a very competitive price. Thankfully, the watch is now official, and here’s everything you need to know.

It comes with a 1.4-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels, a maximum brightness of 380 nits, and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Currently, it comes pre-loaded with 12 watch faces and the company has confirmed more than a hundred will be available via an OTA update soon.

The smartwatch offers real-time heart rate monitoring using the built-in PPG sensor and records results every five minutes. Furthermore, it also has a SpO2 monitoring system to track the blood oxygen level.

On the fitness front, it has 14 different sports modes such as Badminton, Cricket, Indoor Run, Outdoor Run, Walk, and Yoga, among others. Health-based features also include sleep monitoring, sedentary reminders, hydration reminder, and meditation relaxing.

Just like all other smartwatches or bands, it can receive notifications from your phone via Bluetooth, control music playback, and unlock the phone via Android’s smart unlock system. Unlike the Apple Watch, you can’t pick-up voice calls but it’ll let you reject the call or mute the notification.

Realme Watch runs on a proprietary OS and can be linked to your phone via the Realme Link app. It supports 20mm removable wrist straps and has an IP68-certified body that can resist dust and water.

The Realme Watch is priced at INR 3,999 (US$ 53) and will be available via Flipkart and Realme.com from June 5. The additional color straps will cost INR 499 (US$ 7) later.

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