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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.

India

Mi TV Stick turns any TV into a smart TV

Why get a new TV when you can transform the old one

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Today Xiaomi launched the Mi TV Stick in India. It’s a simple HDMI thumb drive that can turn any TV into a smart TV. The brand had announced it globally in July, along with the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2, the Mi Smart Band 5. However, India is yet to see get the latter.

Coming back to the Mi TV Stick, it runs on Android TV 9. With an onboard processor, the stick can turn any HDMI-enabled TV into a smart TV. The plug and play factor can be attractive for frequent travelers who can seamlessly connect to their “television” on the go in any hotel room.

Although, the Mi TV Stick is built for a different audience. According to a February 2020 report by Cisco, TV would be the second biggest medium to connect to the internet by 2023. For a developing country like India, the low-cost factor plays a crucial role.

It sports a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU and an ARM Mali-450 GPU, along with 1GB RAM and 8GB storage. It’s powered by a micro-USB port and connects to the TV via an HDMI port.

It can stream up to Full HD at 60fps. The Mi TV Stick comes with support for apps like Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and more. The apps can be downloaded via Google Play Store. It also comes with a Bluetooth remote, which does not need to be pointed towards the device to operate.

The Mi TV Stick is priced at INR 2,999 (US$ 40) and will be available via Flipkart, Mi.com, and Mi Stores from August 7. However, if you want to stream content 4K resolution, you can get the Mi TV Box 4K priced at INR 3,999 (US$ 53). Xiaomi’s offering will go up against Amazon’s Fire Stick, which is priced at INR 3,999.

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India

Redmi 9 Prime launches with quad-cameras and Helio G80

Realme should be worried

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After a brief sabbatical, Xiaomi is back with its blitzkrieg strategy. The company has gradually announced the Redmi 9 series in India, covering every possible price segment. Going after the affordable segment, it has now launched the Redmi 9 Prime and it’ll go up against the Realme 5i and Narzo 10A.

At first glance, the design of the phone looks identical to the POCO X2. However, it has substantial changes including a water-drop notch, rounded edges, and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The back has a gradient color with a ripple texture that adds to the premium feel.

On the front is a 6.5-inch Full HD+ display with Gorilla Glass 3 protection and TÜV Rheinland low blue light certification. Powering the phone is a MediaTek Helio G80 processor with 4GB RAM. Storage is expandable via a microSD card.

The rear sports a quad-camera setup consisting of a 13-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, an 8-megapixel camera is located on the front.

Backing these internals is a 5020mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. Although, the in-box charger is rated for 10W only. In line with all other Redmi phones, it ships with MIUI 11 out-of-the-box and supports face unlock.

The Redmi 9 Prime has two configurations available. The 4GB+64GB option costs INR 9,999 and the 4GB+128GB variant costs INR 11,999. The phone shall be available from August 17 via Amazon, Mi.com, Mi Stores, and other offline partners. Color options include Space Blue, Mint Green, Matte Black, and Sunrise Flare.

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India

POCO M2 Pro review: A Redmi Note 9 Pro without ads

What’s the difference?

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With a new strategy in place, POCO announced the POCO X2 in the first quarter, and now, it’s back with another offering — the POCO M2 Pro. It’s an affordable offering that’s found a comfortable spot in India’s INR sub-15,000 price bracket. But, there’s a twist.

POCO made its debut with the POCO F1. It was a legendary phone because it did the unexpected — flagship-grade performance at an affordable price. Since then, POCO as a brand has been synonymous to aggressive pricing and top-notch specifications. However, the POCO F1 was launched in 2018 and a lot has changed since then.

For starters, POCO was a dormant brand throughout 2019 and made a comeback at the beginning of 2020. We expected a successor of its infamous first phone, but everything was going to change. POCO is now an independent brand that takes autonomous business and marketing decisions. To make it clear, Mi, Redmi, and POCO are three different teams right now.

If you look closer, the POCO M2 Pro is nothing but a rebranded Redmi Note 9 Pro. Furthermore, the 4GB+64GB entry-level option of both phones has the same price of INR 13,999 (US$ 186). So, what’s different about POCO’s offering? Why should this phone be your GadgetMatch?

A proven design that fits everyone

The Redmi Note 9 Pro series has a very ergonomic design that looks premium as well as sturdy. The quad-camera setup has a significantly larger bump but it gets covered perfectly with the in-box case. The rear sports Gorilla Glass 5 and underneath it is a diagonally-lined pattern. While the phone looks stunning, using it without a case isn’t recommended since it’s prone to smudges and micro scratches.

The rear is the only thing that physically differentiates the phone from Redmi Note 9 Pro. The USB port, volume rockers, fingerprint scanner, and speaker grille are from the same Redmi mold.

I don’t mind rebranded phones as long as they’re not yet available in the same market. If POCO wants to be taken seriously as an independent brand, it needs to stand on its own and bring out original offerings. Realme has done a much better job of publicly distancing itself from OPPO, even though it leverages the same supply chain.

A perfect display

It sports a 6.67-inch Full HD+ display with a tiny punch-hole cut-out that houses the front camera. Unlike the competing Realme 6, it doesn’t have a 90Hz panel and runs at 60Hz. However, considering the price, I wouldn’t consider this to be a con. There are barely any games that can leverage higher refresh rates and the phone is meant to be an all-rounder.

The screen has sufficient brightness and can be seen easily under direct sunlight. The colors look slightly over-saturated but it can be adjusted according to your preference. Being an LCD panel, it does a pretty good job of creating deeper blacks.

POCO Performance

The brand is known for its performance-centric phones and the legacy continues here with a Snapdragon 720G chipset. Any task you throw at it will be done without a glitch. My unit has 6GB RAM and it never slowed down or struggled to handle multiple apps at once. Being a power user, I often use Outlook, Twitter, Gmail, Microsoft Word, and WhatsApp in close proximity. Safe to say, it didn’t feel like I needed a better or more powerful chipset.

I don’t play a lot of games except for reviewing and PUBG is my first preference. The overall experience is smooth and hassle-free. Even at higher settings, the phone gets a little warm but there no visible frame drops. Although, the weight of the phone does get annoying after a while. Similarly, a heavy game like World of Tanks also gets through without any turbulence.

The phone ships with MIUI out-of-the-box and since the Redmi Note 9 Pro series also ships with the same chipset, software updates should drop-in seamlessly.

Powering the phone is a 5000mAh battery and I clocked a little more than seven hours of screen time on a full charge. It has support for 33W fast charging and takes around one hour and twenty-five minutes to fully charge.

Quad-cameras that’ll get anything done

The rear houses a quad-camera setup consisting of a 48-megapixel sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel sensor. We’ve seen this camera setup on a plethora of Xiaomi phones and it’s safe to assume the output is top-notch. Thanks to Xiaomi’s reach, the AI-assisted changes are accurate as well as satisfactory.

I mean to say, the algorithm knows where to work and how to produce pleasing pictures. Sometimes you may notice over-saturation in landscape pictures, but AI-mode can be switched off with a quick tap. The dynamic range is near-perfect while the overall tone is on the warmer side.

While daytime pictures are excellent, the primary sensor struggles in the dark. Shots can often be grainy or blurry if you’re not careful about being steady.

For the pros out there, a manual mode is available to tinker with the finer details. Portrait mode works flawlessly and works on better than expected on dogs too!

The display cut-out houses a 16-megapixel selfie camera and it’s flawless. Details are retained accurately and the focus is ultra-fast. This sensor also is tuned on the warmer side and comes with an optional beauty mode.

On the video side, it supports recording at up to 4K 30fps. Obviously, there’s no optical image stabilization. But, the electronic rendering is good enough and gets the job done.

No ads in MIUI

Yes, the phone runs on MIUI 11. No, it doesn’t have any ads.

This is the only visible change I can see between the POCO M2 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro. MIUI has a lot of customization and functionality, minus the learning curve. The phone is perfect for everyone can be used without any deep technical knowledge. Software support is stable and while there were a few bugs, the overall experience remained unhindered.

The most frequent complaint about MIUI is the ads. This phone won’t spam your notification area and this can be a relief for many. There are a few pre-installed apps, but they can be easily disabled. In a nutshell, the POCO M2 Pro offers a better user experience while retaining top-notch hardware. Lastly, instead of MIUI launcher, this phone has POCO launcher.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I’d recommend this phone without any buts. The display is immersive, performance is best-in-class, the cameras do a decent job, and the battery can easily last you a day. With MIUI, the uniform Xiaomi experience is brought back without its biggest con. Design is a personal preference and I’ve found both, the POCO M2 Pro, as well as the Redmi Note 9 Pro, be impressive.

For the consumers, this is a win-win situation. But, for the brand, it’s a mixed bag. POCO intended to move out of Xiaomi’s camp but hasn’t been able to do that efficiently this year. To become a truly independent brand, it’ll have to stop depending on the parent so much and create its own identity. Right now, the original POCO F1 fans are disappointed along with the current followers who expected a fresh offering.

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