Reviews

Pocophone F1 Review: It’s all about the performance

Flagship-specced phone that’s cheaper than a Xiaomi!

Published

on

If you find the Xiaomi Mi 8 or the OnePlus 6 to be great flagship killers, wait until you get to know the Pocophone F1. From the makers of Xiaomi, the Pocophone F1 offers even better value for money. It’s got the flagship specifications of US$ 800 phones for just around US$ 300.

You might not have heard about Pocophone because it’s a new contender in the competitive smartphone market. I was able to use the phone for a few days prior to the official launch and here’s what I have to say about it.

It’s got a 6.18-inch IPS LCD with rounded corners

The corners seem to be way too rounded

There’s a notch and it’s pretty wide like Xiaomi Mi 8’s

That’s because it also hides an infrared camera

The power and volume buttons are on the right side

Blending with the rest of the polycarbonate frame

The hybrid card slot on the left accepts a microSD card

In exchange for a second SIM card

The USB-C port is at the bottom along with the loudspeaker

The earpiece also acts as a speaker to create a stereo effect

Our review unit comes with a Kevlar back

This one is called the Armored Edition

The dual cameras share the same spot with the fingerprint reader

The reader is easily reachable by the index finger

We need to talk about the design…

The Pocophone F1 will not win any design awards because it’s not asking for one. It borrows some of the Mi 8’s blueprint and mixes it with its own. To keep the cost down, the Pocophone doesn’t sport a metal body. Unlike the Honor Play which screams premium when held on hand, the Pocophone doesn’t leave any lasting impression.

It’s got a polycarbonate body, so the sides and buttons of the phone feel plasticky. Our Armored Edition unit has an edge thanks to its Kevlar back, but the regular ones will definitely feel cheaper. I can’t also help but notice that the bezels of the phone are not proportional, but that’s already nitpicking.

The bezels aren’t proportional to each other, just saying

Also noticeable to my eyes are the extremely rounded corners of the display. The Pocophone is not the first phone to implement rounded corners (the first one I know of is the LG G6), but Pocophone’s are excessive. This results in cutouts of the interface, especially when playing games that have buttons positioned at the edge.

Having a notch already limits content in full screen and the overly rounded corners are another concern.

The rounded corners cut out some of the on-screen interface

Good thing the 6.18-inch Full HD+ display is bright with up to 500 nits and color accurate with 84 percent NTSC coverage as per manufacturer’s claims. Also, it’s protected by Gorilla Glass, although they didn’t specify which version.

The Kevlar back reminds us of the old Motorola DROID RAZR phones

Overall, the external characteristics of the Pocophone are just so-so. Having a polycarbonate body is okay because it keeps the cost down, but it could have been better to have a similar build quality with the colorful iPhone 5c or the early Nokia Lumia phones. Nokia and Apple were able to prove that a plastic-made body won’t feel cheap when done right.

Definitely the most powerful phone in its segment

The Pocophone might not have the best build, but it’s definitely one of the most powerful phones in the market right now. Xiaomi, the parent company, is known to offer flagship-specced phones at lower price points. They managed to outdo themselves through the Pocophone.

This phone comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor which also powers the likes of the LG G7 ThinQ, Samsung Galaxy S9, HTC U12+, and Sony Xperia XZ2. As you know, the league of Snapdragon 845 comes with hefty price tags, but not the Pocophone F1. It even has up to 8GB of memory and 256GB of expandable storage.

MIUI with an app drawer! 😲

I’m going to get a bit technical, but it’s worth noting that even with a lower asking price, it’s got LPDDR4X DRAM and UFS 2.1 storage. Basically, it has fast memory and storage speeds like on an expensive smartphone.

Running the show is Android Oreo skinned with MIUI 9.6. Although, this is not the same MIUI we’ve known from Xiaomi phones. It’s not that big of a deal, but if you’ve owned a Xiaomi phone you might be surprised about this: This particular version of MIUI has an app drawer. The rest of the MIUI is similar to what we’re accustomed to.

I often hold the Pocophone like this because I’m always playing

Like the Honor Play, the Pocophone is going to appeal a lot to mobile gamers. The Adreno 630 GPU that comes with the Snapdragon chipset is a beast at mobile gaming. It easily handles graphics-intensive games on the highest settings possible. PUBG Mobile, for example, can run in Ultra settings without any hiccups. I also tried Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Asphalt 9: Legends; both fared well.

The Pocophone F1 is equipped with a thermal solution called LiquidCool Technology. This keeps the temperature of the device in check especially when it’s under pressure. The phone is claimed to have fluid inside its cooling module which evaporates to vapor and then recondenses as liquid later on. I’m not able to confirm this because it happens inside the phone. Nevertheless, I never felt the Pocophone overheating when playing.

Flagship specs, midrange cameras

The Pocophone focused a lot on speed and, sadly, overlooked its cameras. It’s got a dual-camera setup that’s composed of a main 12-megapixel f/1.9 sensor with dual pixel autofocus and a secondary 5-megapixel depth sensor. It’s a similar setup to the Redmi Note 5 AI but with the addition of enhanced artificial intelligence software found on Mi flagships. The end result is uninspired, but the scene detection feature with the aid of AI is quick to act.

Under bright light, the camera captures plenty of details but it struggles in low-light scenarios. The bokeh effect is pretty good in adding depth to close-up shots. Here are some samples:

As for selfies, a 13-megapixel shooter is able to take decent photos whether under bright daylight or indoors. Check these samples:

There’s portrait mode which applies blur to the background and works pretty well. Edge detecting is up to par with other selfie phones. There’s still beauty mode, of course, but it’ll not turn you into a doll — unlike others.

Able to last a full day

With all the power the phone has, it’s got to have a sizeable battery to keep up. Thankfully, the 4000mAh battery sealed inside the Pocophone is enough to get users through a full day.

Another shot of the amazing Kevlar back

Based on my few days with the phone, it consistently lasted the whole day. From 100 percent in the morning, it has enough juice left before I get home after a full workday. Considering that my usage is moderate to heavy which includes constant social media, web browsing, chats, and gaming, I am still able to get home with battery power left over.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Pocophone F1 is designed to please power users that don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on an expensive flagship. If you like to have the best-possible specs on a phone, the Pocophone F1 is definitely your GadgetMatch.

But, budget phones always come with caveats. The Pocophone F1 is not exactly a budget-friendly phone at INR 20,999 or around US$ 300 for the 6GB/64GB variant, but for a device with a Snapdragon 845 processor — it’s a steal!

The camera performance might not be able to satisfy our eyes, but the Pocophone F1 is something you’d use primarily for gaming. It directly competes against the Honor Play which comes with the best processor from Huawei. These two phones created a new category among smartphones, and we’re not even sure what to call it yet.

SEE ALSO: Honor Play Review: The budget flagship

Accessories

Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering

Published

on

The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?

 

At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

Continue Reading

Reviews

LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?

Published

on

Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

Continue Reading

Accessories

Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible

Published

on

Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Gadget Reviews

Trending