The 200$ smartphone?!: Xiaomi Poco X3

A lot of phone for not very much cash.

The Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC is all about value, like every Poco handset before it and almost every Xiaomi device. 

But the strategy has changed since 2018’s Pocophone F1. The Poco X3 doesn’t come with a top-tier Snapdragon 8-series processor, because fitting one into a budget phone just doesn’t seem feasible anymore. 

However, the end result is similar. The Poco X3 NFC is probably the best phone for gaming at its price. It has a large, well-specced screen, loud stereo speakers, and its Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor handles titles such as Fortnite far better than the Snapdragon 665 and Exynos 9611 phones you might buy for the same cash.

It’s simply miles ahead. Even Realme, maker of some of 2020’s best budget phones, doesn’t have anything that can directly compete at launch.  Excellent battery life and a nerd-pleasing 120Hz display panel top off the Poco X3 sundae, and make this one of the best buys for techies on a tight budget. 

here are a few bits to improve, however. Its screen has a situation-specific erratic backlight flicker, which we believe should be fixable via a firmware update. The odd glitch suggests the Poco X3 NFC is due a system stability update, too. 

Only one issue is less likely to be fixed further down the road. The Poco X3 NFC has an impressive-sounding 64-megapixel main camera. It takes good shots, but suffers from significant purple fringing, more so than the majority of rival phones in this price range. 

Still, its digital 2x mode is better than most and while its low-light performance won’t worry the Google Pixel 4a, it’s at least on a par with the better budget Androids. 

There are still reasons to step up to a phone such as the Realme X50 5G. It has 5G, its performance is a step up, and its glass back feels nicer. But at this level, such a leap in cost may not appear insignificant. 

The Poco X3 NFC went on sale on September 17, 2020 in Europe. We don’t have confirmed US pricing and availability details just yet, but the European figures are enough to catch the eye. 

The base model Poco X4 NFC costs £199 (about $250, AU$360) and comes with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage. An upgrade to 128GB storage bumps up the price to £229 (around $300, AU$420), although this is an early bird deal that may rise to £249 (around $320, AU$450). 

An additional 64GB storage is a welcome layer of cushioning, but since the RAM remains at 6GB, you’re unlikely to see any performance boost unless there’s a major difference in the speed of the storage itself. 

The Poco X3 NFC is one of the best value phones around for several reasons – but it comes sporting the same style and build as the majority in its class. This means the phone’s back is plastic rather than glass, and the sides are plastic rather than aluminium. 

You may read online that the sides are metal, but this appears to refer to the thin black band that sits between the glass screen and plastic sides. 

We’ve used the Poco X3 NFC in its bundled silicone case throughout testing, which makes its plastic aesthetic less obvious. But it also highlights that this is a large device. 

The Poco X3 has a 6.67-inch screen. Despite coming to this device from the 6.53-inch Xiaomi Redmi Note 9, the difference is obvious – so prepare yourself. Although, since Poco phones tend to attract the enthusiast crowd, it likely won’t be a huge problem to them. 

What may be an issue is the giant Poco logo on the rear of the device. Plastering the back of a phone with huge lettering is 2020’s most unfortunate tech design trend. But, we don’t actually hate it. 

The “Poco” part is built into a layer under the surface; it actually pulls off an attempt to look like the insignia of a fashion brand. We’d much rather this than a slogan such as “take back control” or “dare to leap”, which can be seen scrawled across the Realme X7. Pass the sick bag. 

Silicone cases aren’t likely to improve the aesthetic of a phone, but the Poco X3 NFC is clearly made to be used with one (such a case is bundled). It has a camera housing almost as prominent as that on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. In fact, it’s so pronounced that the case has a little lip that extends to meet the housing. This is in order to avoid scuffs to its sides, should you accidentally drop the X3 NFC. 

Poco makes it more of a feature by drawing a circle around the camera, with both case and rear design. This makes the camera appear more “techy” and advanced, even if it doesn’t comprise particularly remarkable hardware. 

There’s plenty of good elsewhere, though. The Poco X3 NFC has excellent speakers for a $200-ish phone. 

You get a loud stereo pair, which means you can listen to a podcast while you cook or have a shower without issue. We always prefer a stereo setup when watching YouTube, too. 

The Poco X3 NFC has an IR blaster, which allows the phone to act as a universal remote, a headphone jack, and a side-loaded fingerprint scanner. This scanner isn’t the fastest around. You’ll see a delay of around half a second before the homescreen appears, but it does work every time with a clean, dry thumb. 

Of course, the Poco X3 NFC comes with NFC, used for wireless payments.  

The Poco X3 NFC has four rear cameras arranged in a striking rounded-off rectangle, the LED flash providing symmetry.

The main camera has a 64-megapixel Sony IMX682 sensor, which is more desirable than the Samsung GM1 unit that features in some other affordable phones such as the Samsung Galaxy M31. Sony sensors are often better.

The second camera has an ultra-wide lens and an unnamed 13-megapixel sensor. Like so many budget Androids, the other two sensors are low-end 2-megapixel units for macro photos and “Portrait” images with background blur.

Should you buy the Poco X3 NFC?

Buy it if…

You’re a serious gamer

Want to play GPU-taxing games such as Fortnite and ARK: Survival Evolved? The Poco X3 NFC is the best you can get right now. It has the power that most phones at the price lack, plus good stereo speakers and a huge screen. 

You need solid battery life 

The Poco X3 NFC is also a good bet if you want a phone that lasts a full day, even if you stream a bunch of video or spend far too long scrolling through Instagram. It has a large 5160mAh battery, and it lasts whether or not you use the screen’s high refresh rate. Granted, many phones in this class offer excellent battery life, but it’s still worth noting. 

You want great specs for the price 

Value is the fundamental appeal of the Poco X3 NFC. You’re getting a lot of phone for a reasonable amount of money here. The real stand-outs are the 120Hz display and Snapdragon 732G CPU, which beat almost everything else available at the price, at the time of review.  

Don’t buy it if…

You want a good camera phone

While the Poco X3 NFC is one of the better performers in its class for exposure and colour balance, its camera isn’t in the same league as the Google Pixel 4a. The lens leaves purple fringes on the outlines of high-contrast areas of an image, and these aren’t all that easy to correct after shooting. 

You want a premium look and feel 

While the Poco X3 NFC is one of the better performers in its class for exposure and color balance, its camera isn’t in the same league as the Google Pixel 4a. The lens leaves purple fringes on the outlines of high-contrast areas of an image, and these aren’t all that easy to correct after shooting. 

You just need the basics 

Don’t forget the even cheaper Xiaomi phones if you just want something with a large screen  for not much money. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 lacks a few of the techy extras of the Poco, and isn’t as powerful – but it still lasts an age between charges, runs well and has a decent screen. 

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