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Killing the flagship killer — Xiaomi's new Poco F1 is just too enticing to ignore

The Xiaomi Poco F1 is now official. (Source: GSM Arena)
The Xiaomi Poco F1 is now official. (Source: GSM Arena)
Xiaomi has officially launched the Poco F1 in India to take on rival flagship killers such as the OnePlus 6, Asus Zenfone 5Z, the Honor 10, and the Honor Play. The Poco F1 features 2018 flagship specifications and Xiaomi says that it has been optimized from the ground up for fast performance. The Poco F1 will be available in 3 color variants along with a special Armored Edition and starts from US$300 for the 6GB/64GB variant.

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Xiaomi is leading the smartphone market in India right now and by launching a new sub-brand Poco, the Chinese OEM major is all set to take the market by storm once again. Known as the Pocophone F1 internationally and the Poco F1 in India, this is Xiaomi's take on the burgeoning affordable flagship category. 

As Xiaomi's Jai Mani puts it, flagship phones with top-end components are crossing the US$1,000 mark putting them out of reach for most users especially, if they decide to purchase unlocked variants. OnePlus rose to fame as the flagship killer OEM and the OnePlus 6 quickly became one of the fastest selling phones in India. Then, Asus came along with its Zenfone 5Z and undercut the OnePlus 6 by a fair margin while still offering equally competent features. Now, Xiaomi's Poco F1 has literally taken things up a notch further and is set to retail cheaper than even the Asus Zenfone 5Z. Interesting? Let's check out what the Poco F1 has to offer.

The Poco F1's priorities clearly lean towards performance. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1's priorities clearly lean towards performance. (Source: Xiaomi)

Design

Design-wise, the Poco F1 is more or less in-tune with most 2018 flagships and their killers. The phone comes with a 6.18-inch FHD display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The back is polycarbonate with a touch of aluminum in the sides. The polycarbonate back should fit snugly in the hand without slipping. For those who don't prefer slapping on a case, the Poco F1 comes in a special Armored Edition that features a Kevlar chassis making it inherently scratch and wear resistant. As expected, the display sports a prominent notch, which is a tad bit larger than the OnePlus 6 and the Zenfone 5Z. The larger notch is not without utility, though. The Poco F1's notch houses an IR emitter and a lens that helps in face unlock even in complete darkness. Most Android phones support face unlock via just the front camera so this is a welcome addition. On the back there are dual cameras with the fingerprint sensor located just below it. 

The Poco F1 features a 6.18-inch FHD display with a distinct bottom bezel. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 features a 6.18-inch FHD display with a distinct bottom bezel. (Source: Xiaomi)
The body is made of polycarbonate with metal sides. (Source: Xiaomi)
The body is made of polycarbonate with metal sides. (Source: Xiaomi)
The expanded notch houses the IR lens and camera. (Source: Xiaomi)
The expanded notch houses the IR lens and camera. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 also comes in a special Armored Edition. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 also comes in a special Armored Edition. (Source: Xiaomi)

Performance

Xiaomi is betting big on performance of the Poco F1 and gauging from the specs, it doesn't seem to disappoint. The Poco F1 is powered by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC that is liquid-cooled for sustained performance in gaming and CPU intensive apps. There are 6 GB and 8 GB LPDDR4X RAM options available along with 64 GB or 128 GB UFS 2.1 storage. The Armored Edition comes with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB internal storage.

Xiaomi claims that the Poco F1 can sustain longer periods of peak performance compared to other smartphones in its class. We reported earlier about the Pocophone's AnTuTu records and the company emphasized the same during the keynote. Not surprisingly, the Adreno 630 lives up to its name and is faster than the competition.

The Poco F1 has some of the highest scores on AnTuTu. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 has some of the highest scores on AnTuTu. (Source: Xiaomi)
The liquid-cooled Snapdragon 845 SoC demonstrates consistent peak performance over long periods of time. (Source: Xiaomi)
The liquid-cooled Snapdragon 845 SoC demonstrates consistent peak performance over long periods of time. (Source: Xiaomi)
The performance of the Adreno 630 GPU is well ahead of the competition. (Source: Xiaomi)
The performance of the Adreno 630 GPU is well ahead of the competition. (Source: Xiaomi)

Software

The Poco F1's software also influences the performance claims of the phone to a large extent. At launch, the Poco F1 will be shipping with Android 8.1 Oreo overlaid with Xiaomi's MIUI 9.5. An update to MIUI 10 and Android 9.0 Pie is on the cards sometime in Q4 2018. MIUI 9.5 is somewhat customized for the Poco F1 and comes with a new app drawer and a Poco-specific launcher. The Poco launcher will also be made available on the Google Play Store starting August 29. 

MIUI for Poco F1 comes with a lot of under-the-hood improvements for faster app launches. Optimizations for top apps in the Play Store are pre-built into MIUI. Xiaomi says that it has implemented more than 20 deep system optimizations, which should result in an overall snappy experience. Swiping performance is said to be 21% faster and app startup is touted to be 28% faster compared to phones running stock Android. 

Xiaomi is also projecting this phone as an enthusiast-friendly device and unlike in the past, will be making the kernel sources available to the developer community on GitHub right on launch day. 

MIUI for Poco F1 features a new app drawer. (Source: Xiaomi)
MIUI for Poco F1 features a new app drawer. (Source: Xiaomi)
Apps are grouped according to their category for easy identification. (Source: Xiaomi)
Apps are grouped according to their category for easy identification. (Source: Xiaomi)
MIUI for Poco features in-built optimizations for popular apps in the Google Play Store. (Source: Xiaomi)
MIUI for Poco features in-built optimizations for popular apps in the Google Play Store. (Source: Xiaomi)
The optimizations run deep into the system with emphasis on performance. (Source: Xiaomi)
The optimizations run deep into the system with emphasis on performance. (Source: Xiaomi)

Camera

Smartphones at competitive price points generally skimp on the cameras but the Poco F1 does not seem to sacrifice much. The rear shooter is a 12 MP f/1.9 Sony IMX363 lens and is accompanied by a secondary 5 MP Samsung sensor for depth sensing. The 12 MP camera has dual pixel autofocus for quick focusing and a pixel size of 1.4-micron so the hardware looks fairly capable at least on paper. Xiaomi is betting a lot on the AI capabilities of the Snapdragon 845 to automatically apply the necessary software processing depending on the scene. The front camera is a 20 MP f/2.0 sensor — same as the Mi 8 — and features pixel binning for effective low-light selfies and portraits. The rear camera sports AI scene detection for 206 scenes while the front camera has AI detection capabilities for up to 10 scenes. 

The Poco F1 has a 12 MP + 5 MP rear camera setup. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 has a 12 MP + 5 MP rear camera setup. (Source: Xiaomi)
The 12 MP primary rear camera features dual pixel autofocus. (Source: Xiaomi)
The 12 MP primary rear camera features dual pixel autofocus. (Source: Xiaomi)
AI can help the rear camera recognize up to 206 scenes across 25 categories. (Source: Xiaomi)
AI can help the rear camera recognize up to 206 scenes across 25 categories. (Source: Xiaomi)
The front camera gets some AI love too. (Source: Xiaomi)
The front camera gets some AI love too. (Source: Xiaomi)

Connectivity

The usual suite of connectivity options are present including dual-band AC Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, a hybrid dual-SIM slot that supports dual VoLTE standby and microSD expansion up to 256 GB, a USB Type-C port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Poco F1 is one of the first phones in India to support carrier aggregation for enhanced coverage both indoors and in weaker signal areas. The Poco F1 can pump out hi-fidelity audio thanks to the Dirac HD audio codec and dual PA amplifiers for loud audio from the speakers. The earpiece can act as a secondary speaker for a stereo-like effect. The 4,000 mAh battery is a rarity among flagships and should offer great battery life and screen-on times. It can also be topped up quickly as well thanks to support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0. 

The Poco F1 features carrier aggregation for enhanced data throughput. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 features carrier aggregation for enhanced data throughput. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 features Dirac HD audio and stereo speakers. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 features Dirac HD audio and stereo speakers. (Source: Xiaomi)
Thankfully, the 3.5mm headphone jack is present. (Source: Xiaomi)
Thankfully, the 3.5mm headphone jack is present. (Source: Xiaomi)
The USB Type-C port allows for fast charging. (Source: Xiaomi)
The USB Type-C port allows for fast charging. (Source: Xiaomi)

Pricing and Availability

Xiaomi's aggressive pricing has been one of the main reasons for its success in the extremely lucrative but price-sensitive Indian smartphone market. The Chinese smartphone major is looking to replicate the same strategy with the Poco F1. The Poco brand will be leveraging the already vast network of distribution channels and service networks in the country and the Poco F1 will be entirely manufactured in India under the Make in India initiative. This enables Xiaomi to price the Poco F1 very competitively — so much that it can potentially displace even traditional mid-range smartphones. According to Xiaomi, these are the prices for various Poco F1 variants and their US Dollar equivalents—

  • Poco F1 (6GB+64GB) - ₹20,999 (US$300)
  • Poco F1 (6GB+128GB) - ₹23,999 (US$343)
  • Poco F1 (8GB+256GB) - ₹28,999 (US$415)
  • Poco F1 Armored Edition (8GB+256GB) - ₹29,999 (US$429)

That is some insane pricing for the kind of performance on offer. For perspective, the OnePlus 6 (6+64) costs ₹34,999 (US$500) while the Asus Zenfone 5Z (6+64) retails for ₹29,999 (US$429). Another major Chinese player in the Indian market is Huawei's Honor and it might start feeling the heat soon. At a starting price of ₹20,999, Poco F1 is more likely to be preferred than the Honor Play (4+64 - ₹19,999; US$286) or the Honor 10 (6+128 - ₹32,999; US$472) as it offers a much more capable and modern SoC. There are also attractive cashbacks and data vouchers on offer. The Poco F1 will go on sale in India at 12 PM IST on August 29 on Flipkart and Mi.com. 

Of course, specs are just one part of the picture and a lot also depends on the overall experience of using the phone. We look forward to testing the Xiaomi Poco F1 soon to learn about its performance and understand where Xiaomi has cut corners. That said, the smartphone landscape, especially in non-US markets, has gotten a lot more interesting and ultimately, more choice is only going to benefit the customer and drive innovation at lower price points.

The Poco F1 will be available in Rosso Red, Steel Blue, Graphite Black, and the Armored Edition. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Poco F1 will be available in Rosso Red, Steel Blue, Graphite Black, and the Armored Edition. (Source: Xiaomi)
Xiaomi has priced the Poco F1 very aggressively. (Source: Xiaomi)
Xiaomi has priced the Poco F1 very aggressively. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Armored Edition retails for just as much as the base variant of the Asus Zenfone 5Z. (Source: Xiaomi)
The Armored Edition retails for just as much as the base variant of the Asus Zenfone 5Z. (Source: Xiaomi)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 08 > Killing the flagship killer — Xiaomi's new Poco F1 is just too enticing to ignore
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2018-08-22 (Update: 2018-08-22)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - News Editor
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.