Xiaomi storms into the UK for the very first time and the Pocophone F1 delivers a knockout blow to OnePlus
- Stonkingly good value for money
- Colour-accurate screen
- Long-lasting battery life
- No certified dust or water protection
- No NFC
Xiaomi might not be a name you’re familiar with. Pronounced “shh-OW-mee”, the Chinese tech company is increasingly popular in Asia (it’s the fourth most popular smartphone maker in the world), but has only just begun making in-roads over here in the UK.
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With OnePlus cornering the mid-range smartphone market, but increasing costs with every iteration, Xiaomi is poised to steal its crown – and the Pocophone F1 is set to deliver the killer blow.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: What you need to know
The firm’s flashy flagship, the Mi 8 Pro, recently touched down in the UK for the very first time, and the Pocophone F1 is a slightly cheaper alternative. That’s not to say Xiaomi has scrimped on the specs – not by any means – and the Pocophone is a mid-range phone in price alone.
By some feat of technical wizardry, the Pocophone is fitted with Qualcomm’s fastest-ever mobile processor, the Snapdragon 845 – the same chip that powers phones costing upwards of twice the price. Pair that with 6GB of RAM, and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of storage, and you’re looking at a proper mid-range tour de force.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Price and competition
In contrast to Xiaomi’s previous phones, the Pocophone F1 is actually available to buy in the UK. As one of the first handsets from the Chinese smartphone manufacturer to arrive in Blighty, Xiaomi’s mid-ranger can be scooped up from Amazon for a mere £330.
That represents stonkingly good value for money. Compared to our current flagship-killing favourite, the OnePlus 6T, which is equipped with similar specifications, it’s roughly £170 cheaper. You can’t argue with those numbers, can you?
Best Xiaomi Pocophone F1 contract and SIM-free deals:
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Design and build quality
There is a chink in the Pocophone’s armour. At half the price of the Pixel 3, Xiaomi has been forced to cut a few corners in terms of design: the Pocophone F1’s all-plastic chassis is rather uninspired.
It’s not horrid, but at a time when gorgeous sandwiches of metal and glass are commonplace, it feels old hat to hold a plasticky device in your hand, no matter how much the phone costs.
Looking on the bright side, the Pocophone F1’s silver-tinted chamfered edges add a dash of class, and the rounded corners and sides ensure that it fits comfortably in the palm. The rear-mounted circular fingerprint reader is easy to reach, too.
You even get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the phone’s top edge, which is quite refreshing, and the phone’s 4,000mAh battery is topped up via a USB Type-C charging port on the bottom edge. The dual-SIM slot on the left edge also allows for storage expansion up to 256GB in capacity, and the volume rocker sits next to a slightly rounded rectangular power button on the right.
There are, however, a couple of downsides. The Pocophone F1 isn’t certified for dust- or water-resistance, so you might want to avoid any bathroom or kitchen mishaps and using it out in the rain. Then again, the OnePlus 6T isn’t protected from the elements, either, and that phone costs a considerable chunk more.
The lack of NFC is a bigger problem. You won’t be able to use the Pocophone F1 for your contactless card payments via Google Pay, for instance, which is a bit of a pain if you’re used to tapping your phone on the Oyster card gates.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Display
The Pocophone F1 follows the trend for tall, thin displays with a 6.18in, 2,246 x 1,080 resolution screen with an 18:9 ratio. The pixel density of 403ppi makes for ample sharpness, but you have to put up with a long notch jutting its way into the top of the screen. If that really bothers you, though, it can be hidden with black borders.
The IPS panel is superb, displaying 91.7% of the sRGB colour space with an average Delta E of 1.27, according to our ColorMunki display calibrator. The contrast ratio of 1,371:1 also does justice to the images captured with the Pocophone’s dual rear camera arrangement.
In summary, this screen is as good as they come, with rich, vibrant colours that pop off the screen. A maximum screen brightness of 446cd/m² is also good enough for outdoor use, although you may have to squint at your Facebook feed in direct sunlight.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Performance and battery life
Qualcomm’s flagship mobile processor, the octa-core 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845, takes centre stage. This is the same chip used in most of 2018’s pricey flagships and, with 6GB of RAM at its disposal, you can expect very similar benchmark results.
It’s no surprise that the Pocophone storms through Geekbench 4’s duo of single- and multi-core CPU benchmarks. Achieving near-identical scores to the OnePlus 6T and Pixel 3, the Pocophone F1 blazes past similarly priced competitors such as the Vivo V11 and Nokia 7.1.
Graphics performance is equally potent. The Pocophone reached a perfect score of 59 in the GFXBench GL Manhattan 3.0 on-screen gaming test, and will effortlessly run any Android game you can think to throw at it.
All this power typically comes at a cost to the phone’s overall battery life. Thankfully, the Pocophone has taken no such hit and was capable of reaching 15hrs 29mins in our continuous video playback test with Flight mode engaged. That isn’t quite as long-lasting as the OnePlus 6T or Vivo V11, but you won’t be running out of stamina too often while you’re out-gunning opponents in PUBG Mobile.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Camera
Like most smartphones these days, the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 is equipped with a dual-camera arrangement on the back. Rather than offering a secondary wide-angle lens, or a 2x telephoto zoom sensor, the Pocophone follows Vivo’s lead by supplying a secondary depth-sensing lens for fancy bokeh-effect photos.
As for specifications, there’s a little bit of variation between the two cameras. The main camera unit is a 12-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.9, while the secondary sensor is a 5-megapixel unit with a narrower aperture of f/2.0. Neither sensor is optically stabilised, but the main camera does benefit from effective dual-pixel phase detection autofocus for super-speedy shots.
As for the results, well, the Pocophone F1 is capable of capturing some truly stunning images. Shots of London’s bustling skyline were bursting with crisp details, accurate colours and a very neutral palette, with the HDR mode successfully lighting up shadowy areas. Still images hold up very well under scrutiny, especially in low-light conditions, with minimal noise grain and unnatural processing.
Video capabilities are just as good, even if the recording modes are rather limited. You can only capture 4K footage at a maximum frame rate of 30fps for instance, and the lack of sensor stabilisation does hamper the quality somewhat, but video quality remains impressive. There are also other shooting modes on offer such as super-slow-motion footage at 120fps and time-lapse capture.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Software
Running Android 8.1, the Pocophone’s heavy-handed MIUI 10 software overlay takes some getting used to. It certainly isn’t as clean as stock Android or Google’s own Pixel launcher and there are a few annoying little niggles.
For the most part, it functions as you expect: swiping up accesses your list of downloaded apps; the on-screen navigation bar allows you to return to the homescreen, back out of an app or view your list of recent apps, but a few issues are found buried underneath the surface.
For starters, the app icons are particularly child-like, and I’m not a fan of how they look. The phone’s settings menu behaves a little differently, too, and finding particular settings is a lot trickier than the stock Android experience. I couldn’t figure out how to disable screen timeout, for instance, which proved particularly troublesome when testing the Pocophone’s display. App notifications don’t often show up at the top of the screen, either.
These are minor issues, of course, and can be remedied by installing a third-party launcher of your choosing when the phone arrives through your postbox. It doesn’t stop the Pocophone feeling that bit less slick than its competitors, though.
Xiaomi Pocophone F1 review: Verdict
Xiaomi has firmly planted its flag on UK soil and the Pocophone F1 delivers astonishing value for money.
Laughing in the face of four-figured smartphones, there’s simply no better phone for your money. Yes, its software experience could use some work, and its design won’t be drawing admiring glances on the morning commute, but who cares? If you crave flagship performance at a budget price, it simply doesn’t get any better than this.
|Xiaomi Pocophone F1 specifications
|Octa-core 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
|2,246 x 1,080
|Dust and water resistance
|3.5mm headphone jack
|USB connection type
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|microSD (up to 256GB)
|Yes (shared with microSD)
|Android 8.1 (MIUI 10)