POCO became an overnight success with the launch of the POCO F1 (review) back in 2018 which, for the uninitiated, was a high-performance smartphone for the masses. Fast-forward to 2022, the brand has grown its product portfolio to incorporate a slew of enticing handsets and accessories. However, only a handful of devices from the company’s stables truly echo the F1’s performance-first sentiment. I am, of course, talking about the POCO F3 GT (review) and the POCO X3 Pro (review) which, for the price, offered superb chipsets that could crunch through the most daunting tasks in the blink of an eye. And, recently, the company announced the POCO F4 5G in India which brings a loaded spec sheet to the mix too. I managed to get my hands on a unit and here is what I make of it.
The POCO F4 5G is, simply put, a competitively-priced, do-it-all phone. So, if you were in the market for a high-performance flagship killer that doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet, the F4 is a solid option.
The POCO F4 takes a page or two from the competition in the design department. In fact, from a distance, the handset looks eerily similar to the Redmi Note 11 Pro Plus and from the styling of the rectangular camera module, the unit’s chamfered edges and rounded-off corners, to the placement of the POCO branding, the F4’s design feels heavily inspired by that of its sibling. At the same time, the handset’s Nebula Green colourway is reminiscent of the iPhone 13‘s (review) Alpine green hue and the OnePlus 10 Pro‘s (review) Forest Emerald colourway as well.
Now, as someone who breathes tech, I can’t turn a blind eye to the F4’s resemblance to some competing devices. However, the average joe will undoubtedly find the POCO F4’s aesthetics to their liking. In fact, a number of my friends complimented the handset’s good looks when I was using the device as my daily driver. What’s more, going by the handset’s build quality, they projected the smartphone’s price to be north of Rs 40K and were baffled when I told them that it will cost considerably less than that. The same can be accredited to the handset’s all-glass design which imparts a sense of premium-ness when gripping the device. I am elated with the company’s decision to opt for a matte back too as it doesn’t just keep smudges at bay but also brings out the regalness of the Nebula Green paint job. All said and done, the POCO F4’s design might lack character but the smartphone looks as pretty as a picture nonetheless.
Interestingly, the company has furnished the device with a side-mounted, capacitive fingerprint sensor embedded within the power button. Now, I don’t have an affinity for in-display sensors and consequently, was more than happy with the performance of the side-mounted unit on the POCO F4. To wit, the sensor felt superbly responsive and you can even configure it to unlock the phone with a ‘tap’, or by pressing the power button. The handset’s facial recognition tech felt equally snappy, albeit the phone did struggle to unlock seamlessly in dimly-lit environments.
Disappointingly enough, the POCO F4 is the latest in a long line of phones to omit the headphone jack. On the bright side, the smartphone ships with a stereo speaker setup that gets quite loud. What’s more, the audio doesn’t distort at high volume levels either, which is great. As for the rest of the I/O, the handset ships with a USB Type-C port at the bottom for charging, along with an IR blaster positioned up top.
It’s not uncommon for smartphone brands to outfit their offering with an LCD display in a bid to make room for a premium chipset. Thankfully, the POCO F4 is an exception to the rule and the device features a stunning E4 AMOLED panel that measures at 6.67-inches and refreshes at 120Hz. What’s more, the screen is protected by a layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass v5 as well and the panel gets superbly bright at 1,300 nits too. Thankfully, Delhi’s weather has been kind and I rarely had to slide the brightness toggle all the way to the right.
However, I have no doubt in my mind that the panel will serve you well in extremely well-lit environments too. What’s more, the smartphone ships with WideVine L1 certification and can even relay HDR media in Dolby Vision and HDR10 via OTT services like Netflix. That’s a remarkable feat, given how most devices are limited to HDR10 playback only.
With Dolby Vision, media encoded in HDR can automatically scale to the F4’s display, thereby delivering the best possible movie-watching experience. And, if you tend to play more games than watch movies, then you’ll revel in the display’s snappy touch sampling rate of 360Hz, which ensures all your swipes and gestures are picked up instantaneously.
Speaking of which, the POCO F4 is backed by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 processor which works alongside speedy LPDDR5 memory and UFS 3.1 storage. Now, in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Snapdragon 870 is among the fastest mobile processors and the chipset can run most, if not all games at the highest possible graphics and FPS settings. To wit, the POCO F4 can run BGMI at HDR graphics and Extreme FPS presets. What’s more, the device can max out the graphics and FPS settings in both, Apex Legends Mobile as well as Call of Duty Mobile too. Unsurprisingly, the handset is more than adept at tackling everyday tasks as well. In fact, I never ran into any instance of stutter whilst using the phone as my daily driver – apps opened swiftly, games ran admirably, UI transitions and animations felt fluid and the device managed to keep temps in check too.
In fact, the smartphone overturned extremely respectable scores in CPU stress-testing apps like CPU Throttle test and 3D Mark. To wit, despite being overloaded with 20 threads, the smartphone throttled to just 89 percent of its peak performance in the CPU throttle test. Similarly, the device yielded 90 percent stability in 3D Mark’s extreme stress test. Suffice it to say, the POCO F4 will not leave you wanting more in the performance department. As for the battery backup, the POCO F4 ships with a 4,500mAh cell which should last buyers a full day with moderate usage. On the bright side, the handset comes with a 67W charging brick in the box and consequently, you should be able to top up the handset in little to no time.
Software-wise, the handset boots Android 12 out of the box with a skin of MIUI v13 on top. Now, unlike other Xiaomi or Redmi branded phones, handsets from POCO’s stables usually ship with considerably less bloatware. What’s more, the devices also feature the company’s POCO launcher which offers added niceties like support for third-party icon packs, etc. If anything, I would’ve liked to see even less bloatware on the POCO F4, which currently, comes preloaded with a host of apps from Xiaomi including Mi Credit, Mi Pay, etc. Barring that, however, the POCO F4’s software experience felt up to the mark.
The same can be said for the smartphone’s camera setup too. But, before I dissect the handset’s camera performance, let’s take a closer look at the specs on offer. To wit, the POCO F4 comes with a 64MP, OIS-assisted, OmniVision primary sensor that works alongside an 8MP ultrawide sensor and a 2MP macro sensor. For selfies, the device gets a 20MP Sony sensor up front.
Now, under ideal lighting, the POCO F4 can click stunning images with its main sensor. Take the daylight photos attached in the slider below wherein, you’ll notice that each image is replete with punchy, vibrant hues and a ton of detail. The elements in the frame offer adequate sharpness too and the smartphone has kept a lid on the noise seeping in around the corners as well. With that said, the sensor’s dynamic range leaves a bit to be desired. In fact, I noticed that the F4 clicked images with a contrast-y tone and consequently, you’ll notice that the darkened bits appear overtly dark in some shots.
I also observed that the sensor struggled with keeping peppy hues in check. As an example, if you zoom in to the closeup of the flower in the slider attached above then, you’ll notice that the petals seemingly merge into one another and the orange hue appears slightly blotched at a closer crop. That’s not to say that the phone takes bad close-ups. On the contrary, the closeup of the maroon flower appears quite tasteful and the sensor has even managed to pick up on the finer details around the flower bud admirably. Be that as it may, the handset’s post-processing could do with some tweaks to yield better results.
The ultrawide images shot from the phone, on the other hand, are nothing to write home about. While you will revel in a wider field of view, the photos offer lacklustre corner sharpness. What’s more, the images appear quite grainy at a closer crop too. As for lowlight, the F4 can squeeze reasonable detail out of a dimly-lit scene even with the night mode utility disabled. That said, with the feature turned on, the smartphone managed to bring out a more authentic palette of colours to the mix. It also helps that the night mode utility enhances the overall visibility in the scene, thereby paving the way for a more detail-laden shot. The selfie camera, on the other hand, doesn’t reciprocate the subject’s skin tone correctly. While the photos appear quite sharp, the subject’s skin tone appears a tad pale. As for videos, the smartphone can shoot videos in up to 4K resolution at 60FPS. I did record a bunch of 1080p60fps clips with the set and was quite happy with the results. Particularly, the videos offered reasonable stability and good exposure metering.
The POCO F4 checks all the right boxes for its asking price. To summarise, the handset touts a stunning display, a stupendously fast processor and a capable main camera. It also helps that the device charges rapidly and offers a feature-laden custom skin.
Understandably, the smartphone offers similar specs to the recently launched iQOO Neo 6 (review) which begs the question – is the POCO F4 a better buy? Well, the answer to that is not as black and white as I’d like it to be. You see, the iQOO Neo 6 has a lot going for it and the handset features faster 80W wired charging. That said, I liked the images snapped by the F4’s primary sensor more. Furthermore, POCO’s offering allows users to leverage Dolby Vision HDR in OTT services like Netflix too. And, you’ll find more customisation options with the F4’s MIUI interface as well. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to pinpoint a clear winner here but, if I were in your shoes, I’d pick the POCO F4 in a heartbeat.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Stunning display
- Great performer
- Capable main camera
- Fast wired charging speed
- Ships with some bloatware
- Uninspiring design