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Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G review

Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G review

Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G review

In many ways, the Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G is proof of just how far budget Android phones have come in recent years. It’s not perfect, and out of the box it comes a little too bloated with software, but for under £200 you can now get next-gen connectivity, a 90Hz display, a 48 megapixel (MP) camera and a two-day battery life.

On paper, that’s pretty impressive. In 2021, however, it’s far from the only Android phone boasting such specs. So big questions remain: how does it fare in the real world? And while it sells for under £200, is it actually worth your money?

When testing an Android phone that’s under the £400 price point we always find there’s an elephant in the room – casting a shadow in the form of the Google Pixel A-series, which remains one of the most impressive affordable handset line-ups.

And there has been an influx of rivals in recent years vying for your attention using low-cost-good-spec promises. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 (£109), Samsung Galaxy A32 5G (£249.99) and Oppo A54 5G (£219) are some of the better phones in that category. For the most part, however, the Poco M3 Pro 5G deserves a place on the list.

In this budget range, it’s all about compromise and expectations. The phone won’t – and can’t – compete with the likes of an iPhone 12, Samsung S21 Ultra or even the top-end Google Pixel 5. Thinking that it will only be a path to disappointment.

The best budget alternatives will provide enough sheen to make you forget about any cut corners, missing features or lack of flagship specs. They may be charming, have long battery life, or simply manage to provide a no-fuss performance.

After testing, we found the Poco M3 Pro 5G is generally up to the challenge – although aside from its design it often struggles to justify its existence.

There are some sticking points, but there’s little argument that it offers a great range of features and specs for the cost. It easily handles gaming, the display is solid and it has biometric security options. Only sometimes do the compromises creep in.

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Poco M3 Pro 5G review: summary

You may not be too familiar with the Poco brand inside the UK – but it’s a growing presence. It runs as an independent division of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which has pushed out a wide variety of low-cost handsets in recent years, including via its second subsidiary, Redmi. The Poco M3 Pro 5G – which is identical in spec to the Redmi Note 10 5G smartphone – goes on sale in the UK on 8th July 2021.

In the £200 price point you get a no frills but fairly snappy Android experience that is a good buy for anyone on a budget or who needs a second smartphone – one that’s capable of connecting to 5G networks and offering great battery life.

There are downsides, of course. The aesthetics on the back of the device – branded with a large Poco logo and made with materials that have an almost magical ability to attract fingerprints – is an acquired taste, and you may not like it.

And it certainly appears that the only major difference from the Redmi Note 10 5G is the design of the handset, making it harder to earn the “Pro” in the name. Is it a refresh, a new iteration or simply a copy-paste? It can often be hard to tell.

If there’s any indication of what Poco is hoping to achieve, it seems to be printed on the box. A slogan reads “with easy access to the Google apps you use most.” Is that a subtle dig at Huawei’s legal woes – or are we just reading too much into it?

Price: £179 (64GB) or £199 (128GB).

Key features:

  • Future proofed with 5G connectivity
  • 161.81mm x 75.34mm x  8.92mm
  • 6.5″ FHD+ LCD display (2400 x 1080)
  • 90Hz screen refresh rate
  • MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset
  • 5,000 mAh battery
  • 48 MP main camera, 8MP selfie camera
  • Side fingerprint sensor & face unlock
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 3.5mm headphone jack on top

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • 5G connectivity
  • Smooth 90 Hz display
  • Long lasting battery
  • UI is nice once tidied up

Cons

  • Large logo on the back
  • Too much pre-installed software
  • Battery takes long to charge
  • Glossy back is a fingerprint magnet

Where to buy: Available via Amazon.

What is the Poco M3 Pro 5G?

The Poco M3 Pro 5G is a low-cost Android smartphone with 5G connectivity, a crisp display and a lengthy battery life. The 6.5 inch IPS LCD display offers nice haptic feedback and the OS, called MIUI 12, is a versatile version of Android 11.

It will be a compelling option if you are looking for an affordable Android handset that’s compatible with new networks – but it faces stiff competition from other phones – from Google, Oppo, Samsung and even other devices from Poco itself.

There are now multiple devices under the Poco brand, including the X3 Pro (£219), X3 NFC (£159) and the Poco F3 (£289). The M3 Pro 5G joins the line-up.

We have had hands-on time with some of the phones. In our best budget smartphone guide, we praised the X3 Pro as the best option for gaming. Meanwhile, in our best Android phone guide the Poco F3 was deemed to be the best option for value.

What does Poco M3 Pro 5G do?

The main selling point of the new Poco M3 Pro is affordable 5G connectivity, which makes it future-proofed as networks continue to roll out across the UK – helping to majorly boost data speeds. The Poco M3 Pro 5G has two storage options – 64GB or 128GB – and comes in three colours: black, blue and a very vibrant yellow. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Offers a solid Android 11 experience for a low cost
  • Provides a battery life that will easily last more than a day
  • Has plenty of storage space for photos and videos
  • Multiple security options, including fingerprint and face unlock
  • Can support 3.5mm headphone cables
  • Has a built-in infrared blaster blaster to control Smart TVs

How much is Poco M3 Pro 5G?

The Poco M3 Pro 5G comes in two variants: a 64GB model that has an RRP of £179 and a 128GB model that has an RRP of £199. Both of the handsets will be available to purchase in the UK from 8th July 2021 – from Poco’s website and Amazon.

Is Poco M3 Pro 5G good value for money?

In a word, yes. If you don’t need too much internal storage, the base 64GB model is good value at £179, although if the branding on the back of the device is not to your taste you may want to consider the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G, which is now discounted from £199 to £160 on Amazon and has the same specs.

For comparison, even the Google Pixel 3a – which first released in May 2019 – is still selling for over £280, so that’s likely to be out of budget if you are looking for a low-cost Android. The Oppo A54 5G is a more like-for-like comparison, priced at £219 and offering very similar features, but also includes an ultra-wide lens.

If you don’t care about 5G, you may consider Poco’s own X3 Pro (£219), which has a top 4G processor – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 – and a 120Hz display for even smoother performance. The Poco logo is still an issue, mind. If your budget is able to stretch, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G (£249.99) is another viable option.

Poco M3 Pro 5G features

The big selling point of the Poco M3 Pro 5G is that it’s a low-cost 5G handset, one that offers a dual SIM setup so you don’t have to swap out SIM cards every time you want to access a 5G network. In the future, these networks will overtake the common 4G setups – providing better download and streaming speeds.

For now, however, the rollout is still patchy across the UK, so many users will still only be taking advantage of standard 4G. That’s something to consider, although it’s nice to know the new Poco M3 Pro is able to handle the next-gen.

We should talk a little about the display. It’s what you will be looking at most on the smartphone, after all. It’s a 6.5 inch 90Hz IPS LCD screen with a Full HD (1080 x 2400) resolution and a rough measurement of 400 nits brightness.

We found the brightness to be adequate for all indoor use but it was definitely a little harder to see the screen when outdoors in brighter conditions. Overall, the screen was good if not great – and pretty much in line with other £200 phones.

During tests, the brightness was generally kept closer to 100 per cent but luckily it didn’t seem to have a big impact on the battery. The screen size is fairly standard these days, and is similar to both the Google Pixel 4XL and OnePlus 8T.

There are plenty of menu options that offer versatility. You can turn on or schedule a total dark mode and toggle a reading mode that adjusts colours to warmer hues while reducing the blue light. We found this to be good for evening use.

There were ultimately very few complaints about the resolution or quality overall, with the image on the screen constantly appearing crisp and sharp when gaming, watching YouTube and scrolling Twitter. It’s not a super high resolution, but that didn’t seem to matter too much and it will be enough for most users.

The speaker, which is found on the bottom of the Poco M3 Pro 5G, was more than loud enough for indoor use. But, while audio quality was perfectly fine, it lacked in the bass department and was not a patch on the more flagship devices.

Both Metallica and a low-fi beats YouTube playlist sounded fine in terms of clarity – although we ultimately still found ourselves reaching for headphones.

Performance of the Poco M3 Pro 5G was strong throughout testing. There were no major stutters or sluggishness when scrolling or opening apps and it was able to play some chunkier games – PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile – without any sign of crashes or lagging. We tested the 128GB model, and after downloading both games were still left with more than 96.8 GB of free space available.

On a phone at this price point, it’s always nice to see some biometric security too, and the Poco M3 Pro 5G has a fingerprint scanner built into the side power button, while also offering face unlocking that uses the front selfie camera.

The fingerprint scanner ended up being the more temperamental of the two, and we found the phone was repeatedly claiming that the sensor was dirty – despite no visible marks or issues. Once we got the thumb print sorted, it seemed to be fine. The face unlocking was faster and worked consistently well in tests.

One thing to note is we often found ourselves touching the fingerprint scanner by mistake when picking up the phone, often forcing us to input the PIN number. This can be fixed by changing the recognition method to “press” instead of “touch.”

Poco M3 Pro 5G - front with box

Poco M3 Pro 5G battery

The Poco M3 Pro 5G has a 5,000 mAh battery that we found could easily last for up to two days of general use. While it lasts a long time, we were disappointed that it takes quite long to power back up from dead to full with a standard charger.

In our testing, the battery was drained at 10am. It took roughly one hour and 30 minutes to reach 50 per cent with a basic USB-C AC adapter. We were supplied with a US charging adapter with our review unit. But using the 18W fast charger, you will be able to power up the phone from zero to 100 per cent in roughly two hours.

After being charged fully and used throughout the day – running a YouTube music playlist for an hour, playing a full game of PUBG, checking social media, taking photos during a walk, and more – the battery was still at 53 per cent the following morning.

By 3pm the following day, there was still 37 per cent left on the phone. While it’s getting increasingly common to see a 5,000 mAh battery in affordable handsets – including the Moto G 5G and yes, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G, it’s very nice to have.

Poco M3 Pro 5G camera

The Poco M3 Pro 5G has a triple camera set-up: a 48MP main camera, a 2MP macro camera and a 2MP depth sensor. In reality, the primary lens will be the most useful for reliability and picture quality, producing best results in bright daylight.

There are a variety of different shooting modes, including dedicated sections for portraits, night photos, time lapses, panoramas, slow motion, short videos and a pro mode that lets you choose custom settings. Again, pretty standard.

There is a 10X digital zoom but no ultrawide lens. An AI mode can let the software tailor the camera setup to your surroundings, although we found the high-res main camera to be the most suitable in terms of the quality when taking snaps.

In bright-to-cloudy conditions, the main lens produced accurate colours and a fairly sharp image, with little noise levels when zoomed all the way out.

Image quality suffers the more you zoom in, and becomes pretty much unusable at full zoom. But overall, results were great for a budget smartphone and should be more than enough for either taking pictures on the go or for social media.

Clicking a small star icon at the bottom right of the camera screen brings up a wide array of filters and “beautify” settings – also available on the 8MP selfie cam, which performed very well and is more than good enough for video calling.

The beautify options were particularly unsettling – letting you not only smooth out your skin but change the size of your eyes or how slender your face appears. Honestly, kind of creepy. But maybe that’s what people are into now.

The Poco M3 Pro 5G can shoot video at up to 1080@30fps with its main camera or 720p@30fps via the macro lens. The phone does not take 4K or 60fps videos.

Poco M3 Pro 5G design and set-up

Out of the box, the Poco M3 Pro 5G comes with a power adapter, one USB Type-C cable, a SIM ejection tool and a transparent protective case. In a very Apple-like move, there’s also a sheet with some Poco brand stickers, if you want that.

The first thing you will notice is the phone’s plastic construction on the sides and glossy rear cover. Thankfully, the sides are a matte material and the phone fits comfortably in the hand. It’s not too slippery and not too heavy, at 190g.

The handset comes in three colours – officially known as Power Black, Poco Yellow and Cool Blue. The front screen is covered by a piece of Gorilla Glass 3.

On the back, regardless of what colour you choose, a large black strip covers the entire camera module – giving it a two-tone scheme. Like some other phones in the Xiaomi range, the Poco logo directly under the camera is too large and imposing. It’s clearly an intentional design choice, but it’s not one we personally liked.

Our review unit was the Power Black model. Out of the line-up, the yellow is easily the most interesting choice of the bunch and the bold and quirky colour scheme helps to further differentiate it from the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G – and most other rivals.

Unfortunately, the rear panel quickly retains any smudges and fingerprints it comes in contact with and we found ourselves having to wipe the phone multiple times to remove them – although the protector does go a long way to fixing that issue.

Each side of the Poco M3 Pro 5G frame is slightly curved. The right side contains the volume control and power/fingerprint scanner. The left side holds the SIM slot. The M3 Pro 5G’s top has the 3.5mm audio jack and IR blaster, while the bottom is where you will find the loudspeaker, microphone and USB-C port for charging.

When powering on the phone for the first time we found there was an abundance of apps – far too many. If you like a more minimalist Android experience these will need a proper tidy, with the software either put into folders or purged entirely.

Apps like Mi Store, AliExpress, WPS Office, Agoda, Mi Browser, Mi Video, Facebook, Opera, ShareMe, Mi Remote and eBay all come pre-loaded. There’s also six games pre-installed. If you are a parent buying the phone for your child, be warned that these include micro-transactions so make sure to protect your credit card.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, it just takes a little time to remove them and tidy things up. Once that’s done, the user experience ends up significantly more pleasant.

Poco M3 Pro 5G - Yellow

Our verdict: should you buy Poco M3 Pro 5G?

We were left pleasantly surprised by the M3 Pro 5G, which does more than enough to justify its price tag. It is futureproofed with 5G, the 90Hz display is smooth and performance was consistently solid while browsing apps and games.

But the Poco M3 Pro 5G is still essentially the Redmi Note 10 5G in a new skin – so anyone who already has that device will benefit from looking elsewhere.

The same goes for anyone who needs flagship specs like 4K video, an OLED display or super-fast chip. If you decide to avoid 5G, Poco’s own X3 Pro may be a better purchase due to its 120Hz refresh rate, fast charging and an extra camera lens.

That being said, if you do like the design and need an affordable 5G handset – or just a second Android phone – the Poco M3 Pro 5G delivers great value for money. Just don’t expect anything too new or flashy. Unless you get the yellow one, that is.

Our rating:

Features: 4/5

Battery: 4/5

Camera: 3/5

Design and set-up: 3/5

Overall: 3.5/5

Where to buy the Poco M3 Pro 5G

The Poco M3 Pro 5G is available via Amazon.

On the Poco website there are “early bird” offers from midday on the 8th July to midnight on the 9th July, with the 64GB priced at £139 and the 128GB model at £159.

For the latest news, reviews and deals check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Also, don’t miss our in-depth guide to the best Xiaomi phones.

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