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Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC review: A smartphone that punches above its budget price

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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8.5

Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

Excellent
Like
  • 120Hz screen
  • IP53 rating
  • NFC support
  • IR blaster
  • Good performance
  • Affordable price
Don't Like
  • Lots of bloatware
  • Pop-up ads

Xiaomi has a trio of smartphone brands -- Mi, Redmi and Poco. The latest Poco model is the affordable Poco X3 NFC, which you can get for £199 (inc. VAT) with 64GB of storage, or £229 if you'd rather have 128GB. The price is certainly compelling, but does this handset make any design or feature compromises that hamper usability?

The Poco X3 NFC is a shining example of how affordable phones are catching up with mid-range handsets in terms of design. An all-metal chassis is not feasible at this price, but it does have metal sides and a tough polycarbonate backplate. Impressively for a budget handset, the Poco X3 NFC has an IP rating for dust and water resistance -- although it's only IP53, which means the phone is 'dust protected' and can handle 'spraying water'. Still, these features, along with a Gorilla Glass 5 screen, give the Poco X3 NFC a reasonable level of protection against knocks, drops and spills.

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Xiaomi's Poco X3 NFC is a 6.67-inch phone based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 732G chipset with 6GB of RAM and 64GB (£199) or 128GB (£229) of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD). It runs Android 10 with the MIUI 12 overlay, is IP53 rated for dust and water resistance, and the IPS screen has a 120Hz refresh rate.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet   

My review unit was the grey option (a deep blue/grey to my eyes). If you prefer a brighter colour, there's a blue option of similar hue to handsets from Huawei, Honor and OnePlus. What none of those phones have, though, is a wide vertical strip of black diagonal stripes running up the backplate, into which the 'Poco' logo is embedded.

The handset is a little chunky at 9.4mm thick, and the quad camera array at the back is housed in a lozenge that protrudes significantly. Thankfully, the lozenge is centrally positioned so the phone doesn't rock and roll when placed on a desk and the screen is pressed.

However, the backplate collects fingerprints, and is smooth and slippery to grip. This is a big phone too, at 76.8mm wide and 165.3mm tall. I could not reach across the 6.67-inch screen one-handed. It's a little weighty at 215g.

The right edge of the handset has a volume rocker and power button which houses a fingerprint scanner. Both are responsive and give the very softest of clicks when pressed. Xiaomi provides a 3.5mm headset jack on the bottom edge, alongside one of the two speaker outlets. The other is in a wide, narrow grille above the screen. Between them they generate reasonable quality sound: bass tones are not particularly strong, of course, but top volume doesn't grate. I've heard a lot worse.

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The IR blaster and Mi Remote app are useful features on a budget phone.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

The top of the handset houses an IR blaster, which, for those who like to use their handset to control a TV or other IR-responsive equipment, is a real joy. Among the many pre-installed apps is Mi Remote, which can be populated with data from a whole range of third-party equipment. I'm not sure how useful Chinese satellite TVs will be in the UK, but the range of providers under each of the top-level headings is truly enormous.

The NFC in the handset's name reveals that this is an NFC-equipped phone. Some budget phones lack this feature, and without it mobile payments are not possible. It's a pleasant surprise to see it here, and I don't blame Xiaomi for heralding the fact in the handset's name.

There is an element of ad support in this handset. Occasionally adverts pop up and need to be dismissed before you can proceed. It's a way of keeping the handset's cost down, but it is really, really annoying. 

The screen is a 6.7-inch, 20:9 aspect ratio IPS LCD panel with 1,080 by 2,400 resolution (395ppi). The 120Hz refresh rate -- remarkable on such a low-cost phone -- helps with responsiveness, and the screen feels nippy under the fingers. There's a small top bezel and a slightly deeper (but still small) bottom bezel, and the screen-to-body ratio is 84.7%.

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Android 10 and preinstalled software took up 22.8GB of our review unit's 64GB of internal storage.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

At 395ppi, the screen resolution is a little below par, which mars the web page reading experience slightly. Still, it's churlish to complain too much, given the price. There's a centrally located pinhole for the front camera, which is barely noticeable when the handset is in use.

The Poco X3 NFC runs Android 10 with Xiaomi's MIUI 12 overlay that tweaks the stock Android look-and-feel. There are copious added applications, which is why the 64GB installed on my review handset had a huge 22.8GB chunk taken out of it, leaving just 41.2GB free. This can be augmented with a MicroSD card, at the cost of access to the second SIM slot. If the 64GB won't work for you, the 128GB version of the Poco X3 NFC costs £229. It's not a huge markup for a lot more storage.

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The four cameras at the back are: 64MP f/1.89 wide angle; 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide angle; 2MP f/2.4 macro (4cm); and 2MP f/2.4 depth sensing. The front-facing camera is a 20MP f/2.2 wide-angle unit. The two main rear cameras perform well for a handset at this price point, although the macro and depth-sensing cameras are less impressive. The selfie camera is fine for social media duties.

The Poco X3 NFC is a good performer, thanks to its mid-range Snapdragon 732G chipset with 6GB of RAM. According to Qualcomm, the 732G provides 15% faster graphics rendering than its 730G predecessor (seen most recently in the Google Pixel 4a). As far as CPU performance goes, the Pixel 4a turned in Geekbench 5 scores of 547 (single core) and 1489 (multi core), while the Poco X3 NFC scored 566 and 1557 respectively. By way of comparison, the Geekbench Android benchmark charts are currently headed up by the Snapdragon 865-based OnePlus 8, with 898 (single core) and 3277 (multi core).

Battery performance was a mixed bag. The 5,160mAh battery is the largest I've seen for a while, even beating the 5,000mAh battery in the £299 Moto G 5G Plus. Under the PCMark for Android Work 2.0 battery life test it delivered 20 hours 45 minutes of life from a full charge, compared to 18 hours 49 minutes from the Moto G 5G Plus. But the tables were turned when I asked the Poco X3 NFC to play full-screen YouTube video continuously. Doing so for three hours depleted the battery by 25%, while the Moto handset only lost 14% performing the same task.

The Poco X3 NFC supports 33W fast charging, with a claimed ability to go from empty to fully charged in 65 minutes and to deliver 62% charge in 30 minutes. The required 33W charger is provided.

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Pop-up ads may irritate, but help to keep the price down.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

Conclusions 

Xiaomi's Poco X3 NFC is great value for money, if you don't mind the pop-up adverts. The more expensive of the two options is probably the one to go for, given its 128GB of storage -- but even that, at £229 (inc. VAT), punches above its price. NFC support, an IP53 rating, an appealing backplate design, reasonable speakers and an IR blaster might not sound like much individually, but together they make an appealing package.

However, the standout features are the 6.67-inch screen with its 120Hz refresh rate and the Snapdragon 732G chipset, which delivers solid benchmark performance. Although the 5,160mAh battery seems to struggle with extended video playback, it should get many people through the day with capacity to spare, while fast charging support is another plus.

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