Too Many Compromises For 5G
POCO’s mid-range lineup strategy for 2021 is pretty straightforward. Here, you get to choose between two devices: X3 Pro and M3 Pro. The X3 Pro, as we know, focuses on the performance side of things, while the POCO M3 Pro 5G, which I will be discussing in this review, is intended towards 5G democratization.
POCO M3 Pro 5G Specifications:
- Body: 75.34 x 161.81 x 8.92mm, 190 gm
- Display: 6.5-inches IPS LCD, 90Hz Refresh Rate, 70.8% NTSC, Gorilla Glass 3
- Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels), 20:9 aspect ratio, 405 PPI
- Chipset: MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G (7nm Mobile Platform)
- CPU: Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A76 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)
- GPU: Arm Mali-G57 MC2
- Memory: 4/6GB LPDDR4X RAM, 64/128GB UFS 2.2 storage (expandable)
- Software & UI: Android 11 with Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 on top
- Rear Camera: Triple-camera;
– 48MP, f/1.79 primary sensor
– 2MP, f/2.4 macro camera
– 2MP, f/2.4 depth sensor
- Front Camera: 8MP f/2.0 sensor (notch)
- Audio: Loudspeaker, 3.5mm headphone jack, Hi-Res audio
- Security: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor, Face unlock
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity, IR Blaster
- Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS / AGPS / Glonass / Beidou, USB Type-C, 4G LTE, 5G
- Battery: 5000mAh with 18W fast charge (22.5W adapter inside the box)
- Color options: POCO Yellow, Power Black, Cool Blue
- Price in Nepal: N/A (not launched yet)
POCO M3 Pro 5G Review:
But apart from 5G, is it a good phone for the price? For this, I have been testing POCO M3 Pro 5G alongside the Redmi Note 10S, so let’s get straight into the review.
- 75.34 x 161.81 x 8.92mm, 190 gm
- Plastic back/frame, glass front
As always, let’s talk about the design first. Here, POCO has gone with a glossy plastic finish, which kinda looks like glass at a glance. But sadly, it attracts fingerprints and smudges way too easily.
It would have been better had the company stuck with the faux-leather finish we saw on the cheaper POCO M3. Plus, this big black envelope near the camera module has a sizeable Poco branding, which is just too much for me. On the contrary, I prefer the subtle gradient colors and cleaner looks of the Redmi Note 10S.
It is a bit heftier than the Note 10S too—although it’s not uncomfortably bulky or heavy. In fact, POCO M3 Pro’s hands-on feel is like that of any other Xiaomi phone we’ve reviewed recently.
You also get a classic side-mounted fingerprint sensor here that doubles as a home button. This fingerprint sensor is located in just the right position and is a reliable one.
- 6.5-inches FHD+ IPS LCD screen
- 90Hz refresh rate, Gorilla Glass 3
Upfront, there is a 6.5-inch FullHD screen with a circular camera cutout at the top center. It runs at 60Hz by default, but you can switch to the smoother 90Hz option as well.
All through my usage, I turned on the 90Hz mode and it was a fairly smooth experience when scrolling the web pages or navigating the UI. But, as with most of Xiaomi’s mid-range phones, if you scroll through say, Google Cards or the multitasking tray, at times, you will notice lags or micro stutters.
Besides this, the biggest downside with POCO M3 Pro’s LCD screen is that it simply can’t produce deeper black levels as an AMOLED panel can. Plus, I noticed its color reproduction to be on the cooler side too. As a result, it doesn’t look as saturated when compared to the Redmi Note 10S.
Overall, this is a pretty average screen to look at and for what POCO is asking for the phone, there are readily available alternatives with a superior OLED display.
- Octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G SoC (7nm)
- 4/6GB LPDDR4X RAM, 64/128GB UFS 2.2 storage (expandable)
- Android 11 with Xiaomi’s MIUI 12 for POCO on top
That being said, it’s the chipset where POCO M3 Pro has its best competitive advantage. Here, the phone is powered by Dimensity 700, which happens to be the cheapest 5G-ready chipset from MediaTek.
Talking about 5G, the global variant of the phone supports twelve 5G bands while the Indian variant caps out at just five, which is still more than some of the high-end phones. So, I can’t really complain.
As far as the core performance of the Dimensity 700 goes, it’s a capable device. It is quite similar to the Helio G95 powering the Note 10S. Hence, day-to-day tasks such as using social media, chatting, and the likes are easily handled.
For gaming, you can play PUBG Mobile smoothly under Balanced graphics and Ultra frame rate and I didn’t notice any frame drops here either. The phone does get warm if you play for over 30 minutes or so but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a heating issue.
Likewise, COD Mobile runs smoothly in its max settings at Medium graphics and High refresh rate whereas a relatively light game like Mobile Legends is playable in 60fps.
Still, comparing it against the Note 10S, you will get slightly lower fps in most of the games here which is primarily because of the comparatively inferior GPU on the Dimensity 700. I noticed this when playing Genshin Impact where I encountered slight stutters even under the lowest settings.
What about the MIUI?
Another drawback of the POCO M3 Pro, which extends to practically every other mid-range Xiaomi phone as well, is the MIUI operating system.
It gets quarterly security updates a bit late, there’s a lot of pre-installed apps, and you will encounter frequent ads too. Likewise, MIUI’s dark mode is still broken, and even after the recent version 12.5 update on other Xiaomi phones, it’s not fixed yet.
- Triple-camera setup at the back
- (48MP main, 2MP macro, 2MP depth)
- 8MP selfie camera in the teardrop notch
So far, the POCO M3 Pro, apart from its 5G capability, looks like an inferior product compared to the Redmi Note 10S. So, I was curious to know if its cameras could salvage the reputation somehow. Sadly, the phone disappoints in this regard as well.
As you can see from these samples, photos shot from the Note 10S is better in all the aspects like dynamic range, details, and sharpness while the POCO M3 Pro fails to maintain good contrast.
Plus, the M3 Pro does not have an ultra-wide lens either which is a big miss for the phone in my opinion.
In terms of portraits, the Redmi Note 10S once again comes off victorious as it preserves better skin tone, details, and highlights.
On the other hand, POCO M3 Pro’s portraits look washed out and soft.
A similar trend continues with the selfie images too, where the POCO M3 Pro’s 8MP camera produces washed-out and soft-looking subjects. On the other hand, the superior 13MP shooter on the Note 10S retains better details and fuller-looking colors making it a better selfie camera phone.
But sometimes, the Note 10S introduces this red tint in its images which makes the selfies look a little weird.
You can notice similar properties with the selfie portraits as well. Edge detection is similar on both phones though.
Getting to the nighttime shots, as with most other mid-range phones, you will notice muddy images with sub-par details on both of them.
When turning on night mode, the photos become bright and colors are boosted too, sometimes even unnaturally so. However, the details don’t improve so much here.
When it comes to video recording, you are limited to 1080p/30fps recordings on the POCO M3 Pro 5G in comparison to up to 4k/30fps mode on the Note 10S. 1080P/30fps videos look quite similar from these phones in terms of stabilization and overall quality where both devices produce a slightly wobbly output.
- 5000mAh battery with 18W fast charging
- 22.5W power adapter provided inside the box
Unlike the subpar cameras, the 5,000mAh battery of the POCO M3 Pro is pretty good though. It provided me with up to 8 hours of screen-on time under moderate usage, which translates to a full day of usage. And with the included 22.5W charger, the phone goes from 0 to 100% in around 2 hours.
As for audio, I was surprised to see POCO omit a dual stereo speaker here since the cheaper POCO M3 comes with one. In terms of the quality, as you would expect, it’s not that good. So, that’s another unnecessary compromise in my opinion.
POCO M3 Pro 5G Review: Conclusion
Overall, I feel like there are just too many sacrifices on the POCO M3 Pro for me to recommend it to anyone. It does have 5G, but besides this, it’s an inferior product when looking at the alternatives like Note 10S. And since the latter supports carrier aggregation in 4G connectivity, 5G isn’t an absolute need even if it’s available in your region.
Also, this problem isn’t exclusive to the POCO M3 Pro. The sad truth is almost every mid-range 5G phones are way inferior to their 4G counterpart. For instance, the Realme 8 5G, Narzo 30 5G, and the recently launched Vivo Y72 5G all bring a significant compromise in one aspect or the other.
- Watch our video review of the POCO M3 Pro 5G.
POCO M3 Pro 5G Review: Pros & Cons
- 90Hz refresh rate on a budget
- 5G-ready powerful chipset
- Decent gaming experience
- Impressive battery endurance
- Smudge-prone glossy design
- Micro-stutters in 90Hz mode
- Under-optimized dark mode
- Relatively inferior cameras
- Omits a dual speaker setup