Poco F5 plays up powerful specs, but software distinctly lacks refinement - Hindustan Times
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Poco F5 plays up powerful specs, but software distinctly lacks refinement

May 23, 2023 01:02 PM IST

If you have a budget of ₹30,000 and a bit more for an Android phone, the Poco F5 competes with the Vivo V27 series and Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ phones

This is a slightly unfamiliar proposition, within the wider context of the mid-range Android smartphone space. Poco needed to do something to make its presence felt again in a category that’s bursting at its seams with choices. Albeit very similar ones too, mind you. And perhaps they have, with the Poco F5 that becomes the first phone in India with Qualcomm’s latest generation Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 processor.

The Poco F5 will be available in two configurations – 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage at <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>29,999 and 12GB + 256GB at <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>33,999. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)
The Poco F5 will be available in two configurations – 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage at 29,999 and 12GB + 256GB at 33,999. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)

This can also be considered, at least in a way, return to form for Poco – little compromise on basic specs, while keeping some semblance of affordability to the price tag. The Poco F5 will be available in two configurations – 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage at 29,999 and 12GB + 256GB at 33,999 (there are launch offers, but they’re specific). If budget is a constraint, the former wouldn’t exactly be a bad bet. For once, the pricing gap between variants is somewhat substantial, which makes the choice even more relevant.

Also Read: Want to buy a 5G smartphone? This is how much you can save on POCO’s X5

It doesn’t take long for the software-based data collection antics to begin. The third-party influence has always been invasive in Xiaomi’s MIUI software, and it is difficult to put it diplomatically. You’ll find a prompt for a search option, and if you read the fine-print carefully, it is a service powered by a company called Brand Metrics. Data such as location, search queries and Google Ads ID will be shared if you enable this. Quite what the need for this is, we have no idea.

Move beyond this, and MIUI does not seem to embed any sort of improvements that would feel more at place in a phone that’s gently nudging into the premium territory. Vivo’s recent improvements on the software front, particularly the simplification of interface options and the elimination of pre-loaded third-party apps, must be noted. Precious little effort seems to have been wasted with those potential improvements, in case of the Poco F5. It is a missed opportunity.

Performance: Leaves competition behind, particularly Samsung

The Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 is a solid foundation to build with. This chip has the same architecture as the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2 that diligently powers the latest crop of Android flagship phones – that means one prime core, three performance cores and our efficiency cores, allocated to apps and tasks depending on load and priority. In the real-world, this phone feels fast. We tested the 12GB RAM version, but to be fair, 8GB should provide more than enough headroom for apps to load quickly.

Gaming performance is smooth and stutter-free, even after almost 45 minutes of F1 (two successive drab races in the real world does add that sense of irritability) racing. No dropped frames or momentary stutters that can spoil your line into the first corner at the Miami circuit. In a way, phones in this price bracket mostly do well now on the gaming aspect, but the Poco F5 is clearly sustaining performance for longer. And with barely noticeable effort.

Yet, and this is something that cannot be ignored, there is some very noticeable heat transfer on the back panel. Particularly felt in the upper half, the heating is noticeable when you use the camera for a while, or Google Maps for a bit, and with an assortment of apps during multitasking.

To put the performance aspect in a nutshell, the Poco F5 is miles ahead of all phones Samsung may offer you around the 30,000 price point. There is a whole bunch of them, including the Samsung Galaxy A34 and Galaxy A53. That said, the Vivo V27 series with the MediaTek Dimensity chips, manages to keep in touch.

Display: The 12-bit question you’ll want to ask

The Poco F5’s 6.67-inch display is the AMOLED type, with the FHD+ resolution (that’s 3200 x 1440 pixels) and up to 120Hz refresh rate. Poco claims this is a 12-bit colour panel, the first of its kind in this price segment. That’s not the complete picture. The interesting thing to note here is, Qualcomm confirms the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 supports up to 10-bit colour at its level. Which leads us to suspect the other 2-bits which have been claimed, come from the software side of things.

How well that works, particularly in situations when you may be working with fine separation of colours (editing a photo, for instance), is anyone’s guess. There is no doubt the screen Poco has bestowed upon the F5 is quite bright, colours look good, and it is a good enough canvas for reading, videos, and general browsing (you may also refer to it as whiling away time on Twitter). The dark mode looks good, because AMOLED allows for deep blacks, not dark greys.

Camera: Just about gets the job done

The camera troika is led by a 64-megapixel wide sensor, which is perhaps the high point. The ultrawide is a manageable 8-megapixel while the use of a 2-megapixel macro sensor is, to put it diplomatically, perplexing. The 4K video recording is limited to 30fps (60fps is the minimum expectation now).

If you stick with the main sensor for photos, you’ll return with happy results. Rich photos with well distinguished colours, particularly during the daytime and in good light. Clearly, work has gone into tuning the image processing, and the subtle results are impressive. In low light, we noticed the camera doesn’t automatically do the low-light mode as well as you’d expect it too – manually switching to Night Mode returns marginally better illuminated photos.

For low-light photos to be worthy of gracing your social media or as shares on WhatsApp groups, you’ll need a steady hand to eliminate blur. Even then, some amount of edge noise is more than apparent around objects and aggressive noise reduction is noticeable overall. Whether day or night, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the 2-megapixel macro, which significantly limits any chances of close-ups in less than perfect light (daytime photos can still be cropped). The 8-megapixel ultrawide will have its moments. But those are few and far between.

If you can spend a little more on the Vivo V27 phones, the low light performance is significantly better – there is a genuinely smart layer of image processing that’s assisting the cameras there. And they do 4K videos at 60fps too.

Looks: Does it really play the part?

The design and overall look of a phone is a subjective thing, granted. Yet, there has to be some basis for things to build on. The Poco F5, despite its good balance, tips the scales at 204 grams. That is significantly more than the Vivo V27 that weighs around 180 grams. The black colour option, which we tested, is an absolute smudge, fingerprint and dust magnet.

It is a very conventional design too, with a plastic back and flat sides. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the design, or the ergonomics. Yet, there is a very clear lack of any appeal that’ll get your attention. Apart from black and white colours, the only experimentation is with a shade of blue. Even then, Vivo’s take on the blue with a colour changing glass design certainly has our vote. Purely because it attempts to get a proper visual appeal in place.

Should you buy the Poco F5?

There are definite advantages to the Poco F5, such as the very fast charging 5000mAh battery (the 67-watt charger is bundled with the phone) and the first of its kind with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chip that really defines the performance for this category of Android phones. The 256GB storage as base spec, is impressive, and genuinely adds value.

But then, to be an alternate flagship or even the leader in a price band around the 30,000 price point, the Poco F5 surprisingly still clings to the sort of annoyances you’d associate with more affordable Android phones – lots of preloaded apps you wouldn’t likely want and an interface that still tries to do too much. None of this feels premium. For a clue, Poco can look at what Vivo has done with the V27 series, including the exceptional focus to eliminate bloatware.

There is little doubt, all things considered, the Poco F5 would likely be on your shortlist. But the definite choice isn’t as simple, when you factor in the Vivo V27 series as well as Poco’s sibling, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+, all of whom are thereabouts with the prices and discounts.

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