Phone

Poco's 'flagship killer' a worthy contender

Poco F2 Pro
Poco F2 Pro

A "flagship killer" smartphone is one that offers high-end hardware at an affordable price.

One of the best examples was 2018's Xiaomi Pocophone F1, which married flagship-tier performance and excellent battery life with budget features such as a huge camera notch and a plastic chassis.

But, despite the F1 generating much buzz among smartphone enthusiasts, Xiaomi did not follow up with a sequel.

Instead, the Chinese smartphone maker spun the Poco sub-brand off as a standalone firm in January this year. Poco subsequently released a sequel to the F1 in May.

Marketed as the "ultimate flagship killer", the Poco F2 Pro arrived in Singapore earlier this month, priced at $899.

This is significantly higher than the F1 ($449), though the F2 Pro comes with several major upgrades over its predecessor, such as 5G connectivity, an Oled screen, a bigger battery and quad rear cameras.

What initially caught my eye is the F2 Pro's almost bezel-less screen with no camera notch. Poco has gone with a motorised pop-up selfie camera, which emerges with much fanfare - complete with flashing lights and a short jingle - from the top of the phone.

Completing the all-screen facade is an in-display fingerprint sensor under its screen. It generally works well enough, though there were the occasional misses.

Because of the pop-up camera, the F2 Pro lacks waterproofing - a typical feature of a flagship phone.

Also missing is wireless charging, though I do not miss it that much because the F2 Pro, like many newer phones, charges very fast when using a cable.

With its bundled 33W charger, the F2 Pro can be fully topped up in an hour. This is impressive considering its large 4,700mAh battery.​

  • FOR

    • Flagship specs, including 5G connectivity

    • Large, nearly bezel-less screen

    • Outstanding battery life

    • Premium look and feel

    AGAINST

    • No waterproofing or wireless charging

    • Bulky and unwieldy

    • Average cameras

    SPECS

    PRICE: $899

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 (Single-core 2.84GHz, triple-core 2.4GHz and quad-core 1.8GHz)

    MAIN DISPLAY: 6.67-inch Amoled, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 395 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: MIUI for Poco (Android 10)

    MEMORY: 256GB, 8GB RAM

    REAR CAMERAS: 64MP (f/1.9), 13MP ultra-wide (f/2.4, 123-degree), 5MP telephoto macro (f/2.2), 2MP depth sensor (f/2.4)

    FRONT CAMERA: 20MP (f/2.2)

    BATTERY: 4,700mAh

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

This upsized battery (from the F1's 4,000mAh) adds to the weight of the phone (218g). Coupled with a slippery glass-and-metal chassis and a relatively large 6.67-inch screen, the F2 Pro is unwieldy.

Like flagship phones, the F2 Pro uses Oled technology for its display. Thus, blacks look truly dark and colours appear more vibrant than its predecessor's LCD screen. And, given its lack of bezels or notch, this screen is excellent for watching videos.

The Oled screen also enables an always-on display feature that shows the clock and key status indicators, such as battery life, when the phone is asleep.

In fact, the only thing lacking about the F2 Pro's display is its standard 60Hz refresh rate when compared with the smoother 90Hz or 120Hz version in flagship phones.

The quad rear cameras are not quite up to par with the ones in flagship phones. The best of the bunch is the 64-megapixel (MP) main camera, which produces crisp, detailed photos in good light. But shots of the sky exhibit some chromatic noise, while the overall white balance is not as accurate as my Google Pixel 4 XL.

Among its secondary cameras is a telephoto macro camera that supports 2x optical zoom and close-up shots. The ultra-wide camera is useful enough, but the photos from it are much noisier compared to ones taken by the main camera.

Lastly, the depth sensor plays its part to ensure portrait shots (with adjustable blurred background effect) mostly turn out fine.

For low-light shots, the camera's Night mode, which takes around four seconds to snap a photo, is decent enough for a mid-range phone. Scenes are definitely brighter while highlights are not overblown. Overall, however, photos are soft and noisy.

Given its emphasis on high-end specs, I was unsurprised by the F2 Pro's performance. It feels fast and responsive when opening or switching apps.

This fluid feel is reflected in its Geekbench 5 scores: 904 (single-core) and 3,362 (multi-core). They are virtually identical to those of the OnePlus 8 Pro, which has the same flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip.

But I am blown away by the F2 Pro's incredible battery life. In The Straits Times' video-loop battery test with the screen set to maximum brightness, it clocked an astonishing 19 hours and 10 minutes, making it the longest-lasting phone I have ever tested.

In the end, perhaps the extra weight it carries is worth it for such impressive battery stamina.

As a flagship killer, the F2 Pro gives more expensive phones a run for their money - at least in terms of build quality, performance and battery life. But its average cameras and lack of waterproofing hold it back.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline 'Poco's 'flagship killer' a worthy contender'. Print Edition | Subscribe