Sep 24th, 2020

This year we’ve seen quite a few flagship smartphones promising new technologies that will change the way we use our devices and new camera setups that deliver images we never thought we’d be able to capture on a smartphone. 

The Poco X3 NFC does neither of those. It’s a budget-friendly 230 Euro smartphone with a forgettable design, barebones packaging (if you don’t count all the stickers they throw in) and the software experience that’s sub-par by today’s standards. That being said, the Poco X3 NFC is one of the most important smartphones of 2020 and the only budget smartphone you should buy.

Most of the devices we review are typically high-end smartphones that usually cost 4-5 times as much as this phone does. When companies pitch their 200 euro budget smartphones, they usually talk about battery life, a high-resolution display (if you still consider 720p as HD in 2020), and a few other features that no one is ever really excited about to distract you from all the features that have been omitted. 

The Poco X3 is different, pulling in components and features that you’d typically find in a 500 Euro device and in some cases phones that are a lot more expensive. 

Buy the Poco X3 NFC

Specifications

  • Display: 6.67-inch FHD+, 120Hz, HDR10, LCD with Gorilla Glass 5
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB, microSD card slot
  • Battery: 5,160mAh with 33W fast charging
  • Rear cameras: 64MP (main), 13MP (ultrawide), 2MP (macro), 2MP (depth)
  • Selfie camera: 20MP
  • Water resistance: IP53

Design

When holding the phone, you won’t be mistaking it for a high-end device, but it’s definitely a lot better than what you’d expect at this price. The plastic build features a fingerprint-prone panel on a back with an exceptionally-large Poco logo and a substantial camera module for the phone’s four rear cameras. There’s a power button on the side that doubles as a fingerprint sensor with a volume rocker right above it. 

You get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, right next to the USB C charging port, but the phone’s inclusion of stereo speakers is surprising, as is the high-quality vibration motor which delivers quite satisfying haptic feedback. Poco even threw in IP53 splash resistance, something the 450 Euro OnePlus Nord doesn’t even have. 

Display

Of course, the main attraction here is the 6.67, FHD+ display with an incredible 120Hz refresh rate and 240 touch sampling and HDR10 support. You heard that right, this phone here has a display that delivers silky smooth scrolling and a superb experience if you’re into mobile gaming. With companies like LG, Apple and even Samsung using low refresh rate displays on their high-end phones, the X3 NFC feels like it’s in a class of its own. 

Of course, since we are talking about a budget device, a few compromises have been made. The panel in question is an LCD, so viewing angles aren’t the best and 450 nits peak brightness can get completely washed out in direct sunlight. And while the display delivers a 120Hz refresh rate, the Pixel response time is a bit slower. The only place you can really notice it is when scrolling through text or the phone’s settings menu, but it’s still much better than what the competition delivers. 

Performance

The performance offered by this phone is absolutely incredible when you compare it to other devices within its price range. While most other budget devices have a hard time playing graphic-intensive modern games, you’ll find the experience with this phone so much more enjoyable. The SD732G used here is roughly 8-10% faster than the 730 inside the Pixel 4a and the phone’s 6GB of RAM is more than you’ll need for a great gaming experience and even delivers great multitasking, allowing you to switch between apps on the fly without waiting for them to reload every single time.

Poco went out of its way to beef up the phone’s cooling system with a vapor chamber and two graphite layers that help keep the chipset as cool as possible during extended gaming sessions.  I honestly can’t remember ever spending so much time playing games on a budget device during a review. Using the Razer Kishi controller, I probably clocked 2-3 hours of game time in Grib which is one of my favorite mobile racing games before I remembered to test out Stadia. The streaming game service works perfectly on the Poco X3 NFC with the phone’s high-refresh display keeping up nicely with the console-quality graphics while the stereo speakers deliver great audio for a truly immersive gaming experience. 

This phone truly shows how far mobile gaming has come over the past few years and that you don’t need to shell out $1,000 if you want a great mobile gaming device in your pocket. 

Software

My biggest complaint with the Poco X3 has to be the software. 

Notifications that can only be swiped away one direction. Xiaomi’s take on Android is a bit more heavy-handed than what we’re typically used to in the west. Since this is a Poco phone, intended to be sold in Europe and markets outside of China, they’ve added an app drawer and included the Google Feed. 

The UI elements make everything feel a bit too heavy and small changes like only being able to swipe notifications away in one direction or the complete reorganization of the settings menu will add a bit of frustration as you’re settling into the device for the first time. 

The good news is that they’ve kept the bloatware to a minimum, reinstalling Facebook, Netflix WPS Office and LinkedIn with a few links to install a few other apps. All of them can be completely uninstalled, so it’s not too big of an issue. 

But the software isn’t all bad. The customization options it allows for are significant, giving you the opportunity to tweak things to your heart’s content and give the phone the look and feel that you want. And if you want more of a stock look, you can always swap out the launcher for one of the many alternatives on the play store. 

Cameras 

The quad-camera setup on this phone consists of a 64MP main sensor, 13MP ultrawide and two 2MP sensors, one for the macro camera and the other for depth sensing. While those last two sensors are simply there to beef up the spec sheet a little, they’re practically useless. The good news is that the main and ultra-wide cameras take great shots in most situations. They struggle quite a bit in low light, but if you use the dedicated night shot setting, the main camera can deliver some decent images, just as long as you can keep a steady hand. 

For selfies, the 20MP front-facing camera is decent in well-lit conditions, but it falls apart pretty quickly if you’re taking shots in low-light situations. The good news is that the main and selfie camera manages to deliver decent portrait shots, blurring out the background without messing up the edges around your subject too much. 

Battery

Budget smartphones are known for having pretty large batteries, but the Poco X3 NFC takes things to a whole new level with its 5130 mAh cell which easily delivers two days of battery life on a single charge with nearly 10 hours of screen-on time. 

On top of that, the phone also supports 33W fast charging which is nearly double the 18W fast charging most other budget smartphones have these days. I was able to go from zero to 55% in 30 minutes and top the battery off completely in 70 minutes. 

Final thoughts

When reviewing a smartphone, I’m always looking for unique features that set one device apart from another. That’s typically hard to find when looking at budget devices, but for the Poco X3 NFC that main selling point is that you’re getting a fantastic mid-range device for half the price

The mid-range and budget smartphone segment is extremely crowded these days, but if you’re on a limited budget, the Poco X3 NFC should be at the very top of your list, right alongside the Pixel 4a which honestly you should only buy if you can’t live without stock Android or if the camera experience is your number one priority. 

Buy the Poco X3 NFC

The Good

  • Incredible value
  • Amazing 120Hz display
  • 2-day battery life
  • Great performance
  • Stereo speakers & 3.5mm headphone jack

The Bad

  • Mediocre software
  • Average cameras
  • Cheap build quality

The Bottom Line

If your budget is limited, the Poco X3 NFC is the smartphone to buy if you’re looking for great performance without breaking the bank.