review

Poco X2 Review: Back, with the X(2) factor intact

Most of what you need, and a camera that you really need

Everything that you need, nothing that you don’t” was the tagline that Xiaomi used to sell the Poco F1 in August 2018. Well, after a rather long sort-of-sabbatical, the brand is now back in the market with its second device, the Poco X2. The nomenclature is interesting, as there was no Poco X1 – indeed, most people were clamoring for a Poco F2. While the F2 might well make an appearance in the coming days, it is the X2 that is spearheading Poco’s return to the market.

Poco X2 Review: Cut from a different cloth from the F1

And the change in name makes sense, for the Poco X2 is a very different kettle of fish from the Poco F1. In fact, place the two phones next to each other, cover the branding and most people would not even guess that they are offspring of the same parent!

That is because whereas the Poco F1 was not really a stylish phone with its rather plain plastic back, the Poco X2 gets right into them phone-y beauty contests with a gradient finish glass back and a quad-camera capsule that is surrounded by a sphere of slightly more glossy texture (the phone has Corning Gorilla Glass on front and back). Similarly, flip it around and instead of a large notch that we saw on the F1, we now have a smart dual punch hole on the top right corner. One of its shiny sides (the right side) also has a slightly recessed power/display button with a distinct texture – that’s because it also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner (been a while since we saw one on the side of a phone)!

All of which makes the Poco X2 stand out not just from its predecessor, but also from most of the devices in its segment. Yes, it is definitely one of the larger and heavier phones out there – it is 165.3 mm long and weighs 208 grams – and will occupy both your hands if you use it a lot, but it has a very premium touch to it. It is splash resistant too, having a P2i rating like the Poco F1 had. Yes, it does look a lot like the Redmi K30 (which has not been released in India), but more importantly, it looks very good.

Poco X2: Not a budget flagship, but with some premium touches

The difference between the two Pocos extends to their hardware. While the Poco F1 was an unabashed budget flagship that took a potshot at the mighty OnePlus, the Poco X2 is more mid-segment, if upper high-segment. The main reason for this is the chip driving the device – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G, which was also seen on the Redmi K20 (which had a plain Snapdragon 730) and the Realme X2. It is an octa-core processor and perhaps the third most powerful chip in Qualcomm’s current line up but the ones ahead of it are all flagships – the 845, 855 and 865 series. That said, the chip is more than capable of handling pretty much every task most people will throw at it. What’s more, it is paired with a decent amount of RAM – the phone is available in 6 GB/ 64 GB, 6 GB / 128 GB and 8 GB / 256 GB variants. The storage incidentally is expandable to 512 GB, if you are ready to give up one of the two SIM card slots.

But if the processor confines it to the upper levels of the mid-segment, the Poco X2 comes with other specs that could make upper segment devices turn a little green with envy. First off is the much-hyped 6.67-inch Full HD+ LCD display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, making it the highest in its segment, and potentially one of the best displays for gaming and watching video content. Then there is the main camera on the quad-camera back – it is a 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor, making this the first phone in the country to feature it. Yes, its companions (an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 2-megapixel macro sensor) might not sound as impressive, but that main sensor alone is formidable, given Sony’s reputation in phone photography.

The Poco X2 also has two front-facing cameras – a 20-megapixel camera and a 2 megapixel one -making it one of the few in its segment to come with this feature. Round that off with a large 4500 mAh battery with support for fast charging via a 27W charger, an infrared port and all the connectivity options you would want from a smartphone these days (Bluetooth, 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS) and Android 10 with a Poco flavored ad-free MIUI 11 on top it, and you have a device that has more than a few premium touches up its sleeve.

Poco X2: Overall smooth performer

And that specification sheet translates into a generally smooth overall performance, and thanks to Poco’s tweaks, one free from any ads in the UI. The Poco X2 is not a benchmark buster like the Poco F1 and well, if you really really push it, you will see the odd frame drop in high-end games like Call of Duty and Asphalt, but by and large, the phone hardly ever seems to lack speed, and thanks perhaps to Poco’s LiquidCool technology, does not heat up too much either.

Which of course brings us to the most talked about feature of the phone – the display, which has inspired the “SmoothAF” hashtag. Well, it does work very smoothly indeed. But the big question is: does that 120 Hz refresh rate make a difference? Perhaps it does, but just as with the OnePlus 90 Hz displays, we were not able to see a very noticeable difference – a classic case perhaps of most content not being optimized for a format. The display itself is a very good one though, quite bright and handling colors well. Its relatively larger size also makes it a great option for reading and viewing content (the single speaker is loud enough), although it will tire hands from time to time.

We, however, suspect that the display is one of the reasons why the battery of the X2 lasts a day and not more. Turning the refresh rate down to 60 Hz made it last almost a day and a half, but that would defeat the purpose of having such a display. A day’s battery is not too bad, but then we have been spoiled by the likes of the Galaxy M30s and Xiaomi’s own Redmi Note series. Fortunately, the presence of fast charging means that you can charge the battery in slightly more than an hour.

Poco X2 Camera Review: Bringing on the camera magic

Where the Poco X2, however, really excels is in the camera department. So much so that we would go on record to say that this is perhaps one of the best cameras in the sub-Rs 30,000 price segment. We have seen 64-megapixel sensors before but the Sony IMX 686 delivers very good (if a tad rich) colors and detail, definitely a clear notch above what we got from the Realme X2 Pro and Redmi K20 Pro – even digitally zooming into shots left us with plenty of details. Yes, processing at times seemed to take a little time, but the results were worth it. The ultrawide camera and macro camera are decent performers as well, although we would really recommend sticking to auto mode and letting the main sensor do all the snapping. The front cameras are also very good, although they did seem to smoothen skin even after we turned off the beauty mode. A point worthy of noting is just how well portrait mode is handled by both front and back cameras for human subjects, with not too many edges being missed. Video quality was decent, although not of the level to give flagships sleepless nights.

[Click here for full resolution images]

Honestly, although we are sure the decision was taken by wiser heads than ours, we think that the cameras would have been a far better option to highlight in the device than its display. Yes, they are that good.

A quick word about the fingerprint scanner on the side – when it does work well, it is blazingly fast and better than any in-display fingerprint scanner. However, we found it to be a little inconsistent from time to time. Maybe we were not quite used to placing our fingers in the right place, but we like the idea of the scanner being on the side and as we said, when it works, it is blazingly fast!

Poco X2 Review: Worth a buy?

At its starting price of Rs 15,999, the Poco X2 begins its comeback against some very tough competition. Its main rivals in this zone are the Realme X2, the Samsung Galaxy M30s, and the Redmi Note 8 Pro, both of which bring their own set of strengths to the battle – the Realme X2 has a similar chip and an AMOLED display, the Samsung Galaxy M30s delivers decent performance with incredible battery life and the Redmi Note 8 Pro comes with good overall consistency (it is a Note, after all). And if people are looking to stretch their budgets a little, there looms the Redmi K20, which also has a similar chip, an AMOLED display, a very stylish design, and a pop-up camera as well. Of course, hardware fans will also be considering the Poco F1, which in spite of its years, remains a very decent proposition thanks to its Snapdragon 845 processor and a price tag of Rs 14,999 for the 8 GB/ 256 GB edition!

However, the Poco X2’s cameras give it a very significant edge. We can see geeks loving the potential of the 120 Hz display as well as the ad-free UI and Android 10. All of which makes the Poco X2 a great proposition for anyone looking for a phone under Rs 20,000, and perhaps even under Rs 25,000.

It has everything that most people this side of the flagship segment need, and almost nothing that they don’t (the jury will be out on that display – we suspect most users would prefer a half-day of more battery). Sounds familiar? It should.

Poco is back.

Pros
  • Very good main camera
  • Very good display
  • Generally smooth performance
  • Ad-free UI
Cons
  • Middling battery life
  • Single speaker
  • Very large in size
Review Overview
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

Poco has marked its comeback to the market with the Poco X2. It is no budget flagship, unlike the Poco F1, but it still claims to come with a number of high-end features, including a display with a 120 Hz refresh rate and some innovative cameras. Does it do enough to carve a niche for itself in a very tough price segment?

4.2