Poco M3 review: High on substance, higher on style

Poco M2 was one of the most successful budget-oriented devices in Indian in 2020, and for good reason. The phone offered a good set of specifications that, if you kept the price in mind, left not much to be desired. Now the new Poco M3 aims to improve on that, with a better experience, performance and looks. We used the Poco M3 for a week and here’s what we think about the latest mid-range device.

Poco M3 specifications:  6.53-inch IPS LCD FHD+ screen | Snapdragon 662 chipset, 6GB RAM + 64GB or 128GB storage |  48MP main camera + 2MP + 2MP camera | 8MP front camera |  6,000mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging | 

Poco M3 review: Design

Poco M3’s biggest selling points over the M2 is the new design. While I wouldn’t call it reminiscent of the OnePlus 8T Cyberpunk Edition, the similarities are there, mainly with the rectangular camera module.

The phone is available in three colours, black, blue and Poco’s signature yellow. The three colours offer varying contrast levels between the back panel and the large black camera module. The black is the most subtle, while the Poco yellow is the most vibrant and my favourite of the bunch. 

Arguably, the best looking phone in the segment, Poco M3 is one of the few phones I would definitely use without a case or skin.

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2, The Poco M3 features a plastic back with a leather-like texture on the back. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

The phone has a single plastic back that covers all the way to the screen on the front. The textured back panel is easy to grip, but it is missing on the sides, where it would have been most useful. Along the sides, you get very tactile volume rocker keys and a power button with an in-built fingerprint reader.

The entire coloured portion of the back goes clean with no branding, which instead finds its way on the camera module in a larger font. I’m not a fan of the ‘big-branding’ trend followed by Realme and Poco these days, and must say that it takes away some of the premium feel. 

Poco M3 review: Display

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2, The Poco M3 features a good IPS LCD display with FHD+ resolution. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

Poco M3’s 1080 x 2340 pixels FHD+ panel is another of the phone’s plus points. The screen offers a crisp experience and viewing angles aren’t bad either. A peak brightness of 400 nits translates to decent outdoor visibility, but don’t expect too much under direct sunlight.

The pre-applied screen protector wasn’t too useful and quickly picked up both scratches and fingerprints. I would say peel it off and apply better quality protection or trust the Gorilla Glass 3.

Budget devices sometimes leads to issues like screen bleeding near the edges. There are no such problems with the Poco M3. The vibrant colours are also fairly accurate and you don’t see yellow, green or pink tints anywhere. While contrasts cannot be compared to AMOLED levels at this price, this IPS panel is one of the best you can find in the segment.

Poco M3 review: Camera

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 The Poco M3 ditches the rear camera for a 48MP main camera and two 2MP macro and depth cameras. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

The 48MP camera is a clear upgrade over the older 13MP camera, capturing more detail and light in the pictures. However, the ultra-wide-angle sensor missing could be a deal-breaker for people looking for a more complete camera package.

In my view, an extra 8MP ultra-wide camera lens is nothing extraordinary, but a significantly better deal over the two near-useless 2MP sensors. It is 2021 already and 2MP sensors need to be gone. 

That said, the new primary sensor on the Poco M3 takes quite good shots, especially if you have decent natural lighting around you. Details look great, and processing and dynamic range are slightly better than what you’d find at this price. However, photos do get soft at night and the artificial/low light performance is average at best.

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2, A colourful tree, captured by the Poco M3. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)
Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 A tiny spider and its web, accurately captured by the Poco M3. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)
Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 A low light camera sample of a cup of tea, captured by the Poco M3. A colourful tree, captured by the Poco M3. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

The front camera also takes decent pictures in the day, but falls apart quickly during the night and under artificial lighting, when photos come out grainy and soft, respectively. However, that is a given in this segment.

Poco M3 review: Software and Performance

Poco M3 runs on MIUI 12 on top of Android 10 and while Poco claims you get an ad-free system experience, expect suggestion screens when you install apps (4th image in collage below), which does count as ads. You also get a bunch of bloatware, most of which cannot be removed. There is still no way to get rid of Xiaomi’s ‘GetApps’ alternative to the Play Store.

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 The MIUI 12 interface on the Poco M3. (Express Photo)

The MIUI skin on budget devices often acts as a double-edged sword, bringing the best of its features along with the weight of the skin. Get ready to expect some occasional sluggishness around the MIUI 12 interface, especially noticeable when you have a bunch of notifications coming in together. This, however, was significantly reduced after a software update we received.

Poco M3 flies through day-to-day tasks with ease and the extra RAM does help with more apps being able to run simultaneously. The phone also handles low-to-mid level games like Mini Militia and Bombsquad with ease, but very resource-heavy titles like Call of Duty or Need For Speed No Limits may feel a little choppy. Heating is not an issue due to the plastic back.

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 The Poco M3 can handle small to medium level games with ease. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

Poco M3 is not weak when it comes to performance, but this aspect is the most average part of a device that otherwise excels in every other area. The fingerprint sensor was accurate, but not too fast. The stereo speakers offer a great experience. Even though the top and bottom outputs give you different volume levels and sound signatures, the experience is much better than any single-speaker output that I have seen in the segment.

Poco M3 review:  Battery Life

Poco, Poco M3, Poco M3 review, Poco M3 vs Poco M2 The Poco M3 features a large 6,000mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging. (Image Credit- The Indian Express/Chetan Nayak)

Poco M3 features a big 6,000mAh battery and this gives you over a day of usage easily. You’d have to be a moderate-to-heavy user to kill this phone in under two days. On light use, the phone can easily be charged just three or four times every week. Note that like most phones, resource-heavy games and apps will take a bigger hit on the battery than lighter apps.

The presence of a USB Type-C port with 18W fast charging has now become standard at this price and it is nice to see the Poco M3 not skip out on this.

Poco M3 review: Verdict

If I nit-pick, the software could still use a little weight shedding to give the phone better UI speeds. However, I would not recommend upgrading from the M2, unless you absolutely want the new looks of the M3.

The Poco M3 is a great budget device for the price you pay. Starting at Rs 10,999, Poco M3 gets many key aspects right. The phone improves on features of the popular M2 and additions like stereo speakers, unique looks and a big battery make this an ideal phone for teens and college students looking for a good budget device under Rs 12-13,000. 

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