Poco X2 review – the sequel you didn’t expect

POCO TWS

Rating: 8.6/10

Pros:

  • 120Hz display in this price range is bonkers
  • Hi-Res audio
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent performance from gaming to storage
  • 27W charger inside the box

Cons:

  • Re-branding a Redmi phone has its own pitfalls
  • Odd design decisions
  • Backlight bleed is evident around the hole punch
  • Could’ve easily skipped the depth sensor on the front or replaced it with a wide-angle camera

Introduction:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – the Poco X2 is a re-branded Redmi K30. This is not a sequel to the Poco F1 that we were all expecting. But, you shouldn’t care. Allow me to tell you why. By the way, isn’t Poco X2 an odd name for a phone that is the same as its immediate rival – the Realme X2?

Design

I’ll put it out there, the circular cutout on the rear that encircles the vertical camera module looks odd despite the gorgeous Purple colourway. It is not exactly an entire circular cutout module like the one on the OnePlus 7T. The cutout on the Poco X2 feels less like a design flair and more like an eccentric choice if you ask me. Also, how odd is the placement of the dual-LED flash below the circle? Furthermore, the whole “designed by Poco” text on the circle is a little funny if you ask me. If Poco is a fiercely independent brand now, then this would be a blatant copy of Redmi’s design ID. Just kidding. 

Anyway, you get a glass back and front, both protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. The frame is made of plastic but the finishing is so good that it actually feels like metal. You get an infrared scanner on the top and a Type-C port at the bottom. And, the Type-C port is flanked by a headphone port and the mono speaker. However, the layout is not symmetrical and that annoys me to no end. 

By the way, the fingerprint scanner on the Poco X2 is a side-mounted one. It is placed on the power button and is recessed inside a dent. The volume rocker sits above it. The scanner is super duper fast at recognising fingerprints, so no complaints there. As for the SIM tray, it is a hybrid one. 

Now, here’s the thing about the Poco X2: it is a massive phone at 8.8mm thickness and 208 grams. You can feel that it is chunky and the glass back makes it slippery too. However, the ergonomics are good enough for everyday use thanks to the good weight distribution. 

Overall, Poco might want to push the design of the X2 as entirely new and fresh but we all know where it originated. Funnily enough, I can say this with certainty that the X2 is definitely better designed than the Poco F1 if that counts for something. 

Display

The Poco X2’s display is the reason why anyone should buy this phone. It has a 6.67-inch IPS LCD panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio and FHD+ resolution. But, the biggest spec is the fact that it comes with an insane 120Hz refresh rate out-of-the-box. The cheapest phone with a high refresh rate display before this was the Realme X2 Pro. The Poco X2 is obviously a trailblazer in this regard. The display is smooth and MIUI 11 has never looked this good. From scrolling through the app drawer to reading articles on the browser, the 120Hz refresh rate definitely adds a whole lot of smoothness to the usage experience. 

However, my only concern is that when the UI stutters — there are a few occasions here and there — your eyes are treated to a jerky 120Hz refresh rate panel and that looks really odd. The problem is that MIUI 11 and Poco Launcher still needs some more optimisation to work as smooth as Oxygen OS on a OnePlus phone. Despite that, 120Hz is an excellent addition. Furthermore, the colours in Natural mode is very accurate too. The saturated mode adds a bit of pop but not so much that it looks jarring. 

By the way, the Poco X2 does support Widevine L1 certification and can play HD videos on Netflix. However, despite the HDR 10 support, it can only playback HDR videos on YouTube. It doesn’t work on Netflix. But, when you play HDR videos, the display’s brightness shoots up and it looks very good.

But, not everything is hunky dory. Poco has decided to use a dual punch hole camera setup to the top right corner of the screen. It is very similar to the implementation of the Galaxy S10+. However, here’s the interesting thing, Poco doesn’t use an entire hole punch cutout. Instead, it uses two separate hole punches for the two cameras and they are separated by a line of Black pixels. I don’t know if this is the reason, but if you look closely, you can notice the backlight bleed around the hole punch. 

Moving on, the bezels around the display are fairly thin but the chin is a little large. Also, the haptic feedback is one of the best in this price range. It is not very precise but it doesn’t vibrate the whole phone. I quite like it. 

Software

On the Poco X2, you get Poco Launcher on top of MIUI 11 on top of Android 10. Yes, it is three-layer concoction that is minimalistic and pretty cool if you ask me. There are a few things I like and don’t like about the software experience. 

Stuff I like

  • I like the new minimalistic design across the UI and the gesture support for navigation as well.
  • You and get a ton of customization options including one where I can change the icon pack.
  • Plus, the new Live video wallpapers are a neat touch.
  • You can now create Tasks from within the Notes app. In addition, the floating calculator option is pretty handy with the option to change the transparency too. 
  • I still think that Poco launcher’s app drawer does a good job of categorising apps into folders despite a few missteps. 
  • Poco is opening the bootloader for custom community development from day 1. And, it has already given the phone to a few senior members in the XDA community. 
  • Poco has promised no ads. That’s a 100% guarantee.

Stuff I don’t like

  • The X2 is filled with bloatware. Thankfully, you can uninstall most of it. 
  • While the X2 won’t have any ads, I still hate the fact that apps such as DailyHunt, Mi Video, and the default Browser throw so many notifications at you from the start. Most people don’t even switch off the notifications. 
  • I think Poco made a mistake by pushing the default GBoard to the bottom of the screen touching the chin. It makes typing a chore. 
  • While you get a Dark mode, the advanced Global Dark mode feature that forces all apps to turn dark, is missing. 
  • Mi Video throws recommendations from the internet even when you want to only view videos in offline mode. 

To be entirely honest, MIUI 11 has improved by leaps and bounds. And, you now get a premium software experience without the premium price. 

Camera

The Poco X2’s most exciting hardware has to be the new 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor that works as the primary camera. This is the first phone with this camera in India. You get three other cameras: 8MP wide angle, 2MP depth camera, and a 2MP macro camera. What I noticed while shooting pictures is the phone takes a while to process the photos after you’ve shot it. Otherwise, the camera app is well laid out and easy to use. 

Talking about the image quality, in daylight shots the Poco X2 takes extremely detailed pixel-binned samples. However, the Poco X2’s algorithm definitely picks up the highlights and when you shoot brightly exposed areas, it tends to overexpose and blow out the highlights. In some situations it also crushes the shadows. For example, take a look at this picture of the building and the vista, you will see that it is brighter than usual. You can easily fix this in post by pulling down the highlights and the picture looks way better. The 64MP shots looks crisp too. And, this camera captures excellent facial tones with the rear camera and in selfies as well. 

The ultrawide camera can shoot decent wide-angle pictures but the highlights are blown out once again. Also, the pictures are not very sharp either with soft details. But, the colour processing is very similar to the primary camera. The 2MP macro camera is just excellent for close up shots. The details are super crisp and in good lighting conditions you get great colours as well. 

When it comes to low light shots, the Poco X2 does a good job for a budget phone. While there is a lot of noise, the brighter exposure is great. Most people will like the pictures you can get using the Night mode, especially. In fact, in this shot of the laptop on the dining table, the Night mode fixes the dynamic range and controls the highlight well. Perks of multi-frame processing I guess. 

Coming to videos, the Poco X2 tops out at 4K 30fps video recording and it can do EIS at that high resolution. In fact, Poco X2 cannot do EIS only at 1080p 60fps. The video quality and stabilisation is good enough. And, the sound recording is great too. In fact, you can shoot videos using the wide-angle camera and the macro camera as well. The footage looks pretty good for a budget phone. The new VLOG mode with preset shooting modes is great. You can get really creative with it. However, my only concern is that you need to know instinctively what to shoot. 

Poco X2 – Camera Samples10
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So overall, the cameras on the Poco X2 are actually great with the only caveat being blown out highlights. If Xiaomi fixes that soon, we have an excellent shooter under 20k that can rival any other phone out there. P.S. there is GCam support for the Poco X2 already available in the form of GCam for the Redmi K30 but I need some more time to analyse the results. Furthermore, we are coming out with a camera comparison soon. Let us know what phones would you like to see the Poco X2 compared against. 

Performance

Internally, the Poco X2 comes with a SD730G processor that is the same as the Realme X2. We have the variant with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage, for review. Although, the phone is also available in 6GB/64GB and 6GB/128GB variants too. Here are the benchmarks for you to see in comparison with its immediate competitors. 

Now, in daily performance the phone is fast and smooth too now. There are no complaints as such. And, gaming is just blazing fast on the phone. I had loads of fun playing COD and PUBG. You can run PUBG at a maximum of HD graphics and High fps by default. In COD, when I maxed out the settings, there were a few lags in intense firefights but nothing to worry about too much. However, I did notice that the phone got warm after about 15 mins of gaming. And, we are still enjoying the winters in Delhi, mind you. Therefore, it could get hotter during the summers. 

Battery

The Poco X2 has a 4500mAh battery and comes with a 27W charger inside. In my testing, this charger can charge the phone from 0 to 100 in under 1 hour and 15 mins. The phone lasted me around 6 hours of SoT on a couple of test runs with the 120Hz refresh rate setting enabled. I am sure, with 60Hz you can get much, much more battery life. Overall, the battery life of the phone is definitely another one of its strong suits. 

Call quality and audio

The Poco X2’s speaker placement is a little odd and you will invariably muffle the sound when holding it in landscape mode. But, it is fairly loud and crisp otherwise. Forget about the speaker though. Because the headphone jack has Hi-Res support and most of my reference-grade audiophile IEMs sounded phenomenal. You must switch on the Hi-Fi audio mode from the Sound settings to make the best use of it. 

When it comes to calls, the earpiece does a fabulous job and the phone can also boost the volume. The 4G connectivity was rock solid through and through. Plus, you also get the option to make Wi-Fi calls should your service provider have support for it. 

Should you buy the Poco X2?

At the time of publishing this review, I don’t know the price of the phone. But, I am sure that it is going to be priced anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. And, for that price, the Poco X2 is a steal. The 120Hz LCD display alone is worth paying for the phone. I’d take this well-calibrated, smooth, and HDR-ready display over an AMOLED panel anyday. It doesn’t hurt that the performance is top notch too and the cameras take sharp, detailed, and mostly colour accurate pictures.

Now, if you are planning on buying the Poco X2, let’s take a look at the competition. 

Realme X2

Obviously, the first comparison has to be with the Realme X2. Both the phones have a glass sandwich design and use with same SD 730G processor inside. However, the cameras are better on the Poco X2 and the 120Hz display is just leaps ahead of the 60Hz panel on the Realme X2. Considering everything, despite all the minor niggles I’ve mentioned in the review, I’d easily pick the Poco X2 over the Realme X2. I am just waiting for Realme’s answer to the Poco X2 this year. 

Also read: Realme X2 review: Consolidating the mid-range with yet another winner

Redmi K20 

Now, if you are considering the Poco X2, the Redmi K20 should be in your list as a potential alternative. Primarily because the K20 has an excellent design and a pop-up selfie camera, which means you get an all screen display. Also, it is an AMOLED panel. I still have to test the cameras. However, the Poco X2 has the 120Hz display and a slight edge in overall performance going for it. This is a tough one, but I’d still pick the Poco X2. 

Poco F1

Between the Poco X2 and the Poco F1, the latter only has the powerful SD845 processor going for it. For everything else, the X2 is definitely better. Buy the Poco F1 today only and only if you want the crazy fast performance and gaming. 

Also read: Poco F1 by Xiaomi review: don’t think it, just buy it

All said and, one thing’s clear, the Poco X2 is not the successor to the Poco F1. It is a different phone series altogether for this newly-revived independent brand. The truth is, a successor to the Poco F1 with a flagship processor will come sometime later this year. We’ll have to wait and watch. In the interim, let’s not get too emotional about the whole rebranding situation. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?