Since its inception, POCO, as a brand has been synonymous with performance, and its debut offering – namely the POCO F1 (review) – has played a crucial role in shaping the company’s online persona. That’s partly why the brand managed to retain its performance-driven audience after launching a slew of middling, mid-range phones. Thankfully, it seems that the brand has got its mojo back as not so long ago, the company unveiled the POCO X3 Pro (review) which, as of writing this review, is the fastest Android handset under Rs 20K. More recently, the company announced the POCO F3 GT, a bespoke gaming phone with dedicated shoulder trigger buttons. I’ve been using the device for a hot minute and here’s what I make of it.
The POCO F3 GT is the most exciting smartphone launched in the affordable segment yet. That said, the smartphone’s performance, while good, isn’t exceptional and consequently, the handset is overshadowed by more well-rounded offerings.
I prefaced this in my first impressions of the F3 GT but, at the expense of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again – the POCO F3 GT is the best-looking POCO-branded phone out there. In fact, the smartphone’s unique looks even give it an edge over similarly priced rivals and the device will undoubtedly turn heads with its gorgeous aesthetics. The back of the phone, for instance, features up-to-the-minute gamer-y decals and a matte finish that breathes new life into the phone’s otherwise conventional design. What’s more, the device cuts a dash in the Gunmetal Silver colour sent to me for review, and rest assured, you will not find the F3 GT lacking in the design department.
Of course, the highlight of the POCO F3 GT’s design are its maglev trigger buttons that have been positioned on the phone’s right-hand spine. Now, to be clear, I’ve tested plenty of phones with shoulder triggers, the likes of which include the ROG Phone series, as well as the iQOO 3 (review). However, POCO has taken the road less travelled and has outfitted the F3 GT with physical triggers. So, unlike the capacitive, touch-sensitive triggers on most gaming phones, you can actually press the shoulder buttons on the F3 GT as you would on say, a gaming controller.
You see, while I commend POCO for employing rather clicky shoulder triggers, they’re not the most befitting for mobile gaming. As an example, in BGMI and Call of Duty Mobile, I had remapped the left trigger to ADS and the right trigger to fire my gun. Unfortunately, pressing the buttons in-game felt like a chore as the keys offered some resistance. Usually, for any other hardware button, that’d be a good thing. However, the effort required to press the maglev buttons in the heat of a battle made for an uncomfortable gaming experience. Moreover, pressing down on physical buttons also made it quite difficult to control the recoil from a gun as the phone would start to slip from my hands.
What’s more, physical toggles also make it arduous to come out on top in a fistfight. So, if you hot-drop in say, Military Base in BGMI and have to fight someone without a gun, then you’ll have a much better shot at winning the bout by tapping the on-screen button instead of the right (or left) shoulder trigger.
That’s not to say that the shoulder triggers on the F3 GT are a complete gimmick. On the contrary, I found myself using the same more and more in racing games like Asphalt 9 Legends wherein, I had the triggers mapped to toggle NOS and drift functions. However, compared to capacitive trigger buttons, the likes of which you’ll find on ASUS’ ROG Phone series, the maglev triggers on the F3 GT can seem a bit limiting. Add to that the wealth of customisation options you get with ROG Phone 5’s Air Triggers including tweaking the sensitivity and adding sliding gestures and you’ll understand why I’m not quite sold on the F3 GT’s triggers. I’d also like to add that you cannot use the shoulder buttons on the POCO F3 GT for anything but gaming, which is a missed opportunity on the brand’s end. Imagine being able to launch the camera app as soon as you slide the trigger buttons out and then using the physical toggles to click photos. But, I digress.
Of course, there’s more to the phone’s design than just its maglev triggers. To that note, the POCO F3 GT offers fantastic haptics – so much so, I typed a good chunk of this review on the phone itself. The handset offers a swift capacitive fingerprint sensor and excellent face unlock tech too. Funnily enough, I thought about giving the company’s Glance with Mi feature a shot which, for the uninitiated, switches the lock screen wallpaper every time you turn on the display. However, the handset’s speedy biometrics ensured that I rarely got a glimpse of the lock screen. Other than that, the handset ships with dual-stereo speakers and a USB Type-C port for charging. The device doesn’t get a headphone jack, but the company has bundled a Type-C to 3.5mm dongle with the retail packaging of the phone.
Display and Audio
Of late, there has been a barrage of phones that ship with a high-refresh rate AMOLED display and the POCO F3 GT is no different. The handset comes equipped with a 6.67-inch, 120Hz, FHD+ AMOLED panel which simply put, is a joy to use. For one, the panel gets quite bright and boasts a peak brightness of 1,300 nits and typical brightness of 500 nits. Consequently, you should not have any issues using the phone outdoors, under the sun. What’s more, the display comes with WideVine L1 certification and is compliant with HDR 10+ media too. I did test the company’s claims and sure enough, the smartphone had no problem streaming HDR media from OTT services like Netflix.
On to the cameras and here, the POCO F3 GT ships with a 64MP main sensor which works alongside an 8MP ultra-wide angle lens and a 2MP macro sensor. For selfies, the device gets a 16MP shooter upfront. Unfortunately, the company didn’t disclose details about the smartphone’s 64MP sensor. However, seeing how the handset is a rebranded Redmi K40 Game Enhanced Edition, the handset could be using the OmniVision OV64B sensor.
With the specs out of the way, let’s take a look at the smartphone’s camera performance. Now, compared to the Realme X7 Max 5G (which retails for the same price), the POCO F3 GT clicks more contrast-y photos. As an example, in this shot of the pink building, you’ll notice that the device has darkened the shadows ever so slightly. The same is evident if you zoom into the AC units outside the building and here, the X7 Max’s photo offers much better details and drastically lesser noise.
The F3 GT also oversharpens the images. As an example, if you look at this next comparison shot, then the shrubs and the barbed wire near the generator appear more pleasing in the X7 Max’s photo. On the flip side, the POCO F3 GT has darkened the bark of the tree and the handset’s shot exhibits oversharpening near the shrubs as well as the brick fence.
To summarise, the POCO F3 GT’s image processing could do with some tweaks. The handset can click good-looking shots, though the HDR processing is a tad too aggressive for my taste. Here’s another example to substantiate the same. In the F3 GT’s camera gallery attached above, the shot with a truck in the foreground has dim-looking colours.
What’s more, the interiors of the truck are barely visible. Turn the page over to the shot of a tree with red flowers and here, the leaves exhibit a darker shade of green too. What’s more, the smartphone’s ultra-wide angle sensor is guilty of the same as well. In fact, the unit struggles to bring out details from the shadows and puts forth a composition with very few details. Suffice it to say, I’d much rather have the UW sensor of the Realme X7 Max, than the F3 GT.
The same goes for the smartphone’s selfie camera too, which clicks slightly over-sharpened selfies – notice how jagged my hair appears in the selfie photos? That said, the sensor manages to retain authentic colours in the shot and the portrait shots have good edge detection too. Lowlight photos, on the other hand, lack adequate details, and the handset oversharpens the subjects in the frame when the night mode is enabled. Rest assured, the F3 GT has a lot of room for improvement in the camera department.
Performance and Software
At the end of the day, the POCO F3 GT is a gaming phone so, let’s take a closer look at the smartphone’s performance. Spec-wise, the handset ships with MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 SoC that works alongside either 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X memory. Correspondingly, buyers will get either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The smartphone does ship with a memory card slot too, so you can expand the F3 GT’s built-in storage as well.
Now, I’ve tested a handful of phones backed by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 SoC including the OPPO Reno6 Pro 5G and the Realme X7 Max 5G. While the chipset is plenty capable and can run most, if not all graphically-intensive games at good graphics and frame rate settings, the SoC can’t hold a candle to Qualcomm’s offerings. In particular, I noticed that despite yielding similar (and at times higher) benchmark scores than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 860 and 870 chipsets, the Dimensity 1200 faltered in real-world usage. As an example, in the gallery attached below, you can see that the POCO F3 GT outputs excellent numbers in synthetic testing apps like GeekBench and Antutu benchmark.
However, turn the page over to gaming and here, the Dimensity 1200 SoC cannot push the frame rate beyond the Ultra preset (40fps) in BGMI with the graphics set to the HDR preset. On the contrary, SD870 devices like the iQOO 7 (review) can play the game at the Extreme frame rate preset (60FPS) with the graphics set to HDR and even download the UltraHD 4K texture pack. Heck, even POCO’s X3 Pro, which ships with the Snapdragon 860 processor runs the game at HDR and Extreme presets respectively. The same goes for Call of Duty Mobile too and here, the POCO F3 GT caps out at the Very High preset for both, graphics and in-game frame rate. On the contrary, devices backed by Qualcomm’s 8-series chips can run the game at the ‘Max’ frame rate preset with the graphics set to Very High too.
I was also left wanting for better thermal management from the phone. Per the brand, the device makes use of eight graphite layers to keep excessive heating at bay, but the device got quite warm to the touch after around forty minutes of gaming. I did check with fellow reviewers in hopes that the incident was isolated to just my unit, but many of them complained about poor thermals too. Thankfully, the increased temps didn’t result in any thermal throttling, and even after an hour of gaming, the POCO F3 GT put forth consistent frame rates.
It goes without saying that buyers eyeing the POCO F3 GT will want to play a bunch of games on the phone. However, on the off chance you don’t intend on gaming heavily on the set, you will be more than happy with its day-to-day performance. The smartphone can hold a bunch of apps in memory, rarely ever stutters whilst jumping in and out of apps, and feels responsive through and through.
As for software, the POCO F3 GT boots MIUI v12.5 on top of Android 11. The custom skin needs no introduction and offers a plethora of utilities, the likes of which include floating windows, second space, the works. More importantly, being a POCO-branded phone, the F3 GT also ships with the company’s POCO launcher that supports third-party icon packs, along with a ton of other customisation features. You’ll also get a handful of Super Wallpapers from the brand which look absolutely stunning. The wallpapers extend to the phone’s AOD too, which is great. Unfortunately, the device ships with a lot of bloatware, so you will have to take the time out to sort the clutter from the phone.
Battery Life and Connectivity
The POCO F3 GT is fuelled by a 5,065mAh which managed to see me through the end of a heavy work day comfortably. I used the phone with the display refresh rate locked at 120Hz and despite that, was able to get by a full day of use without much hassle. I will add that your mileage could vary if you game a lot on the phone. I, for one, had limited my gaming to just an hour whilst reviewing the handset. Thankfully, the company has bundled a speedy 67W charger with the phone which charges the device from 0-100 percent in around an hour. Rest assured, the F3 GT has you covered in the battery department.
In terms of connectivity, the POCO F3 GT offers Dual-5G standby, along with 5G carrier aggregation too. The handset can connect to both 2.4GHz as well as 5GHz Wi-Fi networks and paired well with my Airtel Postpaid 4G SIM too.
The POCO F3 GT starts at Rs 26,999, however, buyers planning to grab the phone in the first week of August can snag the handset for Rs 1,000 less. To simplify things, let’s take a look at how the phone fares at its base price after the introductory offers have lapsed. To that note, the F3 GT is among the nicest looking phones in its price range and it offers one-of-a-kind trigger buttons too. Now, I didn’t find the maglev triggers all that useful, however, your mileage could vary. So, if you are interested in buying a sub Rs 30K phone with shoulder triggers to help you with a four-finger grip, then the POCO F3 GT is your only bet. However, if you don’t care too much about the smartphone’s maglev triggers, then you’ll be spoilt for choice.
For instance, the recently unveiled OnePlus Nord 2 5G might sway you away with its more capable main camera. Furthermore, the Realme X7 Max 5G offers a better camera setup too, whilst costing the same. Lest I forget, those looking to buy the most affordable gaming phone should automatically default to the POCO X3 Pro – the smartphone will outperform pretty much any Dimensity 1200 SoC device, at least in terms of gaming. Moreover, buyers with a flexible budget can also pick up the iQOO 7, which doesn’t just perform better, but also offers a more capable camera stack.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Unique, good-looking design
- Stunning display
- Capable performer
- Maglev triggers are not that useful
- Camera performance isn’t the best