POCO M3 Pro 5G or Realme 8 5G or Redmi Note 10S: the best phone under 15,000?

Affordable powerhouses compared

There has been a mid-segment mobile monsoon of sorts in the Indian market over the past few weeks, with a number of brands releasing phones in the sub-Rs 15,000 range. So anyone looking for a phone with that sort of budget would be deluged by a large number of options. Three phones, in particular, would stand out for those trying to get a phone for about Rs 15,000 or lesser – the POCO M3 Pro 5G, the Realme 8 5G and the Redmi Note 10S. All of them start at below Rs 15,000 and each brings its own bit of mobile magic to a very competitive segment. So which of the three should you go for? Let me try to work that out.

Looks and appearance


There are three very different schools of design here. All three phones come with tall displays in front with tiny punch hole notches (the Realme phone has it on the top left, the others in the top centre), and have plastic/carbonate backs. Mind you, the Note 10S’s rear (pictured above) looks closer to glass and picks up the least smudges, while the Realme and POCO devices are more on the glossy side. The POCO phone (below) has the largest logo of the three (right below the camera unit), while Redmi and Realme are relatively low profile in this regard. Indeed the camera units are the most distinct parts of the three phones – the Note 10S has a rectangle-within-a-rectangle look with a metal coloured ring around its main sensor, the Realme a rather box-like rectangular unit with cameras arranged in columns and the POCO a rectangle with very rounded corners and a row of cameras, which tapers below to the logo in what the brand likes to call a “switchblade design.”

In terms of sheer size, the Note 10S is the most compact of the three. It is the slimmest at 8.29mm, the lightest at 178g and also the least tall (160.46mm). The POCO M3 Pro is the heaviest at 190g and at 8.9mm, the thickest around the waist. The Realme 8 5G (below) is the tallest at 162.5mm (the POCO is 161.8mm) and weighs 185g. Of the three, the Note 10S is the only one with dust and splash resistance – it comes with an IP53 rating.


Design is a very personal thing, so picking one of the three is difficult. I would say that the Note 10S’ sleeker and less smudgy finish gives it a slight edge, while the POCO M3 Pro’s logo and “switchblade” camera unit make it the most distinct.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 8 5G

Display


It is a battle between AMOLED and LCD, regular and high refresh rates here. The POCO and Realme phones come with 6.5-inch full HD+ LCD displays with 90Hz refresh rates, whereas the Note 10S (above) has a 6.43-inch full HD+ Super AMOLED display, but with a “normal” 60Hz refresh rate. The POCO M3 Pro has a slight edge over the Realme 8 as its display is “smart” and can switch between different refresh rates depending on the content being shown. I would say that in terms of sheer brightness and colour reproduction, the Note 10S has an edge here, although the refresh rate brigade or those wanting a bigger display might consider the others. The Note is also the only one of the three with an always-on display, a feature that many covet.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 8 5G

Processor


It is all MediaTek here. The Realme 8 and the POCO M3 Pro are powered by Dimensity 700 5G processors, while the Note 10S runs on the older but still very powerful Helio G95. The Dimensity series brings 5G connectivity to the table, but the G95 is considered to be perhaps the most powerful gaming chip in the mid-segment. The Dimensity processor, we are also told, limits charging speeds to an extent but manages the battery better. There are pros and cons across the board. On paper, I am calling this a tie – the 5G and battery management edges the Dimensity enjoys are matched by the gaming and charging muscle of the Helio G95.

Winners: Tie

RAM and storage


Rather surprisingly, there are clear differences between the RAM and storage variants in these devices. Interestingly, while all three use LPDDR4X RAM, the POCO and Redmi phones use UFS 2.2 storage, while the Realme 8 uses UFS 2.1. Also, while all three phones have expandable memory, the Note 10S and the Realme 8 come with dedicated microSD card slots, while the POCO M3 Pro has a hybrid SIM slot, making you choose between a SIM connection and a microSD card.

In sheer numbers, here’s where the devices stand:

Realme 8 5G: 4GB / 64GB, 4GB / 128GB, 8GB / 128GB
POCO M3 Pro 5G: 4GB / 64GB, 6GB / 128GB
Redmi Note 10S: 6GB / 64GB, 6GB / 128GB

Realme is the only brand of the three to have an 8GB RAM variant, but for some reason, has no 6GB one. I would say that the Note 10S represents the best option for someone wanting a lot of RAM at a lower price, whereas the Reame 8 5G wins for those just wanting lots of RAM. Not having a dedicated memory card slot also costs the POCO some ground.

Winners:
  1. Realme 8 5G
  2. Redmi Note 10S
  3. POCO M3 Pro 5G

Gaming and multimedia


The big question, of course, is how well does all that processor and memory work? When it comes to gaming, the Note 10S’ Helio G95 surprised me by being clearly more snappy than the Dimensity 700 chips. The difference does not leap out at you right away, but pay closer attention and you will see much smoother action on high-end titles like Call of Duty and Asphalt on the Redmi Note 10S as compared to the others. The Note 10S also scores over its rivals by having stereo speakers, which makes gaming and watching shows is a much more immersive experience on it, even though it has the smallest display of the three. The POCO M3 Pro comes second in terms of sound and a slightly brighter display.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 8 5G

Rear cameras


The Note 10S (above) has a clear edge on paper here – it comes with quad camera arrangement as compared to the triple camera arrangements on the Realme and POCO phones. And while all three devices have a pair of two megapixel cameras whose utility is kind of limited (depth, macro, black and white, blah), the Note 10S scores by having a very usable 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor too. In terms of main sensor too, the Note 10S is the only one of the three to come with a 64-megapixel main sensor, while the others have 48-megapixel ones. However in terms of performance, I actually felt that the POCO M3 Pro had an edge over the others in terms of handling colour and detail. The Realme 8 5G seemed to do better at night. But the Note 10S simply has the most options and is also the best of the three in terms of video.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 8 5G

Selfie cameras


The Realme 8 5G bosses the selfie camera section with its 16-megapixel snapper, which is well ahead of the 13-megapixel one on the Redmi Note 10S and the 8-megapixel one on the POCO M3 Pro. It is not just about megapixels – the Realme 8 just gave us more detail and slightly more pleasant selfies, although all three phones were guilty of smoothening skin, whether we liked it or not (confession: I often did).

Winners:
  1. Realme 8 5G
  2. Redmi Note 10S
  3. POCO M3 Pro 5G

Software


All three phones run on Android 11. But the interfaces are very different – POCO launcher over MIUI 12 on the M3 Pro, Realme UI 2.0 on the Realme 8 5G, and MIUI 12.5 on the Redmi Note 10S. There is a very clear winner here – the Note 10S has the cleanest and smoothest UI of the lot. MIUI 12.5 does bring a lot of improvements to the MIUI interface. The POCO launcher has no ads but is not quite as slick as MIUI 12.5. And Realme UI is now beginning to show signs of swing and needs an overhaul.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 85G

The 5G factor

POCO M3 Pro 5G vs Realme 8 5G

Well, strictly speaking, 5G is not even in India at the time of writing so a phone supporting it should not be too much of an issue. That said, its presence on a phone is definitely a good sign. Both the Realme 8 5G and the POCO M3 Pro have it, while the Redmi Note 10S sticks to good old 4G. Both the POCO and Realme are a bit more future-ready than the Note!

Winners:
  1. Realme 8 5G and POCO M3 Pro 5G
  2. Redmi Note 10S

Battery life

Poor battery life is not going to be an issue for you in any of these three phones. All of them come with massive 5,000mAh batteries. Go beyond the numbers however, and choosing between them becomes a very tricky task. The Realme and POCO phones have clearly better battery life than the Note 10S, even though they come with high refresh rate displays – perhaps the Dimensity 700’s superior battery management comes into play here. In terms of battery life, I found the POCO M3 Pro to be the best of the lot, easily lasting a day and a half, while the Realme 8 5G went comfortably past a day, but finished a bit short of a day and a half (the display not being smart?). The Note 10S, on the other hand, got past a day but I would not advise depending on it to last too far beyond that.


In the charging department, however, the force is firmly with the Note 10S, which comes with a 33W charger in the box. The POCO M3 Pro has a 22W charger but supports only 18W fast charging (a restriction of the Dimensity 700, we are told) and the Realme 8 5G supports 18W fast charging and also has a 18W charger in the box.

That charger makes a difference – the Redmi Note 10s gets charged in about an hour and a half while the Realme and POCO devices take two hours. And that charger really wins the round for the phone in my book as it does compensate for the lesser battery life.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro 5G
  3. Realme 8 5G

General performance


There’s not too much to separate the three in terms of general performance. All three phones can handle regular tasks easily and are decent at multi-tasking as long as you do not go crazy running dozens of apps in the background. The Note 10S’ compact form factor makes it the easiest to handle and its speakers do give it an edge whenever sound is involved. But for social media addicts, the smoother scrolling on the Realme and POCO phones is handy. Call quality actually seemed best on the POCO, with the Note 10S coming second. Both the POCO and Note 10S also have infrared sensors so can be used as remotes for supported gadgets. All three phones have fingerprint scanners and all three work equally well. I would call this one a tie, all said and done, although the Note 10S’ form factor, sound and resistance to water and dust might influence some.

Winners: Tie

Price


The prices of the three phones are clustered close together, as we pointed out very initially. The Realme 8 5G (above) starts at Rs 13,999 for a 4GB / 64GB variant, has a 4GB / 128GB variant at Rs 14,999 and has a top 8GB / 128GB variant for Rs 16,999. Rather oddly, as we pointed out, the Realme 8 5G has no 6GB RAM option. The POCO M3 Pro, also starts at Rs 13,999 for a 4GB / 64GB variant and offers a 6GB / 128GB variant for Rs 15,999. But I think that in terms of sheer pricing, the Redmi Note 10S has an edge over both – it starts at a higher price of Rs 14,999 but has a 6GB / 64GB base variant and offers a 6GB /128GB variant for Rs 15,999. The Note 10S is the only one of the three to deliver a 6GB variant below Rs 15,000 (fixed storage is not that much of an issue, given all three devices have expandable memory). That wins it for me, really. The Realme 8 Pro loses out on not having a lower-priced 6GB variant.

Winners:
  1. Redmi Note 10S
  2. POCO M3 Pro
  3. Realme 8 Pro

All right, pick one!


Just how important is 5G for you is a crucial question when you sit down to pick one of these three. If it does matter, then the Note 10S drops out, and the battle is between the POCO M3 Pro and the Realme 8 5G. And in that one, the advantage is really with the POCO device, thanks to its smarter display, more distinct design, better rear cameras and cleaner UI, and the fact that it can offer a 6GB variant at a lower price. I can see some folks liking the slightly slimmer frame of the Realme 8, that 16-megapixel selfie snapper is the best of the lot, and it is also the one device of the three with an 8GB variant, but I think the POCO M3 Pro matches it or has an edge over it in other departments.



Remove 5G from the equation, however, and suddenly the Redmi Note 10S emerges as the boss of the battle. Yes, it gives ground on refresh rates, battery and on 5G, but then it comes with perhaps the best display, better gaming, two actually usable rear cameras, and the fastest charging of the three devices. Add to that its stereo speakers, a super-clean interface (we cannot stress MIUI 12.5 enough), the most affordable 6GB RAM model and perhaps the least divisive design of the lot, and the Note 10S is actually my favourite for anyone wanting a good mid-segment device without wanting to get into the 5G zone.