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Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC
What we like
What we don't like
Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC
Premium flagship smartphones are awesome in every way, including the price. It’s common for flagships to be over $1,000 in 2020. Thankfully, we’ve seen a rise in good sub-$400 mid-range options from Google, OnePlus, realme, and others. Xiaomi’s POCO X3 NFC, though, goes a step further, dropping the price to just €229.
Could cutting your budget that low make for a better value device? For 20% the price of a Note 20 Ultra or 65% of the price of the Pixel 4a, is the POCO X3 worth buying? Find out in Android Authority’s POCO X3 NFC review.
Design: Attention to detail
- Gorilla Glass 5
- Aluminum rails
- Polycarbonate back
- 165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4mm
On paper, the POCO X3 NFC doesn’t seem all that inspiring. There’s Gorilla Glass 5 on the front, aluminum on the sides, and a polycarbonate back panel. There aren’t any motorized cameras or sliding mechanisms. However, Xiaomi has deviated from the boring, cookie-cutter budget phone design language in favor of a rather bold approach.
The POCO X3 NFC looks interesting and is well-built for a €229 phone
The rear panel has “POCO” printed in large letters across the back. The circular rear camera bump has had its top and bottom shaved off to create a distinctive shape. There’s a metallic accent around the camera bump to make it stand out, too. The colors – Shadow Gray and Cobalt Blue – complement the strong design elements so that it’s not so in-your-face. To top it off, there’s a big stripe going across the back
There’s a dual-SIM and microSD card slot on the left side. The right side presents a clicky volume rocker with a power button-fingerprint scanner hybrid below it. On the top is an IR blaster and a microphone. On the bottom is a speaker, a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone port, and a microphone. The side-positioned fingerprint scanner is easy to find, very responsive, and accurate. It’s even easier to find it when you use the included case which has a taper where the fingerprint scanner is.
You can definitely feel that the rear panel is made of plastic. It flexes upon pressure and doesn’t get as cold as a glass back. That said, plastic is far less prone to cracking on impact, so it’s not all doom and gloom. At 215g, the phone feels big and hefty in the hand. I didn’t experience any rattles or creaks with our POCO X3 review unit. It felt tight and well made.
Read more: Bring back plastic phones.
The surprisingly crips haptics add to the experience. In budget phones like this one, haptics are usually hollow and loose. This might not sound all that important, but poor haptics can make a phone feel cheaper. Xiaomi has done well here with a tight-feeling vibration motor.
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC is IP53-rated, meaning that it’s mostly protected against dust and sprays of water. Don’t expect the device to survive a swim or an extended period in heavy rain. That said, we don’t often see budget devices with IP ratings, so IP53 is a nice touch.
On the whole, the POCO X3 NFC has a neat aesthetic flair and is well built for a €229 phone.
Display: The staple feature
- 6.67-inch IPS
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,400 x 1,080 FHD+ resolution
- 20:9 aspect ratio
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC’s flat 6.67-inch display is surrounded by fairly thin bezels and sports a very small punch-hole in the center at the top. It’s even smaller than the Galaxy Note 20’s punch-hole, which keeps it out of the way and doesn’t distract you when playing games or watching content.
The screen felt bright, crisp, and very competitive in its price range.
The large display sports a high refresh rate, which makes it great for content consumption. It managed 440-nit sustained peak brightness in our testing, which means it’s usable out in the sun, though isn’t topping any brightness charts. It’s very quick and responsive, with a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch-polling rate which helps the phone feel faster than it is.
In our testing, the display of our POCO X3 NFC review unit beat the OnePlus Nord and POCO F2 Pro in color error, but couldn’t catch either in brightness or gamma error. The POCO X3 NFC doesn’t have the most well-calibrated display, though it is one of the fastest in its price range and keeps up with more expensive phones in certain areas.
Continue reading: OnePlus Nord buyer’s guide
Using the phone, I couldn’t perceive these nuances in display calibration. What’s more annoying is the shadowing effect right at the display’s edges. It’s more visible the more off-axis you hold your phone. This is just a byproduct of the IPS screen technology, though.
Overall, the screen felt bright, crisp, and very competitive in its price range.
Performance: Good enough
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
- Adreno 618 GPU
- 6GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- microSD expansion
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC utilizes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G, which means that if you’re after a gaming phone, this isn’t for you. The chipset performs ever so slightly better than the Pixel 4a’s, but it’s still lower-mid-range hardware.
Continue reading: Google Pixel 4a buyer’s guide
Combined with 6GB of RAM, the POCO X3 feels fairly fluid most of the time. As long as you’re not pushing the hardware to its limits, the user experience is good. It’s not perfect though. Even though it feels fluid most of the time, you’ll still experience the occasional stutter.
Low-end 3D games like Clash Royale, 8 Ball Pool, and Words with Friends run just fine on the POCO X3 NFC. Introducing high-end 3D games such as Real Racing 3, PUBG mobile, and Riptide Renegade reveals the chipset’s limitations. You’ll notice dips in performance that, while infrequent, are distracting. It’s not the most immersive gaming experience out there; but it was never going to be, for €229.
Battery: Long-lasting, fast charging
- 5,160mAh battery
- 33W fast charging
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC’s enormous 5,160mAh battery isn’t just numbers on a page. This battery consistently got me through two full days. Granted, my four-hour phone day isn’t the most pressing by any stretch, but other phones with smaller batteries have struggled to get me through a full-day. For those typically glued to their phone, expect the POCO X3 NFC to handle your frequent usage all the way to bedtime. The POCO X3 NFC outlasted the OnePlus Nord and Pixel 4a in our Rocky runtime test by well over 10%.
The included 33W charging brick will top up the device from 0% to 100% in 63 minutes. It’s not the fastest charger in the world, but you have to remember that it’s got to charge a 5,000+ mAh battery. Expectedly, Xiaomi has left out wireless charging in this model.
Software: The big costcutter
- Android 10
- MIUI 12 with POCO Launcher
The POCO X3 NFC is running MIUI 12 atop of Android 10, which is a bit of a shame given that Android 11 released just days after this phone’s launch. The POCO brand hasn’t enjoyed the same reputation for timely platform upgrades as OnePlus or Samsung. The likelihood of the POCO X3 NFC getting more than one major update is pretty small.
The software skin itself deviates from stock Android with a completely redesigned aesthetic. Xiaomi has gone for a bubbly and friendly look with this iteration and it looks and feels smooth and clean. In the background, the software is managing applications, battery usage, and data services to optimize for battery life.
MIUI 12 is feature-rich, but its long-term support is questionable and its in-OS ads will push certain buyers away
In the foreground, there’s a lot of preinstalled software. Thankfully, you can remove a lot of this. Xiaomi’s included tools are there to make the most out of the provided hardware. Mi Remote allows you to use your phone as a multimedia remote via its IR blaster. Second Space allows you to hide important data and apps in a contained environment. Game Turbo minimizes background activity for an uninterrupted gaming experience. There’s a lot here.
The big caveat is that this version of MIUI 12 is running ads in its OS, which likely helps subsidize the device’s cost. The ads appear when installing an app via the Play Store and also within some first-party Xiaomi apps. These ads are infrequent and I barely noticed them during my review period. However, some will be against forking out money for a phone and still getting ads.
Camera: Inconsistently good
- 64MP main, f/1.9, 1/1.73-in. sensor
- 13MP ultra-wide, f2.2, 119-degrees FOV
- 2MP, f/2.4 depth sensor
- 2MP, f/2.4 macro sensor
- Video: 4K @30fps, 1080p @120fps, 720p @960fps
- Selfie: 20MP, f/2.2, 1/3.4-in. sensor
- Selfie video: 1080p @30fps
Xiaomi made a good decision to focus on the main, ultra-wide, and selfie cameras on the POCO X3 NFC. We think the depth and macro cameras are mostly there to beef up the spec sheet and, as a result, aren’t particularly useful. However, the three important cameras are surprisingly capable for the money.
Photos I took with my POCO X3 NFC review unit look pretty good on both a phone screen and a computer screen. At face value, there seems to be a lot of color and detail. For social media, the quality of these photos is adequate. Upon zooming in, you can start to see smoothing and noise reduction at play. Unless there’s a lot of light, the images can look a little muddy. For a 64MP sensor, there’s not as much sharpness as you’d expect.
I found that consistency was the POCO X3 NFC’s biggest weak point. Some shots look far more natural than others. For example, the trees above are way too green, but the colors in the sunset shot look just right. The mural below looks just like real life, but the shot looking up at the tall trees looks hugely oversaturated.
Switching to the ultra-wide camera, images lean more towards magenta and don’t have as much dynamic range as the main shooter. There’s slightly less detail and it doesn’t expose shots as well, either. It’s not unusable by any means, but we would’ve liked to see better calibration between the two sensors.
The POCO X3's camera is inconsistent. Some shots look natural, while others look grossly oversaturated.
In low light, the POCO X3 NFC takes rather clean photos. Xiaomi’s noise reduction is working hard to polish out the grain in low-light shots. There’s not as much dynamic range nor detail in Night Mode photos, but the camera does well to pick up light, even where there’s not a lot. The shed in the first image below was in a very dark environment. I was surprised to find that the POCO X3 NFC could see more than I could in the dark!
Xiaomi’s 20MP selfies are pretty good. Once you turn skin smoothing off, there’s enough detail to make for natural-looking photos. The POCO X3 picked up my skin tones just fine and the colors aren’t as over-the-top as they are with the main rear camera. There isn’t as much dynamic range as there is with the rear camera’s images, but there’s enough to make for some decent-looking photos. Xiaomi’s selfie processing handles noise well and doesn’t over-smoothen areas with lots of noise. Images come out looking rather clean regardless.
Portrait selfies are okay. Xiaomi’s edge detection isn’t the most accurate and so there are some mishaps around my hair and my t-shirt. There doesn’t seem to be any natural focus roll-off. It looks like you’re cut out from the background as opposed to being at a different depth from the background.
Regular rear portraits are better. There does seem to be an attempt at natural focus roll-off with a blurry foreground and gradually blurrier background. Edge detection is better than with the selfie camera but still not up to the Pixel 4a’s standards — though, for €229, you shouldn’t expect it to be. Overall, it’s not a bad portrait mode.
Unfortunately, the Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC’s video is not great. It can shoot Ultra HD 4K video at 30fps, but its resolution is only one half of the story. The video footage has very heavy contrast and the camera doesn’t expose particularly well. You’ll notice crushed shadows with little dynamic range and a lot of aliasing in some of the shots. It’s usable for quick clips that’ll end up on social media, but it’s not great if you want to use it for any serious content creation.
Extras: Superb audio setup
Xiaomi has amplified the earpiece speaker to work with the main speaker for a stereo effect. The sound signature is clear with a good, but not amazing amount of bass. The setup gets loud with minimal distortion and I enjoyed a couple of Futurama episodes on the POCO X3 NFC thanks to its great speakers.
Continue reading: 3 reasons to buy wired headphones in 2020
If speakers aren’t your thing, the POCO X3 NFC supports a great range of Bluetooth codecs including aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. If you want to plug wired headphones in, that’s doable too thanks to the bottom headphone port. This phone’s audio setup is very comprehensive.
Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC specs
|Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC|
6.67-inch IPS LCD
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch sampling rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G
Qualcomm Adreno 618
33W fast charging
64MP Sony IMX682
119-degrees field of view
2MP depth sensor
Ultra HD 4K 30fps
Slo-mo 1080p 120fps
Dual SIM or microSD card slot + SIM
165.3 x 76.8 x 9.4mm
Value for money
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC launched globally on September 7, 2020. POCO has announced it’s launching the device in India on September 22, though it hinted at a “POCO X3”, dropping the NFC suffix. This implies a lack of NFC for the Indian version, but we’re yet to confirm that along with official pricing.
Early bird pricing (Europe)
- Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC: 6GB/64GB — £199/€199 (~$235)
- Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC: 6GB/128GB — £249/€249 (~$295)
Regular pricing (Europe)
- Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC: 6GB/64GB — £229/€229 (~$275)
- Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC: 6GB/128GB — £269/€269 (~$320)
Even at the full €229, the Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC is a lot of phone for the money. It competes, in price, with the realme 5 Pro and Redmi Note 9. However, the POCO X3 NFC sports more features and more performance for the money. This puts it more in line with the far more expensive Pixel 4a, OnePlus Nord, and iPhone SE.
The POCO X3 NFC slots in just above the Pixel 4a for performance, just above the OnePlus Nord for camera quality, and tops the list for battery life, display responsiveness, and feature set. It also costs just over half the price of all three devices. This raises the question, is it worth dropping your budget that low? The tradeoffs might be worth it for someone who wants the most phone for their money. However, the aforementioned phones still beat out the POCO X3 NFC in certain categories.
Whether you are willing to pay less than the competition but get served in-OS ads is going to be down to personal preference and what you value in your smartphone.
POCO X3 NFC review: The verdict
The Xiaomi POCO X3 NFC is one of the best budget smartphones you can buy. It crams in a huge battery, solid screen, decent cameras, and adequate performance for an unbeatable price. Throw in the great audio setup, standout feature list, and unique design, and you’ve got a fantastic package.
It’s not perfect. The in-software ad situation isn’t ideal, the software could be a bit more streamlined, the buttons could be clickier, and the video recording could be more natural. However, for €229, these are trivial issues compared to the value on offer.