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Finally, a cheap smartphone with true flagship power

The phone sort of feels like a beast, too, since it lacks the trim waistline and glass-heavy design of flagship phones with similar specs. Building a body of polycarbonate (or kevlar, like our test unit) doesn’t just help keep costs manageable, it means the phone is less prone to slipping around and crashing to the floor. That has happened to me more times this year than I care to admit, and the F1 dodges that unfortunate trend with ease.

The whole point of the F1 was to build a properly powerful machine with logical compromises, but it packs a few features that are nearly unheard of at this price point. Instead of just using the front-facing camera for its Face Unlock feature, Pocophone squeezed an infrared illuminator and camera into the notch to make sure it still works in the dark. And a liquid cooling system ferries heat away from the Snapdragon’s processor cores, all to keep things running smoothly under heavy, sustained loads.

These are things we’ve come to expect from phones that cost nearly $1,000 — to find them in a device that costs less than a third of that is honestly a little perplexing. It helps that, despite operating with a fair degree of independence inside its parent company, Pocophone gets to tap into Xiaomi’s extensive supply chain. According to Mani, that means Poco gets access to valuable new components — like that Snapdragon 845 — at a price most upstarts wouldn’t be able to finagle. It’s not hard to look at Pocophone’s relationship with Xiaomi as roughly analogous to OnePlus’s relationship with Oppo — both of those smaller smartphone brands largely have free rein to do their own thing, but they benefit from some serious resources on the back end.

While the dividing line between Pocophone and the rest of Xiaomi can be a little murky, it seems like their collective work has mostly paid off. I’ve been using the phone for over a week now, and two things have become perfectly clear. First, this phone has game.

My daily routine consists of jumping between multiple apps frequently for work, plus some extended downtime with apps like YouTube and PUBG Mobile. The F1 handled everything I threw at it with gusto — PUBG in particular ran very well (no dropped frames here) and I’m looking forward to taking Fortnite for a spin on it once it’s a little further along in its beta. Then again, none of this should come as a surprise considering the kind of hardware we’re working with.

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