Poco F5 Pro review: Flagship Qualcomm at a steal
Design, Handling, Display, Features, Camera
Note: This review was first published on 21 June 2023.
TL;DR: Plenty of raw power for its price with nice features to go against flagship offerings, but you should also manage expectations.
A flagship phone for just S$659?
Every once in a blue moon, a phone comes along and proclaims to be the next affordable “flagship killer” phone. While the Poco F5 Pro isn’t a true “flagship killer”, it certainly has plenty of boxes ticked to make it a worthy contender to that claim.
Why do we say that? That’s because, for S$659 (8GB RAM, 256GB storage), you get a 6.7-inch 3,200 x 1,440p resolution AMOLED display that supports 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision that can go up to 1,000 nits peak brightness or 1,400 nits peak brightness for HDR content. It could also be because of the slightly-older-but-still-as-formidable Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor inside that’s paired with either 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM.
It also doesn’t fall too short in other areas. The triple camera array on the rear also sports a 64MP main camera that pixel bins down to 16MP and provides decent performance, although we’ll touch more on that in the Imaging Performance section of the review.
The Poco F5 Pro also has 67W wired fast charging and 30W wireless charging. The combination of wireless charging, a recent flagship-grade chipset, and 1,440p AMOLED, topped off with IP53-rated water resistance in one device is relatively uncommon at this price point.
So is it a good “flagship” phone priced in the midrange bracket? Let’s take a look.
|Poco F5 Pro
Black never goes out of style
In most cases, a phone in black is usually the most subdued choice to get. That’s not the case here.
The F5 Pro comes in two colours, Black and White, with the White being the more “boring” colour of the two. Black comes with a carbon fibre-esque design along the two long edges on the back. There’s no livery in the middle, but everything behind comes covered with Gorilla Glass 5, which Corning said can survive 1.6m drops 80% of the time.
Unfortunately, the glossy rear plate is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. I had to wipe down the back of the phone occasionally to keep it looking nice.
The protruding rear camera bump tapers off on both the left and right ends, which does look rather interesting, but the phone is still unstable on a flat surface.
Poco (or rather Xiaomi) used polycarbonate on the flat sides of the phone, which isn’t too bad material-wise, although the edges don’t blend seamlessly with the glass on the back. This results in a ridge that can be felt in the hand occasionally. That said, the handling is consistent with most midrange phones. You'd probably find more care and attention in handling details in higher price brackets.
The 6.7-inch Flow AMOLED 1,440p display is a flat panel with thin bezels that are only slightly noticeable along the top and bottom. With the usual brightness hovering around 530 nits and a peak brightness of 1,000 nits (1,400 nits for HDR content), the screen is bright with nice colours. However, its colour temperature leans to the cooler side if you’re using the recommended Vivid colour scheme.
If you switch to the Original colour profile, you’ll notice the display warms up immediately with better colour accuracy. While a default setting allows for the refresh rate to be adjusted dynamically, you can also lock the refresh rate to 60Hz or 120Hz, which is nice. The front camera is still a circular punchout at the top, although it’s high enough that it doesn’t interfere with most content.
The F5 Pro, oddly enough, only comes with an IP53 rating, which means it can only withstand light splashes of water. Nowadays, it’s a little unusual to see a phone that doesn’t have at least an IP54 rating, so you’ll have to be careful around the pool and beach with this mobile. It’s still better than not having any certified IP rating like the Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G.
There are stereo speakers on the Poco, and they get relatively loud with a good amount of bass. Even so, we still recommend getting earbuds or earphones for proper music enjoyment.
Plenty of apps to delete
The Poco F5 Pro sits under a sister brand of Xiaomi. It runs on MIUI 14 for Poco, based on Android 13. Unlike the squarish icons on the regular MIUI 14, the pre-installed Poco theme has circular icons that more closely resemble the stock Android icons.
There are also some nice features, like double-tapping on a blank spot on the home screen to lock the phone, and overall, the performance is snappy and fast.
Unfortunately, you’ll most likely want to do a cleanup of the phone once you’re done setting it up because there are a lot of preinstalled apps. Here’s a sampler for you: WPS Office, Agoda, QEEQ (this is a car rental app), Amazon Shopping, Bubble Shooter, Jewels Blast, Poco Community and many more.
Your tolerance to unsolicited apps may vary. If you prefer not having them, Poco lets you uninstall (fortunately) but you’ll have to do it one by one, which will take a little bit of time and could have been easily avoided by Poco not forcing these pre-installed apps onto the phone.
A good example of an app we didn’t ask for but found useful was Game Turbo. It gave me a straightforward way to delete all those unwanted preinstalled games, and it also helped to optimise the phone for when you’re gaming. It does cause the phone to run a little hotter than usual and uses a bit more battery life, but the performance feels smoother.
A voice changer function allows you to change your voice to sound like a robot, a cartoon character, a man or a woman. Although I’ve tried it, it’s not perfect, with the beginning of some sentences cutting off.
However, there’s a big problem with Game Turbo: the FPS counter might be inaccurate. Game Turbo claims it boosts the performance up to 120 FPS while Honkai: Star Rail is running. Although Honkai: Star Rail can indeed support 120 FPS, that is a feature exclusive to iOS devices by default, so seeing the Game Turbo interface show 120 FPS on an Android phone was surprising.
When running Honkai: Star Rail on the F5 Pro side by side with the iPhone 14 Pro Max (which does support 120 FPS), there’s a visible difference in the smoothness when swivelling the camera perspective around. The iPhone was visibly better at keeping to a high framerate, while Poco saw frame drops when I pivoted my character in the game.
As mentioned, the Poco F5 Pro has a triple camera array on the rear with a 64MP main camera (f/1.8 aperture, 0.7µm pixel size) that comes with phase detect auto focus (PDAF) and optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Accompanying that is an 8MP ultrawide camera (f/2.2 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size, 120˚ FOV) and a 2MP macro (f2.4 aperture). On paper, it looks the same as the camera system on the Poco F4. However, there is 8K24FPS video recording, but it’s only available for six minutes (most likely due to heat constraints where extra image processing draws more power over time, causing heat buildup). We have to note that there’s not many use cases for 8K recording at the moment anyway, and the 4K30FPS on the F5 Pro is perfectly fine with decent video stabilisation.
The main 64MP camera pixel bins to 16MP by default, and the pixel-binned images are serviceable. Images are sufficiently sharp and there’s some saturation and contrast boost to help the colors along, although sometimes it can feel a tad overly processed (like its strong blue cast, for example). For social media use, though, it should be fine.
There’s a 2x zoom option, but it’s a digital zoom crop and not a true optical zoom. Regardless, photos with the 2x zoom are also serviceable. An okay amount of detail is retained, but it does end up a touch softer.
When you turn off pixel-binning to shoot with its full 64MP sensor, it retains the same punchy colours and adds a touch more detail to the photo (before you start zooming way in), but this feature isn't really all that necessary if you’re just posting your pictures on Instagram and the like.
Unfortunately, the cracks start showing when moving to the ultrawide camera. Photos taken with the ultrawide camera come out with much more visible noise, and the images are noticeably washed out compared to a regular photo taken with the main camera. There’s no visible fisheye distortion here, which balances out its lower overall quality.
While a macro lens can be nice for closeup shots, the 2MP lens included here just doesn’t provide enough detail or resolution, and we don’t recommend that most people rely on this lens.
The front-facing 16MP selfie camera performs well at selfies, and Portrait mode works decently. There are moments when it doesn’t detect the edges, as seen by that obvious line between my shirt and my chair. To Poco’s credit, shooting grey on grey is a hard task, so we’ll cut it some slack here.
Night mode is serviceable, although you lose detail, and there are quite a few visible artefacts caused by software sharpening. Colours also get a tad washed out here, and using the ultrawide camera in night mode felt like a nightmare.