Poco M3 review: The best budget phone of the year (so far)

We can’t get over how good this sub $150 phone is

Poco M3 review
Poco M3 review

Bottom line

While the Poco M3 is hardly perfect, it offers a ton of bang for your buck; that includes a unique and aesthetically pleasing design with a large display, exceptionally long battery life, and a host of features that you would typically expect from a pricier mid-range phone.

Overall
4.2

Pros

  • Great bang for your buck
  • Large display
  • Solid build + unique design with fun color options
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Good photo quality
  • Powerful stereo speakers
  • Audio Jack + microSD card slot

Cons

  • Occasional UI lags
  • No waterproofing
  • Middling macro and selfie camera
  • So-so video quality
  • No NFC

How can a budget phone be this good? That’s what we keep scratching our heads over. It used to be that the Motorola G series reigned king as the best budget phones under $199, but the Poco M3 gives those budget phones some stiff competition. Read on for our Poco M3 review.

Design

If you’ve never heard of Poco, that’s not surprising, since the brand isn’t very well known in the U.S. That said, it’s a Xiaomi-backed brand, but unfortunately, Xiaomi isn’t all that well known in the U.S. either but it’s a well-known brand overseas. In any case, Xiaomi manufactures Poco devices and provides the Poco devices with software, but Poco is differentiated from Xiaomi’s handsets in the way that it rocks its own unique design IQ.

Poco M3 review
The Poco M3 is made out of plastic yet the build quality feels great

In particular, the design of the Poco M3 is quite stylish for a budget phone, especially if you opt for its bright yellow option. The device measures 162.3 x 77.3 x 9.6 mm and weighs 198 grams, which isn’t very heavy when you consider that it has a huge 6,000 mAh battery housed inside of it. Its body is made of plastic with a plastic frame, yet its build quality is solid, and thanks to its faux-leather texture, it’s very easy to grip. We also appreciate that its faux-leather finish makes the body fingerprint-resistant.

And although its bottom bezel is slightly thicker than its other bezels, overall its bezels are slim and unobtrusive, effectively complementing the device’s waterdrop-like shaped notch. The power button, which is located on the side, doubles as a fingerprint reader. The phone also packs in a 3.5mm audio jack and stereo speakers.

What’s in the box

In the box, you not only get a transparent silicone case, a SIM ejection tool, and a screen protector, but there’s also a 22.5W Quick Charge 3 charger included which can support the phone’s fast charging of up to 18 watts. We’re impressed by the inclusions of all of these accessories alone, especially considering the phone costs under $150! It’s crazy to think that so many pricey flagship phones are no longer including chargers, yet this budget phone does. To top it all off, Poco has thrown in three bracelets – one braided and two silicone bracelets that are covered in Poco’s signature yellow and black hues. We’re not sure who would actually wear these, but we appreciate the gesture for the fans!

Display

The 1080p teardrop display on the Poco M3 is nothing to write home about in comparison to flagships out there but regardless, it will satisfy most users. To that effect, it’s a large 6.53″ IPS LCD, with a solid 400 nits brightness, and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and a 395ppi. The display can actually get even brighter – up to 440 nits when in Sunlight Mode.

Software

The Poco M3 comes running Android 10 and MIUI 12. While we generally prefer stock Android, many of the features included with MIUI 12 are welcome. The UI is quite modern and streamlined, and it definitely takes some design inspiration from iOS. It also offers floating windows, privacy options, a dedicated Control Center, cool animations, and an app drawer. Unfortunately, we did run into some issues with the software during setup, where the software crashed. And on occasion, the UI stutters, but this is likely due to its budget chipset.

Performance

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 chipset along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. Storage can be expanded via the device’s MicroSD slot. Benchmarks results are on par with what we would expect to see in a phone in this price range. To that effect, the M3 comes very close to scores of the competing Moto G9 Play. Overall, performance is acceptable, but there is often some noticeable lag with tasks such as switching apps. The UI occasionally stutters as well. It can handle many games while operating under a 720p resolution, but it’s not suitable for serious mobile gaming. The device does not run hot under load.

To its credit, its fingerprint reader is fast and surprisingly accurate. Heck, we’ve tested pricer phones with side mounded fingerprint readers that aren’t as responsive. 2D Face Unlock is also supported, which is very impressive at this price range.

Battery life

Thanks to the device’s huge 6,000 mAh battery, battery life for the Poco M3 is amongst the best we’ve experienced on a smartphone. To that effect, we’ve gotten nearly 6 days of moderate use on a charge! This phone keeps going and going… Using the included fast charger, the battery can charge to 25% in 30 minutes, or it will take 3 hours to charge to 100%. That’s not bad at all for a budget phone!

Camera

Likewise, the camera on the Poco M3 is impressive at its price-point. The phone packs in a triple camera with a 48MP (Quad-Bayer sensor, f/1.8 lens) main camera that is complemented by a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. The selfie camera is made up of an 8MP sensor with an f/2.1 lens.

Daylight photos taken with the main camera are surprisingly good and much better than we would expect from a $199 phone. In general photos sport plenty of detail, good contrast, and pretty good color reproduction. We found that taking photos without the AI resulted in even better shots. Portrait shots look quite good too and sport quite a natural-looking bokeh effect.

Unfortunately, shots taken with the macro camera tend to be problematic, as it’s difficult to produce a macro shot that isn’t blurry. Low light photos are pretty poor they’re noisy and mediocre, but we wouldn’t expect more than that at this low price-point.

Poco M3 review verdict

The Poco M3 offers a unique aesthetically pleasing design with a large display, exceptionally long battery life, and a host of features that you would typically expect to get from a pricier mid-range phone. Is the Poco M3 perfect? Hardly. But it offers a ton of bang for your buck. At the end of the day, the Poco M3 operates more like a mid-range phone than a sub $150 budget phone.

The Poco M3 can be purchased at Alixpress for $138.99 for the 64GB storage model or for $158.99 for the 128GB storage model.