Xiaomi’s spin-off smartphone brand POCO recently expanded its portfolio with a new entry in India earlier this month. Unlike previous POCO smartphones that targeted the affordable flagship and mid-range spaces, the POCO M2 Pro is targeting the budget segment this time around. Not that there aren’t already enough contenders swarming the budget space, thus adding to the buyer’s dilemma, but POCO would like to sell you its own vision of an ideal budget smartphone. The hardware package of the POCO M2 Pro isn’t as groundbreaking as the POCO F1 or POCO X2 Pro. For example, there’s no high refresh rate panel or top-of-the-line chipset. But considering the price segment the POCO M2 Pro is targeting, the hardware on offer is still very competitive. I have been using the POCO M2 Pro for the last three weeks, and here’s how I feel about the phone.
Note: POCO India sent me a review unit of the POCO M2 Pro on July 1st. I received the “Two Shades of Black” model in its 6GB/64GB configuration. POCO did not have any inputs into the content of this article.
From the outside, the POCO M2 Pro is profoundly similar to the Redmi Note 9 Pro/Max. POCO has made some small changes so as not to repeat the exact look of its counterpart, though. For example, the camera module is slightly different, while the backplate also gets a new paint job and a striped pattern that covers the two-thirds of the bottom half. The fact that the POCO M2 Pro’s design resembles that of the Redmi Note 9 Pro isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When we reviewed the Redmi Note 9 Pro earlier this year, we had many good things to say about its design, and the same holds true for the POCO M2 Pro. It’s one of the better-looking phones in this particular price range. Our Two Shades of Black variant reminds of the first-gen Google Pixel and is thus a refreshing departure from the usual color-shifting gradient backs that we are used to seeing in this segment.
The plastic middle frame is sandwiched between the two panels of Gorilla Glass 5 that protect the rear and front. The back is shiny and highly reflective — almost like a mirror. It’s a task to keep fingerprints and smudges away. The back is gently curved on its sides, which helps the phone wrap nicely into your palm. On the right side of the frame lies the fingerprint scanner which also doubles as the power button. The fingerprint scanner area is recessed and positioned as such so your thumb naturally falls onto it. On the flip side, the volume keys are placed way too high up and are thus quite difficult to reach while holding the phone in one hand.
The POCO M2 Pro features a 6.67-inch full HD+ LCD panel with a centered hole-punch cutout. The display supports HDR10 playback as well as Wideline L1 support for full HD playback on video streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Watching HDR content is a pleasure on the POCO M2 Pro. It’s not the first device to offer an HDR panel in this price range — the Motorola One Fusion+ and the POCO X2 also support HDR — but it’s always welcome to have it present on a budget smartphone.
The maximum brightness is rated for 450nits — fairly standard for an LCD in this price range — and offers acceptable outdoor visibility. The lowest brightness level is comfortable for browsing before bedtime. As Tushar noted in his Redmi Note 9 Pro review, viewing content under strong lighting conditions seems to trigger a hidden sunlight mode, which ramps up the saturation and contrast. Although this does make the display seem brighter, it takes a toll on the color reproduction and makes everything on the screen look kind of unnatural, especially when previewing photos or playing games. Unfortunately, there is no way to disable this sunlight mode, and it seems to kick in regardless of which color profile you’ve selected.
MIUI for POCO
The POCO M2 Pro runs MIUI 11 (for POCO) based on Android 10. This is a slightly modified version of MIUI than what we usually get on Redmi and Mi phones. MIUI for POCO swaps the standard MIUI system launcher for its own POCO launcher. Most of the visual changes are thus centered around the home screen experience. POCO Launcher is among the most versatile and feature-rich stock launchers out there. There’s an app drawer, Google Feed integration, support for icon packs, layout customization, ability to hide apps, double-tap to lock screen, and a whole lot more. It’s worth noting that the POCO Launcher is available on the Google Play Store and can thus be installed on any modern smartphone.
Another perk of MIUI for POCO is an ad-free software experience. This is one area where MIUI has been repeatedly criticized by users for displaying advertisements in its first-party apps, as many felt it resulted in a sub-par software experience. Thankfully, on the POCO M2 Pro, you’ll not see any kind of ads in the notification bar or in pre-installed apps.
Apart from the differences mentioned above, though, the rest of the POCO M2 Pro’s software experience is all too familiar. That means all the standard MIUI 11 features are here, including full-screen navigation gestures, three-finger screenshots, Second Space, Dual apps, Game Turbo, system-wide dark mode, etc. The bloatware and app recommendations also stay, but many of them can be easily uninstalled and/or opted out of/turned off.
POCO M2 Pro Performance Impressions
The POCO M2 Pro packs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G octa-core SoC coupled with 6GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of UFS 2.1 flash storage. Thankfully, the performance doesn’t disappoint. Compared to last year’s Motorola Moto G8 Plus and Redmi Note 8 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 and eMMC 5.1 storage combo, the POCO M2 Pro feels snappier and much more responsive. The app installation times are also noticeably shorter, and apps like Google Chrome, PUBG Mobile, and Gmail take less time to load up. Apart from some occasional stuttering when scrolling through Gmail entries and transitioning between menus, the overall UI performance feels smooth and fluid.
Memory management has performed as expected, and we didn’t notice any unexpected killing of background apps.
Although not specifically a gaming phone, the POCO M2 Pro packs a solid graphics punch and can handle many modern graphics-intensive games on medium to high settings without an issue. Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG defaulted to medium settings as the recommended settings. We were able to dial things up a notch to High graphics settings without introducing any significant thermal throttling.
POCO M2 Pro Camera Impressions
The story of the POCO M2 Pro’s camera performance moves along a familiar pattern that’s typical of budget smartphones. It offers decent daylight performance but struggles in low-light conditions. The camera hardware itself is unchanged from the Redmi Note 9 Pro including the 48MP Samsung ISOCELL GM2 image sensor.
As is seemingly standard on many budget and mid-range phones, there’s an 8MP ultra-wide camera to help you shoot wider perspectives. Detail retention is relatively average compared to the primary camera, but the wide-angle camera does get the job done so long as you’re shooting under sufficient lighting.
You also get a 5MP Macro sensor that allows you to capture some spectacular detail in flowers, foliage, bugs, and fine textures. From the perspective of an average consumer, though, this is something that will mostly be left unused once the novelty factor wears off. POCO has hidden the Macro mode toggle inside a hamburger menu, which in our opinion, seriously discourages its use. Placing it in the top grid or alongside the other camera modes in the bottom tray would have made more sense.
The bottom line is that the camera performance is good but not best-in-class. There are alternatives to consider in the form of the POCO X2 and Motorola One Fusion+ that offer better low-light performance — albeit at a higher price point.
Battery Life & Charging
The POCO M2 Pro offers exceptional battery life, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise with the device packing a large 5,000 mAh capacity battery. But perhaps the more exciting part about the battery life is the inclusion of a 33W fast charger in the box. A massive battery often comes with a penalty of prolonged charging sessions — which is especially true for budget devices where you don’t normally see chargers above 18W included. We have already seen this on the Samsung Galaxy M31, which packs a gigantic 6,000 mAh battery and takes up to 3 hours to fully charge with its included 15W charger.
On the POCO M2 Pro, you get the best of both worlds with the giant battery offering a marathon battery life and the 33W fast charger ensuring you spend less time refueling the empty tank. The device takes 1 hour and 35 minutes to go from 0% to 100%, which is commendable when taking into account the size of the battery.
I was comfortably managing a full two days of battery life with a heavy dose of social media apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit, binge-watching videos on YouTube, listening to Spotify and Pocket Casts in the background, and generous use of Google Chrome. Even on days when I played long sessions of Call of Duty Mobile, the POCO M2 Pro powered through into the next day with still 10-15% juice left in the tank. The average Screen on Time (SoT) clocked in at 8 to 9 hours.
The POCO M2 Pro marks a shift in POCO’s strategy as the brand prepares to dip its toe in the budget segment. It’s also a message that the brand is not going to limit itself to a niche audience and will be expanding its presence across different price segments.
The POCO M2 Pro is an amalgamation of the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. We are aware that other POCO phones, such as the POCO X2 and POCO F2 Pro, are rebranded versions of Redmi phones. The key difference this time is that at least with previous POCO phones, they never competed against their Redmi counterparts in India. They didn’t coexist. That’s unfortunately not the case with the POCO M2 Pro, however, as it will be competing with the very device that’s the basis of its existence. Not to mention, this hurts POCO’s efforts to maintain a safe distance from its sister brands and assert its position as an independent brand.
It’s difficult to talk about the POCO M2 Pro without also addressing the Redmi Note 9 Pro. The lack of awareness of POCO was noticeable when talking to less tech-savvy people. Most people appeared suspicious when I suggested that if they were going to buy the Redmi Note 9 Pro anyway, they should consider getting the POCO M2 Pro instead as it offers better value-for-money. I had to educate them about POCO’s connection to Xiaomi and, more importantly, how the POCO M2 Pro is similar to the Redmi Note 9 Pro in most areas while offering better value at the same price point.
Yet from the perspective of a potential buyer, none of the above facts matters that much. The POCO M2 Pro mirrors everything great about the Redmi Note 9 Pro while also offering a less intrusive software experience and faster charging support. In doing so, it even displaces the Redmi Note 9 Pro from its current position to emerge as a new champion of the budget segment. More importantly, it adds these improvements while maintaining the same price point. It would be wrong to regard the POCO M2 Pro only as a carbon copy of the Redmi Note 9 Pro. The POCO M2 Pro clearly differs in its software experience, camera module design, and charging speeds. But whether these differences are enough to build a new smartphone around is something we’re not too sure about.
When viewed in a vacuum, it’s hard to argue against what the POCO M2 Pro brings to the table at its offer price. For anyone looking for a good-looking phone with stellar battery performance, capable cameras, and a highly capable software experience for under ₹15,000, the POCO M2 Pro is one of the best value-for-money smartphones.
If you’re still not entirely sold on POCO’s attempt at a budget smartphone, there is no shortage of alternatives. The Realme 6 is the closest rival and offers a higher refresh rate screen (90Hz), the MediaTek Helio G90T SoC, a better primary camera, and a 4,300 mAh battery with 30W fast charging support at a starting price of ₹15,000. The recently released Motorola One Fusion+ is another great option that offers a cleaner software experience, a slightly more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC, and a 5,000 mAh battery with an 18W fast charger. However, it only comes in one variant (6GB / 128GB) and costs a bit higher at ₹17,500. Finally, the POCO X2 can also be considered if you are interested in a gaming-centric phone and have a knack for custom ROMs and mods.