Poco M3 Pro 5G review: Affordable upsides and downsides

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There seems to be a trend for plonking the word ‘Pro’ onto the end of an existing device, selling it as the uprated model in a series, adding some enhanced features. In the case of the Poco M3 Pro that’s very good news indeed – because the standard M3, released early 2021, was barely fit for purpose.

The M3 Pro is a totally different beast, thankfully, with a different design and far more functional internals to make for a device that, while not as far-reaching as the ‘Pro’ name may suggest by any means, is a solid entry at the affordable end of the market.

But with so much else also occupying this space – including the Redmi Note 10 Pro – can the Poco truly compete?

Design & Display

6.5-inch LCD, 1080 x 2400 resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz refresh rateDimensions: 162 x 75 x 8.9mm / Weight: 190gFinishes: Poco Yellow, Power Black, Cool BlueFingerprint scanner in power button

There’s an increasing habit for affordable phone makers to get a bit shouty with their branding. The worst culprit is Realme (its 8 Pro is so heavily brandished with logos and slogans that it’s like walking into a 90s high street teen fashion store).

Poco isn’t doing a great deal better, though, by lobbing giant logos all over its recent devices. The M3 Pro, as you can tell from the capitalised and over-size Poco logo on its rear is, indeed, a Poco phone. Why, therefore, it also appends that with “designed by Poco” beneath we cannot fathom – as if the capitalised large Poco logo wasn’t enough?

The rear of the M3 Pro is also a bit too shiny, attracting fingerprints across the majority of its rear, only semi-shielding its camera section from such high gloss. The standard M3 featured a textured plastic rear, which while not high-end was at least less smeary with the whole fingerprint situation.

We’d contently pop this phone into a case more suited to our tastes and that would then sit flush with the slightly protruding camera unit to make for a neater finish, albeit a thick one – the phone is 9mm, so rather chunky as these things come.

Flip over to the screen and it’s a 6.5-inch LCD panel, not OLED like you’ll find in some competitors, with up to a 90Hz refresh rate (it’s either 60Hz or 90Hz, you pick in the settings) for some uptick in smoothness throughout software and apps. For similar money you can buy 120Hz panels now, though, which is what the Redmi Note 10 Pro offers.

So the Poco is not a leader in its class, and the auto-brightness seems keen to keep everything looking dim, but crank the brightness slider up a little and this screen is perfectly decent. The punch-hole camera isn’t too distracting (unlike some competitors which have more shiny, reflective ones). And the degree of colour considering it’s an LCD panel does a fair job too – although it’s not especially accurate, as photos taken on the phone look more muted than you’ll see once viewed off the device.

For signing-in there’s a fingerprint scanner positioned in the power button, which is relatively responsive. Sometimes there’s a bit of to-and-fro between it and software/apps, though, with our banking app often requiring a double sign-in for it to actually work (something that we’ve not experienced with Monzo bank on any other phone before now).

Performance & Battery

MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G (MT6833)128GB storage, 6GB RAMMIUI 12 (over Android 11)5,000mAh battery18W charging

The ‘Pro’ part of the M3 Pro is largely related to the processor difference over the standard model. With MediaTek’s Dimensity 700 chip on board – the competitor for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 700 series – the performance is up to par based on our use.

We’ve not had issues with lag or touch-responsiveness, as with did with the non-Pro model in the past. Even the M3 Pro’s ability to run games can’t be doubted. And in this arrangement we’ve never felt it overheat to any discernable degree.

That’s the core hardware aspect of the device, but the software – which is MIUI 12, as provided by Xiaomi – does have the ocassional irritation. Xiaomi’s software – which also features on Redmi handsets – seems to arrive in different states with different issues per brand, making it the most inconsistent Android software we can name.

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In the case of the M3 Pro we’ve not had notification issues like with some Xiaomi phones, instead there’s some instability with certain apps. On reapeat we would get crash notifications for Photos, for example, with a report card popping up. While playing South Park: Phone Destroyer a ‘file not found’ pop-up would appear – something we’ve never seen in years of playing the game.

These aren’t total device breakers, though, as it seems to be generally related to apps running in the background, so it’s likely down to software permissions timing out and causing these blips. Because that’s all they are: minor irritations.

Otherwise, the M3 Pro’s software runs well. As with any MIUI setup there’s tinkering to be done to get the vibration response in different modes (even Silent still vibrates by default) and battery saver settings all running as you wish, but once you’ve put your mark on it it’s smooth sailing. We do wish the system dark mode wasn’t quite as brash though.

Battery life, given the large-capacty 5,000mAh cell on board, also steams along for a decent innings. We’ve been getting a full day’s use with around half the battery remaining after 16 hours, so you could feasibly not charge overnight and get two full days of moderate use. When it does come to recharging the 18W charging speed isn’t nearly as speedy as some, but it does the job.

Cameras

Triple rear camera unit:Main (26mm): 48-megapixels, f/1.8 aperture, 0.8µm pixel sizeMacro: 2MP, f/2.4Depth: 2MP, f/2.4Selfie camera: 8MP, f/2.0

When it comes to cameras the M3 Pro claims to have a triple rear camera. Well, forget about that – the macro and depth sensor you’ll probably never use, as they have little purpose other than to lay claim to making up the triple camera really.

Fortunately, however, the main camera here is actually pretty decent. We would rather just have this main camera and a super-wide one – which, as you can see from the specs, the latter is entirely absent – rather than all the extras taking up space on the back.

Still, the main snapper – a 48-megapixel offering – does a good job of delivering punchy, sharp-looking images in a variety of conditions. Focus is quick, adjusting exposure easy enough, and while the extra settings – you can slide between Photo, Portrait, Pro, etcetera – aren’t massively useful, it does add additional options to your shooting potential.

The main camera can even shoot pretty close-up to a subject, negating the need for an additional low-resolution macro camera’s existence really. 

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There’s also HDR (high dynamic range) and AI (artificial intelligence) options to auto-adjust exposure peaks and troughs and to boost a given image based on what the camera believes the subject is, which can go some way to enhancing the result (or sometimes go a bit haywire, but that’s all part of the fun).

Overall, then, the cameras selection is somewhat amiss given the lack of any ultra-wide lens, but look past the macro and depth unnecessaries and the main sensor will reward you well enough.

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