In the world of smart phones, Xiaomi is the epitome of value for money. Now it occupies the fourth place worldwide, sells almost one in ten smartphones. But when companies begin to operate on such a large scale, the start-up mentality moves to the background to more important considerations, and innovation can be stifled.
Oppo avoided it with the "independent" OnePlus, Huawei spun Honor for Western markets, and Xiaomi is taking a focus somewhere in the middle. Its secondary brand Little is still under its umbrella and benefits from its resources, but it has the advantage of having an easy-to-pronounce name, some creative freedom and room to fail without harming Xiaomi's reputation.
The first fruit of the works of Poco, the F1, was announced and received positively a couple of months ago. It is not a flagship kitchen sink, but the correct corners were cut to achieve the affordable price very affordable . The Little F1 is burning fast and lasts forever with a load: two very important features on any smartphone. But if my last weeks with the device have taught me something, it is that the specifications alone do not make or break the experience. Usability is more crucial and that's where Little F1 stumbled for me . The notch plus plus notifications equation was awful in MIUI 9.6 in F1, and although it is partly corrected in the latest beta version of MIUI 10, I could not wait to go back to, literally, any other Android device.
Hardware, design, what's in the box
If there's an area where Little F1 "spares", it's hardware materials. Today, most flagships use glass or metal, but F1 is used for plastic everywhere. I do not care about that; It is less slippery than glass and warmer to the touch than metal. Also, the matte finish feels good, the painted silver edge gives a believable illusion of metal, and the dark blue / indigo color that I have is unique without being too flashy. For $ 300, it's not too bad.
The front houses a high screen of 18.7: 9 below Gorilla Glass. It seems expensive with the screen off, but turn it on and you will notice a wide notch and all rounded corners and bevels. The device, the screen and the notch do not have the same corner radius, and the curves on the screen are too extreme for my taste. In addition, the bevel on the sides is smaller than on the top, which is significantly smaller than the lower chin. All this type of asymmetry disappears while you are using the phone, but stop and look for a second and you will easily notice how uneven the F1 is. I think the notch is completely unnecessary and it is detrimental to the experience, but we'll get to that later.
The notch houses the speaker, which acts as a secondary speaker when listening to audio, as well as the front camera and sensors (including a large infrared sensor for facial unlocking). The notification light moves below the screen; It took me a few days to get used to this position.
On top, there is a 3.5mm headphone port and a microphone hole, while the bottom has a USB-C port in the center, flanked by two screws and two grilles. Only the left acts as a speaker, the right is just to show.
On the right side, there are metallic buttons for volume control and power, which are satisfactorily clicky. The left side has the dual SIM tray, where you can use a slot for a MicroSD.
The back has a bright Pocophone logo plus a vertical module for the two cameras and the fingerprint sensor (with the dual LED flash). I do not like that the sensor is so close to the camera's glass, but in my use, I found little evidence of my finger's grease or prints in the camera.
In the box, you will find the phone, a USB-A charger (up to 12V / 1.5A), a USB-A to C cable and a TPU case. The plastic composition of F1 is more prone to scratching than other phones, so I recommend you use the latter.
The Little F1 camera is good, but there's nothing to brag about. When there is enough light around, take fast HDR images with a decent color balance. In low light conditions, the results are a bit noisy, but that is to be expected.
However, the secondary chamber on the back is superfluous. As a 5MP depth sensor, technically it should help with photos of portraits, but the result is often too extreme. The depth effect often seemed to take a focal point and simply add a radial blur around it, as would any tilt shift filter. Instead, a telephoto lens or a wide-angle lens would have added at least one different perspective to the photo.
The user interface of the camera application is similar to that of My A2, so I will not see it again. The dual chamber watermark is also enabled by default, as is the beautifying effect of the front camera. When I remembered to deactivate both, I had already taken several photos. And speaking of the front camera, it is very good and will not complain about the selfies taken with it (last image in the previous carousel).
Software, performance, battery
F1 is fast and responsive. Unlocking it is instant, whether you are using the fingerprint sensor or the impressive facial unlocking. The phone explores all the interactions I perform, responding to my touch immediately, with fast scrolling and sliding, and even with the fastest opening and closing of applications. In daily use, I noticed that there is no difference with my Pixel 2 XL, which is a great compliment; But tests in parallel revealed that the F1 Little is even a little faster. The only discrepancy I noticed was when I tried to scroll down super fast in Chrome: the page would go blank and then load the bottom. I will file it as a mistake, or at least a small problem that you will not encounter frequently.
The 4000 mAh battery also lasts forever. Even with my intensive use and bad reception of the battery, I arrived home every night with almost the remaining 40% despite the 3-4 hours of screen time under the F1 belt. So far, that has no equal in my experience. I could not kill F1 in a single day, and I'm sure that with normal use, it could easily last two days. It's been a while since I suffered from anxiety, and now I can not imagine going back to the other phones that need a mid-afternoon recharge to last all day.
The reception has been a mixed bag. I get almost the same result in 4G or WiFi as my Pixel 2XL, which means that the intensity of the signal is non-existent indoors in my pharmacy and that WiFi does not reach the stock room. I've had other smartphones with better reception in the last year, but this is more anecdotal evidence than a scientific comparison.
Screenshots taken in MIUI 9.6, before upgrading to stable MIUI 10.
From the software point of view, I spent my two weeks with Little F1 running Android 8.1 with MIUI 9.6 at the top. Little has promised to update it at least to P and Q and has already started to launch MIUI 10 stable (still based on Oreo 8.1). The OTA did not arrive to my unit on time, but yesterday I checked it and then I went back to MIUI 10.8.10.25 beta.
MIUI's experience is regular, with several benefits and some disappointments, and I have already deepened it, so you should read it if you want all the details. I will not repeat next to say that MIUI 10 solves some of the problems of 9.6, and I like some of them, but the constant complaint, requests for permission and ads left a bitter taste in the mouth.
I can not watch videos taken with the camera in the built-in player without giving access to phone calls.
Although the only downfall of the Little F1, for me, was the notch and what Xiaomi did with the notification. Icons for that: until the last stable MIUI 10, you see none . In the latest beta version, there is a new switch to display notification icons, but even then they only appear for a fraction of a second and then disappear. If your eyes are focused on another part of the screen, you will lose them. They will also appear when you unlock the phone, but again, just for a brief second.
Left : No icon, but with 3 notifications. Right : notification icons: blink and you'll miss them.
This is the first time I use a phone with a notch, and my opinion is that it's a silly compromise that it should not. First, it did not exist. You could skip a notch if you add a little vertical space without removing many icons from the status bar, but this? No, it does not get a pass. A high screen of 18: 9 would have been more than enough.
Should you buy it?
Yes . When Little F1 was announced with a Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM for $ 300, the flashbacks of the first OnePlus were inevitable. Much was mounted on this first device of the secondary brand of Xiaomi and, as far as I'm concerned, the experiment is a resounding success.
When it comes to battery and speed, Little F1 is a beast that rivals smartphones. Double or triple the price. In all other aspects, it is at least very good. The camera, the screen, the compilation, the USB-C charging, the 3.5 mm connector, the stereo speakers (ish) contribute to a solid experience. The software will find its lovers, as well as its enemies, but it is continually updated for the better, and there is an active modding community that offers alternative solutions if you prefer to go that route.
F1 does not have NFC and However, its LTE bands are limited, so it will not attract those who require these two characteristics, but that is the position of Xiaomi for now. It is leaving part of the market on the table for others to exploit, although I doubt that this will continue for long.
Buy it if
- You want the best Android hardware available below $ 500
- You like Xiaomi and the MIUI experience, or you're willing to share an alternative ROM
- You do not care about NFC and LTE bands from your provider are compatible
Do not buy it if
- MIUI is not your cup of tea and you do not want to bother with custom ROMs
- Notifications are very important to you
- You have $ 200- $ 300 and you just want a good Android device: the My A2 has Android and it's cheaper, but a little less capable.