Having delivered an underwhelming upgrade to its regular F-Series phone alongside the F4 GT in 2022, we were curious to see how Poco would approach the 2023 range. The regular F4 was essentially a rinse-and-repeat of the F3 but with a worse design. The F4 GT was a Black Shark phone with a different brand name.
As it turns out, things are quite different this year. The regular F5 is joined by the F5 Pro which has a proper flagship brain, but a price tag far below the ultra high-end flagships from its parent brand, or any other brand for that matter.
For those unfamiliar, the F-series is Poco's "flagship" range. It's the one that delivers performance and specs that are close to some of the top-tier premium Android phones but at a fraction of the price. The 2023 Poco F5 Pro delivers high-end features and performance, making it one of the most exciting sub-$500 phones available.
Poco F5 Pro
The Poco F5 Pro delivers on that Poco promise of great specs and performance at a superb price.
- Really speedy flagship-level performance
- Great QHD+ display
- Really accessible price point for the spec
- Fast wired and wireless charging
- MIUI software isn't the most intuitive
- Cameras are only "ok"
- 162.8 x 75.4 x 8.6mm - 204g
- Glass front and back - IP53 water/dust resistance
- Available in black or white
One big thing we're glad to see for 2023's flagship F-series is a return to focusing on an attractive, comfortable device. The Poco F4 was bland, straight-edged and quite cheap-looking. The F5 Pro couldn't be much further from that, with a number of elements that show Xiaomi's sub-brand has been more purposeful about design for the newer model.
The rear panel has curves towards the edges to make it sit comfortably in the hand. And - not only that - has a couple of slim aramid fibre-like strips running down the back; one on each side of the phone. This is joined by a rectangular camera protrusion which - rather than just being slapped straight on the phone with no embellishment - features a chamfer on each side. It looks good, attractive even, with an aesthetic that feels classy and quite unique.
Our only real complaint about it is that the glossy glass on the back is prone to slipping off things if the phone is placed down on a surface that's not completely straight. It also collects fingerprint smudges really easily, quickly becoming a smeared foggy mess. If you're planning on getting one, we'd recommend keeping a microfibre cloth nearby.
We do get some minor water resistance this year, with the IP53 rating offering a light barrier against slight spray and moisture. Otherwise, it's quite the usual affair. The front is dominated by a large display, with skinny bezels around the edges and a small punch-hole camera near the top.
- 6.67-inch AMOLED WQHD+ display - 3200 x 1440 resolution
- Up to 120Hz refresh rates - 1400 nits peak brightness
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- MIUI 14 based on Android 13
In recent years, the trend for Android phone displays has been to equip them with a full HD (1080p) resolution panel. That's true across a wide range of price points, but here (as with many areas) Poco outperforms a lot of its direct competition. The F5 Pro has a WQHD+ resolution screen which means - from a sharpness perspective - it's on par with the S23 Ultra, Xiaomi 13 Pro and OnePlus 11.
Like most with QHD+ equivalent resolutions, it's not enabled by default. Out of the box, the resolution is set to 1080p. The idea being that by setting it to a lower sharpness it doesn't drain the battery as quickly. Based on our testing, it certainly does help having a lower resolution if what you want - more than anything - is longer battery life.
As we've discovered with so many devices, the full HD+ setting is more than enough to give you sharp images. You'd struggle to see individual pixels even close up, but there's no denying the extra sharpness you get from enabling the full resolution. Smaller, finer details become crisper and cleaner.
Sharpness isn't its only strength. It's bright, colour-rich and features a few other flagship-level strengths. One under-appreciated capability is the number of brightness levels and the speed at which it can adapt and change to match its surroundings.
The auto brightness is so natural and smooth that we never once had to reach for the brightness slider in the drop-down control centre. Rather than just jump from one brightness to another in a step, it gradually ramps up or decreases, to the point where you can't easily see it happening. It's far less jarring than what we've seen on a number of other phones, particularly in the mid-range market.
What's more, its typical screen brightness can reach up to 1000 nits when necessary with peaks - when required for small bright spots in HDR video - that can reach up to 1400 nits. That's effectively as high as what you could expect to find on a lot of the more premium smartphone displays.
You even get refresh rates up to 120Hz, so everything gliding on the screen's interface is smooth and sharp consistently. It does have a kind of adaptive refresh technology, but it's not to the same level as the truly top-end displays on the likes of the OnePlus 11 or Xiaomi 13 Ultra. That's to say it can switch between 60Hz and 120Hz, but can't do more granular shifting. Still, you'll likely never notice it when watching movies or gaming. That type of feature is typically designed to allow the display refresh to drop really low and - in doing so - save battery.
The end result is a really good screen for its position in the market. Details are crisp, and it's really bright, allowing you to see it quite clearly even outside when in bright daylight. In its default colour setting we found it to be a bit too contrast-heavy and over-saturated, but there's plenty of customisation available to tweak that. In the display 'Colour Scheme' settings menu, under 'Advanced settings', there are options for both P3 and sRGB. We found that setting it to sRGB produced the colours we preferred, but there's a lot of opportunity here to tweak it until you're completely happy.
There are options for adjusting the red, green and blue tint, as well as adjusting the saturation, contrast and gamma, until the picture calibration is nailed down.
We've spoken a lot recently about the MIUI software on Poco phones. Some of the choices are counter-intuitive, and require some taming. Nothing has changed here on the Android 13-based Poco F5 Pro. Swiping down from the top will deliver notifications or the control centre depending on whether you swipe on the right or left side of the screen. You don't get notifications and quick settings together unless you change the style.
One thing we are happy with is that it doesn't seem as insistent on making you try the wallpaper carousel feature as it has in previous versions. It does, however, continue to whisk you off into the themes store whenever you want to change your wallpaper or ringtone, which is a bit frustrating. It also defaults to spreading your apps across all the home screens when you first set it up.
On the whole, the software is still pretty heavy handed, but it is fluid and very customisable, so it's not all bad. It's just not as light as what you'd get on a Pixel, Nokia or Motorola phone.
Performance, battery and charging
- Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 platform - 8GB/256GB, 12GB/256GB and 12GB/512GB variants
- 5160mAh battery - 67W wired fast charging - 30W fast wireless charging
In the section of the market where Poco competes, we're used to seeing phones with a 'decent but-not-quite-flagship' processor inside. Think of the likes of Samsung's Galaxy A54 or the top-level OnePlus Nord models, and you get a capable, but not super speedy platform running the show. It's safe to say, Poco's gone somewhere the other mid-rangers haven't gone before.
Inside the phone you'll find the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. And, just so you can be sure that it's not a typo we'll repeat that: it's got the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 inside, which - until recently - was the most powerful and efficient Snapdragon platform on the market. It's what's inside the likes of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (Samsung's most expensive phone) as well as the OnePlus 10T, Xiaomi 12T Pro and the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro.
That's to say it's not a mid-range processor powering the phone. It may not be the most up-to-date flagship chipset, but it's a considerable step up from the Snapdragon 870 which powered both the Poco F4 Pro and the F3 Pro before it. Poco's not messing about here.
The end result is exactly what you'd expect from a phone with this engine: speed. It flies through every task without a stutter or delayed response. That's partly down to the chipset, but is also the result of the 120Hz display ensuring animations stay smooth and fast, plus the 12GB RAM. All told, it's a speedy, powerful system.
Another benefit of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is that it doesn't seem to get too hot under load. We could play games for extended periods and the phone rarely felt too warm to the touch.
The feeling of speed and fluidity is matched by the battery refill times too. Its 67W means even a 10-15 minute top-up is enough to get you through almost an entire day. A complete refill from empty takes roughly 40 minutes. It's not as fast as the likes of Xiaomi's own 120W wired charging that ships with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, but it's still really quick compared to the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google's efforts.
We've noted in the past that it's the type of speed that allows you to change your charging habits. With 67W wired charging you won't need to plug your phone in overnight, every night. You can pretty easily wait for it to drop to the dreaded 20 per cent mark, plug it in for 15 minutes or so, and pick it up again.
It's the kind of speed that means there's no real battery anxiety here because you know that even if you do manage to drain it before the end of the day, you can plug it in and be on your way swiftly. Not that the battery would cause you any real concern anyway. Its 5160mAh capacity is pretty generous, and even with the QuadHD+ resolution enabled and with 2-3 hours of screen use in a day, we never managed to get close to draining it before the end of a work day.
With our own typical moderate to light usage, most days we'd finish with near enough 40 per cent left at the end of the day. That's with taking the phone off charge at 8am, using it for 2-3 hours (usually split between Twitter, casual gaming, web browsing and YouTube) and going to bed at 11pm. That meant we'd typically get to mid-afternoon on a second day before wanting to plug it in to charge. Or you can rest it on a wireless charger - making it even more convenient to top up.
- 64MP main camera - f/1.79 - OIS
- 8MP ultrawide camera - f/2.2
- 2MP macro camera - f/2.4
- 4K and 8K video recording - OIS and EIS stabilisation
If there's on area that's not quite as up to flagship levels as the rest of the phone, it's the camera department. The primary 64-megapixel camera is fine enough, but it's joined by two quite low resolution sensors. Those are the 8-megapixel ultrawide and the 2-megapixel macro. Both noticeably poorer than the main camera.
Comparing primary, 2x primary zoom and ultrawide camera shots
In good daylight you can get relatively strong images from the main camera. But not as strong as what we saw from the likes of the Galaxy A54 or the Pixel 6a. The pictures processed from the Poco phone have a dark, quite crushed look to them in light conditions where there's quite a lot of contrasting shadow and bright light.
In the landscapes above you'll notice the trees in the background become something of a feature-less, blotchy detail in the background, particularly when you hit the 2x zoom which digitally zooms in on the main camera.
Comparing 2x and 1x shots on the Poco F5 Pro's main camera
You can still get images with lots of vibrant colour in those images, so it's not a bad camera at all. And since you can use the 2x zoom function to good effect (as long as you're not dealing with complicated subjects full of fine detail), it makes more sense to use that function than try to use the macro camera.
The ultrawide camera shots aren't as good as the primary snapper. They're considerably less detailed, with slightly more muted colours and noisier in the shadows, particularly from images taken in lower-light situations.
Our end feeling with the F5 Pro is one we've not felt from Poco since the Poco F3 Pro two years ago: it's astonishing value for money (as long as the camera isn't your main concern). You get a stunning, big display, great battery life and real flagship levels of performance in a phone that costs less than half what the ultra-premium phones cost. It's amazing value for money.
If Poco could learn to tame some of the user interface/MIUI software and deliver cleaner software, less crushed photos from the main camera, it would be near enough perfect. Adding wireless charging, a Quad HD display and a more thoughtful design has improved things massively from the F4.