POCO is doing a lot of good things in the budget and mid-range categories, and the brand is seeing increased momentum outside Asia this year. That's down to a strong portfolio of devices along with a value-first 5G strategy that sees POCO undercutting the likes of Samsung, Vivo, and Realme in key regions. This is the same playbook that Xiaomi used when it was starting out in India a decade ago, and POCO is now leveraging the strategy to great effect in Spain, France, the U.K., and other western markets.
POCO launched nearly a dozen phones this year, and the one that caught my eye the most is the F4 GT. The phone follows in the heels of last year's POCO F3 GT and is aimed at a younger audience, with a focus on gaming. Unlike other gaming-focused phones, you won't find RGB lighting or an aggressive styling here; the only accouterments in this area include gaming triggers located on the right that can be customized to in-game actions.
I used the POCO F4 GT for a while back when it launched, but wasn't able to do a full review at the time. So I wanted to take the time to revisit the device now that it's been available for a while and see what it does well and where POCO needs to do a bit more. To kick things off, a rundown of the hardware: the F4 GT is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, has a 120Hz AMOLED screen, 64MP camera at the back, and a 4700mAh battery with 120W wired charging. The phone is now selling for £549 ($669), making it a good value against the Galaxy S22 and the Xiaomi 12 series.
POCO's devices have always stood out for their bold designs — like the huge camera island on the POCO M3 — and considering the brand's userbase, this was a good strategy. However, this year's devices have been lackluster, and it feels like POCO just cobbled together the most basic designs with no thought toward a coherent aesthetic.
That's true of the F4 GT as well, with the device featuring a design that isn't enticing in the least. Sure, not all gaming phones need to have RGB lighting or an aggressive styling, but the design at the back of the F4 GT feels unfinished. Then there's the flash module stylized like a lightning bolt that doesn't blend in with the rest of the design choices, and the nonsensical text written around the camera module. This isn't a design that will get anyone excited, and the best thing to do is put a case on it.
That said, the F4 GT doesn't feel unwieldy in the hand, and while it has flat sides, they have a subtle curve where the back blends into the mid-frame, and that makes a noticeable difference in usability. It is also durable, with the device coming away without any issues after taking a few tumbles.
Like last year, the right side is particularly heavy, with POCO retaining the magnetic gaming triggers. You get sliders to activate each trigger, so with the triggers in use you have five buttons on the right side. POCO needs to find a better system for the triggers, and as much as I like the feature, it just makes the phone look busy.
Thankfully, there are no shortcomings on the hardware side of things. As with most other gaming phones launched this year, you get the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 here, and the device handles anything you throw at it with ease. This generally hasn't been an issue on any phone I've used in 2022, and thanks to the powerful hardware, the F4 GT is a fantastic gaming phone — I didn't see any slowdowns whatsoever while gaming.
There wasn't much in the way of overheating either, with the device managing its thermals well even during extended gaming sessions. So although the F4 GT isn't the flashiest gaming phone you'll find in the market, it has the goods where it counts.
POCO admitted that the camera isn't an area of focus when it comes to gaming phones, and while you get a decent shooter here, it doesn't quite measure up to its rivals like the Xiaomi 12 or the Find X5. For what it's worth, you get the same camera interface as other Xiaomi phones, and there are a decent number of shooting modes available.
I found that the F4 GT takes decent photos in daylight, and the night mode delivers usable shots at night. However, it is missing that final bit of finesse that makes devices like the Pixel 6a stand out, and if you see yourself taking a lot of photos, you will need to consider another device.
Finally, it's the software where POCO needs to do more. It's not technically under the manufacturer's control as it uses what Xiaomi has available, and the Android 12-based MIUI 13 has a lot to offer. That said, Xiaomi is woefully behind its rivals in rolling out timely updates, and that isn't likely to change. As a result, there's no telling when the F4 GT will get the Android 13-based MIUI 14.
Xiaomi says the stable build will go out to the likes of the Xiaomi 12 Pro and other high-end phones sometime in Q1 2023, so you're looking at a Q2 window to get the stable Android 13 release on the F4 GT. There's also the fact that the device will get only two platform updates, and in a category where more and more manufacturers are giving at least three Android version updates, POCO is once again on the backfoot.
Overall, I like what POCO achieved with the F4 GT. The device does a great job at being a gaming phone without overtly looking like one, and the combination of 120Hz AMOLED screen, stereo sound, ultrasonic triggers, and powerful Qualcomm hardware makes it fun to use for gaming. To its credit, POCO doesn't position this as a camera-focused phone, and while you'll get decent shots, it isn't the best in this category by far.
The biggest area that needs attention is software, and that's largely out of POCO's hands — unless it wants to build its own interface. That's unlikely given the brand's positioning and its focus right now, and that ultimately deters from what is an otherwise great gaming phone.
The POCO F4 GT nails the basics, and while it may not look like it, this is a great gaming phone. The large 120Hz AMOLED screen is vibrant, you get powerful hardware, a massive battery with fast charging, and gaming triggers on the side that are actually useful.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.