Gaming phone: those words usually bring to mind expensive handhelds striped in bright colors and needless RGB. POCO is out to change that with it’s new F4 GT, a more grown up take on a gaming device that doesn’t skimp on features. Featuring a fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, liquid cooling tech, retractable triggers, and surprisingly good speakers, this device is ready-made for your favorite games, and with a price starting at only $499, it won’t break the bank. Is this device worth picking up for your mobile machinations? Find out in our review!
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POCO F4 GT - Overview
The POCO F4 GT is out to redefine what you should expect from an affordable, non-contract phone. This device is a step up from the budget sector but offers more advanced specs and features in return. In fact, it would be fair to call this phone cutting edge thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, but it pairs that with a high refresh rate screen, ultra-fast 120W charging, and a triple camera array that includes some of the best features from Xiaomi’s other phones, including the premiere Xiaomi 11T Pro.
The F4 GT features a large 6.67-inch AMOLED DotDisplay. Blacks are deep and rich, and colors are vibrant without becoming over-saturated. HDR content looks great on this device thanks to its peak brightness of 800-nits, but it’s important to note that this does fall short of higher-priced flagships, like the 11T Pro with its 1000-nits of luminance, or the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 1750 nits. There’s a noticeable difference when looking at these devices side by side, but 800-nits is bright enough to use comfortably in direct sunlight and looks great all on its own in indoor lighting.
The display features an FHD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080 (20:9 ratio). At 6.67-inches, this provides a crisp, clear image. It also features an adaptive refresh rate that will intelligently scale up to 120Hz for fast-moving content, like scrolling web pages. This is a great way to save battery, as we see on Samsung’s current flagship, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The screen is made of Gorilla Glass Victus, Corning’s best, and is completely flat. This is preferable for a device that will be frequently used for gaming in Landscape mode as accidental touches are a much more frequent issue while gaming in that orientation. As a smaller side bonus, you won’t be left spending $30+ on a curved glass screen protector if you don’t like the TPU film that comes pre-installed (and is a bit of a fingerprint magnet).
The body of the phone is made from aluminum alloy. It comes in Stealth Black, Knight Silver, or Cyber Yellow colors. Apart from the bright yellow of the Cyber version, there’s nothing about the stylization that screams “gaming phone” to its design. A glossy strip runs down the center of the back, and the left and right sides also have some triangular patterning, with two more small glossy strips in their center. It’s interesting, but if I didn’t already know it was a phone dedicated to gaming, the design wouldn’t be the thing that makes it click into place.
Instead, that would be the triggers and cooling solution. Upon my first glance, I was surprised that the right side of the phone had doors for not one but two MicroSD/SIM cards, flanked by switches that looked like the Do Not Disturb switches of the past. I was wrong. Flipping those switches causes the “door” to pop out and become shoulder buttons for portable gaming. It’s a neat bit of design that completely hides the triggers when not in use but makes them accessible within seconds. They’re also remappable and can act as shortcuts for turning on the flashlight, changing sound modes between Silent and Vibrate, or recording audio, video, or your screen. In games, they can be used just as you would expect and are excellent for deeper games, like first-person shooters.
The cooling solution also caters to gaming. The F4 GT uses what POCO calls LiquidCool Technology. Instead of using some kind of tiny AIO, it instead employs a pair of vapor chambers over the Snapdragon 8 SoC and the charging components on the bottom of the phone. The cooler dedicated to the CPU is downright massive, with a surface area of 4052 square millimeters. The vapor chamber dedicated to the charger is smaller, but it’s an important inclusion nonetheless. As mobile gamers already know, high-spec games can decrease your battery life quickly, and playing without a charge can reduce performance. Plugging in generates heat, however, which can also decrease performance. It’s a catch-22. The goal of this solution is to keep both sources of heat in check and better isolate them from one another. It works decently but thermal throttling is an issue over extended play sessions like it is for most smartphones.
The charging brick is identical that with the Xiaomi 11T Pro (pictured)
One of the hallmark features of this device is its large battery and incredibly fast charging speed. While Samsung and Apple have begun selling the chargers separately “to reduce e-waste,” POCO not only gives you a charger, it gives you a massive charger. It’s the same charging brick included with the Xiaomi 11T Pro (pictured above — I missed snapping a shot of it for this review) and boy does it deliver. At an incredible 120-watt charging speed, it’s able to completely recharge the phone in just under 20 minutes with Boost charging enabled in the settings. That’s slightly higher than the 17 minutes POCO quotes but remains extremely impressive (and that three-minute differential can be accounted for with the temperature of the environment and phone). There is no wireless charging on this device.
I’m rarely impressed by smartphone speakers as they’re often too small to avoid sounding tinny. While the POCO F4 GT won’t compete with dedicated speakers or gaming headsets, what it delivers is genuinely pretty good. When held in landscape mode, triggers up, the speakers are on the upper sides of the top and bottom rim, safe from getting blocked by your hands. Each side features a sub-woofer and tweeter to deliver a stereo soundscape. It sounds fuller than many other phones I’ve tried, so the woofers are definitely doing their job. For impromptu gaming, it will definitely get the job done, but if you’d rather bring your own audio equipment, the phone also comes with an included USB-C to 3.5mm adapter to connect headphones.
Finally, before getting to the camera, as is often the case with imported smartphones, it will be important to check the bands supported by your wireless carrier. Currently, the POCO F4 GT will not work with Verizon in the United States; however, it will on a carrier by carrier basis.
POCO F4 GT - Camera and Samples
The POCO F4 GT uses a rear triple camera array. It consists of a wide angle lens, an ultra-wide, and a macro lens. There is also a single front camera for selfies and video. Here are the details on each:
- Wide Angle Lens
- 1/1.73" sensor
- Aperture: f/1.9
- Maximum video resolution: 4K60
- Ultra-wide Angle Lens
- FOV: 120-degrees
- Maximum video resolution: 1080p30
- Macro Lens
- Front Camera
- Aperture: f/2.4
- Maximum video resolution: 1080p60
Spec-wise, this would be one of the key areas where the F4 GT’s more affordable pricing kicks in. The ceiling on resolution for photo and video is lower, but that doesn’t mean it takes bad pictures. In fact, it’s actually able to take some great ones.
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Taking a stroll through my backyard, I snapped these. As you can tell, it was an overcast day, but that didn’t stop the F4 GT from gathering a surprising amount of detail. Colors are slightly oversaturated (which I like), but this can be dialed back inside the settings if you use Pro mode.
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Portrait mode is also available with either the front or rear camera. I was impressed at how well it was able to isolate the subject, whether that was a person, plant, or animal. It also doesn’t demand you stay a certain distance from what you’re shooting before enabling the bokeh effect. The F4 GT was able to isolate each subject naturally from its surroundings to create a convincing background blur — however, look close enough and you’ll sometimes see a bit of an outline around your subject. Click to enlarge the plant picture above to see this in action.
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In the above gallery, you can see the focal range difference between the three cameras when shot from the exact same position. First to last is ultrawide, wide, and 2x zoom.
Another neat feature of the camera system is its AI image enhancement. In the above picture, you can see a shot of the backyard with AI enhancement OFF. Here’s how it looks with it turned on:
Depending on what the camera recognizes is being shot, it will adjust the picture settings to deliver the best effect. When it comes to nature, as with the examples above, that means boosting brightness and saturation quite a bit to make the greenery pop out. It does indeed, but that added saturation definitely decreases how true to life the second shot is. The kids’ playset isn’t that orange or yellow.
First to last: Macro Mode, Portrait Mode. Click to enlarge.
Next, we have the macro lens. At only 2MP, it’s low resolution and not very impressive. In fact, as the two pictures above demonstrate, you can often get more detail from the other lenses just by cropping into your original thought.
First to last: standard wide-angle mode, 64MP mode, Macro Mode
Shooting in lower light, it’s no contest whatsoever. As you can see in the gallery above, the macro lens had an extremely difficult time finding the correct white balance compared to the wide-angle lens in normal mode and 64MP mode. There just isn’t a great reason to use the macro camera when you can get similar results with the normal wide-angle lens and not have to worry about fixing poor color settings in post.
Video quality, on the other hand, is very good. I didn’t find much to complain about in either the 4K or 1080P modes. It further demonstrates this phone’s limitations, however, as we don’t see advanced features like 8K video from the main lens. To be honest, however, 8K is so hard to work with that you’re probably better shooting in 4K for now anyway, so that’s no big loss for the hundred of dollars saved.
POCO F4 GT - Performance
To test the phone’s performance, I put it through a series of synthetic tests in Geekbench and 3DMark. I also used it as a daily driver and played Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile. Note that our sample was the 12GB+256GB version.
Starting with Geekbench, we have some impressive results. As we would expect from the latest and greatest smartphone SoC, the POCO F4 GT takes no prisoners in its CPU performance. These results far outpace the Samsung Galaxy S21, which still retails for around twice the price. They’re also nearly identical to the Galaxy S22 Ultra which uses the same chip.
In 3DMark’s Wildlife benchmark, it performed very well and averaged 59.7 FPS. According to 3DMark’s results, this is top-tier performance and exceeds nearly all of its recorded results.
Punching up to Wildlife Extreme, a test that renders at 4K, that expectedly falls to 15.6 FPS. Even still, that’s better than 78% of results from other phones. Not bad!
Next up, we examine thermal throttling and see how that dual vapor chamber solution works.
To accomplish this, we used 3DMark’s 20-minute Wildlife stress test. Here, we can see a clear trend of performance decreasing as the temperature increased to hover around 40C. The frame rate is still above 30 (though did have more frequent hitches), and very playable, but the dual vapor chamber solution doesn’t solve the issue of decreased performance over time. If you plan to take part in extended gaming sessions with demanding graphics, it will be worth investing in an active fan to help apply cool air to the back of the phone.
In practical use in games, I found that it performed very well. You’re not watching an FPS counter in most smartphone games, so aren’t reminded about that performance slide in the same way you would a PC game. If you’re sensitive, you’ll feel it, but if you’re not, it will probably go completely unnoticed. The triggers are also surprisingly good and make mobile gaming feel more like real, controller gaming. The back panel and edge does get quite warm, however, which would also be helped by an active cooling fan for longer sessions.
The POCO F4 GT is an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. It has its shortcomings and tradeoffs, as you would expect from a device that’s on the affordable end of current pricing, but the overall package is well-considered and exceptionally well-delivered. Performance is great for day-to-day use and the pictures are surprisingly good, despite having lowering specs than its more premium-priced competition. Gaming performance is also good and becomes more so when you can make use of the triggers. If your carrier supports it, this is a very solid balance of flagship features and accessible pricing, making it a win for POCO.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.