Poco F4 GT Review: A Gaming Phone With a Capable Camera

Poco F4 GT

You may know Xiaomi, but do you know Poco? Xiaomi’s sub-brand isn’t a household name on this side of the world, and the F4 GT isn’t necessarily a camera-first phone, either.

No, that’s because mobile gaming is the focus here, something made clearer once some of the phone’s features come into play. It is a mid-ranger, at least in theory, except some of the guts inside lend credence to it being something more. It is important to remember that not all components can be considered equal.

Design

When I took out the first device, I noticed all of the buttons on the left edge. I thought they would work well with the camera. It turns out that this is not true. There are two recessed buttons that lift up when sliding the two hatches beside them. Although they are shoulder buttons, Poco allows for limited customization. These pop-up triggers have two functions. Each one is able to do its thing.

Poco F4 GT

I used a press-and-hold to launch the camera, while a double-click started recording video. There is no option to turn either one into a physical shutter release — a real shame because these buttons would be perfect for burst shooting. Basically, once I launched the camera, the buttons could do nothing else within the camera interface, unless I used them to start recording video.

I understand that Poco was not concentrating on the camera while rolling out these buttons, but its engineers could. You can set those same buttons to record audio, record the screen, turn on the flashlight, or go into silent or vibrate. It’s hard to understand why simply snapping a photo isn’t one of the options on that list.

Poco F4 GT

It would also add to the beauty inherent in the device. The F4 GT is a nice-looking phone, owing to its glass craftsmanship and slick 6. 67-inch AMOLED screen. The panel is limited to 2400 x 1080 resolution, so no squeezing in extra dense pixels, but it’s sharp, supports 120Hz refresh rates, and has good Gorilla Glass Victus protection. What’s less obvious is why Poco used the words “Speediest” and “Freezing” on the back panel. It is an artistic plus that the flash can be turned into a lightning bolt by placing it in the rear near the rear camera array. Although I don’t use it, this is a great idea.

The F4 GT runs on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, so it is sporting Qualcomm’s best current silicon. My review unit had 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM, though there is a 128GB and 8GB variant as well. There is no memory card slot on either variant.

While 5G-enabled, its reach won’t extend as far in North America, where limited band support means spottier connections with the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Coverage on their 4G LTE networks, however, should be seamless.

Camera Features

The Poco F4 GT is very much like a pared-down iteration of what Xiaomi has already done. Unlike the Xiaomi 12 Pro, which used a newer image sensor, the main 64-megapixel one (26mm equivalent) in the F4 GT is the more modest 1/1. 73-inch Sony IMX686 with an f/1. 9 aperture. The 64M-megapixel in the camera will let you shoot at the full resolution, otherwise it will shoot at a pixel binned 16-megapixels.

Poco F4 GT

The 8-megapixel f/2. 2 ultra-wide (16mm equivalent) is less impressive with its OmniVision OV08856 image sensor. Rather than throw in a telephoto lens, Poco went with a 2-megapixel macro that you would hope could produce passable close-ups.

Software Features

There’s plenty of familiarity if you know Xiaomi’s MIUI overlay on top of Android, and the camera layout is very much the same. Poco does provide plenty of modes to shoot with, all of which carry over from Xiaomi’s own branded devices. I’m not crazy about MIUI, as a whole, but at least the camera is easy enough to figure out.

As is common with Chinese manufacturers, you get an AI Camera mode, which works to amp up color and contrast wherever it can. Because there is little to no way to turn them off, I tend not too often to shoot. At any rate, if you want that in certain shots, you can always give it a try.

It’s everything else that should garner more attention. The menu from the top-right has a macro and tilt-shift mode, as well as a timed burst to capture movement. It’s interesting for its granular detail — you can capture up to 600 shots in 60 seconds. Other features, such as Clone and Documents can also be taken from Xiaomi phones.

Image Quality

Main Camera

The best you will get with the F4 GT is with the main camera. Despite its mid-range sensor, it can shoot well when you make use of what’s available. One of the keys is the exposure slider as a way to offset the excessive brightening in every shot. Brighter highlights and darker shadows will make a scene look harsher when lit. HDR is not able to balance the effects. Lower the exposure on a brighter shot, or in some cases, even with a darker one, and you see really good results.

Poco F4 GT

I was surprised at how good composition was, particularly with shots requiring thought. Available light makes a world of difference, and I improvised wherever I could, like a candle on a dinner table or the ambient light in an arena. It was also surprising to find the same detail on a wide range of subjects. At first, I thought it might just be processed sharpening, but the shots I got were impressively natural — both indoors and outdoors.

Poco F4 GT

Night photos and low-light images came out well for most of the time. Sometimes, the mode can do more damage than good. It processes images so much that zooming in will reveal “gooey pixels.” Hardly a shocker for a mid-range phone, but also odd how the regular Photo mode can occasionally outdo Night mode in those conditions.

Poco F4 GT
Long Exposure mode.

I liked the Long Exposure mode for the creative potential. It was a random idea. I tried it out in New York’s speakeasy. The lighting was dark and I thought I might be able to capture the silhouette of a bartender. This created a cool effect. The whole mood is really no different than it is on a Xiaomi device, with the only exception being the image sensor inside. The Snapdragon 8 chipset is more than capable of rendering in short order, and it shows no matter what mode you choose to shoot in.

Ultra-wide

It is here where the weaknesses start to show, and it has everything to do with the periphery. Zoom in on the edges, and you see smoother pixels indicative of a sensor that prioritizes whatever’s in the middle more than anything else. Although it is possible to get a great ultra-wide shot in most conditions, it can be more difficult.

Poco F4 GT

Poco makes it available in several shooting modes, so there is that at least. It won’t work in Pro and Long Exposure. However, it can be used in Photo, Night and other video modes. Same with tilt-shift and timed burst shots.

Portrait and Macro

I wasn’t expecting much from either of these, though can say they offer some utility in the field. Portraits can be difficult to capture if the camera isn’t in the right spot for the bokeh effect. Just when I thought I had locked on to the subject properly, the resulting image wasn’t as crisp as I would’ve wanted. This is something you should be aware of when using this mode.

Poco F4 GT

Macro shots are similar that way, meaning you have to hold the phone at a certain distance and the F4 GT doesn’t tell you when you’re in the ballpark. You are assuming that everything is in focus without any focus peaking.

Poco F4 GT

Pro Mode

There’s some depth here any shooter can appreciate. Much like Xiaomi, Poco serves up a number of options, from the ability to switch between the main and ultra-wide lenses, and on to metering, composition parameters, focus peaking, exposure verification, and filtering. You can shoot in RAW, if you like, or go with the 64-megapixel mode, if you prefer that option. If you are new to Pro Mode, the interface includes a clear explanation that explains what each feature does.

Poco F4 GT
Captured in Pro Mode

Results are pretty good, all things considered. I’m not sure there was a huge difference between RAW and 64-megapixel in images with good lighting, but I preferred RAW if I was going to capture something more challenging. For a mid-ranger with good supporting features, the F4 GT has a solid Pro mode worth using.

Poco F4 GT
Taken in 64-megapixel mode.

Video Features

There isn’t anything too surprising going on here, though it is easy to appreciate the choices you have. The main video mode can shoot in 4K up to 60 frames per second, and even in macro, if you want. Short Video and Vlog are all about social media-type content. Movie Effects adds Hollywood-style tricks, like parallax, slow shutter, time freeze, and parallel world to video, which you can also shoot in 2. 35:1 aspect ratio. The only thing missing is a 24 frame per second framerate option for true cinematic video.

Dual video is one of those gimmicky modes that uses the rear and front cameras together. Apart from that, you can have some fun shooting clips with the F4 GT, except what you come up with may really vary depending on what and where you’re shooting.

A Gaming Phone with a Capable Camera

Poco doesn’t hide who it thinks would like this phone most. So much of its build and feature set caters to gamers, so the camera doesn’t get the same shine. While the internal components of this camera are strong enough to run any game you wish, good hardware can also render video and photos faster.

Poco F4 GT

Think of it as a fringe benefit, or at least one that comes with useful caveats. Poco borrows heavily from Xiaomi, and had there been a better image sensor for the ultra-wide, this would’ve been a pretty nifty mobile shooter in more ways than one.

Are There Alternatives?

If we’re looking at mid-range phones that are less about gaming, and more about photography, then you have to look at the Google Pixel 6, and even the Pixel 6a when that comes to market. The Samsung Galaxy S22 is good value, considering so much of Samsung’s camera arsenal finds its way into that device as well. The same could be said of the iPhone 13 if you’re inclined to go the way of iOS over Android.

Should You Buy It?

Unless you’re equal parts photographer and gamer, probably not. The gaming element truly matters here and should be a key reason why you choose the Poco F4 GT over all others. For less than $700 though, you do get a solid device with a capable camera, and one that no one else around you is likely to wield.

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