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(Pocket-lint) - The phone market is an extremely competitive space, with companies battling to bring you the best experiences at various price points. Two phones in the mid-range segment that offer more than their price points suggest they should are the Poco F3 and OnePlus Nord 2

In order to get such competitive phones down to their prices means compromises. But with the F3 being one of the best value phones of 2021, would you notice if you saved money and bought this instead of the OnePlus phone. Or, should you pay the extra? 

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Design

  • Nord 2: 158.9 x 73.2 x 8.3mm - 189g
  • Poco F3: 163.7 x 76.4 x 7.8mm - 196g
  • Nord 2: Glass front and back, plastic frame - No water resistance rating
  • Poco F3: Glass front and back, plastic frame - IP53 splash/dust resistance

There are a couple of things that first hit us when comparing the design of these two mid-range powerhouses. Looking at them side-by-side, it’s clear the Poco is noticeably taller and wider than the Nord 2. That means it will take up more space in your pocket or bag, and also makes it a little less practical to use one-handed.

However, once you start typing away with two hands, it feels really good and its thinness becomes an important factor. It’s ever so slightly thinner than the Nord 2, and when you hold it, you can feel it. 

Both use a similar combination of glass and plastic. They both have glass on the front and back, but use a plastic material for the frame around the sides.

The interesting thing we found was - at least with the two colours featured in the video above - the Nord’s layering under the glass on the back made it much less prone to showing fingerprints. Poco’s has a much more mirror-like finish and doesn’t shy away from showing you all of your palm grease in all of its hideous glory. So despite having a shiny glass finish on the exterior, the Nord doesn’t show them that obviously. Each has other finishes with varying levels of fingerprint resistance. 

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There are a couple more things that make a minor difference to the experience. For instance, the overall button quality on the Nord 2 feels higher. The clicks are more solid-feeling, making them seem more durable. Plus the Nord 2 has an alert slider on the side that makes it really simple to switch between silent, vibrant and ring modes.

Poco, however, has a physical fingerprint sensor on the side built into the power button and that makes it easier and quicker to unlock. Not to say the OnePlus’ in-display sensor is bad, but the physical sensor on the Poco just feels that bit more convenient in daily usage. 

One last thing - Poco’s has an official water and dust resistance to IP53 rating. That means it’s almost completely dust proof, and is splash proof. OnePlus doesn’t have an official rating, but it has been sealed well against spray and splashes. 

Display and software

  • Nord 2: 6.43-inch AMOLED - 1080x2400 resolution
  • Poco F3: 6.67-inch AMOLED - 1080x2400 resolution
  • Nord 2: 90Hz refresh - HDR10+ compatible
  • Poco F3: 120Hz refresh - HDR10+ compatible
  • Both: Android 11

Design material isn’t the only place these two phones have similarities. They share some specs like - both are fullHD 1080 x 2400 20:9 ratio AMOLED screens with HDR10+ support. There’s a size difference; with the Poco measuring 6.7-inches versus the OnePlus' 6.43-inch panel. That means it’s ever so slightly less sharp, but not enough to make any real difference. 

Poco’s punch-hole camera takes up a lot less space too, and being in the centre we find it less obstructive in the status bar than OnePlus’ larger corner camera.

On paper, Poco’s higher refresh rate does mean it’s capable of reaching up to 120fps vs 90fps on the OnePlus. In most instances,however - with popular apps and games - it’s really difficult to see any real tangible difference with the naked eye. If you look closely, you might notice it when scrolling up and down the app drawer, but 90hz is more than fast enough to give you that smooth, sharp effect. 

Where we noticed a bigger difference was in the colour calibration. In their default modes - with OnePlus in Vivid and Poco’s in Auto mode - the OnePlus does seem to boost the reds too much. In fact, even looking at white screens, the overall tone is warmer and pink-ish.

Poco’s auto mode seemed better in that regard, balancing the colours without losing that vibrant dynamic look. It was a lot cleaner and natural looking. 

OnePlus’ can be switched to a more gentle mode that tones it down, but Poco’s software offers even more here. Away from its auto mode there are several other default calibrations to choose from, including a list of advanced options and the ability to tune the colour to your preference. 

The one area the OnePlus does better is in viewing angles. Looking at the screen from less head-on angles, you lose a lot more of the brightness on the Poco screen than you do on the OnePlus. It seems to boost the contrast more generally too, which is sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Depending on the kind of content you’re watching.

For live action, real scenes, it makes it seem to dark, crushed and a bit unnatural. For colour rich animation, comics and general interface, it looks great. For watching movies and YouTube videos, we preferred the Poco. 

Both have a similar, but not identical approach to software. For instance, they’ll both let you install custom icon packs without needing an additional launcher, they have their own takes on always-on display customisation, live wallpapers and such, but they both offer them.

OnePlus’ interface is a bit cleaner, grouping things together where it makes sense to make it easier to use, whereas Poco has lots seemingly in their own sub menus making it a little more cumbersome. 

Performance and battery

  • Nord 2: MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor
  • Poco F3: Snapdragon 870 processor
  • Nord 2: 6/8/12GB RAM - 128/256GB storage
  • Poco F3: 6GB/8GB RAM - 128/256GB storage
  • Nord 2: 4500mAh battery - 65W fast charge
  • Poco F3: 4520mAh battery - 33W fast charge

When talking raw speed and power, the two phones have similar but not identical processor. Poco has gone with the Snapdragon 870, where OnePlus has the MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI. In daily use, the two phones are both generally quick and responsive. To the point where we think you’d be quite happy with either. 

However, if you stick them side by side and load games, the Poco did seem to fairly consistently load them just that little bit quicker. And for those interested in benchmarks - running a Geekbench 5 CPU test - it was finished when the OnePlus was still at about 90 per cent. Understandably then, both its single and multi-core scores were higher than the OnePlus. So it clearly has a bit more power to it. 

Battery is a similar story. The two capacities are as near as makes no difference. 4500mah vs 4520mAh, and in our daily testing they both were very capable of getting through the day. In fact with our sort of average usage which we’d consider moderate, we'd get through a day and a half without an issue from either.

However, the Poco was the one we would charge every night, because its charging speeds don’t match OnePlus’. OnePlus’s 65W Warp Charge can do a full 100 per cent charge in little over half an hour. Poco’s is just over half that power, and takes more than 50 minutes to do the same. 

Cameras

  • Nord 2: 50MP f/1.9 main camera - 8MP f/2.3 ultrawide - 2MP monochrome
  • Poco F3: 48MP f/1.8 main camera - 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide - 5MP macro
  • Nord 2: OIS on main camera
  • Poco F3: No OIS

Moving on to cameras, and again, there are similarities. Both have a primary and ultra wide lens, with similar pixel counts. OnePlus went with a 50MP main, Poco has 48MP, both ultrawides are 8MP. The third cameras are different though, OnePlus has a black and white sensor for additional data, Poco has a macro sensor for better closeups, but results from that are quite harsh. 

In general daily usage, what we found most of the time is that the primary camera on the OnePlus delivered better results than the Poco. Colours and depth were better and more natural on it, considerably so when shooting plants in particular. Poco’s looked too dark and contrast-heavy a lot of the time. OnePlus’ was also better in lower light situations, delivering more natural and sharper images. Handheld shots with the Poco were easier to mess up and make blurry in this instances, likely down to the lack of OIS. 

Switch to the ultra-wides, and it’s a different story. OnePlus’ ultra wide camera consistently delivers harsh, crushed shots lacking in vibrancy. Poco’s was much better. 

If you only really use the main camera on your phones, the OnePlus is the easy choice here. It’s a superior primary camera. And is better in low light situations. If you like to have a decent ultra wide, then Poco is a sensible choice. Its main camera might not be as good, but it’s not terrible - at least not in good light. 

Price

  • Nord 2: From £399
  • Poco F3: From £299

There is a considerable difference between the full retail price of both phones. Poco's phone is £100 less than the OnePlus model, despite out-performing it in a few areas.

OnePlus' mid-range champ does cost more, and you may decide it's worth it if it meets your needs more than the Poco. 

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Conclusion

Regardless of this comparison, the Poco F3 is a no-brainer. The phone you get for the money is fantastic. It does all the important things well. Plus, the performance is slightly better, and we prefer the screen. It's a bit cheaper too, especially now that it's a bit older.

Where OnePlus has the advantage is in charging speed and the cleaner software experience. It also has the better main camera. 

Both offer great value for money in fairness, so the choice - boiling it down to basics - is really between the better camera on the Nord, or the slightly speedier performance and display on the Poco. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 20 September 2021.