The Poco F3 runs on Android 11 with the Poco-spiced MIUI 12 out of the box. The MIUI 12 version has been around for a while, and even if it uses a newer Android 11 base, you can't really tell that as it skins everything thoroughly. The Poco launcher uses a slightly different system theme, icons included, but you can change it to your liking.
The Poco F3 supports an Always-on display, and you can schedule it or leave it on/off all the time. MIUI 12 has a ton of AOD themes you can choose from and make it yours. You can customize many of those. The Always-on display also supports breathing light - the curved edges of the display will flash with colors upon new notifications.
You unlock the screen via the side-mounted fingerprint scanner. The reader is easy to set up, blazing-fast, and the accuracy is superb. We advise you to set the unlock method to Press as the always-on reader may and will read your palm and/or other fingers and eventually disable the fingerprint unlock until you input your PIN. A 2D Face Unlock is available, too, but it is far less secure than the fingerprint option.
The homescreens are business as usual - they are populated with shortcuts, folders, and widgets. The leftmost pane, if enabled, is Google's Discover.
Unlike the Poco X3 Pro and Redmi Note 10 Pro, the Poco F3 does support Super Wallpapers. The Super Wallpapers are not something groundbreaking, but they provide one very coherent visual experience that is a feast for the eyes and, in the meantime - connects the parts of MIUI in a subtle yet striking way.
There are three Super Wallpapers available, and you get a choice of Home (Earth), The Red Planet (Mars), or Geometry.
The Poco-fied MIUI 12 offers an app drawer, but unlike on the Redmi phones, you cannot disable it on the Poco F3. It automatically organizes your apps into categories. The first is All, meaning it contains all apps. Then follow Communication, Entertainment, Photography, Tools, New, and Business. You can edit these categories or even disable them altogether.
Another interesting feature is the Notification shade split into Notification Center and Control Center. Just as on the iPhones, you summon them by pulling down from the left part of the screen for the Notification Center or pulling down from the right for the Control Center.
If you are not fond of this new split - you can disable the Control Center, and the shade will revert to its normal looks and operation.
The task switcher has not changed much. It shows all of your recent apps in two columns. Tap and hold on a card for the split-screen shortcut, or just swipe it left or right to close it. There is a new Floating Windows button on top, a new option offered by MIUI 12. You can put some apps in a floating state, but you only have one floating window at a time.
Themes are a huge part of MIUI, and they are available on MIUI 12, too. You can download new ones from the Themes store, and they can change wallpapers, ringtones, system icons, system fonts, and even the always-on display style.
Xiaomi enhanced MIUI 12 with a couple of additional privacy options. Now, when sharing stuff, like photos and videos, you can opt to remove location info and/or other metadata (incl. device info) and thus protect your privacy better. Neat.
MIUI also offers a Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your blacklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, and free up some RAM. It can also manage the permissions of your installed apps and allows you to define the battery behavior of selected apps, and applies restrictions only to the apps you choose.
MIUI 12 packs proprietary Gallery, Music, and Video player. In some regions, the music and video apps may include paid streaming options. Mi Remote for the IR blaster is available, too. There is no FM radio on the Poco F3.
MIUI 12 supports Dark Mode, too, and you can even force it on wallpapers or restrict its application on incompatible individual apps.
MIUI 12 is fully optimized to work on HRR displays, and it looks gorgeous on the Poco F3. Everything is smooth and fast; animations are unobtrusive yet impressive, the attention to detail is simply excellent. We did enjoy working with MIUI on the Poco F3's 120Hz for sure.
Some MIUI ROMs include ads in the default apps, it is a well-known thing.
The international ROM version of this Poco F3 does come with baked-in "recommendations" or ads, but luckily - you can disable those even if it's a bit tedious to do it. For example - if you are annoyed by the ads within the app scanner - just hit the settings gear and disable recommendations. Ads in the File Manager - Settings->About should do it. Themes - go to Settings and disable Recommendations. It's not ideal, sure, but at least you can get rid of them all.
The Poco F3 employs one of the fastest available chipsets - the recently unveiled Snapdragon 870 5G. It is a rehash of the last year's flagship SD865 chip with even higher CPU clocks and its prime core goes all the way up to 3.2GHz. It still packs one of the most powerful GPUs around - the Adreno 650.
The Poco F3 has two variants - 6GB RAM + 128GB storage and 8GB RAM + 256GB storage. Ours is the latter, the RAM is LPDDR5, while the storage is UFS3.1.
Unfortunately, our Poco F3 ROM had all but one benchmark blacklisted. The only app that ran fine was AnTuTu 8, and the number it returned was jaw-dropping. It is way ahead of the competition, including the SD870-powered Moto G100.
Higher is better
The Poco F3 has one of the most powerful hardware packages inside, and considering the price and the 1080p resolution, some may say it's overkill. We played a lot with the phone, and we saw no lag, no stutter, no screen issues, and all games ran lovely.
The F3 never heated enough to trigger throttling, and it's not for the lack of trying. We saw the AnTuTu score drop about 3% to 5%, with a maximum of 8% after numerous runs, and the phone's shell was warm but not hot. And while we couldn't run 3D Mark's stability test, it seems the Poco F3 is doing just fine in this respect.