Smartphone brands entering the accessories space is not a new thing, and many such as Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus, Samsung, and Apple have established product ranges in the true wireless audio segment. The latest to give it a shot is Poco, which operates in India as a sub-brand of Xiaomi, and has been a noteworthy player in the mid-range smartphone segment. The company's first audio product is firmly an entry-level offering.
Priced at Rs. 1,199 in India, the Poco Pods true wireless earphones isn't too complex or feature-rich, but they don't cost a lot either. This headset is as basic as it gets, but perhaps that's exactly what some might need. Find out if the Poco Pods is indeed worth the price, and if it's the best affordable true wireless headset you can buy right now.
The Poco Pods have a proper in-canal fit with good noise isolation, and a decently-sized charging case
Poco Pods design, features, and specifications
The Poco Pods headset has what I consider a very generic look and feel (it looks a lot like the Redmi Buds 4 Active), but this isn't a bad thing. The earpieces are light and fairly durable, with a proper in-canal fit and stem design. The headset is available in a single black-and-yellow colour option — Poco's signature colour scheme. If that wasn't enough, the large Poco logo on the front of the all-black charging case sufficiently makes the point.
The earpieces have touch-sensitive areas for controls, but the lack of app support on the Poco Pods means that the controls are fixed and non-customisable. A double-tap gesture will let you answer calls or play and pause music, while a triple tap on either side cancel the call or skip to the next track. You can't skip to the previous track from the earphones; you'll need the paired smartphone to do that.
A long press on both earpieces simultaneously will activate or disable the low-latency mode. There are a couple of other gestures meant to put the headset into forced pairing mode or factory reset the Poco Pods, but you can simply put the earphones into pairing mode by disconnecting all other connected and paired devices. On the whole, the system functions are fairly easy and uncomplicated, as you'd expect from a true wireless headset which doesn't have app support.
The charging case has a small indicator light at the bottom, alongside the USB Type-C charging port. The fit on the earpieces is decent, and the Poco Pods come with environmental noise cancellation, which promises better performance on calls. The sales package includes a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips of different sizes, but no charging cable is included in the box.
As mentioned earlier, there is no app support on the Poco Pods, but I wouldn't go as far as to call this a drawback on a headset in this price range. Fortunately, you do get the basics such as USB Type-C charging, as well as the benefits of features such as environmental noise cancellation and 60ms low-latency for use when gaming.
The Poco Pods is available in just a single colour for now; black and yellow
The Poco Pods headset has 12mm dynamic drivers, and uses Bluetooth 5.3 for connectivity, with support for only the SBC Bluetooth codec — a disappointing spec even at this price. Usefully, either earpiece can be used individually if you like, with the other securely stored in the charging case and not affecting stable connectivity for the earpiece in operation.
Poco Pods performance and battery life
I tend to keep my expectations tempered when it comes to affordable true wireless earphones; you're paying almost entirely for the form factor here, and saving on paying premiums for the ‘fluff', so to speak. The Poco Pods largely deliver that straightforward true wireless experience, but the sound quality is perhaps not as good as it could have been, even considering the affordable pricing.
Detailed tuning might be too much to expect here, but the crux of the Poco Pods' shortcomings can be pinned on its codec limitations. The SBC codec doesn't quite allow enough bandwidth for the earphones to work with, and this can be heard in the sound quality. It sounds unrefined at times, although it doesn't reach a point of being unpleasant even at high volumes. It's listenable considering the price, and useful if you just need earphones to help you tune out your surroundings.
The earpieces of the Poco Pods are light and comfortable, with non-customisable touch controls
Starting with David Guetta's Stay (Don't Go Away), the sound initially sounded alright when the track itself wasn't pushing too hard, but as the attack picked up, the Poco Pods started to sound a bit muffled. I wouldn't go as far as to call it muddy or too harsh, and the sound might even appeal to those who enjoy hearing a bit more from the bass frequencies.
Certain genres and types of tracks are admittedly better suited to this kind of tuning and sound, with many of Croatia Squad's distinctly beat-driven tracks sounding rather enjoyable on the Poco Pods. The progressive and rather straightforward attack of Make Your Move by Croatia Squad was perhaps the best example of how a niche (or genre, in this case) can be found to bring the best out of even affordable wireless earphones. The lack of detail in the track was evident, but matters less with certain tracks and genres such as this.
Call quality is acceptable and workable enough for both indoor and outdoor use; microphone performance is decent in quiet rooms, but suffered a bit outdoors despite the presence of ENC. Low-latency mode didn't seem to make much of a difference in audio latency on basic mobile games.
Battery life is decent on the Poco Pods, with the earphones running for around five hours on a single charge of the earpieces, and the charging case offering over three full additional charges, for a total run time of around 22-23 hours per charge cycle, which is a bit lower than the claimed time of 30 hours. This is somewhat expected given the lack of features and codec support, but users will obviously find this good enough for practical all-day listening.
The Poco Pods true wireless headset delivers largely what you expect from a headset in this price range — nothing more, and nothing less. The earphones are basic, but reasonably well set up for the kind of music that most budget buyers might want to listen to. Don't expect too much detail, and use these for casual listening, particularly when out and about thanks to the decent passive noise isolation. Battery life is decent as well.
There is plenty of competition in this price segment, but Poco's first effort in the true wireless audio space is a commendable effort. Perhaps the only real drawback is the lack of support for the AAC Bluetooth codec, but all things considered this is a worthwhile pair of earphones if you have a very tight budget.
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