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iQOO 3 5G Review: Pro-Gaming 5G-Enabled Smartphone With Average Camera And Dated 60Hz Display
iQOO announced its first smartphone in the Indian market with a bang. The iQOO 3 is the first commercially available 5G smartphone in India. It is future-proof for faster networks and packs top-of-the-line hardware. The iQOO 3 5G carries a price tag of Rs. 44,990 (12GB/256GB). The company also announced the 4G variants of the iQOO 3 priced at Rs. 36,990 (8GB/128GB) and Rs. 39,990 (8GB/256GB).
- Premium Design
- Extremely Powerful And Responsive Despite 60Hz Panel
- Game Triggers Enhance Gameplay
- Long-lasting Battery Life Aided By 55W Fast-Charging
- Average Camera Performance
- No 90Hz Display
- Half-Baked Software Experience
- Underwhelming Audio Performance
The pricing puts the iQOO 3 5G in a direct fight with the recently launched Realme X50 Pro 5G, Asus ROG Phone II, OnePlus 7T, Realme X2 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite and the S10 Lite. With these smartphones, the sub-40K price segment now offers plenty of flagship-grade smartphones to choose from. As we have tested the aforementioned smartphones, we put the iQOO 3 to its paces to evaluate its performance. Here's what we found out.
Design: Premium Aesthetic, Sturdy Built
The iQOO 3 is built out of metal and glass and feels quite sturdy in hands. The smartphone has an aluminum frame and the Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection at the back panel. It feels slightly heavy (214g) and is also thicker than most of the sub-40K smartphones. However, the good ergonomics make the handset suitable for one-hand operation.
The curved back panel has a big rectangle camera module at the top-left corner with four lenses and a flashlight. The iQOO 3 offers a 3.5mm headphone jack on top but skips on a microSD card slot. The audio is managed by a single bottom-firing speaker and lacks a punch. The physical buttons feel nice and clicky though. The iQOO 3 is available in three color variants - Tornado Black, Quantum Silver, and the Volcano Orange.
Lacks Pro-Gaming Handset Feel
The iQOO 3 is largely promoted as a performance-oriented gaming handset but it fails to offer a game-centric design. The iQOO 3's design has no sharp and bold corners. You will also not find any LED lights that create hues of different colors at sides and the back panels which add a character to game-centric handsets.
Pressure-Sensitive Game Triggers
To make the design gamer-friendly, the right side of the smartphone has two pressure-sensitive buttons that work as triggers while playing games like PUBG and Call of Duty. The power button has an orange accent which looks nice. Overall, it is only the ‘Volcano Orange' color variant of the iQOO 3, which looks distinct. It also offers a different texture and is the variant you should go for if you want something different.
Vibrant AMOLED Panel With 1200 nits Peak Brightness Level
The display is one-of-the-most crucial aspects of a performance-oriented game-centric handset. The iQOO 3 gets most of the things right in the display department. It flaunts a 6.4-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED panel which is bright and offers punchy colors. This AMOLED panel reaches a claimed peak brightness level of 1200nits.
While we couldn't quantify the claims, the screen is perfectly usable outdoors. The display also supports HDR10+ and serves well for video playback and gaming. However, what's lacking here is a higher refresh rate which can prove to be a deal breaker for some users, especially for hardcore gamers. A higher refresh rate display is an absolute necessity for a pro gaming experience.
Dated 60Hz Refresh Rate But 180Hz Touch Response
The iQOO 3 tries to compensate it by offering a 180Hz touch response rate. It makes a difference to a good extent when you are playing games but fails to match the overall user-experience provided by a higher refresh rate panel. A 90Hz refresh rate would have given the iQOO 3 a certain edge in the gaming department.
Here we would like to mention some sub-40K smartphones that offer higher refresh rate panels. The list includes the Realme X2 Pro, OnePlus 7T, Asus ROG Phone II, Nubia RedMagic 3s and the newly launched Realme X50 Pro 5G. Despite running on SD855+, these handsets come across as much more responsive devices in general operations and during high-intensity gameplay.
How’s the Gaming Experience?
The iQOO 3 is extremely responsive and powerful when it comes to processing speeds and multitasking, thanks to the flagship Snapdragon 865 SoC, 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 flash storage. The 7nm chipset features Kryo 585 cores and uses Adreno 650 GPU to handle graphics.
The gaming experience is also top class as long as you are not playing games for a prolonged duration. We did notice some glitches but only after 35-40 minutes of continuous gameplay. The handset also showed signs of heating but it's normal with such high-intensity gameplay.
Well-Rounded Game Mode
The Ultra Game mode is a good addition to the phone's software ecosystem. It comes handy to further enhance the gaming experience. When activated, the mode enables the 4D vibration for better haptics and runs the screen at 180Hz touch sampling rate for fluidity. It also restricts calls and blocks notifications for an interrupted gameplay experience.
The game mode also features an ‘Eagle eye view enhancement' that improves the display's output for the vivid and immersive gaming experience. In the end, the pressure-sensitive touch buttons make a difference in handling opponents in games like PUBG and Call of Duty. Overall, the iQOO 3 5G delivers a solid gaming performance but a higher refresh rate panel is highly missed.
We were pretty excited to run the benchmarks as the iQOO 3 5G is the first handset to run on the SD865 chipset. We ran our usual set of benchmarks to check the numbers. The smartphone scored 506,600 points on Antutu, touched 10113 in PC Mark Work 2.0 performance test and achieved 918 in Geekbench's single-core test and 2025 in the multi-core test.
In 3D Mark slingshot extreme- OpenGL ES 3.1, the iQOO 3 5G scored 5673 and recorded 5156 in Vulkan test. Some reviewers have recorded even higher numbers in benchmarks. Overall, the SD865 makes the iQOO 3 5G a performance beast in day-to-day operations.
Capable Camera Hardware With Inconsistent Software
The iQOO 3 comes equipped with a quad-lens camera setup but the performance is largely inconsistent. The primary 48MP sensor captures detailed shots with good dynamic range but the contrast and saturation are not at point. The camera software is too harsh at colors and images look highly processed. If you have a knack for correcting images in post processing, you can derive good results from the iQOO 3.
Camera Software Needs Optimization
The camera performance is marred by poor software optimization. The 2MP depth-sensor can deliver good portraits but it is not always effective in separating the subject from the background. The edge detection is rather average and only works well when there is one subject in the frame. There's a movie mode in portrait that can deliver some dramatic bokehs.
Decent Wide-angle Shots
The 13MP wide-angle lens performs well when there's a decent amount of light available to compose the shot. Check out the above camera sample. The camera was able to capture impressive dynamic range and managed to offer crisp details.
Underwhelming Night Mode
I was expecting some good low-light camera shots on the iQOO 3. The company made some bold claims for the iQOO 3's night mode capabilities but sadly, the results are mostly underwhelming. You can achieve similar low-light shots with sub-15K smartphones. The night mode needs software optimization as it couldn't deliver well-lit images in low-light. The smartphone can also record 4k videos at 36fps and the quality is decent.
Software Performance, Face Unlock And In-screen Fingerprint Scanner
Thankfully, the iQOO 3 5G does not run on the FunTouchOS, which is nothing but an iOS rip-off. It runs on iQOO UI which is not a new skin altogether but still gets few things right. For instance, you don't need to swipe from bottom to access the quick settings panel.
The settings menu has been refined and the notification drop-down panel works just like a regular Android device. The iQOO UI also allows you to change wallpapers by just long-tapping on the home screen. Sadly, the UI is not free of bloatware.
Like any Vivo handset, there are many unwanted apps and the lock screen is still hijacked by the Glance's wallpaper carousel service. On the other hand, iQOO UI's face unlock and the in-screen fingerprint scanner is very effective. Both are extremely fast and consistent.
No Stereo Speakers, No IP Rating
The iQOO 3 5G is a game-centric phone that lacks a stereo speaker setup. The single bottom-firing speaker produces underwhelming audio and can be easily blocked when you hold the device in landscape orientation.
Smartphones like the OnePlus 7T and the Asus ROG Phone II offers far immersive audio experience than the iQOO 3. Thankfully, the phone offers a 3.5mm headphone jack that compensates for some loss. It is also worth mentioning that the iQOO 3 5G lacks an official IP rating for protection against water and dust.
4,440mAh Battery With 55W Fast-Charging
The iQOO 3 is backed by sizeable 4,440 mAh battery cell, which easily lasts a day with moderate to heavy usage. The SD865's reduced power efficiency and conventional 60Hz refresh rate come into play here to make the battery last longer. The phone's battery is aided by a 55W Super FlashCharge technology. The bundled charger was able to refuel the battery from 5% to 100% in about 53 minutes.
Should You Buy It?
The iQOO has an edge in the Indian market being the first-ever 5G handset. The iQOO 3 5G is an extremely powerful smartphone with a focus on gaming, connectivity and smooth processing and multitasking.
We also liked the premium design and long-lasting battery backup aided by the extremely fast-charging solution. As for the cons, the smartphone fails to offer an immersive audio delivery and the conventional 60Hz refresh rate panel is a letdown. The iQOO 3 5G also struggles to offer a good camera and software experience.
Overall, the iQOO 3 5G is strictly for consumers who want a future-proof 5G handset with ultra-fast processing and multitasking performance. For better display and software performance, the sub-40K price-segment offers several good options such as the OnePlus 7T, Realme X2 Pro Master Edition, and the new Realme X50 Pro 5G. And, if you largely want to invest in a smartphone purely for gaming, Asus ROG Phone II is the smartphone you should go for.