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iQOO Z3 5G Review: Future Proof But Not An All-Rounder Smartphone
2021 is all about affordable 5G smartphones. Every other smartphone in India, or the world, this year will be a 5G phone. And, a major chunk of these future-proof devices will be shipped by BBK Electronics, the worlds' largest phone maker from China. Notably, the tech giant offers smartphones under three major brands in India with their sub-brands operating as separate entities. These include Oppo, Vivo, and OnePlus as main brands, and Realme and iQOO now working as separate brands under Oppo and Vivo respectively.
- Future-Proof 5G Connectivity On Budget
- Fluid 120Hz Display
- 3.5mm Audio Jack
- Supports Expandable Memory
- Good Selfie Camera
- Lacklustre LCD Display
- Poor Haptics
- Average Audio Output
- Throttling Issues
- Camera Performance Could Have Been Better
Xiaomi's arch-rival has already started populating the mid-range and value flagship category with low-cost 5G smartphones. The OnePlus Nord, Vivo V20 Pro, Realme 8 5G, Realme X7 5G, Oppo A53s 5G, etc. are some pocket-friendly 5G smartphones available in India. The latest mid-range 5G smartphone for the Indian market by Dongguan-based BBK Electronics has been launched under iQOO branding.
The iQOO Z3 5G is the first handset to be powered by the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 768 5G SoC. The octa-core chipset is essentially an upgraded version of the Snapdragon 765G processor that supplied power to the Vivo V20 Pro and OnePlus Nord.
Besides the new chipset, the iQOO Z3 5G also flaunts a 120Hz display and features a 64MP quad-camera setup. All this comes at a starting price of Rs. 19,999, which is pretty aggressive for a 5G-enabled spec-loaded smartphone. The entry-level variant offers you 6GB LPDDR 4X RAM and 128GB UFS 2.2 storage. We tested the 8GB RAM + 256GB variant of the handset and here's how it performed in our review.
iQOO Z3 5G Design- Looks Good But Lacks An Identity
The iQOO Z3 5G is a well-designed device with a focus on practicality; however, it ends up looking like any mid-range phone in 2021 and lacks a character. There's a clear lack of distinctive personality and a new gradient finish isn't going to make a huge difference.
The front fascia is occupied by a big LCD panel with a teardrop notch housing a selfie camera. Needless to say, it looks rather dated. The side bezels are thin but the chin and the top bezel are rather noticeable. Available in two color options- Ace Black and Cyber Blue, the smartphone have a plastic body that doesn't feel premium. However, the phone doesn't feel cheap and the handset feels pretty durable.
Lightweight Body And Matte-Frosted Glass Finish Back
Thanks to its plastic build and a modest 4,400 mAh battery cell, the iQOO Z3 5G is very light and easy to carry around with one hand. The handset weighs 185 grams and has a thickness of 8.5mm. The matte-frosted glass treatment on the plastic back with gradient shade looks decent and is slightly better at resisting fingerprints than the glossy back panels. The triple-lens camera module at the back looks subtle and is not unobtrusive.
Physical Biometric Scanner, 3.5mm Audio Jack, Expandable Storage
Since the handset sports an LCD panel, the smartphone comes sans an in-screen fingerprint scanner and features a traditional biometric scanner. It is fitted on the power button positioned on the right side and unlocks the phone in a jiffy.
The volume buttons are also placed on the right side and offer good tactile feedback. I am happy to see the very handy 3.5mm audio jack (bottom) and a hybrid SIM card slot on the device that allows for up to 1TB expandable storage. iQOO seems to have ignored the audiophiles here. The phone comes sans a stereo speaker setup and also lacks any High-resolution standards for wired audio playback.
Moving on, the phone's screen is touted to have some sort of protective film by Panda Glass, which is essentially an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet to resist damages. It has been seen on very few devices and we cannot tell how well it fares in terms of durability as compared to Gorilla Glass. The phone is IP52 rated which should offer some level of protection from water splashes and dust particles.
iQOO Z3 5G Display- 6.58 Full HD+ IPS LCD Display (120Hz)
The iQOO Z3 5G flaunts a 6.58-inch Full HD+ LCD panel. It is a decent screen and serves well for day-to-day tasks multimedia jobs; however, it fell short of our expectations on various fronts. Color reproduction and viewing angles are typical LCD and fail to match the vividness of an AMOLED panel. For instance, the Redmi Note 10 Pro/Max's AMOLED display is livelier and a better overall screen for video playback and gameplay.
HDR 10 Certified But Content Playback Not Supported
In fact, the OnePlus Nord's 90Hz AMOLED screen is also comparatively better than what iQOO Z3 5G has to offer. Moving on, even though the screen is HDR 10 certified, it doesn't support HDR video playback on OTT platforms.
What goes in favor of the iQOO Z3 5G's LCD screen is its 120Hz refresh rate. The high refresh rate makes the display fluid and very responsive. Scrolling, UI navigation, and other display interactions are as good as they can get on a mid-range device. Overall, we would have preferred a better LCD or an AMOLED screen at this price point. If you cannot compromise on display performance, you should consider other handsets.
iQOO Z3 5G Camera Specifications
The iQOO Z3 5G features a triple-lens camera comprising a 64MP primary sensor, an 8MP wide-angle sensor, and a 2MP macro shooter. The 64MP camera uses the Samsung's ISOCELL GW3 64MP F/1.79 sensor, which we have recently tested on the Redmi Note 10 Pro. Since the iQOO Z3 5G comes with a new chipset, the camera sensor is capable of recording 4K 60fps videos.
The 8MP wide-angle OmniVision sensor (f/2.2 aperture) offers a 120-degree field of view and the phone also offers a 16MP autofocus enabled Samsung-made selfie shooter capable of recording 1080p 30fps videos. So how does this pretty ordinary camera setup performs in real-life scenarios? Let's find out.
iQOO Z3 5G Camera Performance
- The 64MP primary sensor captures crisp shots in daylight with adequate details and good color science. The dynamic range is decent; however, images look washed out on the phone's LCD screen.
- Vivo always does a slightly better job with software tuning. I did not notice any over-processing or unwanted sharpness in the images, something which was a big issue on the Redmi Note 10 Pro which also uses the same Samsung-made sensor. This is why camera software tuning plays a very important role in giving out natural-looking shots.
- The HDR performance is good if not the best on a mid-range device.
- The 4K 60fps videos look crisp and the colors look natural.
Average Low-Light Results
- The low-light camera performance with night mode disabled is quite disappointing. Despite the big camera sensor, the images turn out underexposed and noisy. The dedicated night mode brings some life to pictures by improving details, colors and reducing excessive noise.
- Coming onto the 8MP wide-angle lens, it works just like any ordinary wide-angle shooter. Images look soft and distortion around the edges is noticeable. However, the 8MP wide-angle lens captures a good dynamic range, in fact, better than the Redmi Note 10 Pro. Also, the 120-degree FOV allows you to capture some decent landscape shots in good lighting conditions.
If you want to read a detailed camera comparison- Redmi Note 10 Pro Vs iQOO Z3 5G
- Despite lacking a dedicated portrait sensor, the iQOO Z3 5G captures decent bokeh shots. The pictures with human subjects display a pleasing bokeh; however, it isn't always the case since edge detection can be tricky for this device.
- The 16MP selfie camera is a good addition. The images look natural and display realistic colors. The portrait effect seems to be a gimmick since the bokeh effect is hardly noticeable.
- Last but the very least, the 2MP macro sensor captures very low-resolution images that fail to impress. The Redmi Note 10 Pro and Max offer better overall camera performance at a lower price point.
iQOO Z3 5G Hardware & Software Performance
The iQOO Z3 5G is an excellent day-to-day performer. Powered by the new Snapdragon 768 5G chipset and ample RAM, the handset smoothly handles moderate to heavy tasks. I did not come across any lags or performance issues while recording videos, browsing web pages, streaming YouTube videos, or doing any other smartphone-related job. What could have been better is the haptics feedback. The vibration motor response is extremely underwhelming and drastically affects the user experience.
Handles Heavy Games Well
Moving on, the phone also handles heavy games with no major issues; however, I did notice some thermal throttling issues. And while the 120Hz refresh rate ensured smooth UI navigation, the 180Hz touch sampling rate seemed to lose its fluid response when the temperature spikes while playing graphics-intensive games on a stretch.
FunTouch OS 11 Performs Well But Excess Bloatware Is An Issue
We tested the flagship variant that offers 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. The multitasking performance on this particular variant is extremely smooth and the device can handle more than 15 apps at a time without breaking a sweat. As far as the software is concerned, the phone runs on Vivo's FunTouch OS 11 based on Android 11. It is the same custom skin that we have tested on the recently launched Vivo X60-series devices.
This relatively new skin is far better in terms of design, typography, iconography, animations, and overall visual feel as compared to its older version. There's plenty of useful software features and the new app-drawer is a welcome change. If Vivo cuts on the bloatware, the FunTouch OS 11 could improve even further.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 768 5G Benchmarks Scores
The SD 768 SoC went through our usual benchmark suite and scored decent numbers. The new SoC scored 382277 in Antutu, which is higher than the SD 765 and SD 750 powered devices we have tested in the last few months. The smartphone touched 12011 in the 3D Mark's Wild Life Extreme Stress test which again is quite promising. The iQOO Z3 5G also scored better than the SD 750 and SD 675 powered devices in the Geekbench's single-core (722) and the multi-core test (2041). In the PC Mark's Work 3.0 Performance test, the handset touched a good score of 9961. These numbers correspond with the smooth real-life performance of the handset.
iQOO Z3 5G Battery Life & Connectivity
The iQOO Z3 5G is powered by a modest 4,400 mAh battery cell that only lasts a day with moderate usage. If you spend too much time on your handset watching videos and playing games, you would need a refuel before calling it a day. Thankfully, the bundled 55W charger takes less than 60 minutes to reach 100% from the flat. For connectivity, the smartphone has Bluetooth 5.1 and supports both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz, Wi-Fi bands. As for the 5G connectivity, the iQOO Z3 5G supports N77 and N78 sub-6GHz bands.
The iQOO Z3 5G is a good addition to the sub-25K 5G-enabled smartphone segment; however, it isn't our top pick. The lackluster LCD display is a major disappointment. The lack of stereo speakers and a bland design is another deal-breaker. However, the iQOO Z3 5G offers a slightly better overall camera performance than most of its rivals.
What the device gets right is the raw performance, future proof 5G connectivity, and practicality by offering some notable features such as a 3.5mm audio jack, bundled fast-charger, and expandable memory. If these features are on your list, the iQOO Z3 5G is a good buy. The iQOO Z3 5G is priced at Rs. 19,990 for the 6GB+128GB variant, Rs. 20,990 for the 8GB+128 GB variant and Rs. 22,990 for the 8GB+256GB variant on Amazon.in and iQOO.com.
You can also consider the OnePlus Nord or the Xiaomi Mi 10i. We would also recommend waiting for the upcoming OnePlus Nord CE 5G. It seems to be a promising sub-25K 5G smartphone.