review

iQOO 3 5G Review: A New Flagship Sails In…Powerfully

A phone for gamers…and everyone else too

After talking about it a few weeks ago, iQOO has finally launched its first phone in the Indian market – the iQOO 3 5G (henceforth referred to as just iQOO 3 for the sake of simplicity). As promised, it comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and yes, it comes with 5G support. It also comes with perhaps some of the most powerful hardware seen on a phone in recent times. But what makes it really remarkable is how it has managed to bridge the worlds of gaming and mainstream usage.

iQOO 3 Review: Classy Looks

The iQOO 3 comes with some very classy design. It comes in three colors – Tornado Black, Quantum Silver and Volcano Orange. We had the Tornado Black edition and while it did not exactly turn heads or attract attention, it did look very elegant in an understated manner (attention seekers, get the Volcano Orange).

Evidently inspired by a “futuristic sports car,” the phone has a glass front and back and a Saturday metal frame in the middle, but the overall design language is rather curvy, which makes it fit into most hands easily. No, it is by no means a small phone and you will still need both hands to get the most out of it, but it feels good to hold and has a very premium feel to it. The front is dominated by a 6.44-inch full HD+ display with one of the tiniest punch holes we have seen on the right-hand corner. But it is the back that will attract attention.

Our unit was a very understated black with a slight gradient finish which occasionally reflected light in very subtle patterns. As we said, this is not an attention-seeking phone, but one that you will be glad to have with you because it is comfortable to hold. The rectangular quad-camera unit on the back seems right out of a Samsung design book but thanks to its being of a slightly different shade (greyish in our case), it actually manages to look classy. The power/display button located on the right of the device is in shiny orange color and has a different texture, and there are touch-sensitive buttons (meant for gaming) on the top and lower parts of the right-hand side. There is also a customizable button on the left side, which is set to invoke Google Assistant by default but can also be set to handle other tasks.

The front is protected by Schott Sensation glass while the back has Corning Gorilla Glass 6. No, there’s no indication of dust and water resistance, but the iQOO 3 is a very elegant looking device. One that will attract attention when you look at it closely. Unless of course, you have the Volcano Orange edition!

iQOO 3: Bossy Specs

There is some very serious hardware muscle beneath that classy exterior. The display is a Super AMOLED one with full HD+ resolution (iQOO calls it Polar View) and is frankly one of the better ones we have seen on a phone in terms of brightness and colors, although the refresh rate is the standard 60 Hz, which is just fine with us incidentally. We think it is a trifle on the saturated side but it is great to look at, which is what really counts. It incidentally also has a fingerprint scanner right below it.

The star of the show is, however, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, which is the current flagship favorite in the phone world, and so far has been seen in only one other phone (the Realme X50 Pro, which was released yesterday). It is supposed to a clear notch above the Snapdragon 855 and 855+, and in the case of the iQOO 3, it comes with an impressive 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage (not expandable, although those capacities are massive). Incidentally, the RAM used is LPDDR5 and the storage UFS 3.1. There is 5G support, once the networks become available, a 3.5 mm audio jack and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity as well as support for hi-res audio (although there is only a single speaker). In terms of general innards, this is a very well-specced phone.

iQOO 3: Super Gamer

And all that hardware muscle really comes to the fore when you take the iQOO 3 into gaming waters. The company claims that the display has a special touch response rate of 180 Hz, which makes for a smoother, more immersive experience, but what we can simply say is that we have so far not seen any device handle the likes of PUBG, Hitman and Call of Duty with the ease that the iQOO 3 has. Graphics were sharp (and defaulted to maximum, which was a joy to see) and the display is absolutely wonderful for those who love vivid colors. There are 4D game vibrations, for those who like to have a better “feel” of gaming (you feel vibrations on getting hit by a bullet when you fire a weapon and so on, and they are all of different intensities).

There are two touch (“pressure-sensitive”) buttons on the side of the phone which can be used for what iQOO terms “multi-finger operations” in the games. They are a great addition on paper, but while pressing them together did launch a special gaming zone called Game Space, we could not actually figure out how to use them while gaming (we will let you know once we do). But even without that, there is no doubt that in terms of sheer speed and smoothness, this is perhaps the best phone we have used. And that is even without having to invoke the special gaming modes that it comes with.

That perhaps is one of its greatest charms – it is a gaming phone that can be used by anybody and does not try to overwhelm you with gaming options (something a number of other devices targeted at gamers are guilty of). We perhaps would have loved a louder speaker, and dual speakers would have been divine, but that apart, if this phone is a gaming master. And it is such a cool performer that it never heats up!

iQOO 3: Super Shooter too

In terms of specs, the iQOO 3 comes with four cameras at the back and one in the front. We were a little underwhelmed to see that the main camera on the back was a 48 megapixel Sony IMX582 (similar to what we saw in the Redmi K20), which seems a little on the older side for a device which has such stellar hardware, but it delivered stunning pictures. We did encounter a few issues with glare at night time, but by and large, the images were very good in terms of color and detail (some might find them too colorful, but that is a camera sin most are willing to put up with). There is also a 13-megapixel telephoto sensor, which gave us 2x optical and 10x digital zoom, and once again, was a surprisingly good performer. As was the 13-megapixel ultrawide camera, which can also double up as a macro shooter.

We were particularly impressed with the implementation of the macro. Some of the close-ups we got were stunning – this is a great picture for those who love to snap insects and flowers from super close up. What was surprising was that even though the cameras do not come with any optical image stabilization, the macro images we got were very stable, something which is often not the case with other phone cameras. It is good to see iQOO having gone with relatively high megapixel count cameras for both ultrawide and telephoto, as this got us a whole lot more detail without getting “noisy.”

[Click here for full resolution images and more samples]

Video is frankly not as impressive as the stills are, but is decent enough and if you stick to good light conditions. The EIS actually works well enough if your hands are not too shaky. The selfie camera at 16 megapixels might not sound as impressive as some of the more megapixel heavy options around but it does a good job, albeit with the tendency to over smoothen and brighten skin from time to time. One would also need to be a little patient as the camera interface is a little bit on the complicated side – the options for ultra-wide and macro are in a tiny icon called “Lens” in the main camera interface. And some might be confused by the presence of both a bokeh lens and a portrait mode. But the results of the cameras more than make up for this slight muddle. We would put the iQOO 3 right up there with the likes of the OnePlus 7T in terms of cameras – in fact, it sometimes is better than that worthy.

iQOO 3: The IQ (and muscle) to handle anything… anything!

Of course, with that sort of hardware on board, the iQOO 3 handles routine tasks like social networks, messaging, calls, and mails with a degree of ease. We never experienced any lags in our time with the phone. The fingerprint sensor beneath the display is not the fastest but is reliable enough. The UI, which iQOO calls the Monster UI (also iQOO UI) runs on top of Android 10. It is relatively clean (there is no app drawer) and not as cluttered as some we have seen. And well, it does seem to work very smoothly, although it has its eccentricities. We have spoken of the camera UI and then, gestures sometimes do not work as intended and icons of apps go missing occasionally, although their names remain visible. Similarly, we were rather confused as to where to go to check if software updates were available for the device – we ended up searching for it in Settings (which are a bit of a maze, such Samsung feels!). We hope the brand will be looking to fix this with some software updates in the coming days.

Speaking of days, the 4400 mAh battery in the device can easily see it through a day of heavy use and sloe to two days if one does not go into crazy gaming mode. There is a 55W charger in the box with iQOO FlashCharge which can charge the phone in a bit more than an hour but can go from 0 to 50 percent in about fifteen minutes.

iQOO 3 Review Verdict: The quest has well and truly begun

At its price of Rs 44,990 (there are 4G variants that come for Rs 36,900 for 8 GB/ 128 GB variant and Rs 39,990 for 8 GB/ 256 GB), the iQOO 3 5G is right up there among the leading options for anyone looking for a very powerful and yet well-crafted smartphone. It is one of those rare phones that has a gaming edge but is still targeted at the mainstream user. It is also one of only two phones in the country to come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor (and 5G, but that is not really relevant at the time of writing).

Yes, it will face competition, most notably from the just-launched Realme X50 Pro (we are working on a comparison, folks. Stay tuned) and also from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and of course the OnePlus series, but it comes with enough hardware and design muscle to comfortably hold its own against most comers right now. A new Android flagship has sailed into Indian waters. And it is formidable indeed.

iQOO has got its quest in the Indian market off to a very good start. Now, it just needs to live up to its name. And quest on. And on.

Pros
  • Very good performance
  • Classy design
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent hardware
Cons
  • Slightly eccentric interface
  • No expandable memory
  • No dust or water resistance
Review Overview
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

The first iQOO phone has been officially launched. And while everyone has been raving about its gaming prowess, thanks to its magnificent hardware, the fact is that the iQOO 3 is as much an Android flagship as a gaming phone.

3.9