Literally, hundreds of phones are released in the market every year. Many are good, some hit the middle ground between good and “not that good”, some do not quite hit the target, and there’s a tiny select few that go beyond good and get into the “great” zone. We think that with the iQOO 9 Pro, Vivo’s sub-brand might just have got into that rarest zone. The phone does more than enough to convince us that it is perhaps the first great phone of 2022.

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A brilliant back

Impressive spec sheets have started becoming hygiene in premium flagships, which is why we think that design has assumed new importance in this segment. The iQOO 9 Pro scores heavily in this department. The White Legend takes a page out of the very distinctive design of the iQOO 7 Legend launched last year, with three vertical red, black, and blue stripes on a gently curving glass back. The stripes are shiny and glossy. The otherwise smooth back also has a subtle pattern all over, which is only visible when you look closely.

The camera unit on the back is different too. It is a large black rectangle that is spread almost totally across the upper portion of the back instead of being placed in the left corner. It’s a little like the Mi 11 Ultra, though it does not jut out as much. There is also a black Dark Cruise variant, which is a little more subtle with a similar carbon fiber weave on the back, but the White Legend will really stand out. It has got very edgy racing vibes.

The only catch is its tendency to get dirty with dust from surfaces, although fingerprints do not affect it. iQOO has bundled a cover that comes with exactly the same design as the back. This is a bit of a mixed blessing because while it does retain the original design of the phone, it, too, unfortunately, gets dirty. In addition, the phone comes with only IP52 splash resistance, which is a bit on the lower side for devices in this price zone. It will survive the odd splash of water and drizzle but will be in some trouble if dunked.

Big, bold and beautiful

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The front follows flagship tradition. A curved display bends to meet the sides, connecting it to the curved back. The display features a punch hole notch in the top central part. Also, part of the display is what iQOO claims is one of the fastest fingerprint scanners around. The button and port layout on the metal frame between the front and back is minimalistic, with the left side and the top being totally bare. The right side has the power/display button and the volume rocker. In another neat design touch, the power/display button is slightly textured and is blue in color. The base has a speaker grille, a USB Type-C port, and a SIM card tray slot.

Its height of 164.8 mm, combined with a width of 75.2 mm, means that the iQOO 9 Pro is not a small phone. It is not the slimmest either at 8.8 mm, and its 204-gram weight is on the heavier side. However, thanks to the play of textures on the back and the use of high-class materials, this is a phone that looks very striking and classy. We would actually say that it is the most distinct-looking flagship out there and cannot be mistaken for any other device.

Looking for iQOO’s hardware kitchen sink? It’s here!

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In terms of specs, the iQOO 9 Pro is one of the most powerfully specced devices we have seen so far (and we are using the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as we write this).iQOO has clearly thrown the spec kitchen sink at it because the 9 Pro comes with the sort of hardware that geeks dream about and drool over.

The curved display is a 6.78 inch E5 AMOLED one with a quad HD/ 2K resolution, a refresh rate of 120 Hz, peak brightness of 1500 nits, and 10-bit color depth. The fingerprint scanner on display is a large, 3D Ultrasonic one, which iQOO claims is one of the fastest around. Making it purr with power is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 processor. Aiding it in its work is 8 GB or 12 GB of RAM, depending on the variant you choose, and a massive 256 GB of storage.

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There are three cameras on the back, one in the notch in the front, and none of them are here just to make up numbers. The back has a 50-megapixel main sensor with gimbal OIS, a 50-megapixel ultrawide (with support for a fisheye view as well), and a 16-megapixel telephoto lens with 2.5X optical zoom and OIS as well. A 16-megapixel camera in front of the phone handles selfies.

You get 5G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and even NFC in connectivity terms. You also get Android 12 right out of the box, which is a welcome, if sadly rare, sight. Of course, this being a phone from a Vivo sub-brand, there is FunTouch OS on top of Android 12. The phone has no 3.5 mm audio jack but comes with high-quality stereo speakers. It also packs in a 4,700 mAh battery and comes with a 120W charger in the box. It also supports wireless charging at 50W. There is just no spec weakness here.

A performance monster – snappy in games as well as snaps!

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All that spectacular hardware results in a performance with the best right up there. The display is one of the best we have seen and is great for watching and reading content. As for gaming, that Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 processor with all that RAM lets you play any game at high settings. Yes, things sometimes can get a little warm (especially in hectic multiplayer titles like Call of Duty), but never uncomfortably so. The stereo speakers deliver a superb surround that envelops you. Finally, this is one of the best multimedia devices we have used. Images and videos are a treat on it, and even reading is a pleasure.

The cameras turn in a very good performance as well. We love the fact that none of the cameras on the device are just for show and that two of the three come with stabilization. This makes the iQOO 9 Pro particularly good at videos, which it can shoot at 8K, although we would have appreciated better sound levels. The primary sensor delivers slightly saturated but pleasant colors and a fair amount of detail in the stills department. The ultrawide not only captures a wider perspective but, thanks to its high megapixel count, does so without killing detail. There are also a number of ultrawide shooting options, including a fisheye and a 360-degree option.

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[Click here for full resolution pictures + additional samples]

The telephoto, too, delivers some great snaps, with the 2.5X optical zoom being complemented with OIS. Round that off with a very competent if slightly flattering (to the subject) 16-megapixel selfie camera, and you have a camera set up that is flagship level in every sense of the word. Yes, some might expect a bit more in the low light photography department, but we found that even there, with the right tweaks (and there are plenty, thanks to FunTouch OS) and patience, you can get great results.

FunTouch OS is smooth, and battery charging just flies

FunTouch OS might not be everyone’s cup of tea with its multiple features and options, but we had no problems with it. It worked smoothly, and truth be told, we prefer feature-rich interfaces to minimalistic ones, which enable you to do more without having to head to the Play Store to download apps. The fingerprint scanner is not as insanely quick as promoted by iQOO but is among the faster in-display scanners we have seen.

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If you turn down the resolution to full HD+, the 4,700 mAh battery can generally see off a day of heavy use. Turn up the resolution to Quad HD, and the phone barely makes it to the end of the day. When the battery does run out, the 120W charger in the box charges the phone from zero to full in about twenty to twenty-five minutes. That makes it easily the fastest charging flagship out there by some distance, with only the Xiaomi 11T Pro matching that speed, but with an older processor.

iQOO 9 Pro Review Verdict: A contender for the phone of the year…already

It is not often that you come across a phone that ticks almost every box that you can think of. The iQOO 9 Pro is one of those rare devices. However, we really could not find anything wrong with it. Thanks to that distinct striped back and that massive camera unit, it is the most striking flagship device out there. At Rs 64,990, it pretty much offers everything that most folks would want from a high-end flagship – eye-catching design, powerful hardware, good cameras, a terrific display, good sound, crazy fast charging (and wireless charging, too), and even the latest Android.

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Its price of Rs 64,990 for 8 GB/ 256 GB and Rs 69,990 for 12 GB/ 256 GB puts it right on top of the “no compromises” Android flagship list. It comfortably beats the likes of the Motorola Edge 30 Pro, which comes with a similar processor at Rs 49,999 but loses out on features like display, camera, and charging. In fact, its biggest challengers could well be the Samsung Galaxy S22 which starts at Rs 72,999, the iPhone 13 which starts at Rs 79,999 (we do not think the iPhone 13 mini at Rs 69,999 is a contender, given its form factor), and perhaps the forthcoming OnePlus 10 Pro. If that does not tell you something about the iQOO 9 Pro, nothing will. The device is already a contender of the Phone of the Year in our books, even though it is only March. Yeah, THAT good. We have just seen the first great phone of 2022.

Buy iQOO 9 Pro

Pros
  • Eye-catching design
  • Top of the line hardware
  • Smooth performance
  • Excellent display and speakers
  • Fast battery charging
  • Android 12
Cons
  • Battery life suffers when settings are maxed out
  • Can heat up sometimes
  • Back will pick up smudges
Review Overview
Design & Build
Cameras
Performance
Software
Price
SUMMARY

Its price tag of Rs 64,990 makes iQOO 9 Pro one of the best options for those who want a no-compromise Android flagship with a standout design. It is well-equipped to take on even the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22 series and the forthcoming OnePlus 10 Pro!

4.3
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