When you want to spend less but get more power out of the smartphone you are buying, you opt for a value for money flagship and this segment in India has lately been the most competitive one. iQOO wants to lead in the space and so, it has come up with the iQOO 9T to take on the OnePlus 10T and other value for money flagships in this segment. How successful is its attempt? Let us have a look.
What we liked about the iQOO 9T
An eye-catchy design is what the millennials are looking for and the iQOO 9T has it. With the glass back and dual tone rear panel, the iQOO 9T stands out in the crowd if you get the Legend variant. This is because those BMW stripes at the back pop out as they are placed on a white colour. Moreover, the combination of black and white itself is appealing enough.
The bottom half is frosted matte glass while the upper half does attract a lot of fingerprints. The camera array on the top left is a big rectangular module and the top half also has that Karbon fiber striped look. The camera module gets a subtle chrome treatment around it which looks impressive and I like this little attention to detail by the company. There’s also a V1+ branding which is Vivo’s proprietary chip about which I’ll talk about later in the review.
The device has an aluminium frame with a blue-coloured textured power button with a volume rocker placed above it. The device gives a really premium feel in hand, exactly what you would expect from a flagship at this price. The curved back also gives you a good grip when you hold it in one hand.
Props to iQOO for providing a case inside the box along with a 120W charger which a lot of brands are skipping on. iQOO has even provided a Type-C to 3.5mm headphone converter.
The earpiece at the top acts as a secondary speaker, while there’s another one at the bottom beside the USB-C port, a mic and the SIM tray.
All in all, this design is definitely one of the best we have seen on smartphones in recent times. Talking about the other aspects that play an important role, let’s discuss haptics and the stereo speaker setup. The haptics on the iQOO 9T is again what you’d expect, top-notch. These are very strong and have that tight feeling when you type or when a notification or call arrives.
As for the sound experience, we are not sure whether iQOO has improved the speaker quality but this stereo setup is much better than what I experienced with iQOO 9. The music now has slight bass and depth to it with clear vocals and background audio when listening from the speaker, You can listen to every beat at loud volumes without any distortion and I really liked the overall experience.
The display on the iQOO 9T is a 6.78-inch E5 OLED panel with a full-HD+ (1,080 x 2,400 pixels) resolution. In addition, it comes with 120Hz refresh rate, 1,500 nits of peak brightness, and 100 percent coverage of P3 colour gamut.
This display is very vibrant with good colour reproduction. The content looks vivid and Netflix movies look really sharp. The Netflix app also supports HDR10 when we checked. With auto-refresh rate, the software often dropped it to 60Hz on most apps but when set to 120Hz, the overall experience was very smooth.
You can even choose specific apps in which it switches to 120Hz and where it stays at 60Hz. As for viewing angles, the display does look blue when viewed from the extreme top or bottom. Lastly, I didn’t have any issues in viewing the display under direct sunlight as it gets super bright.
Under the hood, the phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC coupled with an Adreno 730 GPU. The iQOO 9T 5G also includes Vivo’s in-house V1+ imaging chip which also helps it upscale content from 60 to 120Hz.
The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is based on TSMC’s 4nm node, which has helped it in major efficiency gains. Not only is it faster and smoother with general operations, the chip runs really cool as well. With some smartphones such as the OnePlus 10 Pro, or the Galaxy S22+, I could feel the device getting warm in day to day tasks but it was never the case with iQOO 9T.
The device handled everything with ease and I didn’t face a single lag. App switching was smooth with great RAM management as well. The thermals were very much under control even at high graphics gaming including Call of Duty Mobile. The vapour chamber of 3930mm2 with liquid cooling also seems to help in this area. I could constantly procure 60fps from the smartphone with the device not getting too hot or uncomfortable to hold. I did face this issue with both Galaxy S22+ and the OnePlus 10 Pro where the CPU started throttling much earlier, resulting in poor performance when gaming at max graphics.
Next, the device also has what iQOO calls ‘In-display dual monster touch’. It basically means that the device has a pressure-sensitive display where the triggering points have been mapped on the left and right sides of the phone. This is really helpful in a game such as call of duty so you can just press the left and right areas of the display with a little bit more force which triggers the buttons that you can place according to your preference. In my case, I placed them on the shooting controls.
The device has 5G support for 9 bands alongside Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C and NFC. I had no issues with connectivity performance both with Wi-Fi and on Mobile Data.
The battery life on the iQOO 9T is once again one of its stronger characteristics. It is backed by a 4700mAh battery with 120W charging support. The charging brick comes inside the box and takes mere 20-21 minutes to charge the device from 5% to 100%.
When we tested the iQOO 9, it got uncomfortably hot while charging but with the 9T, the temperatures have seen an improvement. During my testing, the 9T did get warm but never got past 40.6 degrees which the iQOO 9 did. Moreover, after 50%, the temperatures started to drop in a constant manner.
As for battery backup, this is for sure a 1-day battery with even slightly heavy usage. With navigation, forced 120Hz, mobile data always on, heavy gaming and youtube viewing, the device ended the day with around 10% with 5 to 5.5 hours of screen-on time. With moderate gaming, chatting, discord calling, browsing social media, the smartphone gave me a screen-on time of 6 hours. You can easily get past 6 hours of screen-on time easily if your usage for the day is moderate.
The iQOO 9T includes a 50-megapixel ISOCELL GN5 primary sensor with optical image stabilisation (OIS) support. Further, there is also a 13-megapixel ultra-wide lens and a 12-megapixel portrait sensor. For selfies and video calls, there is a 16-megapixel camera housed inside a punch hole.
The camera app on the 9T is simple to use. The advanced modes are tucked into the ‘More’ section while the photo, video, portrait and night modes take the front seat. The shots taken in broad daylight turn out to be really good. The cameras have a decent dynamic range and there is a good amount of details in the shots. The photos look vivid with natural colours and as expected, it’s a decent enough sensor to take impressive shots. Same goes for the portrait photos as well which also have vivid colours, on point edge detection and a good bokeh effect.
As for wide-angle photos, the detailing doesn’t take much of a hit but it does get slightly blurry at the edges of the photo. Further, there’s a drastic colour shift in wide-angle photos when compared to normal ones. The wide-angle pictures have a cooler tone while the normal ones are closer to the natural scene with a warmer tone. One can clearly notice this in the shots above when you look at the sky.
Shots taken under low-lighting are surprisingly impressive as well. There’s a good amount of sharpness and details in the photo. Even the edge detection is accurate. However, the shutter speed takes a hit in the low-lighting so you’ll have to be sure to stand still in front of the subject for a second. In artificial lighting, the colours look slightly off at rare times but then the camera doesn’t compromise with the sharpness at all.
Selfies from the front camera are also very sharp. The skin tone does blow out at times when the sunlight is hitting you from a particular spot but then these selfies have enough details and colours for you to share on social media without many edits.
The night shots came out to be more than decent. With night mode, the photos turn out to be sharper with slightly more brightness than how normally it is. I didn’t see much of a difference in photos with night mode enabled and disabled.
What we didn’t like about the iQOO 9T
There aren’t a lot of things that aren’t likeable about this device. The only one we didn’t admire much is the software. FunTouch OS 12, for sure, is customisable enough and is snappy in daily usage, but then the UI needs a lot of polish.
Some elements overlap while some icons are not sized properly in settings. The device does have some bloatware such as the ‘Hot games & Hot apps’, ‘Byjus app’, etc that come pre-installed but can be uninstalled. Moreover, there’s some optimization needed as Google Maps crashed on me when I tried to quit the app.
We have received two software updates since we got the device and the device is on the July patch as of now, meaning iQOO is working hard to fix things, and it already fixed some that we were facing before we installed the first update.
Overall, it doesn’t feel like an operating system made for a flagship. A device like iQOO 9T deserves much better in terms of software. iQOO has promised 3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security patches which should solve a lot of things in the near future, hopefully with Android 13.
Next, we didn’t like how the device doesn’t come with support for wireless charging at this price. It would have been great if it did because wireless charging is very convenient for a lot of people, though it is not a deal-breaker omission. However, with 120W wired charging, you may not feel the need for wireless charging because it is unrealistically quick.
Lastly, the device also doesn’t get an IP rating, and at this price, I think it becomes more of a necessity than a choice.