IQOO 9 Review: The Vivo Flagship You Wish You Could Buy
iqoo-9t
Phones

IQOO 9 Review: The Vivo Flagship You Wish You Could Buy

My colleague was super impressed by the Vivo X80 Pro and thought it could be 2022’s flagship killer but I’d like to submit the IQOO 9T to that list as well.

If this phone would be released worldwide and not in just a few territories, consumers would have another fantastic option. Here’s why IQOO as a brand should get more awareness.

Unlike the Vivo X80 Pro, the IQOO 9T doesn’t have Carl Zeiss optics but packs plenty of goodies. It comes with much faster charging (20 vs 38 minutes from zero to full charge) and around 20% longer battery life.
But enough comparisons for now.Let’s see what the IQOO 9T offers and decide for yourself how it stacks up compared to your needs.

IQOO 9T Design: Look and feel

Straight from the bat, the IQOO 9T is definitely not a phone you can use with one hand. 

We wouldn’t call it chunky but it isn’t very pocket friendly either. It’s 165 x 77 x 8 mm and weighs 206 grams.

At first glance, we expected it to be a slippery fingerprint magnet but the IQOO 9T combines finishes and textures to offer the feeling of security, even after just moisturizing your hands.

The best part and an often overlooked detail? The camera island doesn’t make the phone wobble when you sit it on a desk face up. Plus, unlike phones with the gas-burner type look (think iPhones or Motorola, in my case), the streamlined camera island has few places for dirt to accumulate in.

Look closely and you’ll see the IQOO 9T also has a tiny message printed underneath the camera island. Here, the makers tell you that “fascination meets innovation”, and what “fascination” means is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, the message is in a very small font so no one is actually able to see and question it.

iqoo-9t-camera
Tiny details on the back

IQOO 9T specs and performance

It’s not at the Galaxy S22 price point but make no mistake, the IQOO 9T does have flagship specs, even when compared with its more expensive brother, the IQOO 9 Pro.

Most notably, the latest entry in the series lacks the reverse wireless charging option found on the Pro but really, that’s already such a niche spec, it won’t be missed by most users. 

IQOO 9T Display

The display is simply gorgeous. It’s a 6.7-inch AMOLED panel with 1080 x 2376 pixels resolution, a HDR10+ certification and 1500 nits peak brightness. 

The rest of the display specs say 1 billion colors and 120Hz variable refresh rate, 360Hz touch sampling rate. 

Those numbers do translate to spectacular views. 

We watched House of the Dragon and a very gloomy thriller on the beach, in full sun, and while it wasn’t quite movie theater quality, it was more than adequate considering the amount of light shining down on the screen.

For gaming, it features what Vivo calls “In-display Monster Touch”, which means gamers can play using four fingers on the screen instead of the traditional shoulder button style.

Drawbacks? The under-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader is prone to error. The first few days it worked like a charm but since then it requires quite a lot of force pressing down the thumb to unlock. Sometimes that doesn’t work either, so a PIN has to be entered to unlock it.

IQOO 9T Performance

As for performance, the phone uses the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and has 12 GB of RAM. That’s in line with 2022 flagship specs and certainly more than enough for any application you could find on Android.

The IQOO 9T has an 1,081,222 average score on AnTuTu. It proudly holds the second spot for August, right behind the Asus ROG Phone 6 and comfortably above devices like Mi 12 Ultra or Vivo X80 Pro.

The IQOO 9T handled everything a phone might be expected to see, including intense multitasking during a Zoom call. There were no lags, snags when switching between apps or heating issues.

The only thing that betrays the lower price tag would be the sound, which has a metallic sort of quality to it. The speakers aren’t very loud and they are prone to both crackles and muddy tones, if that makes sense, so watching a video or a movie without headphones won’t be a premium experience by any means. Since most people use wireless earbuds nowadays, it’s fortunately not an issue.

IQOO 9T Software

As with most global versions of Vivo phones, the IQOO 9T comes with Funtouch OS on top of Android 12. 

Because of that, we expected a large amount of bloatware but fortunately, most of it can be uninstalled. As is the case with cheaper handsets, you do have to settle for some extra apps and ads.

The most annoying part was immediately after setup, when the Vivo browser sent lots of notifications that have very little relevance to a user in Europe.

Once thing that’s really cool, though? The recorder app on IQOO 9T has a nifty little feature where you can add marks to recordings, and even photos. 

It might not seem like much but, for forgetful people or those who have to do interviews, having the ability to bookmark places in the recording and label them accordingly is useful.

IQOO 9T Camera 

It has the big numbers printed on the camera island so it must take good pictures, right?

iqoo-9t-camera-2

Yes, the IQOO 9T camera setup is very good, whether you’re someone who barely posts on Instagram or a photographer with super-specialized demands.

IQOO 9T comes with a triple rear camera setup comprised of a 50MP f/1.9 sensor with OIS, a 12MP telephoto lens and a 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, capable of shooting in 4K at 30 fps and featuring a gimbal for some impressive stabilization.

IQOO 9T Camera samples

The IQOO 9T camera samples were taken in most light conditions, from super sunny to sundown and midnight. The phone even took a trip to the beach despite me not knowing its water and dust resistance rating. After a quick Google, I found out it has an IP52 rating, which means it can handle some dust and raindrops.

I particularly liked the macro camera performance – just point and snap a great closeup, no need to keep steady hands.

It seemed to struggle a little in low, artificial light when taking a photo of something bright, which you’ll see in the sunflower pic below.

The stabilization works great for videos, but if you opt for ultra stabilization, the video captured will go down from 4K at 30fps to 1080p at 60fps. While the colors feel a little too saturated, the results do look nice, albeit a little “floaty”.

As for portraits, the most commonly used feature of a smartphone camera, let’s look at the bokeh effect because it really is beautiful.

Thanks to the V1+ chip, the low-light performance of the camera is impressive. From sunset to almost dark, the images were clear and the colors accurate.

All in all, it’s a good setup but, if you’ll forgive the personal intrusion, this has to be said: 

I’d very much like it if cameras everywhere, not just this device, stopped upping the contrast and saturation so much. Even with HDR turned off, with a bit of natural light in the house, my grumpy cat’s fur looks like a warm charcoal gray instead of the actual cool, light gray. 

Somewhat grumpy cat
He doesn’t smile for the camera

The upped contrast also makes it look like he has a Neanderthal-like brow ridge whereas in real life his head is so round and puffy, you’d mistake him for a furby at a glance.

With or without HDR, the cameras tend to spice things up a bit, which is great if you want a dramatic-looking Instagram but not so great if you expect pictures to align with what your eyes see. 

IQOO 9T selfie camera

That’s a small nitpick I also have with the selfie camera. The selfies I took look amazing but the actual person in front of the phone not so much so. I wanted to test it properly and see just how many flaws it “deletes”, so I skipped plucking my eyebrows for a bit. Those random stray hairs, a hefty dose of sun damage and a few budding wrinkles are all gone in a single tap, replaced by a Galadriel-type glow.

I’d look at the selfies the IQOO 9T produced all day long but I wouldn’t send those pics to my dermatologist for a remote checkup. 

That having been said, these are very small nitpicks and niche use cases. 

The IQOO 9T selfie camera shouldn’t be judged too harshly, since every vendor, especially those targeting China or India, heavily invests in beautification features. It had to be said though for the few people who dislike filters. 

Personally, I found the various options very fun, especially the ones shortening your chin and elongating the forehead. It’s also great to see just how far the makeup filters have come. The “fairy violet” makeup filter looked exactly like what I managed to produce with an actual brush and Sephora products. If someone were to make something identical for use in Zoom calls, I doubt my face would ever see real makeup again.

IQ00 9T Battery

With that being said, let’s move on to  where the IQ00 9 truly shines: the battery. 

This isn’t most people’s main selling point but it definitely is mine, since I’m the type of person to panic if my phone battery drops below 60%.

The IQOO 9T’s battery is a X mAh one advertised to fully charge in 20 minutes at 120 fast charge. Yes, you read that right, just 20 minutes for a full charge. I didn’t believe it myself so I timed it and got the following:

  • 60% charge in 9 minutes
  • 95% charge in 17 minutes
  • 100% charge in 20 minutes and 15 seconds

I’ve long been an Android midranger fan, always on the hunt for flagship specs at affordable prices, and at this the IQOO would make me spend a little more than I’m usually comfortable with just for the battery alone

When it first got here, I charged it to 100% and the phone kept going for four days without seeing the fast charge brick again. Obviously, the phone wasn’t used intensely, but it did see an hour and a half of Reddit each day, a few Google Maps trips, and an hour or so of Youtube a day. 

On the fourth and final day of the test I was desperate to drain it to zero (don’t do that, it’s not good for battery life!) and, at 14% battery, I could still play about two hours of Sky from ThatGameCompany.

For the second charge cycle I used the IQOO 9T phone just like I abuse my regular Motorola Edge 20 Pro beater. There were around 3 hours of web browsing, 1 hour of Google’s productivity suite (Docs, Sheets, etc) and more than 4 hours of doomscrolling on Reddit. This brought the battery life down to 2 days. 

IQOO 9T Gaming

The same went for the next cycle, where I additionally played about 20 minutes of Asphalt 9 and tried to get the hang of a Witcher mobile game. The phone comes with a dual x-axis linear motor system, which means you get feedback from both sides of the screen, which makes the action on the screen a lot more immersive.

Add that to the vapor cooling system and the in-display dual touch features and the phone will definitely appeal to gamers, especially since the phone goes for a full day on a single charge even if you add a couple of hours of play.

IQOO 9T Battery life

For moderate phone addicts who don’t really game but scroll into oblivion, this is a phone that easily gets 2 days on a single charge, so the IQOO 9T gets top marks on that.

All in all, the IQOO 9T is definitely one of the best phones of 2022 and could go toe to toe with one from an established brand anyday, especially at its price point. 

As with all phones, you can find small details lacking here and there. Still, for around $650 and the included 120W charger, you can’t say this isn’t a fantastic deal. 

Truly, the IQOO 9T could be a flagship killer this year if the global edition would be truly global, not just limited to India. As it stands, we’re just jealous that our friends over there get so much choice when it comes to Android handsets.

Truly, the IQOO 9T could be a flagship killer this year if the global edition would be truly global, not just limited to India. As it stands, we’re just jealous that our friends over there get so much choice when it comes to Android handsets.

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IQOO 9 Review: The Vivo Flagship You Wish You Could Buy
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