iQOO 9 Pro review: Serious contender for one of the best Android flagships of 2022

This phone does everything, in style.

iQOO 9 Pro review
iQOO 9 Pro price in India starts at Rs 64,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

iQOO 9 Pro is an alternate take on the proverbial gaming phone from iQOO, a Vivo spin-off that’s behind some of the most sought-after high-performance devices in the market, today. It’s still a gaming phone, at heart, but it’s also an exceptionally good Android flagship—its first ever—one that goes neck and neck against the Samsung Galaxy S22 series and OnePlus 10 Pro.

This is iQOO’s most ambitious product, to date, but it doesn’t look like it hasn’t done this before. Every inch, every corner of the iQOO 9 Pro is well thought-out, well put together with meticulous detail and expert craftsmanship. It is a very luxurious device, the iQOO 9 Pro, blending form and function together in the best possible way imaginable.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22+ review: The best Android phones you can buy today

The specs are equally impressive. Fast LTPO display check, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 check, high-res cameras check, dual speakers and high-end vibration motor check, big battery with insanely fast wired and wireless charging check, you name it.

The iQOO 9 Pro, clearly, has a lot going for itself on paper. Let’s find out how solid the package is, for real.

iQOO 9 Pro design, build quality, and display

This is iQOO’s most ambitious product, to date. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

To say that the iQOO 9 Pro looks premium will be an understatement. The phone exudes premium luxury from every perceivable angle whether it be in design or the choice of build materials. iQOO is continuing its partnership with BMW M Motorsport, the BMW AG subsidiary known for its high-performance cars and so—much like the iQOO 7 Legend before it— one of the models of the iQOO 9 Pro comes in white and features BMW M’s iconic tri-colour racing stripes logo on the back. iQOO is calling it a “Legend” yet again. It’s a marketing punchline, yes, but one that sums up the phone’s race car theme perfectly.   

We were pretty impressed with the design of the iQOO 7 Legend. The iQOO 9 Pro is mostly the same, only bigger. The phone is made of copious amounts of curved glass and metal. The power button gets its own blue accent, which is a nice touch. An enthusiast design like this could swing either way but as we said in the beginning, it doesn’t seem like iQOO is new to this game. Brands take years to perfect fit and finish and the overarching aesthetic. iQOO has been able to do this in record time.

The phone is made of copious amounts of curved glass and metal. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Not only does the iQOO 9 Pro look gorgeous from every nook and cranny, its in-hand feel, also, is super amazing. It weighs quite a bit, on paper, but it doesn’t feel that way in use. Rather it feels way lighter. The gigantic camera module –that is clearly inspired from the Vivo X70 Pro+— is also equally deceptive. It might seem ginormous from afar and in pictures, but it’s actually pretty nimble. Since it stretches from corner to corner, nearly, there’s no surface wobble either. That’s smart.  

The only thing that’s missing from the spec-sheet is an official IP rating.

The iQOO 9 Pro has a 6.78-inch 1440p or 2K resolution E5 AMOLED display with an adaptive-LTPO 2.0-120Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sampling, and hole punch cut-out. iQOO is using a 10bit panel with peak brightness of 1500nits. The setup appears to be similar to the one on the Vivo X70 Pro+.

It has a 2K LTPO AMOLED display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

It supports HDR10+ playback—we can confirm that this works on apps like Netflix. Biometrics are handled by a large 3D ultrasonic fingerprint scanner that’s fast and accurate. There is also an Intelligent Display chip inside this phone that’s said to optimise colours and offer 90 FPS gameplay on 60 FPS games through interpolation.

This is, hands down, one of the best displays around with rich colours, ample brightness, and great viewing angles. The panel is plenty fast and fluid, too.

iQOO 9 Pro performance, battery life, and cameras

The iQOO 9 Pro tends to heat up when pushed. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Under the hood, the iQOO 9 Pro has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip paired with up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB UFS3.1 storage. This is not expandable but iQOO gives you “extended RAM 2.0” virtual memory option. The iQOO 9 Pro hardware is built around gaming which is to say you can expect the phone to squeeze every ounce of performance out of its powerful chip. This is evident in benchmarks. We pit the iQOO 9 Pro against the Motorola Edge 30 Pro (8 Gen 1), Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (8 Gen 1) and Asus ROG Phone 5s (SD888+). We made two observations.

— The iQOO 9 Pro was able to break the 1 million mark on AnTuTu that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-equipped phones are supposed to justifying its gaming phone stature.

— But it comes at a cost. The iQOO 9 Pro tends to heat up when pushed. There is a vapour chamber liquid cooling system in this phone but clearly, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip is too hot to handle. There is some throttling, too, which is not surprising. The ROG Phone 5s, with the second-best Qualcomm chip around, throttled the least in our testing with wonderful peak performance in lieu of its exhaustive cooling mechanism. Asus has been doing gaming phones for years and you can tell that experience is helping here.

Also Read | Motorola Edge 30 Pro review: Smoothest Android phone in the market today

That is not to say that the iQOO 9 Pro overheats or that it doesn’t perform like a flagship. Benchmark comparisons are meant for reference only to get some idea about the worst-case scenario. The iQOO 9 Pro is a very powerful phone and it performs like one, in the real world, be it in day-to-day use or graphically demanding games. That said, iQOO could always optimise things further, through updates, to make it even better on the heat management side.

The phone runs Android 12. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Speaking of which, it’s nice to see the iQOO 9 Pro running Android 12 (based Funtouch OS 12) software out of the box. The skin is likeable, with looks and feel close to stock Android, but there are a few omissions like Google’s Android 12 Material You theming. Our review unit runs the March 2022 security patch at the time of writing. We did not encounter any weird bugs or stutters during our testing. There is some bloatware, in this phone, but we’ve seen worse.

Powering the iQOO 9 Pro is a 4,700mAh battery which lasted 12 hours and 21 minutes in our video loop test with screen set to 1440p. That’s a fairly good score. There is support for 120W fast wired charging. iQOO claims you will be able to charge the phone up to 50 percent in just eight minutes using the bundled fast charging brick and cable. A full charge takes only twenty minutes, the company says. This is accurate and you can take iQOO’s word for it. The iQOO 9 Pro indeed charges from 0-100% in flat 20 minutes. The phone supports 50W fast wireless charging, too.

iQOO 9 Pro has three cameras on the back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

On to photography, the iQOO 9 Pro has three cameras on the back— a 50MP main (Samsung GN5 sensor) with gimbal stabilisation, 50MP 120-degree “fisheye” ultrawide, and another 16MP portrait shooter. On the front, it has a 16MP selfie camera.

First a quick note on that gimbal camera. We’ve seen it previously on the Vivo X70 Pro+ and Vivo X60 Pro. The implementation and use are similar here. Having the camera lens propped on a micro gimbal gives the phone 5-axis of stabilisation whereas standard optical image stabilisation or OIS gives you three levels. You can actually see the camera module moving around – in the opposite direction – as you move the phone around (or even in the viewfinder). Think of it as a souped-up OIS, so your videos for instance, will have less jitters even during tilt and roll. The gimbal mode – or ultra-stable mode – is available only at 1080p (@30 or @60fps) and obviously, while shooting stills. The iQOO 9 Pro can shoot at up to 8K@30fps.

iQOO 9 Pro’s large 3D ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Straight up, the primary camera on the iQOO 9 Pro takes some of the most detailed and contrasty photos in good light with wide dynamic range and little to no metering issues. The sensor really comes into its own in tricky and low light conditions, though, capturing good amount of detail and spot-on colours without much noise. Night mode is just fantastic pulling details that are hard to tell even for the naked eye. The iQOO 9 Pro’s main sensor can literally see in the dark. The ultra-wide also carries great potential especially as a macro since the lens has autofocus. By default, it shoots cropped photos so as to curb edge distortion but you’re free to shoot without it. These photos also have good detail and fairly wide dynamic range. The dedicated portrait camera is a nice addition especially for taking quick zoom shots. iQOO’s subject isolation algorithm needs some work.

Same is true about videography. While results are good, mostly, they’re not in the same ballpark as a Samsung Galaxy S22 or an iPhone 13.  

iQOO 9 Pro | Should you buy?

iQOO 9 Pro does everything, in style. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

iQOO 9 Pro price in India starts at Rs 64,990 for a version with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. A model with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage will set you back by Rs 69,990.

iQOO has hit it out of the ballpark with the iQOO 9 Pro, jampacking it with latest and greatest hardware and feature set well worthy of the price. It may appear to be a gaming phone, but iQOO has played the balancing act well. This is a complete phone for anyone looking for a no holds barred flagship experience in every sense of the word.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: One ‘ultra’ phone to rule them all

The design is nice and premium, and unique. The display is top-notch. The cameras are potentially great, and performance will keep even hardcore users satisfied. Battery life is good and quick charging is a nice bonus. The phone also supports 14 5G bands. Really, what’s not to like?

The iQOO 9 Pro is a serious contender for one of the best Android flagships of 2022.

ProsCons
Luxurious designNo IP rating
Great displayNo headphone jack
Fast performanceNo storage expansion
Good camerasVideography needs work
Quick charging
Android 12
Loud speakers

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