iQOO 11 5G review: OnePlus 11 better be this good

iQOO has given its new phone so many upgrades, it’s hard to believe that the iQOO 9T was launched barely six months ago.

iQOO 11 5G review
iQOO has launched the iQOO 11 5G at starting price of Rs 59,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

iQOO seems dead-set on breaking “speed” records. Its last phone— the iQOO 9T— was India’s first smartphone with the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, Qualcomm’s top-shelf chip of 2022. Six months later, it is –once again—beating rivals to the punch with the iQOO 11, the country’s first smartphone equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, Qualcomm’s latest and greatest for 2023 (at the time of writing).

Now, being first to launch something with some hardware spec does not guarantee anything per se, but iQOO phones generally fair well, even as a complete package in many ways, so there’s enough evidence to corroborate that iQOO might just have pulled off another winner here. Or at least, something respectable.

Also Read | iQOO 11 5G: Top 11 things to know about India’s first phone with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

iQOO in fact has given its new phone so many upgrades, it’s hard to believe that the iQOO 9T was launched barely six months ago. A lot of those upgrades are genuine improvements, too, which is what really matters. iQOO hasn’t launched the iQOO 11 just for the sake of launching a new product, but it actually had some nice(er) things to show off and so it did. As simple as that. But does that mean the iQOO 11 is a complete home run. Well, no, but it’s got enough fire power to make us say, the upcoming OnePlus 11 better be this good.

iQOO 11 5G | Design and display

The iQOO 11 is a familiar-looking phone. You can get it in black “alpha” or white “legend” flavours, with the latter being a bit more visually striking with BMW M Motorsport’s iconic tri-colour racing stripes logo on the back. The finish, on this particular version, is also a bit different. iQOO is using a layer of faux leather material –on top of glass— which feels really, really nice and premium. It did not catch a lot of dirt in the odd 20-days we have had it but you can’t really tell how these things will hold up with time (luckily iQOO ships a clear case in the box, just in case). It’s a bummer that the iQOO 11 doesn’t have any official IP-rating though.

The iQOO 11 is a familiar-looking phone. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The faux leather gives the phone enough grip, too (the black version’s smooth matte finish can be slippery), which is much needed because the iQOO 11 is by no means a small phone. It’s got some heft to it as well but we can attest that it’s certainly more ergonomic –and better looking— than the iQOO 9T. The outer frame is made entirely out of metal. The buttons are nice and clicky. There is no headphone jack (iQOO ships a USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle) but you get a pair of decent-sounding speakers and an IR emitter.

The panel can refresh at up to 144 times per second. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The display is getting a big bump in this generation with iQOO switching to an E6 AMOLED with LTPO 4.0. The panel can refresh at up to 144 times per second. iQOO even promises to deliver 144Hz gameplay in Genshin Impact with some help from Vivo’s custom V2 chip. The resolution is 2K or 1440p and brightness can go up to a whopping 1800nits. The screen size remains the same as the iQOO 9T, i.e., flat 6.78-inch with a hole punch cut-out at the centre. There is support for HDR10+ content playback and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus for protection. Biometrics are handled by an optical fingerprint scanner. This is fast and reliable mostly.

iQOO 11 5G | Performance and battery life

iQOO phones are known to squeeze every ounce of the available hardware and the iQOO 11 is no different. Given that it already has Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (mated to the fastest memory available on mobile, i.e., LPDDR5X and UFS4.0), it really can’t get any better than this, though a couple of things do stand out.  

The iQOO 11 has Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
  1. The SD 8 Gen 2 inside the iQOO 11 doesn’t always run at peak (performance), which isn’t entirely surprising considering how these high-end chips are designed. You can’t really make this out in real-time but benchmark apps like CPU Throttling test and 3DMark prove this conclusively. The Adreno 740 GPU, at large, could only manage a stability of 57%. The CPU faired a bit better at about 76%. This doesn’t mean the iQOO 11 is slow or that it throttles. No, far from it. The iQOO 11 is currently the fastest phone in the market (with AnTuTu score of 1279080) and it behaves like one, too, but don’t expect it to run demanding games with high frame rate consistently. It might get those numbers (say for instance, 144Hz in Genshin Impact) for you on occasions but it won’t always stay that way. Rather, it will try to maintain a sweet spot (this could be anywhere between 60Hz-120Hz) depending on the game for efficiency. An Asus ROG Phone could maybe do this more consistently. An interesting thing to note about the iQOO 11 is that its LTPO display can pull two different refresh rate occurrences smartly at the same time, say for instance, you could run an app at 60Hz or more in the upper half and at 60Hz in the lower half when multitasking.
  2. The iQOO 11 can run warm, even hot at times, when you’re pushing it.     

The 5,000mAh battery inside the iQOO 11 can last a full day, and we believe, most users will be able to achieve this without any major issues but prepare to charge more than once a day— at least— if you plan to do a lot of gaming on this phone. The bundled 120W charger can top the phone from 0-100% in about 28 minutes.

iQOO 11 is shipping with Android 13. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Software is—also— a key USP of this phone, or at least that is what iQOO would have you believe. In a way, yes, it’s great that the iQOO 11 is shipping with Android 13 (based Funtouch OS 13) and is guaranteed to get 3 years of major OS and 4 years of security updates. iQOO gives you a near stock Android experience, even more so when you compare it with what Oppo/OnePlus/Realme are doing. The UI is much cleaner and leaner with plenty of customisation options available for when you need them. The bloatware situation is also a bit more bearable. But you’d really have to go looking for the differences relative to say the iQOO 9T which is based on Android 12.

iQOO 11 5G | Cameras

Here, iQOO has taken a few steps forward and a few steps back as well. The main camera remains unchanged from the iQOO 9T, i.e., a 50MP Samsung GN5 sensor which sits behind an f/1.9 lens with optical image stabilisation (OIS). But there’s a new processing pipeline, with Vivo’s V2 chip at helm (we are assuming that Qualcomm’s updated ISP also gives it some extra legroom). The new hardware makes the same sensor perform better, but, only in edge cases. This means the iQOO 11’s main sensor can pull more light which is to say you’re less likely to need the night mode unless it is absolutely necessary, in extremely low light.

iQOO gives you two different profiles to choose depending on how you want your pictures to look— natural and boosted. You can switch between the two on the fly and there are some notable differences in the output, especially in colour rendering. We quite liked the way the phone perceives colours, though exposure still needs some work. The iQOO 11 has a tendency to blow up highlights when multiple light sources are present or even when there’s harsh lighting. Under low light, the camera system is a little more forgiving which was kind of pleasantly surprising. In a word, the iQOO 11’s low-light camera output was impressive and we believe that iQOO can build on this further with updates.

iQOO 11 has three cameras on the back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There are two more cameras in this phone— an 8MP ultrawide and another 13MP 2X telephoto. They are both hit and miss mostly. You can shoot portraits with this phone at 1X, 2X each with their own pros and cons (1x gives you better quality and 2x can gives you better crop) but overall, the iQOO 11 can pull off natural bokeh with pleasing colours and good amount of detail especially when lots of light is available. The ultrawide is more commonplace among the trio with decent results in ideal lighting. The 16MP front camera takes decent selfies under good lighting but details could be better.

iQOO 11 5G | Should you buy it?

The iQOO 11 is a typical iQOO phone and for the most part it behaves like one which is to say it has its good moments and some not-so-good moments, too. The phone excels at performance delivering a flagship experience that is second to none. At least until the time the OnePlus 11 and Samsung Galaxy S23 series arrive. Even then, we’re expecting the iQOO 11 to stand toe-to-toe with them but whether or not it will— also—give them a run for money will depend on how OnePlus and Samsung price their competing phones.

Also Read | OnePlus 11, OnePlus Buds Pro 2 rough-cut: Specs, features, prices, and everything else you need to know

iQOO has launched the iQOO 11 5G at starting price of Rs 59,999 for a version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. That’s higher than what it was charging for the iQOO 9T. The top-end 16GB/256GB version of the iQOO 11 can go as high as Rs 64,999. At this price, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the iQOO 11 does not have a proper IP rating, wireless charging, or that iQOO could have put in better speakers or tighter haptics. On its own, the iQOO 11 is a terrific phone but it future prospects will depend on how good— or bad— the OnePlus 11 turns out to be.  

Premium design, solid build No IP rating
Beautiful display No wireless charging
Fast performance Gets warm when pushed
Android 13 Secondary cameras could be better
Competetive main camera Haptics, speakers could be better
Good battery life, fast charging Bit pricey

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First published on: 13-01-2023 at 18:21 IST
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