This one may not look like your regular high-performance gaming phone with in-your-face RGB lighting, vents and minimalistic camera layout, but this one might just end up being the best gaming smartphone on the planet. At least for the next couple of months.
The beast in question is the iQOO 3, from the gaming division of Vivo and the only gaming phone on the market today featuring Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 processor.
Design and Build
As we mentioned earlier, the iQOO 3 does not resemble a stereotypical gaming phone, and that’s a good thing for those who want the cutting edge performance but do not want to be typecast as a gamer. It looks like any other 2020 smartphone, although a very well built and good looking one at that.
Our orange unit was the least subtle out of all the colour options, and the one that would be least messed up with fingerprints as well.
And when it comes to build quality, it pretty much sets a new standard for Chinese smartphones. It feels dense and tough with a nice heft to it. The metallic chassis is not completely smooth and features a hard-edged lip that runs throughout the phone, making it extremely grippy and secure while operating.
Using the phone regularly for gaming shows how well designed every aspect of the phone is for not only gaming but even for day to day use, without it ending up looking like a gaming phone. The iQOO shows that a device can be designed for gaming while still looking normal.
For Instance, the touch-sensitive shoulder buttons are extremely subtle and perfectly symmetrical. Someone picking up the device wouldn’t even notice it unless it’s pointed out. The hole punch display as well is shoved into the top right corner of the phone where it does not really obstruct any of the vital stats you need to keep an eye on while gaming. Even gaming while the device is charging is designed to make life easier for the user, with a pill-shaped charging pin that does not protrude enough to adjust your grip.
Overall, we cannot sufficiently express how well designed and built the iQOO 3 is. Top morks on this front for sure.
Now, what kind of performance would you expect from a smartphone that features the latest and greatest chipset from one of the biggest chipset manufacturers in the world? Really, I shouldn’t even have to write this section of the review, but with a perfectionist editor breathing down my neck, let’s get started.
The performance is quick. Like really quick. And that’s without the iQOO having the 90 and 120Hz displays that other smartphones these days possess. One small niggle in an otherwise brilliantly performing smartphone.
Day-to-day tasks are a complete non-issue for this beast. And to be honest, high-resolution games don’t really pose much of a challenge either. Load up a game and graphics are set to the highest and most processor-intensive settings by default.
Browsing through apps and day to day tasks is easy with no hints of lags at all. Have as many open tabs in Chrome or as many apps open in the background as you can, no stress. The 8GB of RAM we had on our review unit just took care of it all with absolutely no issues.
Battery life as well was outstanding. The 4440mAh easily lasted us a whole day! A whole day with heavy gaming, mind. We suspect it could last a good two days without charging if you stick to light games and normal usage.
When you do run out of juice, the 55W Super Flash Charge can get you back to 50% in a claimed 15 minutes, and we got similar results in our charge test as well.
Overall, apart from the inclusion of a high refresh rate screen like you see in competitors, there is nothing at all to complain about in terms of performance. And that is rare praise for any smartphone that has been passed through the gauntlet that is the Stuff Team.
With the 3, iQOO has managed to find a fine blend between being a good smartphone in general and being an all-out gaming device.
The most popular games like PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile run flawlessly in the highest graphic settings. Playing for a long time is also no issue at all, with the device remaining positively cool throughout.
What the iQOO 3 features over most smartphones these days is the 180Hz Super Touch Response rate. In simple terms, what this feature does is improve screen touch scan frequency by 50%, resulting in the device keeping up with quick changes in touch inputs, which in turn results in better accuracy while gaming.
Another feature that makes it a great gaming smartphone (and pretty much a compulsory feature for gaming smartphones these days) are the touch-sensitive shoulder buttons, dubbed Monster Touch Buttons. Using these with compatible games brings in a whole new dynamic to your gaming prowess. If you are into emulating retro games on your smartphone, this feature is definitely a must-have, as we found out when we tried out emulating PSP games. The combination of shoulder buttons and the powerhouse of a processor makes this smartphone an emulation and gaming masterpiece.
With an array of four lenses on the rear, you might expect the iQOO to have one hell of a camera setup. And it does, for the most part. The four lenses offer a ton of flexibility and are handy in challenging situations.
Shooting from the main sensor is actually quite a delight. What surprised us the most was how colour-accurate the shots were. There was no over the top saturation for extra, unnatural vividness present here. Contrast levels were just right as well.
What wasn’t just right, though, was outright sharpness. Even when shooting in 48MP mode. For a smartphone with this much processing power behind it, it would have been nice to see some of those resources being diverted into processing images.
It would seem that rather than sharpness,all that processing grunt has gone into a different camera feature. The sheer diversity of Beauty mode options is truly astonishing. And they work on the fly, giving the user a live preview of the enhancements that are being made. This is one of the only phones where we have actually enjoyed using these modes. In fact, these beauty enhancements are so ingrained into the system that it ends up being a hell of a task to try and shut it off and even then it tends to slightly beautify with a bit of skin smoothening.
When it comes to the front camera, let us begin by stating how small the hole punch for the camera is on the iQOO. It is completely out of the way most of the time and does not really interfere with any day to day tasks or games.
The front camera as well features the same strengths and flaws as the rear cameras. It does tend to get the background completely whitewashed while taking selfies in order to correctly expose the subject, but switching on HDR fixes that nicely.
Overall, the iQOO has a really good set of cameras for the price. The OnePlus cameras may be very slightly better, but this one certainly has the best camera package for a gaming smartphone.
Let’s get something straight. The iQOO 3 is a proper flagship device. The specs are here to prove it. It is also incredible value for money considering it is one of the few devices on the market today that houses that new Snapdragon 865 processor.
It is also an incredibly solid and versatile device overall. And for someone interested in mobile gaming, it’s right up there as well. You do miss a higher refresh rate display on a smartphone with specs like this, but that may be because we are a bit spoilt by them at the moment.