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Home / Reviews / Smartphones / IQOO Neo 6 review: value Vivo alternative?

IQOO Neo 6 review: value Vivo alternative?

Capable hardware that doesn't carry a hefty price premium

Stuff IQOO Neo 6 smartphone review front of the phone against a green fence

“I-who?” That’s a good question for anyone outside of China and India, where Vivo’s spin-off brand has been concentrating since it formed three years ago. IQOO is more value-minded than its bigger brother, with an emphasis on gaming – but not at the expense of style.

The Neo 6 (or Neo6, as IQOO styles it) is no exception. It doesn’t skimp on specs, having picked up a few camera tricks from Vivo, along with rapid battery charging and an AMOLED screen. We’re talking affordable flagship territory, so there are a few compromises, but they aren’t big ones. In fact, it puts the current crop of mid-rangers available to us here in the UK on notice.

So, is the Neo 6 worth picking up in its home territory – and could it even be good enough for the rest of us to think about importing one?

IQOO Neo 6 design & build: plastic fantastic

Given the Neo 6’s affordable nature, it’s no surprise that glass and metal have been rejected in favour of plastic. It avoids feeling cheap, though, with a satisfying weight and curved rear edges that sit comfortably in your hand.

Our sample arrived in a fetching black and turquoise gradient IQOO calls Dark Nova. There’s also the more striking Cyber Rage, which blends pink and baby blue, with a splash of purple thrown in for good measure. The matte finish and minimal branding keep up the illusion of a premium device.

The camera module is the one bit of bling, with a mirror-like finish that catches the light nicely. It doesn’t dominate proceedings, though, and the rectangular shape looks pretty sleek.

Elsewhere it’s largely business as usual, with a USB-C port and SIM tray at the bottom, power and volume buttons on the right side, and a hole punch selfie camera up front. A headphone port doesn’t make the cut, but IQOO bundles a USB-C dongle in the box.

The in-display fingerprint sensor is speedy enough for a mid-ranger. You can use facial recognition if you prefer, but it’s not as secure.

IQOO Neo 6 screen & sound: Flat and fast

At 6.62in, the Neo 6 has plenty of screen real estate. Its bezels aren’t the skinniest, but aren’t distracting, and have the rounded corners we’re used to seeing on pricier phones. We’re talking a flat panel here, as only properly high-end handsets go with curved glass now, and a Full HD resolution. It’s still plenty sharp from a typical viewing distance, though.

The underlying panel is a 120Hz OLED, with exactly the kind of vibrant colours, exceptional contrast and deep, inky blacks we expect of the tech. Viewing angles are great, and brightness is really good too. You’ll only get the peak 1300nits IQOO claims (or anything close to it) when watching HDR10+ content, but it still copes well in bright sunlight. It’s a step behind the properly premium competition, but absolutely doesn’t disappoint given the price.

You can pick between 60Hz and 120Hz refresh rates, or a smart switch mode that scales up or down depending on what apps you’re in, and how much movement there is onscreen. It’s not as slick as rivals with LTPO 2.0 tech, which can drop as low as 1Hz for more effective battery savings, and doesn’t always work where you’d expect it to, like when scrolling through web pages. We stuck with 120Hz, and didn’t see a dramatic effect on the phone’s lifespan.

The accompanying stereo speakers do a decent enough job. A down-firing driver shares sonic responsibility with the earpiece, which largely handles mid-range and top-end frequencies. There’s a real absence of bass, and everything sounds a little too sharp and sibilant when you properly crank the volume, but it’s well-suited to podcasts.

IQOO Neo 6 cameras: pixel pusher

There may be a trifecta of lenses on the back of the Neo 6, but only one of them is truly worth your time. It’s a 64MP sensor that crops down for 2x ‘telephoto’ shots, and has optical image stabilisation for sharper snaps.

As with most mid-range phones, the Neo 6 takes a decent snapshot in good light. It goes a little overboard on colour saturation, but generally handles exposure well. The HDR processing handles bright skies without overdoing the rest of the scene, and there’s a respectable amount of detail on show. Zoom in and you’ll spot its limitations, but it’s easily on par with other sub-£400 phones.

Zoomed pics are more heavily processed, and noise starts to creep in once the light dims, but the night mode is still capable of taking usable shots without resorting to a tripod.

Ultrawide snaps lack the detail of those taken with the main camera, making do with a 16MP sensor. Dynamic range isn’t as impressive, and colours don’t have the subtlety of the main lens. The lens correction algorithms aren’t the greatest either, so it’s best used when you absolutely can’t fit everything in a scene using the main camera.

The macro shooter makes do with a paltry 2MP sensor, and doesn’t have an especially close focusing distance, so can’t hope to produce the up-close efforts of an iPhone 13 Pro or Huawei P50 Pro, and can’t give as unique a perspective on your subjects as the Realme GT 2 Pro‘s microscope lens.

Selfies from the 16MP front-facer look fine for the money, once you’ve disabled all the beauty effects. They’re enabled by default and on the strong side, even at their lowest settings.

IQOO Neo 6 performance: All you need to get by

Stuff IQOO Neo 6 smartphone review app drawer

How much power does your phone really need? If all your apps run smoothly, and it can game at a decent frame rate, there’s no need for flagship silicon when the step-down alternative is just as effective. That was IQOO’s thinking for the Neo 6, which gets a Snapdragon 870 chipset.

It’s not able to keep pace with the top-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in benchmarks, but it gets impressively close. For daily duties it kept up with everything we threw at it, delivering smooth scrolling, speedy app loads and effective multitasking. That last part is partly down to the generous 12GB of RAM, and 4GB of virtual memory, which ensures your apps aren’t constantly forced to redraw every time you swap between them.

On the gaming front, it handles the more demanding titles available in the Play Store without chugging. You’ll need to turn down the details on Genshin Impact or Apex Legends to get consistently high frame rates, but not to drastic levels. The screen’s fast touch polling rate completely cuts out input delays while playing, too.

This CPU also made an appearance in some of IQOO’s older phones, which does leave us wondering how well it’ll hold up after an Android version update or two. The Chinese variant swaps the mid-tier Snapdragon 870 for a beefier Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is sure to have greater staying power. Either way, the firm has committed to two years of operating system updates, plus an extra year of security updates, which is merely OK.

The Neo 6 lands with Android 12 and FunTouch, IQOO’s bespoke user interface that it shared with Vivo. There aren’t as many unwanted apps and widgets as we found on the Vivo X80 Pro, but the app drawer is still filled with quite a few unwanted entries outh of the box.

Otherwise it’s a fairly restrained skin, with a healthy amount of customisation options if you’re willing to go digging for them.

IQOO Neo 6 battery life: charging in

Stuff IQOO Neo 6 smartphone review battery stats screen

A 4700mAh battery may not be the biggest around, but seeing how it doesn’t have to prop up a power-hungry flagship CPU, the IQOO Neo 6 comfortably lasts all day between top-ups. Expect close to 14 hours of video playback, and more hours of gaming than is healthy in a single session.

We went from breakfast to bedtime with a mix of web browsing, camera use, video streaming and social media, plus a lunch break of Diablo Immortal looting, and only ended up in the red at the very end of the day.

80W wired charging means when it is time to plug in, you won’t be waiting very long. A 20 minute charge from empty was good more for than 75%, and it was full around the half-hour mark. You don’t get wireless charging, but that’s no surprise in a mid-range handset.

IQOO Neo 6 verdict

Stuff IQOO Neo 6 smartphone review front angle of the phone against a green fence

With solid performance and battery life, a capable main camera and a great screen, the Neo 6 seems to punch above its weight. Working out at around £350 with the current exchange rate, it lands among a diverse set of rivals – and gives them all a fright.

Its two other cameras aren’t nearly as impressive, and there are some software niggles, but this is otherwise a very well-rounded handset. A shame it’s only on sale in India, then. Import one at the right price and you’ll have little to complain about, but there’s no question a OnePlus, Realme or Samsung bought locally would be less of a logistical headache.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

India-only affordable flagship gets plenty right, with a great display, dependable performance and rapid charging. Only one of its cameras is worth writing home about, though, and limited availability elsewhere stunts its wider appeal.

Good Stuff

Design and screen of a pricier phone

Reliable all-day battery with rapid charging

Decent all-round performance

Bad Stuff

Bundled software overload

Getting hold of one outside India a challenge

Secondary snappers not much cop

IQOO Neo6 specifications

Screen6.62in, 2400×1080 AMOLED w/ 120Hz refresh rate
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 780 octa-core
Memory12GB RAM
Cameras64MP, f/1.9 main w/ PDAF, OIS + 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide + 2MP, f/2.4 macro rear.
16MP, f/2.0 front
Storage256GB on-board
Operating systemAndroid 12 w/ FunTouch OS
Battery4700mAh non-removable w/ 80w wired charging
Dimensions163x76x8.5mm, 190g