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iQOO 9 Pro review: well-designed performance flagship

iQOO managed to occupy the vacant flagship killer spot in the mid-range segment last year with its iQOO 7 (review) and iQOO 7 Legend. The brand made it a habit to launch smartphones that bring at least one segment- or industry-first features to the table. From the world’s first phone flaunting UFS 3.1 flash storage with LPPDR5 RAM – iQOO 3 5G (review) to the segment-first intelligent display chip on iQOO 7, the Vivo sub-brand has always been pushing the envelope.

Also read: OPPO Reno 7 Pro 5G review: a stylish flagship that misses the mark

Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when it’s latest top-end flagship offering – iQOO 9 Pro 5G – arrived with a couple of firsts. The flagship happens to be the first Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 device in India. It also offers the primary camera with Vivo’s proprietary gimbal system, which is something that’s not available even on Vivo X70 Pro+’s primary camera. I have heard people say iQOO shot itself in the foot by moving into the premium segment but I have mixed thoughts about it. Let’s find out why I say so.

iQOO 9 Pro 5G review of specifications

Specs
 iQOO 9 Pro 5G specifications
Display 6.78-inch 2K LTPO E5 AMOLED (120Hz)
Processor Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM 8GB|12GB
Storage 256GB
OS
Funtouch OS 12 based on Android 12
Rear cameras 50MP + 50MP + 16MP
Front Camera 16MP
Battery 4,700mAh
Fast charging 120W fast charging (wired) + 50W fast charging (wireless)
Dimensions 164.8 x 75.2 x 8.8mm
Price Rs 64,990 starting price

Design and display

  • 164.8 x 75.2 x 8.8mm , 209.8g
  • 6.78-inch 2K LTPO 2.0 E5 AMOLED display, 120Hz, 89.6 percent screen-to-b0dy ratio, 3D Ultrasonic Large Fingerprint Sensor, 10-bit, 1,500nits peak brightness, 300Hz touch sampling rate, 517PPI, Intelligent Display Chip

As you can tell from the headline of my review, I am mighty impressed with the way the iQOO 9 Pro looks and feels in the hand. The iQOO 9 Pro Legend comes rocking the iconic BMW colourway that we first saw on the iQOO 7 Legend. However, this time around, iQOO has taken the whole aesthetics a notch above with a carbon fibre finish on the white part of the rear panel instead of the matte finish we saw on 7 Legend. If the loud BMW colours are not your thing, you can opt for the more subtle Dark Cruise colour option, which is basically black with a carbon fibre finish and looks incredible too.

iQOO has taken a leaf out of Vivo’s design book and opted for a ginormous camera bump, which stretches across the length on the upper half of the back panel like Vivo X70 Pro+ (review). However, unlike X70 Pro+, the iQOO 9 Pro’s extended camera module doesn’t have a glossy mirror finish, instead, it just has Gimbal Stabilisation branding with other camera details. While it doesn’t serve any other purpose, I personally like the colour-blocking aesthetic that the module has. Moreover, it prevents the phone from wobbling when kept on a surface. I was rocking the smartphone naked during the stint of this review but iQOO has also included a protective case that’s the mirror copy of the back panel and doesn’t hide the good looks of the device.

The iQOO 9 Pro is quite chunky and has a confidence-inducing heft without being top-heavy despite the massive camera module. Moreover, the curved back and display panel gives it a slimmer appearance than it actually is. However, at 209.8g, the phone does make its weight felt after using it for a while and the wide frame means it’s not comfortable for one-hand usage. Further expanding on cons of this design, the iQOO 9 Pro doesn’t feature any IP rating either, which I feel is a glaring omission at this price point.

Coming to the I/O options on the iQOO 9 Pro, let’s begin with what impressed me the most – the 3D ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display. For starters, iQOO claims that the fingerprint scanner on the 9 Pro is around 10 times larger than the one on iQOO 7. Thanks to the increased sensor real estate, the detection is blazing fast and it also requires just one tap to register your fingerprint in just a second. Saying this is mind-blowing would be an understatement. The power button and volume keys are on the right edge and nothing on the left. The bottom edge is housing the SIM tray, Type-C port, and speaker grille, while on top you will find the IR sensor and a mic. The earpiece is hiding another speaker for a stereo speaker setup.

The iQOO 9 Pro’s window to the world is a dual-curved 6.78-inch E5 AMOLED panel with 2K resolution and LTPO 2.0 technology. The screen comes with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, which can go as low as 1Hz depending on what’s displayed on the screen. The phone also has a touch sampling rate of 300Hz. Needless to say, the E5 AMOLED display produces vibrant colours, darker blacks, and sharp text. The peak brightness of 1,500nits means that the display gets ample bright under all conditions and you won’t have to squint your eyes even under direct sunlight. On the flip side, there’s no Gorilla Glass protection but you do get a certain degree of protection from the Schott Xensation UP protective layering.

While I did enjoy 2K display and the visuals it offered, I was disappointed by the missing HDR capability when streaming content on OTT platforms like Netflix and Prime Video. It doesn’t make much of a difference to the naked eye but it’s another glaring omission considering the steep price tag that the flagship comes with. I did enjoy watching Amanda Seyfried’s The Dropout based on Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes but was left desiring more because the 2K display is just stunning and the missing HDR capability is a sore point.

On the bright side, the display comes with the same Intelligent Display Chip as the iQOO 7. It activates only while gaming to facilitate MEMC and enable HDR. Theoretically, the MEMC technology upscales 30/60fps games to 90-120fps thus making full use of the 120Hz display and HDR. Thanks to the Display Chip, BGMI gamers can turn on the Extreme FPS preset and enjoy 90FPS gaming on iQOO 9 Pro. However, to my casual gaming acumen, there wasn’t much of a difference.

Cameras

  • Rear: 50-megapixel GN5 Gimbal primary sensor, 50-megapixel 150° Ffsheye wide-angle, 16MP portrait with 60mm professional portrait and
    OIS
  • Front: 16-megapixel sensor

The iQOO 9 Pro comes with an extremely capable camera setup on the rear. Getting into the nitty-gritty of specs, the smartphone ships with a 50-megapixel Samsung GN5 Gimbal primary camera. iQOO has managed to fit the main sensor on the gimbal, which is something even Vivo has not achieved yet.

The gimbal system on the X60 Pro+ and X70 Pro+ supports the wide-angle lens because it is comparatively lighter than the primary Samsung GN1 sensor. It seems that either Samsung has reduced the weight of the GN5 sensor or Vivo has increased the payload of its 5-axis gimbal system. As a result, the iQOO 9 Pro deploys the gimbal mechanism on the more important primary sensor instead of the lesser-used wide-angle lens.

The gimbal-stabilised main lens is accompanied by another 50-megapixel 150-degrees Fish Eye ultrawide angle sensor. The third lens in the mix is a 16-megapixel portrait sensor. On the front, the iQOO 9 Pro features a 16-megapixel camera in a center-aligned perforation for selfies and video calling.

The camera UI is pretty standard with preview, shutter, and camera toggle at the bottom. There are buttons for Google Lens, flash, HDR, super macro mode, and settings (aspect ratio, framing lines, level, stabilisation, watermark, and effect master) on top. The viewfinder Rolodex has Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, and More. Inside More, you’ll find High Resolution, Pano, Slo-mo, Time-lapse, Pro, Pro Sports, and Dual Video modes. On the viewfinder itself, you’ll find the buttons for live filters, AI scene recognition, and zoom. The camera can zoom up to 2.5x optically and beyond that goes up to 30x. Moreover, you can slide the zoom slider all the way towards the left or tap on the globe icon to access the various fish eye modes including standard fish eye, Crystal ball, Asteroid, and Rabbit hole.

Regular
Regular 
Regular
Regular
Regular
Fisheye
Wide angle
1X
2X
5X
20X
30X
Portrait
Macro
Closeup
Standard
Night mode

Coming to the actual imaging performance, the 50-megapixel primary camera is gimbal-stabilised, which means it can not only record extremely stabilised videos but also sharper shots of moving objects and better night shots as well. The routine daylight images from the camera are detailed, crisp, and accurate without any saturation boost. The night shots are exemplary with or without dedicated night mode but they do look over processed at times. The night mode does bring out more details in shadows without adding more noise, which is good.

As for the wide-angle lens, the iQOO 9 Pro features the Samsung JN1 sensor with a 150-degree super wide-angle field of view. Thanks to the super wide-angle view, the camera lets you capture fish-eye shots as well as conventional 1.6x wide-angle shots. The fish eye effect and other modes mentioned before are just for fun and don’t really produce usable images. For capturing landscape, I suggest sticking with the 1.6x zoom-out mode. Speaking of zoom, the phone clicks sharp pictures up to 2.5x and beyond that, it captures passable shots.

The portrait shots from the smartphone are stunning with accurate edge-detection and natural background separation. There will be two zoom options on the viewfinder in portrait mode,  1x and 2.5x. I suggest the latter for the best result. The camera also clicks highly detailed macro as well as closeup shots with accurate colours.

The 16-megapixel front camera clicks good self-portraits with an accurate skin tone but has a certain degree of beautification even with the beautification mode turned off. However, if you click a lot of selfies for social media and prefer tons of features, iQOO 9 Pro won’t disappoint you. You get HDR, HD portraits, beautification, several aesthetic filters, and background blur adjustment for portrait shots.

Performance, software, and battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • 8GB + 256GB, 12GB + 256GB
  • Funtouch OS 12 based on Android 12
  • 4,700mAh battery, 120W fast charging, and 50W wireless charging

Coming to performance, the iQOO 9 Pro is the first smartphone in India to feature Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform. The chipset is designed on a 4nm fabrication process and employs LPDDR5 RAM along with UFS 3.1 storage. To simplify the jargon, the iQOO 9 Pro comes with the fastest processor yet from Qualcomm along with the fastest RAM and storage configurations as well. The phone is being offered in 8GB + 256GB and 12GB + 256GB options, of which I have the latter. The RAM can be further expanded up to 4GB using virtual RAM technology, which gave me a whopping 16GB RAM but that wasn’t required.  Needless to say, the iQOO 9 Pro is the fastest smartphone I have used to date with the whole experience being boosted by the 120Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sampling rate, and 1,000Hz instant touch rate.

As I expected, the iQOO 9 Pro flies through everything you throw at it in day-to-day usage. Multitasking with apps like BGMI, Asphalt 9, YouTube, Adobe Lightroom, Slack, WhatsApp, and a few more apps open in the background was seamless with no app being killed in the background. I played Asphalt 9 and BGMI on the smartphone. The former plays extremely smooth while BGMI lets users set Extreme framerate with HDR and UHD graphics. At these jacked-up graphics settings, the phone handled the gameplay well but heats up slightly after 20-30 minutes of intense gaming. I would have loved to see the iQOO on-display Dual Monster Touch pressure-sensitive buttons on here but for some reason iQOO has kept it limited only to the standard iQOO 9 model.

Coming to the software, the iQOO 9 Pro ships with the Android 12-based Funtouch OS 12 out of the box. iQOO has assured two years of major Android upgrades and three years of security updates for the iQOO 9 Pro. While the Funtouch OS 12 offers a near-stock interface, which is much cleaner than the previous iterations, there are still bloatware present and system apps requiring core permission. While third-party bloatware can be uninstalled, they shouldn’t exist in a premium smartphone at this price point. On the bright side, the interface does come with tons of customisation options and enhanced privacy features.

The iQOO 9 Pro flagship device ships with a beefy 4,700mAh battery with 120W (wired) and 50W (wireless) charging support. Depending on how you set up the device, your mileage may vary when it comes to battery backup. As for me with all settings set to the max with 2K resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, I would still have 20 percent battery left by dinner time. However, on days when I gamed more than usual and binge-watched shows more, the battery drained faster than usual. However, the provided charger can juice up the battery from zero to 100 percent in just under 30 minutes, which is quite fast.

Bottomline

If you can look past the missing IP rating, HDR playback, Gorilla Glass, and bloatware, the iQOO 9 Pro ticks a lot of the right boxes at Rs 64,990 for the 8GB RAM variant. You get a stunning 2K E5 AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, one of the most powerful performances in the country, the best fingerprint scanner, good cameras, a head-turning design, and the latest Android 12 out of the box.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 and Motorola Edge 30 Pro are the other two contenders with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC. The former starts at Rs 72,999, whereas the latter is more affordable at Rs 49,999. With Motorola, you get a stock Android interface with next to no bloatware, a 60-megapixel selfie camera, and a  144Hz AMOLED display. The Samsung Galaxy S22 misses out in terms of display size, rear camera setup, selfie camera, and battery size as well as charging speeds.

Considering Motorola doesn’t have a robust fanbase here in India, the iQOO 9 Pro does come across as a solid offering at this price point. If you are looking for a super stylish and powerful smartphone, the iQOO 9 Pro definitely understands the assignment.

Pricebaba rating: 8 / 10

What works

  • Beautiful Design
  • Stunning 2K display
  • Powerful performance
  • Superfast charging
  • Good cameras

What doesn’t

  • Sub-par software experience
  • No IP-rating
  • No online HDR media playback
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman has over 8 years of experience in content development. He is a Senior Writer and Social Media Manager at Pricebaba. He covers technology news, feature articles, and tech reviews, apart from managing the official Facebook and Instagram handles. Despite a degree in marketing, his love for latest gadgets and technology steered him towards consumer technology coverage.