iQOO, the Vivo sub-brand, started off its journey in India last year with the iQOO 3 affordable flagship. After a long hiatus, the brand make a comeback in the country with the iQOO 7 and iQOO 7 Legend, both offering incredible value for money. In fact, the iQOO 7 Legend offers the top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset for under Rs 40,000.
iQOO is now diversifying into more accessible price points, and its first mid-range entry in India is the iQOO Z3 5G. This is the first device to come powered by Snapdragon 768G chipset in the country, and brings a few other perks such as a 120Hz display and 55W fast charging to pose a challenge to contenders from Xiaomi, POCO and Realme. To find out if it can make a dent in the increasingly competitive sub-Rs 20,000 segment, I put it to the test over the last week.
Design and display
- 164 x 75.3 x 8.5 mm, 185 grams
- 6.58-inch LCD FHD+, 120Hz refresh rate, 450 nits brightness
Barring the Redmi Note 10 series, most of the phones in the Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 bracket seem to be repeating the same design ethos, with a glossy plastic or glass rear shell. iQOO has gone with the former, and as expected the Z3 is a fingerprint magnet that also picks up scratches with ease. Therefore if you end up buying this phone, you’ll need to use a case just to keep it looking neat.
Thankfully, the camera module is slightly different, with a silver ring wrapped around the main 64-megapixel sensor. You will find iQOO branding at the bottom right. But as I mentioned, this phone is definitely not going to impress you with its looks. On the plus side, the compact frame means you can easily use it in one hand without any discomfort.
As for the controls, both the volume rocker and the power button are placed on the right of the phone. The power button doubles up as the side-mounted fingerprint sensor to secure the device.
The iQOO Z3 5G has a headphone jack and a USB Type-C port at the bottom. The SIM tray slot is at the top, which is a rarity these days.
The device features a 6.58-inch LCD display that supports Full HD+ resolution. The screen gets a waterdrop notch which feels a bit outdated for this price range, when most competing phones feature a more modern punch-hole cutout. With the 20:9 aspect ratio display, you get screen to body ratio of 84 percent.
The screen does not get an AMOLED panel, but having a 120Hz refresh rate, that too a dynamic one which changes the refresh rate depending on your screen usage is a definite plus. The overall screen quality is satisfactory and the brightness is good enough to be visible even in sunlight.
The colours are punchy but you tend to notice the blacks are a bit dull because of the LCD panel. The fingerprint sensor under the power button works effectively and I did not face any issues with it.
- Rear: 64-megapixel primary sensor, 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, 2-megapixel macro sensor
- Front: 16-megapixel sensor
The iQOO Z3 features a triple rear camera that consists of a 64-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor and a 2-megapixel macro sensor. On the front, the phone has a 16-megapixel shooter for selfies and video calls. The primary camera offers night mode, portrait, Slo-mo, Time-Lapse, Pro Mode and Doc.
Talking about the camera quality, the Z3 offers decent images when the light is bright in outdoor conditions. Images are fairly detailed, barring the odd over-exposed shot. The ultra-wide sensor gives you a different perspective but you might often notice that details are a bit smudgy. The colours are quite natural but I did observe some of the photos displaying contrasty colours.
When it comes to low light, iQOO Z3 is average at best. The details are missing, and even though you don’t see noise levels increase, the quality is severely lacking. Granted, the night mode of the camera manages to salvage the images, but it’s safe to say that you won’t be buying the Z3 for its low-light capabilities.
As you can see in the slideshow above, images shot in daylight are feature and detail-rich. Even the selfie camera manages to retain the natural face textures without over-smoothening the complexion.
Performance, software and battery
- Android 11 with Funtouch 11.1 OS
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 768G
- 6GB + 128GB, 8GB + 128GB, 8GB + 256GB
- 4,400mAh battery, 55W fast charging
The iQOO Z3 5G is powered by the latest Snapdragon 768G chipset from Qualcomm. The new 7-series SoC is built on 7nm manufacturing process. This setup means the hardware offers better performance and improved graphics compared to the Snapdragon 750G that you get with the Mi 10i. iQOO has released the phone in three variants, which includes 6GB + 128GB, 8GB + 128GB and 8GB + 256GB. You can expand the storage further, but at the cost of the second SIM card slot.
This hardware combo delivers consistent performance without any drop in quality. Even for gaming you will enjoy the power under the hood of the device, which lets you perform all the basic computing tasks and more, including gaming on high graphics. We did not come across any heating issues during our time, which involved juggling between WhatsApp, Twitter, more than 5 tabs on Google Chrome and Call of Duty: Mobile running in the background. It just effortlessly handles everything thrown at it. The chipset also gives you 5G support that makes it future-ready.
iQOO uses Vivo’s Funtouch 11.1 custom version built over the Android 11 operating system. iQOO has made sure the device is not riddled with too much bloatware. The few pre-loaded apps can be uninstalled, but you will be stuck with Vivo’s own suite of apps.
The interface has a stock Android feel to it but the quality of animations and insistence on agreeing to terms for almost all the apps feels unnecessary. It’s not the worst UI we have used in the segment, but definitely could use some polishing.
The iQOO Z3 5G comes with an average-sized 4,400mAh battery but it supports 55W fast charging, with the charger bundled in the box. With all this power I expected iQOO to opt for a bigger battery for backup, but in real life the phone lasted longer than I expected.
During our video loop test at full brightness, the phone’s battery went from 95 to 75 percent over 5 hours. And while using the phone daily for over a week, iQOO Z3 managed to give us more than a day’s use with ease. Having 55W fast charging does come in handy, especially when it charges more than 70 percent in around 25 minutes.
The iQOO Z3 5G is a fine start for the brand in the mid-range segment. Using the new Snapdragon 768G chipset means you get good performance and a future-ready device. The design is probably where the phone scores its lowest marks, followed by the average low-light capabilities of its cameras.
While the base model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage costs just Rs 19,990, you can get the top-end 8GB + 256GB option for a very reasonable Rs 22,990. For the price, you’re getting excellent performance, a smooth 120Hz display, good battery life and ultra-fast 55W fast charging.
The competition comes in the form of the POCO X3 Pro (review), which offers a larger battery and flagship grade performance with the Snapdragon 860 SoC, but loses out with slower 33W charging and the lack of 5G support. There’s also the excellent Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (review) which features a gorgeous design, solid cameras and an AMOLED display, but has the less powerful Snapdragon 732G at the helm. The Realme 8 Pro (review) with its AMOLED display, 108-megapixel camera and 50W fast charging support is another contender, but it also features the Snapdragon 732G and misses out on a high refresh rate display.
It’s clear that the iQOO Z3 5G is the clear winner here based on performance alone, and if you’re looking for a gaming smartphone that’s also an all-rounder, it’s your best bet in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment.
Pricebaba’s rating: 8/10
- Smooth 120Hz display
- Impressive performance
- Decent battery life with 55W fast charging support
- Average low-light camera performance
- Unappealing design
- Software needs polishing