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iQOO 11 5G Review: Is it a flagship killer?

The iQOO 11 is a strong performance-focused offering with an excellent display, strong battery life, and a camera that's good enough

The Legend model is the one to pick up, with its BMW Motorsport-inspired racing stripe
The Legend model is the one to pick up, with its BMW Motorsport-inspired racing stripe

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Close on the heels of the Snapdragon Summit, the first of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones have arrived, and it comes from somewhat unexpected quarters. It’s the iQOO 11, a flagship phone from a brand that may have started off as a gaming-focused sub-brand of Vivo but has rapidly risen in popularity and credibility, to the point where its ‘performance first’ approach leads many to believe the brand fills the void left by OnePlus for the enthusiast community. 

The iQOO 11 further reinforces that opinion, checking off several flagship boxes — a fluid 144Hz refresh rate AMOLED display, 120W fast charging, 8 or 16GB of the fastest LPDDR5X memory and 256GB of the latest UFS 4.0 storage — but is it worth the Rs. 59,999/64,999 outlay?

Also read: Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G review: Big upgrades, bumped up pricing

Now, you could pick up the iQOO 11 in the sober model with the black frosted glass rear panel, but if you have a taste for all things fast, the Legend model is the one to pick up, with its BMW Motorsport-inspired racing stripe design, an outcome of iQOO’s brand collaboration with BMW’s Motorsport division. Coupled with the metal mid-frame, the white vegan leather rear feels plush in the hand and rather premium, and iQOO has done a great job with a finish befitting a more premium-priced phone. It is white leather, but my initial fears of stains or discoloration were allayed over two weeks of use (there’s a case in the box for added measure). 

Dominating the rear is a rather substantial camera island, which looks like the large modules from recent Vivo phones. Up on the top, there is an infrared blaster to control ACs, TVs and other home appliances, an interesting addition that’s rare to see outside of the Xiaomi stable. What’s disappointing is that iQOO has let down an otherwise good design with two notable exclusions — an official IP rating for dust/water protection and wireless charging. These are fast becoming hygiene elements in this price category, and many mid-rangers offer these features, so a top-tier iQOO should have them too.

Around the front is a 6.78-inch 3200 x 1440-pixel (QHD+) AMOLED panel, with a higher-than-most 144Hz refresh rate that can not only crank it all the way up when you’re navigating the interface but also dial the refresh rate all the way down to 1Hz for power saving while viewing static content. The insanely high refresh rate and the simultaneous dual refresh rate of the E6-type display are pushing the envelope for smartphones, but remain somewhat of a theoretical possibility right now, with the number of games supporting the refresh rate few and far between. In use, the panel itself is bright enough to use on sunny Bangalore days and colors are vibrant, but the under-display fingerprint sensor is of the optical variety, not the faster ultra-sonic variety that some of the premium flagships offer. You do get stereo sound, but the two speakers are somewhat mismatched in output.

Under the hood is the top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, with the proprietary V2 chip, developed by parent company Vivo, which aids in night-time imaging and for boosting gameplay. Now, while benchmarks are expectedly an improvement over the 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset phones from late last year, real world gains are less noticeable - that’s to be expected, given how powerful the 8 Plus Gen 1 chipsets were in their own right. While gaming, it’s easy enough to get the best possible framerates, and there’s really no lag in anything I used the phone for in two weeks of testing. Of course, as a regular phone for browsing, WhatsApp, Slack and social media, this kind of power is serious overkill. Over longer gaming sessions, the larger vapor cooling chamber does its best to contain thermals and performance throttling, but it does run a little warm after 30-45 minutes of running a game like Call of Duty: Mobile.

Battery life sees big gains, and that’s had us hopeful for the slew of 8 Gen 2 devices coming up — the 5000mAh cell lasted well over 6 hours of screen on time with the resolution and frame rates cranked all the way up. Like other devices in the flagship space, the iQOO 11 has 120W fast charging which fills up the capacious battery in under 25 minutes. The iQOO 11 runs FunTouch OS 13 based on Android 13, and iQOO guarantees three years of OS and four years of security updates. You also get a ton of customizability options and an overall clean UI, the pre-installed bloatware and notification spam take the shine off what is otherwise a very premium feeling device. Fortunately, most can be disabled or uninstalled.

Camera chops are typically what separate the aspiring greats from the big boys in the flagship segment, and that’s somewhat true of the iQOO 11’s camera setup as well. Don’t get me wrong — the 50-megapixel Samsung GN5 primary (with OIS) camera does well to leverage the new Qualcomm ISP and the custom V2 chip to turn out good daylight shots, albeit with colors that are a bit over-saturated. Good dynamic range and snappy autofocus as well, both in good light and low light. If you limit yourself to the primary shooter, you’ll walk away rather impressed. The 8-megapixel ultra-wide fares less favorably, lacking the detail levels and dynamic range of the primary camera, and the 2x telephoto falters in low-light conditions. The 16-megapixel selfie camera is worth mentioning, as it delivers detailed images with plenty of facial details and accurate skin tones. iQOO’s taken a strong stab at the camera, but it feels like it’s an update or two away from delivering stronger results on the ultrawide and the telephoto shooters.

Remember that bit about iQOO becoming the post-pandemic OnePlus for many enthusiasts? The iQOO 11 may have been first out of the gates with the new Qualcomm chip, but it’s safe to say all eyes are on the OnePlus 11 launching this week. We’ll reserve our judgements for how the two phones fare against each other in our OnePlus 11 review but in and of itself, the iQOO 11 is a strong performance-focused offering with an excellent display, strong battery life, and a camera that's good enough.

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