iQOO 9T Review: Performs like a CHAMP but not “fun” enough
iQOO 9T ends up being a well-polished Android flagship that is not only fast but it does that well. Should you buy it though?
You know you are going to get a lot of phone for the price if you go through the iQOO catalog. Be it its affordable iQOO Z6 or the absolute flagship-grade iQOO 9 Pro, you get all the class-leading specifications and unbelievable features. The iQOO 9 Pro that we tested earlier this year impressed us with a good set of cameras and a stunning design. It was plagued, however, by the typical issue associated with a Vivo branded device – a sub-par software experience.
That software experience hasn't been fixed with the iQOO 9T, which is now the latest addition to the iQOO 9 series. This phone adheres to the same “iQOO formula” of offering mind-blowing specs but suffers from the same old FunTouch OS experience that lacks sophistication and polish. If you can get around the OS, the iQOO 9T is actually a brilliant phone for the price it sells and anyone who buys it won't be disappointed.
iQOO 9T Design
iQOO loves to have motorsport references on its phone and the iQOO 9T gets it in copious amounts. The Legend variant gets the familiar BMW stripes on a matte white back while the Alpha variant goes for a stealthy all-black theme. Black or white, this glass back beautifully carries a dual tone finish of matte paint at the bottom and a glossy blacked out top half engulfing the camera hump. Oh yes, you get your dose of carbon fibre in the top half.
mobile to buy?
The rest of the phone looks no different to the iQOO 9 5G, which itself was a rather generic looking phone excluding the exciting paintjob. An edge-to-edge display with narrow bezels, and good quality buttons in the conventional spot complete the iQOO 9T. The glass-metal sandwich design makes this a heavy phone. iQOO also introduces IP52 rating for water and dust resistance, which is a nice touch.
iQOO 9T Display
The iQOO 9T's compromises come to the display bit. You get a fairly standard 6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 120Hz. iQOO boasts of using the Samsung E5 panel with HDR10+ support, which is great in itself. In the real world, this is a very good display with the typical OLED traits – saturated colours, high contrasts, deep blacks, and great brightness levels. Unlike other flagships, you miss out on a variable refresh rate technology. Plus, it lacks support for Dolby Vision. For a Rs. 50,000 smartphone, these are acceptable omissions though and you won't face major issues. Oh, you also have a regular optical fingerprint sensor.
iQOO 9T Performance
This is where every iQOO phone dominates and the iQOO 9T is not an exception. You get the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip here, which right now is the fastest chip you can have on any Android phone. You know what? It performs as well as it promises on paper. Compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, this chip runs cool for longer durations and it retains its flagship grade performance. I was able to play Call of Duty: Mobile in the highest possible graphics settings for upto an hour, and frame drops weren't observed – a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone usually gets unbearable to hold by then.
Part of this may also have to do with iQOO's massive vapour chamber cooling and software tuning. Hence, if you want a phone to game, you will love the iQOO 9T. It is simply fast and can hold on to its performance even under stress.
Sadly, I wish iQOO could have done something about the software. Vivo's FunTouch OS 12 interface feels dated and unpolished. Despite having Android 12 underneath, you don't get to see any of the Material You theme. The UI is inconsistent and I am not sure about the two preloaded fonts as well. FunTouch OS 12 is almost as feature-rich and customisable as MIUI 13 but you don't get the fun somehow. All third-party themes and wallpapers from the Theme store are paid, and they all lack taste. It is high time both iQOO and Vivo do something about the software interface on their high-end phones – after all, I don't want a poorly designed UI filled with pre-loaded junk apps and bloatware. Take a leaf out of Nothing's book, iQOO.
The audio performance is decent too from the stereo speaker setup. They go loud and the sound is focused on the mids. However, they are still no match for the speakers on the Xiaomi 12 Pro and Apple iPhone 13.
I did not face connectivity issues with Jio's 4G network and call reception has been good as well. The same can be said for Wi-Fi connectivity.
iQOO 9T Cameras
iQOO phones have always surprised us all at HT Tech with their cameras and the iQOO 9T once again does the same. iQOO uses the 50MP Samsung GN5 sensor along with OIS for the main camera, a 13MP ultra-wide/macro camera, and a 12MP portrait camera with 2X zoom. This is assisted by the V1+ chip for improved low light performance.
As far as the main camera is concerned, it performs nicely under daylight. Photos have lots of details, exhibit good dynamic range, and suppress noise well. However, the camera tends to brighten and oversaturate the colour tones, which may annoy photographers. Moreover, the GN5 sensor despite the OIS struggles with details in low light and night – subject details often go blurry. The colour tones are saturated beyond reality. I can't see how the V1+ chip is helping here. The same kind of tuning goes for both the ultra-wide and telephoto cameras – both are over-processed with sharpening and colours. The same can be said for the video performance. The 16MP front camera is decent too, although it tends to take dull photos with undesirable colours. Under good lighting, you get overexposed subjects and soft facial details.
The iQOO 9T certainly doesn't have the nicest of cameras but compared to a Motorola Edge 30 Pro and a Realme GT 2 Pro, this is a better pick. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE still remains our top camera phone pick in the segment.
iQOO 9T Battery Life
The benefits of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and Vivo's FunTouch OS 12 interface are seen in the battery life figures. Despite having a 4700mAh battery, the phone can easily make it through a day with 30-35 percent remaining. This usage involved calls, texting, web browsing, and an hour of gaming in total.
And when you need to fill up, the 120W charger does a full charge in just over 20 minutes. Quick battery top-ups on the iQOO 9T is convenient – a 10-minute charge fills up over 30 percent of charge. There is no wireless charging here, unlike some of its rivals.
The iQOO 9T sticks to the same tried-and-tested formula -- all the latest specifications at a fairly reasonable price. For the average consumer, that is not a bad thing, especially considering the performance on offer. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is worthy of being called a proper flagship chip now and you can extract all of its performance on the iQOO 9T. This chip is going to make Android flagships more practical to use.
The rest of the iQOO 9T is decent but nothing extraordinary. The battery life and fast charging are the other highlights whereas the cameras are decent. Build quality is great and I assume most of you will find the design tasteful instead of childish (like on the iQOO 9 Pro). My only gripe here is the FunTouch OS 12 experience that simply takes away all the pleasure of using this phone. No 3rd-party launcher can hide the ungainly interface this Android skin wears.
Hence, if you seek top-notch performance in your phone at a price of just around Rs. 50,000, the iQOO 9T is an easy recommendation. However, those looking for a good Android experience can look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, Motorola Edge 30 Pro, and the Oppo Reno 8 Pro.
- Fast and stable performance
- Good cameras
- Looks good
- Fast 120W charging
- Messy software
- No VRR in display
Display6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED 120Hz
ChipsetSnapdragon 8+ Gen 1
OSFunTouch OS 12 on Android 12
Rear Cameras50MP + 13MP + 12MP