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iQOO 9 Pro Review: The best looking gaming smartphone of 2022

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Feature
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Flagship performance, superb looks, and excellent in-hand ergonomics make this a solid gaming smartphone.

iQOO 9 Pro
$900
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Unique looking gaming smartphone without any gaudy frills
  • Excellent in-hand ergonomics for a large screen device
  • Performance is flagship grade
  • Large 6.78 inch LTPO AMOLED Display
  • One of the best ultrasonic fingerprint scanners out there
  • 120W Fast Charging along with 50W Wireless charging support
  • Best OEM protective case of any manufacturer
  • Main camera performance is quite good
  • Audio output is good from the stereo speakers
Cons
  • Still no official IP rating
  • No longer a bargain in terms of price
  • Software isn't as good as ColorOS or OxygenOS
  • Slight color fringing at the long curved edges
  • Haptics aren't as great as the previous version

iQOO Vivo sent AndroidHeadlines a review unit of the iQOO 9 Pro. However, they didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did they see an advance copy of the review before you. The review device was used for more than two weeks before composing this review. The review unit is running Android 12 with the January 2022 security update on FunTouch OS 12.

The iQOO 9 Pro is a new gaming smartphone with BMW M branding from Vivo. Last year AndroidHeadlines reviewed the iQOO Legend 7 BMW Edition. The iQOO 9 Pro is the newer version of that smartphone for 2022.

Let’s say you want a gaming smartphone in 2022 but don’t want the RGB lighting or crazy logos and unwieldy ergonomics. Well, you are in luck because the iQOO 9 Pro has the performance chops but looks very much like a modern non-gaming smartphone.

Unboxing experience is very familiar

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The outer box looks pretty much identical to last year’s device. There is now one vertical strip with information on the front and iQOO 9 Pro branding on the two sides. Otherwise, everything looks just like before.

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Inside the box is an insert with a BMW postcard. Then there’s the phone with the BMW M red, black, and blue stripe. There is a case that matches the back cover of the phone perfectly with an insert holding the SIM tool. Underneath, you get a 120W fast-charging brick, a very hefty USB-C cable, and a headphone jack dongle. As usual, there is a film screen protector on the phone direct from the factory.

While the unboxing experience may be similar, two things jump out right away. There is a much better case and the 120W fast-charging brick.

iQOO 9 Pro is one of the best-designed smartphones of 2022

This device is currently my favorite as far as unique looks go in 2022. So far, about a dozen smartphones have shown up for review in 2022 thanks to CES and MWC. The iQOO 9 Pro is probably the best looking one of the bunch in my personal opinion.

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The Carbon fiber texture on the back cover is excellent

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR BackCover

The back cover has a carbon fiber texture and provides excellent grip and hides fingerprints. Heck, even the factory case has the same BMW stripe and texture. This ensures that you will have an excellent grip with or without the case while using the iQOO 9 Pro.

 

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iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Case

Besides the BMW stripe, there is a large rectangular island housing the camera array. Because the camera module array is so large, there is minimal wobble when resting on a flat surface which is a good thing.

The iQOO 9 Pro’s design language is clean, uncluttered, and elegant looking

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The iQOO 9 Pro has clean lines, a matte finish on the aluminum frame, and solid build quality with no obvious creaks or rattles. There is a single speaker grille on the bottom with the USB-C charging port and a circular cutout for the microphone along with the dual-SIM tray slot. On the right-hand side is the blue button that’s textured to differentiate it from the volume rocker. Moving to the top we see the IR blaster and the second microphone. The left-hand side rail is clean with the exception of a couple of antenna lines.

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iQOO 9 Pro AH HR HW4

On the front, you get the 6.78-inch curved LTPO AMOLED display. The bezels are small all around, along with a tiny cutout for the selfie camera. And above the selfie camera is a thin speaker grille for the top earpiece speaker.

There is no formal IP rating even though the SIM card tray is protected by a rubber gasket. My thinking is that this device should survive minor splashing but nothing more than that. The phone’s haptics are okay, but they feel a bit weak in comparison with other flagships. This is a bit baffling since the haptics on the Legend 7 were exemplary.

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One big surprise is the extremely fast and reliable ultrasonic fingerprint scanner underneath the display. The iQOO 9 pro uses Qualcomm’s new sonic fingerprint technology and, I must say, it works really well. I hope that other smartphone manufacturers follow iQOO and implement this on their devices soon.

The Large LTPO AMOLED display is great for gaming or streaming

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR DisplayI think flat displays are better for playing games which is what the Legend 7 had. So it is a bit surprising to see a curved LTPO AMOLED screen on the iQOO 9 Pro. Don’t get me wrong, the 6.78-inch 3200×1440 WQHD display is bright and vivid. However, there is a bit of color fringing at the long edges when looking at the device sideways. And the unfortunate thing is that once you see it, it is a bit difficult to unsee it.

In some sense, it feels like two steps forward – larger screen, smaller bezels – and one step back – curved edges with color distortion. Another quirky choice is the use of Panda Glass to protect the display in lieu of Corning Gorilla Glass. Despite this, I didn’t see any impact in terms of touch sensitivity during my review period or any slowdown for the fingerprint scanner.

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Performance is absolutely top-notch on the iQOO 9 Pro

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Performance

The Geekbench 5 scores for the iQOO 9 Pro are in-line with other flagship devices running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. My review unit also has 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. During daily use, I didn’t see one hiccup or slowdown during the review period. Also, there was no perceptible temperature rise during normal use – browsing, streaming, taking pictures.

To check out gaming performance I loaded Genshin Impact on the iQOO 9 Pro. And only when I played this game I could feel the phone heating up slightly. However, during a 40-minute gaming session, it didn’t become bothersome at all. The other two devices with the same processor and at least 12GB RAM – the RedMagic 7 and Xiaomi 12 Pro – heated up slightly. So I would say that iQOO has done a good job of thermal management with this smartphone.

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While we are discussing gaming performance, I should let you know that the iQOO 9 Pro handles Genshin Impact easily at the highest graphics settings. So if you actually get this device primarily for gaming, you are not going to be disappointed. For the review, I turned on Monster Mode from the Quick Settings for optimum gaming performance.

The Software on the iQOO 9 Pro is Android 12

My review device is running FunTouch OS12 based on Android 12 and the January 2022 security update. FunTouch OS shares a lot of features with ColorOS which we just reviewed on the Oppo Find X5 Pro.

Despite this being another Android skin, there’s quite a bit of similarity to what you get directly from Google. For example, a left swipe from the home screen brings up Google Discover feed which is similar to what I see on my Pixel 6. Phone, Messages, and other Google apps are standard. There is a minimal amount of bloatware; some of which you can uninstall and some that you can’t. You cannot uninstall V-Appstore and the ‘Hot Apps’ and ‘Hot Games’ folders. But you can just remove them from the home screen and let them reside in the app drawer. Thankfully, there weren’t any ads popping up routinely during my review time with the iQOO 9 Pro.

The Settings menu looks a bit different from Google and even from Oppo’s ColorOS. The one quirk that is irritating is the number of times you have to agree to use a service or app on this device. I think this is because this device is made specifically for the Indian market. And yes, this device has the V-Appstore along with Google Play to download apps. I suggest you stick to the Google Play store if you choose to get the iQOO 9 Pro.

Long-term software support is questionable

I am kind of a bit ambivalent towards the overall software experience. It is fast and fluid for the most part, without any ads or excessive bloatware. But even though the phone is running Android 12, there is no support for Material You, dynamic theme in the UI, or even the Google Apps.

My biggest worry however is long-term software support for this smartphone. I still have the iQOO Legend 7 from last year, and it has yet to receive a single update (including security patch) since launch. So I suggest you keep this in mind before deciding to buy the iQOO 9 Pro.

Blazing Fast Charging  Speeds – Wired or Wireless

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One great upgrade with the newer iQOO 9 Pro is the 4,700 mAh battery in contrast with the 4,000 mAh on the previous version. The larger battery coupled with the newer more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and LTPO AMOLED display results in consistently good battery life. Moderate use results in charging every other day. Even with heavy use, it is easy to go from sunrise to night without toggling on battery saver features. For my review period, I left the variable refresh rate on along with the display at the FHD+ resolution.

And when you need to charge the device, it comes with a 120W fast-charging brick in the box. I wasn’t able to use the India-specific brick here in the USA. But I do have a 65W GaN Aukey charger which did top up the phone quite rapidly. On paper, iQOO claims that you can charge the 9 Pro from zero to 50% in 8 minutes and fully charge it in 20 minutes which should alleviate battery anxiety.

In addition to fast wired charging, the iQOO 9 Pro also supports 50W fast wireless charging. Alas, I don’t have a wireless charger with more than 15W charging output. Consequently, I couldn’t test the fast charging times. Nevertheless, it is great to see wireless charging on the iQOO 9 Pro; a feature that was clearly missing on the Legend 7.

Camera performance is a mixed bag on the iQOO 9 Pro

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Camera

The iQOO 9 Pro has a triple camera module on the rear. The main camera is a 50MP Samsung GN 5 sensor. Daytime pictures are quite good for the most part. I do think that the color profile could be a bit punchier. There is good detail and sharpness but dynamic range is lacking occasionally.

Portrait mode works well once you turn off all the beauty effects which for some reason are all on by default. There are two other issues – one is inconsistent lighting when taking pictures of people. And the second is a complete change in focus and exposure when photographing subjects at less than one-foot distance.

Nighttime pictures are quite good from the main camera and night mode turns on by default depending upon the amount of ambient light. Again, the color profile could be a bit better. Take a look at various camera samples in our Flickr gallery below.

iQOO 9 Pro Camera Samples - Flickr Gallery

Both ultrawide and telephoto cameras take good pictures in daylight but lose detail at night. The 50MP ultrawide is capable of taking fisheye pictures/video which I personally think is a nice add-on even though for the most part it is a gimmick. The 16MP third camera also helps sense depth but for some reason, the blur effects aren’t as good as what you get with Google or Samsung. Another thing is that the color profile on the telephoto lens isn’t that great, especially at night.

The main camera has gimbal stabilization and shines whilst taking videos. You can get fairly steady video output while walking or jogging using the iQOO 9 Pro thanks to the stabilized main camera. As is customary with most smartphones, main camera videos are best followed by ultrawide in the daytime. For night time I think it is best to stick with the main camera as far as video goes.

Audio quality on the iQOO 9 Pro is good enough

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There are dual stereo speakers on the iQOO 9 Pro. While these sound good, they do not get loud like speakers from Samsung or RedMagic. The quality of the output is good and isn’t very tinny. Yet I just wish that the volume was a bit louder at the maximum setting.

Audio output via Bluetooth or the USB-C port is excellent though. So my suggestion is that you use a pair of wired or wireless earbuds if you can and use the speakers when those aren’t easily within reach. Calls were excellent in handset and speakerphone mode. So, in terms of using this phone as a communication device, there are no complaints.

Connectivity was good considering this is not a USA specific device

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Connectivity

Even though the iQOO 9 Pro has the newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, there was no 5G option available in the network settings. On the other hand, as soon as I popped in my T-Mobile SIM card, there was a 4G VoLTE signal on the device. It even chose the correct APN settings by default, so I had no issues with calls, texts, or mobile data during my review period. Of course, data download speeds were terrible but comparable to my daily driver Pixel 6. For this, I blame my carrier’s poor signal and not the iQOO 9 Pro.

Besides the cellular connection, the iQOO 9 Pro supports Wi-Fi6, Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC. There’s Nearby Share, Smart Mirroring, OTG, and iQOOshare also available along with an IR blaster. From a connectivity standpoint, I don’t think there’s anything missing on the 9 Pro.

Final Verdict on the iQOO 9 Pro

iQOO 9 Pro AH HR Verdict

If you want a high-end Android smartphone that is unique from what you can get from Google, Samsung, and Xiaomi, then yes, get the iQOO 9 Pro. If you are looking for an elegant looking gaming smartphone, then also the iQOO 9 Pro is an easy choice.

You get elegant hardware, fluid software, good thermal management, decent camera performance, and ultra-fast wired and wireless charging. Battery life is quite good and the audio quality, whilst not great, is quite decent.

There are however a few downsides. Namely, no IP rating and few to no system updates. Of course, the biggest downside is availability, as I am not sure if this device is available widely outside of China or India.