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iQOO 9T Review: Very Close To Being A Flagship Killer

iQOO 9T AH HR Feature1
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iQOO 9T provides a stellar gaming experience at an affordable price.

iQOO 9T
$625 and up
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • 120Hz AMOLED display with HDR10+ support
  • Stellar hardware performance thanks to Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 processor
  • 120W FlashCharge support with all day battery life
  • Rear cameras produce great results
  • Gaming experience is great thanks to good thermal management
  • Audio options in software settings are quite useful
Cons
  • No official IP rating
  • Lingering doubts about long-term software support
  • No wireless charging
  • Selfie camera performance is so-so
  • Limited geographic availability

iQOO Vivo sent AndroidHeadlines a review unit of the iQOO 9T. 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 over a week before composing this review. The review unit is running Android 12 with the January 2022 security update on FunTouch OS 12.

iQOO 9T is now available in India following its launch a couple of weeks ago. Earlier in 2022, AndroidHeadlines got to review the excellent iQOO 9 Pro. So how does the newer smartphone running on Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 chip compare with the previous iQOO flagships?

The iQOO 9T is launching with a base price of  $625 which is quite a bit lower than the iQOO 9 Pro. So let’s get the iQOO 9T out of the box and see all the changes that iQOO made to slash almost $275 off the MSRP compared to the iQOO 9 Pro.

iQ00 9T Unboxing experience is identical to previous versions

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So the box looks the same, and how the contents are packaged inside is still the same. Upon opening the box you see the insert with paperwork and a BMW race car postcard. This is followed by the iQOO 9T device and underneath is a clear TPU case (the first sign of cost-cutting), SIM tool, 120W fast charging brick, and a hefty USB-C charging cable.

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The phone does have a factory-applied film screen protector which is good in my opinion. So besides the clear TPU case, everything else still stacks up evenly against the iQOO 9 Pro.

Interesting hardware design choices result in a lower base price

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At first glance, the iQOO 9T looks very similar to the iQOO Legend 7 or iQOO 9 Pro. But there are quite a few changes that Vivo/iQOO have made with the 9T. The first noticeable change is that the display is flat (cost-cutting move number 2) and not curved at the long edges. Secondly, the texture on the back surface isn’t as good as the prior versions.

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Yes, the back is still made of glass and the glass has a slightly matte finish that resists smudges and fingerprints. But I was a huge fan of the carbon fiber texture from the previous devices. If you are upgrading from the Legend 7, expect to be slightly disappointed. Another minor quibble, I liked the clean theme of the back cover designs for the previous flagships. This hodgepodge of black camera island and the BMW stripe back cover theme isn’t very appealing to me personally. And the camera island glass loves to collect dust and fingerprints easily.

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Because of the lack of a curved screen and not as pronounced curves on the back cover, this device definitely feels like a huge smartphone for one-handed use. It is also slightly heavier compared to the iQOO 9 Pro. And there is no official IP rating – if you are keeping count this is item number 3 from a cost-cutting perspective.

Design is mostly iterative and that’s a good thing

Let’s talk about the good things that are still there, the textured blue power button, the Gorilla Glass 5 protection for the display, and the excellent fit, and finish. Oh and thankfully iQOO 9T still has an absolutely stellar haptic motor onboard. The optical fingerprint scanner underneath the display is fast and accurate but I am not happy with the physical location. It would have been nice if it were placed a bit higher.

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Rest of the device looks quite familiar in terms of placement of the speaker grille, USB-C charging port, power and volume buttons, and the dual-SIM tray slot. And for those wanting to use their smartphone as a remote for watching TV, there’s still an IR blaster on the top rail.

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Massive 6.78″ 120Hz flat AMOLED display is quite good

iQOO 9T AH HR Display

The iQOO 9T comes with a 6.78-inch flat AMOLED display. There are a few big changes here compared to the iQOO 9 Pro. First off there’s no more curved display, second, the pixel density of the screen drops from 518 ppi to 388 ppi, and third, while this is a 120Hz AMOLED display it is not LTPO2 like the predecessor.

Bezels on the display are thin except the bottom chin is slightly pronounced. Personally, I would have liked for iQOO to have used the display from the Oppo Reno 8 Pro for this device.

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Despite sporting a lower-grade display compared to the 9 Pro, I want the readers to know that the display itself is still quite vibrant and vivid with a stellar contrast ratio. But I also think this is where the bulk of the price savings comes from.

Overall most users will be happy with the flat display (better for streaming and gaming), HDR10+ and 10-bit color support, and 1500 nits of advertised peak brightness.

iQOO 9T performance is most definitely flagship-grade

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Performance is excellent on the iQOO 9T thanks to the latest flagship Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 processor. The latest from Qualcomm, coupled with 12GB or LPDDR5 RAM results in really good Geekbench 5 numbers for single and multi-core scores.

For some reason, though the single-core score (1281) isn’t as good as the Realme GT2 Explorer Master (1331) running the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip. However, the multi-core score is definitely right up there – 4102 for the iQOO 9T versus 3915 for the Realme device. On the flip side, the raw benchmark scores are definitely higher than the iQOO 9 Pro released at the start of 2022.

In terms of daily use, there are no issues when playing Genshin Impact at the standard settings. There are no hiccups even when you go and crank up the settings to 60 fps. And if you want to go all out, there is a dedicated game mode where you can switch to Monster mode. However, after about 30 minutes of intense gaming, the phone does get a bit too hot despite having excellent thermal management. If you leave the phone in Balanced mode and standard frame rate you should be able to continue gaming for close to an hour without the phone overheating.

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iQOO 9T Software experience is fast and fluid

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Our review unit came with FunTouch OS12 based on Android 12 and the latest August 2022 security update. There don’t seem to be a lot of changes in terms of the overall software experience.

The home screen looks pretty close to stock Android and a swipe left brings up the Google Discover feed. The rest of the software experience is pretty close to what I have on my Pixel 5. The main differences are in the quick and full settings menu which have a different look and feel but are still chock full of customization options.

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In particular, the number of options with a lot of useful features can be found in Display & brightness, Dynamic effects, Ultra Game Mode, and Shortcuts & accessibility settings. I also like the audio options in the Sound settings menu which we will discuss more in the audio section.

Old problems still linger such as the Hot Apps and Hot Games folders, a decent amount of bloatware – some of which you will not be able to uninstall, and the ungodly number of times you need to agree to the terms to use an app. Aside from these quibbles, most of which you will encounter early on during setup, the phone works quite smoothly for daily tasks without any hiccups.

Lingering doubts remain in terms of long-term software support

While Oppo, Realme, and Vivo devices get a reasonable amount of updates, this hasn’t been the case with iQOO devices. I am not alone in this department as this particular sentiment is echoed by a lot of other reviewers as well. So people considering buying this device need to keep that in mind and cross-shop equivalent smartphones from Oppo or OnePlus in my opinion.

Audio quality is good enough and the software has excellent customization options

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The dual speaker setup on the iQOO 9T sounds quite nice for the most part. Output from the top speaker is good enough that if you cover the bottom speaker grille by accident you can still hear what is going on. Overall the audio output is loud and crisp considering the price of the device.

As usual, there is Bluetooth 5.2 support for wireless earbuds. I also have a pair of Vivo in-ear USB-C earbuds which I used for this review. Initially, I felt that the sound quality was not the greatest from the USB-C port. Note that there is no dongle included in the retail box of the iQOO 9T.

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However, after spending a few minutes within the Sound settings, I was able to set up a custom listening sound profile. Once this profile was set up, the improvement in sound quality via the wired earbuds was exceptional. I strongly recommend that you go through this extra setup in the first day or two to improve the overall audio experience on the iQOO 9T.

iQOO 9T has all-day battery life thanks to the newer more efficient processor

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One area where iQOO did not skimp on, is battery capacity. There is a large 4,700 mAh battery powering the iQOO 9T. You also get a 120W fast charging brick in the box. I wasn’t able to test out the Euro brick here in the USA but can vouch for the advertised charging speeds since I have seen those claims validated on Realme devices that come with the USA charging brick.

The newer more power-efficient Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processer, means excellent standby battery drain. Extended gaming or YouTube/Netflix results in about 15% drain per hour which translates to about 5-6 hours SoT or a full day of use. About 20 minutes on the charger should get you back to almost full charge so that should help with battery life anxiety. The main cost-cutting move in the charging department is that there is no wireless charging available on the 9T as compared to the iQOO 9 Pro.

And for people keeping score, cost-cutting move 4 results in no wireless or reverse charging capabilities. But I think it is fair because you still get blazing fast wired charging. And the price drop compared to the 9 Pro is quite substantial with excellent overall battery life.

iQOO 9T cameras perform quite well

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There are still three cameras on the back of the iQOO 9T. The main camera is a 50MP Samsung GN1 sensor. Additionally, there is a 13MP ultrawide and a 12MP telephoto camera. The cost-cutting move in this area means an older ultrawide and a slightly less capable telephoto camera. And yes, the gimbal OIS is also gone. Thankfully, iQOO 9T still has the custom V1+ image processing chip.

For the most part, the images are sharp (processed using the V1+ chip) and a bit punchy. Contrast, brightness, and white balance are all quite good, and noise is usually not too bad in daylight. You will have no qualms sharing these pictures on social media or via messaging apps.

The Pro mode in the app gives you more granular control. The portrait mode works quite well and makes the most use of the 50MP main sensor.  Take a look at the sample images in our Flickr Gallery.

iQOO 9T Camera Samples - Flickr Gallery

Video quality is quite good from the main and ultrawide cameras in daylight. Particularly the audio capture is quite good for an Android smartphone. The 16MP selfie camera is probably the weakest camera on the device. The selfies are low in detail and texture and might occasionally produce results you want to share on social media.

iQOO 9T Verdict

iQOO 9T AH HR Verdict

I am happy with the changes on the iQOO 9T in contrast to the iQOO 9 Pro. The iQOO 9T packs stellar performance, excellent battery life, fluid software, a great display, and reasonably capable cameras. For $625 you are getting a flagship-level experience.

Sure you give up official IP rating and wireless charging along with a slightly lower quality design/ergonomics experience. Then there is the case for limited availability and no guarantee about future software updates. However, if you are in geographic regions where this device is available, the iQOO 9T is a great choice.