iQOO Z3 review: Great specifications for the price, with questionable software

The iQOO Z3 is one of the newest mid-range entries in the segment, competing with the likes of the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max, Realme X7 and Poco X3 Pro. The phone does pack a punch with its hardware, offering good specifications for the price. 

However, iQOO is a gaming-smartphone maker, and when it comes to gaming, does the phone beat the Poco X3 Pro, which currently rules the Rs 20,000 gaming segment? Before we answer that, here’s a quick look at the phone’s specifications.

iQOO Z3 Specs: Qualcomm Snapdragon 768G | 6.58-inch FHD+ 120Hz IPS LCD display| Up to 8GB RAM and 256GB UFS 2.2 storage | 64MP triple camera | 4,400mAh battery, 55W fast charging | 3.5mm headphone jack

iQOO Z3: What is good?

Performance

The iQOO Z3 is a great device in terms of specifications. The phone’s base price is Rs 19,990, which can be further brought down to Rs 18,990 with an Amazon offer, and more if you have the right bank cards. For that price, the phone delivers the latest 700-series processor from Qualcomm.

If you can manage to purchase the top-end variant of the device at Rs 22,990, it offers 8GB RAM and 256GB UFS 2.2 storage, making it one of the very few models in this range to offer a 256GB variant, and support a microSD card slot.

The gaming-specific features of the phone are also pretty well-rounded. The chipset delivers a good performance, although when Battlegrounds Mobile India comes out, we don’t think you’d be able to club higher graphic settings with the extreme frame-rate option, something that remains exclusive to phones with a newer 800-series chip. That said, casual games are not a problem for this phone and most graphics-intensive, bigger games can run well too. Cooling is pretty good and you also get a 3.5mm jack, which many gamers will prefer. 

Display and other features

A 120Hz display gives the phone a buttery day-to-day performance experience. Everyday tasks are a breeze. The decently bright display can also be locked to either 60Hz, 90Hz, 120Hz or an automatic option that will essentially implement a variable refresh rate. This is something not a lot of phones offer at this price.

iQOO Z3 review, iQOO Z3 There is no AMOLED display here, but you do get a 6.58-inch LCD display. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

The phone also has a great in-hand feel, thanks to its light, slim profile. The side-mounted fingerprint scanner was quick and accurate, getting almost every touch right. The phone also boasts of 5G connectivity. However, there are two 5G bands here – N77 and N78; not a lot, but still one band more than the OnePlus Nord CE.

Camera

The iQOO Z3’s camera is not the best in its segment, but for a phone that focuses on gaming, it does pretty well. The colours look punchy in most shots, which are also decently crisp under daylight scenarios. Night photos and photos from the ultra-wide sensor are average and comparable to other phones in the segment.

iQOO Z3 review, iQOO Z3 The iQOO Z3 features a 64MP triple camera setup on the back. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

There are a lot of filters and studio lighting effects here thanks to the FunTouch OS camera interface. These give you a number of options to try your creative hand at, and they also work pretty well.  

Front camera performance was excellent, as pictures were crisp, punchy and unlike a lot of cameras in this price range, the iQOO Z3 does not blow out highlights on those bright daylight selfies. Check out all our camera samples by clicking on the picture below.

iQOO Z3 5G

Battery Life

The phone offers average battery life with its 4,400mAh battery, but the real advantage it offers is with its fast 55W charging that can top the phone up in about an hour. Other features like the variable refresh rate and the fairly light UI (user interface) help preserve the battery too.

Expect screen-on times of about 5 to 6 hours depending on your usage. We’d still, however, pick a higher capacity battery over faster charging on a gaming phone, so it can offer more gaming hours on a single stretch.

iQOO Z3 review, iQOO Z3 The iQOO Z3 features a 4,400mAh battery with support for 55W fast charging. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

iQOO Z3: What’s not good?

Design

While not the most important aspect of a gaming device, the design of the iQOO Z3 feels lacking and old compared to the competition. This includes the waterdrop notch, the plastic back, a mono speaker and unimpressive colour options. These aren’t exactly deal-breakers, but we really wish iQOO can improve these elements on a successor if such a phone is on the cards.

Software

FunTouch OS has come a long way from its older iOS-cloning days. You can now find the quick settings on the top like you should on Android phones, and a number of other UI elements are also closer to stock Android than ever, making the UI fairly light. However, the aesthetics were half of the issue with the older FunTouch OS and the other half is unwanted integration, bloatware, and permissions.

Unfortunately, these elements are still heavy on the newer FunTouch OS 11. You still see the Jovi Home integration in places like the Google Feed page and the expanded quick settings page. There are a number of iQOO apps and the ‘Hot’ suggestions apps that you can’t get rid of or even disable.

iQOO Z3 review, iQOO Z3 Here are a few instances of unwanted Jovi Home integration, bloatware apps, or system app terms and conditions we faced during our time with the iQOO Z3. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

Basic tasks like changing the wallpaper, disabling your lockscreen magazine, or switching from Jovi Home back to the Google Feed on the left panel of the home screen is not possible unless you first accept two sets of shady terms and conditions, which among other elements include lines that allow the company to share certain data elements with third-parties.

This is also true for almost all the system apps, most of which you will have to use at some point of owning the phone. We understand that decisions like this help with subsidising the phone, but these unwanted apps and permissions take a toll on the user experience, especially considering how much the rest of the software has improved.

iQOO Z3 Verdict: Should you buy this phone?

The iQOO Z3 remains a great value-for-money device with one of the best spec-sheets in the segment, if you can deal with the software issues. The phone still does not beat the performance of the Snapdragon 860-bearing Poco X3 Pro, which is simply more powerful. The iQOO Z3 does have 5G compatibility on its side though, making it a little more future-proof over the Poco X3 Pro. 

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