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IQOO 9T review: The mid-range monster is loose

Powerful performance with a few substantial drawbacks.

IQOO 9T review
(Image: © Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

Our Verdict

The IQOO 9T is well built, beautiful, and packs some real horsepower under the hood for a user experience befitting of some of the industry’s better mid-tier mobiles. With its quick charging functionality, long battery life, and 120Hz AMOLED display, there’s a lot to love with this handset. However, this phone’s software is plagued by bad bloatware, and lacks the availability and name brand recognition of similarly priced alternatives.

For

  • 120Hz AMOLED display
  • HDR10+ support
  • Vapor Chamber liquid cooling
  • 120W FlashCharge
  • Dedicated gaming modes
  • Excellent battery life

Against

  • Funtouch OS contains bloatware
  • No wireless charging support
  • Availability is currently limited
  • Average front-facing camera

The IQOO 9T represents a change of tactics for the relatively new smartphone brand on the market. If you’re unfamiliar with the name itself — and we wouldn’t blame you if that’s the case — the branding refers to “I quest on and on,” marrying performance with long battery life to keep you going. That’s a sentiment that’s true for many of the smartphones in the short three-year history of the company here, and something that its latest phone embodies perhaps strongest of all. 

You may have heard of IQOO’s parent company, though: Vivo. The Chinese manufacturer is one of the largest names in the industry for affordably priced performers that are serviceable at what they do for a wider market.

The IQOO 9T serves to inject some much-needed horsepower under the hood, appealing to creators and gamers alike, with hardware and design that befit more of a power user than a casual consumer. However, due to availability issues and a few problems impacting the software here, the IQOO 9T can’t quite be classed as one of the best Android phones (opens in new tab), despite its prowess in many other respects. 

IQOO 9T: Price and availability

IQOO 9T showing off the home screen

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

The IQOO 9T was announced towards the end of July, with the handset itself available from August 2, 2022, in territories such as its native India. The phone is currently available from the brand’s website, as well as avenues such as Amazon, for ₹49,999 for the 8GB/128GB model (roughly $630 / £514), and ₹54,999 (approximately $683 / £557) for the 12GB/256GB variant. Our review unit is the latter. 

Availability has not yet been confirmed for other territories at the time of writing. However, as Vivo products have seen distribution through the U.S. and the U.K. on its site and official Amazon stores, this could be subject to change for the IQOO 9T.  

IQOO 9T: What we love

IQOO 9T laying on its front side with BMW Motorsport colorway on back

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

While aesthetics are subjective, I must admit that the IQOO 9T certainly feels premium in everything from its visual design to the overall construction. Weighing in at 7.27 ounces / 206 grams, there’s some weight to it in the hand. Our particular review unit comes adorned in the BMW Motorsport colorway, dubbed the "Legend" edition, and it’s a nice touch. 

Now, this is far from the first IQOO model to incorporate this branding. There’s been a longstanding relationship between the handset manufacturer and the luxury car design for other cell phones such as the rest of the IQOO 9 range. Still, with its red, black, and blue strip, and classic off-white finish, I would be remiss to mention that the IQOO 9T is a visually striking smartphone to be sure. 

I won’t go so far as to say that the IQOO 9T is chunky, but it does have a thick build, with decidedly thin bezels which I do particularly appreciate. You may notice that this is one of the larger flagship phones available on the market right now, as the E5 AMOLED HDR 10+ enabled display measures in at a mighty 6.78-inches. 

In my opinion, the bigger the better as far as modern screens are concerned, especially when they look this good. My usual daily driver handset prior to this phone, the noticeably slender Xperia 1 II with its 6.5-inch, 21:9 panel just can’t compete. 

While some top-end larger phones do match or exceed this size, such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, it’s still fairly uncommon to find handsets pushing towards 7-inch displays in 2022. 

Fuelling this phone is the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, one of the most efficient and powerful chipsets inside modern handsets today, and it definitely makes for snappy performance across the board. The IQOO 9T features a 120Hz refresh rate with a 360Hz touch sampling rate, which makes everything from casual browsing, extensive multi-tasking, and gaming lightning quick on this device.

CategoryIQOO 9T
Display6.78-inch, FHD+, 1080x2400, 120Hz, 388PPI, AMOLED
Rear Camera 150 MP f1.9 1.1.57-inch (wide) PDAF, OIS
Rear Camera 212 MP f/2.0 47mm (telephoto), PDAF, 2x optical zoom
Rear Camera 313 MP f/2.2 16mm 120˚ (ultrawide)
Front Camera16MP f2.5 (wide) with HDR
Operating SystemFunTouch OS 12 (based upon Android 12)
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 1
Graphics Adreno 730
Memory8GB/12GB, LPDDR5
Storage128GB/256GB; USF 3.1; not expandable
AudioDual stereo speaker, no 3.5mm jack
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6E, NFC, LTE/CDMA/GSM/5G, Dual-SIM
Battery120W fast charging Li-Po 4700 mAh

So far, so good then. However, the real strengths of the IQOO 9T lies beneath the surface, though. The branding surrounding this phone, and the latest in the range from the company as a whole, is Monster Inside, and this applies to more than just the raw specifications on offer. 

Indeed, make no mistake, as the real star of the show here is the V1+ chip which is a dedicated image processor for both photography and graphics-intensive tasks. While the IQOO 9T definitely isn’t the first phone to use this technology — as it was originally seen in Vivo’s X80 series back in April — this model may just push those devices over the edge with the functionality from a creative and gamers’ point of view.

 IQOO 9T camera samples 

Arguably the V1+ chip’s greatest strength is the noise reduction, white balance accuracy, and maximum image brightness. 

It’s common nowadays for smartphones to feature a triple camera setup, and the IQOO 9T is no exception to the rule; you’ve got a 50 MP wide angle, 12 MP telephoto, and 13 MP ultrawide, all of which are bolstered by the addition of HDR10+. The resulting images are very pleasant to the eye and decently saturated but do look processed, with similar results to what you’ll see in the last few iPhone generations. 

I would lament a design decision like this, though, if it wasn’t for the addition of a "Pro" mode. It strips back the machine-assisted imagery and gives you finer control over your images in everything from the white balance, shutter speed, ISO, brightness, and contrast along the fixed aperture. 

IQOO 9T camera in Pro mode taking a picture

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

These are tools that I’ve been used to with my various Sony smartphones over the years, but they're not all too common inclusions in a market that thrives on point-and-shoot immediacy. Here, you get the best of both worlds, and the results really do speak for themselves.

I’m particularly impressed with the dedicated portrait mode found on the IQOO 9T, which adds an automatic bokeh effect to the subject’s background, while ensuring your subject looks incredibly sharp. 

It’s straightforward, tweakable, and easy to use while producing excellent portraits in both natural and indoor light. While I’m well aware that some smartphones have these modes, I’ve never witnessed it quite so clean and effortless as what’s on display here.

IQOO 9T portrait camera samples (rear and front) 

The V1+ chip also flexes its muscles in-game, too. Demanding titles can run at far greater frame rates through a form of mobile overclocking available from the Game Frame Interpolation (and the Game Assistant mode in general). 

These modes can push the clock speeds of both the CPU and GPU to their limits when "Monster" is enabled. This gives you finer control over the likes of in-game 4D vibrations, pressure-sensitive touch, as well as an E-sports mode that automatically dimes everything to the max.

If you’re after a phone that can be pushed beyond the breaking point without heating up your hands, you may find it here.

If you’ve ever gamed on a smartphone in graphically demanding titles for any length of time, then you may start to notice the handset warming up in your hands to quite an uncomfortable level. 

Not so with the IQOO 9T, though, even when plugged into the large 120W power brick. This is thanks to the inclusion of the Vapor Chamber Liquid Cooling System, with its 3930mm² surface area. 

This graphite layer ensures that the smartphone keeps its cool even when battling through round after round in the likes of Call of Duty mobile, Fortnite, or PUBG Mobile with all the graphics setting sliders cranked to their fullest. It’s a genuinely impressive feat, and something that phones costing nearly twice as much do not include. If you’re after a phone that can be pushed beyond the breaking point without heating up your hands, you may find it here. 

IQOO 9T charger wrapped up on a table

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

My favorite feature above all with the IQOO 9T is the battery life. I’ve described a fairly powerful mobile device so far, but the ace up the sleeve of this model comes down to how well it holds a charge, and the brief pace it takes to be juiced up again. 

The brand claims that you’ll "feel the speed" with the 120W FlashCharge tech, utilizing 6C battery cells, and I believe it. Official branding states that the IQOO 9T can reach 50% charge in just eight minutes, and achieve the full 100% capacity in only 20 minutes. In my testing, I have to agree. 

At first, I was genuinely blown away by just how turbo this process is, but I was even more taken aback by the fact that I’ve only had to plug this phone in twice in the week or so I’ve had my hands on it.

IQOO 9T: What we don’t love

IQOO 9T laid down on a table in portrait orientation

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

My biggest persistent complaint with the IQOO 9T relates to the specific flavor of Android that the handset runs on — FunTouch 12. This is a variant that users of Vivo phones should be more than familiar with, but one that I straight up dislike when compared to other iterations of the software that opt for a stripped-back approach. 

If you’re someone who has had hands-on experience with Samsung’s One UI 4.0, Pixel UI, or Xperia UI, then you will notice the added bloatware tacked onto FunTouch 12 from the offset. 

Simply put, there are several additional applications, many of which cannot be uninstalled or disabled, which add roadblocks to the otherwise speedy performance of the handset as a whole. 

Some of these applications baked onto the IQOO 9T are ultimately unobtrusive, such as the dedicated app for the brand itself, which doesn’t take up too much room. However, seeing as it is serving essentially zero purpose, I would have liked the option to disable, delete, or force stop it — all things the phone prevents you from doing. 

That’s just scratching the surface, though. Certain custom overlays, such as FunTouch 12, are notorious for their bloatware; this has to be one of the worst examples that I’ve ever faced. It’s not a problem that’s unique to the IQOO 9T, as every Vivo-developed phone runs the custom skin, but having so much tacked on top here, weighing things down, definitely isn’t ideal. 

Compounding these issues further is the amount of data collection, which includes extensive license agreements to boot up the pre-installed software on the IQOO 9T. 

Seeing as there’s no way to get rid of these applications, such as HotGames, Theme Store, or iManager (as they are not available from the Google Play Store), you’re stuck with these programs that you likely will never engage with taking up space on your limited, and un-expandable internal storage. 

I would have greatly preferred the option to strip all of these unwanted applications from my handset, but the fact that I’m unable to really is a bit of a black mark as far as functionality is concerned. 

While wireless charging isn’t something that personally matters all too much to me, the omission of this feature with the IQOO 9T is sure to inconvenience those users who swear by the functionality with their other smartphones who may be considering this one. 

Wireless charging has been a mainstay for many smartphones now, such as the recent efforts from Google, Apple, OnePlus, Huawei, Motorola, and Sony. To see it not considered at all in such an otherwise forward-thinking phone does seem like a missed opportunity. Having the option to rest my device on a Qi-certified pad would have been useful. 

IQOO 9T: Competition

Hand holding Google Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

While there is no official pricing released for the IQOO 9T in the U.S. or the U.K. at the time of writing, the roughly converted figures place this model firmly in the same camp as the Google Pixel 6 (opens in new tab) and the Samsung Galaxy S22 (opens in new tab), so it’s running with the pack leaders of current-gen Android-powered darlings. 

As the IQOO 9T comes in directly in the middle of the IQOO 9 and the more powerful IQOO 9 Pro, the T variant firmly cements itself as a mid-tier smartphone. 

What the likes of Samsung and Google have over the IQOO 9T, though, is brand recognition and much wider availability. The former examples are household names, in a way that the latter just isn’t in many parts of the world, even when compared to Vivo itself by comparison. 

If you’re after the closest direct comparison spec-wise, then your best bet is the recently released One Plus 10T (opens in new tab), which features many of the same strengths, including the superfast charging on a budget for nearly the same price. It’s also far more available to more markets, too. 

IQOO 9T: Should you buy it?

IQOO 9T

(Image credit: Aleksha McLoughlin / Future)

 You should buy this if:

  • You want a phone with HDR 10+ support 
  • Quick charging is a necessity 
  • A long battery life is a must 
  • You want cutting-edge gaming performance
  • You take a wide variety of photographs

 You shouldn’t buy this if:  

  • You need wireless charging 
  • You want a bloat-free Android experience 
  • Name brand recognition is important to you

The IQOO 9T is a great performing smartphone that features remarkable quick-charging technology, a long battery life, a vivid display, and excellent cameras. 

However, it’s marred by lacking availability outside of India and China at the time of writing, and comes in priced alongside popular alternatives from Samsung, Google, and OnePlus, which makes rolling the dice on a lesser-known brand a difficult value proposition. 

With that said, though, I’ve been continuously impressed by what the IQOO 9T can do straight out of the box. From gaming, to taking excellent-looking photographs, media consumption, and flicking through applications at breakneck speed, on its own merits, this phone is genuinely commendable. 

The monster truly is inside with this model, it just may be significantly harder to track down than some other similarly priced alternatives which can walk the walk as well.