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iQOO Z3 Review: Enough to take on the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max or POCO X3 Pro?

is iQOO Z3 the best smartphone under Rs 20,000 in India? After using the device for a week’s time, here is our iQOO Z3 review.

June 08, 2021 / 01:15 PM IST

iQOO Z3 5G launched in India is the company’s first contender for the best smartphone under Rs 20,000 title. The new mid-range smartphone claims to be a “fully loaded” all-rounder, with a prime emphasis on performance. iQOO Z3 5G packs a Snapdragon 768G SoC and competes against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy M42 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10i, and other smartphones under Rs 20,000 in India. After using the device for a week’s time, here is our iQOO Z3 review.

iQOO Z3 Review

iQOO claims that the Z3 5G is a fully loaded smartphone. The USP of this device is its performance unit, which includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 768G SoC - a first in India. The phone also packs a segment-leading 55W fast charger in the box for the modest 4,400 mAh battery. It also comes with a 120Hz display and a 180Hz touch sampling rate.

Performance and Software

iQOO Z3 5G is the first smartphone in India to come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 768G 5G processor. The new SoC sits above the Snapdragon 765G found on the OnePlus Nord (Review). To test the mantle of this new processor, we played some resource-hungry games like Call of Duty Mobile, PUBG Mobile KR, Genshin Impact, etc. on the iQOO Z3 5G. 

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iQOO Z3 5G

Among the three mentioned games, we experienced some lag and frame drop on the Genshin Impact. The game is resource-demanding and even struggles to offer a smooth experience on flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Review), Vivo X60 Pro Plus (Review) at times. That being said, PUBG and Call of Duty ran buttery smooth at HD graphics and High frame rate settings. Games like Asphalt 8 also ran smoothly. 

During our weekend gameplay schedule right before the WWDC 2021 Apple event, the phone was put to test for nearly two hours continuously. The phone did not heat as much as we expected. The credit could go to the company’s liquid cooling system packed inside the Z3. That being said, the device’s battery did drain quite a bit. The 4,400 mAh battery lasted for around 4.5 hours at max when playing games for extended hours with the display refresh rate set at 120Hz all the time. On other days, it was well above 6-6.5 hours. For someone with a moderate use case, you can expect that sort of battery life.

iQOO Z3 5G-3

Another USP of the iQOO Z3 5G is its 55W fast charging brick packed inside the box. The device charges from zero to 50 per cent in roughly 20 minutes. During our iQOO Z3 review period, the device charged within 50 minutes on average. iQOO uses Vivo’s Android 11-based Funtouch OS 11 for the Z3 5G. The software has improved quite a lot over the past couple of years. It is a lot cleaner but still comes with a bunch of pre-loaded third-party apps. Fortunately, you get the option to delete the bloatware. 

Funtouch OS 11 also comes with a tonne of optimisation and customisation options. One of our favourite features is having different types of options for various screen animations. The custom skin isn’t at par with the likes of OneUI and Oxygen OS but is certainly showing significant signs of improvement with every upgrade. What we do not like though is the constant spam of notifications from Vivo’s native App Store. It will recommend random apps after every few hours. The problem is you cannot disable the notifications, which is a bummer. We hope Vivo fixes this and gives users at least the option to disable App Store notifications.

Design and Display

Vivo’s known for making stylish and sleek designed smartphones. Its sub-brand iQOO follows the same. The iQOO 7 Legend (Review), for example, is among the best-looking smartphones under Rs 40,000 in India. The iQOO Z3 5G seems to have taken a different route in our opinion. 

iQOO Z3 5G

The phone comes in Cyber Blue and Ace Black colours. Both come with a glossy finish on the polycarbonate back. Design preferences are totally subjective. Some might like the mirrory finish on the Ace Black variant or the changing hues of the Cyber Blue option. We aren’t a fan of either. We have seen something similar on the likes of the Vivo V20 (Review) and the Vivo V20 Pro (Review). However, the V-series did not attract as many fingerprints as the iQOO Z3 5G. Having a matte variant as a colour option would have been appreciated. 

Design aside, the phone has a pretty decent build quality. The curved edges on the rear panel help in getting a good in-hand feel. It is also quite easy to reach out to the power and volume keys on the right edge. 

iQOO Z3 5G-4

On the front, you get a 6.58-inch LCD with a 120Hz refresh rate. The display offers a good amount of brightness even in outdoor light. It is sharp, vibrant and offers good viewing angles. We did not notice any stutter or jitters while switching between apps or scrolling through social media. That being said, phones like the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (Review) priced under Rs 20,000 offer a Super AMOLED 120Hz display. It would have been nice had iQOO offered something similar. Most people barely notice any difference between an LCD and an AMOLED display. The best possible way to differentiate is when you are consuming content like Stranger Things or Game of Thrones where there are a lot many scenes shot in the dark. The fairly bright display LCD on the Z3 5G offers a good visual experience. However, the blacks aren’t as black on the Note 10 Pro Max.

A bummer is the absence of a dual speaker setup. The bottom-firing speaker isn’t as clear at full volume. To compensate, the phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack next to the USB Type-C port. In case you don’t do find this as a problem for your use case, the iQOO Z3 5G can be your content consumption device. 

Camera

Other than the design, Vivo smartphones are known for their excellent set of cameras, both front and rear. The flagship Vivo X60 Pro Plus (Review) and even the Vivo X60 Pro (Review) come with a top-quality camera setup that puts the likes of the OnePlus 9 (Review) far behind. Not just in the premium space, the likes of the Vivo V20 (Review) offer excellent cameras. We expected something similar from its affordable cousin, the iQOO Z3. While the front camera did not disappoint at all, we are not as impressed with the rear camera’s performance. 

iQOO Z3 5G

Starting with the front camera, the phone gets a 16MP sensor housed inside the water-drop notch. You get upload-ready selfies that offer good details and close-to-accurate colours. That being said, there is some skin smoothening despite the beauty mode disabled.

On the back is a 64MP triple-camera setup. The primary camera focuses instantly and captures sharp images. It offers good details in daylight. However, the shadows aren’t as well-exposed in some situations and the contrast is slightly on the higher side. Night mode improves the exposure quite well but there is some noticeable noise in the darker areas of the images.

In terms of portraits, the device manages to get the colours right but can expose the face slightly more at times. It also gets the edge detection right most of the times. We came across this bug wherein the camera wouldn’t blur the background in portrait mode until manually adjusted. A future software update hopefully fixes this issue.

iQOO Z3 5G-7

The 8MP ultrawide camera captures the same colours as the primary sensor and offers a wider frame. However, like most ultrawide smartphone cameras, this one lacks details around the distorted edges. You also get a 2MP macro camera for those close-up shots. Don’t expect a whole lot of details here. You can click here or on the Flickr slideshow below to check some of the images shot for our iQOO Z3 5G review.

iQOO Z3 5G photos

Verdict 

The iQOO Z3 5G is the company’s first bet in the mid-range segment this year. The sub-Rs 25,000 price bracket is very competitive and is filled with the likes of the  OnePlus Nord (Review), Galaxy M42 5G, Xiaomi Mi 10i, etc. The iQOO Z3 5G manages to beat the competition when it comes to core performance. The Snapdragon 768G SoC gives it a slight edge over the rest, which feature a slightly slower Snapdragon 750G or 765G SoC. The difference isn’t as much though. However, when combined with features like Extended RAM, 55W fast charging, etc., the iQOO Z3 5G looks like a good package.

That being said, there is the POCO X3 Pro, which comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 860 SoC. The chipset performs better in benchmark tests. For someone looking at a next-best flagship performance unit with gaming as a priority use case, the POCO X3 Pro’s an ideal choice. However, the 210+ grams weight does not make it as friendly to hold for long hours. Also, some users often complain about the cluttery MIUI.  This is where the iQOO Z3 5G’s 185-gram body helps it play catch-up and match the score.

If you are looking for a no-compromise 5G smartphone under Rs 20,000, the iQOO Z3 5G is among the few options that you have under Rs 25,000 in India.

Buy the iQOO Z3 5G if you want:

  1. An affordable smartphone for playing games - The Snapdragon 768G SoC is more than enough to handle games like Call of Duty, PUBG Mobile, and probably even the upcoming Battlegrounds Mobile India. 

  2. Fastest charging speeds: The 4400 mAh battery is also good enough to last a day. Even if your phone runs out of juice, the 55W fast charger can refuel the battery to 50 percent in 20 minutes and completely within 50 minutes.

  3. Ergonomic design: The 185-gram weight and 8.5mm thickness makes the iQOO Z3 5G a good option for someone who wants a not-so-heavy phone. It is not the lightest but offers a good in-hand feel

  4. Excellent selfies: The 16MP front camera on the iQOO Z3 is among the best for clicking selfies.

  5. 5G without compromising on overall specifications: There are quite a few smartphones under Rs 20,000 in India that offer 5G network support. However, most of them compromise on other specifications like an inferior camera system, slower charging speeds, average display quality, etc. iQOO Z3 is among the few smartphones under Rs 20,000 that does not compromise on overall performance while proving 5G network support.


Don’t buy the iQOO Z3 5G if you want:

  1. An AMOLED display: The iQOO Z3 5G’s display, although good, is an LCD panel. It does not offer as rich blacks as you get on the likes of the Nord or Redmi Note 10 Pro Max (Review)

  2. Smartphones with a matte finish: The glossy, fingerprinty back of the iQOO Z3 5G will make you look for a microfibre cloth every time you hold the phone.

  3. Dual-speakers: The iQOO Z3 5G has a single speaker setup that does not make it an ideal option for those who prefer listening to songs or play games without earphones. The phone makes up for it with a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, our iQOO Z3 review unit did not have compatible earphones in the box.

  4. Top-notch camera performance: While the 16MP front camera is among the best you get in the price range, we cannot say the same about the rear camera. The Z3’s 64MP triple-camera setup offers good details but is quite average when it comes to colour accuracy and dynamic range. We hope a software update fixes the issue very soon.
Pranav Hegde
first published: Jun 8, 2021 12:54 pm

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