iQOO 11 5G Review: Setting the tone for 2023 Android flagships
The iQOO 11 is also the first smartphone with the new and highly anticipated Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system on chip, leading the way for the OnePlus 11 and the Samsung S23 series to soon follow
iQuest On and On, or iQOO, as it’s more popularly known, may well have started as a gaming-focused sub-brand of Vivo in 2019, but the ‘performance above all else’ motto has soon led iQOO to become a strong do-everything general-purpose smartphone brand in its own right. From the iQOO 7 Legend to the iQOO 9 Pro, iQOO has grown in popularity and refinement. And after using their latest iQOO 11 in its Legend avatar, I’m starting to see why.
Keen observers of the flagship segment will also know that the iQOO 11 is also the first smartphone with the new and highly anticipated Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 system on chip, leading the way for the OnePlus 11 and the Samsung S23 series to soon follow. You can pick up the iQOO 11 in two configurations — a base model with 8GB of LPDDR5X memory and 256GB of the fast UFS 4.0 storage (Rs. 59,999) and a kitted-out 16GB/256GB variant, both available in one of two colorways — a sober black model and the Legend variant with a white rear panel and a BMW Motorsport-inspired racing stripe design. No matter which variant you pick, you get a 144Hz refresh rate AMOLED display, 120W fast charging, and Android 13 – there’s a lot to like!
In my hand is the iQOO 11 Legend variant, with the visually striking BMW Motorsport-inspired tri-color racing stripes that we’ve seen on iQOO phones past that just don’t get old! The finish is somewhat different too, with a layer of faux (silicon) leather on top of the glass which, along with the metal mid-frame feels super nice in the hand and very premium. In the two weeks or so that I’ve carried the device, the white rear hasn’t discolored or caught any stains. But there’s also a clear case in the box should you wish to be extra careful. It’s a tall phone, no doubt, and a stretch for most hands; but the weight distribution and grippy, curved rear edges allow this 205-gram phone to sit comfortably in the hand. That somewhat oversized triple camera island on the rear draws some inspiration from Vivo phones in the recent past, but it steadies the phone on a flat surface. Interestingly, the iQOO 11 packs in an IR blaster to control your home appliances, but what it lacks is likely to draw more attention (and disappointment) at this price point – an official IP rating and wireless charging.
Around the front is a hugely upgraded 6.78-inch E6 AMOLED panel with 4th generation LTPO technology, which refreshes the screen dynamically between 1Hz and 144Hz based on the on-screen content, while conserving battery. I’m yet to see a lot of apps and games that leverage the added refresh cycles or the dual refresh rate capabilities of the E6 panel, but I suspect some app optimisations will come over time. With its 2K/1440p resolution and 1800 nits of peak brightness (outdoors), the content viewing experience is crisp and vibrant, especially when watching HRD10 content (no support for the Dolby Vision standard, though). A snappy optical fingerprint scanner, decent haptics, and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus protection are at par for the course.
iQOO was first off the blocks with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset that we saw launch back in November, and while the jury is still out on the OnePlus 11 (though, not for long!) and with the Samsung flagships for 2023 yet to launch, the iQOO can stake a claim on the ‘fastest Android around’ title. Building on the success of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 with an all-new Adreno 740 graphics chip plus the added assistance of Vivo’s V2 chip (boost camera, display, and gaming), the iQOO 11 is good for pretty much any task you want to throw at it. I played a bunch of games, from Call of Duty: Mobile to Apex Legends, on the highest frame rates/graphics, and the phone responded adeptly without warming up as much as I’d expected, albeit over short gaming sessions. Some credit for this can be attributed to the huge vapor cooling chamber on board, while some have to go with the choice of the faster LPDDR5X RAM and faster UFS 4.0 storage. There’s even the ability to add additional frames for games that don’t support high frame-rate gaming. Bear in mind, while the iQOO 11 is fine for gaming. For sustained performance over extended gaming durations, we’ll have to wait for the likes of a ROG Phone for an out-and-out gaming package. Battery consumption isn’t too bad, with the 5,000mAh battery inside the iQOO 11 lasting a day for most everyday use (which includes some gaming and maps navigation). When it does run dry, the included 120W fast charger charges the battery to full in under 25 minutes, which is plenty fast for all intents and purposes.
The iQOO 11 runs FunTouch OS 13 based on Android 13, and iQOO guarantees three years of OS and four years of security updates, both of which are great moves. While one liked the customisation options and the clean UI, there is a lot of pre-installed bloatware on the phone and spammy notifications that take the shine off the device. Fortunately, most can be disabled or uninstalled.
That massive camera module isn’t just for the looks; it also houses a 50-megapixel Samsung GN5 camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 13-megapixel telephoto camera with 2X optical zoom. iQOO phones in the past have performed well, benefiting from Vivo’s strong skills in turning out the X series of flagships, and the added boost from the custom V2 chip and the new image signal processor on the Snapdragon chip. Daylight performance is good, with images where colors are a tad saturated (red and greens mess up most often) but the dynamic range is good, with well-exposed shadows. Autofocus is snappy and the camera is quick to capture images in low light as well. The ultra-wide, on the other hand, lacks details and suffers from poorer dynamic range. The telephoto 2x shooter fared slightly better in good light but had mixed results in fading light. There’s certainly room for improvement but iQOO’s taken a good stab at the 11’s cameras, one that it should certainly build on in future software updates.
The iQOO 11 5G starts off the year for Android flagships rather impressively, with class-leading performance and an elegant design and without compromising on the display and fast charging, at a price that will give both OnePlus and Samsung some pause about how they should price their flagships. It’s competitively priced but lacks proper IP rating and wireless charging, two hygiene elements in phones operating in this territory, and the ultrawide needs some more work. Irrespective of the outcome in the coming weeks, the iQOO 11 stands tall in the company of its peers but one would certainly wait and see what Samsung and OnePlus have to offer.
iQOO 11 5G
Pros: premium build and design, excellent display, good performance, good primary camera with low light performance, Android 13, fast charging, and good battery life
Cons: No IP rating, weak ultrawide camera, bloatware, and notification spam
Price: Rs. 64,999 (16/256GB), Rs. 59,999 (8/256GB)