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iQOO 12: Proof You Don’t Need to Spend Big for Big Performance

Looking for a high-value flagship smartphone? The iQOO 12 might be your answer. We delve into its strengths and shortcomings

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Introduction

The iQOO 12’s arrival on December 12 marked a notable moment for smartphone enthusiasts in India, primarily because it was the first to bring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset to the market. This move wasn’t just about introducing new technology; it was a bold statement from iQOO, aiming to bridge the gap between flagship performance and mid-range affordability.

Offered in two eye-catching editions, the Legend and Alpha, and with a choice between 12GB and 16GB of RAM along with 256GB or 512GB storage options, the iQOO 12 is designed to appeal to a wide audience. Its pricing strategy is especially intriguing, positioning the phone as a high-value proposition in a segment where price often directly correlates with performance and features.

But the iQOO 12 is more than just its processor. It promises a blend of aesthetic appeal, immersive display qualities, a versatile camera setup, and robust battery life — all packaged to cater to the high demands of today’s smartphone users.

In this review, we’ll peel back the layers of the iQOO 12 to see if it truly lives up to its promise of redefining the flagship experience for a broader audience. Does it manage to stand out in a crowded market, or does it blend into the sea of smartphones vying for consumer attention? Let’s dive in and find out.

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Design and Build Quality

Upon first handling the iQOO 12, it’s clear that the phone aims to make a statement. The model I spent time with was the Legend edition, which immediately catches the eye with its BMW M Motorsport stripes running down the back. It’s not just a nod to car enthusiasts but a bold design choice that sets it apart in a sea of monochromatic devices. The phone feels premium, with a silver frame and a white back panel that gives it a sleek, modern look. However, its glossy finish does make it somewhat slippery to hold — a case might be a necessary addition for the more accident-prone among us.

The build quality of the iQOO 12 is solid, with no creaks or flexing during my time using it. Weighing in at 203.9 grams, it has a substantial feel, suggesting a robust internal structure. The large footprint might be a challenge for those with smaller hands, but the phone’s weight is well distributed, making it comfortable to hold for extended periods. An IP64 rating for dust and water resistance adds a layer of practicality, ensuring the device can withstand the odd splash or dusty conditions.

Display

The display is where the iQOO 12 really shines. The 6.78-inch AMOLED screen, with a resolution of 2800 × 1260, is a feast for the eyes. The support for HDR10+, 10-bit color depth, and a peak brightness of 3,000 nits means that everything from scrolling through photos to watching high-definition videos is a vibrant experience. During my review, I found the color accuracy to be excellent, with deep blacks and vivid colors that pop without appearing oversaturated.

The iQOO 12’s capability to adjust up to a 144Hz refresh rate automatically based on the content being viewed is a notable feature. Whether browsing social media, reading articles, or playing fast-paced games, the transitions are smooth and the display responsive. This adaptability not only enhances the user experience but also contributes to battery efficiency.

In different lighting conditions, the display remained impressively legible. Outdoors, under bright sunlight, content was still easily viewable thanks to the high brightness levels. At night, the screen’s ability to dim without causing eye strain was equally appreciated. Widevine L1 support further rounds out the display’s credentials, ensuring full-HD content streaming from platforms like Netflix and YouTube is crisp and immersive.

Camera

The iQOO 12’s camera system is a blend of high expectations and practical execution. The rear setup features a trio of lenses: a 50MP primary camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a 50MP ultrawide lens with autofocus capability, and a 64MP periscopic lens that supports 3x optical zoom and up to 10x hybrid zoom. The front houses a 16MP selfie camera, which on paper, sets the stage for a versatile photography experience.

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Daylight Performance: In bright conditions, the primary sensor captures images with impressive clarity and detail. Colors are vibrant yet true to life, and the dynamic range is commendably wide. The ultrawide lens, with its broad field of view, maintains consistency in color with the primary camera, although there is a slight drop in sharpness towards the edges, which is not uncommon in ultrawide lenses.

The telephoto lens is where the iQOO 12 flexes its muscles, offering clear zoomed-in shots at 3x and maintaining decent quality up to 10x. Beyond that, the image quality begins to degrade, but it’s impressive how well it handles zoom within its advertised range.

Low Light and Night Mode: As the lights dim, the iQOO 12’s Night Mode kicks in, allowing the primary camera to still capture detailed and well-lit images with minimal noise. The Night Mode manages to brighten up scenes significantly while preserving details and preventing overexposure from light sources. The ultrawide and telephoto lenses struggle more in low light, with the former losing some detail and the latter finding it hard to maintain clarity without ample lighting.

Special Features and Modes: The Super Macro mode, utilizing the telephoto lens, allows for some fun and creative close-up shots with a surprising amount of detail. Portrait mode, available on both the rear and front cameras, does a decent job of subject separation and background blur, although the effect can sometimes feel a bit artificial.

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Performance and Hardware

At the heart of the iQOO 12 is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, making it one of the most powerful smartphones available. Paired with configurations of up to 16GB RAM and 512GB of internal storage, it’s clear that iQOO aimed to make this device a performance powerhouse. An in-house Q1 chip is touted to further enhance gaming experiences by optimizing performance and managing thermals.

Real-World Performance: The iQOO 12 effortlessly handles daily tasks and multitasking, with apps launching swiftly and no noticeable lag when switching between them. Gaming is where the device truly shines; demanding titles like Genshin Impact and Fortnite run smoothly on high settings, with the phone maintaining consistent frame rates even during prolonged gaming sessions.

Thermal management on the iQOO 12 is commendable. Despite the high performance, the device manages to keep heat under control, never becoming uncomfortably warm to the touch. This thermal efficiency ensures sustained performance without throttling, a testament to the effective cooling solutions and the efficiency of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset.

Software and User Experience

The iQOO 12 runs on Android 14 with Vivo’s Funtouch OS 14 layered on top, presenting a user interface that is both familiar and fresh. The UI brings a slew of customization options and features designed to enhance user interaction, from aesthetic changes like themes and icons to functional tweaks such as gesture navigation and always-on display settings.

Notable Features and Pre-installed Apps: The device comes with a suite of pre-installed apps, including popular choices like Netflix, Spotify, and Facebook. While these additions can be convenient for users looking to get started right away, the presence of other less essential apps and the V-Appstore’s propensity to push notifications for app suggestions can detract from the overall user experience. Thankfully, most of these can be uninstalled or disabled.

Software Updates and Bloatware: iQOO has committed to providing three years of operating system updates and an additional year of security updates for the iQOO 12, which is a strong selling point for users concerned about longevity and security. However, the bloatware and frequent notifications from pre-installed apps and services may require some initial cleanup by the user to streamline the experience.

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Battery Life and Charging

Equipped with a 5,000mAh battery, the iQOO 12 is built to last through a day of heavy usage without needing a midday charge. The phone supports 120W SuperVOOC charging, which is impressively fast, taking the device from 0 to 100% in just about 30 minutes. This rapid charging capability means that even short charging sessions can significantly boost battery life, making it highly convenient for users on the go.

Proprietary Charging Technology: The 120W SuperVOOC charging technology is a standout feature, drastically reducing downtime due to charging. However, it’s worth noting that to achieve these speeds, users need to use the included charger and cable, as standard chargers will not deliver the same results.

Connectivity and Additional Features

The iQOO 12 boasts a comprehensive array of connectivity options, including 5G support, Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.4, and NFC, ensuring that users can take advantage of the latest standards for fast and reliable connections. The USB Type-C port supports fast data transfer and charging, although the absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack might disappoint some users who prefer wired audio connections. However, this omission is becoming increasingly common in high-end smartphones.

Unique Features and Omissions: While the iQOO 12 covers the basics well, it lacks wireless charging, a feature that is becoming more expected in flagship devices. This might not be a dealbreaker for many but is worth noting for users who have come to appreciate the convenience of wireless charging.

The Unboxed Verdict

The iQOO 12 brings flagship-level performance and display quality at an aggressive price point. With the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset and up to 16GB RAM, it is a power user’s delight.

Gamers will appreciate the silky smooth frame rates while the gorgeous AMOLED panel makes media consumption a treat. The much improved camera system captures great shots. The battery life is solid too thanks to battery optimizations.

However, the software experience is not as refined as OnePlus or Samsung flagships. There is still some bloatware and spammy notifications. The ultra wide camera could be better and low light photography is just average. Lack of wireless charging could be a deal breaker for some.

At its price, the iQOO 12 takes on the OnePlus 11, Samsung S23 FE and iPhone 13. Given the powerful hardware and immersive display, it makes for a great value-for-money option for performance seekers not looking for brand prestige.

For those wanting cleaner software and a telephoto camera, the OnePlus 11 is a strong alternative. Samsung loyalists get better camera versatility from the S23 FE. iPhone users will appreciate iOS integration and longevity of the iPhone 13. But for spec hungry Android users wanting max bang for buck, the iQOO 12 delivers in spades.

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