vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

GSMArena Team, 14 Sept 2021.

Design and handling

It's not only about the looks; the phone has to feel nice in hand. And the iQOO Z3 is kind of a mixed bag when it comes to build quality and handling. Since it's entirely made of plastic, it may not appeal to some. Sure, not all rivals are made of glass, like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro, but we didn't find the Z3's finish very convincing. Vivo was perhaps going for the frosted glass-like finish and didn't exactly nailed it. We are not saying the plastic feels cheap, but you can definitely tell.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

The side frame is also made of plastic, while the front panel is protected by Panda Glass, as opposed to the more popular Gorilla Glass solution.

On the bright side, the overall feel of the iQOO Z3 is sturdy, yet lightweight. The frame doesn't creak or bend, and the chassis lies well-balanced in hand. It's just 185g after all and isn't all that thick either, measuring 8.5mm without the camera bump.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

Also, the Cyber Blue color does look awesome. Subtly changes color depending on the angle, while the gradient itself looks super smooth.

From usability standpoint, the handset should have gotten a slightly curvier back but still doesn't feel too heavy. Binging TV shows or playing games is comfortable and doesn't take a toll on your palms. Mostly due to the lightweight design, though.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

The camera bump is big enough to cause some wobbling when you place the device on its back; slapping the bundled case on fixes that. The design of the bump, which is one of the few distinctive features in today's handsets, is in line with vivo's other phones.

 - vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review  - vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review
 - vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review  - vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

We rate highly the usability of the buttons placed on the side too. They are just within thumb's reach; the power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader is easy to "feel" too. We are quite happy with the performance too - fast, accurate, reliable.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

All in all, we don't have any major complaints about the build, it's just that there might be some better options build-wise. If you are in for the dazzling Cyber Blue color, though, we would understand.

Hardware overview

One of the key selling points of the Z3 is the 5G connectivity. Rocking a capable Snapdragon 768G is admirable enough, so the 5G modem is just a bonus. After all, 5G deployment in India and most parts of the world is rather slow, so not many people would benefit from the next-generation network. Even though vivo says this is the most sought after feature these days, hence why they opted for such chipset and name.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

The Snapdragon 768G is still a capable midranger based on the 7nm manufacturing process and taking advantage of ARM's DynamIQ architecture, meaning it has a big, higher-clocked core doing the hardcore number crunching in addition to the usual ones you'd find in a typical mid-range SoC. The CPU is still octa-core, though.

India gets almost all memory variants excluding the beefiest possible version - 12GB/256GB. So you can choose between 6GB/128GB, 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB. You can expand the storage with a microSD card, which uses a shared SIM slot, no matter which one you choose.

The display is another highlight feature as it features a 1080 x 2408px resolution and runs those pixels at 120Hz. It all fits in a 6.58-inch diagonal. This may not sound like a big issue for some, quite the opposite actually, if we can trust the comment section, but the Z3 uses a standard IPS LCD panel instead of OLED, which has become a standard in the mid-range segment in recent years. There's also a teardrop notch on the top, and we really thought this design had been phased out. Punch-hole cutouts are the new thing.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

On the other hand, you get some bonus features such as HDR10, HLG codecs support, and the handset is Widevine L1 compliant, so you can watch 1080p movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The bundled 55W charger is supposed to get 50% of the charge in just 19 minutes, while a full one would take 50 minutes. Given the 4,400 mAh battery, that's pretty fast. However, our testing shows 55 minutes to a full charge, so there might have been some thermal throttling along the way. Still quite fast, though. Speaking of the battery, we found that it easily gets us through the day at a 120Hz refresh rate and Wi-Fi most of the time.

vivo iQOO Z3 5G hands-on review

The camera setup is lead by Samsung's budget ISOCELL GW3 64MP sensor. We say budget because it's relatively smaller than the more common 64MP, 1/1.72" units with 0.87µm pixels. This one has smaller 0.7µm pixels and measures 1/1.97" in size. The sensor is paired with f/1.8 aperture, while the 8MP ultrawide gets a smaller f/2.2 opening, though with a rather wide field of view - 120˚. The usual 2MP, f/2.4 macro camera is around too. And as for selfies, a 16MP, f/2.0 shooter sits inside the notch.

Performance

The Snapdragon 768G has been in our office, so we know what to expect. The benchmark results seem just about within the normal margin of error. From a day-to-day usability standpoint, the Z3 held up pretty well and handles those 120Hz animations with ease. Everything is smooth and snappy.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    2574
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    2055
  • Motorola Edge
    1862
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    1812
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    1780

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    735
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    721
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    641
  • Motorola Edge
    586
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    569

AnTuTu 8

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    453223
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    372800
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    318672
  • Motorola Edge
    305989
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    295442

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    45
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    25
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    19
  • Motorola Edge
    19
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    19

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    38
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    21
  • Motorola Edge
    18
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    17
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
    16

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 Pro
    3401
  • vivo iQOO Z3 5G
    1954
  • OnePlus Nord CE 5G
    1103

We even had a long gaming session on Call of Duty Mobile with no issues whatsoever. The phone didn't get uncomfortably warm. However, none of the games we've tried ran at 120Hz - they were locked at 60fps, including CoD.

Reader comments

  • Muthu

That home screen looks is a crap

that display looks awful, terrible screen uniformity on that white background.

Mono sadly.