I’m generally not a huge fan of gaming smartphones. Part of it is the price: They usually don’t come cheap. Another reason is the looks: Some people may like sharp edges, backlit logos, or speaker grilles on the front -- but they just aren’t my thing.

The Vivo iQOO has a unique back design. (Picture: Abacus)

The Vivo iQOO is different. Yes, it’s a handset designed with gamers in mind, and it’s got plenty of powerful specs to match. It’s Vivo’s first smartphone to include the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. It also has a big 6.4-inch display, a vapor cooling system, and as much as 12GB RAM plus 256GB storage.

But on the outside, the iQOO doesn’t scream “gaming phone!” In fact, it looks a little like Xiaomi’s new Mi 9. Both have a dewdrop notch on the front, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and a triple camera on the back. But the iQOO has a sturdier build. It’s also thicker than the Mi 9, something that I prefer because it gives a better grip. Another thing I like: The iQOO has a 3.5mm headphone jack -- a feature missing on the Mi 9.

Xiaomi Mi 9 (left) and Vivo iQOO (right). (Picture: Abacus)

I also really like the LED strip on the back. It lights up when you get notifications on the phone and during charging, which is pretty neat.

The touch sensors on the side are another interesting feature. Equipped with ultrasonic technology, they act as trigger buttons during gaming, sort of like the Air Trigger on the Asus ROG phone. Personally though, I still prefer physical trigger buttons for a more solid feedback.

With touch sensors on the side, you get a console-like gaming experience. (Picture: Abacus)

The iQOO looks cool, but you might need some time to get used to its software. The phone comes with a customized Android 9 Pie UI called Funtouch OS. I’m more used to Google and Apple’s layout, so it took me a while to find the quick settings panel on iQOO. The app icons on the homescreen also look rounder on Funtouch, which feels a bit odd to me. The settings menu is loaded with options, which felt a little complicated for my taste when I tried it out.

The price is very attractive though. The iQOO starts from 2,988 yuan (US$445) for the base model (6GB + 128GB), and goes up to 4,298 yuan (US$640) for the higher-end model (12GB + 256GB).