At a time when most Android manufacturers are adopting the unsightly notch in order to get as close to a truly bezel-less display as possible, there are a few renegades who’re concentrating on achieving the same goal without resorting to blatant imitation. Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo is one of the few who is making its own innovations rather than copying Apple and its latest flagship, the Vivo NEX (Rs. 44,990), is truly a breath of fresh air in the Android landscape. After almost nailing the in-display fingerprint scanner technology with the release of the Vivo X21, the company has now released the Vivo NEX – a truly bezel-less smartphone with a 91.2 percent screen-to-body ratio. Here, we’ll take a close look at Vivo’s latest flagship and find out if it truly is the smartphone of the future.
Vivo NEX Specifications
For the purpose of this review, we received the higher-end variant of the Vivo NEX with packs in 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Let’s take a look at the complete hardware specifications of the device before we dive into the review:
Display 6.59-inch Super AMOLED display with 91.2% screen to body ratio
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Primary Camera 12MP f/1.8 + 5MP f/2.4 dual camera setup with 4-axis OIS
Secondary Camera Pop-up 8MP f/2.0
Battery 4,000mAh Li-ion
Operating System Funtouch OS based on Android 8.1 Oreo
Dimensions & Weight 162x77x8mm, 199grams
Price Rs. 44,990
What’s In the Box
The Vivo NEX comes in a premium looking package with the regular bunch of accessories, including a pair of in-ear type earphones and a black soft-touch black case.
Here’s everything you’ll receive when you purchase a Vivo NEX:
- Vivo NEX
- Quick Charge 3.0 compliant charging brick
- USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable
- Soft-touch case
- In-ear earphones with extra silicon tips
- SIM ejector tool
Design and Build Quality
Starting off with the design, the Vivo NEX looks nothing like any smartphone that you’ve ever seen before (unless you’ve seen the Oppo Find X, of course). As mentioned earlier, the device does not feature the dreaded notch and has a rather seamless looking 6.59-inch Super AMOLED bezel-less display dominating the front of the device, featuring an in-display fingerprint scanner and a slight chin underneath. We received the black variant of the device which has a stunning psychedelic looking pattern that shimmers when light falls on it from different angles.
Much like most modern smartphone, the Vivo NEX also has a glass sandwich design with glass on the front and back and a metal frame in between to provide some durability.
Pop-up Selfie Camera
The top edge of the device houses the concealed front-facing camera along with the secondary noise-cancelling microphone and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The pop-up camera in itself is one of the biggest things that make this smartphone truly unique. Unlike most Android smartphone manufacturers out there, Vivo implemented an innovative design for the front facing camera to achieve the truly bezel-less display. The selfie camera is motorized and pops-up on its own whenever you open an app that utilizes the front facing camera and goes back inside the chassis as soon as you close the application.
I agree, moving parts on a modern smartphone are definitely a cause for concern, but Vivo claims that its engineers have thoroughly tested the pop-up selfie camera and promise that its quite durable and won’t easily malfunction. In order to test Vivo’s claims I also manhandled the camera a bit, intentionally pushing it down and just being careless with it, and it held up quite well through the torture. And yes, the Vivo NEX has a headphone jack despite the fact that it has a truly bezel-less display, while some smartphone manufacturers just know how to make excuses.
In-display Fingerprint Scanner
In order to maximize the screen-to-body ratio, the proximity sensor has been hidden within the tiny top bezel and the ambient light sensor has been embedded within the display and, as mentioned earlier, the smartphone features an in-display fingerprint scanner. Vivo highlights that the third-generation in-display fingerprint scanner on the device is faster and more reliable than previous generations, and I completely agree with the company’s claims. Even though it’s not the fastest fingerprint scanner out there, it is quite a bit more responsive than the one found on the Vivo X21. Furthermore, the Vivo NEX lacks a physical earpiece and makes use of a piezo-electric system, which the company refers to as the glass-vibrating screen soundcasting technology, that converts the entire display into an audio source.
Getting back to the smartphone’s design, the right edge is home to the power button and the volume rocker, both of which have a very satisfying tactile feel. Since both of the buttons are placed on one side, however, reaching the volume rocker might pose some trouble when using the phone single handed.
The left edge, on the other hand, is pretty bare save for the dedicated AI button which brings up Google Lens on a single tap and the Google Assistant if it’s pressed for a longer duration.
The bottom edge of the device has room for the dual-SIM tray, which doesn’t feature a microSD card slot for expansion, along with the USB Type-C port for data syncing and charging, the primary microphone and a single bottom firing speaker.
The 12MP+5MP vertically oriented dual camera setup resides on the top left corner of the back of the device, with the dual-tone LED flash situated right beneath it. The rest of the back remains pretty clean, except for the rather large NEX logo in the center and a tiny Vivo branding at the bottom.
The Vivo NEX feels nice and premium in the hand, however, its quite heavy compared to other flagships, weighing in at 199 grams, and since it has a rather large display one-handed operation will definitely be difficult for users with small hands.
Moving on to the most striking feature of the smartphone, its display. The Vivo NEX packs in a 6.59-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080×2316 which gives it an aspect ratio of 19.3:9. Quality-wise, the display is top notch (even without a notch) and the color reproduction is quite accurate, with bright vibrant colors and deep punchy blacks.
The display has great viewing angles and it can get pretty bright which really helps with the outdoor visibility. Unlike the OnePlus 6, which also has an OLED display, I had absolutely no problems interacting with the display in direct sunlight as the panel was quite legible using its max brightness setting.
Another benefit of having an AMOLED display is that the Vivo NEX has an always-on functionality which persistently displays the date, time, battery percentage, and any notifications on the display without having a major effect on the battery life.
All-in-all, the Vivo NEX packs in a great display which looks absolutely stunning thanks to the bezel-less and notch-less implementation.
Speakers and Audio
The Vivo NEX features a single downward firing speaker which gets pretty loud as compared to the OnePlus 6. The high quality sound output is amazing, with clear mids and highs alongside deep bass. While the placement of the speaker unit isn’t ideal, having a truly bezel-less display doesn’t leave a whole lot of options anyway.
The downward firing speaker can easily be muffled if you accidentally place a finger on it, however, using the phone in the landscape mode with your hands cupped around the phone results in the sound being amplified which greatly improves the overall audio quality. The in-ear type earphones included with the Vivo NEX are pretty average and have a very flimsy built quality. They just don’t justify the sound output that the phone is actually capable of and using any third-party earphones greatly elevates the audio experience. Even though the included earphones aren’t great, I won’t hold it against Vivo as a lot of smartphone manufactures don’t even include a pair of earphones, so it’s not really a big deal.
Since we’re talking about speakers and audio output, let me also address Vivo’s glass-vibrating screen soundcasting technology which replaces the physical earpiece. Sound quality in calls is pretty bad and you have to place your ear in a specific position to hear the caller properly. I wish Vivo had invested more time and effort in this area because, after all, the device is primarily a phone and you’ll eventually need to make calls with it.
In keeping with the trends, the Vivo NEX sports a dual camera setup on the back with a 12 megapixel f/1.8 primary sensor and a 5 megapixel f/2.4 secondary sensor for depth perception. The primary lens features dual pixel phase detection auto focus and four-axis optical image stabilization, while the secondary lens features no stabilization and even lacks autofocus capabilities. The dual camera setup is complemented by a dual-tone LED flash.
Images captured by the Vivo NEX’s dual camera setup are pretty decent, just take a look at the samples below. Pictures have ample amount of detail and the color reproduction is quite satisfactory. While we’re not expecting the image quality to compete with that of the Pixel 2, it does fall at par with that of the OnePlus 6 when clicked in auto mode in decent lighting.
Low light shots captured by the Vivo NEX are below average, resulting in blurry images with a lot of noise. Shots captured by the camera in low light are often out of focus.
Coming to the portrait mode, which utilizes the secondary 5 megapixel f/2.4 sensor. Portrait images captured in ample light turn out great with decent edge detection and detail, however, the camera really struggles capturing portrait images in low light conditions. When there isn’t enough light, the camera tends to slightly blur the subject as well, which results in a very poor image.
Talking about the pop-up 8 megapixel f/2.0 selfie camera, the images captured are just about average with limited dynamic range and they’re overexposed more often than not. While the images clicked by the selfie camera may not be the best, they’re decent enough for social media.
The portrait mode images captured by the selfie camera are more or less just like the ones captured by the main camera, the edge detection is decent and the background blur is just fine
I really liked the monochrome background effect on the selfie camera which makes the background black and white, making the photos look pretty cool. All-in-all, the camera performance is just about okay, but considering the fact that the Vivo NEX is a flagship, I expected a lot more from the device in the camera department and quite honestly, I’m a tad bit disappointed.
Being a flagship, the Vivo NEX packs in the best hardware available in the smartphone market today. The device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC coupled with 8 gigs of RAM and 128 gigs of internal storage. To begin with, let’s take a look at the benchmark scores which reveal that the Vivo NEX easily beats the OnePlus 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S9+ in AnTuTu, achieving a score of 286185.
In Geekbench, the device manages to score 2409 and 9070 in single core and multi-core respectively. Impressed by the smartphone’s performance, I also ran 3DMark on the device and the results were pretty great. The Vivo NEX scored 4326 in Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES 3.1 and 3265 in Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan. To give you some context, the OnePlus 6 scored 4620 in Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES 3.1 and 3644 in Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan.
The device performs really well in real world use as well, despite the heavy iOS-like UI running on it. I’ve used to phone extensively over the past couple of days and it performs admirably. The animations are smooth, the gesture navigation is seamless, apps launch rather quickly and stay in memory for quite a while, and gaming on the device is just a pleasure.
I played a couple of graphic intensive games on the device, including the infamous PUBG, Asphalt Xtreme, Modern Combat 5 and NFS No Limits and the device performed wonderfully with the graphics cranked up to high in all games. The device didn’t lag out on me even once and the games ran without any hiccups.
However, it’s worth noting that the device got a bit warm after continuously playing three matches of PUBG, but that problem was easily addressed by slapping on the included back cover. In conclusion, the Vivo NEX lives up to its flagship specifications and fares as good as, or probably even better, than competing flagships despite sporting the heavy skin.
Transitioning to the heavy skin that I’ve been talking about, the Vivo NEX runs Funtouch OS 4.0, a heavily skinned version of Android 8.1 Oreo which has been designed to look a lot like iOS 11. While at first I was a bit annoyed with the UI, I quickly got used to it and Vivo’s implementation of the navigation gestures (a direct rip-off of the ones found on the iPhone X) is frankly quite good and feels very seamless. Honestly, I liked the gesture implementation so much that switching back to my OnePlus 5 and its hardware buttons felt very unnatural.
Much like other Chinese ROMs, Funtouch OS is filled to the brim with features and pre-installed apps. While some of them are actually pretty useful, most others are outright bloatware. As you’d already know, the device packs in an in-display fingerprint scanner and with the fingerprint scanner comes the fingerprint registration software.
The third-gen in-display fingerprint scanner on the device is a bit faster and more reliable than the previous gen, but it still isn’t as fast as the capacitive scanners found on most flagship smartphones. On top of that, registering a new fingerprint is a tough task as the software takes a lot of time to recognize and store the fingerprint, as opposed to the software found on other devices which is quite snappy and accurate.
The smartphone doesn’t feature a face unlock feature, like most other flagships out there, but in my opinion, leaving out face unlock on the device is a rather prudent move as opening the front camera again and again might take a toll on the camera mechanism and the battery as well
Instead of implementing a stock Android-like notification panel, Vivo’s Funtouch OS also has an iOS-like control center which can be pulled up from the bottom. I personally don’t have any problem with this implementation and in my opinion it might just be a very smart move because it places the quick setting toggles in an easily approachable place on the display. Vivo has also included its own AI smart assistant called Jovi which assists users in the camera app by automatically changing the settings depending on the subject in the frame and also while playing games when the game mode is active.
In all honesty, Vivo’s software experience isn’t the best among the Android flaghships, but it most certainly isn’t the worst either. If you’re familiar with Funtouch OS, you’ll feel right at home with the Vivo NEX and even if you aren’t it won’t be long before you get used to it and face some trouble going back to the stock Android experience.
Vivo’s bezel-less flagship packs in an impressive 4,000mAh battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support for fast charging. It’s quite unusual that Vivo stuck with Quick Charge 3.0, because the Snapdragon 845 chip on the device supports Quick Charge 4.0 which much faster than the previous generation. Nonetheless, the device charges fairly quickly using the included charging brick, taking about 45 minutes to go from 10 to 80 percent charge, which is quite impressive to say the least. In order to achieve such efficient fast charging, Vivo utilizes what it calls dual-engine quick charging, which might sound a bit gimmicky but it still is pretty effective.
In my usage, which included clicking a ton of photos, playing games, and browsing on Reddit, the smartphone lasted almost two days, ending the first day with about 50 percent battery and about 5 percent towards the end of the second day. The battery life is just phenomenal and the Super AMOLED display complements the large battery to give it the best battery performance among the flagship lot. If you’re in the market for a flagship device which promises great battery life, then you should definitely consider getting the Vivo NEX.
- Almost bezel-less Super AMOLED display
- Loud and crisp speakers
- Amazing battery life
- Premium build quality
- Innovative pop-up selfie camera
- Good performance
- Bad low-light camera performance
- Poor call audio quality
- No IP rating or wireless charging
- Quite heavy and large for one handed use
Vivo NEX Review: Innovation Done Right!
Well, that rounds up our review of the Vivo NEX which is a great flagship smartphone for the price. I personally really like the big, beautiful, bezel-less display, the amazing battery life and the exceptional performance. On top of that, the innovative pop-up selfie camera will definitely turn a few heads. To sum it all up, the Vivo NEX is definitely worth buying if you’re looking for an Android flagship that doesn’t blatantly copy Apple’s design (well, at least not on the hardware front) and offers great performance to boot.
However, if you’re looking for a smartphone that excels in the camera department, I think you should consider other options as the cameras on the Vivo NEX can’t really justify its premium price. So, what do you think of the Vivo NEX? Do you think it lives up to all the hype? Let us know in the comments section below.
Buy from Amazon (Rs. 44,990)