Vivo Nex comes with a pop-up camera that remains hidden most of the times. It's a cool feature to have on a phone but does it justify the price tag of Rs 44,990? Read our review
It was last year when the iPhone X came out and kicked off a campaign for almost all the Android OEMs to emulate what has been an undeniable fad in the 2018 tech world – the notch. The notch came – for good and for bad – and today the market is inundated with Android smartphones flaunting it. If you ponder over why the notch came to reality in the first place, you will find the answer paradoxically similar to why Vivo, the Chinese company that surpassed Samsung and Apple to manufacture the world’s first smartphone with an under-display fingerprint sensor, came out with the Nex.
Vivo Nex isn’t just any other smartphone that sits right at the foothill of the premium smartphone pyramid but also offers to unravel the latest answer to the same haunting question in the tech industry – when is innovation finally coming?
Vivo Nex defies the simple mechanism of harbouring a notch in favour of the compromise that the front camera, earpiece speaker, and the essential sensors must find someplace on the front. Vivo dared to implement some workarounds wherein it let go of the notch completely, expanded the display’s extent, and hid the front camera, earpiece speaker, and the sensors – that only become operative when you require them.
With such an exemplary set of features, Vivo Nex can unanimously be touted as the most ‘innovative’ phone we have seen this year so far. That said, the Vivo Nex comes with a hefty price tag of Rs 44,990, which pits it squarely in competition with some of the players that have been the residents in the premium price category for quite a while. Vivo Nex puts the fight against the Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6, and Asus ZenFone 5Z. Will it succeed? Let’s find out in our review of the Vivo Nex.
Vivo Nex Design, Display, and Hardware
Vivo Nex is one of the best-looking phones you will find in the market today. Thanks to its near bezel-less display, Vivo Nex boldly claims to outshine the displays you have seen on Galaxy S9+, OnePlus 6, or even iPhone X, only in terms of its size. The Vivo Nex’s body is a mix of glass and metal, much like what most flagships have these days. The rear side of the smartphone has a pattern of dappled finish that reflects the light into seven colours when you hold it in some particular angles against the source of light. The ‘NEX’ moniker is emblazoned on the rear without the brand’s name, however, the latter is inscribed mildly towards the bottom. The handset feels solid in hand, but it’s sometimes unwieldy to hold because of its 199-gram weight. The phone measures 162x77x7.98mm and you might sometimes mistake it for a trimmed-down tablet in your hands.
Moving on to the most exciting part of the Vivo Nex – its front galore with display and nothing else. There is a 6.59-inch full-HD+ display crammed into a reasonably large unibody. Vivo claims it’s the first true bezel-less phone as the previous ones merely masqueraded with thick chins and borders. Well no, Vivo Nex isn’t any different. There is a considerably thick chin at the bottom of the phone, but the display assimilates with the borders on the other three sides. The bottom chins won’t go anytime soon, the reason being the conventional attachment of the display on the chipset.
The smartphone’s display is full-HD+, which is a let-down, especially when the company is taking a moonshot with Vivo Nex to carve its spot in the premium segment. At the price point of Rs 44,990 and with every other hardware component shouting novelty at the first sight, it becomes hard to see an otherwise beautiful and ambitious addition to the phone turn out unimpressive. While the UI and wallpapers look just fine, things become bleak when you play videos online on the smartphone. We found the stored videos play nicely and vividly, however, YouTube videos, Facebook videos, and other streamed video content wasn’t as impressive as the former.
If you consume online videos on Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon Prime Video, you will have to make a trade-off with the video quality. While Hotstar lets you choose the video quality manually, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offset the video quality depending on the device’s hardware throttle and Internet speed. With our unit connected to a 100Mbps Wi-Fi connection, the videos playing in the respective apps didn’t max out to the 1080p quality, even though the display supports the same resolution.
Anyway, there are good things about the phone. There is a Super AMOLED display, which means the blacks are true blacks and colours protrude outstandingly. The brightness and dimness levels are good and you won’t complain of the display while using the phone with the lights out in your room. The automatic brightness works decently well, despite the unusual placement of the ambient light sensor underneath the display. You also get an ‘Eye Protection’ mode that will filter out the blue tints to make it comfortable for you to use the phone in the nighttime.
The Vivo Nex has the speaker grille at the bottom and the sound on Vivo Nex is pretty loud and clear without any distortion. Although it’s not the best out there with the stereo sound, still it’s passable and you shouldn’t experience any muzzled sound, thanks to the placement of the speakers. Next to the speakers is a USB Type-C port and the SIM card tray. There is a power button on the right, accompanied by the volume rockers.
The left side of the smartphone houses a dedicated button that is originally designed for Jovi, Vivo’s recently launched smart assistant. But since Jovi is available only in China, Vivo has reprogrammed the button to trigger Google Lens that comes preloaded with the phone. You will find an instance of Jovi in the phone’s settings but it isn’t full-fledged and pretty much only lets you read about the AI feature in the camera app, turn on the Game mode, and reassign the dedicated button to nothing from Google Lens.
The top of the display is where everything exciting is happening. Initially, it’s something that everybody would love to toy with. The front camera is mounted on a motorised chassis that slides in and out whenever the front camera mode is switched in the camera app. There is an 8-megapixel sensor that is equipped into the motorised part and it remains hidden most of the times. It takes about a second each to show up and go back inside, which isn’t frustrating at all since you are smitten by the novelty of the camera. However, as you tend to use it regularly and stop fancying about the pop-up camera, this two-second delay can set you off, especially when you are in a hurry. In our viewpoint, it’s passable but what’s not clear and yet unclassified as passable or unfair is the endurance this camera setup has to offer. With daily use, the phones get mishandled and dropped, which makes us think of a situation with the camera motor popped out on the Vivo Nex.
Anyway, the camera protrusion is straight from a sci-fi movie, accompanied by a sound, which you might not turn off to flaunt the eccentricity of this mechanism. There are three sounds that you can choose to go along with the sliding of the camera motor – but you can turn it off if you don’t like it. The camera hardware is sturdy and does not wobble, even if you force it to. Vivo has manufactured the front camera to work in accordance with the camera app, so if you try to manually push it inside – it reluctantly manages to slide inside, closing the camera app along with it. But one thing for sure, the pop-up or rather the modular hardware may see an uplift if the ODMs decide to bring the smartphones to the culmination of customisation.
The Vivo Nex has an under-display fingerprint sensor, borrowed from the Vivo X21, which launched earlier this year. There is no change in how the fingerprint sensor works but some rejig in terms of accuracy in reading the fingerprints is still desired. The smartphone misses registering the fingerprint at least 2 out of 10 times, which has some room for improvement. To set up the fingerprint sensor, you will be walked through the tiring process of registering your fingerprint.
Also, since Vivo Nex has this unconventional fingerprint sensor substituting for the physical one, we would have loved face unlock on this phone. Although it comes with the challenge of mapping the camera to pop out every time you need to unlock the phone using your face, it isn’t too hard to implement, courtesy Oppo Find X that solely relies on facial scanning as the only biometric unlocking method. You can, however, use any of the old methods of unlocking the phone – PIN, password, and pattern lock.
One of the caveats that Vivo Nex carries is the absence of water or dust resistance, so you will have to be really careful while using the phone under adverse conditions. Remember we said there is no earpiece speaker on this phone? Well, Vivo touts this technology as one of the USPs. The Vivo Nex comes with the Screen SoundCasting technology that emits the sound off the display. Understand this as the method of bone conduction where the sound frequencies will vibrate a surface to emanate the sound. This is a sheerly innovative technology we have seen so far for the earpiece speaker.
You can literally place your ear on any portion of the display and you will hear the caller’s voice as clear as you would do that with an actual earpiece. Well, this has a small drawback – sometimes the audio is quite loud, so much so that others could hear the caller. We did not face any problem in hearing the person on the other side of the call. It’s noteworthy that the voice quality may degrade a bit on non-VoLTE or non-HD cellular networks.
Vivo Nex Cameras
We have had enough admiration for the front camera’s swanky placement, let’s talk about how fairly they perform. There is an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor mounted on the front camera slider. The selfies clicked with the camera have oversaturated yet punchy colours. The photos have good detailing. Sometimes, the selfies get softened a bit, but, well, this is something that most selfie-lovers would like. In low light conditions, the selfies are not impressive and lack details.
Talking about the rear cameras, the Vivo Nex has a dual camera setup comprising a 12-megapixel Sony IMX363 primary sensor with 4-axis OIS and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. The photos from the rear cameras are really impressive. The photos have rich and punchy colours with a slight over-sharpened tone. There is no camera shutter lag and multiple shots burst is also quick. The dynamic range is decent, which you will notice more in low light conditions when HDR is at play. Photos taken in the dark conditions were satisfactorily good with the objects standing out distinctly. The images aren’t shaky in either time of the day, thanks to the 4-axis OIS.
The secondary camera with the 5-megapixel shooter is there to bring the Bokeh effect. Since the time smartphones began coming with dual cameras, there have only been a few winners of the competition to bring the best Bokeh effect in a photograph while others are still trying to draw parallels. Vivo Nex is one of those smartphones that still need a little work. There is still a slight amount of perfection required when the dual camera leave out the edges to produce a subpar photo with the defocused background. Add to it the spotty dark environment, and the camera begins to struggle.
The rear camera support videos up to 4K resolution with no options to choose the frame rate, which means you are stuck at around 30fps. The videos look good with ample details and little to no jitters. You also get slow-motion videos on the device, however, it will bring down the resolution to 1080p. The front camera can only shoot videos with 1080p or lower resolution. There’s barely any difference between the photos and the videos taken from the front camera. Overall, the cameras won’t disappoint you if you decide not to delve further into the nuances of photography.
Here are the camera samples:
Vivo Nex Performance, Battery
The Vivo Nex is a flagship device, which means you get everything latest out-of-the-box. The handset is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. With such high-end internals, there is negligible doubt that this handset would show any struggle while being run with daily multitasking. The phone can keep the apps mostly in the memory, so it was buttery smooth to switch between the apps. The performance of the phone is snappy with no lag whatsoever.
The phone runs Android 8.1.0 Oreo-based Funtouch OS 4.0. You get all Android Oreo features, however, customised to a large extent. Funtouch OS 4.0 is highly customisable but it isn’t the best custom skin out there. Samsung Experience 9.0 preloaded on Galaxy S9 smartphones offers a stock Android experience and so does OnePlus 6’s OxygenOS.
Vivo Nex, on the other hand, has the same UI you will find on the Vivo smartphones positioned at the lower price spectrum. It has its own share of quibbles, which we have pointed out in our review of Vivo V9 and Vivo X21. Funtouch OS and iOS are alike, except for a few things that originally belong to Android ecosystem, and the bloatware. You also get gestures similar to the ones on iPhone X. You can totally do away with the on-screen buttons and switch to the gesture mode to maximise the screen’s real estate.
Gaming on the Vivo Nex is quite an experience. We tested the recently out Asphalt 9: Legends and Injustice 2 on Vivo Nex and it shouldered the obedience with grace. We did not see any frame drops, lags, or jitters while playing the games. However, the handset does begin to warm up a little after prolonged usage. The games fit to the aspect ratio of 19.3:9, so no issues there too. You will mostly enjoy playing games on the phone, topped with such a big screen.
There is a 4000mAh battery providing the juice to the Vivo Nex, which is plentiful for all the operations you would typically carry out in a day’s time. We used the device for a day with an even usage of major social media applications, cameras, and some games and the device was left with about 20 per cent battery from the full throttle. The USB Type-C charger bundled with the smartphone takes a little more than an hour to fully charge it.
So, should you actually shell out Rs 44,990 just to be amused with the high-tech machinery that is Vivo Nex’s motorised camera? We would recommend that you contain the excitement for some time and wait until a more sophisticated or advanced version of the technologies used in Vivo Nex come out in the market. This does not mean the Vivo Nex is a dud. The smartphone has everything in the right place – you get the flagship processor, good display and an impressive gaming experience. The cameras, though a little subpar with the contending smartphones, don’t disappoint much. There is a lot more that Vivo Nex brings to the table, but not as much as to cost you Rs 44,990.
If you don’t mind paying the price, you are good to go. Vivo Nex is the phone you would like to show off, even among your friends who don’t get tired of flaunting their iPhones. The cool camera that pops out of the phone can make people bewildered, amused, and stunned sometimes. This list should pretty much implore the tech savvy you to consider and buy the Vivo Nex. The smartphone is already available to buy via Vivo store and Amazon.in.