Vivo NEX Review: Extremely Desirable, Very innovative But Has Rough Edges
The Elevating Front Camera makes this the most exciting phone we have seen in a while, and could be a sneak-peek at what the future holds for flagship smartphones.
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The bezel-less designs, apart from the visual appeal, have ushered in another positive as well. The lack of space to play with around the display, has forced phone makers to think innovatively about where to place the speakers, the fingerprint sensor and even the camera. Vivo has a rather radical solution up its sleeve, with the Vivo NEX. This is a flagship Android phone that stands out because of the one thing that even the legendary Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was the most unconvinced about—moving parts on a phone.
At first glance, the Vivo NEX looks just like any other typical Android flagship phone. It has a large screen, very thin bezels around the screen and dual cameras at the back. But what you probably wouldn’t have noticed thus far is that there is no front facing camera to be seen—and the front facing camera usually sits above the display on most phones. But hang on, you say, worried about how you’ll take a selfie? That is where the magic of the Vivo NEX kicks in. Open the camera app, switch to the front facing camera and you’ll hear a mechanical whirring sound as the front facing camera slides out at the top. That is the 8-megapixel camera ready at your service.
The quality of selfies that this camera churns out is quite good, irrespective of good or low ambient light. If at all, this camera leans a tad towards over-exposure under bright lighting, and you’ll have to be a bit careful about framing the selfie. Adequate sharpness and good colours make for very useable selfies.
The drawback of the mechanical camera, which Vivo calls the Elevating Front Camera, is that there is no option to unlock the phone using face recognition. At least not yet, and maybe that feature has been reserved for the next NEX phone. At the moment, your choices for unlocking your secure phone are either a passcode or the fingerprint sensor.
Not entirely convinced about moving parts on a phone? Neither are we, to be honest. How the NEX’s mechanical camera sliders hold up with rough use or if and when NEX falls on the ground, is yet an unknown quantity. Remember that in many ways, this NEX is a first-generation device, and that mean it isn’t perfect.
As far as the more conventional aspects of the Vivo NEX phone are concerned, it is ticking off almost all the requirements. The large 6.59-inch AMOLED display (2316 x 1080 resolution) is rich and vibrant (one of the advantages of this type of display), and even though one feels that it should be a tad sharper at times, it does very well in terms of reproducing finer details in visuals. The glass above the screen doesn’t create reflections, which really helps while viewing the phone outdoors under sunlight. We aren’t entirely sure if you will miss the lack of a notch, but that surely doesn’t make or break the experience. The resolution could perhaps have been higher, but then again, this doesn’t hamper the usability in any way.
The biggest advantage of the bezel-less design is that even with such a large screen, the NEX is only very slightly larger than the Google Pixel 2 XL.
The fingerprint sensor integrated within the display works well and is genuinely quite cool to use.
This being a flagship phone, there is no compromise on the performance and user experience. This runs the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, with 8GB RAM. There is 128GB storage, but no memory card slot. The impressive 4,000mAh battery does well even when the phone is used heavily, such as creating a wireless hotspot while also multi-tasking with apps. The fast charging feature, as one would expect, is available on the NEX.
Dual cameras are now a staple feature in most flagship phones, perhaps barring the Google Pixel 2 XL. The Vivo NEX gets a combination of 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras. The larger sensor has Dual-Pixel focusing, 1.4 um super large pixel sensors, f/1.8 large aperture, 4-axis optical image stabilization (OIS). The resulting picture quality is genuinely very good, even though the NEX may not have the high megapixel count as some of its rivals. This camera combination also tends to over-expose photos is you aren’t careful with the framing or while manually focusing before taking a photo. Colours look a tad richer too, after the image processing, but that is something you can take care of with a bit of editing post shoots. Not to forget, there are artificial intelligence (AI) features too, such as the ability to auto-detect scenes and changing the camera settings accordingly and even AI induced high dynamic range (HDR). We could not find a way of turning these features off, and that could be a bit of a drawback for enthusiasts who are very particular about the reproduction quality of the photographs that they click.
The FunTouch OS 4 doesn’t look or feel any different from the other Vivo phones, which is perhaps where Vivo missed a trick with the NEX. This heavily iOS-inspired skin is quite common in phones made by Chinese companies, and while they work for the most part, a flagship phone as important as this could perhaps have been treated a bit differently. The phone comes with the TouchPal keyboard app as default, which quite frankly isn’t the best layout to type on. You might want to download the Google GBoard from the Play Store to work around this issue.
There is no doubt that the Vivo NEX is a refreshing new phone in what is otherwise a sea of sameness. This is clearly a first look at what is to come. This is a great new phone, but it still is hard to shrug off the feeling that this is still the beginning, a first-generation device so to say. By the time it’s successor comes along, we would be more certain about the longevity of the camera mechanism, and the persistent AI camera features could have been improved too.
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