Vivo V9 Review

Vivo V9

Vivo V9

Vivo

March, 2018
6.3" display, Snapdragon 626 chipset, Dual: 16 MP + 5 MP primary camera, 24 MP front camera, 3260 mAh battery, 64 GB storage, 4 GB RAM.
EUR:€390
Rate It:User Rating: (Outstanding)


Vivo V9 Review

Vivo V9 Review


Introduction

Vivo has made a name for being a selfie-centric smartphone company. In the past, they have released some of the most popular and bizarre selfie camera phones and for 2018, they are yet again coming out with another selfie centric smartphone, Vivo V9. The latest flagship from Vivo comes packing with a 24 MP selfie camera and an Apple inspired design and display. Specs on paper does not look bad either and with a higher price point than previous Vivo phones, Vivo V9 gives an impression that it is a major device by Chinese manufacturer. Whether that is the case or not, let's find out.

Design

Your first impressions of Vivo V9 are going to be that this is an Apple iPhone X look-alike. There's no denying that the phone is heavily inspired by Apple's latest flagship, as it even carries a notched display. As you get past the whole Apple iPhone X angle, you do realize that Vivo has worked hard on design.

To begin with at just 150 grams, this is a seriously light smartphone for its size. Much of that is because it is made out of aluminum and polycarbonate plastic, instead of glass. This was actually quite surprising as the back of the phone reflects light just like a glass back and can fool someone into believing that it is a glass back. The front of Vivo V9 is mostly screen, with a screen to body ratio of over 90%. There's an aluminum frame holding front and back together, which itself is very light in weight. Back is plastic, with dual camera setup similar to Apple's latest flagship placed on top left of the device. You'll find a flashlight right below the camera setup and a fingerprint scanner is also seen on the middle of device, which in my opinion is placed at the right position. Vivo branding is also seen below fingerprint scanner and the rest is left clean.

At the right side of Vivo V9, you will find volume keys and a power button. The left side is where you will locate sim card tray, with a speaker and micro USB port at the bottom together with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Vivo V9 is very thin, with just 7.9mm at its thickest point and it is surprisingly easy to use given its large size. A lot of times, it is being confused for an Apple iPhone X due to its similar design, but once you hold it in your hands, the difference in build quality is enough to give it away. Plastic back catches scratches easily, so you can use the case Vivo provides inside the box or get some other one. Overall, it is an Apple iPhone X clone, in a cheaper body.

Display

The display on Vivo V9 is large with an Apple iPhone X like notch. It is a 6.3-inch IPS LCD Full HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 19:9, resolution of 1080x2280p and a pixel density of 400 ppi. Display dominates the front, and even comes complete with an iPhone X-like notch above screen. Notch on Vivo V9 is much shorter, having a selfie camera and earpiece with Vivo doing a fine job of incorporating it neatly inside the notch. Screen-to-body ratio of Vivo V9 is about 90 percent.

Vivo V9's FullView display seem more immersive. Full HD+ resolution with a pixel density of 400ppi improves user experience as well. Colors are accurate, viewing angles are good. Watching videos is a treat on Vivo V9 while images appear sharp and clear. It is not all smooth sailing though with display, however. The moment you step under direct sunlight, display gets slightly dull. Even though brightness levels are satisfactory, it definitely takes a beating outdoors.

If you're curious about how display on Vivo V9 looks when you play videos, it doesn't extend towards the notch when using apps like MX Player. You'll just get a straight black border at the top for undistracted viewing. This is not always the case though when watching videos on YouTube as it stretches towards the notch. For protection, Vivo has used Gorilla glass 3, which isn't as strong and sturdy as Gorilla Glass 5 so you might want to invest in a screen protector and save your phone from scratches and broken screen.

Clearly, Vivo V9's display isn't made to compete with big players in market, but it still looks fairly great, and would appeal to those who want to have an Apple iPhone X like display for a cheaper price.

Hardware

Vivo disappoints many people with selection of hardware for their brand-new smartphone, Vivo V9. Phone is powered by Snapdragon 626 processor and Adreno 560 GPU, coupled with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. For many people, those are not exactly top specs for even a mid-tier smartphone in today's market. Snapdragon 626 is a very energy efficient processor but isn't too great at performance and the fact that there is no 6 GB RAM version of this phone is a let-down. To put it simply, these aren't really top of the line specs and perhaps belong in mid-tier segment.

Now, having said that, Vivo V9's performance will pass tests for most users for all routine tasks they entrust their smartphones with. The phone surprisingly runs smooth most of the times and is able to run all of the apps that I use on a daily basis. Multi-tasking is not bad either with this device, even with just 4 GB of RAM. Best part about having Snapdragon 626 for the processor is that your phone stays fairly cool, even during prolonged usage, with better battery performance as compared to other, more powerful Snapdragon processors.

It does includes a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which is a surprise as Vivo V9 clearly seems to copy Apple iPhone X which doesn't have a headphone jack. Fingerprint scanner found on Vivo V9 is very fast in reading your fingerprints and is definitely one of the fastest fingerprint scanners available in market. Even though Vivo V9 is branded as a music phone by Vivo, it only has a single bottom firing speaker. Speaker is loud and clear but it doesn't provide the surround sound of a dual speaker setup which is found on Apple iPhone X. Again, another disappointing thing about Vivo V9 was lack of Dolby Surround which on a music centric smartphone is a must. Another shocker was finding a micro USB port instead of a USB Type-C port which yet again makes this phone look rather outdated.

On the positive side, you'll find all major sensors on this phone, including accelerometer, gyro, proximity and compass. You'll even find a physical notification LED light placed inside the notch on display so that shows Vivo paid attention to details.

Battery

Vivo V9 has a medium sized 3260 mAh battery which is decent for a large phone. Due to power efficient nature of Snapdragon 626, you'll get a full day of battery with typical usage with no issues. During my battery drain test, Vivo V9 gave me a screen-on time of 6 hours and 46 minutes which is impressive, but not as good as its direct competitor Oppo F7's 7 hours and 51 minutes of screen-on time.

What this means is that if you're a moderate user, you'll be able to go through an entire day with a single charge. For heavy users though, Vivo V9's battery can be a bit of hassle as it doesn't support fast charging. Most of mid-ranged smartphones in 2018 are having fast charging capabilities so it is very disappointing to see Vivo lacking behind. It takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent which is quite a long time, especially for a battery which is not really large at capacity.

For most users, battery won't be an issue though, and they'll be able to use the phone throughout the day on a single charge. It would have been much better if Vivo included fast charging though, but it is what is for now.

Camera

Finally, we arrive at what Vivo has marketed itself differently from the competition. Camera is Vivo's masterpiece feature on this phone as it has a massive 24 MP selfie camera with dual 16 MP + 5 MP cameras at its rear, which is first on any Vivo smartphone.

The front 24 MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture comes with lots of features like Face Beauty, Face Beauty video call, HDR mode and a bizarre feature called Gender Detection. What Vivo is marketing the device is for its AI-enabled camera. AI-powered camera deals more with Face Beauty mode though, which means it does have an effect on images but it's not something what Huawei has done with AI, such as scene detection. Use of AI here is more for an effect rather than really going deep and have a more meaningful impact.

Vivo has worked hard to improve its selfie camera and results are evident in Vivo V9. Selfies clicked with Vivo V9 came out sharp and extremely accurate, especially outdoors. Color accuracy and sharpness is seen vividly in photos with selfie camera autofocusing extremely quickly. Color reproduction and dynamic range was good and overall, selfies looked great on Vivo V9.

There's an iPhone-like feature here as well called Live photo. It records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after a picture is clicked and creates an image with more detail. Vivo left no stone unturned in giving the perfect selfie experience so they had to include Portrait bokeh mode to front camera as well, and honestly, results are impressive. Selfie camera lives up to its reputation and is one of the better ones around. Vivo is also introducing its own version of AR Stickers which were first seen on Samsung Galaxy S9. They function differently though and you can use a lot of stickers on AR selfies. It is a feature which will be liked by users who use Snapchat on a daily basis.

At its rear, Vivo V9 boasts a dual camera setup of 16MP and 5MP sensors both having an f/2.0 aperture placed vertically, along with a single LED flash. Results were fairly impressive in my testing, considering price of the phone. Vivo V9 did a good job in capturing subjects outdoors and impressively it captures lots of detail in photos. Default mode on Vivo V9 is bizarrely called Take Photo. You can also find other modes like Professional, Ultra-HD, Slo-mo, Time Lapse, Bokeh mode, Shot refocus, HDR, Face Beauty, and Panorama. The second camera on Vivo V9 is a depth sensor so expect your Portrait mode photos to come out great. You even get an option to increase or decrease Bokeh effect in portraits. After taking lots of photos with Vivo V9, the problem I had to face most was inconsistent shots. Camera takes some really good photos, especially outdoors during day time, but same cannot be seen during dark, low light scenarios. There's a clear difference in image quality of photos taken during day time and during night.

Taking into consideration both rear and front cameras, Vivo V9 provides a camera experience which will satisfy most of its users. Selfie camera is one of the best around but rear camera could have been better. It keeps in tone with overall vibe of this flagship device by Vivo, some excellent features while some are not really up to the mark.

Software

As mentioned earlier Vivo has tried their level best to mimic Apple iPhone X and same can be said about Vivo V9's software. It comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box with Vivo's own custom FunTouch OS 4.0 on top. This is a heavily customized skin which tries extremely hard to look like iOS. Icons look similar to ones you see on Apple iPhones, notification slider is similar too, and you can also slide up a control center like settings page from the bottom of the screen, which again, is a classic iOS look.

If you've used a Vivo smartphone before, you will have an experience pretty similar and easy to navigate. Only difference you will see is positioning of network signal, clock, data/WiFi, and battery level indicators because of notch. There is no application launcher as Vivo likes to keep apps on main screen only and UI uses multiple home screens to house applications. Swiping down from top will reveal notifications drawer while swiping up from bottom brings out shortcut keys.

Inside Settings, users can change order and styles of navigation keys, or choose to use navigation gestures instead of keys giving them the option to navigate through UI similar to how it is done on Apple iPhone X. Vivo V9 has a picture-in-picture mode and one can go to settings to check which apps support it. There are some nice software enhancements like one-handed mode, app cloning and smart motion gestures. It is something we have also seen on Motorola and Huawei devices. For instance, if you just shake the device, flashlight can be turned on. Other features include a Game Mode for uninterrupted gaming, Smart motion for gesture-based controls, Smart Split for split screen or picture-in-picture mode, One-handed mode, App Clone, Smart click for quick app launches using volume keys, and Face Beauty for video calls.

Vivo V9 has Vivo's native apps like the V-Appstore, iTheme, iManager, EasyShare, and Vivo app to view company's own products. Google's apps are here as well, along with pre-installed apps like Lazada, Facebook, and WPS Office, which you can uninstall. To have an idea about amount of bloatware which is on this device, you're getting 49.40GB of usable space out of 64GB.

Even with a heavily bloated software experience, Vivo provides decent RAM management. Phone runs fairly smooth, with a few lags here and there. Most frustrating thing about this OS for me is that it undermines user experience of many third party-apps, and instead tries to add an Apple like vibe to everything. For security you get a Facial unlock with Vivo V9, which is not as secured as Apple's face id, but it works quite fast.

Overall, you get an experience with this phone which you might want to get from an Apple smartphone. If you're a stock Android fan, this phone is a definitely not for you, but if you want to enjoy the Apple experience at a lower price, you won't find many problems with Vivo's latest flagship.

Conclusion

Vivo V9 is available in market for around 300 Euros. It comes in two different colors: Black or Gold. It is a good phone for selfie lovers and for people who are looking for a great selfie experience at a lower price point. It can certainly not compete with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S9 or Apple iPhone X and no one should expect it to at this price. Vivo is targeting masses with this device, especially those who are looking for a well-rounded smartphone that is equipped to handle anything.

Frankly, it is really hard to judge Vivo V9. It lives up the expectation of great selfies, has an impressive display and 19:9 aspect ratio comes really handy. AI is more about marketing as real impact of it can hardly be noticed. At 300 Euros, it's not exactly a budget smartphone and what lets it down is its mid-range specs and software experience. Build quality is not very premium either, as most premium looking phones these days are made of glass instead of plastic. With a flagship device you expect top-notch specifications which Vivo V9 lacks. Yet, it's a smartphone that delivers performance which most users will find more than acceptable.

Vivo V9's biggest problem will be Oppo's F7 which is marketed in a similar way and has same price point, with much better specs on paper at least. Overall, as a smartphone, one can't help but feel that Vivo V9 could've been a much better device.