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Vivo V5 Plus Review: The best selfie smartphone that money can buy
Vivo indeed seems to be a winner these days. It has beat Xiaomi in its home market and after sticking to budget smartphones for long, and has now begun to introduce interesting mid-range devices in India.
The first of these devices, (we expect some more to show up) is the recently announced Vivo V5 Plus. I reviewed the Vivo V5, it took some great selfies, but the rear camera was not exactly up to the mark. Again I was not happy about the price tag either, that offered a plastic-bodied smartphone at a sub Rs 20,000 price tag.
With the launch of the Vivo V5 Plus, I expected a lot better with the ‘Plus’ tag, but hearing the Rs 27,980 price tag gave me jitters. A week after using this selfie-smartphone, my opinion about it seems to have changed completely.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
Since the Vivo V5 was the first smartphone to be launched in India in the V5 series, it’s easy to spot how the Plus model picks many of its design traits from. Oddly, the design also seems to be similar to Apple’s iPhone 7 models, with the antenna gaps at the back stretching towards the top and bottom edges. Indeed, there is nothing special here, and that soft gold finish makes it look similar to other smartphone offerings coming from China. It’s a pity that there’s only one gold finish available.
The quality of the mouldings, and the overall finish of the smartphone is certainly commendable. This has to be the first premium-looking device from Vivo in India and its quality can only be compared to the OnePlus 3/3T which also happens to fall in the same price bracket. However, I would have preferred a bevelled finish for the iPhone-like camera bump on the back.
While there is a 2.5D glass on the front, it often feels flat thanks to the thick white plastic lipping that kills what would have otherwise been a seamless look from the front to the sides of the smartphone.
On the front you will also see something unique at the top, with two camera units on the front accompanied by a ‘moonlight glow’ selfie flash on the right of the receiver, next to the ambient light sensor. The fingerprint reader sits at the bottom and also doubles as a home button which can be pressed down.
Compared to the Vivo V5, the stakes are higher in this price segment and the same can also be said about the features. Vivo has literally armed this smartphone to the teeth with just NFC left out.
On the front you get a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS In-cell LCD display with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the top. On the front you will also find the dual selfie camera layout with a 20MP: f/2.0 + 8MP: f/2.0 sensors, while the primary unit on the back gets a 16MP f/2.0 unit. The front facing camera gets the ‘moonlight glow’ selfie flash on the front and single LED flash unit for the primary camera on the back.
Inside, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core chipset clocked at 2.0GHz coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage. There’s no provision for a microSD card so 64GB is all you will get.
Coming to connectivity, we have 4G/LTE bands with VoLTE support on a dual SIM setup (nano + nano), Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou and oddly, a standard USB 2.0 at the bottom.
There is a 3,055mAh battery on the back and the same features Vivo’s proprietary Fast Charging technology.
The display on the Vivo V5 Plus is another much-needed improvement if you are coming from the V5’s HD display. The V5 Plus features a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS In-cell LCD display with a protective layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 above it.
I had no problems with its brightness levels and the display was readable in direct sunlight. Indoors, text looked pretty sharp considering that the display tops out at 401 PPI and the same can be said for images. The display seems to be well made and showcased colours with some added saturation. Indeed these are calibration settings hard at work here, but sadly Vivo does not offer any sort of customisations for the same like one can find on a OnePlus 3T for adjusting hue and saturation levels.
Viewing it at an angle showcased minimal colour shifting and a slight drop in brightness levels, but it’s not something I would complain about considering the price tag of this device.
With Gorilla Glass 5 on board, there little room for scratches and the display also seems to have an oleophobic coating as fingerprints picked up could be wiped off easily. But it was not able to keep them at bay.
Coming from an iPhone 6s owner, the Vivo’s FunTouch OS looks like a copy of Apple’s iOS software. There are plenty of similarities from the icons, to the native apps (like Calendar) to the Settings menu. You even have a Control Panel that pops up at the bottom and a stacked up multi-tasking menu with a side scrolling cards layout.
In a way however, it’s a good thing as it brings a level of consistency to the smartphone’s software. The icons look uniform, the fonts are sized right and while you still have to deal with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you do get split-screen multi-tasking (called Smart Split) that works for a limited set of native and third-party applications.
But the implementation clearly is not native, which is why it works in a rather weird manner. You cannot use the Smart Split feature when you choose to, but only when a notification from a supported app arrives. Tap on the notification and the screen splits into two. Oddly, this only works for a short list of apps, so I did not end up using it at all.
There are a couple of annoying shortcomings as well. The Battery section of the Settings menu cannot show you the Battery statistics along with the usual battery chart. So you will never know how much up time you have with the given battery life.
Then there’s the layout of the Settings menu, which is not your usual stuff and would be really frustrating to find a particular item since there is no search bar in it either.
What I did appreciate was how the software ran buttery smooth with 4GB RAM and a low-powered Snapdragon 625 onboard with no hiccups whatsoever, often making me forget that there’s a chipset from a budget smartphone that is running inside. Nougat however, I did miss considering that even a budget smartphone like the Asus Zenfone 3S Max comes with the update.
As mentioned in the software section, there’s really nothing to worry about as the interface is buttery smooth. The V5 Plus did not showcase any heating issues either, except for when it was being charged and that too just a little bit.
Gaming performance is the usual stuff and what we have come to expect from the 625. It’s comparable to the Asus Zenfone 3 and I had no issues playing games at the highest of settings but with minor drops in framerate. At medium settings, most games like Dead Trigger 2 to Real Racing 3 and Asphalt 8 ran fine with casual games running very smoothly.
Voice quality was pretty good, but it could have been a bit clearer. The speaker output was loud and clear and I had no problems playing games or even listening to music in outdoor spaces.
Audio quality through the headphones was pretty balanced and just right. Playing downloaded music using the built in Music app was an even better experience with rich audio quality that had plenty of depth but was again well-balanced.
The Vivo V5 packs in a 16MP sensor on the back with an f/2.0 aperture. While a 16MP sensor seems like downgrade compared to the 20MP set up on the front, it’s not.
The primary camera produced some well saturated images with plenty of depth and low noise in day light and low light or twilight conditions. While the colours are well-balanced it is impressive how the camera controls the noise as you shoot in dim lighting conditions or twilight. Check out the image shot in the corridor and the camera retains very little noise (just the right amount) to make them look realistic.
While the camera was quick to focus in daylight it was equally good in low light or night time shooting.
Click on the image below to go to the camera samples gallery.
Shooting a bit after twilight however, showcases some of the limitations of the camera setup. There’s luminance noise and the camera in a way tries to suppress it, which results in the loss of details. The images produced are still commendable considering what you get in this price range. In short, better than the ones you get from Asus Zenfone 3. What was sorely missed was the presence of OIS, but at Rs 27,000 it’s a bit too much to ask when you take into consideration the selfie hardware built into this smartphone.
Moving on to the unit on the front, and you get a 20MP, f2.0 unit plus an 8MP, f2.0 unit. Vivo uses a IMX376 image sensor which the company claims has been co-engineered with Sony. The 20MP unit captures image data while the 8MP unit is there solely to capture depth-of-field information. While this may sound like a gimmick, coming from a Chinese manufacture, the results are pretty awesome.
The depth data makes a world of a difference and is able to smartly identify the subject and blur just the background. In fact, the camera was smart enough to select two subjects and keep them in focus while the background gets blurred, which is pretty impressive for a selfie camera. The feature only worked when both (or multiple) subjects were in the same plane or distance from the camera. In short, it would not be able to segregate two subjects at different distances from the lens and then defocus the background.
The aperture can also be adjusted in Bokeh mode, which is pretty handy in case your image looks a bit too dreamy. You can also adjust the aperture and the refocus event after the image has been clicked. Then, there’s the moonlight glow selfie flash which makes taking selfies in the dark or dim light pretty easy because the flash discharges a soft glow instead of the usual bright LEDs.
In the end, I found myself wishing for a dual camera set up for the primary unit as well.
The Vivo V5 Plus packs in a 3,055mAh battery, but surprisingly out does the OnePlus 3 and 3T. The battery life almost seems unbelievable, but then it’s easy to identify that the FuntouchOS packs in a really good sleep mode. The smartphone literally consumes very little power when locked and will rarely throw up notifications unless you have added them to the list of apps that are allowed to remain on.
With that said, I managed to get more than day of moderate use and complete day of heavy usage which is pretty good for a smartphone with a 3,055mAh battery. We were unable to get our usual PC Mark battery life tests with this one as the app kept shutting at the end of the test. We did however manage to open up a result zip file that showed us 42,857 seconds, which translates to about 11 hours, which is pretty good.
Vivo has also included Dual Charging Engine technology that should provide a safer charge, and also make it quicker. The charging speeds however failed to impress me, as the OnePlus’ dash charge was way faster (almost twice as fast). It does however charge at speed that is above average while charging the first half, so it makes the technology worthwhile for those who want to quick short charge on the go.
Verdict and Price in India
All-in-all the Vivo V5 Plus is a great all-round package that will appeal to those who are serious about their selfies. It packs in the right balance of power, performance, battery life and adds a pretty good camera to the mix, making it a much better offering in comparison to the Asus Zenfone 3 (5.5-inch). It still however, falls short of the OnePlus 3T in some areas like raw power and the primary camera. The Huawei Honor 8 is also pretty good choice, if you are looking for a dual camera set up on the back, but it’s not so impressive in the selfie department. Another competitor in this segment is the Oppo F1 Plus. When it launched in April last year, it was indeed the king of selfie smartphones. But with so many new competitors offering better hardware (including sibling Vivo), the phone has now gotten a bit dated with its MediaTek Helio P10.
Back in 2015 Lenovo announced its Vibe S1, which was also a smartphone with a dual camera, but it did not produce images as good as the ones on the V5 Plus. In short, I can easily say that the Vivo V5 Plus is the new king of selfie smartphones and easily takes down any other smartphone in the mid-range (and higher) with its well-balanced features and price.
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