Vivo Nex review - Frustratingly imperfect, undeniably desirable - Android

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Vivo Nex review - Frustratingly imperfect, undeniably desirable - Android

Our Vivo Nex review reveals why this lust-worthy device should remain an object of desire rather than become the phone in your pocket.

The best part of the move to truly bezel-less phones is the weird and wacky solutions to the question of where to put everything that used to live above and below the display. Front-facing cameras, fingerprint scanners, speakers and sensors all need relocating if we’re going to have proper full-screen phones.

The Vivo Nex valiantly addresses those necessities, in pursuit of that notch-less and bezel-free ideal. It doesn’t succeed on every front, and there are more than a few caveats you need to be aware of before you decide to import one. As you might have guessed, owning a first-gen smartphone from the future – today – isn’t a pain-free experience. It’s a gorgeous and exciting phone, but sometimes window shopping is better than a shopping spree. That is why, ultimately, the Vivo Nex should probably remain an object of desire rather than become the phone in your pocket.

About this Vivo Nex review: I have been using the Chinese version of the Vivo Nex S for two weeks: a few days in China on a data-only SIM and the rest of the time in Berlin, Germany on the Blau network switching between Wi-Fi and cellular data. At the time of publishing this review, the Nex was running Android 8.1 Oreo with Vivo’s FunTouch OS version PD1805_A_1.14.5 and the June 1 security patch. The Vivo Nex was provided to Android Authority for review purposes by Vivo’s PR agency. We’re holding off on adding final review scores until we can run the Nex through its paces in our suite of custom tests.
Pros:Cons:
  • Futuristic bezel-free design
  • Solid OLED display
  • Competitive camera
  • Excellent performance
  • Eye-catching camera mechanism
  • 22.5W fast charging support
  • Really good wired audio
  • Problematic software
  • China-only release
  • Under-performing battery
  • Unreliable fingerprint scanner
  • No IP rating, NFC, wireless charging

 

 

Vivo Nex review, Vivo Nex bezel-less display

Display

Let’s start with what made all the Nex’s design decisions necessary: the display. The Vivo Nex houses a massive 6.59-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel in a chassis that’s only a smidge larger than the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL. For a phone as big as this it’s surprisingly manageable, with very little bezel around the top three sides and only a small chin below the screen (1.71 mm on the sides, 2.16mm on top and 5mm below the display).

Vivo Nex review, Vivo Nex home screen

The display offers all the usual OLED benefits, like deep blacks, rich colors, and an always-on display. According to Vivo’s marketing material it’s a Super AMOLED panel, but the company wouldn’t confirm it was sourced from Samsung. However, Samsung recently demoed an OLED panel with the same audio emission capabilities (more on this later) at Display Week.

Regardless, in bright sunlight the Vivo Nex screen didn’t get quite as bright as I’d like, making outdoor visibility no better than most phones. (For those interested, the ambient light sensor lives underneath the 19.3:9 screen, where it peeps right through the display at the center-top of the panel.) White balance is good, as is color accuracy generally. A night light mode is available in the settings and you can adjust the color temperature to suit your blue light filtering needs.

Long story short: the Vivo Nex’s display is every bit as good as you’d want an all-screen phone to be. Not everyone will be happy with the Full HD+ resolution and relatively low pixel density (1,080 x 2,316 pixels and 338ppi), but it’ll serve most consumers perfectly well — with power savings to boot.

Vivo Nex review, Vivo Nex bottom bezel

Design

Accidental palm touches were never an issue for me, unlike what David experienced on the Find X. The Nex has a slightly larger chin than the Find X, but there’s nowhere to rest your hand meat on either device. Fingerprints are a problem as with most glass-backed phones, but the holographic laser etching does a great job distracting from the accumulated grease.

While the Xiaomi Mi Mix was the first to remove the top and side bezels without adding a notch, it did so by including a larger bezel on the bottom, a dodgy piezoelectric earpiece speaker, and what might be the dumbest location for a front-facing camera yet. Almost in response to Xiaomi’s effort, Vivo shrinks the bezels even further, uses under-glass vibration for the earpiece speaker, and puts the front-facing camera inside the chassis of the phone, popping up on command whenever the camera app switches to the front-facing viewfinder.

More than the screen and its impressive 91.24 percent screen-to-body ratio, the Vivo Nex’s pop-up camera is arguably its biggest wow factor. Every time the Nex’s camera popped out from the phone, I was asked to “do it again” by whomever I was with. It elicits almost childish expressions of wonder in anyone that sees it. It’s undeniably cool and the novelty hasn’t worn off even after a couple of weeks.

The downside of such a nifty piece of tech is the simple fact that adding a moving part to a smartphone adds a degree of risk. Considering the frequency with which many of us drop our phones, there’s a justifiable concern about the camera breaking or the mechanism simply wearing out over time. Vivo has shared durability data to allay those concerns, but for most people it will come down to a simple decision. You’re either comfortable with the risks, or no amount of assurances will make you think this is a good idea.

The Nex's pop-up camera is arguably the biggest wow factor in a phone jam packed with them, but adding a moving part to a smartphone is a contentious decision.

It’s impossible to say just how much effect the Nex’s camera mechanism has on the battery, but at least it has to be less than the Find X. Oppo’s rising camera mechanism elevates the entire top of the phone and contains both the front and back cameras. Its reliance on facial recognition means the cameras pop up every time you want to unlock your phone. By comparison, the Vivo Nex’s selfie-only power needs seem negligible, especially if you’re not terribly prone to selfies.

Vivo Nex review, Vivo Nex front-facing camera

For anyone that barely ever uses their front-facing camera, the Nex offers an ideal solution: it’s there if you need it and spares you the unsightly compromise of a notch. 

According to Vivo the camera module can push up to 500g in repeated trials, and it can apparently can be raised and lowered repeatedly up to 50,000 times and withstand up to 45kg of thrust force when extended.

For what it’s worth I had absolutely no problems with the Nex’s elevating camera. The dust that inevitably accumulates on it didn’t actually obscure the lens, so cleaning it wasn’t as necessary as you might think.

It has also proven to be more rugged than I was expecting, and I’ve been purposefully rough with it. The camera’s very snugly fit. You can’t wiggle it from side to side and pulling it upwards is fruitless. If you press down on the camera while it’s out it springs back down before taking the hint and retracting itself fully.

While it’s still early days, I’m increasingly confident this thing could handle some battle scars before you have any problems with it. If you’re concerned about causing damage to the camera by dropping it you probably have more to fear from breaking the display than the camera.

Audio

The small bezels on the Nex’s display mean the earpiece speaker also had to be re-engineered. Rather using than a typical smartphone speaker, Vivo’s vibration motor transmits sound through the entire screen. That means when a call comes in you can place your ear anywhere on the display to hear the other person (although towards the top where the vibration motor is located is best). It sounds much like any regular smartphone speaker and isn’t as audible to those near you, as I initially expected.

After a couple of weeks of using it, I can’t say I’ve found it any worse than a normal earpiece speaker. Considering the sound comes from beneath the screen itself, that’s a big win. Expect to see the same tech in more phones down the line.

Vivo Nex review, Vivo Nex notifications

The Vivo Nex also has a bottom-firing speaker that gets plenty loud and offers better bass than something like the Pixel 2. The degree to which the display vibration contributes to overall audio quality is arguable, but it is noticeably less shrilly at full volume than the Pixel, giving some credibility to Vivo’s claims of “more powerful bass and softer, smoother treble.” I wouldn’t call external audio the Vivo Nex’s best selling point, but it fares no worse than

28/06/2018 09:00 AM