The Vivo Nex has one job. To fulfill your bezel-less dream. You can tell Vivo is very serious about this kind of stuff. Only recently it launched the X21, a one-of-its-kind phone with a one-of-its-kind in-display fingerprint scanner.
But it had a notch that came in the way of realising this dream. The Nex carries forward the in-display fingerprint scanner from the X21, but, gets rid of the notch. It’s not completely bezel-less, but with Vivo’s pace, the all-screen future doesn’t seem far away anymore. With a screen-to-body ratio of 91.24 per cent, the Nex is very nearly there after all.
The Nex is almost all glass on the front. It does not have a forehead, and as such, the earpiece and all the sensors are placed underneath the display. Much like it is in the case of the Xiaomi Mi Mix. Unlike the Mi Mix, however, the Nex does not have a bottom seated selfie camera. The Nex instead comes with a rather unconventional pop-out selfie camera that’s built out of mechanical parts. It stays inside at all times unless you want it out to take a quick selfie. Like magic, it disappears into the abyss, when you’re done with it. Sounds crazy enough?
The Nex is, in fact, the commercial variant of the concept Apex phone that Vivo had showcased at MWC 2018. Only, not many would have imagined that it would bring it out (of concept) so very quickly.
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
The Nex looks like any other Vivo phone. Then again it doesn’t. Let me explain. It looks a lot like the X21 or the V9 or any other phone that Vivo has launched recently. But only from the back. The front, because it’s almost all-screen — and no notch — meanwhile has a story of its own. Combine the front and the back and it is obvious that the Nex isn’t trying to be an iPhone clone, something that most Vivo phones tend to do, or at least they did until the Nex happened.
Even the back which is all glass, although it looks familiar, has this crazy, over the top gradient finish that reflects light differently depending on how you look at it. The black version of the phone I have for review looks so surreal, it changes colours as you speak. You can see a hint of blue, and red, and yellow on it: it’s like a box of assorted colours, the Nex. I don’t know how Vivo did it, but, the Nex is clearly one of the few phones in the market that you can call a collector’s edition, based on that gradient finish alone. The all-screen and no-bezel front only makes you fall in love with it all over again.
The Nex boasts of a glass and metal body and a screen-to-body ratio of 91.24 per cent: an almost perfect edge-to-edge to be precise. The phone does not have a forehead, just the bottom. Vivo has managed to shave that chin quite a bit too. The Nex has a very simplistic yet a very smart and sophisticated design. A design that will be hard to overlook. A design that will stay with you for a long, long time. The phone uses an ultrasonic proximity sensor and a piezoelectric ceramic driver for the earpiece that work through the display. Because the proximity sensor and the earpiece lie inside the glass, you can use either side of the Nex to make/receive phone calls, and the screen will automatically turn off on both occasions. Vivo calls its screen sound casting technology.
The Nex’s in-display fingerprint scanner and pop-out front camera are technologies to marvel and even though it isn’t perfect, the Nex sets the stage for the future
Moving on, unlike Vivo’s past phones, the Nex has considerable heft to it. Weighing in at almost 200 gram and measuring about 8mm in thickness, the Nex isn’t what you can call slim and light. For your reference, it’s heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and that thing is a monster phablet. But, the Nex has just the right amount of curves to ensure it doesn’t become unwieldy in day to day usage. Couple that with the phone’s solid build, and the Nex instantly stands out as a high-quality premium device that’s both good-looking and reassuring when in the hands. It’s a big step up from Vivo’s past phones that have struggled to maintain the balance.
Because Vivo has employed the same material (and craftsmanship) throughout — rear and sides — it looks like the Nex has been carved out of a single block of glass. Even the power button and the volume rocker on the right and the dedicated AI button on the left — that are all made of metal — have the same fit and finish. So much so that not an in inch of Vivo’s Nex feels out of place.
There are a couple of obvious downsides though. A.) The Nex is as glossy as it gets and B.) It is as slippery as a fish. Vivo also does not explicitly say if it is using any sort of protective glass up top on the front. It does not mention the kind of glass that it is using on the back as well. It does ship a very premium rubber case with the Nex that saves you a lot of trouble. You will have to let go of all that shine on the back, but believe me, you’re better off this way because the Nex, at least from afar, doesn’t look like it could take a beating. It’s better safe than being sorry.
The Vivo Nex has an unusually tall screen and an unusual aspect ratio of 19.3:9. Vivo calls it Ultra Full-view display. In terms of core specifics, the Nex comes with a 6.59-inch Super AMOLED display with a full-HD+ resolution (1080×2316 pixel). It’s a high-quality Samsung panel, and is comparable — if not better — to what you get in the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+. In short, it has all the makings of a high-end flagship phone.
The screen’s bright, punchy and colourful (with signature AMOLED deep blacks), and also it boasts of some good viewing angles. Vivo isn’t offering any manual control over contrast and saturation though so you’re basically stuck with what comes out-of-the-box. There is an eye protection mode available that helps minimise eye fatigue for comfortable night-time reading.
The real star of the show, of course, is the Synaptics Clear ID optical in-display fingerprint sensor. The sensor makes use of gaps between pixels of the OLED panel for authentication. An indicator in the display tells you where to place your finger for authentication. Vivo is offering as many as three different styles of animations for this indicator, and each has its own virtue. The icon can detect motion and is up and running in a jiffy. It also disappears upon authentication.
The Nex sports a third-generation in-display fingerprint scanner that’s faster and more accurate than the one found in the X21, according to Vivo. As for actual usage, it doesn’t work any better or worse than what we’ve already seen from Vivo. It can be a little inconsistent at times and it would take some time getting used to. This means, sometimes the sensor would unlock the phone simply by a gentle tap, sometimes it would require you to press a little harder. In all the cases, the unlock would take a wee bit more time than a conventional fingerprint scanner. But that’s really how this tech is supposed to work anyways. For now.
PERFORMANCE, SOFTWARE AND BATTERY LIFE
The Nex is a high-end phone with high-end hardware. It is powered by Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor clubbed with a whopping 8GB RAM and 128GB storage which is non-expandable. The dual-SIM phone supports 4G LTE and runs Android 8.1 Oreo-based Funtouch OS 4.0 which is Vivo’s custom skin.
In an ideal world, the Vivo Nex, should have no competition. This is because it’s in a league of its own
Performance is at par — if not better — than competition. Vivo phones, although they have a software that’s heavily inspired by Apple’s iOS and also they are quite heavy with animations and unwanted apps or bloatware, are known to run smooth for the most part. The same is true about the Nex as well. That is in part because of the high-end hardware but also Vivo has done a fine job in optimising the software with the available hardware.
Even though Vivo has skinned almost every aspect of Android so much so that it doesn’t even feel Android anymore — it feels more iOS-like in fact: the icons, the control centre, the wallpapers, the settings menu, everything screams iOS — at least they’ve done a fine job while at it, since the phone runs mostly smooth as butter.
There are also a whole bunch of iPhone X-style navigation gestures and smart motion gestures to explore. There’s an in-built game mode that lets you continue to chat — through WhatsApp and Messenger — in split screen without even leaving the game window. There’s a one-handed mode, and a feature called app clone that lets you run two instances of the same app. Vivo, for some reason, has retained a dedicated section for Jovi in the settings menu even though it isn’t available outside China. Jovi, for your reference, is Vivo’s in-house virtual assistant. There’s also a dedicated Jovi button on the Nex (similar to how the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+ have a Bixby button) that’s preset to opening the Google Lens. You can disable it if you want but you can’t remap it for now. You can also long press on it to fire up the Google Assistant.
Then there are the Oreo basics like picture-in-picture, smart notifications, improved RAM and battery management, so on and so forth. The Nex software strangely doesn’t support Android Oreo’s notification dots though. Also, you can’t long press app icons for quick shortcuts.
But on the whole, Vivo’s penchant to offer as many features to make your life easier continues with the Nex as well. The same is true about coating every square inch of Google’s Android in Vivo’s paint. There’s so much to explore, but chances are, you may end up scratching only the surface. Vivo’s Funtouch software is a cornucopia of features and options, that are more often than not, buried one under another. So much so that finding something that you’ve been looking for can be a task. And there’s no search option in the settings either.
Phone calls made with the Vivo Nex are of acceptable quality and we did not encounter any odd call drop issues, beyond the usual, on our review unit. The mono speaker on-board can get really loud but we’ve surely heard better in this price range.
The Nex is backed by a 4,000mAh battery and offers best in-class battery life. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a graphical game, or watching a 1080p video, or streaming content, the battery on the Nex simply refuses to die. And it has outstanding standby. Most users with generalised usage will easily be able to get one full day (one and a half days too) out of the Nex on single charge without breaking a sweat. The Nex also supports fast charging and charges over USB Type-C.
The Nex comes with a dual camera system on the rear consisting of a primary 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 aperture and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor with f/2.4 aperture for depth sensing. A feature called shot refocus allows users to adjust the bokeh post taking a shot while ultra HDR allows the dual camera system to take three images of a shot, then superimpose them, to result in supposedly clearer photos with better contrast and saturation. The dual camera system further comes with phase detection autofocus, 4-axis OIS and dual-LED (dual-tone) flash. It can even record 4K videos but at 30fps only.
The Nex is a high-end phone and is also priced like one. Sadly, its dual cameras are its weakest link. They don’t justify the phone’s flagship credentials. Note that they’re not downright disappointing, but they could have been (much) better, considering the competition at hand. The primary camera clicks decent enough photos in good light, but, dynamic range and sharpness leave a lot to be desired. There’s a general softness about these photos, and in warm sunny environment the camera also has a tendency to overexpose your subject entailing in blown out highlights. Tricky and low light photos have lots of noise. As for portraits, they are a hit or miss really. We’ve surely seen better.
The primary camera, surprisingly, does a better job at videos but competitors offer more including 4K @60fps. The Nex camera is also capped at 30fps for 1080p videos which is another bummer.
The front camera is however where all the action is supposed to happen anyway. It’s not everyday you get an elevating front camera after all. This also means that it’s prone to wear and tear over time, although Vivo says, that it can be used hassle-free about 50,000 times and also it can withstand up to 500-grams of weight. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you should stress-test it, but, in my usage I have found it to be quite sturdy and also it is very smooth (and satisfying) although the module does accumulate dust very quickly. Whether or not it is able to age gracefully is something only time will tell.
As for what’s inside the whole gimmickry, well, it’s an 8-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture and it is not good — beyond letting you achieve nerd nirvana — which is surprising since Vivo is known to take its selfies very seriously. Selfies taken with the Nex come out soft, lacking in detail, and often over exposed, even in good lighting. The front camera can also take software-assisted portrait shots which are again, a hit or miss affair.
The Nex, for some reason, does not support face unlock.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
In an ideal world, the Vivo Nex, should have no competition. This is because it’s in a league of its own. The Nex’s in-display fingerprint scanner and pop-out front camera are technologies to marvel in 2018 when no-one else is doing them (at least not yet), and even though it isn’t perfect, the Nex sets the stage for the future. That’s saying a lot about Vivo, a company that has for long been called a cheap iPhone rip-off maker. It has come out and made something out of the ordinary for other OEMs to learn, adopt and evolve into something even more meaningful. Now, who saw that coming?
But should you buy the Vivo Nex? Not really, unless collecting futuristic technology as a hobby is your thing. While it’s kind of easy recommending a phone like the X21 to buyers, things are a little complicated for a phone like the Nex that costs almost Rs 45,000. Not because it’s a Vivo phone and not a Samsung Galaxy or an Apple iPhone or even a Google Pixel. Because it isn’t as good as them even though it’s miles ahead of them in terms of what it stands for and also delivers.
While the Nex offers almost all the bells and whistles of a high-end flagship, it is also missing out on some bare essentials. Water resistance, NFC, micro-SD card slot, stereo speakers, wireless charging, to name a few. Add to it, average cameras and cluttered software, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. While you may not notice them much at say around Rs 30,000, at Rs 45,000, you start to ask yourself, is it all worth it? Not really. Even more so when there are phones like the Asus ZenFone 5Z offering better all-round value for Rs 30,000.
News credit : Indiatoday