When I first got my hands on the Vivo V15, it reminded me of its elder sibling, the V15 Pro. The V15 Pro was a bit overpriced to begin with, but its price was justified given that it brought a brand new chipset (Qualcomm Snapdragon 675) a notch-less AMOLED display and a fancy-looking in-display fingerprint reader and a triple rear camera setup to the mid-range.
The V15 being the younger sibling tries to ape the Pro a bit too much and this becomes a problem.
It features an average rear camera, a decent pop-up selfie camera, an almost bezel-less display and that gorgeous-looking Glamour Red finish. Its only problem? It’s priced too high for what it offers at Rs 23,990.
This is because you can get better hardware, a more refined camera, way better build quality, better gaming performance and stock Android (One) software at Rs 26,999 which is just Rs 3,009 more.
Beauty that is skin-deep
While I dig Vivo’s Glamour Red finish (available in Royal Blue and Frozen Black as well), I’m not really a fan of plastic bodied devices. In the case of the V15, the smartphone is entirely made out of plastic (save for the front glass screen which protects the display).
While plastic is more durable than glass when it comes to drops, it is quite easy to scratch.
I literally had to place the V15 back in its in-box protective case after our product shoot, to prevent further damage to that painted plastic back which is also a smudge magnet.
The device is also quite heavy at 189 grams. Basically, it feels as heavy as it looks with that mammoth 6.5-inch display and that might be a problem for some.
What is irritating about its design, is that massive protruding camera set up at the back. It makes the phone wobbly and unusable when it’s lying on a flat surface. On the other hand, the triple slot SIM tray is a nice touch.
Both the Nokia 8.1 and the Oppo F11 Pro feel more durable. If the Oppo and the Vivo feel more youthful in terms of the colour treatment and design, the Nokia 8.1 feels more mature with its subtle take.
A massive display
That 6.5-inch display feels massive. It’s good for watching videos and is bright enough to be used both indoors and outdoors without cringing. Unlike the Nokia 8.1’s HDR 10 compatible display, Vivo offers a simpler LCD unit with a focus on size and slimmer bezels.
The most important detail here is that there’s no notch (similar to the Oppo F11 Pro). While I do appreciate the notch-less display design, I cannot help but notice the large chin at the bottom. The bezels around the top and the sides of the display are quite thin.
The LCD FHD+ display does feature noticeable pink tinge, but it’s not something that will ruin the viewing experience. All-in-all, this is pretty much the standard stuff, if you keep out the missing display notch.
Not your usual slice of Pie
Here’s where things get tricky. If you come from a stock Android experience (Android One device), you will find the V15’s software interface a bit confusing.
The usual toggle buttons that one usually finds in the notifications tray are missing. All you get when you drag down the notifications tray is… well, notifications.
The toggles are placed in an iOS-style Control Center-like tray and you will need to swipe up from the bottom edge of the display to access them, along with the brightness scrubber and volume controls.
While I like the idea that the controls are more accessible at the bottom edge of this massive display, a majority of Android skins usually place them at the top, so they do feel a bit out of place.
The Settings menu is pretty straightforward and you also get a system-wide Dark mode to play around with.
FunTouch OS 9 runs Android 9 Pie as the base with the January security patch.
Gaming performance that’s a bit below the mark
Despite its slightly confusing UI, performance was good for a mid-ranger with no lag or app crashes whether you are multi-tasking with apps.
My only gripe with the performance on the V15 is when playing games. The MediaTek P70 just cannot keep up.
I tried out various graphically demanding games like Asphalt: Xtreme, Shadowgun Legends, PUBG Mobile and more, but the chipset just cannot deliver and a majority of the games had to be set to low graphics to deliver smooth and fluid gameplay. I even tried more casual games like BMX 2 but had to keep the graphics settings to low for smooth gameplay. And it’s not just down to bad optimisation by Vivo, but the chipset itself as I noticed the same issues on the Oppo F11 Pro that struggled when it came to gaming.
Audio quality using the in-box headphones was balanced and sounded pretty good for a mid-ranger. I faced no issues with network reception or call quality either. The speaker is loud but not clear.
Just shooting the best selfies isn’t enough
The Vivo V15 shoots really vibrant images that look a bit brighter than usual. The Auto HDR mode saves the photos from getting overexposed, but these somehow cannot match the colour accuracy, sharpness and details that the Nokia 8.1 can pull off when shooting photos in daylight or even in low light thanks to OIS (not present in the V15 and the F11 Pro).
The ultra-wide angle camera shot photos with a soft focus because it lacks autofocus. Still, the photos featured a lot of blown highlights in daylight shots and blurry results in low light that were not usable.
If there’s one area that the Vivo 15 shines its selfies. But these are again limited to just daylight as the Nokia 8.1 managed sharper and more realistic-looking selfies in low light.
Check out the camera and video samples of the Vivo V15 Pro in the carousel below or simply click here to go to our Flickr album.
Edge-detection in portrait mode was accurate and the phone often managed to expose the background pretty well which is something the Nokia 8.1 and F11 Pro struggled with.
As for the video, you are better off with the Nokia 8.1 that not only shot stable and clear video in low light but also great audio.
The V15 is pretty much an average performer and the daylight photographs it produces are not bad. It’s just that Nokia 8.1 offers so much better sharpness and quality, that the Vivo V15 just cannot match.
Decent battery life with a fast charger
Sporting a bigger 4,000 mAh battery than the Pro model, the Vivo V15 scored a decent 9 hours and 11 minutes in our PC Mark Work 2.0 Battery Life test.
In day to day use, which included about half an hour of gaming, continuous WhatsApp, Slack messaging along with three email accounts on sync and a few calls, the phone easily got me through a workday with plenty to spare.
What I liked was the bundled 18 W charger, which actually charged the smartphone up quickly unlike the Nokia 8.1 which despite having a similar charger felt slow. However, Vivo is still stuck with its micro USB port in a day and age where even budget smartphones offer convenient Type-C ports.
Verdict and Price in India
The Vivo V15 is a great device if you desire a big notch-less display and good battery life. The selfie camera is great too, but that price tag is not.
At Rs 23,990, I would recommend the Oppo F11 Pro over the Vivo V15 when it comes to the software, camera and that design.
If performance is all you seek in this price bracket and all you want to do is play games, then the Poco F1 won't disappoint and it will save you a lot of money as well.
Despite sporting a sizeable display notch and a slightly higher price tag (Rs 26,999), I would recommend the Nokia 8.1 over both of them when it comes to the build quality, gaming performance, the camera and those important and timely software updates. The Vivo V15 is a great mid-range phone for selfies, but it falls a bit too short of being an all-rounder.
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