Vivo has been more of a hit in the budget smartphones segment in India. Even though Vivo launched its mid-range smartphones in the past, they have not exactly done as well as its budget offerings. As mentioned in my previous article, Vivo has settled with the budget range, while Oppo sits at the mid-range and OnePlus takes care of the flagship smartphone market in India.
All three brands belong to BBK electronics and have now found their niche. But with Vivo bravely stepping into Oppo's territory with a selfie-smartphone priced at Rs 17,980 there are bound to be some clashes. Priced as much as the Oppo F1s and coming from the same parent company, it all boils down to which one clicks the better selfie and obviously which smartphone is the better buy.
Build and Design: 7 / 10
In terms of design there is really nothing new or refreshing on the Vivo V5. It's the same old design which has been done to death by Oppo and Vivo with rounded corners. Unlike the Oppo F1s, which this smartphone will be compared with, Vivo went in for an an all-plastic build.
It is all about mixing and matching. So my reasoning behind Vivo skipping on metal, was to keep the price tag competitive while offering something better with a 20MP selfie camera. Smart? Yes. Practical? You will know shortly.
But it does not exactly feel premium, even thought it is supposed to look like a metal build. With that said, the design feels nice in the hand, but slippery at the same time (I dropped it once). However, the chrome plated lipping along with the white plastic lipping, which meet the display on the sides does makes it look a bit cheap.
While this is a nobrainer, it is easy to point out how Vivo got away without any antenna bands on the back. There are just two thin reflective bands, which considering the plastic back are there just for cosmetic reasons.
Features: 7.5 / 10
At Rs 17,980, Vivo is gunning for the mid-range with this smartphone. It features a 5.5-inch HD (720x1280 pixels) IPS LCD display which translates into not so pixel-happy 267ppi. Inside, we get a tried and tested MediaTek MT6750 octa-core (64-bit chipset) clocked at 1.5GHz (4x Cortex A53 at 1.5GHz + 4x Cortex A53 clocked at 1GHz) paired with a Mali-T860 GPU. There's 4GB of RAM and 32GB storage which is expandable to 128GB using a microSD card.
There is a 20MP camera with a moonlight flash on the front, while the rear camera set up gets a 13MP sensor with phase detection autofocus (PDAF).
Coming to the connectivity, the Vivo V5 features a Hybrid Dual SIM (micro + nano/microSD) set up with support for 4G LTE bands. As for the regular connectivity options, it features Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS + GLONASS and also includes a regular micro USB port with USB OTG support. All of the above is powered by a 3,000mAh battery.
Display: 6.5 / 10
At this price, in this day and age, one would normally expect a Full HD display on board the V5. But as I mentioned earlier Vivo seems to have cut corners for its 20MP camera, so an HD display is what we get.
The display on the Vivo V5 is a HD IPS LCD unit. It features a pixel density of 267ppi which is a bit too low for display of this size. While I was a bit surprised as to how I could not spot jagged edges in my first impressions, upon longer usage I did get a bit annoyed with the sharpness issues when it came to reading text.
While Vivo's software takes care of iconography, it somehow cannot do much when it comes to text especially in third-party apps, so it does end up looking mediocre with jagged edges especially if you use smaller font settings.
The display is legible in bright sunlight, but it takes a slight hit when it comes to viewing angles. While the colours remained intact, there's that pink tinge that makes reading or viewing things at an angle difficult. The colours do get washed out when viewed at certain angles.
Fingerprints are another problem. The screen does not have an oleophobic coating so while it easily catches fingerprints, wiping them off becomes a daunting task.
Simply put, it does give you that average feel when you consider that LeEco, Xiaomi and many others have better Full HD units on lower priced handsets. But this one's about cutting corners and the reason there is an HD display is because the MediaTek 6750 can only support displays up to that resolution.
Software: 7 / 10
This is the first time I was going to review a Vivo smartphone so I did not know what to expect. Turned out that things were not all as bad as I thought it would be, after my issues with the display. There are a couple of features that I liked, while there some that I did not.
As with most Chinese smartphones, I did not expect an updated Android base, but here I was staring at Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with Vivo's Funtouch OS. So I have used MIUI, EUI, ColorOS and the like, but I liked how Vivo's theme maintained consistency when it came to app icons.
At the same time it was easy to notice how unpolished the UI really is. Pull down the notifications tray and you may not be able to read some notifications, because of the transparency layer below the text. The icons next to notifications look terribly pixellated (below). I see no reason why Vivo could not stick to the stock icons for notifications.
Moving from the UI to the UX, the experience was a good one. The software did not feel heavy, nor did I experience any lag while using it. Switching between apps, games, multi-tasking using the Smart Multi-screen (with limited app support) was a smooth experience with no hiccups.
But there was one area where the UX was confusing - the Settings menu. It is a mess. It is hard to figure out where you need to go to change something and at times why you opened up the Settings app, because of how confusing the layout is. Even with Android Marshmallow, there is no search feature in the settings either which could have helped to extent.
A handy mention was the iManager app. While I usually avoid opening such apps on other custom mobile software I was frequently forced to check out the iManager. The reason? There is no other way to access the battery settings or to check how many hours of power I had left. On the bright side, the app was well built (unlike the notifications tray) and clearly shows how many hours of power each mode would deliver given the type of usage (video, browsing, gaming, reading, calls etc).
Performance: 7.5 / 10
The Vivo V5 features a MediaTek 6750 octa-core chipset and 4GB RAM which allowed for smooth operation without any noticeable lag. With eight A53 power-saving cores on board, heat was never a problem. But considering that these are power-saving low performance cores, gaming was not upto the mark. Games like Asphalt 8, Alphalt Xtreme, showcased some stuttering despite all the chaos going on onscreen. There were also dropped frame rates in others. If you are serious about playing 3D games at high settings, this is not the smartphone for you. Casual games chugged along just fine.
Moving on to audio, the call quality was loud and clear on both ends. Audio quality through the speaker was very loud. Loud enough for me to turn it down, but it was not too clear. When maxed out, music did not sound pleasing, which kept forcing me to turn down the volume to the mids for a better listening experience. Audio quality through the 3.5mm headphone jack was really impressive for a smartphone at this price point with well balanced audio.
Vivo's Hi-Fi additions using the built in DAC delivered an immersive music listening experience but this only works for certain music and video apps (iMusic, YouTube and Google Play Music) and mainly for locally stored music.
Camera: 7.5 / 10
As with most selfie smartphones, the engineers usually focus on the front camera than the rear camera and the V5 is no different. The camera interface is simple and easy to use and even includes a Pro mode for some fine-tuning with controls like ISO, exposure, shutter speed, white balance, and manual focus. One can get better results from the Professional mode than with the Auto mode, but it requires plenty of patience.
Coming to the Auto mode, the rear camera produced some really good images in daylight. They showcased accurate colour reproduction and sharpness where exactly where they needed to be. Blown highlights however were a problem and this can be noticed in plenty of images, luckily the HDR mode saves the day.
Things however aren't too positive when it comes to low light. In fact, I would recommend not shooting in low light at all, as the images are barely usable. While the colours remained pretty accurate, there is a lot of luminance noise all over the place. Add to this, blotchy textures, the lack of depth (thanks to the ISO shooting up) and it's a complete mess.
Moving to the 20MP front-facing camera, it is pretty good. The Moonlight selfie flash is no gimmick and it does help click decent selfies with soft lighting in low or no light. The images from the 20MP sensor are sharp and the camera does a good job of always placing the subject in focus no matter how strong the backlighting is. There's plenty of depth in the photos as well. I clicked selfies in every possible condition and it's really hard to go wrong with this camera.
The V5 is indeed the selfie king of selfie smartphones in this range.
Video quality is decent and offers a steady frame rate during recording. But focusing is a problem as the camera only locks the focus once after the recording starts, beyond this if the scene is changed, objects and people remain out of focus.
Battery: 7.5 / 10
If there's one area of the Vivo V5 that does not see compromise, it has got to be battery life. With two email accounts on sync, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, some Flipboarding and a some photo shooting, the Vivo V5 easily got me through a whole day. Gaming did take a slight toll but its not much thanks to the display with HD resolution and the low power A53 cores inside. The usual PC Mark for Android benchmark delivered more than 10 hours of battery life which is impressive considering that this smartphone features a 3,000mAh battery. Activating the powersaver modes will add a couple of hours of battery life. Vivo has really pulled off some software magic here to achieve such impressive battery times.
Verdict and Price in India
As mentioned throughout my review, the Vivo V5 does come with plenty of compromises, at the cost of a 20MP front-facing camera. But it all seems to have paid off, because at the end of the day, it does click some really impressive selfies. It beats the Oppo F1s and the pricier Oppo F1 Plus when it comes to selfies and image quality, but low light imaging is its sore point. The build quality while being rigid and well constructed still falls short of the Oppo, because the V5 is made of plastic. And then there's that smudge-happy display.
But as I said, the compromises can be put aside, because when it comes to selfies, there's really no better offering in the sub Rs 20,000 range.