Vivo NEX Review, Smartphone With Camera Pop Up

This is the Vivo NEX, the closest thing we’ve seen to a truly bezel-free phone yet. Is this a phone that you should lust after? Absolutely.

But is this a phone you should actually run out and get? To that, I’d have to say probably not.

The best part of the move to truly bezel-free phones is the weird and wacky solutions to the question of where to put all the stuff 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 the industry’s bezel-free wet dream. It doesn’t succeed on every front and there are more than a few caveats you need to be aware of before you decide on importing one. But let’s start with the good things.

The screen on the Vivo NEX is a great start;  it’s really big for a phone that’s. Barely any larger than a Pixel 2 XL, making the NEX surprisingly manageable.

It has good white balance and the deep blacks and poppy colours you’d expect from an OLED display. The lower resolution display won’t please everyone, but it, along with the battery saving benefits of OLED, will help you eke out a little.

More from the 4000 mAh battery. I didn’t have any issues with palm touch rejection and even though it didn’t get bright enough for me.

Tastes outdoors, it wasn’t any worse than most phones. But there’s a lot more going on here than just screen. By going very close to bezel-less, the NEX has had to shuffle around a bunch of components.

The front-facing camera is perhaps the most exciting of these as it is a house inside a small cavity on the top edge of the phone.

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When you launch the front-facing camera it appears as if by magic and retreats back into the frame when it’s no longer needed. No matter how many times I showed this to someone I was always asked to “do it again”

The NEX’s specs are top-shelf: Snapdragon 845, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, Android 8.1 Oreo and so on, with the crazy performance you’d expect.

But there’s no IP rating for obvious reasons, no NFC, wireless charging, or microSD expansion. These may matter to you or they may not, but they’re pretty standard smartphone complaints.

If you wouldn’t buy a Vivo phone before, I wouldn’t recommend you buy this one either. The NEX was made for a Chinese audience where iPhone inspired launches are considered a good thing.

But the app drawer-less iOS copy will irritate most Android fans. Even switching out the launcher is an exercise in frustration, requiring a Chinese phone number so you can create a Vivo account to allow the security permissions to change the launcher to something less awful.

It’s pretty convoluted and even if you go through all that you’re just going to have other problems to contend with There’s no Google Play or Google apps out of the box, and while it’s straightforward enough to force install them, even then you’ll have issues downloading many other common Android apps.

Notifications are also pretty patchy, so you’ll just have to cross your fingers on that front There’s no Google  Assistant shortcut and not even a way to quickly access the settings unless you have the app icon on your home screen.

There’s also weird formatting issues with Latin characters and various other compatibility and reliability problems with many of your favourite apps.

Vivo’s Jovi virtual voice assistant gets a dedicated button, but because of it only supports the Chinese language and only works with Chinese apps and services it’s basically useless outside China.

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The Fun Touch OS experience is understandable given an awareness of the NEX’s target the market, but the software as it stands makes the NEX a phone that is fun to lust after, but not one you actually want in your pocket unless you live in China.

You’ll either see the Vivo NEX as a technical marvel or as a daily driver fraught with issues But the truth is, it’s both of these things.

Now, one area in which I was particularly surprised was the NEX’s camera While the shots from the front-facing camera are unfortunately soft and lack good detail and exposure, the main cameras on the back are impressively competitive.

The NEX camera’s the greatest weakness is its tendency to overexpose. It also tends to over-saturate a bit and over-sharpen in post Whether you like the shots it takes will depend if you judge your photos on your smartphone screen or at 100% crop on your computer.

For me, I tend to bump saturation, contrast, and sharpness in an editing app anyway.

The NEX saves me a few steps. For others, it’ll understandably be an affront to the principles of good photography. Portrait the mode is OK on the NEX, but as with most phones it struggles with cutouts and artificial looking blur Low-light is quite good with very little noise and clean images.

Post-processing is clearly in effect if you go looking for it, but the overall result is solid Dynamic range is unfortunately not so great, largely due to the camera’s tendency to overexpose, blowing out the highlights in the process.

But the camera does draw a lot of detail from shadowy areas, even more so than the Pixel 2 in a lot of cases. Colour reproduction is also very accurate, notwithstanding the tendency to bump saturation a little bit too much.

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There’s also 4K video at 30 frames per second and slow motion at 1080p And while the video is stabilized, it’s not quite as good as that found on the P20 Pro or Pixel 2.

The battery is a little bit less impressive at 4000 mAh hours it’s bigger than most, but despite the Full HD OLED panel.

The Vivo sucks the life out of it a bit faster than I would like. I won’t harp too much on it here as the phone has received multiple updates during my time with it and battery life may very well change.

It’s also a Chinese the unit being used in Europe so there’s that to consider as well. In any case, the 22.5W power brick can recharge the whole thing in just over an hour and a half.

You’ll also get a case in the box and some decent earbuds. But, given that the NEX has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, you’re probably better off just plugging in your favourite pair of wired headphones because of the V1 chip and built-in DAC produce really excellent audio.

All in all, I have loved my time with the NEX. Despite as futuristic appearance, it reminds us that phones are still phones and they come with the same kinds of issue.

Despite any misgivings, the Vivo NEX makes the smartphone experience fun and exciting again, and that is no small achievement. Perhaps even one big enough to make you look past its software and other issues. So even if it isn’t perfectly executed – and probably not a phone you should use as your daily – I really hope it’s ambitious example influences other phones that come in its wake.

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