The notch is done. Dual rear camera set up is almost a passé and bezel-less display is so 2017. So how do smartphone manufacturers stand out from the crowd? Well, if you’re Vivo then you launch a smartphone – the Vivo X21 — that has the in-display fingerprint sensor technology. The Chinese smartphone maker first showcased the smartphone at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018. Since then there has been quite a bit of anticipation around the device. The company has priced the Vivo X21 at Rs 35,990 but it’s powered by a mid-range processor. The competition in this price segment is getting fierce by the day. We used the Vivo X21 for some time and here is our complete review of the smartphone.
We can safely say that the Vivo X21 is one of the most beautifully looking phone designed by Vivo so far. The smartphone is very sleek and looks strikingly beautiful. The smartphone looks premium and has a shiny black panel but with a subtle colour. It’s not flashy like the other smartphones available in the market right now. The smartphone sports an all-black aluminium frame with a rear panel made of glass and has tapered edges which enables the users to hold the smartphone comfortably.
About 7.5mm thick, the Vivo VX21 flaunts a 6.28-inch display with 19:9 aspect ratio underneath which lies the fingerprint sensor. The front houses the iPhone X-like notch which consists of the selfie camera and the speaker grille. On the back panel you will find the dual rear camera with LED flash and the Vivo branding. The power button and volume rockers are on the right side of the handset while the top consists of the 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom of the device houses a mono speaker along with the SIM card tray. In all we were quite impressed with the design aspect of the Vivo X21.
Display is one of the main highlight of the Vivo X21 as it comes with a notch and it also hides the fingerprint sensor. The Vivo X21 offers a very vibrant and beautiful display. The full HD+ display comes with minimal bezel on the sides. The screen has an AMOLED panel and it offers sharp colours with deeper blacks. The icons of various apps just pop up with you have set a dark theme on the smartphone.
The display is bright enough and offers good visibility under direct sunlight. We found the display to be much better as compared to the other smartphones available in the market. As we have already mentioned the display consists of a screen notch which will always be there. This means that just like the OnePlus 6, Vivo doesn’t give you the option to enable or disable the notch.
So, whether you love it or hate it the notch will always be there. Another important feature of the screen of Vivo X21 is its always-on-display. With always-on-display the users can see notifications, missed calls and messages in the lock screen.
Whether you have the always-on-display or not you will always see the fingerprint icon when the screen is turned off highlighting that the sensor is placed here.
The in-display fingerprint sensor
Vivo X21 is the first smartphone to come with an in-display fingerprint sensor in Indian smartphone market. The company has partnered with Synaptics for the in-display fingerprint technology. Vivo is the first smartphone maker in the world to use this technology in a smartphone.
A sensor with size of a thumbnail is pated on the back of the AMOLED display and the light from the display highlights the minute ridges of a fingerprint and the fingerprint of the user reaches the sensor via the gaps between the display’s pixels. The fingerprint sensor worked fine on most occasions and we managed to unlock the smartphone within a split second. Also you don’t have to press hard and just have to touch your finger on the display. In case you don’t want to unlock the smartphone using the fingerprint then you can always go for the infrared-based facial recognition feature.
The Vivo X21 is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. Users can further expand the storage up to 256GB by adding a microSD card. This is a quite common chipset used when we talk about the mid-segment smartphones. But that’s the thing is the Vivo X21 a mid-range smartphone? It’s price certainly doesn’t say so. Having said that, the smartphone performed fairly well despite being powered by a mid-range processor. Multi-tasking between various games and editing apps was a cakewalk courtesy the humongous RAM capacity. We also ran some benchmark tests on the smartphone and it scored 132293 on AnTuTu and 1563 and 5620 on Geekbench single core and multi core tests respectively.
Coming to the software, the Vivo X21 runs Android 8.1 operating system topped with the company’s own layer of customisation FunTouch. The smartphone has the same UI as the other Vivo smartphones. The company has copied some aspects of iOS such as the shape and look of icons, absence of app drawer, quick settings at the bottom of the screen and others. We personally didn’t like the quick settings menu as it was not easily accessible and many a times we used to swipe three to four times to get hold of the menu.
The Vivo X21 also comes with a gesture mode which allows to use the smartphone with the help of gestures just like the iPhone X. In the gesture mode, the screen is divided into three parts: Swipe up on the ride side to open the control centre, swipe on the centre to go back to the home screen and swipe up on the left to go back on one screen. If you swipe on the central area then screen allows you to scroll via the active apps. The status bar is a bit messy as the notch covers a lot of area and the remaining is not been utilised very well.
The notification bar has a very simplistic UI and one has tap on it to read the complete information which can be a turn off for many.
The launcher is also pretty basic and there is no app drawer which means that all your apps will be placed on the multiple home screens. Apart from this it has all the standard features of Android 8.1. With the Vivo X21, the company is also focusing a lot on the Music and audio experience of the smartphone. The device consists of a “Hi-Fi” DAC on board. It has a mono speaker located at the bottom of the device. The audio was satisfactory and nothing great to write about when we heard it on loudspeaker.
The Vivo X21 comes with a dual rear camera setup. The smartphone houses a 12MP primary module with f/8.1 aperture and phase detection autofocus. Along with this, there is also a 5MP secondary module with f/2.4 aperture. The front of the smartphone houses a 12MP selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture. The camera app on the smartphone has a very simple user interface. As it is a Vivo phone so it is mandatory that it comes with a beauty mode. You can capture a selfie or a portrait and can then beautify it by smoothening the skin or removing wrinkles. The interesting features of the camera are the Live Photos and the AR stickers.
The camera reproduced some decent and satisfactory images when we took portrait shots. The bokeh effect is not that great and on many occasions the camera blurred both the subject and the background. The image quality of the images captured in daylight turned out to be really good but they turned out be grainy and full of noise as soon as the light gets dim. The phase detection autofocus is also not up to the mark and we often got unstable shots of the subjects.
The Vivo X21 packs a 3200mAh battery which easily lasts up to a day on a single charge with medium to light usage. In case you rely heavily on your phone are a glued to it then you might need a charging point after 8 to 10 hours. The good part is that the smartphone comes with fast charging support which means that the device can charge up pretty quickly. However, we would have appreciated a larger battery in the smartphone.
Many a times we see a lot of companies erring big time when sticking a price tag on their devices. It seems like Vivo has fallen in the same trap as the Vivo X21 would have been a good option if the company would have priced it under Rs 30,000. But with a hefty price tag of Rs 35,990, the smartphone is certainly not a great buy. In our opinion if you want to spend this much then you can either go for the OnePlus 6 or the Samsung Galaxy A8 plus smartphones. Both the smartphones offer better processor and have same or more RAM capacity. However, they don’t come with in-display fingerprint sensor. But other than this, both the smartphones are better when compared to the Vivo X21. A better price point and the Vivo X21 could have been a far better smartphone than it actually is.