Hands-On

Vivo V15 Pro hands-on: A mini NEX?

Did Vivo overdo it?

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Remember the Vivo NEX? It blew us away last year with features that were once unheard of in smartphones. Fast forward to 2019, and we’re gradually seeing its tech trickle down to midrange phones.

The V15 Pro we have here is a perfect example of that. Not only does it inherit the pop-up camera of its older flagship sibling, it retains the large AMOLED display and under-display fingerprint scanner.

To sustain Vivo’s midrange pricing for the V-series, the V15 Pro comes with a slower Snapdragon 675 chipset (compared to the NEX’s high-end Snapdragon 845) and mostly plastic body.

However, Vivo added a few things, like an ultra-wide 8-megapixel camera on the rear and massive 32-megapixel sensor for the motorized selfie shooter.

So, how again is this midrange? That’s a good question. It certainly dips its virtual fingers into the upper-midrange segment, which we touch on in this video:

Since publishing this video, a few developments have happened. For one, a more affordable non-Pro V15 launched. In addition, Vivo’s closest rival, OPPO, released the F11 Pro with a similar design and feature set.

Truly, we have more questions than answers now, beginning with…

Does it have the most refined UD scanner and pop-up camera?

Well, yes and no. Despite Vivo having the most experience with both features, the V15 Pro doesn’t have the fastest under-display fingerprint in the business. Having used the Galaxy S10+ and OnePlus 6T recently, Vivo’s implementation feels a bit slow in comparison. Not to say it’s bad, but I’d rather use the front camera for logging in.

Like the OPPO Find X I used before, the V15 Pro’s pop-up-to-log-in time in unreal. The moment you wake the phone up, the camera will take one quick look at you and unlock the device. It’s so discreet and seamless that you eventually forget there’s any moving part. The same applies to selfies and video calls; once the app activates the mechanism, it’s like there’s nothing there.

Does its plastic body feel too cheap for the price?

For a smartphone that costs this much, you’d expect more glass than plastic here. For the V15 Pro, that’s not the case. Not that I’m against the use of plastic for the rear — in fact, it keeps the unit lighter for its big size — but I imagine the gorgeous color options looking better with the shimmer provided by glass.

Fortunately, the bundled case the V15 Pro comes with is one of the best I’ve seen in a retail box. The sides have extra resistance to them against bumps and drops, while the rest of the clear plastic doesn’t hide the radiant blue coating. This is one of the few instances wherein I wouldn’t replace the included case.

Can it handle games like a champ?

The phone’s Snapdragon 675 isn’t known to be a gaming-centric chip, but games these days aren’t demanding enough to require anything beyond a 600-series processor to enjoy smooth graphics. I’ve tried PUBG, Ragnarok M, and Asphalt 9 on the V15 Pro without a hitch. It helps that the unit I used has 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage, which are plenty by today’s standards.

It does get warm, however. Playing for 30 minutes straight made the phone warm near the camera area, but to be fair, this was while the bundled case was on and without cool air blowing by. I would definitely avoid charging with a powerbank while gaming.

How well do the cameras perform?

My teammates and I have always appreciated how Vivo could punch above its weight when it comes to camera performance. Even though Vivo rarely comes to mind when talking about mobile photography, its phones have a knack for producing impressive photos.

It helps that there’s an ultra-wide 8-megapixel camera to complement the 48-megapixel (woah!) main shooter and 5-megapixel depth sensor. As seen above, that extra coverage helps greatly with landscape shots. It noticeably lowers the image quality though, and I still prefer the downscaled 12MP output from the 48MP camera.

In general, both the rear and front cameras create straight-to-Instagram pictures in not-too-difficult lighting conditions. When it doubt, there’s a built-in night mode to improve exposure at night. The only complaint I’ve heard from those who’ve seen my V15 Pro photos is that the subject’s skin is too smooth even on the lowest setting, but that’s a Vivo thing that isn’t going away any time soon.

Can it last longer than a day?

A 3700mAh battery isn’t that hefty for a phone this size, providing a little less than six hours of screen-on time in a span of 1.5 days. Nothing fantastic, but when topped up with the included 18W fast charger, it takes only about two hours and 20 minutes to get to a hundred percent.

One way to conserve battery power is to turn the always-on info off while the phone’s on standby. I’m a fan of seeing the time and battery percentage at all times, so gaining an additional 20 minutes of screen-on time doesn’t justify the inconvenience for me.

What else is there to know?

Surprisingly, and I don’t understand why this is still happening, Vivo equipped the V15 Pro with a micro-USB port. Sure, the 3.5mm audio port is still there, but I’ve moved on to the far superior USB-C for every single one of my gadgets already. This is simply inconsiderate to consumers at this point.

I also find Vivo’s Funtouch OS (based on Android 9 Pie) becoming more cumbersome to use through time. It’s not getting worse in itself, but having come from the comforts of OnePlus’ OxygenOS and Samsung’s One UI, the confusing setting menus and gesture control feel like a step back.

With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that the V15 Pro is the most expensive V-series phone to date, retailing for INR 28,990 or roughly US$ 410 in India. That’s upper-midrange territory by most standards, edging closer to the likes of Xiaomi’s flagship Mi series and Honor’s assortment of high-performance handsets.

My recommendation is to consider the regular V15 before committing to the Pro variant. It offers the same pop-up camera goodness and an increased screen and battery size, but gives up a few features (the under-display sensor, AMOLED display, and Snapdragon 675 chip, to be specific) to lower the price to about US$ 345.

Hands-On

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We take a look at the new OPPO Find X2 Pro, tell you why we think it is important, and what this tells us about a future imagined by OPPO.

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