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Vivo V3, V3 Max Hands-On Review

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This week was one of many firsts. My first trip to India and my first formal introduction to smartphone brand Vivo, whose V3 and V3 Max smartphones marked their global debut here this week.

It’s by no mistake that these phones are unveiled in Mumbai, not New York, or London, or Beijing.

Packed with a pretty impressive feature set, specs to match, not-too-shabby looks, and sub-$300 and $400 price tags, respectively, the V3 and V3 Max are perfectly positioned for the price-sensitive but fiercely demanding Indian market. And for the rest of Southeast Asia where the phones are also slated to go on sale later this month.

The idea of a budget-friendly, premium smartphone isn’t necessarily a novel idea. Other manufacturers have built one before, but in the space, only a few have found success. To be fair, in a world where you get what you pay for, it isn’t easy to deliver a premium experience for less. But if that’s what these phones are intended to do, the Vivo V3 and V3 Max are solid efforts.

IN THIS CORNER

Like many high-end phones this year, both phones are fashioned from aluminum. The V3 Max is phablet-sized, 5.5 inches, and available in gold. Its little brother, the V3, is 5 inches, also available in gold. And because pink is the new black, rose gold also.

Apart from the size difference, everything else is aesthetically similar: white backside antenna bands; sides that are flat and angular; and a scratch-proof Gorilla Glass display that tapers off nicely on all corners. They’re not the best-looking phones we’ve seen this year, but they’re good enough to hold their own against the best of them.

The same can be said of their spec sheet. The V3 and V3 Max don’t come with the most high-end of specs, but you won’t feel like you’ve compromised either. The V3 Max, in particular, has the latest Snapdragon 652 processor and should have enough power to make even serious smartphone gamers happy. In the day I used it around Mumbai, it got the job done, and kept this demanding user satisfied.

FASTER THAN

Vivo claims its new phones are, “faster than faster.” And while someone should be fired over that silly slogan, the phones are indeed fast.

Camera startup time is under a second (0.7 seconds), and so is autofocus (0.2).

Battery charging times are fast, too. In our tests, it took just 80 minutes to get the V3 Max’s 3000mAh battery from 0 to 90 percent using the bundled charger.

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But the most impressive speed stat is clocked by the fingerprint scanner, probably the fastest we’ve seen on a smartphone to date. You tap on the sensor on the back of the phone and the screen instantly lights up in an unlocked state.

BETTER THAN

Vivo differentiates both phones from each other by making the bigger model better. The V3 Max has a more powerful processor, more memory, a higher-resolution display, and a bigger battery. It’s a shame actually, because the 5-inch rose gold V3 Max is a beauty. But unless you have a distaste for phablets, I’d spend extra for the V3 Max.

Both phones come with only 32GB storage, but if that’s not enough, there’s also a hybrid card slot where you can pop in a microSD card for up to 128GB more storage. That storage slot also doubles as a nano SIM slot, so if you don’t need the extra memory, you can have a dual-SIM phone.

I like that the other SIM slot takes micro SIMs, that way when I’m traveling I have a little more flexibility when choosing a local prepaid SIM card.

SAY CHEESE

Apart from giving the V3 and V3 Max snappy cameras, Vivo’s also made sure both phones have cameras that punch above their weight. I was pleasantly surprised with shots taken using the phone’s 13-megapixel main camera; HDR mode worked great, and if you want a little more control, there’s also full manual mode. Browse through our slideshow for sample photos. 

The 8-megapixel selfie camera wasn’t overlooked either. Focal length is wide enough to fit up to 4 people in a shot, but not too wide to cause any distortion. There’s also a host of beautification modes, including a set of makeup filters. Yep! One tap blush and/or gloss.

FUN TOUCH

Both phones run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. A bit disappointing considering the latest version of Android called Marshmallow has been available for months now.

Vivo’s custom take on Android is called FunTouch OS, a highly customizable, but toned down version of Android. The interface is clean and elegant, and in may ways closer to iOS. There is no app drawer, and like on the iPhone, you summon the tools menu (on iOS its called Command Center) by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. 

One tool of note is called S-Capture, that apart from screen recordings also allows you to capture extra long screenshots of web pages or chat transcripts. A similar feature is also available on the high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

Indian pricing for the Vivo V3 and V3 Max is Rs 17,980 (P12,500 or $270) and Rs 23,980 (P16,700 or $360), respectively.

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For the price of the V3 Max, you could get the Xiaomi Mi 5, which offers top-of-the-line specs and superior design. But that phone is only officially available in India and China via limited online channels. Also in that price range is the slightly older One Plus 2, if you can somehow manage to secure the invite needed to be eligible to purchase the phone. Crazy, I know!

When both phones hit retail stores in India and China on April 15th, and Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines Thailand, and Vietnam before the end of the month, Vivo will have a leg up over its competitors because you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy one, when you want one. If only the company adjusted pricing by $100 US, they’d make an even stronger case as one of the best mid-range phones today. 

Hands-On

ASUS ZenFone Max Plus Unboxing and Hands-On

Near-borderless with a large battery!

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It took a while, but we finally have ASUS’ first-ever near-borderless smartphone. And it’s not just a pretty face; it’s got a hefty battery and a pair of cameras at the back, too. Is there any more to the ZenFone Max Plus? Find out in our unboxing and hands-on video.

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ASUS ZenFone Max Plus Hands-on

ASUS’ first 18:9 near-borderless phone

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Phones with 18:9 displays became the norm last year, and it wasn’t a premium feature that’s exclusive to flagship devices. We’ve seen a few midrange near-borderless phones, and here’s another one from ASUS.

If you find the ASUS ZenFone Max Plus familiar, it’s because it’s virtually the same phone as the Pegasus 4S which was launched exclusively in China last November and landed in Russia shortly after.

Another factor that will make you think that you already saw the phone before is its identical design to its smaller sibling — the ZenFone 4 Max. Basically, the ZenFone Max Plus is a taller and more modern-looking variant of the ZenFone Max family.

What makes this phone modern is its 5.7-inch Full HD+ panel. This is ASUS’ first phone with an 18:9 display or Full View as ASUS calls it. While it’s not as edge-to-edge or borderless as premium phones, the taller display gives the phone a fresh trait among budget smartphones.

On the right are the physical keys of the phone: a long button for volume up/down and a shorter one for power/screen lock. Both have the concentric circle pattern for texture, but we wish the power button were more distinct.

At the bottom are the good old micro-USB port and symmetrical holes for the microphone and loudspeaker. Like its non-Plus sibling, ASUS opted not to bless the phone with the reversible and future-proofed USB-C port.

Up top are the 3.5mm headphone port and the noise-canceling microphone. It’s worth noting that the top and bottom portions of phone’s body are plastic to allow radios to pass through, while the main back panel is aluminum.

Thanks to its fantastic paint job, both materials blend well together as can be seen on the back. The phone has a dual-camera setup with an ultra wide-angle secondary camera. The phone’s fingerprint reader is also found on the back which is easily reachable by the index fingers.

Wide-angle dual-camera setup

The phone’s dual rear cameras are a combination of 16- and 8-megapixel shooters. The main shooter has an aperture of f/2.0 and shoots the usual photos like this one:

The secondary 8-megapixel camera is for taking action camera-like shots with its ultra wide-angle lens:

As with any wide-angle cameras, there’s a noticeable distortion or fish-eye effect from the camera, but that’s already expected.

To show the big difference between the main camera and wide-angle secondary camera, check out these photos:

As for selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel shooter accompanied by ASUS’ feature-rich camera app. It has multiple modes including, of course, “beauty” which boasts a number of beautification features.

There’s also portrait mode which applies an artificial bokeh effect. With a single front camera, the effect is somehow unimpressive.

We’ll be taking the phone for a full spin in the coming weeks. Check back soon for more sample shots from the dual wide-angle rear shooters and selfie camera.

Initial impressions

The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750T processor. Our model has 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage, but the configuration is region-dependent. Some countries have either 2GB or 3GB of memory and 16GB of storage. There’s a dedicated microSD card slot for additional storage along with two nano-SIM cards.

Android 7.0 Nougat runs on the phone with ZenUI 4.0 on top. We’re not yet sure if the phone will receive Android 8.0 since it’s not named as a member of the ZenFone 4 family, which ASUS promised would get Oreo.

As for the battery, it’s disappointing that it has a smaller 4130mAh cell versus the 5000mAh of the ZenFone 4 Max. But still, ASUS boasts long battery life and fast charging features. The phone can also act as a power bank for other devices through reverse charging with the use of a USB OTG cable. Full battery tests will appear in our review soon.

Official Philippine pricing is PhP 11,995 while in Malaysia is MYR 899.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ZenFone 4 gets Android 8.0 Oreo update

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OPPO F5 6GB Hands-On

It looks absolutely stunning in red!

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The highest-end model of the OPPO F5 family is here.

This is the OPPO F5 6GB. The 6GB RAM is great for gaming and multitasking. It also has 64GB of storage so you can take more photos and selfies!

Speaking of selfies, this one still has that AI Beauty mode. Plus, it’s available in stunning red. What an eye-catcher!

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