Successors should be better than their predecessors and the Vivo V9 improves in a lot of aspects compared to the V7+. The V9 comes with a bigger display, faster processor, dual cameras, and a new body. But how much better is the V9 as a successor and as a new phone in the midrange market?
The phone looks gorgeous thanks to its 6.3-inch bezel-less display
A notch is needed to make the display more immersive
The buttons for volume and power are on the right side
While on the left is the triple-card tray
It still uses a micro-USB port for charging
The back is glossy plastic and houses the dual cameras and fingerprint reader
The display makes all the difference
The first thing you’ll notice about the V9 is its display. It looks like an iPhone X and most, if not all, upcoming Android smartphones will look like this. Anyone unfamiliar with the notched display trend will mistake the new Vivo phone as the latest iPhone. The crowning glory of the V9 is its 6.3-inch screen and improved 400ppi resolution. It’s sharper than the V7 and is on par with all midrange phones — even flagships.
Thanks to the bezel-less display, the V9 doesn’t feel as large as it looks but we’re not digging its overall design. The front is definitely a treat, although we need to talk about the back. From cold aluminum, the rear is now glossy and feels plasticky. It’s a fingerprint magnet, smudges easily, and will definitely get scratches after a week of use and abuse. Vivo threw in a soft protective case in the box but doesn’t make the phone feel any more premium.
Just a slight performance upgrade from the V7+
When the V7+ launched six months ago, people were skeptical about its processor which is a Snapdragon 450. Bashers were quick to judge about the position of the Snapdragon 450 in the chain but little did they know that it’s in the same league as the popular Snapdragon 625. With the V9, Vivo went back with the Snapdragon 600 series using the new Snapdragon 626 processor which is also found on the Moto Z2 Play.
The impact of the upgrade to the phone’s performance is pretty minimal since it’s just slightly faster. The V9 operates smoothly with no lag whatsoever during our time with the phone. With the generous 4GB of memory, there’s room for multiple apps to run at the same time which means you can switch between them easily. Browse Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram simultaneously and there’s still enough memory left for games that you can just pause and get back to whenever you want.
Thankfully, it has Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box but still skinned with Funtouch OS 4.0. Vivo’s customization is far from the usual look of Android and it’s more like iOS. This is also one of the reasons why the V9 looks very much like an iPhone X.
There are now dual rear cameras, finally
The V9 is the first model in the V series of Vivo to have dual rear cameras. There’s a main 16-megapixel sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor on board the V9. Unlike with premium dual-camera phones though, the additional sensor of the V9 is merely for depth-sensing to enable certain effects like bokeh and portrait mode — no optical zoom, no dramatic monochrome shots. Also, 4K recording is now possible.
Here are some samples:
The V9 has a 24-megapixel front camera making it another selfie-centric phone and AI is now available on the V9 as well, at least for selfies. There are different levels of beauty modes depending on your preference or you can let AI do the work for you.
AR stickers have found their way to Vivo but they’re not the same as Samsung’s AR Emoji and Apple’s Animoji. They’re more like Snapchat or Instagram Story filters. No worries, they’re still fun to use when you feel quirky.
So far, the V9’s cameras shoot great photos. The quality may not be the same as those from flagship phones, especially in low-light, but they’re above average. We’ll shoot more photos for the review.
Initial impression is good
With our few days with the V9, we can say that this could be Vivo’s best midrange offering yet. We’ll reserve our final thoughts in our full review but so far, so good.
That’s it for now. We’ll take the V9 for a full spin in the coming days to give you more insights about Vivo’s new phone. Is there anything specific you’d like to know about the V9? Hit the comments section below and we’ll include them in the review.
OPPO A3s hands-on: A budget champion
Let’s consider this as an F7 Lite
The focus in today’s smartphone market is on the midrange segment. However, the budget category is also a strong market, especially for developing countries or for people who are looking for a no-frills phone.
Here we have the OPPO A3s, a competitively priced phone that keeps things in balance to give great value for your money.
It’s got a 6.2-inch HD+ display with a pretty wide notch
The notch houses the selfie camera, earpiece, and sensors
To the left are the volume buttons and card tray
In true OPPO fashion, it’s got three card slots
The right side only has the power key
The bottom is pretty busy with the speaker and micro-USB port
The back is pretty plain with just the rear cameras
Looks and performs like an F7 Lite
With the F9’s waterdrop notch already becoming popular, a wide notch feels quite like an outdated design. But for a budget phone, it’s something we should accept. Actually, it got a similar design to the F7’s which was released earlier this year.
The phone’s 6-inch display is an IPS LCD panel with a modest HD+ resolution and 19:9 aspect ratio. The screen’s quality is on par with more expensive models, minus the pixel density due to the lower resolution. But when it comes to color reproduction and viewing angles, there’s nothing to complain about.
With the latest ColorOS 5.1 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo, the user interface of the A3s is the same as with the F9 and even the more expensive Find X. It looks a lot like iOS, as always, with a hint of Android Oreo. I still have some issues with it though, like the difficulty of dismissing notifications.
As for the overall design of the phone, it’s mostly polycarbonate but it’s of high quality. It might feel plasticky on the hand, but there are no creaks or loose parts to worry about.
The plain back of the A3s might appeal to buyers who don’t want flashy patterns and fancy gradients. You can put on a case, since the design of the rear doesn’t really matter. Speaking of, there’s a transparent jelly case included in the retail package.
Specs-wise, it’s quite tricky to recommend the A3s for those looking to have a powerful midranger. Why? It has a Snapdragon 450 processor with 2GB of memory and 16GB of expandable storage. The processor is more than capable for games, apps, and everyday use, although the low 2GB of memory and limited 16GB storage are bottlenecks.
I tried to fill up the phone with graphics-intensive titles which take more than a gigabyte. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any issue with graphics performance as long as they were set to default. But, I did encounter a low memory warning after downloading a few heavy games.
Lastly, inside the A3s is a big battery. OPPO didn’t skimp on the capacity at 4230mAh. Expect the phone to last for up to two days of regular use. What’s missing, though, is a fast charger inside the box.
Equipped with decent shooters
Despite being a budget phone, the A3s still has similar features from higher-end OPPO phones like dual rear cameras. Equipped with 13- and 2-megapixel sensors at the back, the A3s can take decent photos with a good amount of details. The dynamic range is a bit lacking, but it’s nothing that photo editing apps can’t fix.
When it comes to selfies, the 8-megapixel front camera still lives up to the OPPO standards of self-portraits. It features AI-powered beautification which you can always turn on if you feel like taking a fresh-looking image of yourself.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
If you’re looking for a decent budget phone, then go for the OPPO A3s. Its fast processor and huge battery capacity are already great selling factors. While its memory and storage capacity might turn off some, the budget-conscious should still see its great value.
The OPPO A3s is priced at PhP 6,990 in the Philippines and INR 10,990 in India. There’s also a better variant with 3GB of memory and 32GB of storage which you should get if you can — it’s priced at PhP 9,990.
OPPO F9: All about that notch
Is this notch more forgivable?
In our OPPO F9 hands-on, we go through everything that’s changed, such as VOOC charging and dual cameras coming to the F series. And just when you thought the notch is dead, OPPO is bringing it back two months after the release of its futuristic bezel-less smartphone.
Fortunately, it looks very different from what we’re used to! Is this notch more forgivable?
ZTE Nubia Red Magic hands-on: A stylish gaming phone
One look and you know it’s a gaming phone
Not all smartphone manufacturers create a gaming phone. Technically, flagship smartphones with top specs are ideal for gaming but they lack the appeal and design. When Razer announced their own phone, it was true to its Razer branding but lacked the RGB lighting we’ve known from PC gaming peripherals.
I spent a few days with the Red Magic and here’s my hands-on.
It looks like a true gaming smartphone
The Red Magic practically screams “extreme gamer” due to its sharp, hexagonal cutouts, red vents and details, and the glowing LED strip on the back.
However, it’s still your usual premium Android device with a 6-inch Full HD+ display. It’s got an 18:9 aspect ratio and, thankfully, there’s no notch that’ll get in the way when playing games.
The top and bottom bezels are not as thin as the Galaxy S9’s, so there’s still some room for your thumb on the side when holding the phone in landscape with two hands.
Overall, the phone feels really solid thanks to its aluminum unibody, but to make things a bit special and more gaming-focused, the back of Red Magic is a bit curved making it comfortable in my hands.
On the side, it has what they call the “Compete Button” which reminds me of the alert slider on OnePlus’ phones. Instead of shushing notification sounds though, Red Magic’s slider puts the phone in tip-top performance. This is useful when you’re about to play a game.
The Compete Button not only improves the phone’s performance, but it also triggers some settings like blocking app notifications to avoid unnecessary pop-ups while playing. You can also set it to block the virtual navigation button from showing up accidentally.
Most importantly, the Compete Button activates the RGB LED strip at the back. It’s a visual cue showing that the Red Magic is ready to take on the challenge. The LED strip has four preset effects: Skyline, Rainbow Ribbon, Laserwave, and Voice Controlled.
It’s fun to play around with the effects, but my personal favorite is the Voice Controlled option. Well, it’s not exactly based on your own voice but rather with the audio of the game you’re playing.
The light strip also acts as notification light if you wish. Just be sure to lay the phone flat on a table so you won’t miss it.
The rear of the phone is quite intriguing but also distinct. There are four red lines on the corners which I first thought are all speakers. But, only one of them is the actual loudspeaker and it’s the one at the lower left. Even though it’s a mono back-firing speaker, it’s loud and has good bass.
When it comes to power, the Red Magic is not lacking but it could have had a better processor. The phone sports last year’s Snapdragon 835 processor which is a step down compared to this year’s flagship phones. At least it’s paired with 8GB of memory and 128GB of internal storage.
The Snapdragon 835 is still a capable processor with the Adreno 540 GPU. I managed to play a number of games on the Red Magic, and the device was able to handle them like magic. PUBG ran smoothly with the highest settings and the new Asphalt 9: Legends was flawless and stunning on the screen.
The Red Magic was even the best-performing Snapdragon 835-powered phone on AnTuTu’s list. It managed to be in the top ten of the most powerful Android phones last June which is dominated by phones with Snapdragon 845 processor.
Does it have good cameras?
A gaming phone still needs cameras. There’s a 24-megapixel f/1.7 rear shooter which takes good-looking photos. Thanks to the large aperture of the camera’s lens, it can take great photos even in low-light.
Here are some samples:
It might not be the best camera phone around, but that’s not the focus of the Red Magic. It lacks a secondary sensor for bokeh or other effects, but the camera launcher has a couple of modes you can play with including manual shooting. For selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front-facing camera with an f/2.0 aperture.
Is this you GadgetMatch?
Hard to tell if the phone will impress mobile gaming enthusiasts out there, but the design of Nubia Red Magic is certainly a head-turner. The red accents might be too common in the world of gaming, but the unique RGB LED strip at the back sure gives its own persona.
The Nubia Red Magic is available in China starting at CNY 2,499 for the base variant with 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage. The high-end version I have here with 8GB of memory and 128GB storage is priced at CNY 2,999. In the US, it’s priced at US$ 399 through Indigogo but the funding project is already closed.
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