A smartphone with a camera that pops up, unlocks using an in-display fingerprint sensor and a large edge to edge-ish display that is untarnished by that incessant notch. Do we need it? Maybe not. But who cares if it’s needed, this is exactly why we want it!
Concept phones hardly ever make it into production due to the plethora of complications that arise when manufacturers try to cram the most cutting edge technologies into a package that can be produced economically in large quantities. Vivo has managed to make a concept into reality without many compromises with the Nex.
The Vivo Nex is undeniably a cool device but is it a good device? Well we are here to find out!
Design and Build
There is no getting around the fact that the Nex is a big phone. Using it with one hand is pretty much out of the question as with a normal grip your thumb reaches only about the halfway point of the screen. Using the Nex with two hands then is probably the best way to use the device unless you have Hagrid hands.
Having said that, the Nex holds its own when it comes to fit and finish. It's not the thinnest or lightest phone on the market but the curved back panel does a good job of masking its bulk and providing a secure grip. The Nex though does not do much with its design and build to stand out from the crowd and seems pretty standard.
Powering up the phone and using it reveals its uniqueness and that's where it leaves most of the competition in the dust! Having gotten used to the notch on most of the 2018 smartphones, it’s quite refreshing to see that bit of real estate giving the (almost) all screen front a clean look. The Nex does end up with a bit of a chin at the bottom but to be honest it’s hardly noticeable. Just using the device in a dimly lit environment captures the attention of people, the likes of which we have not experienced since the iPhone X. That just goes to show how interested people are in a bezel-less, notch-less device.
To be honest we can’t get enough of the mahoosive 6.59in display on the Nex. It’s big, it’s bright and exceptionally sharp. We can’t stress enough how brilliant it is to see a smartphone display get right to the edges and yet get rid of that pesky notch.
The SuperAMOLED 2316x1080 FHD+ display makes browsing the web, watching movies and playing games an immense pleasure where the large screen comes in handy. Let’s just say it will be quite difficult to move to a notchy device after getting used to the Nex.
Viewing pictures and videos on the display reveals how accurately the colours match and we really can’t stress how beautiful a thing it is to behold.
We tried a spot of reading on the Nex and we are glad to report that the sharp display along with the eye protection setting gets the device pretty damn close to an e-reader.
The display is one of the things the Nex has got spot on!
Performance & Battery
What kind of performance would you expect from a smartphone rocking 8GB of RAM and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset? Nothing short of blazing of course. Pack that kind of hardware into a device and you are sure to get brilliant performance. Unsurprisingly then, using the phone is a quick and hassle free ordeal with everything being as snappy as it can be.
It’s a love it or hate it kind of thing on the software front. Stock Android purists would probably not give Funtouch OS a second glance, but people who are a bit open minded about their software and like a bit of iOS with their Android may really enjoy the hybrid skin on the Nex.
Like most Vivo phones, the software takes the best from iOS and wraps it into a package that enhances the flexibility and customization capabilities of Android. Take the Control Center for example. Swiping from the bottom pulls up the Control Centre trey that houses the recently used apps and most frequently used settings like brightness, WiFi, mobile data, airplane mode and a plethora of other settings. Swiping from the bottom up to access these settings is certainly a smart addition considering how much of a stretch it would be to reach the notification bar like most Android phones.
Many such gems of convenience are scattered throughout the OS and we soon found it to be quite useful while navigating through the device, making life simpler and easier. It is, however, difficult to ignore the stupendous amount of bloatware on the device with multiple apps for pretty much everything. Resource-heavy games like PUBG are a peach to play on the most demanding graphic settings as the gameplay is as smooth as it can be and textures are rendered extremely well. The high graphic settings and large screen made it easy to spot enemies and winning ourselves some “Chicken Dinner”.
Gaming on the Nex is an addictive experience. It’s a good thing then that the device has a large 4000mAh battery with Dual-Engine Quick charge technology. The battery life on the device is quite admirable considering the large display and powerful processor. A full day of reasonably heavy use is easy if you lay off the graphic-intensive games. Reasonably heavy use would include making frequent calls, texting, Instagram, streaming music, watching Youtube, and the occasional (let's face it, it's not that occasional to be honest) camera usage. The battery chugs through and you are left with more than a comfortable amount of charge to spare at the end of the day.
One of the most interesting bits of the Nex is the pop-up selfie camera, an industry first innovation brought to us by a desire to get the display right up to the bleeding edges. It’s an extremely cool concept and we found ourselves activating the selfie mode just so see it pop up and hear the sci-fi sound it made. Oh, yes, you read that right folks, Vivo has synthesized three distinctive sounds to choose from when operating the selfie cam. Or you can switch off the artificial sounds altogether.
Now as cool as the pop up camera is and it is extremely enjoyable to show it off to your friends, we are here to find out how good a camera the Nex can be as we have already established it is quite the crowd pleaser.
The Nex, like all recent Vivo phones sticks to its usual formula of focusing most of its energies on providing one of the best selfie cams that work superbly in less than ideal conditions. Letting all that light in does make the background a bit over exposed but on the plus side it is one of the most flattering cameras for selfie addicts. On the down side, the front camera lacks the sheer sharpness of some phones that are more reasonably priced, but the Nex can take better shots in bad conditions, and we are comfortable trading sharp shots for more usability. After all you wouldn’t want to miss taking those night out shots with your peeps. The 8MP front camera gets a big thumbs up in our books.
Turn things around to the dual rear cameras and things really do turn around. Let’s get the flaw of the rear camera out of the way first. Human subjects turn out to be a bit underwhelming in terms of detail. We expected the dual rear camera to provide much more sharpness but the camera seems to fumble when it comes to finer detail. We should however mention that we are nit picking here and the flaws are only evident when we tried testing the Nex along with different smartphones in the same controlled conditions. In isolation then, the rear camera on the Vivo feels completely capable in this regard.
What the cameras seem to do remarkably well are landscape shots. It has an uncanny ability to photograph almost as well as one can see. Landscape shots with a whole lot of sky in it do not result in mistaken exposures, with layers in the clouds being clearly visible while having no loss or reduced exposure with buildings or shrubbery.
The Nex also offers a ton of options to choose while clicking pictures, like a thoroughly serious professional mode, very capable HDR mode, Live Photo, bokeh and the likes. Surprisingly, the Nex performed quite admirably with the bokeh modes in a decently lit up environment and accurately managed to distinguish the subject from the background. In low light, the mode did fumble a little which is absolutely acceptable making the Nex one of the better smartphones we have tried bokeh mode on.
To answer the question “Does the Vivo Nex make a good smartphone?” it is a resounding yes. But it is important to keep in mind that it is not a phone for everyone. As we mentioned earlier, stock Android effecianados will not like it at all with its iOS-esque software and tons of bloatware. It will also not appeal to people who crave extremely sharp and detail-rich images which only a handful of devices are capable of providing.
But for those who want something new and interesting, the Nex provides that in spades. No other device on the market provides three industry firsts in a single device. It is the only smartphone that has an in-display fingerprint sensor apart from its predecessor - the Vivo X21 - and it works just as well as it did there. It is one of the only devices that is almost completely bezel-free and gets rid of the notch completely, which we quite like. And lastly it has a pop-up selfie camera. These three things combined allows the Nex to just radiate a sense of cool and cutting-edge technology, making you feel like you are living in the future!
Yes, we were a bit worried about the longevity of that pop up camera and the accuracy of the in-Display fingerprint sensor but those worries are behind us after we have torture tested both. We tried everything with the pop up camera apart from dropping it while it was, well popped up, and everytime it worked obediently as if it were fresh out of the box. Of course a long term test would be required to see how well it worked after being subjected to the day-to-day struggles of an overworked tech journalist, but as it stands today we wouldn’t mind sticking with the Nex until Vivo comes up with “the Nex big thing”.