Vivo seems to be too aggressive in showing its research work recently. It’s not too long when the company showed a concept smartphone called APEX, that had no interruption on the screen but display from one edge to the other and from one corner to the other.

While such a phone is already in news to show off in coming months if the rumors to be believed, other major product from Vivo is its Under Display fingerprint scanner. Tagged with “UD” Vivo recently launched its X20 UD and X21 UD to feature that invisible fingerprint scanner under the display.

All that fancy work aside, Vivo is also focusing on selfie cameras when you look at their recent releases such as Vivo V9. With the price tag of PKR 38,000/- that phone gives unsurprisingly similar looks that are of an iPhone X when you first look at it. Then your attention goes directly at that notch on the top of the display and you say that it’s much smaller comparatively and actually looks good on that bright screen.

First thing first – the first impression of the Vivo V9 won’t let you down, especially the model with glossy back finish. Indeed Vivo V9 has an impressive display properties with most thin bezels around the screen. But what else does this phone has to offer from within, that’s what we’ll talk about here in this review.

Vivo V9 Review Display
Vivo V9 – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Why not first have a quick look over the features of Vivo V9? It comes with 6.3-inch large display in relatively smaller volume. With a dual-camera setup on the back and 24MP camera on the front, this phone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 Octa-core processor coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.

Vivo V9 – Features and Specifications

Announced March/April 2018
Software Android 8.1 Oreo
Funtouch OS 4.0
Dimension 154.81 x 75.03 x 7.89 mm
Weight 150 grams
Display 6.3-inch IPS LCD Display
2280×1080 Resolution.
19:9 Infinity Display
Pixel Density 400ppi
90% screen-to-body ratio
Chipset Snapdragon 626 (MSM8953-Pro)
CPU: 8x ARM Cortex A53 2.2GHz
GPU: Adreno 506
Modem: X9 LTE (300Mbps/150Mbps)
Memory 4GB RAM
64GB Internal Storage
External Memory up to 256GB
Camera Rear: 16MP+5MP PDAF, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash
Front: 24MP fixed focus, f/2.0 aperture, screen flash
Video: 4K/1080p/720p at 30fps
Battery 3260 mAh
Charging 5V-2A (No Fast Charging)
Network 4G/LTE, 3G, 2G
Connectivity Dual-SIM + dedicated MicroSD card
GPS, WiFi 2.4GHz/5GHz, Hotspot, USB 2.0 (microUSB)
Bluetooth 4.2,
Sensors Proximity Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
E-Compass
Gravity/Accelerometer Sensor
Gyroscope sensor
Fingerprint Sensor
Price PKR 37,999/- ~USD 330

Video Review

Positives and Negatives

  • Bright fullview display
  • Fast fingerprint / face unlock
  • Large and bright selfie camera
  • Dedicated micro SD card slot
  • LED notification light
  • Plastic build
  • Less friendly UI/UX
  • No Fast charging
  • No USB Type-C

Unboxing

Vivo V9 Unboxing
Vivo V9 Retail Package Content – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Vivo V9 comes in a simple white box with pop-out style. The retail box has pretty much everything you usually get with a new smartphone but it brings some more things such as a back cover and a screen protective film already applied on the phone.

  • The device: Vivo V9
  • Stereo earphones
  • Micro USB cable
  • Travel charger (5V-2A)
  • User guide and manual
  • Transparent silicone back cover
  • Screen protective film (pre-applied)

The Notched Display

Vivo might be in the smartphone game lately but it is catching up with many grounders out there. The company has introduced unique set of technologies in is smartphones. Most prominent is its under display fingerprint scanner, yet it’s in process of bringing innovations to its products – one such example is Vivo APEX. Vivo V9, while doesn’t have any kind of intriguing technology, has something that can attract customers easily especially in such a price range – its display.

Vivo V9 boasts with a 6.3-inch large screen with FHD+ resolution of 2280×1080 on 19:9 aspect ratio – that’s even wider than most recently-common 18:9 aspect ratio. The pixel density of ~400ppi looks impressive on display that is 90% of the front body with thinnest bezels from the company. It’s not APEX-like fully bezel-less display, but features a notch on top of the display that hosts proximity and ambient light sensors, a front-facing camera, a notification LED light and of course an earpiece.

Vivo V9 Display Notch
Vivo V9, display notch with front-camera, earpiece and proximity/ambient light sensor – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

While many on the web referred Vivo V9 having been inspired from iPhone X, they might have forgotten the Essential Phone which was the first one to have that notch. In fact it had even smaller notch; I thought iPhone X was the phone that was inspired from Essential smartphone. But that’s also true that people see what reaches widely. Things with lesser reach become less important but still if something to get the-first label, it should be Essential.

Continuing with Vivo V9’s display, it doesn’t feature an AMOLED display which would have been even more impressive. However, the IPS display on this phone is also not bad at all – it’s really bright indoors and nicely visible outdoors. That fullview screen indeed is stunning on this mid-ranger that won’t let anyone overlook it.

Design and Build

The 2.5D curved glass is a standard in current age of smartphones which keeps its place in Vivo V9. The company has not mentioned anything about scratch resistance but after having it used for a month, I can tell the has resistance of the level of a Gorilla Glass. Still I can’t tell about the version.

Vivo V9
Vivo V9, 2.5D curved glass with minimal bezels – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

It’s worth noting here that the phone comes with a protective film pre-applied. You can leave it on or remove it as you prefer. The glass also seems to have oleophobic coating for less prone to fingerprint smudges.

Even though the phone has fully thin bezels around the left-top-right edges, the bottom portion still has some space left. It’s just blank, while there is no capacitive keys for navigation and the on-screen navigation is present to serve the purpose. That’s the most suitable thing to do with a near-bezel-less phone.

Vivo V9 Hands-on Display
Vivo V9 hands-on, full-view – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

If talking about the components and ports, the phone comes with probably everything you’d see on a smartphone.

Components and Ports

Vivo V9 is dual-SIM phone, but unlike a hybrid slot that most smartphones have to offer for a microSD card employment, the phone offers a dedicated compartment for the memory expansion slot. The slot is on the left side of the phone that you can extract with an eject tool provided in the retail box.

Vivo V9, SIM/microSD card slot exploded – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Power button and the volume buttons are on the right side of the phone, however everything else is on the bottom – the microUSB port, a loudspeaker and a 3.5mm audio jack along with a mouthpiece. There is nothing on the top though. Also there is no mention of a secondary microphone for noise cancellation.

Vivo V9, Power/Volume buttons, speaker, micro USB port, audio jack and microphone – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Seriously, I would have preferred a USB-C connectivity for a price tag of this smartphone. Wonder why these Chinese smartphone makers hesitate of offering some reliable connectivity mediums. OPPO F7 also comes with the microUSB, however Huawei P20 lite offers the USB Type-C port in similar price tag.

Vivo V9 Review - Glossy Back Panel
Vivo V9, Glossy back panel – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Coming to the back side of the phone, the model we got has black glossy finish. There’s another thing that it’s a plastic body wrapping the phone from one edge to the other. Though the feel is extremely acceptable as it’s polished really well. Those shiny reflections are totally close to a mirror effect. But one downside remains – it’s magnet to your fingerprints. Well, add another flaw, this plastic will eventually catch scratches. So you better use a protective case if you prefer to have it clean instead of having a nice feel of handling.

The bottom portion of the panel prints “Designed by vivo” enclosed into lying dots. The “vivo” branding is little above the mid point. Then above the branding, there is the fingerprint scanner. The dual-camera camera is hosted in vertical module with an LED flash below it.

Vivo V9 Dual-Camera and Fingerprint Scanner
Vivo V9 – Dual-Camera, LED flash and rear-mounted fingerprint scanner – photo by KA/Tech Prolonged

Keeping the handful of flaws on one hand, there are things that are commendable. The device weighs much lighter than it looks – sure the plastic build has its pros. Handling of the phone is quite acceptable, though buttons on the right hand are in a good reach but they are slightly down to spot.

Software and User Interface

The Vivo V9 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box along with Funtouch OS 4.0 on top of that. The good thing is that Vivo is actively shipping updates and patches to the phone. At the time of writing the phone is running Android 8.1 build with May security patch. Funtouch OS on the other hand is skipping some prominent features from Android Oreo – such as notification dots, smart text selection. Some of those features are present, like picture in picture mode.

Vivo V9 Software UI

That’s actually where I’d say the best iOS interface on an Android phone. The user interface on Vivo V9 gives you an iOS feel in most scenarios throughout the navigation of the system. The very first glimpse of such a similarity between the two is when you have to swipe upwards from the bottom edge to pull up a control center with a row of frequent apps icons, the brightness and media volume controller, and the quick switches/toggles. The same way, notifications are brought down from the top edge. You may feel uncomfortable with it at first but yout get used to it.

Most importantly, Vivo has used the wider display very well and managed to keep things in line without sparing those shoulders around the notch. Thanks to the shorter notch, Vivo V9 has more space to use for maximum information. It shows system status icons such as battery, reminder, 2G/3G/4G, WiFi, Bluetooth etc on the right side. The left side shows network connectivity signals or time with the notification app icons.

There is no app drawer and the home screen is not really customizable. You can just change wallpaper or add widgets. The shortcut switches can be rearranged right from the control center.

Vivo V9 offers splitscreen that can be activated with three-finger gesture. However the feature only supports a limited set of apps. Once activated from a compatible app, it shifts the app in one half and the other half lists the icons of other compatible apps only.

Floating icons are also supported when you are in full-screen mode such as watching a video or playing a game. Any app that supports notifications and is compatible with split screen, its icon will appear and float on to the video playback or game play.

When enabled for a certain app, Picture in Picture will automatically activate when you minimize a compatible app that is showing some continuous content – such as a video playback or GPS navigation.

Though YouTube appears in most smartphones’s PIP mode but it only works if YouTube Red is activated.

Even interesting part is that, in addition to standard Android navigation, Vivo V9 offers gesture based navigation too. Those gestures are exactly we have seen in iPhone X but the good thing is that it’s flawless. It’s easy to understand and keep in mind just like shown in the screens below.

Vivo V9 also has gesture recognition that allows you to open apps by drawing letters when the screen is off. There are a bunch of other smart helping features – Smart Motion. Air operation uses the proximity sensor and allows you to bring up screen glance by waving wave your hand over the display. If screen lock is not password protected, it will unlock the screen if you wave over the lit screen. There is double-tap to wake and turn off the display, raise to wake, and Smart keep bright to keep the display on when you are looking at it.

There are also some more interesting gestures such as Smart low volume – it keeps the volume of incoming call alerts, messages, alarms, or timers, when you are facing the phone. Smrt remind prompts you with missed calls and unread message notifications when you pick up your phone. Smart call is even interesting that when you are in a contact detail, call details, or message thread, you can put the phone closer to your ear to initiate a call. Likewise, it supports smart answer, or smart switch that toggles between hands-free and loud speaker.

Though the most of the user interface has been adopted from the Apple’s mobile OS, I don’t care so much about it as it serves the purpose like any other Android smartphone. What made me angry about it, is the navigation between apps and their settings – something that I always hated about iOS.

Vivo V9 Software UI

The native apps and their settings have no direct link, so you could navigate to the settings of a certain application right from within that app. You have put down the app, go to phone’s settings, choose the app and review the settings.

Then, there’s another speed breaker, the options in settings are cluttered enough to make you lost finding something, that too without a search bar on top of the settings. However, to search for something you can go to home screen, perform a swipe-down gesture on the screen to reveal a search box – now thankfully, it’s the global search that looks for the term from the whole system, whether it’s an app, a contact, a text message or a settings element.

Vivo V9 Performance and Battery life

During one month of our deep test drive with Vivo V9 it mostly impressed us with its performance. It didn’t lag in pretty heavy tasks, multitasking. The transitions were smooth and gesture input was never delayed in response. Day to day primary usage is not objectionable – whether it be calling, texting, surfing internet, social media apps, GPS navigation, video playback, web browsing etc.

Vivo V9 Camera

Most graphics-hefty tasks or games were also handled well. It will be better to name the titles which were pretty much fine to play on Vivo V9 – Modern Combat 5, Mortal Kombat X, NFS No Limit, Tekken. Adreno 506 GPU seems to perform moderately as well as temperature never felt to be out of order.

There were times when it felt like sleeping somewhere specially the fingerprint scanner didn’t wake the screen up at occasions. However in most cases it worked like a charm. In addition to fingerprint unlock, the face unlock is also featured in this phone and it’s something which indeed worth mentioning. It’s as fast as it unlocks the screen within a milliseconds.

While the fingerprint scanner is usable in all dry environment, the face unlock won’t work fast in dark. However Vivo has does use ambient light sensor to detect low light condition and activates the bright face unlock interface on the screen when you wake the phone.

Vivo V9 Review Pakistan

However the processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 is a bit old and less powered. For the price tag, Vivo V9 should better have the likes of Snapdragon 636 or at least 630.

If you believe more in benchmark scores, then check following. Also note that OPPO F7 was caught manipulating scores for benchmark tools. So do not consider it legit in this list.

3D Mark Slingshot Extreme (OpenGL ES 3.1)

Vivo V9 - 3D MARK

AnTuTu v7

Vivo V9 - AnTuTu

Geekbench 4 (Multi-core)

Vivo V9 - Geekbench Multi-core

Geekbench 4 (Single-core)

Vivo V9 - Geekbench Single-core

Battery Performance

Oh then the battery life – it’s 3260 mAh, which seems to be large enough to support longer but it hardly will give you a day for pretty much standard usage. That is calling, texting, surfing internet, social networking. Add some video playback and gaming, it may end up even earlier. Camera usage and a little GPS navigation will drop it even further down as you might need to plug in the phone by the evening.

Vivo V9 Review Software OREO

Thanks that the phone offers two level battery saving modes. The “Low power mode”, when activated, lowers the frequency of both the CPU and GPU as well as reduces the screen brightness. It also disables some connectivity features like Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS and haptic feedback, lock on the portrait mode. “Super power-saving”, on the other hand, disables most of the smart features and leaves you with only a few features – contacts, phone, messages, and clock.

And hold-on, Vivo V9 does not support fast charging and won’t give you any urgent fill-up in a few minutes. However a 0-100 charge will take around 2.5 hours.

Camera

Now that’s the highlight of Vivo V9 – wait, not the dual-camera on the back but the front facing camera is what Vivo focused on when marketed the phone. So if you were thinking that the full-view display of this phone was the key element, then sure you were mistaken.

Vivo V9 Camera UI

Vivo V9 comes with dual-camera setup as main camera with a 16-megapixel primary unit coupled with a 5-megapixel secondary camera for depth mapping. The main camera has a phase-detect autofocus image sensor and features f/2.0 lens aperture along with an LED flash. The front camera of this phone is large with 24 megapixel sensor. It’s a fixed focus camera also with f/2.0 lens aperture but with screen flash.

Vivo V9 features enough healthy user interface for camera. The main viewfinder comes with quick modes in a slider – Doc, Professional, Panorama, Face Beauty, Take Photo, Video, and AR Stickers. The face beauty comes with those most common levels of beautification from 1 to 6. The phone supports portrait mode that allows you to take shots with blurred background (that’s bokeh effect) can be activated in “Take Photo”

The professional mode allows you to override camera settings to take shots according to your own mind. It allows you to play with exposure time (1/2000th to 16s), ISO sensitivity (100 to 3200), white balance (6 presets), manual focus (macro to infinity).

The front camera is fixed focus but you can tap an area on the viewfinder to adjust the exposure in the frame rather than to focus an object. Then you can move the slider up and down to increase or decrease the exposure.

Rear Camera

The 16MP camera on the back paired with a 5MP camera works really well in bright conditions. It’s produces colors very accurately – well balanced saturation comes out of the images with nice vibrance and contrast. Dynamic range is not bad as the clipping occurs only in high contrast scenes with very unequal amount of range.

Vivo V9 Rear Camera – Daylight

The photos taken in bright sunlight brought impressive image detail with well controlled noise. But that’s not case in low-light shots. Images start showing noise and losing detail while leaving you with soft images.

Vivo V9 Rear Camera – Low Light

Put the image quality apart, there are some cool features which are worth mentioning. The portrait mode allows you to take shots with blurred background. You might have an idea about that now as that’s something smartphone cameras have been adding simulated “bokeh” effect. The feature works fine as long as the subject is within a meter or so. Away than that, the camera will struggle to bring out a nicely looking shot with background blur.

Vivo V9 Rear Camera – Portrait Mode
Vivo V9 Rear Camera – Flash On

Front camera

The front camera actually produces quality photos (or selfies, as you call it). To a surprising level, it gets plenty of light and gives you a colorfully vibrant photograph. Image detail is also impressive in bright light. I can tell that Vivo has rightly advertised the phone for its selfie camera as this camera produces selfies that you will love.

Vivo V9 Front Camera – Normal Photos

When using the front camera, there is group selfie mode and AR stickers. You can turn on Gender detection that works with beauty mode to get less aggressive in cleaning your face if you are a boy – that’s a good thing, no? The beautification ranges from 1 to 6 level with an added “AI beauty” which seems to work better.

AR stickers, though I don’t use it eagerly, but they are fun to use for those who love taking selfies with artificial frames and stickers around and on their faces. There are tens of stickers that you may like sharing with friends.

Vivo V9 Front Camera – AR Stickers
Vivo V9 Front Camera – Portrait Mode

Video Recording

Vivo V9 is capable of recording 4K videos at 30 fps. 1080p and 720p are also limited to 30 fps. As well, you won’t have option to adjust other settings such as stabilization in videos. You’ll only have a switch to change resolution between these three. The camera suggests that 1 minute video will take about 300MB with 4K, 125MB with 1080p, and 64MB with 720p resolutions. Front camera also supports the same resolutions with same file sizes.

Quality wise, the footage is not that impressive – especially the focus is just out of order. It really didn’t know where to keep focus. It even didn’t struggle to refocus while recording.

Time-lapse recording supports all the three resolutions but suffer the same focus problem. Slow-motion recording, on the other hand, is limited to VGA resolution only with unusable image quality.

Verdict

This mid-range smartphone from Vivo, where has beautiful and sharp display, compelling selfie camera and a moderately good dual rear camera for day to day usage, it loses the score at its battery backup and the full plastic body.

Vivo V9 Featured

Performance wise, the phone didn’t misbehave but still when you look at the price, the phone must have performed better than that. My take on the price tag is still the same – I really believe Vivo might want to cut the price down to around 32,000. I know the company has also launched a stripped-down model of V9 by the name of V9 youth on that price – well then, they should consider cutting its price down too.

When you talk about that gorgeous display, OPPO F7 and Huawei P20 lite gives you exactly the same thing on the front. F7 is also plastic but gives a better processor while Vivo V9 has a dual-camera on the back. Still you can’t believe OPPO F7’s performance as it was allegedly caught manipulating benchmark scores. On the other hand P20 lite offers already less price for pretty much similar features plus fast charging. P20 lite was lower in performing with benchmark tools above comparatively. So I can’t say about F7 or P20 lite until I try those, so I can’t recommend these two over Vivo V9.

If Vivo drops V9’s price in time, it’s worth buying. That’s said.

Gallery

Vivo V9 Review
Display 85%
Build and Design 70%
Rear Camera 70%
Front Camera 75%
Performance 70%
Battery 70%
Summary
Vivo V9 has a gorgeous display with minimal bezels. Dual-camera on the back is good but selfie camera is impressive.
73 %
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