When Vivo launched the V9, there wasn’t much talk about its front camera, as is usually the case with most Vivo smartphones. Instead, this time all eyes were on its Apple iPhone X-inspired design, and the full-screen display with the notch at the top. But is the Vivo V9 only about the notch, or is there more to the Rs 22,990 smartphone? Having used the device for quite some time, here’s my review.
Vivo V9 Design
The Vivo V9 looks like the iPhone X. Despite the bold ‘Designed by Vivo’ logo at the back, there is no hiding where the Vivo designers took inspiration from. The front is dominated by the display, which is clearly among its highlights. While it is touted as a full-screen display, the screen only stretches to the edges on three sides. At the bottom is a slim strip of non-screen space, which is something that no Android phone has succeeded in doing away with yet.
The power button and the volume rocker are placed on the right, while the SIM and microSD card tray is placed on the left. The top edge is completely devoid of any ports. The bottom edge houses the speaker grille, 3.5mm audio jack, and a micro-USB port. The choice of port is a bit surprising here, especially since smartphones much cheaper than the V9 these days also come with USB Type-C ports.
At the back of the smartphone is a vertically aligned dual-camera setup that is slightly protruding. But Vivo has put a metal rim around it to keep the lenses from getting scratched. The LED flash is placed directly below the camera module. The fingerprint sensor is placed at the center of the back panel.
When you take the Vivo V9 out of the box, you expect it to boast a premium quality aluminum body. But the device deceptively uses a plastic body, which Vivo touts as premium grade. I’ll admit the smartphone doesn’t really look or feel cheap. But a sub-Rs 25,000 smartphone with a plastic body is something that takes a bit of getting used to.
The glossy finish no doubt looks nice, but it is a fingerprint and grime magnet. You will end up having to constantly wipe the device clean with a piece of cloth to maintain that premium look. Alternatively, you can use the transparent case that is bundled in the box.
Vivo V9 Display
The Vivo V9’s full screen display is what predominantly makes it a sub-Rs 25,000 device. In one word, it is gorgeous. The smartphone flaunts a 6.3-inch IPS display with full HD+ (2280×1080 pixels) resolution, and a tall 19:9 aspect ratio.
The idea of a full screen display is to use the maximum space available on a smartphone without having to really increase the form factor. This is why, despite a 6.3-inch display, the Vivo V9 doesn’t really feel huge. In fact, it is easy enough to use with one hand – even for someone with average-sized palms. The display is bright with good viewing angles, color reproduction, and text looks sharp too. My only complain though is when outdoors, the display is suddenly not bright enough, and looks downright dull.
But the display really comes into its own when watching videos. This is where we have to get back to the notch though. While on paper you get a full screen display, there is the notch that you have to live with.
The Vivo V9 offers two options for users – Safe Area Display or Full Screen. By default, all apps are set to open with the first option. In this mode, you will have to live with black borders on the right and left sides. When you choose the second option, all apps open in the 19:9 aspect ratio. As you can see in the above photos, the notch here really feels like an unnecessary intrusion.
Vivo V9 Software
The inspiration from Apple iPhone X goes beyond the hardware design. Even the UI looks heavily inspired from iOS. The Vivo V9 runs Android 8.1 Oreo out-of-the-box wrapped under Funtouch OS 4.0 UI. While older Vivo smartphones too have sported iOS-like UI, this time around the company has taken things a step further. The V9 gets iPhone X-like gestures too.
You can swipe up from the bottom to open up an iOS-like control center. One can also choose to disable the on-screen navigation buttons completely to enable gesture controls. Some of these gestures include swiping up from the bottom to jump to the home screen, and swipe up and hold to open the app switcher.
The overall UI is quite smooth, and I didn’t come across any major lags or stutters. Apart from the myriad of features, the Vivo V9 also comes pre-installed with apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Flipkart, Amazon, Prime Video, UC Browser, NewsPoint, and WPS Office preinstalled. Thankfully, all these apps can be uninstalled.
For security, you can choose between the standard method of using a passcode or PIN, the fingerprint sensor, or face unlock. As the name suggests, you will be able to unlock the smartphone by simply looking at it. The feature works well as long as there is enough light around, but it isn’t the fastest around. The likes of the OnePlus 5T and iPhone X unlock faster under the same conditions. The feature on the V9 also struggles in low-light conditions, and in such scenarios, it is best to opt for the fingerprint sensor.
Vivo V9 Performance
While Vivo has clearly focused on the overall look and feel of the V9, the same can’t be said about the internals. The smartphone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 octa-core SoC clocked at 2.2GHz, and paired with 4GB of RAM. While there are no real issues with the smartphone’s performance, the Snapdragon 626 chipset is a tad old. The device is able to handle multitasking with ease, and gesture navigations too are quite smooth. Most graphic-heavy games too are handled with relative ease.
The smartphone comes with 64GB internal storage, and one can use a microSD card to expand it up to 256GB. There are dedicated slots for two nano SIM cards, and a microSD card. There is support for VoLTE, but only one SIM can access 4G network at a time, while the other is restricted to 3G.
Watch: Oppo F7 Vs Vivo V9: Specifications compared
The V9 is backed by a 3,260mAh battery, which seems good on paper. But in truth, the battery is only good enough to last a day. In essence, you will have to plug in the device towards the end of the day. My usage included constantly buzzing WhatsApp, Slack, and two email accounts. There was also a bit of gaming, and watching an episode of a TV show on the commute back home.
Vivo V9 Cameras
As always, among the highlights of the Vivo smartphone is its front camera. There’s a 24-megapixel front camera along with an AI-assisted beautify mode, which can automatically enhance your selfies. The overall quality of selfies is quite good, and the camera manages to capture plenty of details. The camera also gets modes like group selfies, videos, and AR Stickers.
At the back is dual-camera setup that includes a 16-megapixel primary sensor, and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor that maps depth. Camera modes include professional (where you can manually control different camera settings), Panorama, Face Beauty, Videos, and AR Stickers. There are also toggles for portrait, and live photo modes.
Unlike the front camera though, the primary cameras are a mixed bag of sorts. When the lighting is good, the cameras are able to capture photos with quite a bit of details. But things start to take a downturn when the lighting is less than favorable. Photos clicked in these conditions are relatively low on details, and the camera sometimes struggles to focus on subjects. The bokeh mode too isn’t helpful when lighting is less than optimal.
The Vivo V9 offers quite a bit for its Rs 22,990 price tag. It is a beautiful looking device worth showing off, and it comes with decent hardware, and plenty of software customizations. It is an ideal alternative for those looking to own an Apple iPhone X without breaking the bank. But for those looking at more value for money propositions, there are devices like the Moto X4 or the tad more expensive options like the Nokia 8, and Honor View10.
At this price, there’s also the newly launched Nokia 7 Plus to consider, which while not sporting the screen-dominated front, does sport a better chipset and Android One-backed software. Of course, there’s also the phone’s most direct competitor, the Oppo F7. Nonetheless, the Vivo V9 is a smartphone worth considering if aesthetics and screen quality are important to you.