The Vivo V9 is the first smartphone in India that comes with an iPhone X like notch. It was launched in the month of March and following this a lot of other brands have now come up with their own variants of a phone with a notch. However, the Vivo V9 borrows a bit more from the iPhone X, i.e. the vertical dual camera placement, icons and settings menu.
The device in itself is very elegant and beautiful, however, since we’ve been using the phone extensively, let us see how it fares in our detailed review.
75.03 x 154.81 x 7.89 mm
6.3 inches - 2280x1080 px
The packaging looks identical to what have seen with earlier devices. In the box you get:
- Vivo V9 Phone
- A soft silicone protective case
- User manuals
- Sim ejector tool
- Standard charging cable
- A hefty charging brick
SAR Value of Vivo V9 is 1.380W/kg@1g (Head) and 0.406 W/kG@1g (body)
Vivo V9 looks premium and attracts your attention the moment you pull the smartphone out of the box. The phone fits perfectly in your palm and weighs just around 150 grams, it does feel light thanks to the plastic body.
Before booting up the display feels like any other display with an 18:9 aspect ratio however you get to see the notch at the top and a narrow chin at the bottom once the phone is booted up. Side bezels are minimal and are barely noticeable however that can’t be said about the notch which houses a front-facing selfie camera, a speaker grille, and other sensors.
You can get alerts, network bar, battery percentage etc. on the display on either side of the notch. While the extended display is supposed to create an immersive experience, it fails miserably thanks to the software, which we will discuss later in the review.
You have the volume rocker and a power button on the right side while a triple slot sim tray that houses two Nano SIM cards and a micro-SD card is located on the right edge. Next, we have the 3.5mm headphone jack, a secondary noise-canceling mic, micro-USB charging slot (no USB type-C yet!!) and bottom firing speakers at the bottom. On the back you can find the vertical dual rear camera setup, single tone LED flash, fingerprint sensor, and Vivo branding.
We got the pearl black variant which is the most appealing of all the color options however it is a fingerprint magnet too. So snap on a case or keep wiping it in case you want to show it off!
The back cover is made of plastic, while it doesn’t feel cheap it also lacks the premium finish that a glass or a metal design would offer. For a phone priced at Rs. 23000/ $ 335, it is definitely a factor worth considering.
Keep aside the Vivo NEX, Vivo phones generally do not boast flagship hardware specifications. Same is the case with the V9. It comes with a modest Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage which can be expanded up to 256 GB with the help of a microSD card. It is slightly disappointing to have a phone with Snapdragon 636 processor and being called as a flagship. While competition is offering smartphones with a better processor at a very less price, for an example Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is priced at Rs. 13,999 offers 4GB of RAM and 64GB internal storage.
The display on the V9 carries a light red tint and unfortunately, there is no way to correct it in the settings. So you’ll have to live with it in case you buy the phone. Although the display is well lit and operating it under harsh sunlight is not an issue at all. The phone comes with screen protector out of the box.
In terms of software, there is not much of a change from Vivo’s previous generation devices. The phone runs on Funtouch OS 4.0 on top of Android 8.1.0 Oreo. The unit we have has been receiving security updates and is currently running on May security patch update.
The UI and icon still are ‘iOS’ inspired. The phone settings, in case this is your first Vivo phone, is going to take some time to get used to.
Like iOS, you need to swipe up from the bottom of the display to access quick settings and recently used apps, unlike any regular Android smartphone where you swipe down. Recently opened apps also show as vertically stacked, like iOS, when you long-press the home key.
The biggest disappointment is that most of the apps are not optimized for a notch display. Apps run in an 18:9 aspect ratio and do not make the best of the extra real estate available. Without a proper implementation the phone does not offer immersive experience it is supposed to do. That’s where the notch hurts the most.
Though FunTouch OS does offer its share of customization like a toggle for onscreen buttons and Gesture control etc. A couple of useful add-ons that can be found here are Game mode and Motorbike mode. While the UI itself is light, it comes with its own bloatware apps like Vivo Cloud, EasyShare, Whatsapp, Flipkart, Newspoint, US browser, WPS Office, Facebook, Flipkart and Amazon prime app. Sadly you cannot remove quite a few of these applications. Other useful customizations are pip-mode, app clone, smart split and smart click, however, none of them can be called a USP.
In terms of daily usage and light gaming, Vivo V9 will be able to pass all the tests with flying colors. However, with heavy games, it does stutter a bit. The phone comes with a face unlock feature and uses the front sensor located within the notch. Face-unlock works most of the times however with slightly more challenging lighting, it is more miss than a hit. Fingerprint unlock worked fast and accurately and was our default choice.
While synthetic benchmarks don’t always show the exact picture you can refer to the benchmark scores for the top two apps below
We played games like Asphalt 8, PUBG Mobile, etc there were noticeable lag and frame drops at maximum resolution. Talking about the basics of a smartphone, Call quality and network connectivity, there was hardly any issue with calls and network. Typical areas where call drops are frequent, we did not face any issues at all with the Vivo V9.
The battery on Vivo V9 can last an entire day easily in case you’re a casual user. However, for people using the phones for heavy multimedia usage and gaming may need to look for a charger by evening.
Vivo markets its phone with the camera as its USP. The V9 comes with a dual rear camera setup with a 16MP primary sensor and a 5MP secondary sensor and the camera app offers regular features like Doc Scanning, Panorama, Pro Mode, Video, Portrait modes, face beauty and AR Stickers. The app hasn’t changed much since the previous devices and it lags quite noticeably once you get into AR mode.
Vivo V9 is able to shoot decent pictures with good details with favorable lightning, however, it struggles with both harsh and low light. Overall the images were a tad bit saturated and weren’t very detailed. The front camera on Vivo V9 is a 24-megapixel shooter and does a better job, thanks to the AI features thrown in.
Selfies taken from the front camera have ample details, however, you need to make sure that you manually set the beautification level else the images may look highly processed. In terms of video, you have an option to record videos in 720P, 1080P and, 4K and lacks stabilization with both OIS and EIS missing.
Despite being the first one to bring the notch to masses, Vivo needs to up their game quite a bit. Depending heavily on offline sales may have given them numbers, however, to be able to make a sellout device they need to do more than just adding megapixels to the camera or an iPhone X like notch. Another aspect where the Vivo V9 fails is the pricing as there are a lot of devices that offer great value for money and are priced way lesser than the V9.
Overall it seems like a mixed bag of sorts with more misses than hits and leaves you desiring for more.
We give Vivo V9 a rating of 2.5 on 5 as it leaves a lot to be desired at this price range.