Vivo V9 review: Need to take it a notch above

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Vivo V9 review: Need to take it a notch above
Vivo V9, while being a good smartphone, seems hard-pressed to keep up with the aggressively competitive mid-range segment.

India got its first Android device with a notch in the Vivo V9. And by virtue of this notch, some parallels have been drawn between this Vivo offering and a certain $1000 smartphone. Nothing uncalled for, though. Apple iPhones have inspired smartphones across platforms for few generations now. So you can brush aside these comparisons about the notch, take a good look at the Vivo V9, and realise that it has its own pros and cons to live with.

The Vivo V9 has been launched in India with a price tag of Rs 22,990. It boasts the highest specifications by a Vivo smartphone in India right now. What you get with the Vivo V9 is a vibrant 19:9 screen with 1080p resolution, a Snapdragon 626 chipset, four gigs of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, a dual-camera setup with 16 megapixel and 5 megapixel snappers at the back and a 24 megapixel front shooter. You can have the Vivo V9 in black or gold colour options.

Now let's take a closer look at what we've got on our hands with the Vivo V9.

Design

The most striking feature of the Vivo V9's design is the display cutout up top. You get a glass finish up front with a 6.3-inch screen. The display cut-out at top houses the selfie camera, the usual array of sensors and a notification light. There is a slight chin at the bottom, but nothing too encroaching. The bezels are as thin as they come and the display notch is not as wide either.

On the right side of the Vivo V9 you get the volume rocker with the power button below it. The left side gets the SIM tray with a dedicated microSD card slot, should you want to use two SIM cards and a microSD card at once. The bottom houses the 3.5mm jack, microUSB port, and down-firing speaker. The top edge has been kept clear.

The rear panel has the dual camera setup placed in the top left corner which protrudes a little. A metal rim runs around it, and the LED flash is placed underneath. The fingerprint scanner is placed a little below the rear camera in the centre and is easily accessible.

While the phone looks stunning, the Vivo V9 has a polycarbonate back. Given that the smartphone is priced at Rs 22,990, this could be a dealbreaker for some. Putting on the transparent case included in the retail box helps a lot with keeping fingerprints off the back, as well as protecting the protruding rear camera. The lack of an USB Type-C port in Vivo V9 is pronounced, given that we have seen it on other devices which are priced a lot lower.

Display

There is no denying it: the display on the Vivo V9 is a thing of beauty. It is an IPS LCD panel with a pixel density of 400ppi. Measuring at 6.3 inches, the display has an aspect ratio of 19:9 and resolution of 2280x1080 pixels. In short, it is a vibrant with good colour accuracy and output. Sunlight legibility is good, and auto-adjusting the screen brightness according to the surrounding is a nifty feature.

The vibrant 19:9 screen on Vivo V9 keeps you hooked.

Watching multimedia content on the Vivo V9 is a pleasure. The screen performed brilliantly even while streaming videos. If you don't want the notch to interfere with your content, there is an option to toggle the aspect ratio for external applications.

The beautiful display would have been perfect if it came it with some sort of protection, like Corning Gorilla Glass, but it doesn't. The Vivo V9 does come with a screen protector out of the box to protect the screen from nicks and scratches. However, it had a lot more scratches after a week's usage than we would like. Taking this into account, we would advise to get the screen protector replaced with the kind that is not as susceptible to scratches.

Performance

The Vivo V9 is powered by an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 SoC, which comes coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. We did not find any slowdown or delay in launching applications during our time with the device. The 4GB of RAM is sufficient to run multiple applications at once. The transitions were smooth and the Vivo V9 was quite responsive.

The fingerprint sensor on the back is quick to respond. Even the face unlock is fast when it gets to it, although it is not definitely not the fastest. The Vivo V9 successfully unlocked using face unlock even in dark conditions and with minimal light, however, it did take a few tries.

The Vivo V9 also handles high-end mobile games smoothly. The latest titles available on Google's Play Store posed no problem even while running full steam. The phone did get a little warmer to the touch after extended hours of gaming but nothing to get you concerned.

There audio performance, however, was a mixed bag. While the speakers on the Vivo V9 were loud enough for a smartphone, the earphone volume fell short of being satisfying. The in-ear earphones bundled with the device were clear but we could have done with a little more volume.

The Snapdragon 626 does support Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 but the charger shipped with the retail box is no fast charger. The in-box charger took close to two hours to completely charge the 3,260mAh battery, which meets expectations.

Camera

Now Vivo phones are known for their camera performance, especially the selfie camera. It features a dual camera setup at the back with 16 megapixel and 5 megapixel sensors, which have an aperture of f/2.0 and comes with phase detection auto focus. The front camera is a 24 megapixel unit with f/2.0 aperture. The rear camera can shoot up to 2160p videos in 30fps.

The shots with Vivo V9 look good enough, but that's about it.

HDR mode off

HDR mode on.

With portrait mode disabled

With portrait mode enabled

Coming to the camera app, you are again reminded of the iOS in terms of how it looks. There is a lot to choose from - the usual photo and video options, panorama, group selfie, face beauty, AR stickers, HDR, portrait, and even a professional mode. There is a slo-mo feature which produces good slow motion videos, however, quality of these videos could be improved.

Images under sufficient light - natural as well as artificial - came out nice. The 24 megapixel selfie camera captures detailed images. The Vivo V9, however, struggles a bit in capturing images in low light conditions. There is noticeable noise is low-light pictures. Portrait images came out beautiful. Edge detection was a hit and miss, depending on the subject being photographed

Verdict

After using the Vivo V9 for the better part of a month, we acknowledge that it is a good device. But the mid-range smartphone segment is packed to the brim amidst a phase of cutthroat competition. The Rs 22,990 price tag feels unjustified when cheaper smartphones with better hardware are already available, or are set to make an entrance soon. While Vivo V9 gets the job done, the oomph its competition and compatriots offer was missing.

Pros

Bigger, vibrant screen
Snappy performance
Latest Android

Cons

Polycarbonate back
Pricey for what it offers

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