The competition for good mid-range smartphones is extremely fierce in 2020. With each new release, we see smartphones bringing flagship-like features on a budget. Amidst this, the Vivo V19 stands out for its slightly unique design. But is that enough to attract potential buyers at Dh1,499?
Design and build quality
With its dual-camera selfie setup and a unique L-shaped primary camera configuration, The V19 is a bit different for sure. It has an 8.5mm thickness with a weight of 187g which makes it fairly comfortable to hold in the hand, given its 6.44-inch display. The front and back of the device have a premium touch made of glass with the front also sporting a pre-applied screen protector over its Gorilla Glass 6 display protection. To add, the frame of the phone is made of plastic and this is quite noticeable in the hand. Over daily use, nicks and scratches may form so the protective case bundled with the device is a good accessory to have.
Aside from those features, there is the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. While increasingly rare these days, it is accompanied by the Type-C USB port, primary microphone and mono-speaker on the bottom edge of the device. The left edge of the smartphone houses the nano-SIM slot whereas the right edge houses the volume and power buttons. On the top, you just find a secondary microphone for noise cancellation. To round up, there is bio-metrics. You can use the fairly reliable face unlock feature on the V19 alongside its optical in-screen fingerprint sensor. Using a combination of both is what I found to work the best and honestly, there are no major complaints aside from wishing it was a bit faster. In damp conditions though, it does not respond as well.
Talking about in-screen fingerprint scanners moves us nicely onto the display of the smartphone. Arguably, alongside its camera, this is a major selling point for it. The V19 sports a 6.44-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio. It does support HDR10 playback and has a peak brightness of 1,200nits, which comes in handy for situations outdoors.
There are decent options to customize screen colors and we found no quality control issues either. This should get you a fairly good experience although immersion might be a bit lacking. With a flat panel, this is a sacrifice but personally, it is not a big deal. What is a big deal though is the display’s refresh rate. The 60Hz panel is underwhelming for day to day browsing. And with smartphones at this price now sporting 90Hz AMOLED panels, the V19 falls down in the pecking order. Of course, combining the display experience of a smartphone with its speaker is an important aspect. On the V19, you find a mono-speaker that is quite underwhelming. And for any serious audio listening, we would either recommend using wired or wireless earphones.
Inside, the Vivo V19 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 octa-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz with the Adreno 616 GPU. Putting this in perspective, the processor is over a year old. This does not make it a bad choice but there are certainly other options in the market that deliver more value for money. Alongside this, you get 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage space, expandable via micro-SD. While day to day performance may suffer from a few stutters, things can get increasingly choppy in a short space of time. For reference, the smartphone scores roughly 240,000 on AnTuTu Benchmark which is not bad but real world performance is lacking. Half of this though is also to do with the V19’s software optimization. On it, you find Vivo’s heavily customized FunTouch OS 10 on top of Android 10.
Usually, OEM skins do not trouble me too much. But FunTouch OS 10 feels convoluted and hard to get used to. The way you receive notifications and the plethora of pre-installed applications is too much to take in, considering there are way cleaner options from Motorola, Nokia and OnePlus. The smartphone also seems to pack more than what it is capable of. For instance, the split screen option is great to have although when used, the experience is far from smooth. You generally do not get the satisfaction of using a mid-range smartphone which is a disappointment.
There are upsides to the experience though. For the casual or high-end gamer, performance is not too bad. While loading times can get a bit longer, the 8GB of RAM on the smartphone is plenty to keep a high-end game like PUBG running in the background. Speaking of it, you can play the game in its HD option at High frame rate and the experience is not too bad. During this time too, the phone did heat up towards the camera region. But it was not unbearable and did not impact performance at all.
But it is hard to get over FunTouch OS 10. A Dark mode, screen recording options and various other enhancements may bring value to a lot of people. But not seeing NFC support at this price point is a surprise. Perhaps Vivo could go back to the drawing board and tailor the experience more to cater to what the end consumer wants. This could be toning down software and adding or upgrading hardware to stay relevant with the competition. We have seen many companies such as Oppo and Huawei do it in the past so referencing their transitions could put Vivo in better light.
Rear camera capabilities
The Vivo V19’s camera performance is one of its stronger points, although there are some problems here too. Its primary setup is a quad-camera one, equipped with a 48MP wide lens, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor. The primary sensor is a Sony CMOS IMX582 sensor that can take some fairly good photos in well lit conditions. You could get away with a bit of zooming here and there however you start to see the drop-off fairly quickly.
As for the 8MP ultra-wide sensor, there is a big drop in quality. Not just because of its lower resolution but also due to the color inconsistencies with the primary lens. Images are much softer and this is emphasized further in low-light conditions. But before we talk about low-light, let us address the macro and depth sensor on the V19. Personally, the macro camera is not as useful as it may seem due to the fairly poor quality images it reproduces whereas the 2MP depth sensor may be handy at times. For portraits in general, it did a decent job of edge detection albeit with some inconsistencies. However, Vivo’s AI optimization was quite overwhelming, almost making my face look unnatural.
A fair bit of software is also involved with the smartphone’s night mode. Generally, you will need to use night mode for better images and it seems to work best with a little bit of ambient light around. You still do not get sharp images however the enhancement is worth it in comparison. Using the ultra-wide lens at night is a no-go though. You can also record up to 4K 30fps video footage on the Vivo V19 but it is for namesake more than anything else. Video will suffer from quality and stabilization issues and while you can rely on Vivo’s Super anti-shake feature, it caps recording to only 720p. Likewise, the ultra-wide angle camera by default is capped to record at 1080p resolution.
Front camera capabilities
Flipping the V19 around, you find a dual-camera setup. It comprises of a 32MP primary sensor and an 8MP ultra-wide one. Once again, the results are not too shabby. The phone can definitely handle dynamic range in selfies but using portrait mode introduces a few problems with background retention. More so, the ultra-wide angle camera is great to have for group selfies when those will be possible again but the quality drop is quite sharp.
Using the front facing setup at night is not recommended either. Photos struggle and the dedicated night mode selfie option is not too useful. Here, using the ultra-wide angle sensor is truly out of question. For video though, up to 1080p 30fps is what you get which should be ideal for social media every now and then.
With a 4,500mAh cell, the Vivo V19’s battery life will be least concerning for you. Expect to get through more than day’s worth of heavy usage with ease, with our unit clocking times of 9-10 hours of screen-on-time. More so, the smartphone is also equipped with fast battery charging technology. The 33W charging via Type-C USB is called Vivo Flash Charge 2.0 getting you over 50 per cent juice is just 30 minutes plugged in. Of course, there is not support for wireless charging at this price point.
Giving the Vivo V19 a straight up recommendation is difficult. For its budget, it gets certain things correct but the core experience when using the the smartphone remains a bit lackluster. In light of this, there are certainly better options in the market for a much lower price tag, especially Realme’s 6 series and Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 9A. They may also have flaws however one key aspect they are better at is user experience, which takes precedence for anyone purchasing a smartphone in this era.