CHINESE PHONE MAKER Vivo might not be that well known in the Western world, but after launching its latest flagship device last week we're pretty sure that's all about to change.
The Vivo Nex is special because it's unlike any other smartphone we've seen of late, it boasts a completely bezel-free, notch-less display thanks to its quirky pop-out selfie camera.
Revealed at an event in Beijing on Tuesday, the Vivo Nex sure touts some impressive tech. Take, for instance, its massive 6.59in FHD+ Super AMOLED display, a screen that has such a tiny bezel that it stretches to each edge of the phone without any disruptions from cameras or buttons.
But in reality, does the phone live up to its crazy specs? We got our hands on the device during the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Moscow this week to find out, and we managed to test most of its features during the first match of the championships. What better backdrop to see if the phone can perform well under pressure?
We're huge fans of the Vivo Nex's design, chiefly because it sets the phone apart from any other device on the market right now. The first obvious stand out feature is its bezel-less screen, but we'll talk about that later in the display section.
Overall, the Nex is a very solid bit of tech, feeling sturdy in the hand, if not a little heavy. At 199g it's definitely not the lightest smartphone you'll find, but with a screen this size it's hardly surprising.
And the fingerprint scanner, you ask? Well, that's buried under the screen, too, like on the Honor 10. In our experience, it didn't work as well as a physical finger print scanner, and sometimes took a few attempts in order for it to register my thumb and unlock the screen. However, this could be because I didn't register my fingerprint very well when setting it up.
As for the back, it's made of glass, which curves nicely to fit the contours of your hand, making it comfortable to hold.
We love the display on the Vivo Nex, which proved crisp and vibrant even during the super brightly lit grounds of Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
Why? Because Vivo has taken the display even further than other phone makers by completely ditching the notch (something first seen on the iPhone X) and has introduced a variety of new technology to achieve an incredible 91.24 per cent screen-to-body ratio with its 6.59in FHD+ Super AMOLED screen.
And to ensure none of the phone's screen real estate is disturbed, there's an 8MP front-facing camera hidden within the body of the handset that pops up when it's ready to be used.
However, some of the Vivo Nex marketing will tell you its screen completely bezel-less. And while it isn't interrupted by any buttons or notches, there's a slim chin towards the bottom where the screen doesn't touch the end of the phone. It's hardly noticeable, but it means it's not 100 per cents bezel-less.
In terms of general operation, text and images look super sharp and touch operations are smooth on pages and apps, too. We were surprised how well it took in everything that was going on in the stadium, also. A really impressive bit of kit.
On the inside, the Vivo Nex packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor alongside a hefty 8GB RAM and an Adreno 630 GPU.
While we weren't able to test it for a long period during our hands-on, we found there to be zero lag, even when playing and recording 4K video.
The Vivo Nex runs a heavily skinned version of Google's Android 8.1 Oreo mobile operating system, although it's hard to recognise it's Android at all due to the phone's OS only being "based" on the platform.
The smartphone also boasts a 4,000mAh battery, which we're guessing is so big as to power that huge-ass screen. We weren't equipped with a SIM card during the hands-on so we can't give a decent estimate of how long the battery would last day to day, but during our time with it over the day the battery life barely moved - probably around 5-8 per cent. That's with brightness on full and taking pictures constantly over a four hour period.
On the storage front, you can expect a pretty decent 256GB, which will definitely be adequate for all your selfie-taking and high-res video recording needs.
In terms of snappers, on the back, there's a dual camera set-up, comprising 12MP and 5MP primary and secondary snappers. In good old Chinese phone-maker style, Vivo claims there's plenty of photo-taking AI tech here for premium photo quality.
Because we were testing out the phone at the ceremony in Russia, which doesn't really get properly dark during the summer thanks to its position in the world, we weren't able to test the performance of the camera in low-light conditions.
However, we found the still images taken with the rear-facing camera were generally impressive, appearing crisp, clear, and full of natural colour, and were taken super-fast. Autofocus is swift, and the camera was able to focus on the background and foreground aspects of an image instantly.
One of the most interesting new camera features is the appearing and disappearing selfie camera. It sounds like a bit of a gimmick but it actually works well. It rises rather slowly, adding a second or so on to the time it takes to prepare the selfie cam, but it's definitely worth it for the edge to edge screen.
Images from both cameras appeared super clean with a great colour representation. Definitely looking forward to testing this out further in a full review.
First impressions and availability
While Vivo is still considered somewhat of a newcomer to the smartphone market, it's gone all out on the tech on the Nex, giving it a never-ending list of high-end specs.
There's no official word on pricing yet, but you can expect it to retail in the region of about £700-800, similar to the Huawei P20 Pro.
So far, Vivo hasn't confirmed when we are likely to see device hit markets outside Asia, but we can expect with some crazy-ass tech like this, you'll see it shipping over here in the next few months.
However, the company also announced that it's other high spec phone, the Vivo V9, is now shipping in Asia, so we're likely to see this device hit shop shelves across Europe first, when the firm does decide to roll out its devices outside Asia. µ