Vivo X21 Review: An innovative device that smacks OnePlus 6

Vivo X21 Review
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82%
Innovative, Impressive

Vivo X21 Review

Vivo X21 is a perfect smartphone for those who want to grab some innovative technology among other typical smartphones. The device comes with some compromises on performance sector, but the camera, sound and the design are most impressive ones. You can also grab other flagship-level smartphones in case you are not excited with the Vivo's try.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Perfromance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value For Money

Vivo launched its top-tier innovative smartphone Vivo X21 in India back in May. The smartphone comes with a groundbreaking technology, which puts the fingerprint scanner beneath the display. The same device is known as Vivo X21 UD in China, with the same hardware. There is another variant with a fingerprint scanner on the rear side. However, X21 is launched in India with an in-screen fingerprint scanner.

About this review

Vivo India has provided us with a unit long back. So, we have been using the device for the last three weeks as my primary device. Now we think it is a reasonable period for making a complete review of this smartphone. We received a black colour 128GB variant of the smartphone. Here is our full and final review of Vivo X21 smartphone.

Specifications of Vivo X21

 Display6.28 inches, 15.95 cm (~90.3% screen-to-body ratio), FHD+ (2280×1080), 19:9 ratio (~403 ppi density), Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors.
ChipsetsQualcomm SDM660 Snapdragon 660, Octa-core 2.2 GHz Kryo 260 and1.8 GHz Kryo 260, Adreno 512 GPU
 RAM 6GB RAM.
 Storage 64GB/128GB internal storage ~ Expandable via microSD slot up to 256GB.
 Rear CameraDual: 12 MP (f/1.8, 1/2.5″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF) + 5 MP (f/2.4), PDAF, LED flash.
 Front Camera12 MP (f/2.0), 1080p.
 BatteryNon-removable Li-Po 3200 mAh battery.
 Connectivity Dual SIM
 SoftwareAndroid 8.1, FunTouch OS 4.0
 PriceRs. 35,999
 ColoursBlack
 Additional FeaturesIn-screen fingerprint scanner

 

What’s in the box?: Premium accessories and premium packaging

Since it is a flagship device with premium offerings, Vivo has included a premium packaging for the device. The premium box comes with eight components including the device, fast-charger, SIM ejector tool, a premium Vivo branded headset, USB cable, Warranty Guide, Quick start guide and a TPU case for the device.

Vivo X21 Retail Box
Vivo X21 Retail Box

The headset that comes with the device has premium quality, and it has a really modern design. The package comes with a fast charger, and it takes up to 35mins for charging the device from 10% to 100%. The device already comes with pre-installed tempered glass for protection (Yeah, you can tear it off if you want).

Vivo X21 Retail Box
Vivo X21 Retail Box

Design and Build

This is one of the most important parts of the Vivo X21. Because the device has an excellent design, which makes a little resemblance towards the company’s previous smartphone from the midrange lineup Vivo V9. However, the absence of the fingerprint scanner at the rear makes it distinct. The company has come afar in the design concept they have been following since the past years. Anyways, we at AndroidHits love the design aspect of the new machine – Vivo X21.

 

Vivo X21 Rear Panel
Vivo X21 Rear Panel

 

This time, the company implements an actual glass back panel on the device, which has a metallic finish within. The curved glass panel makes a premium feel while using the device on a regular basis. However, we cannot say the glass is just as same as the one in Samsung Galaxy S9 or OnePlus 6. Although the glass is shiny and neat, it hardly catches the fingerprints. Also, it is quite easier than any other smartphone to get rid of the dirt or odd fingerprints on the panel. The side metal frame provides a robust feel to the device.

Vivo X21 sideviewFor a change, the SIM Card tray is relocated to the bottom, which is nowadays being a standard for the Vivo’s flagship smartphones. The company still retains the same old micro USB 2.0 port at the bottom, plus, a headphone jack at the top edge. As usual, the hardware buttons stays at the right edge panel. It is quite easy to distinguish between the power button and the volume rockers. Also, the pressing buttons is not that soft so that you could feel it. Nevertheless, they are little shaky on the base but do not give up on the quality side. Additionally, the 2.5D curved glass with narrow borders on the front completes the build quality phase, which makes it a better competent against OnePlus 6.

Display

In a word, I could say the Vivo rocked on the display implementation this time. You can get an enormous display panel with the Vivo X21 smartphone, that is of Super AMOLED instead of the conventional LCD. It outperforms other smartphones in the category with its vibrant colour reproduction and beautiful visibility of the GUI. Another major highlight of the screen is the notch at the top of the screen. Unlike other smartphones in the industry with a notch on display, Vivo uses the minimal space and makes the entire smartphone bezel-less, quite enough to justify the chin.

Vivo X21 Front Panel

In contrast to the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Mi 8, we found the notch and bezels of the X21 as the most convincing one. Also, the device has an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 90.3-percent, which stands just behind the all-screen Vivo NEX, and even above the Xiaomi Mi 8. All the four corners are perfectly rounded like other smartphones having taller display panels. The bottom bezel of the smartphones seems to have trimmed down to make it look like a narrow line below the screen area. There is no option you can disable the notch area if you do not like such an extra space being taken at the top chin. So, the users need to get used to the notch design, which combined the status bar and notifications together.

Vivo X21 Super AMOLED display

Talking of the user experience of the entire display panel, it is quite enough to impress the users. The  Super AMOLED panel might oversaturate the pixels, as it is a common issue. But the colour vibrancy and richness is really amusing. Also, the smartphone has quite lesser screen temperature, so you get a clear white display. In my experience, AMOLED panels are not much good for longer use. So, it is necessary to enable the Eye Protection mode during the night to reduce stress. The brightness adjustment is so natural and dynamic. However, the highest brightness level does not seem enough to make a complete visibility under sunlight.

Vivo X21 Display in sunlight
Vivo X21 Display in sunlight

As like every flagship smartphones in the market that has Super AMOLED display, the Vivo X21 also has an always-on display. It is very helpful while unlocking the device using the under screen fingerprint recognition, as it marks the exact location of the sensor always. You can also turn off the feature if not want. You do not need to worry about the mistouch on the edge-to-edge screen since it shows an excellent edge touch correction.

The Under-Display Fingerprint Scanner

Apart from the generic discussion, it is necessary to provide a room for the in-screen fingerprint scanner on the Vivo X21. It is apparently a revolutionary move from the company to implement such an experiment tech on one of their mainstream devices. The company uses the imaging sensors from Synaptics to capture the image of your fingerprint. Unlike the conventional sensitive fingerprint scanner that uses electrodes, the ones from Synaptics makes use of a CMOS sensor similar to the camera. The fingerprint authentication is a bit slower than we expected. Anyways, it ain’t disappointing.

Vivo X21 AndroidHits
Vivo X21 In-Display Fingerprint scanner

As the fingerprint scanner is attached behind the display panel, a fleck of the sensor area is visible seldom under the extreme sunlight. In case you find the fingerprint scanner inconvenient and time-consuming, you can also use the secure as well as ultra fast facial recognition feature.

Software

Vivo ships the premium smartphone X21 with Android 8.1 Oreo onboard skinned with Funtouch OS 4.0 atop. The user interface looks familiar, as the same has already been used with the previous Vivo smartphone. One of the major drawbacks of the Vivo’s Funtouch OS is it looks the same on any version of Android. The feature list may contain lesser or more options, depending on the Operating System version. So, we could not say the smartphone has an entirely distinctive User Interface compared to the previous smartphones. This puts the device behind many other rivals.

In terms of the User Experience, the smartphone shows off nice and smooth performance. In some areas of the interface elements, we could see an iOS reference. At least the smartphone interface looks different from generic Android User Interface. So the Funtouch OS would be a perfect match for those who want a change within the Android without spending a lot of money. We can see the same iOS resemblance in the notification drawer from the top and quick settings panel that can be drawn from the bottom edge. However, not a bad try.

Vivo X21 FunTouch OS Home Interface

Usually, the company ships the midrange smartphones with certain bloatware and pre-installed apps. Fortunately, Vivo X21 comes with a clean interface, that has only essential apps and services. It even saves a substantial amount of space from your internal storage.

The company lately seemed to be working hard to optimize the user interface for the new designs of their latest lineups. The Funtouch OS has now almost domesticated the new notch and curved-corners design of the smartphones. But, the interface seems little buggy and incompatible in certain conditions. The status bar is supposed to fit within both sides of the notch, and not to overflow the space. But, it sometimes seems not fitting in the space, and bulgy. The battery indicator icon would be greater looking if reduced the size. Moreover, the notification icons often seem tend to overflow the notch space. This might cause little trouble while using. However, we expect the company will soon roll out a patch for the issue. Still, the apps run perfectly even on the 19:9 ratio.

Vivo X21 features on-screen navigation buttons, which can be replaced with swipe gestures. You can get various swipe options at the bottom edge of the screen. Following are the major swipe gestures available:

  • Swipe up from left – Open Quick Settings panel.
  • Swipe up from middle – Home.
  • Long swipe and release from middle – Recent Apps.
  • Swipe up from the right – Back.
  • Slide the gesture bar towards left or right – switch between apps.

There is also an in-built Game Mode to block calls, notifications to avoid distraction.

Performance

Vivo X21, to be frank, comes with a premium mid-range hardware with decent performance and humongous RAM onboard. The smartphone comes under the Rs. 35000 category, where the OnePlus 6 belongs. The smartphone is powered with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 660 Chipset, clocked at 2.2GHz. On the other hand, we have the OnePlus 6 with the latest, most powerful Snapdragon 845 Chipset in the same price category. We cannot blame the Vivo for the pricing, as the smartphone boasts a revolutionary technology.

The device showcases a decent performance in the daily usage. I have been using the smartphone for a month, and I did not feel any lag. The smartphone is pretty faster in installing apps and opening them. But, the performance is not that buttery smoothy as a top-tier flagship smartphone. The multitasking is also great in the smartphone, thanks to the 6GB RAM. Here are test results from popular benchmarking platforms.

  • Antutu – 141901
  • Geekbench 4:
    • Single core: 1584
    • Multi-Core: 5649
Vivo X21 AnTuTu Test Result
Vivo X21 AnTuTu Test Result
Vivo X21 Geekbench Test Result
Vivo X21 Geekbench Test Result

During heavy gaming, we could experience the random frame skips in the rendering. Se, we do not recommend the smartphone for heavy gaming purpose. But still, you can play games like PUBG without lag to an extent.

Camera

The paperwork says the Vivo X21 comes with 12MP+5MP sensors on the rear. The smartphone uses DualPixel technology that combines images from two sensors together to produce better images. The secondary sensor provided at the rear is for image processing and not for optical zooming. The sensors are really capable of capturing detailed pictures of everything, with impressive light sensitivity. Pretty fast autofocus and lossless digital zoom are the facts I liked with the main snapper. You can even capture images with very less noise unless it is a darker condition.

The camera app looks familiar, as the same design has been used with the Vivo V9. The app provides options for normal mode, face beauty, panorama, doc and professional modes. The Pro mode of the device allows capturing light continuously for up to 32 seconds. The image capturing is not too fast in the device; though, the pictures are of finest quality. The portrait images have nice Bokeh effects on objects, but it sometimes fails, especially when the background light is less. We can also edit the bokeh effect, blur amount and focus even after taking the image.

Vivo X21 FunTouch OS Camera InterfaceThe front-facing selfie snapper of 12MP is one of the best in the category. The X21 is not just another selfie-focused smartphone from Vivo with pleasing beauty cameras. The selfie camera on the device captures the true colour and has a great light sensitivity. It will not whiten the background if you are taking selfie standing before bright condition. The details are good, but not recommended for further cropping. Check out the camera samples below:

The smartphone can shoot video up to 4K resolution, at 30 FPS. Some of the smartphones from China itself have the 60FPS 4K shooting capability. The smartphone vendor does not mention the stabilization methods, OIS or EIS, but the smartphone has gotten some handy stabilization inbuilt. It could withstand normal shakes and vibrations even in handheld shooting. The slow-motion shooting mode can only intake lesser light. Below is a sample video that reduces the shakes.

Battery

The company deploys a standard 3200mAh battery pack under the hood. In typical daily usage, you can get the battery backup for up to 10 hours in a single charge. The battery discharging is pretty slower in normal usage, but when it falls below 20%, it seems like the device is hurrying up to hit the zero. Anyways, the availability of fast charging technology reduces the issue, as it could juice up the pack almost in half an hour.

Sound

The music capability of the Vivo X21 is jaw-dropping, and I would say this is the time the company justifies its tagline “Camera & Music.” The device comes with an in-built Hi-DAC CHipset – AK4376A. The headphone sound quality is also impressive, which even stands above the Google’s Pixel 2 XL. The rocking headphones provided with the package is also a great addon gadget instead of using any other third-party earphones.

Vivo X21 earphonesGallery

Here are some of the pictures of the smartphone.

 

Final Verdict

Vivo X21 is a powerful smartphone from the BBK ELectronics that you can trust. The device showcases solid performance but somehow lags behind the OnePlus 6. The fingerprint scanner placed Under Display is the Unique Selling Proportion of the device, which pretty fun to have with. You can buy the smartphone without a second thought if you need an innovative device with sleek design and promising build quality. However, the device shows compromises on certain phases, including performance.

You can purchase the device from Flipkart, starting at Rs. 35,999.