Phones

Nice balance of premium and mid-range features

Vivo V15 Pro.
Vivo V15 Pro.

The Vivo V15 Pro perfectly illustrates the rapid pace of smartphone innovation. This mid-tier phone's pop-up camera, in-display fingerprint sensor and rear triple cameras would just last year have been considered cutting-edge features reserved only for top phone models.
 

However, they are no longer considered novel this year. Still, these are top-tier features and their presence in the V15 Pro shows that they are trickling down to more mainstream models.

But Vivo also likely blew its budget for the V15 Pro by including these features. At least, that is the reason I can come up with to explain why Vivo has cut back on other aspects of the phone.

The most obvious is its oldfashioned micro-USB port, which feels ancient in 2019 when most smartphones in this price range have moved to using the USB-C interface. On the bright side, this means the V15 Pro keeps the headphone jack.

In addition, it has a plastic back instead of the glass ones found in premium smartphones. Other features associated with higher-end smartphones, such as water resistance and wireless charging, are also omitted.

All that being said, the V15 Pro impresses with its notch-less, near-bezel-less Oled display, especially while watching videos.

Like many smartphones this year, the V15 Pro's main camera uses Sony's 48-megapixel (MP) image sensor, which combines four pixels to produce a 12MP photo.

  • FOR

  • •Notchless, bezel-less display

    •Has a headphone jack

    •Good camera performance

    AGAINST

    •Still uses a micro-USB port

    •Apple iPhone-like interface

    •Still uses a micro-USB port

    •Apple iPhone-like interface

    SPECS

    PRICE: $699

    PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 (Dual-core 2.2GHz, hexa-core 1.7GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6.39-inch, Oled, 2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 403 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Funtouch OS 9.0 (Android 9.0)

    MEMORY: 128GB (microSD expandable to 256GB), 8GB RAM

    REAR CAMERAS: 48MP (f/1.8), 8MP ultra-wide-angle (f/2.2), 5MP (f/2.4) depth-sensing

    FRONT CAMERA: 32MP (f/2.0)

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,700mAh battery

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In good lighting, this camera produces clear and crisp photos with little noise. I personally prefer slightly warmer-looking photos, but this is just me nitpicking.

For night photos, the camera app has a long-exposure Night mode that requires the user to point the phone at the scene and hold it steady for a couple of seconds. I am not too impressed with the results. While the Night mode brightens up photos significantly, it can also result in washed-out images. Thus, I advise using it only in very low-light conditions.

There is also an ultra-wide-angle camera and a depth-sensing one. The depth-sensing camera is used to good effect to take photos with a natural-looking, blurred background effect, or bokeh.

For those who like taking selfies, the front-facing camera, which pops up with a robotic audio effect, will give your facial features a boost with its heavy dose of beautifying filters. I could not turn these filters off entirely despite scouring the app for the settings.

The V15 Pro is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 chip. In everyday use, I could not tell its performance apart from the flagship Snapdragon 855 processor's without a benchmark. In the PUBG Mobile shooter game, the V15 Pro runs smoothly with the graphical setting at High.

Vivo's Funtouch OS interface also runs without a hitch and feels responsive. It probably helps that the device has 8GB of system memory. However, I am not a fan of the interface, which is heavily inspired by the Apple iPhone. For instance, you swipe from the bottom of the screen, not from the top like other Android devices, to access the quick settings panel.

With its ample 3,700mAh battery, I was expecting more from the V15 Pro. But its result in the video-loop battery test - 12hr 10min - is average at best. It will last an entire day for most users, but probably needs to be charged overnight.

The V15 Pro does a good job at balancing high-and mid-range features and the camera and the display are good.

I can live with the plastic build, but the micro-USB port is annoying. However, the phone's biggest problem is the competition - namely, the Xiaomi Mi 9, which offers more premium features, including a faster processor, wireless charging and a glass back, at the same price ($699) as the V15 Pro.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2019, with the headline 'Nice balance of premium and mid-range features'. Print Edition | Subscribe