vivo V5 Plus Review: Better As A Whole

Being different and stand out in a huge sea is crucial when you are talking about the smartphone market, especially the mid-range smartphone market. We cannot stress on how important this market is as it is the most accessible market by most of the average user out there who doesn’t want to spend too much on a smartphone, but still want a decent smartphone at a decent price. Vivo started off with the V5, basically a twin of the Oppo F1s, and both are focused on the front-facing camera qualities. As the bigger brother to the V5, the V5 Plus was introduced as a more premium offering from vivo, while still selfie-oriented, in the mid-range smartphone market and offering more premium features. So, what do you get for RM600 more over the V5’s RM1199 price tag? Let’s see.

Unboxing

The V5 Plus does come with a larger, but slimmer packaging than the V5. The packaging is usual vivo’s business as well with white box and some gold and black writings reflecting the colour of the actual device. The phone is presented on the top, and you’re presented with 2 boxes after lifting the tray. One of which contains the usual USB wall adapter, microUSB cable and a pair of earphone, while the other box contains a SIM tray removal pin, a transparent case as well as an extra piece of screen protector.

Design

The V5 Plus does look like the V5 at first glance, and its pretty much a carbon copy of it’s cousin – the Oppo R9S. But, as you look closely, you do notice the differences between the V5 Plus and its relatives. The overall look and feel is good, as it consists of premium materials – glass front and metal back. This is a step away from other vivo devices. The V5 Plus is pretty slim with 7.3 mm thickness and weighing 158.6 grams, it is well weighted as well. Both the weight and the premium-feeling materials does make the phone rather solid when holding in hand. Vivo, like Oppo, has kindly included a soft case and a pre-applied screen protector so you could get your device protected right out of the box, but we’d still recommend to upgrade to a tempered glass screen protector to really protect the device.

The front panel does look like any other recent vivo products. Even though this phone is way too selfie-oriented, it does not have any special indication, apart from the two holes which locates the dual front-facing camera. Other than that, its business as usual. There is a front facing LED flash on the right too. Taking up 73% of the front panel is the 5.5-inch display which is exactly the same as the V5 and most other smartphone these days, as this seems to be the perfect size for modern users. It has rather slim bezels on both sides which does a good job at eliminating unnecessary inputs. Located below the display is the usual Android navigation buttons. In the middle, vivo has decided to go for a more traditional button instead of just using a touchpad like the V5 or the Oppo R9s. It does have fingerprint reader built-in, which is very quick, accurate and precise. Even with sweaty fingers, it does its best at picking it up fingerprints. You can also just lightly touch the button which will simulate the press of the actual home button. On both sides are the recent apps button and back button.

With its unibody design, there is no removable back cover, so it does have a removable tray located on the top left of the device. When the tray is popped out, you’re presented with 2 nanoSIM slots, and none of which are large enough to fit a microSD card. The vivo V5 Plus steps into the “premium” route by totally eliminate the ability to let users expand the storage, which is a route that vivo should not have stepped into. All you had to rely on is the 64GB internal storage. The volume and power buttons are conveniently located on the right.
The bottom is where the rest of the ports live – including the 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone, microUSB port and the speaker.

The back is where its so obvious that vivo is trying to impersonate Apple’s iPhone. There is no point denying it when you put it side-by-side with the latest iPhone 7. While you do get iPhone 7’s design at half the price, its still far off being an actual iPhone, or even a clone of the iPhone. It does feature antenna lines that looks exactly like the iPhone 7, which goes to the top and bottom giving it a cleaner look. The 16-megapixel camera lens and LED flash located on the top left still looks like the one in the iPhone 6. The overall material used is noticeably more premium and softer to the touch compared to the V5, and the overall design looks upmarket and premium, especially in gold colour, which is the only colour offered in our market.

Specs and Performance

Getting a bump for the front-facing camera isn’t the only reason it costs more and why you should go for the V5 Plus over the V5. A boost is also given to its specifications which makes the V5 Plus looks rather promising on paper. Like the Oppo R9s, vivo has turned to Qualcomm for supplies for the heart of the V5 Plus. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 has replaced the usual MediaTek processors that vivo usually went for. It’s basically same as the ones in the Oppo R9s – 64-bit architecture, 8 lower-powered cores, with all clocked at 2.0GHz. Like the R9s, 4GB of RAM is also included.

The performance in real life? Almost identical to the R9s, I’d dare to say. It does cope well with daily tasks, especially tasks in favour of the lower-powered processor. It will not blow you away with amazing performance, but it definitely does open our eye on how good it does things efficiently. It was able to quickly spread workloads across all processors, but it starts struggling when higher-powered processes are needed. Even at full chat, there’s no noticeable battery drain, but unlike the Oppo R9s, you do feel a bit of battery heat on the back.
Using our favourite Geekbench 4 benchmarking app, the V5 Plus scored a rather average, but respectable 793 for single-core score and 3048 for multi-core score. The low-powered cores are to blame, but they do not impact on the performance too much and its not a problem for real-world performance.

Also included is 64GB of eMMC 5.1 internal storage, with no options to expand it with a microSD card. You would have to either rely on external devices or online cloud storage. Dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and LTE are also thrown in. No NFC and IR blaster this time round.

Speaker Performance

The downward-facing mono speaker is rather average. It does sound slightly muffled and failed to deliver the clarity and bass that you would expect from higher-end speakers. At higher volumes, things started to distort, but it still deliver the right amount of loudness. It works, but not just as well as we’d hoped. We had no problem with external audio devices whether its wired or wireless, and the built-in equalizer allows you to make adjustments to maximize your hearing pleasure.

Display

There is also quite a bit of improvement on the display department on the vivo V5 Plus compared to the V5. The dimension of the display remains at 5.5-inch, but the resolution is bumped up to Full HD (1080 X 1920), which at 401 pixels-per-inch density, the screen does not disappoint and the display quality is crisp and sharp. There is little-to-no noticeable pixels.

The display panel remains the same, which is an IPS LCD panel. vivo has not given the V5 Plus improvement on the display panel. The standard RGB panel that they use is nothing much to say about other than its vivid and accurate colours, rather high brightness and deep blacks, but with a slight cool tint above it. By no means its near what an AMOLED panel could offer, but still a respectable one nonetheless. Despite its high brightness, it slightly struggles under the sun, but still offers wide viewing angle. The built-in light sensor also works well in keeping the screen brightness at the right amount depending on the conditions.

Camera performance

Since the V5 Plus is the bigger brother to the V5, you do except vivo to bump the cameras on the V5 Plus. They did, but since this phone is targeted to those who like their selfies, there’s still more effort put into the front-facing camera rather than the supposedly primary rear facing camera. Luckily, the rear facing camera is not neglected as well. For the V5 Plus, it gets a bump to 16-megapixel with an aperture of f/2.0, but that’s just about it. No one had any more details about the rear camera.

What about picture quality? Overall, it’s a good camera especially at conditions that has enough light. It produces surprisingly likable photos when the conditions are in favour of the camera. Colours are pretty saturated and slightly towards the warmer side, which isn’t a bad thing. Details are well preserved, and in Auto mode, the HDR will kick in when it needed to produce a better image that has plenty of contrasts and lower midtones, while having the details preserved. It does struggle at low-light conditions, where the camera is not so happy. It does tend to blow things up a little too much which produces image with little noise and less details. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work even when you tap on the object to try to bring the brightness down a little bit. There are quite a lot of settings to mess about in those conditions to take the perfect picture.

The rear camera also records 4K videos, with 1080p and 720p as alternative options. They all record at 30 frames-per-second, and there’s only 2 settings to mess about in video mode: changing the resolution and toggling the flashlight. In 4K, the footage shot is nice and has plenty of details with vivid colours plus a bit of warm tint to it. The audio recorded is a bit muffled, and combine with the lower-quality speakers, it sometimes can be a pain watching a recorded video on the device itself. There’s no optical or digital stabilization available, so you’re on your own.

Now its finally time to talk about the star of the device – the dual front-facing camera. Vivo is not the first to implement this concept, but still, they’re taking it very seriously and are very proud of it. The front-facing cameras consist of a 20-megapixel Sony IMX376 sensor with f/2.0 aperture and a 8-megapixel sensor with the same f/2.0 aperture for depth sensing. All of that just for the infamous bokeh mode. The primary sensor is the same found in the V5, and let’s be honest, instead of focusing on other parts of the phone and make them better, vivo has done slightly unnecessary things by paying so much attention on its front facing camera, which we can only say the outcome is rather average. Details are alright and colours are vivid, but there’s nothing too special about it. Image quality is just about as good as it gets, and are right on par with some of the flagships out there. All that effort of throwing a ridiculous sensor on it and advertising it as the ultimate selfie-device are slightly unnecessary as the results turned out isn’t quite as amazing as they advertised. It does not even have autofocus or any stabilization at all, which we think should be vital if the primary camera is the front facing camera.

The reason the secondary 8-megapixel sensor is there is to accommodate the bokeh mode. All it does is depth sensing and maps the object and the background so that the camera app was able to add a blur effect to the background. When turned on, you do get a live preview of the effect, as well as the ability to adjust the focus point and the simulated aperture effect from f/0.95 to f/16. We’re happy to see that it works quite well, and definitely this is the only strong point of the front-facing camera. The front LED flashlight does work well too, and unlike traditional LED flashlights, this is more like a fill light, where it tries to spread the light across the object rather than just shining through and hurting eyes. So there’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking selfies in the dark with this new fill light.

Like all other vivo and OPPO devices, the camera interface is almost a carbon copy of the ones in the iOS devices. It is simple and not cluttered with huge amount of modes and settings which you’ll never touch. The HDR toggle, flash toggle, modes toggle and the settings were on the left, while the right is where the shutter button, different functions as well as filters live. It does have a face beauty mode which works for both the front and rear facing cameras where it applies artificial beautification to faces. It does work well on the lower settings, but as you turn the switch up, it totally blows away any natural details thus making a real face look like a cartoon. There’s also a pro mode where you get to play with shutter speed, exposure, focus, white balance as well as ISO. Overall, everything is simple, logically laid out and straightforward.

To view samples taken with the vivo V5 Plus, click here.

Software

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow does come with the phone right out of the box, along with vivo’s customized Funtouch OS user interface on top. You can tell it’s a heavy skin as in most places, there’s no indication that its an Android-based operating system. It works and looks differently, which is a mixed bag. While its unique to have a different looking operating system from other manufacturers, we still think that manufacturers should just stick to vanilla Android, and maybe little customizations here and there. The entire look of the operating system looks more like iOS rather than Android. There’s no apps drawer on the home screen, which causes all apps to clutter around the home screen. Luckily the amount of bloatware remains at minimum. There’s even a control centre where you can find various toggles for different settings like the ones in iOS. Despite the heavy skin, the Snapdragon 625 processor works well at providing a smooth experience.

Battery life

We’re impressed with the built-in 3160mAh battery as it gives the V5 Plus a rather good battery life. We were still able to get back over 20% of battery life at the end of the day with 1 SIM card running and mobile data turned on at all times, and it will go all the way to a little over 16 hours before it waves the white flag. The V5 Plus does come with dual-charging engine fast charging technology, which offers twice the charging speed while being safe.

Conclusion

As a whole, the V5 Plus is a surprisingly likable phone as a whole. It offers premium exterior, mid-range but respectable specs as well as good user experience, which is why it’s worth paying the extra over the regular V5. But, as selfie-oriented phones go, there’s really nothing too special or surprising apart from the bokeh mode and the detail-ruining software beautification, which is just a gimmick. There are still lots of other devices out there that may be a better smartphone, but do not give the V5 Plus a miss if you are shopping for a device at this price range.

Recap:
5.5-inch IPS display, Full HD resolution, 401 ppi
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Processor, 2.0GHz Octa-core
4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, no microSD support
16-megapixel rear facing camera
20-megapixel + 8-megapixel front facing camera
3160mAh non-removable battery

Pros:
Premium feeling device
Blazing fast and accurate fingerprint sensor
Quick charging
Bokeh effect for front facing camera
Sharp display

Cons:
Average performance front facing camera
Cameras do suffer during low light
Annoying user interface
Average to poor speaker performance
Struggles during heavy processes