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It was just a few months ago that Vivo unveiled one of its most powerful devices to date, the X21. At that time, it sparked a lot of interest, thanks to their new in-display fingerprint scanning technology, the first in the world.

Here in the Philippines, the brand is known mostly for its budget and mid-range offerings such as its current forerunner, the V9. So it came as a surprise when they announced that they’ll be bringing the X21 to the local market. Perhaps, testing the waters? Anyhow, we were able to spend some time with the device, and here’s what we think.

Vivo X21 Specs
ProcessorSnapdragon 660 (Octa-Core)
RAM6GB
Storage128GB (Expandable)
Display6.28-inch FHD+ AMOLED
Rear Camera12MP (f/1.8) + 5MP (f/2.4), Dual Pixel PDAF
Front Camera12MP (f/2.0)
OSAndroid 8.1 Oreo with Funtouch OS 4.0
Battery3,200mAh
Design and Build Quality

Vivo X21 ReviewOn the surface, the X21 looks a lot like the V9, especially on the display part. You get a 6.28-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio, which exhibits rich colors, good detail, and ample brightness.

Vivo X21 ReviewThe back panel is made of plastic, which somehow reduces the premium feel, and has a glossy finish all-over. The camera  does slightly protrude, which may leave the lens cover prone to scratches, unless you’re going to use the jelly case that comes with it. Of course, the fingerprint scanner is no longer present, as it has been moved to the display.

Vivo X21 ReviewThe X21 maintains a slim profile, with all the buttons on the right side, which are slightly thinner than what I prefer, but they are responsive and blend well with the overall design.

Vivo X21 ReviewAt the bottom is a headphone jack, speaker grill, the hybrid SIM Tray, and oddly, a standard microUSB port, which again, should already be a Type-C.

Performance

The Snapdragon 660 chip is  perhaps one of the more notable components of the X21. We’ve tested one before on the ASUS Zenfone 4, and were quite impressed especially by its gaming performance.

Vivo X21 Review

As good as this one is on multi-tasking (thanks to its 6GB of RAM), you’ll really start to appreciate it more once you start playing games like PUBG Mobile and Real Racing 3, where the device showcases its prowess. You get a smooth and stable experience with no major issues.

Vivo X21 ReviewOf course, it’s not as smooth compared to more high-end devices with Snapdragon 835s and 845s, but for a mid-range chip, the performance is impressive. You also get 128GB of storage, which is more than what you usually get with devices at this price range.

Camera

Vivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewThe X21’s dual rear cameras feature AI Scene Detection, and are able to deliver photos that are sharp, detailed, and color show on-point color reproduction. Snapping consecutive shots is a breeze, and focusing speed is more than decent.

Vivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewYou can apply a depth effect to your photos, and as far as the blurred parts go, accuracy is pin point, and pixelation is kept to a minimum. another nice feature is the ability to refocus your shots and adjust the intensity of the blur, even after you’ve taken them.

Vivo X21 ReviewVivo X21 ReviewIt’s even more impressive in low-light, as graininess is also well-controlled, and much of the details are preserved.

Vivo X21 Review
Without Depth of Field Effect

The X21’s 12MP front camera features AI-assisted beautification, which automatically determines the right effects, so selfies come out natural-looking. While it does a good job, I still personally prefer it to be off.

Vivo X21 Review
With Depth of Field Effect

The front camera does a pretty good job of taking detailed selfies (almost to the point that I hated it because it clearly shows my pores), and the depth effect is just as good as the rear camera.

Software

The X21 runs on Funtouch OS 4.0 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo. While the overall theme hasn’t changed from the V9, there are some new additions that make it quite interesting.

Vivo X21 ReviewFirst is that you now have an always-on-display to look at. Similar to some Galaxy devices, it gives you a quick view of the date, time, and a limited number of notifications. It does add to battery consumption of course, but probably not so much that you’ll lose an hour or two of use.

The new AI Game Mode now predicts when you’re running a game, and automatically optimizes the device’s performance. It also blocks notifications from bothering you during gameplay. Pretty handy.

Vivo X21 ReviewOf course, one of the key selling points of this phone is its in-display fingerprint sensor. All you have to do is touch an icon in the screen, and it will unlock.

While fingerprint registration is quite simple, I did find the scanning part to be a bit slower than what is expected. I mean it’s a nice feature to have, but it’s just perhaps a split second slower than ideal. Hopefully, that can be solved with an update in the future. Fortunately, the device still has Face ID Access, which works well, and works faster. Oh, and it still support double tap to sleep and wake.

Battery

Since PCMark kept on crashing, we opted to do our usual video test instead. Playing a video on loop at 50% brightness and 80% volume, the Vivo X21 managed to yield around 9 hours of up time in a single charge. That’s actually a pretty good number.

Vivo X21 Review
Vivo X21 Review
Our Verdict
The Vivo X21 is a result of the brand's continuous pursuit of giving its customers a better user experience. And for most parts, it does shape up to be one of the better contenders in the upper mid-range segment. The Snapdragon 660 delivers exactly the performance it needs to duke it out with the competition. It also captures good quality images, even in less than ideal conditions, top that up with a well thought out OS, and great battery life. There are of course, a couple of areas where it falls short, such as the less premium feel from the plastic material. It still uses a Standard microUSB port, the in-display fingerprint scanning could use a speed boost. Lastly, its PhP29,999 price tag, that is already crossing flagship territory. Sure, the Vivo X21 is a huge step-up from the V9, and offers an enjoyable and engaging user experience despite its flaws. But it's going to be hard to find a good reason to buy it against other similarly priced devices that offer a better overall package.
Design and Build Quality
Performance
Camera
Software
Battery
Price
What's Good
Good quality display
Great gaming performance
Impressive camera performance
Feature-packed software
Good battery life
What's Not
Plastic back panel makes it feel less premium
Still uses a microUSB port
Still uses a Hybrid SIM Tray
In-display fingerprint scanner is a bit slow to respond
Steep price for what it offers
3.5

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Author

Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.

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  1. Pingback: Vivo X21 Launches in PH: Snapdragon 660 and In-Display Fingerprint Scanning – Gadget Pilipinas

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