Gone are the days when Samsung, Apple, and other reputed OEMs made some path breaking innovations. Out of nowhere came the Chinese handset makers like Vivo, Xiaomi, OnePlus slowly started dominating the Indian market like no one did. Earlier this year at CES 2018, Vivo showcased the world’s first smartphone with in-display fingerprint scanner that uses Clear ID FS9500 optical fingerprint sensor from Synaptics.
Later the company went on to announce the smartphone with In-display fingerprint scanner as Vivo X20 Plus in China. Soon after the positive reception received from both critics and masses, Vivo launched the device with some tweak in India, in the name – Vivo X21. Having said that, we got hold of the device, tested it for weeks and came up with a review. The Vivo X21 is priced at Rs. 35,990 in the Indian market. So, should you buy this instead of OnePlus 6? Find it out in our review below.
- Vivo X21 in Black color
- 2-pin fast charger (5V-2A / 9V-2A)
- Micro USB Cable
- Headset with microphone
- SIM Ejector tool
- Clear protective case
- Quick start guide and warranty information
Display, Design, and Hardware
The Vivo X21 is the first commercial smartphone to come equipped with an In-display fingerprint scanner in the Indian market. The X21 sports a 6.28-inch FHD+ 19:9 aspect ratio Super AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The pixel density is 402 ppi, which is a bit higher than Vivo V9 (400 ppi). It has a 90.3% screen-to-body ratio thanks to 1.66mm narrow bezels on the sides, 1.79mm bezels on the top and 5mm on the bottom. Unlike other Chinese smartphones including Honor and OnePlus, it doesn’t come with any color temperature adjustment options in the display settings.
The contrast level in X21 is very good with punchy colors; blacks are deep, texts look sharp and the viewing angles are excellent as well. The scale comes down to average in terms of sunlight legibility or outdoor viewing, as the device doesn’t boost extra brightness under these conditions. It also comes with auto-brightness, Eye-protection features too.
Talking about the design factor, the Vivo X21 is a handsome looking mobile with the ergonomically comfortable build. The device is sleek, weightless and measures 7.5 mm in thickness and weighs around 156 grams. The real estate at the front is mostly occupied by the display with a notch on top and a thin chin at the bottom. The X21 has a glass back, which provides us a plasticky feel on the whole. Does Vivo X21 feel premium at this price point? In my unbiased opinion, no, it doesn’t. It looks like any other phone from the mid-range segment.
Moving on to the placements, the front top has a notch that houses sensors, earpiece, and a 12MP selfie snapper. The sides of the device have that glossy metal frame to it, in which all the button and other interactive elements of the device are placed.
The right side of the device holds the volume rocker, power button and provide decent feedback when pressed. Up top, we have a secondary noise-cancelling microphone, 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom we have single speaker grille, primary microphone, MicroUSB port and awkwardly placed Hybrid Dual SIM slot (nano +nano/microSD). The left side is pretty much empty.
Rotating it back, we have a dual camera setup that has a 12-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, f/1.8 aperture, a secondary 5-megapixel camera with f/2.4 aperture. There is nothing much that impresses about the design of Vivo X21. In fact, we have seen other smartphones with the more premium build at this price point since the back of this phone feels more like plastic than glass.
The Vivo X21’s in-display fingerprint scanner is its USP. The X21 uses the so-called Under Display fingerprint scanner a.k.a Clear ID optical in-display fingerprint sensors from the Californian-based company called Synaptics. This optical fingerprint scanner relies on CMOS sensor embedded underneath the OLED display to unlock the phone. Once the finger is placed in that specific area, the sensor lights up the area of the screen to detect the unique patterns of your fingers.
Considering the technology is new and fresh, it takes around good 24 seconds to enroll your fingerprint. Moreover, when compared to the capacitive fingerprint scanner, which unlocks in 0.4 to 0.6 seconds, the In-display fingerprint is a bit slow and takes about a second, which is not a lot. It’s worth mentioning here that, there were few misses occasionally as well. The Vivo X21 always shows a fingerprint icon when the screen is turned off, just to let you know where the embedded sensor is. Everything said and done, this first-generation technology is fast enough to be usable and relatively convenient. All we need to do is to give them some time to evolve. It doesn’t detect if your fingers are wet.
Apart from the fingerprint scanner, you can unlock the device using Face-unlock option as well. However, in the disclaimer, the company have mentioned that the Facial recognition is less secure than the fingerprint, pattern and other unlocking methods.
The Vivo X21 comes equipped with a 12-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, f/1.8 aperture and a secondary 5-megapixel camera with f/2.4 aperture. The front side of the device is taken care of 12-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture on board. Both the primary rear camera and the rear camera uses Dual Pixel Sensor technology for faster focus.
Apart from the standard auto mode, it has a Professional mode (to adjust Exposure, ISO (50 to 3200), Shutter speed, White balance and Focus manually), Panorama, Face beauty mode, AR Sticker, and Doc mode. The face beauty mode (to adjust skin tone, buffing, and whitening) is available for both the rear front cameras with the live preview. It has a portrait mode for both front and rear cameras that blur backgrounds. Even though it has a single front camera, it uses software to blur the background, which is unperfect. Bokeh for rear camera uses dual rear cameras so that you can adjust the focus even after capturing the image with the mode. It has AI scene recognition that can automatically detect 17 scenes, and the 12-megapixel front camera has AI beauty recognition for a perfect selfie. The Vivo X21 doesn’t come with OIS or EIS either.
When I used it as my daily driver for mobile photography, I found it pretty good for some casual clicks on restaurants, outdoors and other places. The Daylight shots and macro shots were good, auto-focus is quick to lock the subject too. To my dismay, the HDR mode in X21 was horrible. Our X21 unit in the HDR mode did exactly opposite of what a real HDR mode is supposed to do. Most of the images clicked on the HDR mode was over-blown and lacked details as well. Under the low light condition, images had noise and the phone automatically switches to low-light mode if there is not bright enough lighting. Images with flash were good and the flash is not overpowering even in closeup shots.
The front camera works well in the auto mode but softens your face extremely on Face Beauty mode producing an artificial vampire looks. It also has AR sticker mode that enables you add extra AR object on the subject. Check out the samples below (Click the image to view full-resolution samples).
Coming to the software, the phone runs on Android 8.1 (Oreo) with Funtouch OS 4.0 on top with support Android Project Treble, but it doesn’t have support for seamless updates. The skin is similar to other skins from Chinese OEMs. The quick settings menu comes up from the bottom part of the screen. The phone has several features for one-handed usage when entering lock screen pin or pattern, keyboard and also has mini screen gestures. The smart split lets you handle two apps easily at the same time.
Smart motion has smart wake option let you launch an app using gestures and several other features such as Smart call, Smart answer, Smart switch, Smart mute and wave to hands-free. App clone feature lets you clone an app to use them with two separate accounts. This feature is available only in select apps.
Apart from the usual set of utility apps and Google apps, the phone comes with Flipkart, Amazon Prime Video, UC Browser, Amazon, NewsPoint, WhatsApp, Facebook and WPS Office apps pre-loaded. These apps can be uninstalled manually.
Loudspeaker and audio quality
The Vivo X21 has a single bottom firing speaker, located at the right side to the MicroUSB port. The loudspeaker volume is decent, but it lacks clarity and gets distorted at higher volume ranges. The audio quality through the bundled headphones is surprisingly commendable, thanks to AK4376A Hi-Fi audio chip, even though I witnessed sudden volume drop at times. But I felt difficulties in listening to songs in a noisy environment even with full volume. The earphones were made in a way that I haven’t felt any pain in my ears even after long usage.
The Vivo X21 is powered by Octa Core Snapdragon 660 AIE 14nm Mobile Platform (Quad 2.2GHz Kryo 260 + Quad 1.8GHz Kryo 260 CPUs) with Adreno 512 GPU under the hood. In our day to day usage, we never found any lag or hang, even with some heavy application usage. The multi-tasking was smooth, thanks to 6GB RAM, The Snapdragon 660 SoC is a good performer and battery efficient too. We also had a frequent gaming session with this device and didn’t witness a single frame drop as such. It is worth mentioning that, the heat management in this device is on point. Check out some synthetic benchmark scores.
Connectivity and storage
The Vivo X21 supports connectivity options including 4G VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2 LE, GPS and micro USB. It also has USB OTG support that lets you connect USB drives. Moving on, the call quality is good, and we did not face any call drops and earpiece volume was loud as well. The Vivo X21 comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage, with an expandable option of up to 256GB through MicroSD card. In general, we get around 2.98GB RAM free and out of 128GB, we got around 106GB of internal storage free.
The Vivo X21 is powered by a 3200mAh in-built battery with fast charging technology called as ‘Dual engine quick charge’. What exactly is this technology? This technology makes use of dual charging chips and a dual charging circuit to speed up the rate of charging of the device. In our usage, the X21 on full charge got us throughout a day comfortably with heavy usage and more than a day on casual or light usage. In our OneCharge rating, the Vivo X21 achieved 15 hours and 53 minutes, which is good for a phone with a 3200mAh battery and a large 6.28-inch screen. We will bring you the complete set of battery life test results soon.
The two-pin 9V-2A adapter charges the Vivo X21 from 0% to 50% in 29 minutes and 0% to 100% in just 1 hour and 26 minutes, thanks to Vivo’s own Dual engine quick charge technology.
The Vivo X21 is priced at Rs. 35,990 and is available exclusively on Flipkart online. The X21 smartphone with under-display fingerprint scanner is a welcome change in tech industry and a critical milestone for the company, that eradicates the need for an extra hardware component in the phone.
However, keeping the in-display fingerprint out of equation, Vivo X21 is just an average, slightly over-priced device without any premium parts be it build, not so good camera sensors and no water resistance for that matter. In addition to it, the MicroUSB port in this device is bit outdated even though it supports fast charging. At this price Vivo not the best choice unless if you are obsessed with the in-display fingerprint scanner technology. At this price point or less, you can check out other devices including OnePlus 6, Honor 10, and others offer more value for money.
- Good display
- Smooth performance
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- Fast charging technology
- Build quality is not up to the mark.
- Micro USB port
- Below average camera
- Priced on the higher side