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Vivo X21 review: This 'first' of a phone left us wanting more

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The fingerprint scanner works by lighting up the area where your finger is. It does take a while though, so if you fails to recognise your print, you will have to wait for the scanning to process  again, which can be frustrating. 

Aloysius Low/CNET

Of course, if you really can't wait to unlock and use the X21, then you're better off with the face unlock feature to instantly gain access to the X21; but note that like most face unlock tools on Android, this is convenient but not secure enough for mobile payments.

In dim-lighting conditions, the X21 has an infrared light to scan your face. When you unlock the phone though, you'll get frustrated with the phone's poorly made iOS-inspired Android 8.1 skin called FunTouch. The control panel is now a swipe up from the bottom, but because the home button is in the way, you may accidentally hit that instead.

There's also no search feature on the settings page, which I hated, as it made scrolling through to turn stuff on or off a pain. If you put aside these bugbears, you'll find the rest of the skin pretty usable, especially if you're switching from an Apple phone.

On the camera front, the dual rear 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras take pretty decent shots as seen below, though selfies can feel terribly fake due to an aggressive beauty mode that smooths and whitens your skin (a popular feature in Asia). Portrait mode shots also create terribly unrealistic depth of field, which overly blurs the background, and at times, doesn't quite blur the right area.

The Vivo's portrait mode overdoes its depth-of-field effects.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The auto-HDR detection works pretty well, and brings out the details in this scene that would have otherwise been just mostly dark. 

Aloysius Low/CNET
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The camera manages to hold up well here, though some details are lost but the colors manage to come through without overexposing the lights from the posters at the side. 

Aloysius Low/CNET
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My face looks like it's been painted over with a brush. That's how much I dislike the Beauty mode of the selfie camera. 

Aloysius Low/CNET

Battery life was a bright spot, though, lasting 15 hours and 40 minutes in our video loop tests, while performance from its midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip held up to most of what I threw at it, including some Asphalt 8 gaming. Check below for the benchmark tests.

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Vivo X21
26552
Oppo R15 Pro
23,736
OnePlus 6
62,952
Huawei P20
30,547

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

GeekBench v4.0 single-core

Vivo X21
1,615
Oppo R15 Pro
1,611
OnePlus 6
2,454
Huawei P20
1,896

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

GeekBench v4.0 multi-core

Vivo X21
5,787
Oppo R15 Pro
5,712
OnePlus 6
6,672
Huawei P20
4,114

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Hardware specs comparison


Oppo R15 Pro Vivo X21 OnePlus 6 Huawei P20
Display size, resolution 6.28-inch; 1,080x2,280 pixels (AMOLED) 6.28-inch; 1,080x2,280 pixels (AMOLED) 6.28-inch OLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels 5.8-inch; 2,244x1,080 pixels (LCD)
Pixel density 401ppi 402 ppi 402ppi 428ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.16 x 2.96 x 0.31 in 6.08 x 2.94 x 0.29 in 6.13x2.97x0.31 in 5.9x2.8x0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 156.5 x 75.2 x 8 mm 154.5 x 74.8 x 7.4 mm 155.7x75.4x7.75 mm 149.1x70.8x7.65mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.35 oz; 180g 5.50 oz; 156g 6.2 oz; 177 g 5.8 oz; 165g
Mobile software
Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel monochrome Dual 12-megapixel, 5-megapixel 16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto 12-megapixel RGB, 20-megapixel monochrome
Front-facing camera 20-megapixel 12-megapixel 16-megapixel 24-megapixel camera
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 970 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.3GHz octa-core Kirin 970
Storage 128GB 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 128GB
RAM 6GB 6GB 6GB, 8GB 4GB
Expandable storage up to 256GB up to 256GB None None
Battery 3,430mAh 3,200mAh 3,300mAh 3,400mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Underscreen Back of phone Below screen
Connector Micro-USB Micro-USB USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes Yes No
Special features Super slow-mo video, dual-sim, splash-resistant (IP57) Dual-SIM Portrait mode, notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging Super slow mo video (960fps), splash-resistant (IP57)
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to $515 Converts to $600 $529 (64GB), $579 (128GB), $629 (256GB) Converts to $839
Price (GBP) Converts to £385 Converts to £440 £469 (64GB), £519 (128GB), £569 (256GB) £599
Price (AUD) AU$689 Converts to AU$800 AU$702 (64GB), AU$769 (128GB), AU$835 (256GB) Converts to AU$1,095

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