vivo V3Max review — the iPhone running on Android
+ Premium aluminium build paired with a 2.5D curved glass panel
+ Excellent performance
+ Great battery life and really fast charging
+ Fluid UI
+ Decent camera
+ Good audio output
- Design is unimaginative
- Overall UI copies iOS too much; drops a lot of important Android features
- Few features are outdated
Let me start by saying I do not have a good impression of vivo smartphones after reviewing the vivo X5Pro sometime back. I hope the vivo V3Max, with its powerful innards, can change my mind.
Given that it is the phone that Captain Steve Rogers uses in Captain America: Civil War, I do believe I will be suitably impressed. Let’s start.
The vivo V3Max comes in a stylish white packaging, which sports a cool crosshatch pattern on all the surfaces. The vivo logo and V3Max branding are finished in chrome for a more premium look.
Lifting up the top cover, I immediately laid eyes on the vivo V3Max which is further protected by a plastic sheath. A quick-start guide is printed on the sheath, so you need not open up a manual just to find out how to insert your SIM and memory card, if you didn’t know how to, in the first place.
The contents of the packaging is quite comprehensive. A quick charging 18W charger is included along with the usual USB cable. A pair of cheap earphones are also included in the box. Aside from the usual suspects, the vivo V3Max also comes with a soft silicon case as well as an OTG adapter. OTG adapters are becoming obsolete nowadays with USB drives that feature both microUSB and USB Type-A connectors.
The front of the device is dominated by the 5.5″ screen. I like the way vivo placed their logo off center above the screen. The side bezels are pretty slim but the top and bottom bezels are pretty huge, due to the fact that vivo is still sticking to capacitive keys when more and more manufacturers are moving towards on-screen softkeys to minimize the size of the bottom bezel. vivo also didn’t go for black bezels in an attempt to hide the actual size of the bezel, but used contrasting white bezels instead. The entire front is covered by a 2.5D curved glass panel for that extra premium look.
The metallic back is very clean. The strips at the top and bottom are plastic, which are necessary for the many antennae that are packed into smartphones nowadays. The main middle portion where my hand contacted the device was made of sandblasted aluminium which looks great and feels premium. The vivo V3Max sports squarish elements like the camera module and the fingerprint sensor to balance off the many curves it features.
All the physical buttons are on the right side. The buttons are only distinguishable by their different length. Worth noting are that the buttons are really tactile and a joy to press. The edge is curved with chamfered edges on both top and bottom edges. The left edge is empty except for the card tray.
The 3.5mm jack is lonely at the top of the device, with nothing else except for a thin plastic line. Here you can see that instead of a unibody design, vivo opted for a curved metal band wrapped around the edge and a separate back panel. However even with this design, vivo is still able to deliver excellent build quality with no gaps at all.
Over on the bottom we find the speaker grille, microUSB port and the microphone hole. The speaker grille is well designed with a nice metallic mesh peeking out from the three holes.
Overall the design of the vivo V3Max is great, but a tad uninspiring. While I would not say it is a direct copy as vivo has clearly attempted to differentiate itself with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and squarish rear elements as well as a non-unibody design, I think we can see where the idea came from quite clearly. The build quality is definitely faultless though with no gaps anywhere at all in my sample.
|CPU:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 (4 x A72 @ 1.8 GHz + 4 x A53 @ 1.4 GHz)|
|Display:||5.5″, FHD (1080p) IPS display|
|Storage:||32GB internal (expandable with microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera:||13MP f/2.2 rear camera with PDAF|
8MP f/2.4 front camera
|OS:||Funtouch OS 2.5 based on Android 5.1.1|
|SIM:||microSIM (dual SIM support, one nanoSIM slot doubles as microSD slot)|
|Battery:||3000 mAh (non-removable)|
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 CPU in the vivo V3Max does look like a potential winner here in the mid-range bracket. The CPU looks quite beefy, with 4 A72 cores and 4 A53 cores running in a big.LITTLE configuration. Pixel pushing is courtesy of the Adreno 510 GPU. The Snapdragon 652 is quite similar to the Snapdragon 650, except that the 652 features two more A72 cores, which should mean better performance. In the vivo V3Max, there is a whopping 4GB of RAM, a previously unheard of figure before the Zenfone 2 came to be.
The GPU performance of the Adreno 510 in the Snapdragon 652 SoC is the lowest end Adreno 5xx currently, which means it doesn’t perform nearly as well as even the past generation Adreno 430, and is definitely a far cry from the flagship Adreno 530 in the Snapdragon 820 package. However, it does match the Mali-T880 MP4 in the Huawei Kirin 950 SoC.
In Antutu, the vivo V3Max brings home a score of 77026, quite a respectable figure, which actually beats the already impressive Nexus 6P of yesteryear, The larger amount of RAM, newer A72 cores does put the vivo V3Max higher up the benchmark ladder, but the weaker Adreno 510 GPU in the vivo V3Max still allows the Nexus 6P to best it in the graphics department.
Geekbench is a CPU-centric benchmark, and the vivo V3Max with the Snapdragon 652 naturally shines here. It scores better than the Nexus 6P’s Snapdragon 810, but is quite a bit slower when compared against the much higher clocked Kirin 950 in the Huawei Mate 8.
PCMark tests overall system performance in work-oriented workloads, where it understandably surpasses the Nexus 6P.
Battery life on the vivo V3 Max is pretty good. The automatic brightness does default to a dimmer brightness than most devices I have reviewed, which translates to some power savings. With mobile data connection active, it gets 5 hours 34 minutes over 16 hours 57 minutes away from the plug before it dropped to 15%.
On WiFi, I managed to squeeze 26 hours and 7 minutes away from the plug, with 5 hours 37 minutes of on screen time somewhere in there. The longer standby time is because it lasted overnight.
The dual-engine fast charging technology in the vivo V3Max is really fast, allowing me to charge my phone up really quickly with the included 18W charger. It took a mere 58 minutes and 50 seconds to charge from 15% to 90%. That’s quite a feat!
Remember the OTG cable that was included. On a whim,I plugged my external drive to it, and surprisingly it powered up! I was able to access all 1TB of files on the external drive! Quite a surprise as most smartphones only put out a small current through the USB port, too underpowered to feed the huge external drives.
The vivo V3Max is considered a rather slim device, coming in at only 7.6mm thin. The 5.5″ screen affords a large viewing area but doesn’t cause the phone to be too wide. It should be able to be used comfortably by most people, unless you have a midget’s hands. Single handed operation may still prove difficult though. I believe the chamfered edges along the sides are meant for grip, as I could hold it a lot more comfortably when the chamfered edges dig into my fingers and palm, instead of the much smoother curves of the rather similar looking fruity smartphone. Given its larger screen size and smooth aluminium finishing, smooth curves are a recipe for disaster.
Weirdly, the vivo V3Max’s main SIM slot is for microSIMs. As a result, my nanoSIM has to be put into the microSD slot, forgoing memory expansion. The design of the slot also makes it difficult to use an adapter with my SIM card. I think vivo should really catch up with the times and make the main SIM slot on their next devices fit nanoSIMs instead.
The fingerprint sensor is on the back of the device, which as I have said many times, is a very suitable place to put it. The fingerprint sensor here is set rather shallow when compared against the other devices I have reviewed. Probably there isn’t much space for a deeper fingerprint sensor cutout anyway, with the slim profile of the vivo V3Max. The fingerprint scanner is fast and unlocking the device was about as quick as it can get. The fingerprint sensor here doesn’t do any extra tricks here, and is solely meant for unlocking the device.
Let’s talk about the UI now. First off, we will discuss the capacitive keys. The arrangement is wrong. Google’s guidelines stated that the back key should be on the LEFT. Well the vivo V3Max has it on the right. The Menu key? It was already on its way out in 2012, replaced by the app switcher key. What is it doing in a 2016 device? No clue. And you get no backlighting even with the non-standard arrangement.
Funtouch OS is the name of the skin overlay vivo uses on all of its smartphones. The vivo V3Max is running on Funtouch OS 2.5, based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Once again vivo seems outdated here. However the vivo V3Max did receive several bug fixes and updates during my short time with it, which seems to hint at a higher possibility of it being updated to a newer Android version that some of the other Chinese smartphones.
Using Funtouch OS on the vivo V3Max is a rather bittersweet experience. What’s sweet is that the the UI is absolutely fluid, with no stutters or delays anywhere at all. A lot of customization options are available, including 12 sliding effects for the homescreen which is pretty cool. A lot of gestures are also available to use.
The TouchPal keyboard preinstalled is also one of the better keyboards out there. Not as great as SwiftKey, but at least I didn’t really find a need to install SwiftKey to replace it.
Funtouch OS also emulates iOS very closely, especially in the way they made the quick settings accessible with a swipe from the bottom edge, which can prove confusing to most Android device users. vivo also restructured the menus in the settings, which was absolutely frustrating to me when I tried looking for specific options.
Not to mention they decided to hide the battery statistics in the iManager app. The vivo V3Max is also capable of smart multi-screen, but it is only usable for certain apps when video apps are full screen, not entirely useful, to me.
The rear shooter on the vivo v3Max is a 13MP one, while the front features a 8MP camera. A simple single LED flash sits under the camera module which is covered by a slightly protruding piece of square protective glass cover. Not much is known about the specifications of the 13MP sensor on the back, aside from the fact that it features hybrid phase detection autofocus (PDAF).
The UI of the camera is pretty simplistic, with a variety of modes and effects as well as watermarks hidden away in their respective menus. Accessing video mode is as simple as a single downward swipe, Manual mode is also here, or as vivo calls it, “Professional” mode, with a rather intuitive layout. It looks pretty similar to the Nokia Camera of yore, which actually started the whole “manual smartphone camera” fad.
Quality wise, the results from the vivo V3Max are good. HDR mode here does make a difference and makes the darker regions more visible, while also decreasing the blown-out regions area of the image. Noise is pretty well controlled in most conditions, except when it is really dark. There is also an Ultra HD mode which gives you a whopping 52MP image through interpolation. Night mode doesn’t do much except boost the brightness, in exchange for loss of detail.
The single speaker setup on the vivo V3Max is pretty powerful, with minor if any distortions to be found at maximum volume, at which it is quite unbearably loud, mind you.Of course, with the AKM AK4375 32-bit/192kHz Hi-Fi DAC, you may want to plug in a decent pair of headphones to enjoy your tunes better. And it does sound great, no problems here. If you are into tuning your audio output, you can also use the BBE mode, which is hidden in the settings of the music player.
Here you get to tweak a few settings which allow you to change the sound signature of the device. The names and descriptions of the options are kinda difficult to fathom, but hey, they do make them that much more interesting to tweak.
The 5.5″ IPS display displays Full HD or 1080p resolution. Black levels are deep enough for me, but at maximum brightness the blacks do tend to glow. The maximum brightness is also very bright so this is a display that I had no issues viewing under direct sunlight. Viewing angles are wide, as usual for any IPS-based display.
vivo asks for RM1399 for the V3Max, which I consider quite affordable. The vivo V3Max ticks a lot of boxes with its top notch CPU performance thanks to the Snapdragon 652 SoC, excellent fingerprint sensor, decent camera output quality, great sound quality, both through the loudspeaker and 3.5mm jack and last but not least, its appealing premium aluminium design, albeit it being slightly unimaginative. Overall, this is a great device for the money you pay for it, if you can live with the iOS-like UI.