Vivo V19 comes with quad rear and dual front cameras.
The smartphone is armed with a 4,500mAh battery.
Vivo has also bundled a 33W fast charger with the phone.
Vivo is steadily growing in emerging markets. The company has been launching new smartphone models across multiple series, targeting different price segments. While the U- and Z-series focus on devices for online users, the V-series, the oldest one, has smartphones available across online and offline platforms. The latest model to come out from the V-series is the Vivo V19, which aims to offer a good camera experience along with an appealing design and a long-lasting battery.
Today smartphone brands are trying to differentiate their devices by offering features like a periscope zoom camera system, a high-refresh-rate display and 5G connectivity. The Vivo V19 does not have any of that, yet it does create an impression. Vivo is doing this by focusing on the experience. I have been using the smartphone for over three weeks to understand where it fits in front of the competition.
Vivo V19 Pricing and Strategy
Vivo is going with a different strategy this time around. The Vivo V19 price starts at $370. It is available in two SKUs, both featuring default 8GB of RAM (LPDDR4X). On the storage front, you can choose between 128GB and 256GB (UFS 2.1).
Counterpoint research analyst Varun Mishra said: “Vivo has been steadily gaining share in the emerging markets. In Q1 2020, it grew 60% YoY in Southeast Asia* and over 40% YoY in India. The V-series, with its unique positioning and price point, has helped the brand gain share in some of these markets, especially in Indonesia, Vietnam and India. With this series, Vivo has been consistently focusing on key buying decision factors like selfie cameras. The V19 continues the trend, featuring a dual selfie camera and a great software optimization. The users in the emerging markets are upgrading, and there is a gap to be filled in the $300-$400 price band, which can be leveraged by Vivo through V19.”
(*includes Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore)
Sleek, Lightweight and A Looker
Major smartphone models that have been launched so far this year come with plain colour options, but I like the Mystic Silver finish on the Vivo V19. The rainbow gradient reflects the light in colours as you turn the phone at different angles. It reminds me of the Aura Glow finish of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10-series.
Design-wise, you get Corning Gorilla Glass 6 along the front and back. The frame is made from polycarbonate plastic with a metal finish. The back is curved along the edges, making it easier to hold. Despite being glass, it is not too slippery. But it is the fingerprint magnet that attracts a lot of smudges.
The gradient back on the Mystic Silver finish model gives it a premium look and feel.
The Vivo V19 packs a big capacity battery, and yet it has a sleek and lightweight profile. The sleep/power button and the volume rocker are on the right. They are easily accessible and have a good tactile feel as well. The USB Type-C port and the 3.5mm headphone jack are along the bottom. For once, it is good to see the legacy audio port alive when most brands are killing it, especially in this price range.
Six Cameras for Good Photography Experience
As the quad-camera sensor set-up becomes popular even on mid-range smartphones, we are expecting CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) shipments to top five billion in 2020. The V19 is among the increasing number of smartphones to feature four cameras at the back.
The set-up includes a 48MP primary sensor with f/1.79 aperture. It uses 4X1 pixel binning to click 12MP photos by default. But the camera app has an option to let you click full resolution 48MP photos. Do note that while the 12MP photos are about 4MB in size, the full resolution photos are about 14MB or more in size. But what about the image quality?
During my usage, I clicked quite a few photos in different light conditions. The camera did a good job. In general, it captures enough details and the dynamic range is good too. Below are a couple of examples.
In this first picture, you can see how the sensor has captured the colour and texture of the building and the walled compound. The white balance is also well maintained, and despite the cloudy weather, the tone is just slightly on the warm side. As you zoom in, you can also see the text clearly, just that the colours on the flag are a bit off.
Coming to the second picture, the sensor has again managed to capture enough details while keeping the colours balanced. Look at the reflection of trees in the pond, the sky with grey clouds, and the houses and trucks below.
The 48MP main camera produces good results in bright lighting conditions.
48MP vs 12MP (zoom)
The advantage of having a 48MP camera is that it allows you to zoom into the subject while keeping the details quite sharp. As you can see in the images below, the 48MP sample is on the left with a 100% crop. You can read the text clearly, and even the temporary lift structure on the under-construction building looks sharp.
On the right is a 12MP sample, which loses details at 100% crop. As you zoom in more, the text sharpness deteriorates further.
Low-light Needs Improvements
Vivo has included night mode in the camera app. A quick burst of photos is shot at different exposures and combined to offer a crisp, brighter photo. To get a blur-free shot, you need to ensure your hands remain steady for a few seconds. But even after that, the final picture quality is not too satisfactory. Camera samples below.
Good Ultra-wide, Portrait and Macro Performance
The second camera on the V19 features an 8MP sensor with an ultra-wide lens (f/2.2 aperture). The other two are 2MP camera sensors – one for portrait mode and the other for macros (both featuring f/2.4 aperture).
The ultra-wide-angle camera captures decent photos, but due to the drop in resolution, a “slight” loss in quality is visible. But this could also be because it has to adjust the white balance for the entire scene. Some samples below.
Moving on, the portrait mode clicks good photos with a nice background blur. The app lets you adjust the intensity of blur as well. But though the portrait mode works well on human subjects and plants, I noticed that it struggles with edge detection on pets. You can see that in the photo below of a cat, around the ears.
The last camera sensor comes with a macro lens. It lets you take good close-up shots. I just wish Vivo improves the sharpness a bit to take even better photos.
Ultra Stable Mode for Smooth and Steady Videos
The V19 supports video recording in up to 4k resolution. The recording quality is decent, but if you are moving the frame a bit faster, the video has a lot of jitters and jerks. Thankfully, Vivo has added an Ultra Steady mode which uses software-based stabilization to offer smooth and jerk-free recording. And the mode works to a great extent, just that the resolution drops to 720p. But the good part is that the frame rate defaults to 60fps to enable smooth video. The mode also works when recording videos using the front camera.
Vivo has also added a mode called Art Portrait. It works with both front and rear cameras. The resolution here defaults at 720p (30fps). There are two options — Mono and Bokeh — to choose from. With Mono mode, the subject in focus stays in colour, whereas the background is in greyscale. The Bokeh mode, as the name suggests, blurs out the background while keeping the subject in focus. I recorded a couple of videos to test the feature and I was impressed with the output.
The Art Portrait mode is fun to use, whereas the Ultra Stable mode offers cinematic-looking video shots.
Dual Front Cameras for Good High-Resolution Selfies
For selfies and video calling, the Vivo V19 comes with dual front cameras in a hole-punch cutout. The primary sensor is of 32MP resolution, paired with an 8MP sensor (ultra-wide lens). You get full-resolution 32MP selfies by default and the sensor does a good job. Selfies are sharp and detailed and with good colour temperature.
Switching to the portrait mode (Bokeh) the resolution drops to 8MP, but the camera captures good selfies with adequate background blur. There are different modes too where the subject in focus retains colours, whereas the background goes greyscale. There is also a Movie mode where your selfies get a cinematic feel.
Selfies and portraits shot from the 32MP camera are sharp and detailed.
Moving to the ultra-wide-angle camera, I am not too pleased with the results. The drop in resolution is instantly noticeable. The skin tone and colour temperature go for a toss and the photos lose details too. Based on the experience, I would much rather stick to the main camera.
Good Performance with Focus on Experience
Crisp, Vibrant Display
Smartphones today, especially in the premium segment, come with high-refresh-rate displays. Even the $200 Realme 6 features a 90Hz screen refresh rate. Sadly, the Vivo V19 still comes with a 60Hz screen. But that does not mean it is bad. You will only notice the UI to be a bit jittery if you are switching from a smartphone with a high refresh rate display. Keep that aside and there is not much to complain.
The AMOLED panel offers punchy colour reproduction. Viewing angles are good and legibility under direct sunlight is no problem either (maxes out at 1,200 nits). The whites are bright, and the blacks are deep too. The screen also supports the HDR10 standard that makes content viewing pleasurable, especially when streaming videos on popular OTT platforms.
Balanced Performance, Optimized Software
Under the hood, the Vivo V19 draws its power from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 SoC built on a 10nm node. It is an older chipset and less powerful compared to the Snapdragon 720/730 series. But together with 8GB of RAM and refined software, Vivo has managed to squeeze the most out of the chipset in terms of performance.
The smartphone runs on Android 10 with Funtouch OS UI on top. Unlike the previous iterations, Vivo’s custom UI is more refined now. There are preloaded apps like Helo and Opera, but they can be uninstalled. There are app and game recommendations too, but Vivo does not push ads, so that is a good thing. Funtouch UI also has interesting feature add-ons like the Jovi assistant, which replaces the Google Assistant screen on the homepages with app shortcuts and news feed. You can add Notes, Twitter, To-do list, weather and calculator among other apps to the feed. Digital Wellbeing card can also be added here, which offers vital information such as screen time, average usage and continuous usage.
Vivo has optimized the Snapdragon 712 SoC and Funtouch Custom UI to get the best performance from the V19.
But coming back to day-to-day usage, the V19 works smoothly. My usage involved mostly making a couple of calls in a day, playing PUBG Mobile for at least two hours daily, checking my Twitter feed every half hour, web browsing and some Instagramming. I would also occasionally stream music on apps. During the usage, I did not come across any hiccups.
Gaming performance was better than I expected, with games like Asphalt 9: Legends. There is also a special mode — Ultra Game Mode — for games like PUBG Mobile with a 4D gaming feature. When you start PUBG Mobile, it clears all apps in the background and allocates all resources to the game. It also optimizes touch sensitivity for low latency, and you can turn on game vibrations that give tactile feedback when a bullet is fired. There is also the voice changer mode, where you can talk in funny voices with your teammates.
PUBG Mobile with Ultra Game Mode on and 4D vibrations is a delightful experience.
The Ultra Game Mode also allows you to block those annoying background calls and notifications to help you focus on the game. There is also the Esports mode for games like PUBG Mobile to further enhance graphics and touch. Interestingly, the phone barely gets warm even with graphics settings set at HD and frame rate at high.
For security, the smartphone comes with an in-display fingerprint scanner which unlocks the device in a second. There is also a face unlock feature, which works well. I found the face unlock a bit faster than the fingerprint scanner. But I prefer the scanner as it is more secure.
A Battery That Lasts Longer Than A Day
The software optimizations also help to squeeze out more standby from the smartphone’s 4,500mAh battery. With the kind of usage mentioned above, I could easily manage to get over five hours of screen time. Without gaming or video streaming, I was able to get a little over six hours and 45 minutes of screen time. To put the battery drain during gaming into perspective, two hours of continuous gaming drained the battery from 100% to 65%, which is impressive. Vivo has also put a 33W fast charger in the box which takes the battery from empty to 70% in about 45 minutes. Charging it fully takes close to 80 minutes.
Concluding Thoughts: Vivo V19 is a Well-Rounded Smartphone That Faces Some Tough Competition
Overall, the Vivo V19 is a solid smartphone that ticks the right boxes when it comes to design, display, cameras and battery life. It also offers good overall performance. But the V19 leaves a few things to be desired at its current price tag. A higher screen refresh rate and more fine-tuned camera performance could have made it an even better offering in the segment. Smartphones with lower price tags offer these features, which will bring tough competition to the V19.
Lastly, some thoughts on the choice of the chipset. When I first looked at the pricing and specifications, I was disappointed as to why Vivo did not use a newer Snapdragon 720/730G chipset. But after using the device for over three weeks, it is evident that Vivo’s engineering team has worked hard to optimize the software.
I would like to recall the time when Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 4, Note 5, 6 Pro and Y2 smartphones. These devices were powered by a Snapdragon 625 SoC. Having tried all the four around their launch, it was impressive how Xiaomi had fine-tuned the chipset and MIUI software to get the best performance and good battery life from these phones.
Coming back to Vivo, the company introduced the Z1 Pro a year ago with Snapdragon 712 SoC, offering a refined and balanced performance at $200. I can see the same balance in the Vivo V19 too, with a focus on cameras, battery life and enhanced gaming performance despite not having a powerful chipset. It is important for Android smartphone vendors to do more with optimization to get the best performance, rather than chasing numbers and adding the latest chipsets to market their products.
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