Made famous by its in-display fingerprint technology and massive screen to body ratio, the Vivo V11 handset easily makes head turns and gather crowds around its innovative features and attractive design. It also has a selfie-minded 25 Megapixel front camera, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of memory, all of this retailing at around $450. How does it feel to use the Vivo V11, and where does it fit in today’s smartphone landscape? Let’s find out.
With price and screen size as criteria, we got an array of cellphones which will be used to assess how the Vivo V11 fits in relation to the competition: Honor Play (~$380), OnePlus 5T (~$430), Samsung Galaxy S9 (~$615), Sony Xperia XZ2 (~$515) andHuawei P20 (~$525).
To get our bearings, let’s take a look at some key technical features. The display is really a star of the show. Secondly, the rear Camera has a 24 megapixel sensor, but captures 12 megapixel photos, perhaps using a form of pixel binning to increase sensitivity.
The look of the Vivo V11 is very agreeable, and at first glance, it looks very much like a hand-end phone. There’s no doubt that if you’re casually using it, people might think it’s an $800 phone. The back cover has a blue and purple gradient that has been popularized by the Huawei P20 / P20 Pro, but the Huawei P20 has a glass back cover, and you can definitely feel the difference upon holding both phones.
This handset has a huge SIM tray that can hold two SIM cards and a microSD card. You can look at the photos to check on the other details:
This smartphone feels comfortable in hand because it has a width of 75.08mm for a thickness of approximately (0.31 inches. For reference, this is based on a medium size hand (US M gloves). You can try guessing from here.
The weight of 156 grams (5.5 oz) makes it a slightly lighter than average smartphone, and significantly lighter than other 6.4” handsets. This industrial design features slightly above-average performance in relation to its size, but well below high-end phones.
From another viewpoint, how much battery capacity the customer has available is very good for a handset of this size, but the Honor Play has 10% more battery capacity. The screen display-to-body ratio of 85.1% is also outstanding in absolute terms, and one of the highest – no matter the price.
Plastic is light and durable, but even with a very lovely paint or surface treatment it just does not look as good as metal or glass. However, plastic is lighter than metal and will not break. Plastic may be easier to scratch, but the damage is not always as visible as it might be on a metallic surface.
Analyzing how the smartphone was designed, we estimate that the risk of breaking during a landing on a hard surface to be reasonably low since only the front glass can shatter. You can refer to our reference article about how phones could be designed to avoid cracks upon drops: How the LG V20 Was Designed To Survive Drops
The front glass is flat and pretty thick, which helps lower the price of the components. However, it is not protected by a metal lip, so a frontal shock might induce a crack – but that’s a common problem for pretty much all smartphones with small variations of probability.
The Vivo V11 is not waterproof and has not received a U.S Military MIL-STD 810G certification. While it is common in the ~$450 segment, handset worth +$100 more often does have at least some water-resistance.
Bizarrely, Vivo is using a micro-USB connector for charging. It’s true that some micro-USB modules can be smaller and inevitably less expensive, but in this day and age, we would have expected a USB-C port.
The large 6.4” 1080p+ display (2340×1080) is definitely the star of the show, including its integrated fingerprint reader, something that Vivo has pioneered back at CES 2018. There’s a little notch to accommodate the Selfie camera which reminds me of the Essential PH-1 and is much smaller than the iPhone XS’ – but also less performant.
Superficially, the colors look vivid and well saturated and the black-levels are perfect. With a sRGB coverage of 99%, the display is better than any LCD competitor we’ve analyzed at this price point. You’ll have to play more to get something like the OnePlus 6 which has a much brighter display.
Display technical analysis
The Vivo V11 screen is based on Super AMOLED technology. OLED is an entirely different display technology (than LCD) that has been widely adopted in handsets mainly thanks to Samsung. The main difference between OLED and LCD displays is how light is emitted.
With LCD, there is a small number of white light emitters (1-2 for handsets, 2-100 for TVs) and black pixels are created by “blocking” the white light with a filter. Unfortunately, using a filter leads to “light bleeding” and “black color” that is really dark-gray.
With OLED, every pixel emits its own light. This also means that creating a black pixel just means leaving it OFF. As a result, black color is truly black, and other colors are more straightforward to control without using complex filters and color control technologies such as Quantum Dots and Nano Dots. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article which goes deeper into the details.
The display brightness of is 438 NITs is pretty good, but keep in mind that high-end phones often reach ~750+ NITs. In general, higher brightness is needed to see the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness is responsible for better image quality in widespread situations. The resolution of 2340×1080 would be considered to be high in absolute terms and compared to the competition it would be normal for this price range.
Adding $100 might push you to the next level of display resolution, with the 4.2M pixels instead of 2.5 Million pixels.
The fingerprint reader is cool, but it does come with one caveat: it is slower than legacy fingerprint readers. We found it tolerable, and it’s worth it given how beautiful the screen is. In-display unlocking is also more convenient than the scanner located in the back, which may be fast but possibly hard to locate.
Alternatively, you can use a 2D face unlock powered by the front camera. This is not as secure as the fingerprint, but it might work in dim lighting if you screen is bright enough. In general, we prefer a 3D face unlock, if we use any face unlock at all, but it’s your choice.
In broad daylight and in day HDR situations, the Vivo V11 performs very well, producing sharp and vivid images. When we looked at the photos on a 4K screen, we can see that the colors are a bit more processed than on high-end phones like the Galaxy Note 9 or iPhone XS. However, your friends could never tell without seeing the scene.
In general, we prefer when the user is in control of additional photo processing, but there’s an AI mode that will tend to crank up the effects depending on the scene you’re capturing. Worth trying, and this is mostly a matter of personal preferences.
In low-light, the difference with high-end phones is noticeable, and you understand where the additional money goes. As you can see, the photos are not bad per se, but when comparing them with more expensive phones, you will agree that the difference is visible.
In low-light, it would be unfair to ask the Vivo V11 to compete with much more expensive phones, but we compared it to the Honor Play, which is a bit less expensive and the OnePlus 5T, which costs almost as much.
The Vivo V11 is slightly better than the Honor Play in low-light and preserves details better. We don’t think that it would beat the Honor 10 however. Both phones have a fair amount of noise, but the V11 ends up with a small advantage.
The OnePlus 5T fares just a little better, but most people wouldn’t be able to tell unless they were looking at side by side photos. In the end, the Vivo V11 performs quite well in its price point.
Without a dedicated zoom, it is difficult to compete against a 2X or 3X optical zoom lens. To illustrate this, we have cropped a zoom photo to compare the Vivo V11 1X zoom lens, against a Note 9 2X zoom lens. In good lighting, this should hold fairly true with less expensive zoom lenses as well.
The Bokeh quality of the Vivo V11 is quite good, with few bugs on the edges. For instance, no camera got the space in between the legs right. You can see that the tip of the Solo figure gun has been blurred too much, but that the only obvious issue. In real world situations, you should be able to take very nice bokeh photos.
The quality of the blur itself is great and keep in mind that you can change the blur level (aperture size) after the photo was shot. It might be new to iPhone XS users, but Android phones have been able to do this for a while.
In the V11, the camera aperture of f/1.8 is very decent, and the sensor size of ~20 mm2 would be considered medium-sized (for a smartphone). The sensor size is more significant than phones like the LG V30 and on-par with the OnePlus 6. The secondary rear camera is just a sensor for the Bokeh depth estimation (background blur).
The 12 Megapixel resolution should never be used as a general proxy of photo quality. In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not sway the outcome. Keep in mind that the physical size of each sensor pixel is critical. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller.
Each obtains less light information, and in dark conditions, it is better for the overall image quality to get more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be struck. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and autofocus performance.
On a sunny day, Megapixel could be a useful metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a cityscape photo with a higher megapixel count could show finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.
The availability of an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) module on the primary camera increases the odds of taking sharp images in daylight, and brighter images in dim lighting. OIS helps to achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting tiny hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it practical to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more extended exposure).
Optical and digital stabilization is entirely different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness. EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) is not available on this handset. Because of this, the video recordings may be shakier than competitors that have this feature.
The autofocus of the V11 camera is based on Phase Detection technology. Phase-detection AF that was initially built into discrete AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera image sensor. It works by having specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus.
This method is speedy and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is somewhat proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.
The Selfie camera has an impressive 25 Megapixel sensor of very respectable size. It is larger than the Honor Play and XPERIA XZ2, but smaller than the OnePlus 6 or Huawei P20.
We found the selfie photos to be very detailed, even in relatively dim lighting conditions, easily beating more expensive phones such as the Galaxy Note 9 or the iPhone XS when it comes to sharpness and details. There is no noticeable beauty mode by default, but if you want to, there’s an AI Face Beauty option that will smooth you out, as if you had a layer of foundation makeup.
The battery capacity of V11 is 3400 mAh, which is very good in general, and very competitive in its own category. Battery life is one of the most essential features of a smartphone. A key indicator is without a doubt its battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other).
Battery life can be affected by a great many factors, but the main ones are the central processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is not possible to accurately pinpoint through synthetic tests how much energy drain YOUR unique needs will induce. However, two things are undeniably always good:
The Vivo V11 offers very good battery for the price in its category of phones. Obviously, you could get better battery value if you are willing to sacrifice other things such as display and photo quality, or performance.
It is generally impossible to predict realistic battery life by running synthetic benchmarks. Things such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will change too much. Also, the number of apps on-board and their activity cannot be estimated. Battery capacity is the best battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
With a charge speed of 52 mAh/mn, the Vivo V11 charge speed is very fast in absolute terms and is comfortably above average. Just to give you some perspective, the fastest-charging phones out there can top ~65+ mAh/mn, which is truly extraordinary. Many high-end phones actually charge slower with the S9 at 37 mAh/mn and the iPhone XS at 20 mAh/mn.
This product does NOT have a swappable battery, which is typical for handsets nowadays. Closed batteries cannot be taken out or easily exchanged, but they do permit for smaller designs and a bit bigger battery capacity inside the same product design.
Since this product has a huge display, keep in mind that larger screens tend to consume more energy to accommodate the more significant surface area to illuminate. It depends on the brightness levels displays are being viewed at, but the potential for higher energy is there, so higher battery capacity is better.
This handset has a relatively common screen resolution. Although this may be less competitive from an image quality point of view, having fewer pixels to compute is helping battery life.
The Vivo V11 is powered by Android 8.1 (Oreo), but the user will interact with Vivo FunTouch OS 4.5, which is a custom layer on top of Android. There are many reasons why OEMs do create these custom skins and layers on top of Android but mainly:
The review of Vivo Fun Touch is outside the scope of this article, but users who come from another Android interface will have to adapt a little bit, which is always a bit annoying, but ultimately not that difficult.
In general, we recommend OEMs to stick to the standard Android as much as possible and change things only if there’s a significant upside to the user. For instance, there’s little point in having a custom calculator app, but it’s not uncommon to see these and many other things.
This handset’s central processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 (8 Cores, 2.2 GHz) which has access to 6 GB of memory (RAM), which is excellent for people who love installing tons of apps.
The amount of RAM is essential for multi-tasking, or for having many apps/services on the handset. When the memory is tight, the handset may become less responsive if the system has to read/write from the slower Flash storage instead. This has been one of the significant differences between low and high tiers of phones, but this line is blurry now.
You can look at detailed benchmarks scores below (geekbench=CPU, GFXBench=3D graphics), but in our estimation, this smartphone’s performance puts it at a disadvantage against competitors. The Honor Play uses a high-end processor, and the heavily discounted Essential PH-1 also comes with a more advanced chip.
Before you focus on the charts, it is essential to understand that most tests are only loose indicators, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to notice sharp performance deltas among different classes of products (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is less obvious to do so within handsets of the same class. Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? article.
Gaming performance tests apply only to heavy applications using 3D graphics. Casual apps such as puzzles and 2D games do not need this kind of speed and can run pretty much on any recent phone.
The Vivo V11 has a CAT6LTE modem (301.5 Mbps ⇣ / 51 Mbps ⇡ ). This level of performance is below-average in its category and a bit dated in general. For example, the Honor Play has an LTE CAT18 (1200 Mbps ⇣ /211 Mbps ⇡ ) connectivity at a comparable price point.
Wireless networks (3G/4G) performance is often thought as peak download/upload speeds, but it is the average speed that counts, and higher peak speeds mean higher average speeds as well. The higher the theoretical LTE performance and the better the average real-world experience. Also, wireless providers have better and more efficient wireless networks to lower their own costs.
By the way, there is no NFC support, so if you like wireless payments or other contact-less features that need NFC, this might interest you.
The Vivo V11 handset is an exciting handset from a “large display phone” perspective. It delivers a stunning display in a thin-and-light form-factor, which is a priority for many users. The AMOLED display is great, and includes an in-screen fingerprint reader, which still reserved for a tiny club of smartphones. These are very compelling positive points.
Some competitors have merely changed strategy and provided faster chips and modems at a comparable price point, with the Honor Play being the most potent challenger, at a significantly lower price (-15%). If you’re a power-user on a budget, this may be an issue, but if you don’t care much about performance in general, this can be forgiven in view of the other advantages of this phone, such as the superior display quality.
We will keep an eye on Vivo, a company that keeps pushing the boundaries with new features and experiences at affordable prices.
Filed in. Read more about Android, Editorspick, Smartphone Reviews, Vivo.