Vivo X21 review: At Rs 35,990, this smartphone packs an in-display fingerprint scanner and here’s how it performed in our review. Vivo unveiled Vivo X21 in India last month, which also happens to be official FIFA World Cup 2018 smartphone. The key highlight of Vivo X21 is its in-display fingerprint scanner, 6GB RAM and 128GB expandable storage. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor, which also powers the Nokia 7 Plus. But are these features enough to make Vivo X21 stand out in terms of competition? We find out in our review.
Vivo X21 specifications
Display: 6.28-inch (2,280 x 1,080) | Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB (expandable up to 256B) | Rear camera: 12MP + 5MP | Front camera: 12MP | Dimensions: 154.45 x 74.78 x 7.37 mm | Weight: 156 g | Battery: 3,200mAh | Connectivity options: 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, microUSB 2.0, Dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS and 3.5mm jack
Vivo X21 price in India
Vivo X21 price in India is Rs 35,990 for 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage.
Vivo X21 review: Design, Display
The first thing you’ll notice upon holding the phone in your hand and turning the screen on is the notch. Yes, the Vivo X21, just like V9 and V9 Youth, sports an Apple iPhone X-like notch. The only difference though, it’s smaller. I am not a fan of phones with notched displays, courtesy of the lack of software/apps supported at the moment.
I had a similar complaint with phones like OnePlus 6, Honor 10 and Oppo F7 in the past, and Vivo X21 is no different. But inside display settings, there’s something called ‘Third-party app display ratio.’ Select any app you want which in my case was WhatsApp and select ‘Safe Area Display,’ and the content will no longer be hidden because of the notch.
Vivo X21 is tall and bears a striking resemblance to OnePlus 6. But it’s not ideal for one-handed use and Vivo’s Funtouch OS is also responsible for that to some extent. More on that later. Vivo X21 sports a 6.28-inch (2,280 x 1080 pixels) Full HD+ AMOLED screen resulting in 85% screen-to-body ratio.
I had no complaints about the screen being receptive to fingerprints and smudges beyond a certain limit, which is great. Brightness and viewing angles are impressive too. But it lacks a Gorilla Glass protection, which is surprising for a phone at this price. It features an ambient light sensor for auto-brightness depending on surroundings. Vivo X21 also offers a reading mode that filters out blue light in order to reduce eye strain while reading the screen content in darkness. But it doe not come offering certain display colour schemes like warm, cool etc.
The main attraction of Vivo X21 is the in-display fingerprint scanner. This seems to have made Vivo reduce the size of bottom chin significantly. It flaunts a curvy, glass finish back. But unlike OnePlus 6’s glass back design, this one is not a fingerprint magnet, which is commendable. It seems like Vivo has paid enough attention to detail as far as design is concerned. The phone feels premium from every angle.
But it has got a rather odd placement to accommodate SIM card tray, which is found on the bottom. It also features rounded edges across the sides, offering a good grip. Unfortunately, Vivo X21 still sports a microUSB port at the bottom instead of USB Type-C, which is bad for a phone that costs Rs 35,990.
Vivo X21 Review: Performance
Vivo X21 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz and coupled with Adreno 512 GPU for graphics. Vivo X21 has a single RAM/storage variant: 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage. Thanks to 6GB RAM, multitasking has been absolutely great. I faced no lags or stutters while switching between tasks. Multi-browser tests did go well too. Not a single app crashed or stopped working abruptly during my usage. Hence as far as day-to-day performance is concerned, Vivo X21 does the job well.
When it comes to high-end games, Vivo X21 is not buttery smooth. I have been playing games like Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2, and I often experience an occasional lag and frequent stutters. The gaming experience could have been better for a phone at this price. I also ran the standard benchmark tests. The phone managed to score 122692, which is less than OnePlus 3 that was released in 2016. Furthermore, it recorded a single-core score of 1562 and multi-core score of 5542 on Geekbench.
The main attraction of Vivo X21 is the first-of-its-kind in-display fingerprint scanner. Although it looks futuristic especially with the animation when you put your finger on the screen to unlock the handset, it does feel ahead of its time, but setting it up is painful.
Unlike the traditional fingerprint reader, this one requires a little too much pressure. You need to press your finger a bit hard against the screen surface to register successfully. At first, I got it wrong. Additionally, setting it up is more time consuming than traditional fingerprint readers. Although it is not snappy, it just gets the job done. Vivo X21 has a face unlock feature that works just flawlessly in well-lit conditions.
Vivo X21 Review: Camera
Vivo X21 houses a 12MP + 5MP dual rear sensors. A secondary depth-sensing sensor is used to capture portrait shots with bokeh effect. I’ve tried taking photos in different lighting conditions like outdoor, indoor, low-light etc, and Vivo X21 offers a good camera experience. Outdoor shots in natural lighting conditions come out well. Outdoor shots also result in more natural-looking colours, thanks to accurate white balance and optimum exposure.
I’m quite impressed with its ability to capture stunning portrait shots. Once you have taken photos using a portrait mode, you can decide the amount of background blur. Similarly pictures taken indoors retain colours well. Low-light photography is average, though. Pictures captured during night display inaccurate colours. However, they manage to retain details to a great extent. There’s an AI mode to determine exposure accordingly.
Vivo X21 also features a 12MP front-facing camera for selfies and video calls. Similar to standard photography, selfies retain details and colours too well. But more often than not, selfies come out overexposed. Vivo X21 offers a lot of AR stickers to play with. I had fun with those stickers and I find them somewhat better than Instagram’s. I’m not sure if I would have taken selfies on Vivo X21 without the AR stickers.
Vivo X21 Review: Camera samples
Vivo X21 Review: Battery, Software
Vivo X21 runs Android 8.1 with Funtouch OS 4.0 on top. Although I’m not a fan of Vivo’s customised software skin, they seem to have fine-tuned their software to perform well. Still Vivo’s Funtouch OS 4.0 has a few shortcomings that need to be addressed. My biggest complaint is about a missing search bar inside Settings.
Vivo has tried to keep its UI simple (if not clean) and free of unnecessary features, which users hardly care about any which way. But Vivo X21 comes with a lot of third-party apps pre-installed like WPS Office, UC Browser, News Point and Phone Pe. Out of 128GB internal storage, close to 14GB of memory is pre-occupied by the operating system and pre-installed apps. Quick toggle controls need to be pulled up from the bottom, making it even more difficult to operate the phone using one hand.
Vivo X21 packs a 3,200mAh battery which did last 18-19 hours. Yes, you will have to charge it at the end of the day, but it should be enough for most users with moderate to heavy usage.. My usage included streaming Guardians of the Galaxy in 1080p on Netflix (two hours movie) It’s a 2-hour movie. At the end of the movie, the battery percentage dropped to 78% from 100%.
Upon streaming it for another two hours, the battery percentage dropped to 56%. If you stream a lot of movies in a day, the phone is unlikely to last more than 10 hours, which is common for video playback on most phones. Vivo X21 supports fast charging. During my tests, the battery was able to charge from 5% to 100% in 1 hour 45 minutes.
Vivo X21 Review: Verdict
Overall, Vivo X21 is a great smartphone for its price. It has 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, which is further expandable using a microSD card. X21 also sports a great design and display, though not ideal for one-handed usage. Hardware, camera and battery performance is decent enough as well.
The USP of Vivo X21 is in-display fingerprint scanner, which seems like a bit ahead of its time and there is room for improvement. However, it gets the job done, which is what matter. In my opinion, the biggest disappointment is the microUSB port at the price. Still there’s no doubt that Vivo X21 is a good phone for what it offers and an interesting option to consider.