We check out the newest Vivo flagship smartphone in the Philippines, the Vivo V9. We used it for several weeks to fully test out its capabilities and bring this comprehensive review.
The age of smartphone display notches is now upon us. No matter how people hate it, this new design trend is here to stay. And if we’re going to base it from recent developments, it looks like it will stay for a long time.
Vivo, one of the most popular names in the smartphone industry in the Philippines, has launched its new high-end handset that packs a screen notch and a dual-camera setup. The new Vivo V9 has the infamous shenanigan on top, a slew of enticing features, and a bunch of camera prowess.
But what’s behind the good looks? Is there something more behind the huge redesign? That’s what we’re here to find out in our Vivo V9 review.
Vivo V9 Specs
- Android 8.1 Oreo, FuntouchOS 4.0
- Dual SIM, Dual standby
- 6.3-inch Full HD+ IPS display, 2280 x 1080 pixel resolution, ~400ppi
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 octa-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage, expandable via microSD
- 24-megapixel front camera
- 16-megapixel + 5-megapixel dual rear cameras, f/2.0, LED flash
- AI Face Beauty, Gender Detection, Slow Motion
- Fingerprint scanner, Facial recognition
- 4G LTE
- WiFi dual-band, WiFi hotspot
- GPS, A-GPS
- FM Radio
- microUSB 2.0
- Dimensions: 154.81 x 75.03 x 7.89mm
- Weight: 150g
- Colors: Pearl Black, Gold
- 3,260mAh non-removable battery
Design and Build Quality
No matter what most critics say, Apple’s current flagship has an iconic and innovative design. Being the mobile market leader, it’s no surprise that other manufacturers are trying to replicate the look of the iPhone X.
Thanks to the notch, there’s now more usable screen estate on the front of the Vivo V9. But unlike the iPhone X, Vivo wasn’t able to mimic the almost bezel-less look at the chin, where there’ still a slightly noticeable chunk of the bezel. But even if that’s the case, it still looks undeniably gorgeous.
Speaking of the notch, this tiny island on the top is much thinner than the iPhone X’s as it only houses the earpiece and the 23-megapixel selfie camera.
Turning it around, we spot the dual cameras at the back. The two are in a vertical orientation, which can be a nod from its design inspiration. But unlike Apple’s crown jewel, the Vivo V9 kept the fingerprint scanner at the back. And it’s actually a good thing, as there are times when it’s more convenient to use.
The gold color variant of the Vivo V9 that we have here has a back panel similar to its predecessor. It looks like metal, although it is only made of plastic. The device is also available in Pearl Black color, which has a shinier and fresher look to it.
The Vivo V9 weights only 150g, which is relatively lightweight for a device at this size. And with its subtle curves and edges, this phone feels really good in the hands. You can use this handset for hours without experiencing any hand strains.
For a quick tour, the right side has the volume controls and the lock/power switch. The buttons are really thin and are protruded just enough to be distinct in the surface. It also feels really nice to press and it provides good tactility.
The top part is empty, while on the left there’s the SIM tray can house two nano SIMs and a microSD card of up to 256GB.
At the bottom, there’s the 3.5mm headphone jack, a built-in mic, microUSB port and the single loudspeaker. The speaker provides acceptable performance. It has enough volume to fill up a quiet room and has decent sound balance with the audible bass, suitable for listening to music or watching YouTube videos even without an external speaker plugged in.
In summary, the Vivo V9’s design and overall build quality are one of its strongest features. While they definitely copied the design, they’ve made enough customizations to make it their own.
One of the Vivo V9’s highlights is its display. But before we start, I’d like to make it clear that there’s more to it than its display notch on top. It uses a large 6.3-inch IPS panel with a Full HD+ resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels and pixel densty of 400ppi.
Other than its gorgeous bezel-less look, the screen itself is great. It’s not something to brag about, but for an IPS panel, it does an impressive job.
It has acceptable colors, decent contrast, and the sharpness is ample enough for a screen at this size. It also provides excellent viewing angles, and the screen brightness is vigorous enough to make the display usable even outdoors.
Now, let’s talk about that notch. While one of its main purposes is to make the device appear more bezel-less, it actually causes annoyance to some people. Since this handset has a 19:9 aspect ratio and most videos today are in 16:9, you’d be experiencing black bars on the side while watching clips in full screen (which kind of beats the purpose of watching in “all-screen”).
In video streaming apps like YouTube, you can easily fill the screen by doing a “pinch to zoom” gesture. However, it crops the video and the notch blocks a small part of the frame.
Overall, the display on the Vivo V9 is one of its strongest attributes. But if the notch is really not your cup of tea, you can ‘remove’ it by adding a black bar at the top of the screen. Follow our tutorial to learn more about it.
Performance and Hardware
Powering the Vivo V9 us a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 octa-core processor partnered with 4GB of RAM, Adreno 506 GPU, and 64GB of onboard storage that can be stretched up to 256GB by usi a microSD card.
The performance of the Vivo V9 is just mediocre. It can get things done, but it’s not the fastest device around — even for the price. Browsing thngrough the interface, social media feeds, and the web is pretty satisfactory. But it’s definitely not the smoothest midrange experience I had.
On the upside, the 4GB of RAM does provide excellent multitasking prowess. You can switch between apps seamlessly, although launching one is not as quick as I like.
Thankfully, the chipset’s gaming performance is good. Popular titles like PUBG was playable at good frame rates. I didn’t any experience any lags or frame drops while playing. For as long as your internet connection is consistent and you have the right skills, you can have your chicken dinner with the Vivo V9.
Speaking of games, you can store all your favorite triple-A mobile game titles here, with still a lot of room to spare for all pictures, videos, and other media. The Vivo V9 comes with 64GB of internal storage, pretty much a standard in this class.
However, only 49.2GB of it is usable. The other half is being occupied by the OS and other pre-installed apps. Still, it’s more than enough for most people. But if you run out of space, you can just throw in a microSD card (up to 256GB).
For those who are curious — yes, it has USB OTG support.
Benchmark test results
For security purposes, the Vivo V9 is equipped with both facial recognition and fingerprint scanner.
The fingerprint sensor is sitting at the back, in its familiar location, which is easy to reach by the index finger. Users can register up to 5 different fingers to give you more flexibility. But with its placement, I’m pretty sure you’d only need to sign in two of fingers as they usually fall naturally in place to unlock the device.
On the other hand, the Face Unlock feature works impressively well. Despite the lack of any complex sensors that the iPhone X has, its 24-megapixel front camera was still able to get it done.
It can correctly recognize my face even from a few feet away. Plus, it also works in a pitch black room for as long as the screen brightness can reach to your face to expose it right.
Software and Interface
The Vivo V9 runs on Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box with a layer of the company’s own Funtouch OS 4.0 skin. While we still favor the stock-Android experience, we just learn to love these manufacturer-made skins.
And in fairness to Vivo, their Funtouch OS has developed over the past few years. Its 4.0 version looks fairly clean, straightforward, with an aesthetic look and feel that is unique to it.
For a quick rundown, the Vivo V9 doesn’t have an app drawer, which means that all your apps are laid out on the home screen. The lock screen is clean, which immediately greets you with the time and date upon unlocking it.
The notification tab can be summoned from the top of the screen while swiping down from the middle of the screen reveals the quick search action. Meanwhile, swiping from the bottom-up reveals the control center, screen brightness and volume controls, and recently used apps. Undeniably, Vivo took some inspiration from iOS.
Moreover, the Vivo V9 keyboard is really comfortable to type on. The device uses TouchPal’s keyboard that was tailored for Vivo. They are responsive and has tall keys, which can be easily adjusted in the settings. And since this device is quite narrow, you can reach each both ends of the keyboard even with medium-sized hands.
I also liked the Vivo V9 app icons. Unlike other user interfaces, the design on the new Funtouch OS compliments the looks of the other apps — native or third party. In return, it makes the home screen look more appealing.
What I really didn’t like about this interface is the Settings menu. Vivo didn’t include the search tab that almost all Android devices have, which means that you have to dig in its clunky and saturated list of different items before you can find what you need.
But overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the user experience on the Vivo V9. The UI feels responsive, has all the necessities, and has a look that compliments the overall device.
Testing the Vivo V9’s camera is probably the most fun experience that I had with this device. But before going into that, let’s get on to the hardware first.
The V9 is equipped with a 16-megapixel and 5-megapixel dual cameras on the back. Up front, there’s a 24-megapixel shooter for taking selfies.
The extra 5-megapixel sensor is used for its Bokeh mode feature. And together with its AI capabilities, it creates really stunning and believable results. As you can see in the Vivo V9 sample photos below, the camera system can intelligently separate the foreground from the background, which creates that DSLR-like shot that a lot of people love. You can also adjust the blur intensity after the shot right from the camera app.
These amazing results were also due to the incredible prowess of its 16-megapixel primary camera. It produces good colors, without any software oversaturation going on. The contrast is also all right and the sharpness is fine. However, I was kind of expecting more.
The dynamic range is also top notch. According to Vivo, the V9 is equipped with AI HDR, which can surprisingly result in better and well-balanced photos.
Moving on, the 24-megapixel front camera of the Vivo V9 provides impressive performance. And to be honest, we’re not really surprised. Its pixel-packed sensor was able to capture great detail, which provides the software to have extra headroom to work on to in post-processing.
Needless to say, it can take great selfies. It looks well-detailed with good colors and contrast. The AI Face Beauty also works well. Although I do suggest that you don’t go beyond Level 3 so your pictures won’t look overboard. The Face Beauty function also works in video calls in Messenger and WhatsApp.
The front camera of the Vivo V9 also features Portrait Mode, which works surprisingly well despite the absence of a secondary camera sensor. The camera is also packed with Snapchat-like Face sticker filters. We barely use them, but they are fun to play with.
Vivo equipped the V9 with all the necessary antennas for connectivity. Although it lacks NFC, I don’t see it as a deal-breaker in any way.
But other than that, everything that you might possibly need to stay connected is here. It has 3G, and 4G LTE plus the SIM tray can accommodate two nano SIM cards and a dedicated slot for a microSD card so you can use two SIMs without compromise.
The Vivo V9 also has dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, FM Radio, GPS, and a microUSB 2.0 port with OTG support.
Texts and calls work without a hitch. In a noisy environment, I was still able to clearly hear the person I’m talking to.
All of the aforementioned specs did work well during my testing. The 4G LTE connectivity was reliable (for as long as your location supports it) and I was also able to connect to our wireless network without a problem. Bluetooth connectivity worked seamlessly with my wireless speakers and headphones as well.
The Vivo V9 has a decent 3,260mAh battery, which is definitely not the biggest battery capacity that you can find from a device with this kind of hardware. However, for casual day-to-day use, it should be more than enough for most people.
But nonetheless, the Vivo V9 battery actually delivered good performance. After a day of casual use (i.e. web browsing, streaming music over 4G LTE, taking pictures) the Vivo V9 was able to last me for around 13 hours until the battery indicator turns red at 20%.
That’s enough to last for an entire day, while still having some juice left for you to use once you get home.
For a more accurate test, I ran PCMark’s battery test (WiFi on, screen brightness and volume set to 50%). The device got a score of 9 hours and 15 minutes of screen-on time. It’s not the best that we’ve seen, but it’s definitely up there.
Vivo is always proving that they’re more than just your average Chinese smartphone brand. While they did get some inspiration from other well-known brands, the company was able to set themselves apart by trying to be the best at the things that they are good at.
So to answer our question — the Vivo V9 is really more than just a good-looking device and it clearly has substance. For starters, the large display is a pleasure to look at and provides enough room to handle different tasks or make media consumption more immersive. Also, because of its sleek design and thin bezels, it doesn’t feel really bulky — especially for a 6.3-inch smartphone like this.
Moreover, I really enjoyed taking pictures with its excellent cameras. This is the first time in a long time that I was really impressed with the cameras of a midrange smartphone.
And of course, the battery longevity is always part of the praise in every Vivo smartphone review, and the V9 is no exception.
However, the Vivo V9 inherited some of the tiny flaws that we come to expect from smartphones like this. For one, the device has a slightly underwhelming processing performance. While it’s occasional hiccups and sluggishness is forgivable, a device at this price range shouldn’t be having problems like this anymore.
In addition, no matter how good-looking the user interface is, it still needs polishing. We expect some Android features, even the minor ones, to arrive in a future software update. These are features that might look negligible, but can actually improve the overall user experience.
To wrap it up, I really think that the Vivo V9 is an interesting device. This is the smartphone that the Vivo V7+ should have been. It has a new set of features that can justify its price tag a bit better than the previous one. But if you’re all about performance, there are clearly better options out there.
For those who want a straightforward midrange Android smartphone with a huge screen and good cameras, the Vivo V9 is an excellent choice.
Pricing and availability of Vivo V9
The Vivo V9 is now available in the Philippines for a price of Php17,990. You can get it in Vivo concept stores, kiosks, and authorized dealers nationwide. It’s also available in different third-party resellers, as well as Vivo’s official online stores in Lazada.
And if you don’t have Php17,990 ready as of the moment, you can get it via Home Credit on their 0% installment plans. Check out our Vivo V9 Home Credit guide here.
- Large display
- Sleek design
- Excellent cameras
- Good battery life
- Underwhelming performance
- UI, software needs polishing