vivo V21 5G Review: Mid-range smartphone with solid selfie camera

vivo V21 5G Review: Mid-range smartphone with solid selfie camera

If you have been watching the Euro 2020 football matches, you will probably notice the pitch side advertising boards bearing the vivo as its official smartphone partner.

And the Chinese smartphone maker launched its new V21 5G smartphone in Singapore at the start of this delayed Euro 2020 last week.

Priced at only S$599, the V21 is a mid-range smartphone that sports some nice features such as a 90Hz display and a 64-megapixel (MP) main camera.

SPECS
PRICE: $599 (available in Lazada and Shopee)
PROCESSOR: MediaTek MT6853 Dimensity 800U 5G
DISPLAY: 6.44-inch FHD+ Amoled, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 90Hz
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 11
REAR CAMERAS: 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 64MP f/1.8 wide-angle, 2MP f/2.4 macro
FRONT CAMERA: 44MP f/2.0
MEMORY: 128GB (microSD expandable up to 1TB); 8GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 4,500mAh
WEIGHT: 176g

DESIGN
At first look, you might think the V21 is a flagship smartphone. It looks super sleek and is ultra thin measuring only 7.29mm thick.

The review unit comes in Sunset Dazzle and there is another Dusk Blue colour. Thankfully, I got the Sunset Dazzle unit, as its rear is truly dazzling.

FOR
+ Sleek and thin design
+ Affordable pricing
+ Great selfie camera

AGAINST
– Front’s water-drop design instead of punch-hole
– Rear cameras can be better

Depending on the angle, the rear “lights” up in a cacophony of rainbow colours. You might keep turning the phone just to see the fantastic illuminating colours.

The rear is just beautiful to look at. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

However, this colour variant is actually 0.1mm thicker than the Dusk Blue model. Think I will take this “tiny” bulge for the pretty visuals.

Furthermore, the volume rocker and power button are sited on the left side of the phone for easy access and one-hand usage. In addition, the rear camera module bulge is quite minimal.

Surprisingly, apart from the glass front, the V21’s middle frame and back are made of plastic. It sure doesn’t feel that way when holding the phone. It really looks way much sleeker than its price suggests.

The 6.44-inch AMOLED display is nice to look at and offers pretty smooth visual and punchy colours.

A little quibble is the front having a water-drop notch for its front-facing camera. Most Android smartphones, even at this price point, have a punch-hole front-facing camera.

PERFORMANCE
As you might expect from a mid-range smartphone bearing the MediaTek Dimensity 800U chip, the V21 is not a top-notch performer. In the GeekBench 5 benchmarking tests, the V21 scored 589 (single-core) and 1,695 (multi-core).

By comparison, its upper mid-range cousin vivo X60 Pro has a score of 1,015 (single-core) 3,387 (multi-core). In other words, the V21 is almost half the performance you get from the X60 Pro.

But you are paying half the price for V21, so it is probably right that you get half the performance. That said, in real-life scenarios, such as browsing through Instagram and TikTok feeds or watching Viu K-dramas on MRT, the V21 will serve you well.

It is probably your skills if you lose in MLBB with this smartphone’s performance. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In terms of gaming, the V21 can still deal some damage in games like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang or PUBG Mobile. I found no screen lag or gaming performance issues. However, the phone does literally get a little hot in the heat of the battle.

CAMERA
The V21 features a rear triple-camera system which includes a 64MP main wide-angle camera, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle and a 2-megapixel macro sensor.

By default, the main camera actually produces 16MP stills. And I recommend keeping it this way, even though there is a 64MP high-resolution. While there are a bit more details there, I don’t think it justify the hassle of changing to that high-resolution mode.

The main wide-angle camera produces nice, sharp and vibrant photos, but there is not enough breadth in its dynamic range.

Shot taken with the main wide-angle camera of V21 5G. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The ultra-wide-angle photos are essentially a cropped version of shots taken by the main camera. Thus, there are some loss in details. In addition, the ultra-wide-angle camera’s shots lack the sharpness exhibited in the main camera.

Shot taken using the ultra-wide-angle camera of V21 5G. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In night mode, the shots are decent with good dynamic range. But they lack sharpness with details loss probably due to over-processing. Light sources tend to be overexposed too.

Shot taken using Night Mode of V21 5G. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

In front, the V21 features a 44MP front-facing, or selfie, camera. It comes with optical image stabilisation and has two LED flash lights flanking the selfie camera. The OIS prevents camera shake while the flash lights allow better illumination of your face, even in the dark.

Two flash lights flanking the selfie camera give your face more light for better selfies. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

As a result, the selfie shots taken with V21 are always spot-on with accurate skin tones and correct exposure. In fact, the selfie camera is probably the star of this smartphone. And it even beats the selfie cameras of flagship models such as Samsung S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

This selfie is taken with the help of the flash lights in a dark corner of my study room. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

BATTERY LIFE
In our intensive battery test (looping a 720p video with Wi-Fi switched on and the display at full brightness and 90Hz refresh rate), the V21 lasted about 9 hours 20 minutes.

This is pretty good battery performance, considering the mid-range flagship vivo X60 Pro lasted 8 hours 46 minutes albeit having a faster refresh rate of 120Hz.

Battery mileage will of course vary depending on your usage. Even for the most ardent browser of social media, you probably only need to charge the V21 when you go to sleep.

My usage daily routine included checking Facebook feed regularly, reading news every other hour, watching video clips on Youtube and playing MLBB a few rounds at night. And there was be still around 40 per cent battery life left by the time I go to sleep.

VERDICT
The vivo V21 5G might not win any performance contest, but it sure will easily clinch a top 3 position in a beauty pageant. Especially when it comes to taking selfies too.

RATINGS
FEATURES: 7.5/10
DESIGN: 9/10
PERFORMANCE: 7.5/10
BATTERY LIFE: 8/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 9/10
OVERALL: 7.5/10

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Started out with dreams to become a street photographer, Trevor Tan somehow became a tech journalist with over 16 years of consumer tech experience. Maybe he plays too much video games and buys too many new gadgets.