Vivo V5 Plus review: Selfie superstar

In Phones by Ramon LopezLeave a Comment

IT seems that the battle for best camera phone will be fought in the front, what with all the selfie-centric handsets that keep coming in, often with something new to brag about. Even Samsung, though quietly, has joined the usual suspects — you know, OPPO and Vivo — with the launch of the new Galaxy A5 and A7 (2017) in the Philippines. As we noted in our review, the A7 isn’t marketed as serious competition in the selfie game, but it probably should be.

Vivo V5 Plus preview

The newly announced Vivo V5 Plus (click for complete specs), on the other hand, doesn’t need any help to appeal to a selfie generation. Not when it has two — yes, two! — front-facing cameras, one of which has a 20-megapixel sensor, which is tied with the Vivo V5 for the highest ever in a phone. The other camera module, with its own lens and and sensor, allows for depth perception and significant background blur, or bokeh, something many existing smartphone cameras can pull off adequately, but never with their front-facers.

Vivo V5 Plus specs, price, and review

The V5 Plus boasts two front-facing cameras.

And the results were never this good, the background blur never this professional-looking. Put simply, the V5 Plus is the best selfie phone we’ve used, and that’s saying a lot considering we’ve already seen what the Vivo V5, the OPPO F1 Plus, F1s, and R9s, and, more recently, the Samsung Galaxy A7 can do. And, as with its peers, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s capable of much more than it’s given credit for.

Our selfies were never this good, the background blur never this professional-looking. Put simply, the V5 Plus is the best selfie phone we’ve used.

Just as we predicted, the Vivo V5 Plus is priced at P19,990 (approximately $400) in the Philippines, which places it dangerously close to the upper midrange, where handsets from more established brands hold a lot of influence. It will be available nationwide starting January 28th, but pre-orders start today. 

Indeed it does. Unless, of course, you’ve never come across a device called the iPhone 7 (which we doubt). The antenna lines streaking across the top and bottom parts of the metal casing are, to put it kindly, inspired by Apple’s current-gen flagship, while the sides are rounded and taper toward the 2.5D display glass. The clickable home button is more angular and doubles as a fingerprint reader that’s both accurate and fast, like that of other Vivo phones we’ve sampled.

Vivo V5 Plus specs, price, and review

As with the iPhone 7, the antenna lines streak across the top and bottom parts of the metal casing.

Vivo V5 Plus specs, price, and review

The clickable home button doubles as a fingerprint reader.

Thankfully for those who own analog headphones, a 3.5mm audio jack can be found along the bottom edge, next to the phone’s microUSB charging port and speaker holes. The SIM tray on the left-hand side can take two nano-SIMs; interestingly enough, the unit we’re using doesn’t have a microSD card slot, although it’s unlikely that retail models won’t come with upgradeable storage. Not that storage is necessarily a problem for the V5 Plus; 64GB should be plenty for most people.

SEE ALSO: The 7 best smartphones in the Philippines in 2016

The LCD screen comes in at 5.5 inches across, a fine compromise between functionality and ease of use, and the surrounding bezels are narrow, so it’s easy enough to pick up and operate one-handed even for those with smaller hands. Picture quality is perfectly sharp enough at 1080p and offers accurate colors and generous viewing angles. The brightness can be turned down significantly for nighttime viewing. There’s also a blue-light filter toggle on the quick settings shade (simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen, as you would on an iPhone) to reduce eye strain.

One word: exceptional. This phone does selfies like no other, and the secret sauce is a dual-lens system comprised of a 20-megapixel camera with f/2.0 optics and an 8-megapixel front-facer. The two work together to add a depth-of-field effect to images, bringing focus to objects in the foreground while blurring the background. The effect, because it’s tied together by software, can be tweaked after the image has been captured, meaning you can readjust focus as needed.

Resized sample selfies taken with the Vivo V5 Plus. Read the captions to know each photo’s details. And oh, pardon our faces

The V5 Plus even takes panoramic selfies — perfect for group shots where everyone has to somehow squeeze in. The fill light at the top, next to the earpiece, works great even in total darkness.

The other piece of the handset worth touching on is its rear-facer, especially since the front has set a high bar. The 16-megapixel unit works well outdoors when the sun is up and in rooms with decent lighting. Image quality takes a major hit in low light, as the V5 Plus often struggles with artificial light sources. We obviously can say the same for most smartphone cameras, but it is a valid concern.

Resized sample photos taken with the Vivo V5 Plus’ rear camera

The V5 Plus shares the same internals as the 5.5-inch ASUS ZenFone 3 and the OPPO R9s, among many others. Performance is fluid, thanks to the processing power of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 system-on-a-chip, with Adreno 506 graphics and 4GB of RAM in tow. Graphics-intensive games like NBA 2K17 run fine, though you may need to lower the settings to ensure smooth gameplay.

Vivo V5 Plus specs, price, and review

Graphics-intensive games like NBA 2K17 run fine, though you may need to lower the settings to ensure smooth gameplay.

Vivo V5 Plus benchmark scores by Revu Philippines

The Vivo V5 Plus’ Antutu and Geekbench benchmark scores

Android Marshmallow runs the show out of the box, with Vivo’s heavily customized skin layered on top. But in fairness, the interface is colorful and easy to pick up, and we like that Vivo has made multitasking easier than before by including a recent-apps key (located to the left of the home button), whereas previous models display recent apps on the quick-settings shade.

The V5 Plus has one other standout feature: fast charging — using the bundled charger, mind you. It takes just 80 minutes to fully charge the 3,160mAh battery, which in our time with the handset, typically lasts a full day. On one really heavy day of use, we brought our unit down to 5 percent before 4 p.m.

The V5 Plus has one other standout feature: fast charging — using the bundled charger, mind you.

The Vivo V5 Plus, even at the price it’s going for — which is fairly reasonable, we must say — is a good midrange option, regardless of whether or not your priority is an excellent camera for selfies or video chat. Yet there are cheaper options out there rocking the same or better specs minus the extra front camera. Vivo’s own V5 and V3 Max are both fine substitutes. But if you’re simply looking for the best selfie phone on the market, look no further.

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Ramon Lopez

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Reviews editor: Ramon "Monch" Lopez has 12 years of professional experience creating and editing content for print and digital publications such as Yahoo. He headed the gadgets-merchandising division of one of the Philippines’ largest retail operators somewhere in between. His latest addiction is the comments section of viral Facebook posts.