Vivo's V11 packs in tons of software offerings alongside a mid-range SoC and other great features.
The newest entry to Vivo's V-series is the Vivo V11, which we had the opportunity to go hands-on with for a review in the leadup to its recent launch. However, this isn't just another mid-range Android handset being added to an already saturated market. Instead, it follows in the footsteps and builds on the advancements of its forebear, the Vivo V9, to deliver a smooth and refined experience with modern updates on the aesthetic front. It also has a battery that should last most users all day with power to spare and performance should allow for almost anything users want to throw its way. What's more, great cameras and plenty of unique features are brought to the table alongside audio hits all the right notes and very almost no tradeoffs to speak of. So it goes without saying this smartphone will be one to watch when it does hit the market.
Setting the somewhat obscure launch availability and pricing aside, there is a lot to love in the specs of the Vivo V11 as a device expected to be right in the middle of the Android spectrum. To begin with, this Android 8.1 handset ships with a 6.41-inch Super AMOLED display set to a resolution of 1080 x 2340 and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. Just above that display, and inside of a tiny ‘U’-shaped notch, there is a camera which is rated at 25-megapixels with a f/2.0 aperture set just below a single forward-facing earpiece speaker bar. That forward-facing camera system also comes enabled with infrared for rapid facial-recognition unlocking in even poor lighting. Rolling over to the back, the Vivo V11 has a 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel dual-camera setup with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures, respectively. Those are accompanied by a dual-tone flash. The company's own Android 8.1-based Funtouch OS 4.5 lays the groundwork for extra features and the U.I.
The Vivo V11 is powered by a Snapdragon 660 octa-core SoC clocked at a maximum of 2.0GHz. That’s backed up by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. 4G connectivity for this mobile is handled via a dual-nano SIM drawer which also has a separate third slot available for micro SD. Beyond that, the handset features Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi direct support, although NFC is not present. Those internal components should be more than enough to get users through whatever tasks they have or games they want to play. Meanwhile, the battery is a 3,400mAh power pack that fills up quickly despite utilizing micro USB 2.0 for charging. The wealth of sensors and radios standard to and expected with every modern Android handset are present as well with the exception of near-field communications. All of that is squeezed into a metal and 3D glass frame measuring just 157.91 x 75.08 x 7.9mm, with a weight of just 156g. Pricing was not revealed in the announcement and subsequent press release. The current expectation is that consumers can expect to pay around $366 to start but that will vary depending on the region in which it's sold and should be taken with a grain of salt.
In The Box
Opening the box first reveals a cardboard compartment containing a warranty card booklet, a quick start guide with basic device specs, a SIM tool, and a snugly fitting clear protective case. Underneath that, the Vivo V11 sits wrapped in a pre-installed protective skin to prevent damage to its glass-coated metal frame. Moving past that, meanwhile, reveals an OTG charging cable, a pair of Vivo-branded earbuds, and a wall adapter for charging. The headphones are the in-ear type that is entirely plastic, without any kind of rubber or silicate comfort layer. That doesn't mean they're uncomfortable at all but that is the style Vivo has gone with. The wall adapter is the standard type for the launch region – a Type G plug. That's rated at either 5V/2A or 9V/2A on the output side.
Hardware and Design
On the design front, the Vivo V11 is just above average. That's mostly due to the proliferation of all-screen handsets and designs heavily centered around metal and glass. With that said, it has a great in-hand feel thanks to the smooth design of its ports and speakers, in addition to its curved glass backing. Despite being 6.4-inches in size, the near-absence of bezels ensures that most users should be able to reach all portions of the screen. Above that are a camera and earpiece speaker. The volume rocker and power buttons can be found on the right-hand edge, while the left edge houses the 3-slot SIM and SD card tray. Along the bottom, users will find a single speaker, micro USB charging port, a 3.5mm headphone port, and a mic. The rear dual-camera and LED are on the back of the handset at the top-left-hand side. Our test unit is a 'Starry Night' color configuration. That's a deep blue – almost black – coloration with a metallic fleck, while the bottom portion shows in the same metallic tones but in a lighter blue or purple depending on the lighting and viewing angle. Another color, called 'Nebula,' is also available. That configuration lightens the blue hues of the top-half while adding more purple to the lower half.
On the other hand, Vivo hasn't advertised any ruggedization features for its V11. So it might be susceptible to water or dust damage and the included clear case seems to confirm that since it has a built-in cover for the charging port. Bearing that in mind, it is a very solid quality build and the curve does allow a good fit in the palm for more grip. Buttons move in and out with a nice click and both charging and headphone ports fit snugly. The SIM port sits flush with the body and shows almost no gap. There’s also no immediately visible space showing where the metal edge frame meets with the glass on either front or back either. Metal surrounds the camera glass on the back, while the front-facing shooter is positioned underneath the glass covering the screen. Overall, the V11 has a very clean aesthetic that might turn some heads but doesn't appear too flashy in spite of its coloration. It strikes a good balance between build quality and looks.
The display in use here is, in a word, fantastic. Auto-brightness is extremely well-optimized and it shines through nicely even under direct sunlight. Moreover, it’s responsive and only on very rare occasions is the under-screen fingerprint reader even remotely visible. That did happen just once during our test, that showed through as an almost imperceptibly light shadow compared to surrounding U.I. elements on a white screen background. In any case, the five-point multitouch display is not at all hampered by the inclusion of an under-screen fingerprint scanner and the scanner itself works very well, if a bit more slowly than more traditionally-placed hardware. Setting aside those aspects of the display, Vivo’s screen takes up the vast majority of the front of the device, thanks to a very slight notch at the top and thin bezels on every edge. In fact, the side bezels are just 1.76mm in width and the screen-to-body ratio here is set at 91.27-percent.
Performance and Battery Life
In terms of performance, the Vivo V11 features an octa-core Snapdragon 660 chipset that performs very well under pressure. The lag that's often seen in more budget-friendly or mid-range Android devices is all but non-existent even when playing through an intensive gaming session and regardless of how many apps were open. A game mode is included in Quick Settings to provide even more boost if any latency does become apparent, although that will drain the battery more quickly. Better still, the performance of the entire system is managed by AI, leading to a smooth experience regardless almost across the board. Only in high-intensity titles designed primarily for flagship hardware did any latency occur at all, which was reflected in the benchmarks we ran.
On the battery front, meanwhile, the Vivo V11 scored just below a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in the benchmark and lasted just under 8 hours with the CPU maxed out at above 70-percent and around 100-percent for the majority of the test. That’s screen-on time and our real-world testing matched that fairly closely, with an average day’s use including gaming, listening to music, and watching videos. For charging, Vivo has ensured that topping off doesn’t take too long to accomplish at all if battery life just isn’t enough. Utilizing the handset's "Dual-Engine Fast Charging," while charging the V11 on a wall adapter with the same rating as the included plug, we were able to go from just above 24-percent to nearly 80-percent in well under an hour.
Connectivity and Audio
Compared to many other smartphones from Chinese companies, the single bottom-firing speaker on the Vivo V11 is exceptional. Not only does it pump out the mids and highs very well. It also hits bass tones with a fair amount of accuracy. Beyond that, the volume is great and things only improve over Bluetooth or through the headphone jack. As with all of the features on this smartphone, there are slight improvements that could be made but that would probably push the device well into the premium category – in terms of both sound and price. With that said, everything also already sounds relatively high-end – just as every other aspect of this phone feels that way. The included wired headphones, while not at all perfect, were unexpectedly great by comparison to those that ordinarily ship with a mid-range handset. There are dozens of sounds to choose from for notifications, alarms, and ringers but each of those flows forward clearly at whatever volume level the handset is set at.
On the connectivity front, Wi-Fi connections are as strong as can be expected. However, at this point, it's difficult to say what bands will be supported for mobile data. Unsurprisingly we were not able to get any service at all on Straight Talk through T-Mobile’s bands. That’s because this handset is not at all intended for use in the U.S. Instead its bands will be unlocked for the regions in which it is intended to be sold. In all likeliness, based on various widespread reports about certifications, those will include Thailand and India. So the bands will most likely reflect that, with possible support for surrounding areas and Europe, but nothing is confirmed. In the meantime, we did test the call quality of the top speaker using a Wi-Fi connection and a Google Hangouts call. The earpiece is at least as good as everything else on this device and, if that's any indication of real-world call quality, connections should be as solid as allowed by whatever network users happen to be on wherever the Vivo V11 is available.
Setting that aside, software is where the Vivo V11 really gets interesting. The most immediate difference between this handset and those made by competitors is the fact that the Quick Settings are not accessed in the same part of the U.I. as the notifications. Instead, notifications are in the pull-down from the top and swiping up from the bottom reveals the quick settings. Icons for recently used applications line the top of those, just above brightness and volume settings. Among those settings, users have access to the usual adjustments as well as the ability to toggle Game mode, eye protective features, cache management, a screen recorder, calculator, and multitasking or multiwindow mode. The next most obvious difference is the complete lack of an app drawer and there doesn't appear to be any way around that short of installing a secondary launcher. Apps are installed on the home screens and manageable with folders.
In the settings app, meanwhile, there are enough options to keep even the most dedicated power user busy for quite some time. Some of those, such as the OTG toggle, serve the purpose of making the handset more secure. A 'File Safebox' is included to ensure that sensitive documents and images are kept under lock and key, while another menu allows users to manage privacy, app encryption, and permissions. Software navigation keys can be adjusted between three icon styles and two configurations – one with the recent apps on the left and one with the order swapped so that the back button is on the left. Buyers will also notice a “Jovi” settings option which hides the settings for applications optimized for Game mode and an explanation of the AI-driven camera and phone features. On the safety front, “Motorbike mode” lets users set up auto-responses for when they’re driving and automatically reject calls. Conversely, there is no traditional battery usage menu to be found on the V11. Instead, there are only settings for switching between the various modes to manage hardware and limit app usage or how specific apps run in the background.
Next, users can set up gestures, clone apps, and set up a screen-off action to be performed. The latter of those lets users choose to turn on or off the flashlight, record audio, open the camera, open facebook, or access another app quickly, simply by pressing and holding the down-volume key while the screen is turned off. That’s found under “Smart click” settings. For motion or gesture controls, found under the Smart motion settings menu, users are presented with another huge array of options. Smart wake lets users individually activate a total of nine gestures from unlocking or taking a photo, to opening WhatsApp or Facebook. ‘Smart turn on/turn off screen’ enables users to turn on various features associated with turning off or on the screen. Smart call covers gestures for answering or muting phone calls. Shake gestures can be used to turn on the flashlight and a wave can unlock the device or face detection can quickly lower the volume of ringers and notifications. Finally, WhatsApp and Facebook can be logged into with up to two separate accounts and the system will “clone” the icon to make switching accounts easy. Those settings and instructions are found in the App Clone section of the settings.
Moving past that, the company also has chosen to install its own applications for theming, music management, and device management. Moreover, its own app store – the V-Appstore – clock, messaging, phone, browser, and other apps are installed alongside Google's stock Android apps. That's in addition to a cloud storage app, phone mover, compass, sound recorder, notes app, document editor, and more. This is not a device that ships without any bloatware which may be one of the few areas where criticism is warranted, although it shouldn't be an issue with more than 100GB of storage out of the gate.
Vivo put a lot of effort into both camera optimization and the camera software on the user-facing side – and it shows. For starters, the 12 and 5-megapixel dual setup shoots great photos even when in motion. It catches colors accurately and is navigation of the interface is smooth and intuitive. On the functionality side, there are a total of seven primary shooting modes on the UI carousel including Doc, Professional, Panorama, AI face Beauty, AR Stickers, and ordinary photo and video modes. Finally, time-lapse photography, live photo, retina flash, time watermarking features are included, while creative photo filters can be added to all but the modes for document photos, professional or manual, panoramic, and AR Sticker modes. What's more, the company is using AI to best determine what scene is being shot, including a 'pet mode.' Gender detection, HDR adjustments to backlighting, low-light optimizations, 'portrait framing' assistance, and other AI camera enhancements are in place just to make sure anything captured in images looks as good as possible. Beyond even that, there is an after-shot tool referred to as 'AI face shaping' that lets users tweak directional and shape aspects of their face without too much distortion.
Each has its own settings adjustments and additional features in addition to a flash toggle. Each of those is perfectly suited to the mode in question such as a level tool for documents and a slightly different level tool for panoramic photos. Setting those aside, Google Lens is included directly in the camera app itself for even more AI functionality. The HDR mode is, of course, featured on the Vivo V11. The forward-facing 25-megapixel shooter may be a bit overkill and possibly better suited for the rear of the handset but the results speak for themselves. All of the rear-facing camera adjustments and photo tools work for the selfie camera as well and the front camera's high megapixel rating is more than good enough to make those work. In combination with the included infrared system for that shooter, facial recognition security also responds much more quickly quicker and naturally than is often the case. In fact, while unlocking the V11 using both fingerprint and face recognition simultaneously, we noticed the screen would unlock as soon as the phone was moving around and pointed toward a registered face.
AI-driven scene detection and camera features
Great full-featured camera with AR stickers and Google Lens
Huge range of security options, including both infrared face and fingerprint unlocking
Settings allow for a truly customizable experience with gestures
Performance is solid
Up to 8 hours of screen-on time with rapid charging
Bright screen for ease-of-reading with smooth auto-brightness
High screen-to-body ratio and great resolution
3.5mm headphone jack is part of the bundle
Well-optimized audio for both speakers and included headphones
Great in-hand feel and overall aesthetic
25-megapixel selfie shooter
Some bloatware comes pre-installed, tied to Vivo's Android OS variant
The under-display fingerprint scanner seems slower than traditional readers
U.I. can take some getting used to for non-Vivo users
All things considered, anybody who happens to be in the regions where Vivo is launching the latest in its mid-range series is going to want to take some time to look into it. Although Vivo isn't necessarily breaking any molds with its hardware, the company is certainly thinking well outside of the box in terms of software. Better still, it has opted to do that with the components found in the Vivo V11. That means that not only should the Android Oreo-based device be a shoe-in for prospective buyers, it is going to be one of the most powerful handsets for the money – if pricing stays as expected. Considering how common 'premium' Android smartphones are becoming, stacking on extra software features that allow for a unique experience is also arguably a step in the right direction.