A review of the Vivo V20, with a price tag of under $350, begs the question of why anybody would spend $1000+ on a smartphone. That's because at a cost of around ₹24,990 in India — approximately $339 — it falls just short of being a flagship handset. And, even then, that's only in a few areas.
Of course, that's a summary that requires a deeper explanation rather than an unbacked claim. This smartphone, after all, doesn't boast any IP rating at all. And its OEM doesn't necessarily tout the latest Gorilla Glass or any figures in terms of the display refresh rate. The camera, unlike other more expensive Vivo devices, doesn't come with a dedicated moon or starry sky mode. And there's no gimbal in its camera array either, unlike Vivo flagships.
Overall, what makes this phone great is its ability to offer great camera features anyway. And that stacks atop stellar performance, a brilliant design, some of the fastest charging around for an exceptionally long-lasting battery, and a lot more.
Let's dive in for a closer look.
This isn't your average lower-mid-range hardware by any stretch
On the hardware front, despite costing under $350, Vivo has maintained the stylings of its flagships. In fact, it feels, in hand, almost identical to the X50 Pro with one or two exceptions. The bottom and top edges are rounded instead of flat, and the camera hump doesn't contain quite so many lenses.
The front and back are both made of glass, just for starters. And that's accented by a sleek metal frame. At the front, that's 2.5D glass but, at just 7.38mm thin, the entire package weighs just 171g. And that's a balanced weight, coupled with a micro-etched back panel made from the matte glass. So, although the handset can seem to shine under some lighting, it's actually refined and muted in terms of coloration. And it's not as slippery as it would be with standard glass.
As a result of the design decisions made by Vivo, the V20 was also incredibly easy to use for this review. The screen is larger than average but the balanced weight and glass decisions mean it's not too difficult to reach even the corners of the screen. This phone somehow manages to feel well-placed in-hand regardless of angle, grip, or orientation.
Now, Vivo sells the V20 in three colors but my review unit was "Midnight Jazz." That's a metallic gray/blue color with silver highlights in an ever-shifting gradient. It's also available in white — Moonlight Sonata — or a sunset-like pink and blue configuration dubbed Sunset Melody.
In terms of the quality of the hardware, the sole drawback seems to be the lack of any ingress protection rating. The ports and plugs all snap into place neatly without any wiggle. And the buttons are more than clicky enough to feel premium, with texturing on the power button for tactile discovery. But there's no protection listed against water or dust, so keeping this phone away from the pool is going to be a good idea.
The Vivo V20 display is punching well above its weight
Another stand-out feature found here, despite the relatively low cost, is this phone's screen. Under review, the Vivo V20 does feel like a larger phone than it should because its 6.44-inch 20:9 ratio display panel is flat. There's no curve at the front to make gripping the phone an easier task. And, as noted earlier, the curve around the edges doesn't help much with that.
But between its high-resolution at FHD+ with 408ppi and Vivo using AMOLED here for a contrast of 2000000:1, it definitely doesn't feel cheap. The above-mentioned balance of weight, thin design, and its low weight, to begin with, make reaching any part of that screen easier. Albeit, still a somewhat more slippery experience than I'd have liked to have seen.
In terms of color accuracy and clarity, the company nailed those aspects down too. Especially in terms of ensuring a naturally-colored display. As opposed to an overly-bright, oversaturated display. Turning the phone brightness down to around 15-percent, it is still easy to read in a well-lit room. Turning it up to 75-percent or higher in a dark room is almost blinding. And even under direct sunlight, max brightness is not required. Around 75- to 80-percent works.
Now, Vivo doesn't mention the refresh rate of its 1080 x 2400 pixel display. But, when it comes to responsiveness, clarity, color accuracy, and brightness, the V20 felt like it kept up with much more expensive handsets. Summarily, all of those attributes feel great with this phone. I was entirely unable to find anything to complain about.
Game Assistant and a substantive chip arrangement offer peak performance
Now, a Snapdragon 720G chipset is not, on its own, too impressive. Even at just under $350. But then, this chip isn't backed up by the paltry RAM and storage often seen in other handsets either. And, coupled with optimizations, the Vivo V20 proved more than capable during this review as a result.
In fact, the phone arguably played Call of Duty: Mobile better than my flagship daily driver. It didn't lag in any other titles either. That's despite keeping all adjustable graphics and audio settings turned all the way up.
Driving that experience is Vivo's dedicated gaming settings and Ultra Game Mode which lock resolution, brightness and optimize RAM, networking, chipsets, touch inputs, and thermal aspects of the handset. Quite aside from the included 8GB RAM and 256GB of expandable storage, this phone never slowed down and never overheated when gaming, even in multitasking.
It performed at its peak in other apps too. With the only caveat being in video and audio post-processing in high-end editing apps. That issue wasn't present in the camera software or any of the built-in software. And represents the only area where I noticed any slow-down but never any lag or latency of any kind.
The experience of that is a phone that just works and works well.
Battery life from Vivo V20 will absolutely not disappoint
One area many mid-range and budget phones tend to do worse than their competitors is on battery life and charging. With just a 4000mAh battery in the Vivo V20, it would be reasonable to assume it fell victim to that trend under review too. But it didn't.
Battery life is entirely subjective. I had the screen brightness at 80-percent, Bluetooth turned off, and was connected to Wi-Fi for around half of my test. That's likely going to be different from how most users will have things configured. Especially in terms of screen brightness. Using Digital Wellbeing, battery saving modes, dark mode, adaptive brightness, and other settings will undoubtedly improve battery life further. But other use cases will certainly drain it faster.
With that said, I say a total of 10-hours and 18-minutes of screen-on time from this handset. That's from a total of 20-hours and 31-minutes of overall on-time. Leaving the device alone for six hours overnight drained just one percent from the battery. And I spent nearly equal time across gaming, streaming media with the screen on, and day-to-day activities such as browsing, emails, messaging, etc.
That's from a battery that's actually smaller than most flagships with an equal or larger screen size. Things don't get worse when it comes to charging either.
With 33W Vivo FlashCharge, the Vivo V20 took just 20-minutes to hit the half-filled mark under review. It took under an hour to fill up completely; approximately 50-minutes, in total.
Vivo is near the top of its camera game and V20 shows that doesn't have to cost a lot
Smartphones made by Vivo over the past year have typically brought some of the best camera hardware on the market. And, just as importantly, the company's optimizations have ensured that hardware offers stunning, consistent results. With the Vivo V20, that trend continues — at least under most of the circumstances tested for this review.
With that said, Vivo flagships do feature a dedicated starry sky mode and a dedicated super moon mode. They also feature a built-in gimbal accompanied by EIS software. Those features aren't included in the V20. And that's this camera's biggest shortcoming. Without those features in place, video tends to be a bit shakier and night shots don't always turn out as clear or vibrant as they might. That's even under bright moonlight, as shown in our sample gallery via Flickr.
One other noteworthy caveat is that the HDR in this camera can, under extreme circumstances, have issues with variances in lighting between the foreground and the background.
Aside from those missing features, the results of captures from this camera from the macro mode to standard shots turn out well. Color accuracy is high, the software is fast and intuitive, and the detail capture is great. This is easily going to be among the best cameras around when it comes to the price bracket.
More options are better when it comes to audio
Vivo chose not to leave anybody behind with this handset on the audio front. That means, summarily, that users have a lot of options for listening to media playback. Whether that's via the speakers, which are incredibly balanced — albeit not deep or powerful — or via headphones. On the latter front, users are given a lot of options. And each worked at least as well as any flagship I've tested.
My personal favorite, during this review of the Vivo V20, was Bluetooth 5.1. The format is nearly lossless. It also offered solid wire-free audio at a distance, just as it should. But Vivo also based its charging port in USB-C with audio support and includes a 3.5mm audio jack for those who want to use that instead.
Each of those ports fits snugly and the audio that is pushed from each is high-fidelity. So I was able to listen to powerful, accurate audio for movies, music, and more. That was an enjoyable experience regardless of genre or content medium. Because the speakers were balanced, it wasn't a terrible experience just using those either.
Vivo kept V20 software lightweight and well-optimized
Setting aside the gaming extras, Always-on Display and theming, and Dynamic Effects for controlling unlock, fingerprint, charging, and ambient screen-off lighting effects, the Vivo V20 presents users with a near-stock experience. And, unlike many phones from the region, that's a decidedly "Google" experience as well.
Best of all, the software experience is minimal, leaving plenty of room for users' media, photos, and apps. That also helps things stay well-optimized.
In terms of pre-installed software, users do get a Vivo-built FM Radio, a Feedback app, a system manager, Music, and a Voice recorder. Screen Recording and other Android 11 features are included as well. But just about every other pre-installed app is Google-made. There's no Facebook or Instagram, for example. Although those can be installed from the Google Play Store for those who want those apps.
That's all decidedly different from other Vivo Android phones. Under review, differentiating software between the Vivo V20 and Android One devices was a challenge. There are a few extras in-store, as noted above. But aside from those, this is just a clean, crisp Android installation without unnecessary clutter or bloat. And that made for a straightforward, pleasantly intuitive experience.
Connectivity fell short mostly because this phone isn't meant for the US
Before covering connectivity from this smartphone, it's important to bear a few things in mind. First, this phone is meant for the Indian market, among others. But not for the US market. That means that although it connected and sent text messages on my carrier, it isn't made for that. And it didn't always work properly.
For example, I was entirely unable to send MMS messages via Google Fi — presumably using AT&T towers via US Cellular based on the "Edge" network branding. I could send text messages and I could access basic web functionality — slowly — but I couldn't do everything that this phone should have been able to do.
That's not an issue with connectivity though since it really shouldn't have worked at all in the US. Wi-Fi, hot-spotting (using Wi-Fi), Bluetooth, Nearby Share, and all other connectivity options worked as expected. There's not necessarily anything special about that. But that'ss also not always the case with budget-friendly phones. So it's worth noting that all of the connectivity features worked exactly as expected. Without jitter, lag, or disconnect.
If this phone was made to work in the US and supported all of the necessary bands, it would easily make its way onto the Android Headlines best budget-friendly smartphone list.
The Vivo V20, based on this review, has earned its place among the best handsets available globally. If not in the US.
Perhaps more tellingly, that's not solely on one or two aspects of the device either. But on the basis of cameras, performance, battery life, and design. So this phone should absolutely not be ignored by anybody seriously in need of a great Android 11 device.
Of course, there are things that are less solid, such as the night camera, wireless charging, and ingress protection. But those aspects of a smartphone aren't necessarily going to be great anywhere else either. At least not without spending a good deal more. This phone is undeniably worth every cent of its price tag and then some.