Vivo took longer than usual in the launch of their Vivo Xplay 3S replacement, but the Vivo Xplay 5 is out and has impressive hardware so is it worth buying?
Vivo like to really push the boat out when they launch their flagship phones. The Vivo Xplay 3S, for example, was the worlds first 2K phone, and the first Chinese phone to ship with a fingerprint scanner.
The Vivo Xplay 5 has a few firsts too. The first Chinese phone with a curved Samsung display, and the first phone to ship with a huge 6GB RAM (although our model is the 4GB RAM version).
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Design
What do you get if you take the Vivo X6 Plus and give it a curved display? Yup, the Vivo Xplay 5 looks very similar to the majority of Vivo phones launched this year, but with the addition of a curved display .
Even with the curved panel, the design of the phone is typically Vivo with a white front panel, Vivo logo up on the top left corner, and the 3 Android navigation hardware buttons on the chin. Although Vivo wen’t for a curved display they didn’t opt to make the Xplay 5 a borderless design, and there are two white bezels either side of the display.
That curved panel might seem like a bit of a fashion gimmick (especially as there are no software changes to make the curved panel more functional) but it does mean that the very sides of the Vivo flagship are especially thin, leaving just a slim metal side on the left and right.
Interestingly the design of the Vivo Xplay 5 is like the reverse of the Xiaomi Mi5, however the build quality of the two phones couldn’t be any different. While the Xiaomi has a flimsy body, and loose physical buttons, the Vivo Xplay 5 has a very sturdy construction, wonderful fit and feel, and high-quality buttons.
The thin sides of the phone gracefully curve around and enlarge at the top and bottom of the phone, with the top getting room for a slightly off centre 3.5mm headphone jack and the base getting a USB Type C, speaker and microphone.
If you are familiar with the Vivo Xplay 6, 6 Plus are pretty much any other 2016 Vivo phone then the rear of the device is going to look very familiar indeed. The unibody CNC machined body is finished in a gold/pink finish, has two bands running at the upper and lower portions with all the functions in the top half of the phone.
Top left we have a slightly protruding 16 mega-pixel camera, with a dual tone LED flash to the right, then slightly above the centre middle of the Vivo there is a square fingerprint scanner.
Overall the design is elegant, and the build quality is up to the usual Vivo standards, but for a flagship phone it does appear to be rather uninspiring, and I would personally love to see an all black version of the phone launched to appeal to a wider audience (currently only white with gold or pink is available).
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Hardware
There are 2 models of Vivo Xplay 5A available, our review unit is the Vivo Xplay 5 with 4GB RAM, Snapdragon 652 chipset, and a simple Vivo HIFI system with a CS4398 DAC and AD4527 amp. The more upmarket Vivo Xplay 5 Ultimate get’s 6GB RAM, a 2.1Ghz Snapdragon 820 chipset, and a more advanced audio set up with 2 x operational amps and 3 x DAC!
The rest of the specs are shared between both phones and it’s all pretty good stuff. Both versions of the Vivo have the same 5.43-inch 2K display (2560 x 1440 resolution), 128GB internal memory, dual SIM support, 3600Ah battery, 16 mega-pixel main camera with F2.0 aperture and 8 mega-pixel F2.4 front.
As already mentioned there is a rear fingerprint scanner, and it seems that Vivo have used the same scanner as they had with the Vivo X6 Plus which is excellent news. Of all the phones I’ve used over the years, Vivo really seem to have sorted fingerprint speed and accuracy better than the rest.
You are all going to wonder what that curved display is like on the Vivo Xplay 5, well this was my first prolonged experience with a curved screen phone and I quickly got used to the panel and enjoy the effect of size the curved edges offer. Compared to a traditional screen the curved panel just feels more open and roomy. However nice it is, Vivo haven’t really taken advantage of the screen and you will find no ‘edge’ style features in the current ROM builds.
Even with a higher resolution display on the Vivo, the battery life is pretty good. It’s not up to the standard of the X6 Pro (with 1080 panel and 4000mAh battery) which seems to go on and on, but for a 2K flagship phone its not bad. I was getting almost 2 days of use from the Vivo under normal situations and a full day if I tended to really hammer, Google Maps for navigation, data and social media.
Anyone who know’s anything about Vivo will know that their phones often have amazing audio. The same is the same for the Vivo Xplay 5A which has audio on par with the X6 Plus. I would love to hear what all those extra DAC and AMPS produce in the Xplay 5 Ultimate, but I can’t imagine every wishing the standard Vivo HIFI system was any better than it already is.
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Performance
Remember this is the 4GB RAM Snapdragon 652 version of the Vivo Xplay 5 so don’t expect benchmarks that will set the Chinese mobile industry on fire.
So while the 5A’s benchmarks are below what it’s Snapdragon 820 brother should be capable of, I never once wished for faster while using the phone. Funtouch is a very well optimised system and performance was top-notch throughout the review.
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Camera
Vivo made one of the best camera phones of all time a few years ago with the Xshot, so they know how to make camera phones, but they seem to have put the concept on a back burner for now. The last time I met with Vivo staff they informed me that they would focus on speed and audio for their current devices, which makes sense as Oppo (Vivo’s system company) recently re branded as a ‘camera phone’ company.
The Xplay 5 has a 16 mega-pixel F2.0 camera on the rear with dual LED flash which is good. The lenses are also good, but the major missing feature is OIS. While Oppo have a 2 axis OIS and Xiaomi 4, the Vivo Xplay 5 relies on software based image stabilisation. You’re still able to take fantastic photos, but at this price customers expect a little more for their money.
Focus times and speed of capture are exceptional and overall speed of use isn’t that far behind the Xiaomi Mi5. Daylight photos are what you would expect from a high-end phone, while low-light images require you to switch to night mode, or one of the other settings (in the feature packed Vivo camera app) to get the most of the camera.
Although I wasn’t blown away with the camera on the Vivo Xplay 5, I was happy with most of the photos I managed to capture with the device. Here are a few samples.
Vivo Xplay 5 photo samples
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Funtouch
Funtouch is Vivo’s Android based ROM. Funnily enough the ROM is based on Android 5.1 in the 5A while the 5 Ultimate is listed as getting an Android 6.0 based ROM.
If you read through my Vivo X6 Plus review then you will already know about the issues the Chinese version of the Funtouch ROM has, specifically that it does not have Google Services support. You can add Google using the MIUI installer tool method, but you need to keep downgrading the Play Store as with every update the Play Store will stop working (see more details and how to here).
The rest of the Funtouch ROM is pretty much identical to the X6 Pro’s which means the notifications area is only for notifications, and your most used toggles are found by swiping up from the dock.
Other than the Google Play issue I also discovered that the Vivo Xplay 5 won’t support Android Auto (that said, only OnePlus phones appear to fully support this from the Chinese world of mobiles). The rest of the ROM is feature packed and well optimised which results in good battery life.
One obvious feature that is missing though is some way to make use of those curved screen edges. We’ve seen Samsung introduce side notifications etc, but so far Vivo have no ‘edge’ style features. So while the curved screen is nice to use, it isn’t a game changer and adds very little to the functionality of the phone.
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Gallery
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Unboxing and hands on
Vivo Xplay 5 Review – Conclusion
Overall the Vivo Xplay 5 is a very good premium smartphone. Build quality is undeniably good, and leagues ahead of the products most other Chinese phone makers are currently producing. On paper the specs look good (even for this version of the phone) and Vivo have done a good job to get all the hardware working well with their Funtouch system.
The only areas where I would really knock the phone is the lack of any edge features to really justify the use of the curved display, the lack of OIS the issues with Google Services and Android Auto.
At the end of the day the Vivo Xplay 5 is a premium phone that is designed to look and feel great while offering good all round performance. It’s aimed at people who want a phone that looks good and they don’t mind paying the premium for it.
If looks, audio, and build are what matter most and you don’t mind the premium you will love the Vivo, but if getting the most from your money is more important then them take a look at the ZUK Z2 Pro, or Xiaomi Mi5, but neither will feel as good.