The future is here, now. The dream of the all-screen smartphone display was first teased with the Samsung Galaxy S8’s infinity display, and now after 2 years of iterations, companies have come increasingly closer to getting that reality. Enter the Nex 3, Vivo’s latest attempt at creating the all-screen display.
It must be first acknowledged that this isn’t the very first all-screen smartphone on the market, even by Vivo themselves. In fact, they released the very similar V15 this year as well. But to the Vivo Nex 3’s merit, there are aspects about it that help it stand on its own.
Let’s get it out of the way and talk about its main selling point first: that all-screen display. Well, it isn’t really quite that. It’s subtle, but you can see small bezels at the top and bottom of the screen; something that the default wallpaper hides well.
You’ll be more distracted with what they have done with the display’s sides. Called the Waterfall FullView™ Display, the display spills over the sides just like a waterfall to create the effect of having a larger display. It is reminiscent of the style that Samsung has pioneered and has since made a signature feature in its smartphones.
The 6.89-inch AMOLED display is a beauty, delivering what could possibly be the best display on the market. Vivo claims to have achieved a staggering 99.6 percent screen-to-body ratio, and it certainly shows, with little to no display distractions like notches or chins seen hindering the viewing experience.
The quality of the display itself is also of a high standard. Image quality is clear and crisp, and vivid colours really come to life onscreen in combination with the high brightness that the Nex 3 offers. Together with the waterfall display, it really makes for a unique experience when looking at photos or watching videos.
Something that adds to the whole all-screen experience is the fact that the Nex 3 does not come with any physical buttons at all. Indeed, it took me a few minutes of tinkering to actually figure out how to actually power the device.
Instead of the traditional power/lock button and volume control, what Vivo has done is replacing it with a haptic touch system. In place of the power button is an area at the sides that releases haptic feedback when you squeeze or put pressure on it. It has a rough sandpaper-like surface, so you’ll immediately know when your finger is over the area.
That’s only for locking and powering off your device though. For adjusting your volume, you’ll have to fumble around the surrounding top and bottom areas of the power/lock surface, whereby it’ll also transmit haptic feedback. Unlike the power/lock implementation which is easy to understand, this takes much more time to get used to, especially if you’re used to controlling the volume without looking at the phone.
Of course, the main reason Vivo was even able to get a display like this is that they opted to use a pop-up front camera implementation. So if you were to take a selfie with the camera, the hidden front camera will pop up at the top. Once you mute the sound effect from the camera pop-up, the change isn’t as jarring compared to using a normal front-screen camera.
Bizarrely though, there is no way to use Face Unlock as your default option to unlock your phone, even though the function is there. Instead, you’ll only be able to use it if you fail the Fingerprint Unlock three times. For what it’s worth, it works when you do get to use it. I can only speculate that Vivo was afraid that using Face Unlock would be too slow, as it isn’t quite as fast as the Fingerprint Unlock.
As to the camera quality of the front camera itself, it is of a decent quality. It has a single 16MP camera with flash capabilities as well. Typically, shots from the front camera show a lot of details like pores and individual facial hairs, even in areas that aren’t totally well-lit. Needless to say, with the perfect lighting, your selfies will look really high-quality.
The only trouble you might encounter is when you frame your shots. The front camera cannot auto-focus for you, so you’ll probably be taking a bit more time before you can snap that perfect shot.
At the back, a more restrained triple camera set-up is used. A 64MP camera is equipped onto the main camera while a 13MP 2x telephoto camera and a 13MP ultra-wide camera finishes the set-up.
Like the front camera, the rear cameras also delivers high-quality images with its shots. Photos are detailed and sharp in well-lit environments, though there is an understandable drop-off in picture quality when zooming in to the maximum 20x zoom.
A nitpick would be the actual zoom function itself. To change your zoom distance, you have to choose one of three dot arrangements at the side. Though their placement would have you believe the top dot would increase zoom or that the bottom dot would decrease it, instead, it just cycles between each zoom distance. This would mean that you might have to press a button an extra time to get the particular zoom distance you want, which is fairly annoying.
The ultra-wide and night mode functions for the camera are also fairly comparable to most smartphones on the market. The ultra-wide function shows a decent range of the environment when zoomed out but still suffers from noticeable distortion at the sides. The night mode does well to brighten up dark environments as well but sometimes images appear blown up.
In general, the Nex 3 runs reasonably well. The Nex 3 is using the top Snapdragon 855+ and it certainly shows. Apps don’t show any instance of slow-down even with multiple apps chugging away in the background. Those who are mobile gamers can also opt to use Nex 3’s Ultra Game Mode to make sure that the CPU prioritises the game to avoid slowdown as well.
While the performance is all well and good, the software itself may be an obstacle for some users. It uses Funtouch OS – an Android skin – and there are some missing features that have otherwise been a staple in other Android devices, such as a shortcut to toggle between two apps. However, I like the fact that the shortcut center can be accessed by swiping up instead of down, which is a godsend to use one-handed for large phones such as this.
Audio quality is nothing to gush about. There’s only a single speaker at the bottom and though it can get reasonably loud, it is fairly easy to cover it up and muffle the sound. Additionally, the sound lacks clarity and punch at the higher end of the volume scale, so it may not be the best platform to enjoy music with.
Finally, this phone’s battery is one you’ll be delighted with. The Nex 3 comes with a massive 4500 mAh battery and you can comfortably use it more than a single day. Using the phone for browsing, watching videos, gaming and taking photos on and off for the duration of the day only used up about 50 to 60% of the battery.
When you eventually do need to charge up your phone, you can use the fast charger that is included with the device to quickly get it back up. It takes a little over an hour to fully charge it, while a 15-minute charge got it up to a usable 40% or so.
The Nex 3 is on the higher end of the price range in regards to other product offerings from Vivo, but when you compare phones on the market with similar features, you’ll start to realise that this phone might actually be a steal. If you are the type of person who likes to consume media on-the-go and is active with photography, the Vivo Nex 3 is a good option. Just be sure to get used to its strange software quirks.
Photos by Soloman Soh and Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC team.