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Vivo V3 Max Review: Arriving With A Bang

Vivo V3 Max 02

We review the Vivo V3 Max!

Vivo may be a relatively unknown brand outside of China and India, but it’s a growing powerhouse nonetheless. A recent IDC report on the top vendors for the first quarter of this year put the Chinese manufacturer at the number 5 spot, muscling out fellow brand Xiaomi in to the magical top 5. Add to that their very prominent billing in the recent Marvel blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, and you have a brand that has the momentum to make its mark on several western markets this year.

While technically not the first device they’ve offered for the PH market (that title goes to the entry-level Y51) the V3 Max is the first high-profile launch for the local market. Packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor and 4GB of RAM, does it deliver on its promise to be “faster than faster?”

Vivo V3 Max specs

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.5-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 128GB
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, PDAF, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front facing camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner, fast charging
  • 3000mAh battery
  • Android 5.1, Funtouch OS

Vivo V3 Max 03

Premium metal body, fast fingerprint scanner

The V3 Max is patterned after most mid-range devices nowadays. That means it has a premium, full metal body as well as a fingerprint scanner. The front of the phone sports a plastic white facade that holds the full HD IPS display, as well as the 8-megapixel front-facing camera and the physical capacitive Android navigation keys. It’s not the prettiest metal phone in the market today, but at least it’s not a direct copy of any particular design – not something we can say about the offerings of their domestic rivals.

Vivo V3 Max 08

Overall construction of the V3 Max is very good, and while the phone feels weighty it’s not necessarily what you’d call heavy, weighing in at just 168 grams. The sides of the phone have been chamfered for that visual punch, and the back has a very subtle curve that makes it easier to hold on to the phone during extended use. One thing that we don’t like is the poor screen-to-body ratio – measuring at 153.9 x 77.1mm, it’s a little tall, and is certainly almost as big as phablets in the market today.

Vivo V3 Max 05

Going through the ports and plugs on the phone, you’ll see the power button and volume rockers on the right, while the 3.5mm jack is on the top. On the bottom of the phone is the USB charging port, microphone, as well as the speaker grille.

Vivo V3 Max 04

Flip the phone over and you’ll see the 13-megapixel rear camera, as well as the fingerprint scanner and the company’s logo in the middle.

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This is the first time we’ve ever encountered Vivo’s fingerprint scanner tech, and while the surface area for it is a little smaller than the efforts of its rivals, it still functions as advertised. We’ve been using it ever since we received our review unit a week ago and we can say with confidence that it’s failed only once during our time with it, and only because our finger was a little wet because of sweaty palms. The sensor is sensitive enough that just brushing your finger along its surface is enough to unlock it. Response time is pretty quick as well – probably half a second – which isn’t always the case for fingerprint scanners, even the high-end ones.

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As far as the 5.5-inch full HD IPS display goes, it’s pretty good, and is bright enough to use even under direct sunlight. We did notice that it has less contrast than other similarly equipped phones in the market today, which may be an issue when you’re watching content that has a lot of dark scenes in it. In the end, it’s good enough for most people, and that’s what usually counts in phones like this.

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Snapdragon 652 + 4GB of RAM = almost flagship performance

Vivo promises that the V3 Max is “faster than faster”. To deliver on their promise, the company has put Qualcomm’s newest octa-core processor in the device, the Snapdragon 652. Running four 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 and four 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 processors and paired with an Adreno 510 GPU and 4GB of RAM.

Based on our benchmark tests and actual use, the new processor delivers on Vivo’s promise, and then some. We’ve never run into any kind of lag while using the phone, and gaming with the device feels smooth and fluid, even while playing demanding games. We’d wager to say that the phone feels almost as fast as a SD808 equipped device from last year without the associated heating issues that came with that processor.

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Just like their domestic rivals, Vivo has infused the V3 Max with their own UI overlay on top of Android Lollipop dubbed Funtouch OS. And just like the UI overlay of their competitors, it strips away the app drawer and makes the phone look a little bit like iOS and gives you additional functions and screen gestures that’s missing from Android. You’ll probably won’t use many of the features that it gives you. We’re a little disappointed that the V3 Max only comes with Android Lollipop out of the box – we hope that there’s a Marshmallow update in the future.

The V3 Max also has HiFi audio capabilities, provided by AKM’s 32-bit/192kHz AK4375 DAC. Audio quality is rather good, definitely better than what you’d get from phones that don’t have HiFi audio, and it gives the phone the ability to play hi-res audio if you have the right source. Obviously a nice pair of headphones also comes into the picture here, though the included headphones are good enough, a nice pair of cans helps quite a bit.

As for the rest of the phone, the speakers sound good and is clear even in max volume though it still has the tinniness that’s associated with phone speakers. LTE performance is very good and GPS lock-on times are fast. Calls made to and from the V3 Max are clear and crisp without any issues.

Camera delivers good performance for the price range

Vivo has stuck a 13-megapixel sensor along with an f/2.0 lens in the V3 Max, though it is missing OIS which will impact shots in low light and video. Anyway, as far as image quality goes, the V3 Max manages to take good shots despite its mid-range spec camera, with excellent detail, color and sharpness. The phone does have a habit of metering a little low which produced a few darker photos, though turning on HDR resolved that issue.

There are a few additional shooting modes for the V3 Max which include manual controls but for the most part the camera app is uncluttered and simple. Video shot with the V3 Max suffers from jitters, thanks in part to the missing OIS.

Excellent battery life

While the V3 Max doesn’t have the biggest of batteries, it still managed to impress us with its overall battery life. While PCMark Battery benchmark wouldn’t complete its battery test (it kept getting interrupted for some reason) we managed to get a day’s use out of the phone’s battery with enough left over for the next day. Despite the relatively fast performance of the phone it’s still capable of reaching the end of a busy workday with moderate use.

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Verdict: The mid-range phone to beat this year

Vivo has got itself a winner with the V3 Max. Despite being a mid-range device, it delivers performance that’s on par with last year’s flagships. It’s fast, has a decent camera and has enough juice to keep the lights on for more than a day. The V3 Max is a great start to Vivo’s efforts in the PH, and with a price of just Php 16,990, it’s one of the most competitively priced mid-rangers in the market today.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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11 Comments

  1. “Vivo V3 Max specs
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core processor
    4GB of RAM
    5.5-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
    4GB of RAM”

    double RAM post po

  2. Don’t forget to mention that it will forever be stuck on Marshmallow. No Split screens for youtube/chrome/twitter/facebook on Android N powered devices, because OEM’s will use that feature to sell their FUTURE products that has the same damn hardware.

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