Smartphones have become the most dominant gadget in the world for the past recent years. Thanks to its versatility to become a communicator, portable media player, and everything in between. But when the likes of Samsung’s Note series and Apple’s iPhone lineup become stale and tired, it always feels like smartphones have reached its limit. That’s where Vivo’s NEX initiative comes in. The Chinese company has been delivering three NEX phones in the last three years. Within those years, it has never failed to provide the world a glimpse into the future of smartphones.
The case in point is the Vivo NEX 3. It doesn’t play safe when it comes to features and design. Instead, it comes with wild ideas and put them in a single package. And while Vivo initially called the effort a concept only, the popularity made the NEX 3 a phone that you can buy. With a price of P39,999 in the Philippines, what’s it like to use the phone from the future?
Like most premium high-end phones, the NEX 3 is made of glass and aluminum combination. But because there’s more screen real estate, the right and left edges of the phone are rid of bezels. Sure, you still have black slabs from the north and south side of things but it’s not that thicker as, say, the Mate 30 Pro. With the screen getting extended, you have to live with no physical buttons, well, except for the one that’s located on the top of the frame. You can use it to turn off or on the display. But for the most part, you’ll be using the ridged portion on the right side of the phone. It’s not a design aesthetic, instead, it’s a guide for you to use the pressure-sensitive layer to access the volume rocker and power options. In practice, it’s hard to get used to haptic feedback. It’s not as accurate and reliable as having physical buttons. As futuristic as it may seem, it’s basically like using the first-gen of under-screen fingerprint scanners. Speaking of, getting into the device is fast when it reads our fingerprint accurately. While we don’t have problems with the unlocking speed, the accuracy is still 7 out of 10.
Up top, we have a large selfie camera, a headphone jack, and the recently mentioned power button. Down below is the USB Type-C port, dual-SIM tray, and speaker grille. Sadly, the NEX 3 doesn’t use the earpiece as a secondary speaker. The same goes for the strip above the selfie camera.
As for the back panel, the Glowing Night color that we have made it seem like it’s a phone made for the business person. We do like how it’s liquid pattern is low-key, as gradient designs have become common these days. But just like any other glass-clad phone, it’s a fingerprint magnet and it’s slippery when you have cold hands. Luckily, there’s a nice slim case included in the box.
Nex 3 may not have the best design, but the huge screen, when turned on, makes up for it. While the display is slim and sexy, we do have to point out that the overall device is not. At 219g and 9.44mm, it’s even thicker and heavier than the Mate 30 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the Galaxy Note 10+. We think that the reason why it’s thick is to make the Lunar Ring Camera System on the back unobtrusive. For a heavy phone, we’d rather have a camera hump instead.
At 6.89″, NEX 3 is veering towards the 7″ category. If this was three years ago, we’d be saying that we’re in the phablet territory already. But we’re not. By getting rid of half of the bezels, Vivo claims that the display has reached a 99.6% screen-to-body ratio. We really can’t measure that but we do have to say that it’s a gigantic and immersive screen. The Super AMOLED panel helps a lot in bringing out the beauty of the display, delivering deep blacks and saturated colors. It’s also HDR10 compatible, watching HDR content on Netflix or YouTube has a better dynamic range. Vivo is keen when it comes to selfies as the NEX 3 comes with soft light flash, however, the screen itself is enough to brighten up your face in dark times. The screen can comfortably reach 400 nits and goes up to 600 nits when using auto-screen brightness.
Is the display of NEX 3 small hand friendly? Definitely not. But it’s such a joy to use when watching videos and playing games. And if it’s your thing, the Waterfall display that flows to the sides can act as an equalizer when playing music in the background.
Nex 3 does not pack as many sensors as we’ve seen from mid-range phones, but the combination of its three sensors makes it one of the most versatile smartphone cameras right now. You have a large 64MP main lens alongside 13MP lenses for ultra-wide and telephoto.
As expected, photos in good lighting deliver exceptional detail quality. You can get incredible shots with the 64MP sensor. Although the setup lacks a macro sensor, just simply use the telephoto lens and you’ll be able to see the tiny details from the subject. The ultra-wide-angle lens is also superb in daylight. There’s little-to-no barrel distortion effect and the edges aren’t smoothened out. All said, Vivo still has to improve its dynamic range handling. Some highlight clippings are noticeable and it likes to crush the shadows.
In low-light situations, you just need a steady hand. More often than not, photos came out with good detail quality.
For that 16MP Elevating Selfie camera, we noticed that noises are apparent even with good lighting. While only the trained eyes can see it, you still need to be mindful when taking selfies in low-light places. Photos can easily look smudgy. There’s also less beatification taking effect which is very much appreciated.
Vivo Nex 3’s cameras aren’t just for display. While the dynamic range isn’t on par with the flagship competition, the sheer hardware and software processing is more than enough to deliver excellent photo quality. We like how beautification is less apparent along with the natural color processing.
NEX 3 is packed with the powerful combination of Snapdragon 855+ and a speedy UFS 3.0 storage that’s first found on the OnePlus 7 Pro. While 8GB of RAM is more than enough in 2019, we feel like 128GB internal storage is a bit restricting. Since there’s no option to expand via microSD, Vivo could’ve at least go for 256GB. Yes, it runs FunTouch OS that looks a lot like iOS than Android, but you should have no problems when it comes to performance. We didn’t have any problems with heat management, too.
|Geekbench Single Core||3490|
One of the missed opportunities for the NEX 3 is the lack of stereo setup. For a phone that’s very thick and huge, Vivo could’ve made space for another speaker. But instead, we have a single bottom-firing speaker. While it does get loud, the quality is just OK. There’s little depth when listening to music, but we do appreciate the clear mids when watching a series. However, we do appreciate that Vivo did not exclude the headphone jack.
Perhaps, the major part of the reason why NEX 3 is heavy and thick is because of the massive 4500mAh battery. For our endurance test, the battery lasted for 33 hours. That’s already with five to six hours of screen-on time. Can it last a day with a spare for the next morning? Yes. Charging the Nex 3 from flat to full takes nearly 90 minutes. By today’s standards, that’s already good. But if you want great, the 44W of the 5G model requires only an hour to full.
Vivo Nex 3 is becoming available in more and more markets. As the Chinese company continues to answer the demand of its fanbase, it’s only a matter of time until the succeeding Nex phones become a true flagship lineup. In the case of Nex 3, it feels more like a flagship smartphone than a concept. It looks great and it performs great.
If you’re planning to get the Nex 3, the P39,999 is significantly less expensive than the Mate 30 Pro, Note 10+, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. We feel like it’s a good alternative to Huawei’s flagship phone, especially that it’s missing Google services out of the box. But that also means missing out on wireless charging and IP68 rating. That said, you’re most likely to compare the phone with OnePlus 7T Pro that retails for P3000 more. Given you’re getting 8GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage and a very smooth 90Hz screen, Vivo Nex 3 is facing fierce competition.
Vivo Nex 3 specs, price, availability in the Philippines
- Display: 6.89-inch Full HD+ Waterfall FullView POLED, 99.6% screen-to-body ratio
- Design: aluminum frame, glass back and front, button-less design
- CPU: Snapdragon 855+ (7 nm+)
- RAM: 8GB
- Memory: 128GB UFS 3.0 with TurboWrite
- Camera: 64 MP, f/1.8, (wide), 1/1.7″, 0.8µm, PDAF
13 MP, f/2.5, (telephoto), PDAF
13 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide), PDAF
- Selfie: Motorized pop-up 16 MP, f/2.1, soft light flash
- Connectivity: 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, WiFi ac, GPS, USB Type-C
- Security: under-screen fingerprint scanner, face unlock
- Battery: 4500mAh with 44W SuperCharge
- OS: Android 9.0 (Pie) with Funtouch 9.1
- Colors: Glowing Night
- Release Date: Philippines availability November 9, 2019
- Price: P39,999