Vivo is, depending on the day you check the stats in China’s volatile smartphone market, either the country’s second- or third-largest phone maker. And the company is hoping the powerful XPlay 6 will propel it to the top.
Design and hardware
There’s no getting around it: the XPlay 6 looks almost exactly like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. From the dual-curved display that slopes dramatically into a chamfered metal frame, to the rounded home button/fingerprint sensor flanked by two capacitive buttons, to the wide, soft corners, it’s really hard to look at this phone and not see why media in the West tend to dismiss China’s growing tech prowess.
Still, with a heavy-duty metal back (instead of the glass back on Samsung’s device), the XPlay 6 is an exceptionally beautiful and well-constructed phone, with a heftiness to it (almost 180 grams) that makes it feel like a professional machine.
The XPlay 6 has a 5.5-inch quad HD (1,440 X 2,650) AMOLED display. For non-tech geeks, those numbers and acronyms may be confusing: both are absolutely the best the mobile industry has to offer at the moment.
Colours are bright and vibrant, while the blacks are true and deep. Slap a wallpaper of a bright logo on a black background on the XPlay 6, and the logo will almost look like it’s popping out of the screen in the dark.
All of this is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, which by now is almost a year old (tech gadgets tend to age in dog years, so a year is relatively dated), and its age is showing. While this is by no means a slow phone, it isn’t as fast as the latest flagships from Huawei or Google. Part of that is due to Vivo’s own operating system, which I’ll address in the next part.
Software and features
The XPlay 6 runs a heavily skinned version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with Vivo’s own OS, dubbed FunTouch, on top (hence the term “skin”). Chinese phone software – and this is true from Huawei to Oppo, from Xiaomi to Gionee – tends to overstuff features into a phone, to the point that it often gets in the way of Android doing its thing.
But some may like the long list of features. It seems like just about every feature ever put on a phone is included in the Vivo. There’s an Always-On Display; gestures to launch apps by drawing/swiping on a sleeping phone; “edge display” short cuts; a blue light filter to ease eye strain; camera software with dozens of shooting modes and filters.
Performance and battery life
As mentioned earlier, the phone isn’t the fastest on the block; jumping between apps takes a split-second longer than on, say, the Huawei Mate 9. But the XPlay 6 is still more than good enough to accomplish any task.
The XPlay 6 also has dual cameras at the back – both 12 megapixels – and they allow more light into a shot and offer a few trick shots like the bokeh effect. The former, and an outstanding f/1.7 aperture, gives some of the best low-light shots of any smartphone.
In several test shots taken on my rooftop at night with the XPlay 6 and Huawei Mate 9, Vivo’s phone came out on top each time, with more details and less noise. Photos in the day are great too, though Vivo’s software tends to turn up the contrast to give bright colours that extra kick.
The XPlay 6 cannot shoot video in 4K, but the 2K output is clean, with no frame rate drop and minimal jerkiness.
Then there’s the selfie camera. Vivo has always differentiated itself from other phone companies by cramming ridiculous specs into the selfie lens, and the XPlay 6 is no different, with an absolutely absurd 16-megapixel front-facing camera (for comparison, the iPhone 6S only has a five-megapixel selfie camera, which no one’s ever complained about).
I’m in the camp that firmly believes men should never take selfies, so I can’t give an in-depth take on the XPlay’s front-facing cam, other than this: 16 megapixels is more than you’ll ever need to take photos of your face.
With a 4,080 mAh battery, the Xplay 6 can last through an entire 12-hour day. On average I got close to five hours of screen time.
Unoriginal hardware design aside, the Vivo XPlay 6 is an excellent phone. Its price point – HK$4,650 – is either a good deal (if you compare it to Samsung and Apple’s phones) or overpriced (if you compare it to most other Chinese phones).
I’m a bit torn between both sides. On one hand, it’s great that I can get a phone just like the Galaxy S7 Edge for less money; but then I also see great phones from Xiaomi for under HK$3,500.
Processor: Snapdragon 820
Display: 5.5 inches
Dimensions: 153.8mm x 73.6mm x 8.4mm
Weight: 178 grams
Battery: 4,080 mAH
OS version reviewed: FunTouch OS 3.0, on Android 6.0.1
Cameras: dual 12-megapixel with f/1.7 aperture with a 16-megapixel front-facing camera
Price: Vivo Xplay 6 6GB+128GB- Snapdragon 820 Super AMOLED Screen Smartphone
Buy Now: at Saleholy.com($244)