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Vivo V15 Review - Not much of a downgrade from V15 Pro, underrated!

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Vivo V15, the company's new mid-range offering, surprisingly does not present much of a cut back in comparison to the phone's Pro version.
Vivo V15 Review -  Not much of a downgrade from V15 Pro, underrated!
Vivo V15 Review

The design language is almost identical with just a few differences in specs and features.

V15 Pro (PHP 23,999) has a smaller 6.39-inch panel while the V15 (PHP 15,999) has a larger 6.53-inch panel and 4,000mAh battery. V15 Pro has an In-Display 

The advantages of V15 Pro are its speedier Snapdragon 675 chip and 48MP main camera.

V15 is also equipped with a premium-look with no notch, Helio P70 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a 4,000mAh battery. It also has a 32MP pop-up selfie camera and a 12MP + 8MP + 5MP triple-camera setup.

But from the looks of it, V15 is pretty good, especially for the price.

Here's our full review!

For our review part 1: Vivo V15 Unboxing and First Impressions

Display Quality

Tall display with no notch
Tall display with no notch

The Vivo V15 has a tall, notch-free 6.53-inch IPS screen with 2340 x 1080 FHD+ resolution. It also has a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection and a 403 ppi pixel density.

Huge screen with no notch is love!

The quality of the display is amazing especially since it has an FHD+ resolution. The slim bezels and the absence of a notch gives you a more immersive and beautiful display overall.

Since this is an IPS panel colors are accurate and it is not oversaturated. Contrast is good as well but the blacks that you get are not as deep as what you can get from an AMOLED screen. I enjoyed using the device for browsing Instagram and watching videos since the screen's color and details are great.

The V15 is pretty tall too. I had trouble operating it with one hand and that's surprising since I do have a big hand so take note of that. In terms of color temperature, you can switch it from default and two presets of warm and cool in the settings.

It also has Eye Protection that lessens eye strain when used in dark places or at night. Screen brightness gets pretty intense at max settings. It can be seen clearly even on a sunny day outdoors.

It comes with 10 points of multitouch in total for responsive navigation and gaming controls.

Audio Quality

The Vivo V15 has a single bottom-firing speaker. It gets pretty loud at maximum volume with minimal distortion. The clarity and quality of the audio are great but you can't really expect the same soundstage or experience from phones with stereo speakers.

I rarely find myself maxing out the volume when listening to music. It is still enjoyable in a fairly busy room. I did experience some songs becoming too loud at a max volume that I made it a point to keep at around 60 to 75.

When you plug in pair of headphones, you can access the DeepField Audio Effect which features "Deep Space" sound effects like 360-degree panoramic surround, mega bass, and clear voice. There is an equalizer as well.

It made a substantial difference for me when I used my over-ear headphones. I customized the EQ to my liking and the music experience is much better.

The microphone quality is crisp and clear. It does not have noise cancellation but background noise does not affect my calls that much.

Battery

Over 11 hours, not bad
Over 11 hours, not bad

The 4,000mAh battery of the Vivo V15 is one of the best features of this phone. For a device with such a tall screen, it managed to last 11 hours and 13 minutes during our PC Mark work battery test. Remember, that this phone has an FHD+ display which consumes more power.

Real-life battery performance is also pretty good! During my tests, I averaged around 10 - 12 hours of straight usage before I need to plug it in for a charge. I used it with both 4G LTE, WiFi, and some hotspot too.

Nice battery performance!

There are three power management modes available for the V15. We have Normal Mode which is for typical usage. Low Power Mode which slows down the CPU and GPU clock speed and optimizes brightness, auto-lock time limit, disable WiFi, touch feedback and more to squeeze out more hours. Lastly, the Super Power-Saving mode only allows you to use Contacts, dialer, messages and clock apps.

The Dual Engine fast charging tech makes recharging the battery a breeze. It's fast and convenient especially if you are caught outside with a fast-charging power bank.

From 20 percent to 99 percent, charging took less than 1 hour and 30 minutes. It is particularly useful with a fast-charging power bank when you are out and about since you can replenish a lot of your battery in just a few minutes.

The only gripe I have with this is that the charging port is still a micro USB port and not the more modern USB-C. Hopefully, that changes in the next release.

Camera

Mid-ranger with triple cameras
Mid-ranger with triple cameras

Vivo V15 sports three rear cameras at the back. It has a combination of 12MP f/1.78 + 8MP f/2.2 + 5MP f/2.4 sensors with PDAF, AI and LED flash.
Normal and ultra-wide

There are 8 modes for the rear cameras including Document Mode, Pro Mode, Panorama Mode, Night Mode, AI Beauty, Normal Photo, Video and AR Stickers. You can also activate HDR, Portrait light effect, and live photo mode.

Of course, there is the ultra-wide mode that uses the dedicated 8MP sensor to capture creative shots with wider FOV and Aperture mode that can go as far as f/16 that works with the help of the 5MP sensor.

There is also a setting that allows Vivo V15 to output 24MP images which are pretty cool even if I don't see much difference in picture quality. RAW format is supported as well when using Pro mode.

Pretty good overall camera specs!

Speaking of the Pro mode it goes with EV -2 to +2, ISO 100 to 3200, 1/2000 to 32s, different white balance presets, and manual focus.

Using the usual Photo mode, shooting speed is fast. With HDR on, a processing time of around 1 second is needed. 

Vivo also highlights that it has an improved AI for scene detection and framing. Yes, it goes with an AI portrait framing feature that could aid you in framing your shots better.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight sample
Daylight sample

As expected, images came out with details and colors in daylight. Noise is little and dynamic range is quite impressive.
Ultra-wide, really wide
Ultra-wide, really wide

It also one of the few with a pretty impressive ultra-wide mode. Clearly, it allowed us to capture and see more. There is barrel distortion, but it is far from bad.

It isn't as bright as the primary shooter, but we noticed that contrast is stronger here. Surprisingly, details and dynamic range are still pretty nice here.
Close-up and 100 percent crop
Close-up and 100 percent crop

Going back to the primary camera, close-up shots work. Focus speed will be a little slower, but the result is quite nice.
Indoor
Indoor
Indoor ulra-wide
Indoor ultra-wide

Expect the quality of photo to degrade a little for indoor shots with slightly dimmer exposure, but white balance is still quite okay and details are far from soft.
Neat and clean edges
Neat and clean edges
Pretty good bokeh
Pretty good bokeh
Stellar for the price in fact
Stellar for the price in fact

Oh, by the way, the portrait mode of this device has some of the best-looking depth effect on a 2019 mid-range camera phone. It clean looking edges and superb background to subject separation for the price. Depth estimation is pretty accurate as well.

I just wished that its background blur is a bit stronger. Exposure could be a bit brighter as well.
Low light main cam
Low light main cam
Ultra-wide low light
Ultra-wide low light

Low light performance is obviously not as great as the daylight and indoor shots. But since it has a 12MP f/1.78 main cam, images are respectable on default mode. The low light shot using the 8MP f/2.2 secondary camera has more grain. The dynamic range is weaker and details are bit softer as well.
Default cam low light
Default cam low light
Default cam Night mode
Default cam Night mode

Fortunately, it goes with a pretty good type of AI-assisted Night mode. It works great. It captures images quick enough for handheld shooting. Images come out sharp with punch colors. It could be unnatural at times, but hey at least you have an image with less noise and wide dynamic range in low light at this price point.
Another night shot 1
Another night shot 1
Another night shot 2
Another night shot 2

The quality of night shots it produced is great and it shows how big of a leap camera technology had. We are now at a stage where budget and mid-range smartphones can compete with high-end devices in terms of night shots.

I just wished that it has the Night mode for the ultra-wide and zoom mode.

Anyway, if the Night mode will still fail, you can always opt for the Pro camera mode or the flash.

Overall, I am pretty impressed with the main camera photography performance of Vivo V15.
32MP goodness
32MP goodness

For selfies, the Vivo V15 sports a 32MP f/2.0 Samsung ISOCELL GD1 pop-up camera with AI and screen flash. Yes, a 32MP sensor.
Selfie camera UI
Selfie camera UI

You can use AI Beauty mode, normal mode, video and AR stickers for selfies. HDR, live photo and portrait light mode are still available for use too.

It has no AF, but face detection is swift. Shutter speed is quite fast as well.

Selfie Camera Samples

Normal vs with face beauty and depth effect
Normal vs with face beauty and depth effect

With good lighting, especially natural light, images come out with great detail, colors, and sharpness. HDR is great too for against the light selfies. In fact, Vivo nailed it again. 
Great details, but face beauty is a bit too much
Great details, but face beauty is a bit too much
It is like wearing makeup
It is like wearing makeup

The bokeh effect is clean too. Vivo's depth estimation for selfies is arguably the best at this price point.

Sadly, AI face beauty is still a bit much for me. It could make your face look too soft and unnatural. It is like wearing makeup. The only good thing about its AI face beauty is it retained the details on our hair.
Indoor selfie 1
Indoor selfie 1
Indoor selfie 2
Indoor selfie 2

Indoor selfies are respectable with good color reproduction and details.
A low light selfie sample
A low light selfie sample

Low light snaps are still good but show some hit on image quality. Colors can sometimes get washed out and noise can be noticeable too. But, compared to other low light selfies, this is still one of the best.

Just use the selfie screen flash when needed.

For videos, it can shoot up to 1080p at 30fps. It also comes with video face beauty, time-lapse and slow-mo mode. We also like the fact that you can use the time-lapse for the ultra-wide lens.

Focus is fast enough and details color reproduction using the main and wide cam are comparable when taking photos.

Stabilization is surprisingly not bad even if it has no mention of EIS and OIS. Not perfect, but at least there's some sort of stabilization.

For selfies, it can shoot up to 1080p at 30fps. There's a Video Face Beauty mode with 720p recording quality. It is one of the most detailed selfie cam for videos with respectable color reproduction. There is a crop, but that's understandable. I just wished that it has EIS for stabilization.

Video Samples


Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench score
AnTuTu and Geekbench score

Vivo V15 has a 2.1GHz Helio P70 octa-core processor, Mali-G72 MP3 GPU, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage amd a 4,000mAh with Dual Engine fast charging. It also loads up Android 9.0 with FunTouch OS 9.
PC Mark Work performance 2.0 and 3DMark scores
PC Mark Work performance 2.0 and 3DMark scores

This configuration is powerful enough to provide a snappy and smooth daily performance. The performance is what you can expect from a 2019 mid-range device. Switching between apps is snappy even with the Google Chrome app which is known to be a resource hog.

Helio P70 is quite fast!

Gaming performance is great too. Arena of Valor and PUBG Mobile performs well. AoV even runs at 60fps which is important for a MOBA game requiring fast reaction and reflexes. PUBG Mobile ran smoothly as well.
Game mode
Game mode

It has Game Cube that streamlines the V15's function for gaming. You can block notifications, enable Game Assistant, reject calls, and activate Esports mode. Esports Mode is a feature geared towards AoV and battle royale players that want to utilize every ounce of performance from the phone.


I never really noticed it getting warm during games but it did get hot during fast charging.

The UI

Vivo's skin
Vivo's skin

Vivo V15 loads with Android 9.0 with FunTouch OS 9. The UI looks clean but there are parts that I am not a fan of. As an Android user, I expect the toggles to be accessible via swiping down from the status bar. I did that and all I got was the notification panel. Remembering that I am using FunTouch OS, I swiped up and viola! Toggles.
Vivo's phone optimizer
Vivo's phone optimizer

The toggles were still found at the bottom. Still reminiscent of past versions of FunTouch that emulates iOS quite a bit. The swipe up functionality is a bit finicky as well. I had no choice but to go back to Nova Launcher Prime with my customized gestures and layout.

Similar to iOS as well, there was no app drawer by default. Personally, I like to keep my home screen as clean and minimal as possible. I usually only have up to 9 apps in there and a clock widget. That's it. There's also an Easy Touch feature that activates a floating button that holds function shortcuts such as screenshot, screen recording, audio recording and more. I didn't use it much though as it gets in my way most of the time.

Jovi Smart Assistant is also here. With a shortcut button for Smart Scene found at the notification panel, you can access a personalized information page. It shows a step counter, rest monitor, travel weather, and events you are interested in.

Other features

Vivo V15 can utilize dual-band WiFi connections if available. The GSM signal is alright in my experience. 4G LTE is fast but our review unit has a bug though. When you switch from WiFi to LTE, the latter won't work unless you do a full reboot of the device.

It happened to me several times which was a bummer altogether. Fortunately, once it connects, it is fast and responsive. FM Radio is present if needed and the gyroscope works well for VR and AR apps. 

One of the biggest difference of the V15 from its Pro counterpart is the lack of face unlock and In-Display fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor in the back is fast and responsive so its no big deal.

Pros - Stylish and premium feel and design, huge battery with fast charging, capable specs for the price, triple-camera setup, pretty good night mode, 32MP selfie camera, big screen with no notch and slim bezels
Cons - UI can be improved, the screen could have been brighter be brighter, lack of face unlock, micro USB port, no night mode for the wide cam

Vivo V15 Specs

Display: 6.53-inch 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 5 protected IPS screen w/ FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 395 ppi
CPU: 2.1GHz 64-bit Helio P70 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G72 MP3
RAM: 6GB
ROM: 128GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB
Back Camera: 12MP f/1.78 + 8MP f/2.2 + 5MP f/2.4 w/ PDAF, AI, and LED flash
Selfie Camera: 32MP f/2.0 Samsung ISOCELL GD1 sensor w/ AI and screen flash
Battery: 4,000mAh w/ Dual Engine fast charging
OS: Android 9.0 Pie w/ Funtouch OS 9
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), 700MHz 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, OTG, FM Radio, GPS, A-GPS, dual SIM (nano)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, dual mic, Colors: topaz blue, ruby red, blossom pink
Dimensions: 161.97 x 75.93 x 8.54 mm
Weight: 189.5 g
Price: PHP 17,999 (PHP 15,999 new SRP)

Verdict

Vivo V15 added some key features from its Pro variant to compensate the downgrades it made.

It has a larger display which is both an improvement and a polarizing aspect of the phone. It is bigger which means better experience and immersion but one hand usability was sacrificed. It is a bit slower in terms of CPU/GPU, but still capable. It has a bigger battery too which is a big plus for me.

The camera specs are weaker than V15 Pro, but all the camera software features found with V15 Pro are still there. It has an underrated portrait mode as well.

Overall, Vivo V15 garners a recommendation from us. It is a great package for the price and you can't go wrong picking this phone.

Build/Design - 4.5
Display - 4.25
Audio - 4.25
Battery - 4.75
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.46/5
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