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Vivo X21 review: A worthy mid-range flagship to challenge OnePlus dominance

Priced at Rs 35,990, the Vivo X21 is a premium mid-range device strong in almost all areas; the phone's modest processor seems a downside, but it shows no signs of weakness in real-life scenario

Khalid Anzar  |  New Delhi 

Vivo X21

After showcasing the prototype of at the Consumer Electronic Show, 2018, Chinese smartphone maker on May 29 launched the X21 with a fingerprint sensor under the display. For a mid-range smartphone, the X21 boasts premium features like dual rear cameras, artificial intelligence capabilities, face-unlock mechanism, Hi-Fi sound with dedicated AMP and modern notch-based screen. These features propel it in the league of mid-range premium smartphones – at least on papers.

X21 design

The glass-metal-glass sandwich design looks similar to other mid-range smartphones. The design, especially the frame, looks close to the OnePlus 6, but the front is dominated by a notch-based screen stretching almost edge to edge on three sides and leaving only a thin chin on the bottom. On the back, the reflective glass design with horizontally aligned dual camera set-up on top left is in line with the current trend and looks similar to the Honor 10.

Vivo X21

The thin frame that holds the front and back glass feels pointed, something similar to the Nokia 8 Sirocco. While the frame makes it easy to hold and operate the phone, the razor thin volume rocker keys and a power button on the right side of the frame are somewhat uncomfortable to use.

On the bottom, the phone sports an outdated microUSB port for charging and data transfers, coupled with a mono speaker on the right and dual-SIM slot on the left. The left side of the frame is vacant and the top side features a 3.5mm audio output port and secondary microphone.

Vivo X21

Overall, the design looks modern, but not refreshing. The metallic frame gives to the convenience to hold the phone with confidence, but the thin volume rocker keys and power button reduce the utility overall.

Vivo X21 display

The Vivo X21 sports a 6.28-inch fullHD+ notch-based display. Being a super AMOLED unit, the display looks vivid and shows deep blacks, which in turn boosts colour reproduction and looks lively. The screen supports the always-on mode, which shows an active fingerprint sensor location brightening up and registering fingerprint as soon as you put a finger on it.

Vivo X21

Unlike other phones, the notch is enabled by default and there is no provision to turn it off. The screen area around the notch is not optimised, so it shows inconsistencies that do not go well. Otherwise, the screen looks vivid and stays legible under direct sunlight.

Vivo X21 camera

Vivo X21: Camera sample

The Vivo X21 sports a 12-megapixel primary sensor, paired with a 5MP secondary lens on the back. On the front, there is a 12MP selfie camera. Both the front and back cameras boast dual pixel for enhanced colour reproduction and low noise in low-light conditions.

Vivo X21: Camera sample

The cameras in the Vivo X21 feature artificial intelligence capabilities, but these are limited only to high dynamic range (HDR). The rear camera boasts several modes, including live photos, beauty mode and portrait mode. The photos come out clean with satisfactory details, but show soft touch – a little unreal at times. The front camera also takes detailed shots with a soft glowing touch, which enhances the portraits and might be liked by selfie aficionados.

Vivo X21: Camera sample

Overall, the camera performance is not out of the world, but it is akin to other mid-range premium smartphones.

Vivo X21 fingerprint and face unlock

Apart from the regular pattern and pin-based screen unlock mechanisms, the Vivo X21 boasts a fingerprint sensor and face unlock, too. In a first, Vivo has utilised an that sits under the screen. For ease of use, the fingerprint sensor shows an on-display icon, which brightens up as soon as you place the finger on it to unlock the phone. The sensor is not as fast as a physical fingerprint sensor, but it does the job to unlock the phone within seconds.

Vivo X21

As for face unlocking, the front camera is assisted with phase detection and infrared to assist in low-light conditions. The face unlock mechanism in the Vivo X21 is one of the fastest. It takes only a fraction of a second to identify the face, even in dark, to unlock the phone. However, the inability to unlock the phone using the face unlock mechanism without pressing the power key first diminishes the overall utility of the feature.

Vivo X21 performance

The Vivo X21 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 system-on-chip, paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage – expandable using microSD card. The phone boots Funtouch OS 4 based on Google Android Oreo 8.1 out of the box.

Vivo X21

The operating system comes loaded with lots of bloatware, which eats up the precious internal storage space. The user interface looks neat, but nowhere close to stock. So, it may not be liked by everyone. The phone keeps up the show with no lags or jitters. It performs optimally even while operating processor-intensive tasks like gaming and video editing. Multitasking is swift and keeping apps in the background does not slow down the performance. However, the phone tends to heat up sometimes, not enough to make it unbearable to use.

Vivo X21 battery

The Vivo X21 is powered by a 3,200 mAh battery that keeps the phone going for almost a day. Interestingly, the phone boasts a dual charging technology, which improves charging time and takes the battery level from zero to 100 per cent in less than one-and-a-half hours.


Priced at Rs 35,990, the Vivo X21 is a premium mid-range smartphone that is strong in almost all areas. The phone boasts features like notch-based display, glass body, dual cameras, etc, which propel it as one of the mid-range flagships. The blazing fast face unlock mechanism, along with in-display fingerprint sensor, puts it ahead in the race in its segment. The only downside is a modest processor, but it shows no signs of weakness in the real-life scenario, so you might like to overlook it.

First Published: Thu, June 07 2018. 10:51 IST