vivo NEX 3 Hands-on, Quick Review: Borderless Monster

by John Nieves  September 16, 2019

The phone of the future, now

vivo announced their newest flagship, the NEX 3 tonight at an event in Shanghai, and we’ve honestly never been this excited for a vivo flagship before. The nearly buttonless phone has a lot of features we’ve never seen in a phone before, and the vivo finally has a flagship that’ll rival the offerings of its rivals, namely Huawei and Samsung.

Nearly button less, border-less design looks absolutely stunning

vivo’s button-less APEX 2019 stunned us when we saw it a few months ago, and since then the company has taken quite a few design cues from the concept phone and applied it to the NEX 3.

Specifically, vivo has removed the physical volume rocker and power button that typically resides on the side of the phone, and replaced them with capacitive, pressure-sensitive keys.

Each touch of the virtual side keys delivers a convincing amount of haptic feedback, and there’s a total of 7 pressure points on the side to make sure that you get the same amount of feedback from the virtual keys compared to actual, physical keys.

The actuation force for the side buttons can be customized depending on your liking, though vivo also included a small, auxiliary physical power button on the top. The virtual buttons take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it pressing them is no problem at all.

The phone is completely covered in glass, surrounded by a metal frame. Surprisingly, vivo didn’t go with exotic colors nor gradients with the NEX 3. The most you get is a very, very subtle color shift when you’re looking at it in a certain way (at least from the Liquid Galaxy variant) but aside from that the phone rocks a simple, exterior in two colors: Glowing Night and Liquid Galaxy.

The NEX 3’s camera module is a triple camera deal – which isn’t a stand-out feature until you actually take a look at exactly what cameras it’s using.

The NEX 3 is one of the first phones in the world to sport a 64-megapixel camera sensor. The higher resolution camera should prove to be a low-light powerhouse, though we’ll have to check for ourselves if the phone delivers when it comes to snaps in a different article.

Moving right along the other sensors, the NEX 3 also gets a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera, along with a 13-megapixel 2x optical zoom lens.

While other companies insist on removing the headphone jack on their flagships, vivo has brought it back for the NEX 3. That’s great news for people who are tired of dealing with wireless cans.

Another killer feature of the NEX 3 is its display. While sister company OPPO was the first to show off the waterfall display (basically a display that drops off 90 degrees to the side instead of being curved) vivo is the first company to market to bring a phone with that particular display tech. The 6.89-inch full HD+ E3 POLED panel looks amazing in our hands, and that display is breathtaking to look at. The design allows the phone to have an almost unheard of 99.6% screen-to-body ratio.

The display is the very best you can ask for (aside from the full HD+ display): aside from its sheer size, it’s also HDR 10 capable, has a 100% sRGB coverage, and has maximum brightness of 800 nits.

The phone is extra tall, thanks to the unusual 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s actually as tall as the already substantial ROG Phone II, though the NEX 3 has the advantage of having a bigger overall display.

Smaller hands might have trouble using the NEX 3 one-handed though, and the all-glass body makes the phone a little slippery to handle without a case.

Palm rejection is an important part of a phone that has a display like the one in the NEX 3, and for the most part, we haven’t seen any issues with the NEX 3 when it comes to that. We’ll have to see exactly how well vivo implemented palm rejection in the long term, but right now we haven’t had any issues at all with the device.

The screen is kept notch-free thanks to a motorized selfie unit. The 16-megapixel front-facing camera is joined in the pop-up unit by a selfie fill light that provides lighting when you’re taking selfies in the dark.

Inside NEX 3 is the latest Qualcomm silicon – the Snapdragon 855 Plus, the same chipset that powers ASUS’ ROG Phone II and the Black Shark 2. There’s more than enough RAM and storage to go around, with configurations that include 8GB/12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

And just like these gaming powerhouses, the NEX 3 also uses a custom Vapor Chamber Cooling System that keeps the phone’s innards cool.

The NEX 3 also holds the title of being the first mass-produced phone from vivo that has 5G connectivity, future-proofing it for markets that are either already rolling out 5G networks or are planning to do so in the near future. There’s also a 4G version of the NEX 3, which is the variant that was lent to us.

Keeping the phone’s lights on is a 4500mAh battery that’s paired with an extremely fast 44w fast-charging system.

We still don’t have an idea if vivo will be selling the NEX 3 on our side of the world, though company reps tell us that they are seriously looking into the possibility.

Regardless, vivo had finally made a phone that’s at the same level as the offerings of Samsung and domestic rival Huawei. The vivo NEX 3 is chock full of awesome features and hardware that we’ve never seen before – features that will start to become standard on the next flagship refresh cycle a few months from now.

Pricing for the NEX 3 are as follows:

NEX 4G 8GB/128GB – CNY 4998 (~Php 37k)

NEX 5G 8GB/256GB – CNY 5698 (~Php 42.2k)

NEX 5G 12GB/256GB – CNY 6198 (~Php 45.9k)

No local price has been set for the NEX 3 yet.

vivo NEX 3 Specs

  • Snapdragon 855+ octa-core processor
  • 8GB/12GB RAM
  • 6.89-inch 19:3.9 POLED Full HD+ Waterfall Fullview display, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • 128GB/256GB of non-expandable storage
  • 4G, LTE
  • Dual SIM
  • Triple Rear Cameras: 64-megapixel f/1.8 main camera; 13-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera; 13-megapixel f/2.48 telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom; with PDAF, LED Flash, Hyper HDR
  • 16-megapixel f/2.09 pop-up front camera with selfie fill light
  • WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0
  • In-display fingerprint scanner, Jovi Voice Assistant, Vapor chamber cooling
  • Android 9 Pie with FunTouch 9.1
  • 4500mAh battery with 44w Super FlashCharge

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