Vivo X21 Review; Innovation That Works

Anjie lou delos Reyes

Vivo came in the Philippines more than two years ago, and in just a short span of time, they became one of the most popular smartphone brands in the country thru their massive and explosive marketing efforts. However, there is little recall in terms of standout feature or technology. But, that is about to change with their latest offering, the Vivo X21. Continue reading our full review to know why!

Vivo X21 Review; Innovation That Works
Vivo X21 Review; Innovation That Works

The Vivo X21 is the first device to arrive in the Philippines that boast an in-display fingerprint technology, not only from Vivo, but also from all other brands. It is definitely something new, interesting, and impressive at the same time. But, there is more to it than just that, it packs great screen, powerful chipset, big memory, huge storage, and nice set of cameras.


Vivo X21 Unboxing and Hands-on

Like most, if not all our recent reviews, let's start first with the retail box and its contents. The X21 is housed in an eye-candy blue box with relatively centered FIFA World Cup logo, wherein Vivo is an official partner. Inside, you will get the unit itself with factory installed screen protector, a clear case, a pair of earbuds, USB to micro USB cable, power adapter, SIM ejector pin, and paper documents.

Vivo X21 Retail Package
Retail Package

The Vivo X21 resembles a similar design as the V9, but it has a more solid build and feels more premium, thanks to its black aluminum frame and glass-layered back panel. Yes, it is not as flashy or striking as other flagship, but it will still catch attentions every once in a while, especially with the glowing fingerprint symbol on the lower part of the screen, will get to that part later.

Vivo X21 Display

Speaking of the screen, it is equipped with 6.28-inch Super AMOLED panel with a Full HD+, that is 1080 x 2280 pixels in a tall 19:9 aspect ratio. The display resolution might be small for some, but in real-life usage, you won't really notice the low pixel density count, unless otherwise you placed it side-by-side to phones with 4K screen like the Samsung Galaxy S9. Besides, the OLED screen offers vibrant colors and punchy blacks, so the display quality outputs are great and pleasing to the eyes. Moreover, it is really bright, one of the brightest screens on the market today, and you can use it under direct sunlight without struggle or straining your eyes. One thing is missing though, at least for those who can't get over with the notch, is the ability to 'hide' it. By the way, the notch house the earpiece grill, secondary camera and electronic sensors.

Vivo X21 Back Panel

Flipping the phone over, you get to see a bit glossy glass back panel, which unfortunately is also a smudge magnet. At the upper left corner, you will find the dual camera setup and its LED flash directly below it. There is also the Vivo logo slightly above the center, and the oddly enough 'Designed by Vivo' marking on the lower part.

Going through the side, the left portion has nothing on it, the right keeps the volume and power keys, the top has the 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary microphone, and the bottom is a bit crowded with the card tray, micro USB port, primary microphone and loudspeaker grill all in place.

See Also: Vivo Y71 2GB Drops Price to Php6,999

The Vivo X21 measures 154.5mm x 74.8mm x 7.4mm, which are all smaller than Vivo V9's 154.8mm x 75.1mm x 7.9mm and OPPO F7's 156mm x 75.3mm x 7.8mm. However, it is a bit heavier at 156.2 grams compared to 150 grams of V9, but it is slightly lighter than the 158 grams of the F7.

Both the case and screen protector are easily get scratched, it just several weeks of using the phone, they already accumulated tons of scratches. Hopefully, Vivo will sell, if not provide, replacements, especially for the screen film as third party ones might have compatibility issue with the In-Display Fingerprint sensor.

For more info, you can watch our unboxing video above.


Vivo X21 Software

The Vivo X21 runs on Android 8.1 Oreo with the brand's proprietary skin called Funtouch OS 4.0. The look and feel of the interface is pretty much the same with that of other Vivo phones that run on the same OS version like the Vivo V9. If you are regular to our site, we always say that the Funtouch OS UI is basically a copycat of that of the Apple's iOS. And, even if Vivo won't admit it, the resemblances between the two are undeniable. One of them is the quick settings interface, instead of the usual swipe down from top as part of the notification drawer, it is a swipe up from the bottom. Not only that, even some pre-installed apps have names that start with "i", like iMusic and iTheme to name a few.

Just like any other custom skin, Funtouch OS 4.0 comes with their very own pre-installed applications. Thankfully, there are only a few of them, unlike the other brands that have lots of it, take Zen UI for one. To be honest, I think there is only one app that I will end up not using, the V-Appstore that looks like a Chinese ripoff of the Google Play Store.

Vivo also incorporates lots of user experience enhancements buried deep in the system settings, such as Game Mode for a more immersive gaming, App Clone that creates a duplicate of supported app with different identity or log-in, Smart Split that enables running two separate apps at the same time, and Smart Motion to name a few.


Vivo X21 CPU-Z Info
CPU-Z Info

One of the main gripes of Vivo critics, or shall I say haters, is the chipset used, which is the Qualcomm MSM8956 Plus Snapdragon 660 AIE. Technically speaking, using that SoC makes it a midrange device positioned at the upper spectrum, as flagship handsets are using the top-end Qualcomm 845 chip. However, it doesn't make the X21 a slouch, in fact, it is the most powerful Vivo device released in the country to date. And, with a huge 6GB of RAM, the phone is fast and fluid, even when joggling between multiple apps. We never encountered any hiccups with our everyday use, and even in heavy gaming, or demanding tasks, it remains pretty smooth. In addition, it comes with a huge 128GB of onboard storage, wherein 108GB is still available, that is still a lot of space to store digital contents.

We also performed the usual benchmarking rituals, and the results are as follows:

Antutu - 133,551
Geekbench - 1,608 (single core)
Geekbench - 5,575 (multi core)
PC Mark - 6,137
3D Mark Sling Shot - 2,049
3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme - 1,063 (Vulkan)
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme - 1,345 (OpenGL ES 3.1)
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited – 26,414
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme - Max

Vivo X21 Benchmark Scores
Benchmark Scores

The benchmark scores are obviously lower that devices with a higher Qualcomm chip like the OnePlus 6 and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s. In Antutu, it still lags behind the Huawei Mate 10 with Kirin 970 SoC, but in other benchmarks, especially, the GPU-related ones, the differences are not that high.

In actual usage, opening and using apps, including those that needs heavy resources, are fast and smooth. There is no hiccup or stutter, and the overall UI experience is seamless. Gaming performance is also highly commendable, graphics-hungry games like Asphalt 8, NBA 2K18 and PUBG Mobile, can be played with ease, there is no noticeable dropped frames or lags. Moreover, it does not heat up much doing these things, even if there are several of them open at the same time. The only thing it gets a little warm is when using it as a hotspot for long periods.

Another thing that we like with Vivo X21 is the audio quality, thanks to the AK4376A Hi-Fi chip, the sound space, dynamic and resolution are all pretty good, both when using the bundled earphones or just listening through the single-firing speaker at the bottom of the phone.

The facial recognition function, which uses an infrared sensor and the selfie camera, is quite fast. Once the phone is awake, and you place it in front of your face, it unlocks almost in an instant. Surprisingly, it also works pretty well, even in dark environments.

In-Display Fingerprint Reader

Vivo X21 In-Display Fingerprint Reader
In-Display Fingerprint Reader

As mentioned earlier, the Vivo X21's in-display fingerprint sensor, which is made in partnership with Synaptics, is the first of its kind that mass-distributed in the country. It works as it should, but it is slightly slower that solid-state fingerprint reader. In our time with the device, it usually takes about 1/2 second to unlock. In comparison, the current generation of conventional sensors mounted in the likes of Vivo 9 and Huawei P20 Pro are just touch and go, wherein the biometric authentication happens in an instant. This is quite understandable, as it is a first-gen technology, which we believed will significantly improve in the upcoming version.

Also Read: Vivo Brings More Shopping Options through Partnership with Shopee and Akulaku

If you are asking if the sensor beneath the screen is visible, the answer is a yes and no, depending on the lighting condition. Under normal circumstances, you will not see it no matter how hard you look at it. Under very bright environment like high noon time, the sensor is visible, but even then, it is hardly noticeable.

By the way, it also works in other applications that needs fingerprint authentication, a very good example is a banking app. I have tried it with BDO Personal Banking app, and it works just fine.


Vivo X21 Dual Rear Cameras
Dual Rear Cameras

The camera hardware of the Vivo X21 moves away from the usual megapixel counter, and focus more on other aspects. The dual rear shooter setup houses a primary 12MP module with f/1.8 aperture, and phase detection auto focus paired with a secondary 5MP module with an f-stop of f/2.4. Meanwhile, the front selfie snapper is equipped with another 12MP module, but this time, the aperture is f/2.0. In comparison, the megapixel count of the selfie camera is only half of that found in the Vivo V9 that has 24MP.

The megapixel count may be smaller in number, but the X21 cameras perform surprisingly quite well in almost all conditions. Both the front and back cameras produce images that are both decent and satisfactory. In fact, these are the most capable set of cameras we have ever tested from Vivo.

Vivo X21 Camera Interface
Camera Interface

The camera interface does not sway much from other Vivo handsets, and have strong similarities with the latest iPhone devices. It has lots of shooting modes and extras, such as DOC for capturing documents or text-heavy subjects, Professional for more controlled parameters like ISO and shutter speed, Face Beauty for beautification purposes, and the very cool AR Stickers to add life and fun to your photos.

Dual-Rear Camera Samples:

Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Close-up, Heineken Beers
Close-up, Heineken Beers
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Close-up, Low light, Cheese
Close-up, Low light, Cheese
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Audi
Indoor, Audi
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Close-up, Gyoza
Close-up, Gyoza
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Low Light, 2x Zoom
Indoor, Low Light, 2x Zoom
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Low Light, Macro
Indoor, Low Light, Macro
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Low Light, Macro
Indoor, Low Light, Macro
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Play at Okada
Indoor, Play at Okada
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Close-up, Ramen
Close-up, Ramen
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Text-Heavy
Indoor, Text-Heavy
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Indoor, Water Park, Night
Indoor, Water Park, Night
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Close-up, Japanese Set Meal
Close-up, Japanese Set Meal
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, River, Against the Light
Outdoor, River, Against the Light
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, Air Show, 2x Zoom
Outdoor, Air Show, 2x Zoom
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, Golf Fairway, Morning
Qutdoor, Golf Fairway, Morning
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, Driving Range, Night
Outdoor, Driving Range, Night
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, MOA Eye, Noon
Outdoor, MOA Eye, Noon
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, Water Park, Afternoon
Outdoor, Water Park, Afternoon
Vivo X21 Main Cameras Sample - Outdoor, Water Park, Night
Outdoor, Water Park, Night

The dual cam setup is really impressive overall, it provides sharp output images with great quality and low level of noise. Yes, night or extremely low light shots tend to be a little grainy, but it is not noticeable, unless pictures are viewed on your computer.

The color reproduction tends to be slightly over saturated, but it is how we like our photos - bright and full or colors. The dynamic range is also good, as it has no problem resolving shade and shadows, especially when HDR is set to auto.

Related: Vivo Y71 Review; Your Next Budget Smartphone?

The Portrait Bokeh effect works well too, however, there are times that the edge of the subject is not smooth, thankfully, you can adjust the effect even after the shot is taken. One thing to note, you cannot use Portrait and HDR at the same time, but I believed that is a common practice, as other brands like Huawei implement it the same way too.

Meanwhile, it can record videos up to 4K resolution, wherein 1 minute clip is about 300MB in size. It lacks OIS or EIS, so the X21 resorts to software stabilization, which is good, even at 4K, but it would have been better if there is accompanying hardware.

Front Camera Samples:

Vivo X21 Front Camera Sample - AI Face Beauty Selfie
AI Face Beauty Selfie
Vivo X21 Front Camera Sample - Face Beauty Groufie
Face Beauty Groufie

The selfie snapper has only 12MP sensor, but its output is slightly better than the 24MP of the Vivo V9. Aside from the option to manually select the beautification level (1 to 6), it is also able to apply enhancements on its own through AI. And, based on our experience, AI Face Beauty provides more realistic selfies.

It also offers Portrait Bokeh mode, but since it only has one camera, everything is just based on software, therefore resolving the edges is not too great. Moreover, there is no option to adjust the effect after the image is already captured.


The connectivity options of the Vivo X21 include dual Nano SIM slots with 4G/LTE for fast mobile internet on the go. If you don't want to spend on mobile data, you can always rely on its dual-band WiFi. Meanwhile, the Bluetooth version is 5.0. Sadly, NFC and IR blaster are missing. Moreover, the USB port is still a micro USB 2.0 standard, and it feels a bit old school.

The other items are FM Radio receiver, 3.5mm audio jack, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS.


Vivo X21 PC Mark Battery Life Score
PC Mark Battery Life Score

The X21 uses 3200mAh lithium-ion non-removable battery, which usually last throughout the day even with heavy usage. In fact, most of the time we use it as a hotspot, and it can still stand a day with a little juice left. In our PC Mark Batter Life test, it lasted 12 hours and 5 minutes, that is about 3 hours more than the 9 hours 10 minutes we got with the Vivo V9 that has 3,260mAh battery, and 9 hours 43 minutes of the Huawei P20 Pro that has a 4000mAh battery.

Wireless charging is missing on the list of specs, it is not a big deal though, but it is still a plus if it has one. Nonetheless, filling up the juice is quite fast, it usually gets full in a little over one hour, thanks to the fast charging support.


The Vivo X21 is indeed a solid device that gets a lot of things right, such as the nice sets of cameras, bright display with thin bezels, beautifully crafted body, nice audio quality, long battery up time, not to mention the cool and futuristic in-display fingerprint scanner.

It is really a good device, however, its price point will play a significant role in its success in the Philippine market. A better asking price would definitely blow the competition away. But for now, let us wait first until Vivo reveals the sales figures.

Vivo X21 Specs:

  • Dual Nano SIM, dual standby, supports LTE connectivity
  • 6.28-inch Super AMOLDED Full HD+ (2280 x 1080) touchscreen display, 19:9 aspect ratio
  • Dimensions: 154.5mm x 74.8mm x 7.4mm
  • Weight: 156.2g
  • Funtouch OS 4.0 based on Android 8.1 Oreo
  • 64-bit octa-core CPU (4x2.2GHz Kryo 260 + 4x1.8GHz Kryo 260), Adreno 512 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8956 Plus Snapdragon 660 chipset
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128GB internal storage, expandable up to 256GB via MicroSD card, uses SIM 2 slot
  • 12MP f/1.8 Dual Pixel PDAF + 5MP f/2.4 PDAF main cameras with LED flash, 4K video recording
  • 12MP f/2.0 Dual Pixel secondary camera
  • Multimedia player
  • FM Radio
  • Hi-Fi Audio chip
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
  • Micro USB 2.0 with OTG function
  • Bluetooth v5.0
  • Sensors: fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
  • Battery: 3200mAh Li-Ion, non-removable
  • Price: Php29,999

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