Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition first look: the dual-screen phone done right

  • Chinese-made handset’s two high-resolution OLED screens make it a world-beater; second screen is way more than a viewfinder for selfie-taking
  • Impressive triple camera system creates a 3D scan of your face you can use to unlock the phone, and have some fun with too
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 1:10pm

The original Vivo Nex – which had a pop-up selfie camera to avoid the need for a notch in the front display – is not even six months old, but the Chinese phone brand already has an update. Named the Nex Dual Display Edition, the new handset does away with the elevating camera in favour of two screens.

The idea is that a user can take selfies with the main camera system using the rear screen as viewfinder, thus eliminating the need to worry about where to put a front-facing camera.

Vivo Nex smartphone review: no bezels and no notch

The concept is not new – it was first seen on the ZTE-backed Nubia in November – but Vivo, being a more experienced phonemaker, not to mention one whose operations were not dealt a near death blow by the US government, has crafted a superior device that’s more refined.

For starters, both its 6.4-inch main screen and 5.5-inch rear display are OLED panels with resolution exceeding 1080p, which beats the Nubia X’s LCD main screen and 720p second screen.

The new Nex also has a superior triple camera system, consisting of a 12-megapixel main camera with f/1.8 aperture, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a third TOF (Time Of Flight) lens used for scanning 3D objects.

There will be many future uses for a TOF camera, such as helping produce augmented reality content, but as of right now, it is mainly used for facial scanning.

The scanned facial data can be used to unlock the phone, iPhone style (though you’ll have to hold it backwards), or to create a 3D render of your face that can be played with.

From my brief testing, unlocking the phone with my face worked as advertised, but I’m mostly impressed with the 3D face model render – the TOF camera did such a good job it picked up all the acne scars on my face.

Around the camera module is a circular light that Vivo has dubbed “Lunar Ring”. Similar to the “ring light” that beauty vloggers use during photo or video shoots, the Lunar Ring will, supposedly, better illuminate your face.

Honor Magic 2 is a notch-free slider phone with six, yes six, cameras

The top half of the ring consists of 16 hardware LED lights, while the bottom half comprises illuminated pixels from parts of the OLED screen.

I wasn’t able to put the camera to full test given the limited demo time, but the original Nex camera system was above average, and this sequel is a clear step up in hardware.

Under the hood is a Snapdragon 845 processor with a whopping 10GB of RAM. Combined with the Android 9.0 software (with Vivo’s skin on top), the Nex Dual Display Edition should be a top performer.

I certainly encountered no issues during my time with the device. Switching between the two screens – done via the press of a hardware button or a swiping gesture – worked smoothly.

The phone, surprisingly, even sports a headphone jack, with an integrated 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC (digital-to-analogue converter).

From my early impressions, the Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition is the dual-screen phone done right. The Nubia X might have got there first, but its implementation feels like a gimmick: the second screen was too small and too low-res to really be put to regular use.

The Vivo has a larger, sharper second screen that I could actually see myself using over the main screen in certain situations – say, for phone calls or quick one-hand typing when I’m walking.

Under-screen sensor on China smartphone Vivo X21 has wow factor

The Nex Dual Display Edition goes on sale in China first on December 29 for 4,999 yuan (US$725). Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore will be getting an official release later.