Vivo V3 Max review: Pricing kills the value of another excellent Vivo smartphone

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The Vivo V3 Max came to the Indian market in April this year, alongside its more compact cousin, the Vivo V3. We know, we’re pretty late with our review of the V3 Max, but we have to chalk it up to the fact that with so many new devices coming out in the last couple of months, we thought our review of the V3 would be enough to tide our readers over with until we could find the time to turn our attention to the Max variant.

The V3 Max is similar to the V3 in many respects, but it separates itself with a bigger, higher-resolution screen, a faster processor and double the RAM, and a larger battery. Priced at ₹19,980 these days, the V3 Max doesn’t offer the best spec sheet when you look at the competition; this was also the case with the V3, but as we found out, the V3 is actually a rather good smartphone and has only a poor proposition because of its price tag.

Does the V3 Max suffer from the same fate, or does it make a more compelling case for itself? Well, that is the question the Gear by MySmartPrice review will answer. I should also note that since the V3 and V3 Max share many common features, this review will only talk about what’s different on the V3 Max. For the rest of the features, especially the cameras and software on the device (which are exactly the same on both phones), do check out our review of the V3.

Design: Premium, iPhone-like, but nothing fancy on offer

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The V3 Max has the same design as the V3, but only on a considerably larger and heavier body (depending on your preference, the phone’s bulk may or may not appeal to you). There’s metal on the sides and around the back, and the front is taken up by the 5.5-inch Full-HD display. The front is fully white in colour similar to that of the V3, and the iPhone inspiration is readily apparent. In-hand feel is as good as can be expected from a metallic device and the build quality is right up there with the best.

Naturally, since this is a phablet, the V3 Max isn’t very easy to use single-handedly at all times, and the slippery metal means that you should either get a case or make sure you’re using the device with both hands lest it slips out of your hand (thankfully, Vivo offers a plastic case right in the box). The bigger size of the phone also means that the fingerprint sensor at the rear isn’t as easy to reach. I had to fully stretch my finger to be able to touch the sensor, although it still didn’t feel as out of reach as the fingerprint sensors on devices like the Xiaomi Mi Max.

Display: Good LCD panel with average outdoor brightness

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The V3 Max has an LCD display like its smaller sibling, and in terms of display quality, this is a pretty good panel. It shares the V3’s strengths – good contrast for an LCD panel and wide viewing angles – and also shares its weakness, which is the problematic brightness levels outdoors. At 5.5-inch, it is pretty much the right size for a phablet, with no on-screen buttons taking away from the screen estate. Touch response is good, although I did feel that the screen failed to keep up at times when I was swiping on the keyboard; a problem I noticed on the V3 as well.

Battery: Will last you a day of medium usage

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The V3 Max is powered by a 3,000 mAh battery, which is a full 450 mAh more than the V3’s. The V3 had impressive endurance for its battery size, and the V3 Max offers similar battery performance. I could easily make it through to the evening with medium usage that included using apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Slack, checking email, browsing the web using Chrome and taking a couple of pictures. In fact, the battery life was great even when I used the device on aggressive performance mode, which is impressive. Charging the phone overnight wasn’t a necessity on most days, and since the V3 Max supports fast charging, topping up the battery in the morning was a quick affair.

Speaking of fast charging, the V3 Max features what Vivo calls “dual-engine quick charging.” The company says the phone employs “two controller chips and circuits to charge the battery faster”. That’s just marketing speak for what is essentially standard quick charging that you find on all other phones, so you can use any fast charger and the V3 Max will quicken the pace at which it gains battery charge. There’s a fast charger provided inside the box.

Performance: Flagship-level performance, fast fingerprint sensor

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The 1.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 652 chipset and 4GB of RAM combine to offer stellar performance on the V3 Max. I don’t remember seeing a single stutter or lag at any moment, at least not at a level that matters. Apps fire up quickly, all the animations are smooth, and high-end games like Modern Combat 5 and Asphalt 8 run without hiccups. Multitasking was effortless and the phone could hold quite a few apps in memory, and for all intents and purposes, the V3 Max performs as well as phones that cost twice as much.

Another area where the phone impresses is the performance of the loudspeaker. The speaker is extremely loud – the sound it produces is a tad more focused on the high frequencies (treble), but the lower frequencies also have sufficient thump. Again, the speaker’s volume can go really high, and it ensured that I never missed an incoming call or any of my alarms. The V3’s speaker doesn’t even come close. The stock headphones aren’t that great, but output to my car stereo was good enough to justify Vivo’s “Hi-fi audio” claims.

The fingerprint sensor at the back is as fast as it is on the V3. Unlocking the device is almost instantaneous, and the sensor is also extremely accurate at detecting your fingerprint. Overall, the V3 Max is one of the best examples of how you don’t have to pay for flagship smartphones to get quick and smooth performance, especially since it doesn’t have any of the software glitches and bugs that are so common on Xiaomi devices.

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Conclusion: An excellent smartphone that falters with its price tag

The V3 Max, like the V3, is an excellent smartphone. The cameras aren’t great, but the device does everything else well. But just like the V3, the V3 Max doesn’t offer the greatest value for the asking price. There are simply too many phones with similar specs and features available for much less. Most of them come from Vivo’s homeland – the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, the Lenovo K5 Note (the 4GB variant), and the LeEco Le 2 – which match the V3 Max on most features for around ₹10,000 less. There’s also the Moto G4 Plus, which allures with both a lower price and a promise of quick software updates.

The Xiaomi Mi Max is another good alternative, provided you can live with the giant 6.4-inch display. Add a couple of thousand bucks to your budget, and you can grab devices like the Xiaomi Mi5 and the OnePlus 3, both of which are full-fledged flagship smartphones with no competition at their respective prices. It’s clear where the problem lies with the V3 Max if one can name so many alternatives.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the V3 Max can’t make a few winning arguments. It’s easily available offline and online, and you will get after-sales service that most of the other Chinese brands cannot match. I would also go as far as to say that it is a better alternative to the Xiaomi handsets when it comes to software – Vivo doesn’t mess with Android as much, and therefore offers a bug-free user experience. For the few bugs that do crop up, the company releases frequent software update.

At the end of the day, it is up to you, the consumer, to decide. Is easy availability and good service a top priority for you? If that be case, the V3 Max would be a good choice. But if it is specs and overall value you’re looking for, well, that’s where any of the aforementioned alternatives make much more sense.

Vivo V3 Max

7.6

Design

7.5/10

Display

7.0/10

Software

8.5/10

Camera

6.5/10

Performance

9.0/10

Battery life

8.5/10

Value for money

6.5/10

What Is Good?

  • Fast performance
  • Great battery life
  • Feature-packed software
  • Quick and accurate fingerprint sensor
  • Good loudspeaker

What Is Bad?

  • Large size makes fingerprint sensor a tad hard to reach
  • Cameras are just okay
  • Display falters outdoors

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