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Vivo X21 Review: Just a gimmick or a true budget-flagship contender?

The X21 comes with an under display fingerprint sensor

Suchayan Mandal 11 June 2018, 3:37 PM
T2 Review
The Vivo X21 has been priced at Rs 35,990 in India

The Vivo X21 has been priced at Rs 35,990 in India Image: Twitter

Vivo has made some serious inroads into India's mid-range smartphone market. And now, in its most ambitious move yet, the Chinese smartphone maker has introduced the Vivo X21 — a premium smartphone which has been pitted directly against budget flagships like the Honor 10 and OnePlus 6.

The X21 is a unique approach to premium phones and relies on some pretty awesome features rather than raw speed. The X21 comes with an under-the-screen fingerprint scanner, which means you can unlock the phone just by just putting your thumb on the display screen. The device is amongst the first production smartphones to offer the feature in India.

While not having to rummage around for a fingerprint sensor is highly appreciated, does the X21 do justice to the price tag? Let's take a look.


X21 has been priced at Rs 35,990 but it’s available online with some added discounts.

The Vivo X21 box and contents

The Vivo X21 box and contents

Inside the box

The box bears the FIFA World Cup 2018 logo, announcing Vivo's official partnership with the showcase event in Russia. Vivo bundles a travel adapter, USB cable, silicone case and a pair of earphones with the X21. The earphones look similar to Apple Airpods and sound pretty decent.

Look and Feel

The Vivo X21 is as sleek as they come and weighs just 156 grams. An all-black aluminium frame houses the phone. The rear is made of glass and it is surprisingly easy to hold despite having a 6.28-inch bezel-less screen.

But does it look premium? Not quite, when comparing it to flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or the Huawei P20 Pro. The build quality is decent for the price but doesn't quite exude class. The shiny glass back looks plasticky on the first look but thankfully isn't a fingerprint magnet.

Sadly, the Vivo X21 doesn't use a USB Type C port, which has become a standard in smartphones today.

The X21 display is pretty impressive

The X21 display is pretty impressive


The FullHD Plus AMOLED panel on the X 21 looks brilliant despite the pixel density (402ppi) being on the lower side. The screen looks pretty soothing even on the highest brightness settings. The Eye Protection software is helpful to adjust for night mode, changes fonts and ensures the third-party apps fit the 19:9 aspect ratio. The phone comes with the 'divisive' notch, which can be hidden through the software depending on the user's preference.

Under display fingerprint sensor

Now, let’s come to the X21's USP — the under screen fingerprint sensor. In a nutshell, while tech nerds may find it quite amusing, the feature won't quite wow mainstream users.

Is it effective? To be honest, the phone unlocked with a single touch in most attempts but there were a few misses. Considering the feature is pretty much fresh off the oven, and no other smartphone manufacturers have introduced it yet, the minor hitches can be overlooked. Expect Vivo to fine-tune the feature in upcoming updates.

Under the hood

The Vivo X21's Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset isn't quite flagship level but holds up pretty well in real-life applications. There was no significant lag while putting the phone through some brutal multitasking, involving heavy apps and games. The 6GB RAM helps out in that respect.

The infrared-based face unlock feature in the X21 is pretty snappy and works better than most mid-range offerings.


The Vivo X21 comes with a 3,200mAh battery and it easily lasted a day on a single charge and even extended around a day-and-a-half with moderate usage. The power-efficient 660 Soc can take a lot of credit here.

The X21 features a dual camera on the back

The X21 features a dual camera on the back


The X21 comes with a 12MP+5MP dual camera setup on the back and a 12MP selfie camera on the front. The camera app features a lot of modes like auto, professional, bokeh etc. The professional mode on the X21 feels clunky to use and isn’t as impressive as the Samsung Galaxy S9 camera app.

So, how well does the dual camera setup perform? Well, if you have used the OnePlus 5 camera or anything better, the X21 won’t impress you much. The phone delivers decent images and the portrait mode is pretty nice. But the bokeh mode seems to have been a bit overdone and the photos look a tad artificial.

User Interface

Just like any other Vivo phones, X21 comes with Funtouch OS. The UI is heavily inspired by Apple's iOs but works well. Funtouch supports features like customisable gestures, communication drawer with bottom-to-top swipe, security centre, lock screen resize, long screenshot, eye protection, among others. While many have complained that the notification drawer looks a little messy, it's a common feature among Chinese phone makers.

Should you buy it?

At a price-point of Rs 35,000, the X21 goes up against the Honor 10 and OnePlus 6 and is comparable to both depending on what you are looking for. In a nutshell, it's a functional device which is easy to handle and holds up pretty well under heavy usage. The under display sensor is a nice gimmick and decently functional. 

Read more:

Vivo X21 with in-display fingerprint scanner up for pre-booking in India ahead of May 29 launch

New Vivo V9 with Sapphire Blue colour launched in India

Vivo V9 Review: A user-friendly phone with features that count but with a few misses

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