vivo X5Max first impressions: a cutting-edge smartphone slim enough to cut

“The X5Max takes things like slimness and sound quality to the maximum level, without losing out on any front”

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Records are meant to be broken. The said statement isn’t only valid in the hyper-competitive world of sports, but the smartphone industry as well. However, till the time a particular record is broken, the individual or device involved can bask in the limelight, and rightly so. Chinese brand vivo’s first offering in India, also boasts being part of this elite group by holding the title of thinnest smartphone in the world. But is that its only feat? If our time spent with the vivo X5Max is to be believed, it’s certainly much more that. Read on to find what we mean by that in our first impressions.

Some things can’t be explained in words, and that’s exactly how we would refer to to the vivo X5Max. With the thin chassis measuring 4.75mm, it’s so thin that you can even cut a cake with it (we aren’t joking, though we haven’t tried it). The problem with defining the slimness is that it’s all relative. For us the Gionee Elife S5.1 (first impressions | camera samples) is as thin as the vivo X5Max. However, put the two together and closely and you’ll see what vivo engineers have pulled off is nothing short of an impressive feat.

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How they were able to do so you may ask? Well, instead of sandwiching the components between the display panel and the battery, more than 90 percent of them were set on one side of the device on a PCB which measures just 1.77mm.

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With a 5.5-inch display panel gracing the fascia of the vivo X5Max, the device falls in the ever-growing category of phablets. However, when you hold it for the first time, the phone doesn’t seem like a phablet at all… thanks to its slim construction and lightweight body, and more importantly, how well it nestles in the hand. It’s definitely not easy to use the device with a single hand, but it isn’t impossible. Plus, vivo’s software also helps a bit in cases where you want to use it single-handedly, which we will be discussing in a while.

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Along with the display at the front, the vivo X5Max sports an earpiece, a couple of sensors and the secondary shooter above and an array of capacitive buttons for navigation. The device shares a lot of design similarities with the vivo X3s (first impressions), which continues towards the rear as well. The back of the unibody phablet has a dual-colour finish of silver and white.

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The rear is also home to the primary camera, which protrudes from the body, just like the vivo X3s. An LED flash sits alongside the shooter. Towards the end, there’s a speaker mesh which occupies the whole area.

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The left edge is completely devoid of any functional elements, while the right spine offers the volume keys along with the power / standby button, and an ejectable slot. The slot can be used to insert a nano-SIM and a micro-SIM to use the vivo X5Max as a dual-SIM mobile, or use the nano-SIM slot for memory expansion via a microSD card.

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Yes, even though the handset has slender 4.75mm thick body, the company has managed to offer a standard 3.5mm interface on the top, unlike the Oppo R5 (first impressions). This means that you can use a standard pair of earphones or headphones with the vivo X5Max. A micro-USB port is available for charging and data transfers at the bottom.

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vivo has made sure that the device is as premium as it can get, and that’s why it has opted for Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology for the display. The 5.5-inch screen bears 1080p resolution, and displays vibrant visuals and sharp text. Viewing angles were good as well, though we couldn’t test its brightness levels indoors.

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The computing muscle in the vivo X5Max is provided by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, an octa-core SoC with 64-bit compatibility. The silicon has two quad-core clusters – four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at high-speed of 1.5GHz, while four power-efficient cores run at 1GHz. The capable processor is mated to 2GB of RAM. Though we only spent a few minutes with the phone, we never ran into any kind of slowdowns and it felt really zippy. Of course, its true power can be only known when we push the performance to its limits by running heavy apps and playing games.

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A 16GB in-built memory takes care of storage needs, with an option to top it up by up to 128GB via microSD cards. You can also make use of its USB On-the-Go capabilities to connect flash drives.

vivo has also chosen a capable camera sensor for imagery on the X5Max – Sony’s 13-megapixel IMX214 CMOS sensor. We took a few shots with the device, and even in indoor lighting, the camera was able to capture a good amount of detail and natural colours, though we would like to test it out further before giving a verdict on the shooter’s quality. For illumination in dimly-lit environments, it offers an LED flash. A wide-angle 5MP snapper is available on the front to shoot selfies.

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The vivo X5Max runs the latest iteration of FuntouchOS, which is version 2.0 and it uses Android 4.4 KitKat as its underlying platform. Unlike the vivo Xshot (first impressions) and X3s, the X5Max’s interface seems to be more refined, though the basics remain the same. The interface also seems identical to Apple’s iOS, with the notification panel being translucent and displaying events as well. The quick toggles panel appear when pulled down from the bottom, and it also doubles up as a multitasking menu.

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Gesture support comes in really handy since you can simply double tap the display to wake it up, or draw gestures like ‘W’, ‘F’ and ‘C’ to directly open WhatsApp, Facebook and call logs. The custom overlay also offers Multitasking Window, which allows you to open video, music, notes or inbox as translucent pop-up windows on top of any screen. The windows can be moved anywhere on the screen as well.

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The one-handed mode makes it easier to use the phablet with one hand. The good part is that the complete interface is minimised, which means you don’t lose any kind of functionality. What’s more, this screen be made bigger and dragged anywhere on the display.

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vivo pays special attention to the sound quality of the smartphone, and has been a pioneer by introducing DACs and operational amplifier in the phones to enhance the sound output. All its mid-range and top-end offerings feature Hi-Fi (high fidelity) technology to offer good sound when you are listening to your favourite songs or watching your favourite movie. The vivo X5Max comes with H-Fi 2.0 technology which promises superb audio performance thanks to the availability of dedicated chips such as ES9018 DAC (digital-to-analog converter), ES9601 headphone amplifier and OPA1612 operational amplifier.

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Perhaps the only downside of a thin smartphone is its battery life, and that seems to be the case with the vivo X5Max as well. The phablet is powered by 2,000mAh battery, which doesn’t seem beefy enough. Thankfully, vivo has offered a useful feature called Super Power Saving Mode. Similar to Samsung’s Ultra Power Saving Mode, this mode turns the entire interface black and white, and offers the essential phone features only, which include calls, contacts, messaging and clock.

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The device is future ready as well, since it supports the 2,300MHz frequency for 4G cellular connectivity. Other connectivity options on board are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

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Carrying the price tag of Rs 32,980, the vivo X5Max seems a little pricey, but it isn’t expensive by any means. Additionally, we appreciate that vivo hasn’t cut any corners with the smartphone in a bid to make it slim. In terms of thickness, its closest competitor would be the Oppo R5, which is slightly thicker and yet misses out on a headphone socket and microSD card slot. We will have more to say on the phone when we get to review it properly. So watch this space.

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