Vivo Nex 3 5G hands-on: Waterfall screen, Snapdragon 855 Plus, and a dash of 5G

The Vivo Nex series has emerged as the company’s cutting-edge range, ever since the Vivo Nex S offered a pop-up selfie camera and in-display fingerprint sensor last year.

Now, the company has launched the Vivo Nex 3 5G, which seems to adopt a similar cutting-edge approach as previous models. Vivo’s latest model, as the name implies, is a 5G device, packing a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset along with Qualcomm’s X50 modem, and brings a lot of quirks adopted from previous Vivo concepts.

Vivo Nex 3 5G specs

Display 6.89-inch Super AMOLED, waterfall
2,256 x 1,080 resolution
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus
GPU Adreno 640
RAM 8/12GB
Storage 256GB fixed storage
UFS 3.0
Cameras Front camera:
16MP, f/2.0, with LED flash

Rear camera:
64MP, f/1.8 aperture
13MP, f/2.2 ultrawide
13MP, f/2.4 telephoto

Battery 4,500mAh
44W fast charging
USB-C
Headphone port Yes
Software Android 9.0 Pie with Funtouch OS 9.1
Dimensions and weight 167.4 x 76.14 x 9.4mm
218.5g

Vivo’s Nex 3 5G packs six 5G antennas for optimal connectivity, so hopefully that means you can hold the device however you like and still receive a great 5G signal.

Currently, the device is only compatible with sub-6GHz 5G networks. In China and many European regions, mmWave isn’t yet being adopted, since nodes only work well in cities and cost a lot to install. Vivo did state that it intends to be one of the first with mmWave in China once the technology is adopted, so look for mmWave-compatible Vivo phones in the future.

More than just a 5G-focused update?

Vivo NEX 3 5G back on table

The Vivo Nex 3 5G also stands out in the photography field, serving up a 64MP triple rear camera setup (64MP main, 13MP telephoto, 13MP ultra-wide). The physical camera sensor has been scaled up to compensate for the higher resolution, sporting a sensor size of 1/1.171-inches versus the more standard 1/2.55-inch sensor you’ll find in most phones. You’re still looking at the same 0.8 micron pixels you’ll find on 48MP camera sensors though.

Vivo NEX 3 5G ff cameras macro

The Nex S delivered a pop-up selfie camera last year, and we see a similar setup this time, featuring a 16MP sensor and LED flash. The selfie camera isn’t as ultra-wide as the shooter on the Pixel 3, but Vivo says it should be wide enough to get you and your friends comfortably in a shot. The phone also makes a cool robotic sound when the selfie camera emerges from the housing, but this can be disabled if you don’t like it.

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This pop-up housing enables a full-screen display as you’d expect, but the Vivo Nex 3 5G is one of the first phones with a so-called waterfall display, featuring a 6.89-inch curved OLED (2,256 x 1,080, and a claimed 99.6% screen/body ratio) that drops off in a far more radical manner than other phones with curved screens.

Vivo says this special display can be used for things like notifications while the phone is face down, similar to how edge lighting works on the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series.

Vivo NEX 3 5G capacative power button macro

The waterfall display means side-mounted buttons are rather difficult to implement, so Vivo has opted for capacitive buttons akin to the Vivo Apex device. Otherwise, Vivo has slapped a tiny physical power button at the top of the phone. Don’t want to reach for that? Then you can also use the in-display fingerprint sensor, which Vivo says is now faster and 25% larger than previous generations.

Vivo NEX 3 5G ports macro

Vivo’s latest phone shouldn’t leave you wanting for power though, as it packs 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage (in addition to the flagship silicon).

The Chinese brand is also serving up a 4,500mAh battery with 44W Super FlashCharge tech. The company didn’t have charging times on hand but, if the Huawei P30 Pro is anything to go by, you can likely expect to be fully charged in just over an hour.

Vivo NEX 3 5G screen

Disappointingly, the Vivo Nex 3 5G ships with Android 9.0 rather than Android 10, along with Vivo’s FunTouch 9.1 skin. We’re in this weird limbo where the latest update has only just launched, so it’s not unexpected to see Android 9.0 on a new device. But hopefully Vivo brings a brisk update to Android 10.

Vivo says the Nex 3 5G will be available “in the coming months” in the Asia-Pacific region, South East Asia, and “other” markets. Unfortunately, the firm hasn’t revealed a price just yet.

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What do you think of Vivo’s latest? Is the waterfall display a gimmick or great?

Let us know your thoughts below!