As it is in the TV world where a blockbuster movie sets off a series of spinoffs, so it is in the smartphones market. The star gadget this time is the Xiaomi MI MIX that launched with a revolutionary bezel-less design in 2016, setting off a race among OEMs like Vkworld, Oukitel, Bluboo and others to produce its look-alikes, albeit at budget prices. This extended to 2017 with the Xiaomi MI MIX 2, and one of the end products is what I’m reviewing today. Give it up for the Vkworld Mix Plus.
If you’ve been following the trend, you should know by now that the purpose of these smartphones is to give its users that premium look and a quite satisfactory user experience at low prices, but if not, let me fill you in. The Vkworld Mix Plus is a definition of beauty on the outside while its internal components and performance rest on the pivot, if smartphone performance were to be a see-saw.
I’ve had the Vkworld Mix Plus for some days now (courtesy of Gearbest), and while I get stares and curious glances towards the stunning beauty of a smartphone I hold in my hands when going about my daily routine, I can’t help but wish that the device’s performance was a bit better to match up with its impressive aesthetics. However, for a smartphone that retails at around $110, the Vkworld Mix Plus delivers reasonably on all fronts.
In this review, I highlight all the features brought to the table by the Vkworld Mix Plus, the trade-offs made to sustain its beautiful design at its price point, and why you should consider a unit if you want a mid-range smartphone with a budget price tag and an eye-catching design.
From my week-old experience with the device, here’s are the pros and cons of the Vkworld Mix Plus:
|Model||Vkworld Mix Plus|
|Display||5.5-inch, HD IPS LCD|
|Processor||1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737|
|Internal Storage||32GB (expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD)|
|Software||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|Rear Camera||8MPwith LED flash and 1080p Videos|
|Features||4G VoLTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, micro USB, 3.5mm Audio Jack, USB OTG support|
The Vkworld Mix Plus comes in a white package, like many smartphones nowadays. In the box are the usual contents that come with smartphones. These are the items you would meet upon opening the package:
- 1 Vkworld Mix Plus smartphone.
- 1 Power Adapter.
- 1 USB Cable.
- 1 Silicone TPU case.
- 1 SIM ejector pin.
- 1 Screen film protector.
- 1 User Manual.
- 1 Warranty Card.
Apart from the Vkworld Mix Plus smartphone itself, we find a Power Adapter with a European plug and a 1.5V/1A power rating and a USB cable that can be connected to the power adapter to charge the phone, or to other devices to transfer data. These match the black colour of the smartphone, although it’s also available in purplish blue colour.
In the box, you also get a SIM ejector pin that works as the name describes; to eject your SIM cards from the device. Vkworld knows that protection is paramount for a smartphone this fragile, and has included a TPU case and screen protector film in the package.
Other contents of the smartphone package include a user manual that describes how to use the device (who reads that?) and a warranty card that states the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty. Sadly no earphones are included in the package, so you have to buy one separately if you can’t go a day without jamming up to music on your phone, like me.
Design & Form Factor
On the outside, the Vkworld Mix Plus is an embodiment of beauty. It is modeled after the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 and features a bezel-less design.
Don’t be confused when I say bezel-less; the Mix Plus still has bezels as it would be quite impossible to grip the device without them, but the bezels on its top and sides are very thin, around 2mm in dimensions.
The bottom bezel is the largest of them all, and that’s because it houses the selfie camera at its centre and proximity sensor on the left.
The power button and volume rockers are located on the right side of the phone and they are equally spaced, making it easy to take screenshots.
The left side contains the SIM slot that’s designed in such a way that it can accept a Micro-SIM, Nano-SIM and microSD card at the same time. This is great news for those that depend on multiple networks and wish to have more storage space at the same time.
A micro-USB 2.0 port and 3.5mm audio jack are present on top of the phone.
Even though there are two speaker grills on the bottom of the device, only the one on the right has the speaker, and a microphone is placed beside it.
The front and rear of the Vkworld Mix Plus are covered with 2.5D curved glass, and its frame is made of aluminium. The presence of glass on both sides does a lot to improve the aesthetics of the phone, and you get the premium feel when you hold the device in your hands.
The glass rear is a fingerprint magnet, and it was covered in fingerprints within two minutes of me using it. Using the included TPU case would prevent this as well as protect the glass from scratches, although you have to be careful not to drop the device and shatter the glass; that way, the beauty of the device would be marred.
The screen at the front also attracts fingerprints, but since you’ll be swiping and tapping most of the time, that shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, you can use the included screen protector film to shield the screen from scratches.
The main camera is present on the rear of the device, with a single LED flash to its left. A fingerprint sensor is located below the main camera, and the average time it takes to unlock the phone and display the home screen when a fingerprint is placed on it, from my tests, is 0.2 seconds. It works about 95% of the time and can be used with any of five fingerprints from any angle (360-degrees).
The fingerprint sensor can also be used for other functions including answering calls, taking photos and videos in the camera app, taking screenshots, navigation between screens and to the home screen, sliding between the launcher pages, and controlling music and video playback.
The Mix Plus weighs in at 165 grammes and it’s surprisingly lightweight; sometimes I have to feel around my pocket to check if it’s still there 🙂 . It is also slim at 8.9 millimetres, and is quite convenient to operate with just one hand.
Overall, the design of the Vkworld Mix Plus is something to be excited about. I got the black colour variant from Gearbest, and I like the way the black body blends with the screen when the display is off; it’s just cool.
The Vkworld Mix Plus comes with a 5.5-inch display which is kind of the standard display size for smartphones in its category. It has an HD (720 * 1280) pixel resolution and the display quality is quite good; colours are vibrant and the contrast ratios are decent.
A Full HD resolution would have been perfect, but at the Mix Plus’ price point, I can’t complain. The phone has a pixel density of 320 PPI and the refresh rate is good, although I noticed some slight lags when there is a lot of new activity on the screen, like many new notifications or the home screen getting populated with icons upon restart.
Sunlight legibility is also good. Setting the brightness slider at a medium level works most times under direct sunlight, and you can never go wrong by cranking it up to full brightness. I find myself using the lowest brightness level most times indoors. The glossy nature of the screen, however, causes some reflections when under direct sunlight.
The smartphone uses on-screen buttons for navigation, and you can change how they are arranged in the system settings. There’s also a small button at the far left that can be used to hide the buttons when the full width of the screen is needed, and they can be brought back up by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen.
There are many display features that can be tweaked and customized, but one I found particularly useful is BluLightMode which basically overlays a filter on the screen to reduce the amount of blue light emitted. This saves me the stress of using third-party apps like Cf.lumen for this function, although you might consider getting one if you want more control over the filter intensity and scheduling.
Performance & Memory
The Vkworld Mix Plus is powered by a MediaTek MT6737 processor under the hood. This uses four cores (quad-core) all capable of operating at a maximum speed of 1.3GHz. In real-time usage this means the phone is fast enough to handle regular activities like browsing, chatting, playing light games and watching videos smoothly. Heavy apps like 3D games and photo editing software might introduce some performance lag, however.
Graphics operations are also handled decently by a Mali-T720 GPU, and heavy games like Asphalt 8 and Real Racing 3 are rendered well on the screen, though I noticed drops in frame rate when running these apps.
There’s 3GB of RAM, and multi-tasking is quite good. I was able to run apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, VLC and Facebook Messenger side-by-side comfortably on the phone, and each resumed from where I left off when I navigated back to them via Recent Apps. With the default system apps running, about 1.8GB of RAM is free for use.
The phone warms up when I run many apps on it at the same time, and playing 3D-intensive games on it causes it to get very hot. Using a case on the phone would help in this regard.
I ran some popular benchmarks on the phone, and the results gotten were impressive when compared with similar smartphones with the same processors.
The phone got a score of 28834 on AnTuTu Benchmark v6.2.7, and the single-core test on Geekbench 4 yielded a score of 573 while the multi-core test resulted in a score of 1571.
In terms of storage, the Vkworld Mix Plus has 32GB of onboard storage, and you can add extra 32GB with the aid of an external microSD card. Out of the default 32GB, about 24.54GB is available for the user with the rest taken up by bundled system apps.
The Vkworld Mix Plus sports an 8MP camera on the rear with a LED flash beside it for illuminating images. The images captured by the camera are interpolated to 13MP by the software, but only real-time usage would ascertain its quality. Here are some images taken by the main camera:
Apart from the normal Photo mode, you get three shooting modes on the device, including Face Beauty, Panorama and SLR. Face Beauty is also available on the front camera, but it’s quite useless on both as it makes images even worse than they normally are.
SLR mode applies a circular blur around images while you’re shooting them, and while this doesn’t suffice for the Bokeh effect that the presence of a dual camera setup would produce, it’s still acceptable for regular users. A slider is present for adjusting the blur level. You can also record videos at a resolution of 1080p and rate of 30 frames per second with the main camera.
A 5MP camera is present at the front for taking selfies which are interpolated to 8MP by the software. The camera is placed on the bottom bezel, so you have to turn the phone upside down to take selfies. This feels funny and weird at first, but with time I got used to it.
You also get Face Beauty and video recording for the front camera. The camera app comes with several features like HDR and EIS for video recording, and allows you to tweak settings like Exposure and ISO. It, however, lacks Autofocus, so you have to keep tapping on the screen to keep objects in focus. This can be allowed to pass when shooting photos, but it can be quite burdensome during video recording.
Low-light photography introduces a lot of noise to images, and even the LED flash on the rear of the phone can’t remedy that. The cameras (especially the selfie cam) take good images in well-lit environments, though they suffer from over-exposure in the presence of abundant light.
Battery and Charging
The Vkworld Mix Plus packs a 2850mAh battery, and since it’s rear is made of glass, it can’t be removed. Battery life isn’t very great on the device; most days I average around 12 hours when using the phone constantly with my data connection active, Wi-Fi Hotspot tethering turned on and multiple apps running in the background. If you plan to use the phone for heavy tasks throughout the day, it’s best you retain a power bank by your side.
There are various battery saving options available on the phone; there is the default Android Nougat battery saver that you can turn on at any time, and there is an Ultra Power saving app that prevents any app from running in the background and allows you to use only core functionalities like the phone app, messages, contacts and clock. A combination of these will help you achieve a longer battery life.
The phone doesn’t come with fast charging, so you have to wait for some time to get a full charge. The included charger isn’t sufficient for the phone’s power needs and takes above four hours to fully charge the device from 0%. Using a standard charger, however, I was able to get a full charge in around three hours.
Connectivity and Audio
The Vkworld Mix Plus supports 4G LTE network connectivity, and most 4G network bands in the country including MTN, 9mobile, nTel and Smile are supported. Sadly, Glo 4G bands are not supported by the device.
The phone comes with USB OTG which allows you to transfer data between the phone and other hardware peripherals like mouse and keyboard. You can also charge other devices with the Mix Plus via reverse charging.
Call quality on the Vkworld Mix Plus port is quite poor; the receiver sounds like he’s talking at a distance from the phone, even though my voice is clear at the other end. I had great trouble communicating over the phone in a noisy environment, but things are better in an area with less noise.
The problem can be altogether eliminated by using earphones or headphones during calls. It’s caused by the placement of the earpiece in a tiny opening on top of the phone in order to achieve the bezel-less design. The single speaker is quite loud and audio quality is on the average.
The Vkworld Mix Plus runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box, and since I’ve been using it I’ve received one wireless software update. For a phone from China, the Mix Plus surprisingly doesn’t come with bloatware; it came with just 30 apps installed, and the only thing I could refer to as bloatware is the Viber app which I was able to uninstall immediately.
The UI is similar to that of the Xiaomi MI MIX, down to the default wallpaper and app icons. Things have been left as close to stock Android as possible, and though there are many customizable features, the default apps smell all over of Google’s Material Design language.
There is no app drawer; you have to swipe left and right on the home screen to access your apps. Whether this is good or bad is down to individual users’ preferences, but I didn’t have any problem with it.
A couple of gestures that can be used to perform certain functions on the phone, and I like the one that allows you to take a screenshot by swiping down the screen with three fingers from anywhere.
The various smart wake gestures that allow you to wake the screen by double-tapping and launch predefined apps by drawing certain letters on the screen while it’s asleep are also useful, but I stopped using them when I noticed that the gestures are being made even with the phone in my pocket or on the desk, resulting in unwanted operations on the phone.
With Android 7.0 Nougat comes a number of useful features including split-screen which allows you to use two apps at the same time on the screen.
There’s one other feature that won’t be noticed easily on the device, but it’s very useful and I find myself using it many times. You can double-tap on the recent apps button to switch back to the last app you visited.
For the tech-savvy, the Vkworld Mix Plus comes with a gyroscope, meaning you can use VR headsets with it. I’m definitely going to try it with my new VR headset once I’m settled in. Other sensors include a game rotation vector sensor, accelerometer and gravity sensor.
Overall, the Vkworld Mix Plus offers great value for money. Its selling point is the bezel-less design which gives a premium feel, but it doesn’t disappoint in other regards when compared with competing smartphones in the market.
The Vkworld Mix Plus goes for around $109.99 on flash sale at Gearbest, but you can get it for just $99.99 on Gearbest by applying the coupon code cybermonday145 during checkout.