- Beautiful, distinctive design using 3D magnetic particles
- IP68 rating for dust and water resistance
- Sharp and bright high-resolution display
- Good main and selfie cameras
- OK but unimpressive mid-range performance
- No zoom or macro camera
- Single, bottom-firing speaker
It’s not surprising to see enormous amounts of resources being poured into marketing for big phone brands, almost to the point you might think they’re the only options available. It’s almost too easy to take for granted how you might discover unexpected treasures if you walk off the beaten path, scanning the smartphone landscape with a keen eye for detail and design. There are many brands that try to catch people’s attention with buzzwords and gimmicky aesthetics, but there’s always something to be said about beauty that rises from simple yet elegant designs. That’s the kind of experience that the Vivo V29 and its rather intriguing “3D Magnetic Particles” are aiming for, so we took a deeper look to see if its beauty is just skin deep or if this subtly stylish smartphone has more to offer
Like any other smartphone manufacturer, Vivo has a few different lines or families targeting different audiences. The Vivo X series, for example, is more focused on camera chops, no pun intended, while the V family to which this Vivo V29 belongs is aimed at a somewhat younger consumer base. This group of people, which admittedly spans a wide range of ages, is characterized by a hunger for new experiences and innovations, as well as designs that are trendy and outstanding yet also simple and unobtrusive.
For the Vivo V29, these goals were achieved by using a rather unique method the company is calling “3D Magnetic Particles.” In a nutshell, they got millions of tiny magnetic particles to create natural curving patterns using magnetic forces, resulting in gentle waves of white particles traveling across the phone’s back in a way no design has accomplished before. On the Peak Blue review unit that we got, the waves resembled mountain peaks, while Starry Purple tried to recreate the Milky Way against a night sky. It’s a visual effect that is both seemingly random yet artistically intentional, not unlike when an artist pours paints or colors, creating messy but unique patterns, which is exactly the inspiration behind this revolutionary design technique.
This gives the Vivo V29 a subtle beauty, never garish but also not plain. Even the changing colors of the Velvet Red colorway’s Flourite AG glass give a tasteful touch to what would usually be an ordinary glass back. The Noble Black variant is a bit more subdued, but its etched shimmers give it a bit of personality as well. The phone’s curved edges also give the phone a sophisticated and delicate look, something that seems to have been lost in the move toward sharp corners and flat sides.
Smartphones are, of course, not just something to look at. To be honest, most of the time you spend with your phone is on the screen and in your hands. That’s why ergonomics and comfort are just as important, and the Vivo V29’s design brings a bit of a mixed bag in that regard. On the one hand, the curved edges of the screen and back have always been regarded to be more comfortable to hold, having no corners to bite into your skin. On the other hand, the phone’s lightweight body and glass back also make it feel precarious and slippery. Fortunately, Vivo does ship with a clear gel case, though that detracts from the phone’s elegant aesthetic a bit.
There’s no clear winner between curved and flat edges in terms of ergonomics, with both camps claiming to offer a better and more secure grip. Vivo, however, opted to use a design that some might say is outdated primarily due to their own customers’ preferences. This market prefers how those curves help make the phone look very slim, and how the lack of bezels gives a more immersive gameplay experience. A bit ironically, that’s one area where the phone falters a bit.
Despite its premium external appearance, the Vivo V29 is, at its core, a mid-tier smartphone. While the boundaries between tiers have been blurring recently, this particular model has its feet firmly planted on the ground. For some odd reason, Vivo opted to go with an older processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G, rather than something more recent from the same series. To be fair, the performance gap isn’t that huge, and the phone performs admirably for most use cases. The Snapdragon 778G, however, starts to show its age when it comes to more graphics-intensive activity, particularly when it comes to mobile gaming that taxes the chip to the point that it comes a little hot.
This is a bit of disappointment given how beautiful the Vivo V29’s 6.78-inch screen is. With a resolution of 2800×1260 pixels, you get crisp and clear images that are enhanced by the bright AMOLED panel. It’s definitely quite the sight and a pleasure to use, though you’ll also be faced with one of the biggest drawbacks of screens with curved edges. A fraction of the content falls off at the edges, which is fine for most Web content but could be an annoyance for videos and especially games.
Further demoting the phone’s ranking for multimedia is the single bottom-firing speaker. Audio output is passable but nothing noteworthy, and the earpiece at the top doesn’t function as a second speaker. It’s probably not going to be a deal-breaker for some, but it’s small paper cuts like these that keep the Vivo V29 from being at the top of its game.
The Vivo V29 carries a rather middling 4,600mAh battery, a decision made to ensure that the phone remains thin and lightweight. It’s enough to get you around 18 hours of use a day, which means you’ll definitely want to plug it in at night or sometime during the day. Vivo makes up for it by pushing the charging speed to 80W and shipping the phone with the correct charger. In practice, it’s nothing compared to those that boast 100W or higher, but it can still get it from zero to full in around 40 minutes.
Where the phone does somewhat excel is in photography, at least the kind of photography its intended audience cares about. With a 50MP main camera and a 50MP front camera, you get excellent photos and selfies, especially with the right ambient light. Vivo takes photography up a notch with an Aura Light feature on the back of the phone that can add some lighting that automatically changes its temperature based on the ambient environment. Streamers might be familiar with the concept of ring lights, and the Aura light is like a miniature version. It works quite well but, unfortunately, won’t help with selfies. The 8MP ultra-wide camera is decent under good lighting conditions, but it’s definitely nothing to boast about. The 2MP monochrome camera is even more disappointing, given how many of its peers now go with a macro camera at the very least.
Sustainability has become an important conversation topic among tech companies these days, and smartphone manufacturers are no different. Unfortunately, with so many of these mobile device makers operating today, only a few can be said to have concrete visions and strategies to help save the planet. Fortunately, Vivo is indeed one of those by taking steps to reduce the negative impact of their operations, manufacturing, and product life cycles on the planet.
Sadly, Vivo still has ways to go, especially when it comes to the actual materials that it uses, like incorporating recycled plastics or aluminum. Vivo’s designers are hoping that their designs and experiences are able to convey their love for nature. The Vivo V29, for example, references mountains and stars, connecting users with the planet in subtle and subconscious ways. Vivo also gives the V29 an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, a rare trait for phones in this tier. Along with its durability, this helps the phone survive the most common accidents that users encounter, helping delay the device’s untimely death and its addition to the world’s growing electronic waste.
The Vivo V29 is, with very little doubt, a beautiful smartphone that earmarks it for a more premium category. It is, however, a true mid-range phone, and while its performance is decent, it isn’t going to blow your mind, nor will it blow the competition out of the water. That competition, unfortunately, is where it might struggle the most, with so many options that nibble at its strengths in different ways.
At around $450, the phone is definitely on the affordable side, but there are also other phones that have some of the same perks at lower prices. These include the Samsung Galaxy A54, the Motorola Edge 40, the Nothing Phone (1), and even the Google Pixel 7a. None of these are perfect, of course, but neither is the Vivo V29. It’s always a matter of balancing the pros and the cons, but when it comes to a striking and memorable design, the Vivo V29 can stand head-to-head with the eccentric Nothing Phone (1).
Today’s consumers have become more conscientious of the value that product design brings into their lives. Smartphones are no longer just geeky gadgets but also a reflection of their tastes or even their character. Not everyone wants an exotic design that loses its novelty quickly, nor does everyone need the latest and greatest that will burn a hole through their wallets. An elegant, reliable, and accessible smartphone is sure to win the hearts of buyers, regardless of age, and that’s the experience that the Vivo V29 5G brings to the table.
With an innovative new design technique that treats minuscule 3D magnetic particles like splashes of paint, the Vivo V29 tries to embody the company’s design philosophy of simplicity, elegance, and perfection. At least it manages to achieve the first two with a beauty that is noticeable, memorable, and not overbearing. Unfortunately, perfection is still a bit out of its reach, with some puzzling hardware choices that hold it back from that achievement. But if you’re in the market for a stylish smartphone that feels good in your hand and can keep up with most of your needs, then the Vivo V29 is definitely worth taking a second look.