Vivo V21 5G review: cheap and charming

The Vivo V21 5G is an affordable smartphone with a stunning design

Vivo V21 5G review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Vivo V21 5G is a handset for those who want a good-looking phone on a budget. It does make a few sacrifices here and there to achieve that but for casual day-to-day use like texting, calling and streaming video it'll be just fine.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Excellent selfie camera

  • +

    Stunning design

  • +

    Good battery

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Disappointing rear camera

  • -

    Average performance

This Vivo V21 5G review is aimed at those who want a cheap phone but who want it to look like it’s not.

Vivo is an up and coming smartphone manufacturer based in China, they offer affordable devices that still manage to pack in just about everything you could need. While their handsets won’t match up to some of the best phones you can buy, they do hold their own on the cheaper end of the market. 

In this Vivo V21 5G review, you can find out everything you need to know about this 5G phone from the quality of its display and details about the design to the effectiveness of the camera and how well it performs day-to-day. 

To cut right to the chase, this is one of the best cheap smartphones you can buy if you care about having a good-looking handset or if you're always snapping selfies, but it's far from perfect. Read on to find out why. 

Vivo V21 5G review: price and availability 

At the time of writing, you can buy the Vivo V21 5G from Amazon starting from £336 in the UK. Take a look at the widgets on this page to see more up to date pricing from across the web. 

This phone is not currently available in the US or Australia and we haven't heard anything about a potential launch in either of those regions.  

Vivo V21 5G review: display and design 

Vivo V21 5G review

(Image credit: Future)

The Vivo V21 5G is a cheap phone that looks anything but. The design on the back makes this look like a much pricier handset than it actually is, especially if you buy it in the Sunset Dazzle colourway. Made from a shimmery matte glass, it changes colour as it catches the light, it really is a very good-looking phone. In the UK you can also buy it in Dusk Blue.

On the back, the square camera module sticks out slightly, but not enough to get annoying when you’re using it flat on the table. Turn the phone over and the screen is only interrupted by a tear-drop camera notch - it isn’t quite as discreet as the hole-punch lens on other phones but I can forgive that. Admittedly the bezels are a little thicker than what you would get from a high-end device which does take away from the premium feel of the handset.

Not only does the Vivo V21 5G look great, but it feels nice to hold as well thanks to the slim lightweight build. The phone measures a respectable 16 x 7.4 x 0.7cm and weighs 176g. Even those with small hands will be fine to use this one-handed. To unlock the display, you get a choice between password, facial recognition or the in-display fingerprint sensor that actually worked quickly each time I went to use it. 

Featuring a 6.44” AMOLED FHD+ display with a resolution of 2404 x 1080p, the Vivo V21 5G has a screen that is clear, bright and sharp with vibrant and balanced colours. It will certainly be good enough for most people, and will even suit those who like to watch videos on their commute thanks to the HDR10+ support. 

You’ll get a 90Hz refresh rate here, which means it feels seriously smooth and quick to use for just about any task. To save on battery life, the refresh rate defaults to 60Hz and will automatically adjust itself according to what you’re using the phone for at any given time. If you’re not worried about wasting the battery then you can choose to have it set to stay at 90Hz all of the time. 

So there are a few telltale signs that this isn’t an expensive phone, but for this price, it does seem much more expensive than it actually is when it comes to the design, display and build quality.

 Vivo V21 5G review: camera 

Vivo V21 5G review

(Image credit: Future)

The main camera system is made up of a 64MP main camera, an 8MP wide-angle lens and a 2MP super macro camera. You'll also get a  44MP OIS front camera. 

You can't expect to be blown away by the camera on the Vivo V21 5G. While it does take clear shots, they could look a little dull at times and you don't get anywhere near the level of detail as you would from a pricier piece of kit. It also struggles to balance contrasting areas of the shot, especially on a more dreary day. You can see some examples of photos taken on the Vivo V21 5G below. 

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Vivo V21 5G review

Shots could look a little dull from the Vivo V21 5G.
(Image credit: Future)
Image 1 of 6

Vivo V21 5G review

Shots could look a little dull from the Vivo V21 5G.
(Image credit: Future)

Despite the disappointing rear camera, there is one type of shot that the Vivo V21 5G excelled at - selfies. 

The huge 44MP sensor on the front camera sits in between two LED flashes, so you get plenty of detail, bright colours and a flattering end result when you take photos of yourself and your friends. It's one of the best front cameras you can get on a phone this cheap. So while the rear camera isn't amazing, the quality of the selfie snapper almost makes up for it. 

Vivo V21 5G review: performance

Vivo V21 5G review

(Image credit: Future)

Under the hood, the Vivo V21 5G is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 800U with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. These are very much mid-range specs so you can only expect mid-range performance here. Most people won’t have a problem carrying out daily tasks like browsing the web or scrolling through Twitter but it won’t be so good for heavy-duty mobile gaming, for example. 

In the Geekbench 5 benchmarking test, the Vivo V21 5G scored in 603 single-core and 1,819 in multicore. It didn't quite reach the scores achieved by some other similarly priced handsets like the OnePlus Nord 2, but it does sit at a similar level to older mid-rangers like the Google Pixel 5

Because it packs in a 4,000mAh battery, this phone is sure to last you through the day without needing to be plugged in. When I ran a video on full brightness over two hours, the battery level dropped by 18% which suggests you could watch TV shows on it non-stop for over 11 hours before it runs out, that’s not the best you’ll find but it is good enough. It took just over two hours to charge it back up again to 100%.

Running on Funtouch OS 11.1 based on Android 11, you can access the Google Play Store from the Vivo V21 5G which means you’ll have thousands and thousands of apps at your fingertips. Vivo’s OS doesn’t veer too much away from stock Android although you do get tonnes of unnecessary apps pre-installed when you first start it up, so it might take a bit of time to go through and delete all of the ones you don’t want. 

Vivo V21 5G review: verdict

Vivo V21 5G review

(Image credit: Vivo)

If you’re looking to buy a new smartphone for less than £350 and you want a sleek and stylish handset, the Vivi V21 5G ticks those boxes.

It does make a few sacrifices here and there to keep the price so low, like average performance and the disappointing rear camera system, but you will get a stunning screen, decent battery life and an impressive front camera. 

Whether this phone is right for you or not will depend on what you need it for. Gamers should steer clear but if you just plan to scroll social media and answer a few text messages then this will definitely do the job.

 Vivo V21 5G review: also consider  

The best cheap phone you can buy is the Apple iPhone SE (2020). Its camera, build quality and speed are all beyond the price tag, and it has a smaller screen making the whole device feel much more compact. 

If you’re not a fan of iOS, one of the best cheap Android phones is the Samsung Galaxy A52. This phone will be well suited to those who need a decent camera for point-and-shoot photography. 

Yasmine Crossland
Yasmine Crossland

Reviews Writer for T3, Yasmine, started writing reviews in 2019 and is always knee-deep in the latest tech products. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too. In her free time, you'll catch her tending to her plants and planning her next big trip.