- Premium metal build
- Smart software features
- No image stabilisation (video only)
- Thick bezels
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Vodafone’s new £160 Smart V8 follows in the footsteps of provider’s first 2017 handset; the N8, and that means plenty of bang for your buck with a Full HD screen, 16-megapixel camera and great build quality.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Design
We commended last year’s Smart Ultra 7 for offering a sleek design at a great price but one aspect that did let it down was its predominantly plastic finish. Thankfully, Vodafone heard our criticisms and as such the Smart V8 looks a feels like a significantly pricier handset than it is in actuality.
The tall, narrow metal body is a mix of brushed surfaces and chamfered edges with plastic caps at the top and bottom for the antennas being the only exceptions. The design bears more than a passing resemblance to ZTE’s newly launched V870, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when you learn that it served as the donor device when Vodafone was creating the V8.
The phone feels well-built and sturdy with pleasing symmetry; from the dual grilles on its bottom edge (only one of which actually contains a speaker) to the centrally positioned fingerprint sensor on its back, which feels decidedly snappy for a phone at this price point. You also get metal hardware controls, although we wish they’d placed the power button on the phone’s right side, rather than its left (this, from the perspective of a right-handed user).
Around the front, you’re also given a layer of pillowed Dragontrail Glass, which not only feels nice under-finger but also repels fingerprints surprisingly well (not always a given on more affordable smartphones), as well as offering comparable resilience to the likes of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Screen
Behind that cover glass lies a 5.5-inch LTPS display. It offers excellent colours and contrast head-on with minimal colour distortion at more extreme angles and only really suffers from brightness issues. At full tilt, it could offer a little more illumination, whilst there’s mild drop-off as you twist it away from face-on, too.
You’ve got 401ppi (pixels per inch) to play with thanks to its Full HD resolution, which is a pretty tried and tested panel if you look at most mid-range and (some) premium handsets from the last 18 months, but that simply means text looks crisp and iconography is clean and clear.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: OS
Despite its affordable nature, Vodafone has kept pace with the latest Android releases, meaning the V8 comes running version 7.1.1 Nougat, packing all the mod-cons including native split-screen multitasking and enhanced background power management.
As ever, Vodafone has also made some small but considered alterations to the base Android experience of its own. There are a number of features we’ve encountered before, like lockscreen shortcuts, not just to the camera but also the flashlight, voice input and the option to tweak and change additional actions as necessary.
We wouldn’t consider Vodafone’s own apps as bloatware for the most part either, with genuinely useful inclusions like Call+ and Message+ that include a web portal for desktop access, a Tips app, FM radio app and the Private Space app - a new offering that includes an encrypted photo and video gallery, file manager, app locker and password keeper, all under a secondary pattern lock.
Jump into the settings and you’ll also find new options for smart cases/covers and gesture-based actions like Flip to Mute and a three-finger tap to snooze your alarm, as an action.
In short, V8 owners will get much more out of the Android Nougat experience this smartphone packs versus a stock version of the same OS, thanks to Vodafone’s unobtrusive but intelligent additions.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Performance
Out the gate, the V8 feels like a significantly snappier handset compared to its predecessor and the switch from a MediaTek SoC to one of Qualcomm’s latest 435 chipsets should stand the phone in good stead over the length of your average 18 to 24-month contract, with regards to performance degradation.
Most 3D games run without issue, split-screen multitasking didn't seem like a particularly big ask and jumping from one app to another only occasionally had you waiting before interaction was possible again. It's an unexciting but wholly competent internal setup that the V8 is working with.
There’s also an ample 3GB of RAM and a usable 32GB of internal storage, so long as you’re aware that just over 9GB of that is occupied by system files out-the-box. What’s more, you can throw up to a 128GB microSD card in there if you need extra room for your media collection.
As for battery life, the 3000mAh non-removable cell should see you through a day and a half without too much trouble when paired with general mixed usage, however, another alteration Vodafone has made to the software experience gives users the option of both a ‘Smart Power-saving’ and ‘Ultra Power-saving’ mode - the latter of which promises to almost double longevity at the expense of high-demand services and features.
It even gives you app-by-app permissions control, so you can tailor app behaviour around power usage to an impressive degree.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Camera
Our Vodafone Smart V8 camera review will give you the full skinny on the phone’s photographic capabilities but in a nutshell, the handset's 16-megapixel primary snapper and 8-megapixel front-facer both perform admirably, with a penchant for accurate colours and well-balanced contrast.
The shutter feels fast and responsive but we’d suggest shooting in HDR to minimise the challenges of photographing higher contrast scenes, even if they take almost a second to capture each time. The dual-tone LED flash on the back also colours subjects well whilst only the finest details really suffer, should you crop in.
You also get Full HD video recording at 30fps from both the front and rear cameras but where the V8 really shines is with regards to each camera’s functionality. You’ll find a wealth of modes at your fingertips including long-exposure capture and manual control, along with options to watermark shots, use gesture-based shutter control and more.
All we’d suggest is that selfie fans use the beauty slider sparingly, as things start to fall apart at higher levels, and don’t be surprised if your footage retains all of the micro-tremors and twitches from your hands when shooting video, the phone lacks any form of image stabilisation, which is a shame.
Vodafone Smart V8 review: Verdict
With numerous affordable mid-range phones packing similarly-sized batteries and 5.5-inch Full HD displays, the Vodafone Smart V8 has a fair bit of competition to square up to, but for £160 you’re actually getting a good-looking, fast and fluid mid-ranger with a competent enough camera and some very smart software tweaks from the off.
What’s more, this phone leverages Vodafone’s super speedy 4G network, so you can stream and game online without worry. All in all, the V8 has what it takes to stand alongside some of the bigger players in its class, almost giving the likes of the Moto G5 Plus cause for concern. We just wish it wasn’t a carrier exclusive so more people could enjoy what Vodafone is offering with the Smart V8.
- Full HD (1920x1080)
- 166 grams
- Android 7.1.1 Nougat
- 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 435
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
- FM Radio, advanced power saving, fingerprint sensor