Vodafone Smart V10 review: An effortlessly impressive budget phone

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Vodafone’s homebrew phones are solid, reliable choices for the budget buyer, even if they do tend to fly under the radar. Provided you’re happy sticking with the mobile network, then its “Smart” series of phones can be just the ticket if your buying budget won’t go deep into triple figures.

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This wallet-friendly approach is refreshing, especially at a time when the latest flagship handsets continue to cost almost a month’s wages. If the idea of forking out over a grand for your next phone is inconceivable, then the Smart V10 is shaping up to be a quality handset for the price.

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Vodafone Smart V10 review: What you need to know

That’s basically all you need to know about the Smart V10. It isn’t going to win any awards in most departments – performance can feel quite slow at times, it’s cheaply made and the camera isn’t remarkably special – but for the low, low price you’re expected to pay for it, you really can’t grumble.

As far as budget handsets go, the Smart V10 does a good job at offering an alternative to customers that don’t want to splash out on the latest Galaxy phone, without too many compromises. After all, the Smart V10 is fitted with a generous 5.9in, 19:9 aspect ratio display, a dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel rear camera array and uses a Snapdragon 429 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

Vodafone Smart V10 review: Price and competition

Considering the Smart V10’s generous suite of core specifications, I expect you’ll be equally impressed when you discover how much it costs. Costing a mere £105, with a minimum top-up of £10 – the phone is locked to the Vodafone network – you could order a crate of almost ten of these bargain bin phones for the price of just one iPhone Xs.

I’m sure you’ll agree that’s quite an achievement, but the Smart V10 isn’t alone at this end of the price scale. Perhaps the most obvious contenders come from China, although even Honor and Xiaomi’s budget offerings aren’t often this cheap. The French-made Alcatel 1X costs about the same, but ultimately the Smart V10 looks to be much better in almost every way.

Vodafone Smart V10 review: Design

Miraculously, Vodafone seems to have made a phone that not only costs pennies but looks almost as eye-catching as its pricey counterparts. Its glossy plastic chassis and silver-tinted edges look rather nice, and it feels solid in the hand. The vertically-aligned camera housing takes up a good portion of the back of the phone, however, and the side-mounted power and volume keys are perhaps a bit chunky.

The phone is also charged via micro-USB instead of USB Type-C, which limits the speed at which the battery is replenished. This isn’t the end of the world, though, especially as you don’t often see super-speedy charging this far down the price scale.

And besides, the Vodafone Smart V10 still offers an attractive-looking and functional handset for very little. The massive 5.9in screen dominates on first impressions, and while it isn’t completely bezel-free (there’s a rather chunky chin below the screen) it takes up a large portion of the front of the phone, with a screen to body ratio of just over 80%. The drop notch, which houses the selfie camera above the screen, also looks pretty swish.

Vodafone Smart V10 review: Display

As for the screen’s technical specifications, the Vodafone Smart V10’s display is 1,560 x 720 in resolution and employs an IPS panel. This isn’t the first time Vodafone has built a 19.5:9 all-display handset at such a low price, but the quality of Vodafone’s screens continues to impress, nonetheless.

It might not benefit from the same deep, inky-looking black tones as its OLED-fitted flagship rivals, but for the price, you really can’t do much better. The pixel density of 291 PPI is nice and sharp, and the contrast ratio of 1,409:1 is exceptional, too. Peak brightness also hits a sunlight-friendly 562cd/m2.

Even under the scrutiny of our display colorimeter, it’s clear that the Vodafone Smart V10 doesn’t have any major issues when it comes to colour accuracy, with a recorded sRGB colour gamut coverage of 86% and an average Delta E of 2.51. I really can’t stress this enough; this level of achievement is frankly unheard of from a £105 phone.

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Vodafone Smart V10 review: Performance and battery life

Despite achieving full marks up until this point, budget phones often begin to falter when it comes to performance. A frequent consequence of extreme cost-cutting exercises is low-powered internals, and nobody wants a phone that grinds to an abrupt halt when running even the most basic of applications.

Thankfully, by some feat of technical wizardry, Vodafone has managed to squeeze in a relatively speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 429 chipset. Rather than going the low-tier MediaTek route, this Qualcomm processor is built using a 12nm fabrication process, is clocked at 2GHz and incorporates an embedded Adreno 504 GPU for graphics processing. This is backed up by 3GB of RAM for multi-tasking and 32GB of expandable storage.

Geekbench 4’s stringent single- and multi-core CPU tests prove that the Smart V10 is an adequate performer when it comes to most tasks. It’s not the fastest – not by a long shot – and it’s slower than last year’s Smart X9, but it does offer decent performance for the price. It doesn’t even seem to slow down too much when juggling multiple applications. You really can’t ask for much else.

Just don’t expect to play the latest and greatest Android games at the highest graphical settings. The notoriously demanding GFXBench 3 Manhattan test only managed an average frame rate of 9fps. This isn’t exactly a blanket statement of the sort of frame rates you can expect from most titles, but I’d still recommend sticking to simpler, 2D games to avoid tearing your hair out in frustration.

Stamina has improved dramatically on the Vodafone Smart V10, with the 3,400mAh capacity battery reaching a total of 15hrs 12mins before needing to recharge. For comparison, that’s over two hours longer than the Smart X9 and an impressive five hours more than the disappointing Alcatel 1X.

Vodafone Smart V10 review: Camera

In an attempt to break away from other budget phones, the Smart V10 incorporates a dual-camera array. This remains a relatively simple setup, however, with a regular 13-megapixel snapper working in conjunction with a 5-megapixel depth-sensing lens for more effective blurred background portrait pictures. You’ll find an 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front of the phone, as well.

As for the quality of the images, the Smart V10’s output is a heck of a lot better than a budget phone’s shots have any right to be. Pairing up the same scenes captured using the Alcatel 1X, it’s abundantly clear that the difference in quality is significant. The Smart V10’s camera manages to pack in more detail in neighbouring brickwork and tree foliage, with generally well-judged exposures. In comparison, the Alcatel 1X’s outdoor images look more like a hastily-painted watercolour painting.

However, the V10’s somewhat aggressive HDR shooting mode seems to dramatically soften details, producing an image that can look quite washed out. The amount of visual noise is also increased, so I’d recommend keeping this setting switched off if you can.

When it comes to low-light shooting, the differences in image quality begins to level out. You can’t have everything, of course, and it’s a shame that the Smart V10’s rear-facing snapper struggles to let enough light in, producing a soft-looking image that lacks detail. Still, it’s generally better-looking than the gaudy, green-tinted picture taken on the Alcatel 1X.

Finally, the Vodafone Smart V10 can only record video footage at a maximum 1080p resolution at 30fps, and there’s no video stabilisation to speak of. Despite this, the footage looks as crisp as the limited recording resolution allows, even if I wouldn’t recommend filming your next BAFTA-winning short movie on this phone.

Buy Vodafone Smart V10

Vodafone Smart V10 review: Verdict

Look past the Smart V10’s featherweight pricing and you’ll find a phone that’s filled to the brim with goodies. Very little else offers this much and asks for so little in return. It isn’t flawless, but if your budget is tight and you’re in dire need of a competent phone, then you can do no better than Vodafone’s bargain basement wonder.

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