True wireless earbuds are all the rage nowadays, but sometimes, some product launches just make me scratch my head. The Vivo TWS Neo is one of them.

It looks decent, at least. The case has a nice blue gradient if you opt for the Starry Blue colour, but it’s a total fingerprint magnet and honestly, feels a bit too plasticky for me. One good thing Vivo’s done here is to include the pairing button at the front for easy access and pairing to other phones.

The earbuds themselves are a half-in-ear design similar to the old AirPods. I’m not the biggest fan; this design doesn’t feel as secure in the ear, and without noise cancellation, there’s next to no passive noise isolation since there’s no seal.

Thankfully, the case charges via USB-C and not MicroUSB. But the battery life is a major downside here. Vivo claims 4.5 hours at 50% volume if you’re using the AAC codec, but if you use the aptX Adaptive codec (which I think most people would want to), it drops to 2.9 hours at 50% volume.

And in real-life testing, I got around 2 hours and 45 minutes out of the earbuds. So it’s close to the estimate, but it’s still ridiculously short. Furthermore, aptX Adaptive is only available on compatible Vivo phones and that list is short; just the Vivo X50 series for now. So if you want to get these earbuds despite everything, you should make sure you plan to buy the X50 Pro as well. Check out our review of the X50 Pro here, or if you already have it, here are some tips and tricks on what you can do with the camera system.

On other phones, AAC will be the default, and battery life here is still… passable. With the case, it’ll be a total of around 22 hours, so that’s more in line with other earbuds.

The sound quality, though, is the saving grace. The TWS Neo uses a 14.2mm moving coil driver which produces excellent sound. The overall sound is balanced, and Vivo has gone the other route instead of throwing a lot of bass into the mix and calling it a day.

Mids and highs are clear and relatively well defined, and you get a tinge of warmth. I would prefer a bit more sparkle in the treble but overall, it’s decent. The soundstage isn’t great though, and instrument placement isn’t all that accurate.

For the S$159 price point though, I’d say these sound quite alright. There are also touch controls on the earbuds, and I found them to be quite responsive. Swiping up and down on the right earbud’s stem would raise and lower the volume respectively, and Vivo has decided to use double taps to prevent false touches.

There’s also latency as low as 88ms, but that’s also only available on the Vivo X50 series. The TWS Neo uses Bluetooth 5.2, which means better connectivity and fewer dropouts.

With all these downsides, is there really a market for the TWS Neo? Yes, but it’s only for Vivo phone users. If you’re using a random Android phone, it’ll still work with your phone. But you’ll get the most out of these earbuds if you have a Vivo phone that can take advantage of the 88ms latency, aptX Adaptive and more.

More information about the Vivo TWS Neo (S$159) is available on Vivo’s website.