It’s a great smartphone but the camera could have been better. I’m not sure how many times we have written this at BGR India. A smartphone nails a lot of fundamentals but falters in the camera department. One brand that seriously wants to right the wrong is Vivo. The company has launched Vivo X50 and X50 Pro in India as devices that truly excel in the camera department. If Lewis Hamilton’s goal this year is to win 7th world championship then Vivo’s target is to win accolades for its camera. Also Read - OnePlus 8 Pro review: Great deal for your money
In order to do that, Vivo took whatever was available in the market and customized things for its own liking. It even built a custom stabilization technique to achieve top shelf performance. Once the camera bit was in place, Vivo simply added specifications that would enable this camera to outperform its peers in the market. In many ways, Vivo X50 Pro goes eccentric on its camera features but mellows down when it comes to rest of features. It is also the first smartphone with Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC in India. Also Read - OnePlus 8 review: Buy the phone if quality and performance matters
India’s premium smartphone segment was growing before the pandemic. The Chinese smartphone maker was also growing in the overall market but that growth did not reflect the premium end, where OnePlus, Samsung and Apple held the reigns. Oppo and OnePlus are set to launch new phones this week and Vivo is trying to undercut them with the early mover advantage. At Rs 49,990, Vivo X50 Pro is definitely premium but does it deliver experience as well. Here is our review. Also Read - Xiaomi Mi 10 5G Review: The most refined phone from Xiaomi yet
Let’s start with the showstopper of this device because it is mighty impressive. There are four cameras on the back and a 32-megapixel punch-hole selfie camera. I am not a big fan of selfies so will get this right out of the way. In my time testing the selfie camera, I was not as impressed as the rear cameras on this device. As you can see from the image below, the camera fails to maintain natural colors. It tends to make you look younger and thus skews the color tone of your skin. It has the option to enable or disable bokeh but it was not as good as live focus mode on Samsung Galaxy or Pixel’s portrait mode.
However, I can definitely use the selfie camera shots for personal use on various social media platforms. It is a disappointment because the rear camera delivers all the goodness. On the back, the main camera is a 48-megapixel custom Sony IMX598 sensor with f/1.6 aperture and what Vivo calls GIMBAL stabilization. This is combined with OIS and EIS for really good stabilization. It works once you disable the portrait framing option in Settings and uses the gyroscope to perfectly align with the way you hold the device. There are two circles shown on the viewfinder where you align a dot to understand that gimbal is stabilized. This helps with taking good pictures handheld during the day as well as at night.
This main camera is paired with an 8-megapixel periscope lens capable of 5x optical zoom. It is definitely the star of this rear camera setup. This shoots crisp pictures at 5x zoom or an equivalent focal length of 125mm. The photos were usable even at 10x and 20x zoom in some cases. It collects data from the main 48-megapixel camera and fuses with the periscope zoom lens to understand and produce details in the scene. Vivo claims 60x hybrid zoom but I didn’t find the images to have enough details at that zoom. This zoom feature is supplanted by two more features called Starry Sky and Supermoon.
In Mumbai, where it has been raining constantly, you will be out of luck to try those features. There are a lot of features that Vivo has packed here but the lockdown and gloomy weather don’t let you take advantage. I would say that you should not consider this to be a thorough test of the camera setup. There is also a 13-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom for portraits. When you zoom, you will notice that you are actually switching between these sensors. After the Huawei P30 Pro, this is probably the best camera for zoom and it also shows how zoom on technology is maturing and becoming accessible across price points.
The last camera is an 8-megapixel super wide-angle camera with 120-degree field of view. It does double duty of being the super macro camera as well. I think this is among the best cameras on a smartphone when you want to get really close to your subject. The super wide-angle shots are not only wider but also have good color reproduction and balance. There is some edge distortion noticeable but is not really a big problem. With X50 Pro, Vivo set out to make the best imaging experience on a smartphone and I don’t have a doubt that it succeeded in that quest.
Design and Display
Vivo is one of the smartphone brands doing a lot in the design department. With its NEX series, the company is pushing the boundaries of what is possible when you take the display to the edges of the chassis. Vivo X50 Pro does not push the design to that level but it is well designed nonetheless. There is glass back obviously but is frosted to the metal and comes in only one color called alpha grey. This back finish shifts from grey to blue depending on light falling on the surface. However, it is very subtle and you might not even notice. Smartphone makers have learnt that consumers don’t want devices that reflect multiple colors with their back panel.
At 8.04mm, it is considerably thin and weighs around 181 grams. After using smartphones that weigh 209 grams recently, I found this to be really light in comparison. The back panel also has a soft feel that you would want to touch. However, it is prone to smudge and you might want to protect it with a case. On the back, there is the camera module which protrudes a bit. It wobbles a lot on a flat surface without a case and putting it face down would be a better option. There is a Vivo branding on the back as well. There is a flat plate at the top with “5G Professional Photography” inscribed on it that looks nice and hard to notice.
The left side only has antenna bands and since it’s a 5G smartphone, there are quite a few of those on this device. At the right, you will find the volume rocker and power button, which offer good feedback. There is a dual-SIM card tray, USB Type-C port and speaker grille at the bottom. At the front, you get a 6.56-inch AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution of 2376 x 1080 pixels. It supports a 90Hz refresh rate which is a good upgrade from 60Hz panels but there is still not enough content to take advantage of this fast refresh rate. While it is a good panel with vibrant color reproduction, I did notice some issue with off-shift purple tint. The viewing angles are fine but this AMOLED is susceptible to typical behavior. We have asked the company about it and will update this review accordingly.
Performance, Battery Life and Software
This is where things get really interesting. After putting arguably one of the best camera setups on any smartphone, Vivo opted to balance the device by using Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC. This is the first smartphone in the country to use this chipset and will soon be followed by OnePlus Nord as well. The performance is not really an issue for this processor and since it comes with “G” branding, it supports elite gaming features as well. With the display set to 90Hz, you can enjoy Alto’s Odyssey, one of the best games out there to take advantage of the fast refresh rate. I also thoroughly enjoyed playing Vainglory on this smartphone.
But I quickly realized that people only care about PUBG Mobile. During my time, I was able to play with graphics set to HDR and refresh rate to High. When I switched to Ultra, the game became choppy and there was noticeable lag with frame rates. I think Vivo might take feedback from consumers and optimize this chipset. However, the bottom-line is that there is not much discernible difference between the Snapdragon 765G and Snapdragon 865. The moment we see games like PUBG Mobile adopt 120Hz refresh rate and content playback happens at that refresh rate, we might see the true potential of Qualcomm’s flagship SoC.
For now, the Snapdragon 765G with its integrated 5G modem is not only fast but also future proof. With Reliance Jio announcing 5G plans at AGM yesterday, it seems like we may not have to wait long for the next generation of mobile telephony. One area where it did not do well has to be battery life. I averaged between five and six hours of screen-on time and there is no straightforward way to know this. With 90Hz refresh rate and PUBG Mobile, the battery drained faster than I thought it would. At 4,315mAh, the battery can be called as small in this segment. I think Vivo could not have fitted a bigger battery without making X50 Pro thicker.
This seems like a minor trade-off and I must note that I’m using my phone a lot more than I would if things were normal. Between the deluge of new content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar, occasional gaming and MS Teams call, the small battery is really getting taxed. For charging, Vivo is supporting only a 33W fast charger. Yes, it is not crazy fast like the one bundled with Oppo Find X2 or Galaxy S20 Ultra. I was able to add 50 percent of juice in half an hour and it takes little more than an hour to fully charge the device. The battery is the best sign to see how Vivo went for balance over ludicrous numbers while designing this smartphone.
The important thumbnail to follow while buying any consumer electronics device is not buy them on future promise. Vivo X50 Pro runs Funtouch OS 10 based on Android 10 and the company seems to have cleaned up its act. There are fewer bloatware than the time when the company launched V3 in India.The left screen of the home has an option to choose between Google Discover and Vivo’s Jovi smart screen. This choice is something I appreciate and the overall user interface also feels fluid. However, the big question is whether Vivo will deliver the Android 11 update, set to be released in September. The company has been notoriously slow with software updates and if it promises to deliver an update by October or November then I think it is a promise that I would buy into.
Should you buy?
Vivo X50 Pro is basically a camera built around the smartphone experience. We have seen multiple smartphone makers try this idea but none have succeeded that well. With the void left by Huawei, due to its lack of Google Mobile Services on P40 series, there was an opportunity for someone to fill those shoes. Samsung tried with Galaxy S20 Ultra but it has clearly proven to be a first generation product. We even thought that OnePlus would deliver a great camera this year but it ended up delivering its best camera performance yet. In Vivo X50 Pro, I am able to see a camera smartphone that delivers good results across different scenarios. It is definitely not perfect and there are still areas where the company can learn from Apple or Google and adapt.
However, when you open the camera app, point and shoot, the result from Vivo X50 Pro is really good. If it has features like IP67 water or dust resistance, I would not hesitate a bit before recommending this. At Rs 49,990, it is one expensive smartphone and when you spend such money, you should expect the absolute best. It is best when you look at the camera and general performance but it left me wanting for more. This is another reason why smartphone makers should make progress at a steady pace. We have seen so much development in space that the best feature today might become underwhelming tomorrow.
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