Vivo X50 Pro
- 90Hz AMOLED Display • Elegant Design • Camera versatility • Battery life • 5G-ready
- Funtouch OS • Gimbal tech needs improvement • Snapdragon 765
The Bottom Line
The overall hardware on offer may not be at par with the likes of a OnePlus 8 or a Xiaomi Mi 10, but the cameras on the Vivo X50 Pro out-maneuvers the competition on grounds of camera versatility.
Vivo, as a company, typically loves to experiment with the design of its smartphones while ensuring that it offers at least one industry-first camera innovation in its more premium offerings. Over three years ago, we saw Vivo grab all the eyeballs at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona with a surprise unveiling of a concept device named the Apex.
That concept was soon turned into a commercial smartphone launch and marked the onset of pop-up selfie cameras and in-display fingerprint scanners – two hardware trends that respectively became the industry standard for premium phones in 2019.
Well, Vivo was hoping to make the same kind of splash at this year’s MWC, where it was set to unveil the Apex 2020, featuring another attention-grabbing innovation: a camera built on a tiny gimbal inside the device’s body. But the COVID-19 outbreak ensured that MWC gets cancelled for the year and so does media access to the Apex 2020.
Although that might have been a major setback, the pandemic didn’t quite halt Vivo from turning the concept “gimbal camera” into a commercial device with the launch of the Vivo X50 Pro smartphone. Launched in India at INR 49,990, the X50 Pro is supposed to be a top-tier camera flagship, while flexing the work Vivo’s put into making this smartphone feel like a bleeding-edge style statement.
Having spent a good two weeks with the phone, I’m convinced that the Vivo X50 Pro isn’t only a good camera phone but also a great overall pick under the 50k mark for a large number of people. Does it do enough to warrant a purchase over the likes of a OnePlus 8 or the Mi 10? That’s where the answer gets a bit more tricky. Bear with me.
Vivo X50 Pro Review: Build & Design
Vivo sells the X50 Pro in India in a single finish which it calls ‘Alpha Grey’, but it isn’t nearly as drab looking as “grey” might make you think. There’s a silver-blue sheen to the rear, which ensures that the phone looks like it wears a dual-tone finish every time there’s any light reflecting on it, giving it a very dynamic look overall. There’s a soft-touch kind of material on the back which feels really nice and because its matte, it doesn’t show too many smudges either.
The new camera technology is also immediately noticeable when you unbox the Vivo X50 Pro. The main camera is noticeably larger and wobbles slightly as the phone is being moved around. It looks as though the lens is floating instead of being mounted onto a surface. This also, by design, means that the entire camera module protrudes outward, although this protrution isn’t half as ugly as that on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Camera bump aside, Vivo’s aim here was to create a phone that doesn’t only look sleek but also feel as sleek as flagships come. In practice, you get what’s among the thinnest (just under 8mm) and lightest (180 grams) 5G phones you’ll find in the world today.
The refinement in design doesn’t end there. Keeping up with the times, the Vivo X50 Pro wears a curved OLED screen with smoothed-over edges, ports, and speaker grilles. There’s a punch-hole front camera, an earpiece speaker grille that’s nearly invisible and bezels to the top and bottom that are nearly symmetrical.
Like the design aesthetics and in-hand feel, the build-quality here seems to be top-notch too. Everything is metal, with the exception of the glass front and back.
The power button is slightly textured. Just enough to make it easier to differentiate from the volume rocker. The buttons, like all of the ports, snap into place with a click when used. There’s no jostle in either component either. So it feels extremely well made on almost all fronts.
On the whole, there won’t be too many heads turned by the design since Vivo’s opted for a mellower shade when compared to the likes of the OnePlus 8 or the Mi 10, but there’s also no mistaking that Vivo’s put a lot of effort into ensuring a phone that looks and feels its worth.
Vivo X50 Pro Review: Display
Vivo topped it X50 Pro hardware with a Full HD+ AMOLED display panel with a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR 10+ compatibility. The 1080 x 2376 resolution, while lower than some flagships, looks great and doesn’t generally show any pixels. But that, of course, doesn’t tell the whole story about the Vivo X50 Pro’s display.
The panel in itself produces punchy colours that are not only vibrant, but also offers deep blacks. Because of its ability to process high refresh rates, animations and games feel smooth. Although the Vivo X50 Pro isn’t the best gaming device, Vivo’s also upped the response rate of the panel to 180Hz and ensured that it can also get plenty bright, which is always a plus if you are looking to consume a lot video content on the go – even under direct sunlight.
Both the display and the rear glass panel are covered using a sheet of Schott Xensation glass for protection against scratches and accidental falls and although I haven’t really dropped the phone, I can vouch that this protective glass does do a good job of resisting scratches.
The under-display front-facing camera doesn’t take up much room to be nuisance either. It’s not noticeably larger than the notification bar, allowing users to see just about all content in most instances.
The one exception to that is in video playback. Unfortunately, the disparity among display ratios across the world’s devices means that media does need to be pinched in to zoom when watching videos. For instance, on YouTube. That cuts off some of the content at the top and bottom. And it’s obvious that it does. But that’s found in nearly every modern smartphone too, so it’s hard to fault Vivo for the issue.
The in-screen fingerprint reader, on the other hand, is as snappy and reliable as any other flagship we’ve tested in 2020.
Vivo X50 Pro Review: Performance
The Vivo X50 Pro has a Snapdragon 765G processor and 8GB of RAM, plus 256GB of storage space and 5G support. There’s only one variant on offer here, so you’ll have to make do with what’s on offer.
As far as tangible snappiness goes, everything chugs along just fine. The Snapdragon 765G is admittedly not the sharpest knife in Qualcomm’s drawer but it gets the job done with ease, as long as you don’t plan on getting yourself into a PUBG Mobile marathon quite often.
For day to day use, video binging, browsing social media apps and a bit of gaming, the Snapdragon 765G is certainly no slouch. The 8GB RAM definitely helps in multi-tasking as well. Vivo praises the chip’s image processing capabilities but that might be a tad too generous.
From time to time, I did experience some lag when taking a photo, but not enough to make the entire affair unbearable. Moving to other performance qualms worth mentioning is the quality of the mono, bottom-firing speaker which could have certainly been better.
Vivo X50 Pro Review: Software
You get Vivo’s Funtouch OS over Android 10, and while it has improved leaps and bound over the years, it’s still not up there with OnePlus’s OxygenOS or Samsung’s OneUI 2.0 in terms of reliability.
My biggest issue with the OS is the way it handles notification alerts with some apps not pulling in new messages at all, and others simply not showing new notifications in the notification shade, or on the app icon. While there’s a lot of customisation, themes, an app drawer and personalised folder arrangements its the issue with notifications that ended up being a tad irritating.
There’s also Vivo’s V-appstore, an equivalent of the Google Play Store that simply co-exists here. The V-appstore sometimes fights for updates and there’s often a Vivo app which seems to always have pending notifications. There’s also the default browser which once-opened for the first time, begins throwing up news alerts every now and then.
There is a dark mode, but it’s not Google’s native mode, so many apps don’t look right with it activated. In WhatsApp, buttons disappear against the dark background. Edge recognition also frustrates sometimes, with the phone not always dismissing accidental touches.
That aside, the software is smooth and fast. I forced the phone to display at a 90Hz refresh rate throughout my time with the phone, and this did not seem to greatly impact battery life.
There are also some nice feature additions here including the dedicated Game Center for downloading apps and seeing what resources those use. That’s useful because it helps to better determine when games are misbehaving. This is, in itself, helpful because the associated Game Assistant is not well optimized for every app.
Vivo X50 Pro Review: Camera Performance
The Vivo X50 Pro, has an ace up its sleeve in the camera department – as mentioned before, a rather unique and novel Gimbal Camera System. But since this is new tech in the smartphone world, I ought to provide you a simple explaination about what a gimbal is first.
Now, most smartphones today already offer two forms of stabilization – electronic image stabilization (EIS or software stabilization via a crop-in) and optical image stabilization (OIS or hardware-based stabilization), so the gimbal camera really is just another form of OIS.
But whereas the OIS on phones as we know it, only stabilize two axes: vertical and horizontal, otherwise known as the x- and y-axis. Vivo’s new gimbal tech introduces a third axis of movement (z-axis), that is more akin to moving toward and away from the subject. But because the gimbal is so tiny in a phone, the z-axis movement is subtle, but can actually be seen from the outside if a user looks at the camera lens closely as the phone moves.
The gimbal system in place does work with the tech accurately correcting the natural shake produced when moving while recording a video. But its effects aren’t very percieveable while just walking or running on a straight path. The gimbal also does a good job of tracking objects that are far, like a kite or a bird. You get the drift, its good when you know it’ll work, but otherwise, you might be a tad disappointed with the outcome.
The gimbal does do wonders for photographs though, especially at night where it lets you shoot at lower shutter speeds, accomadating for the natural shake.
The 48MP main camera, the one with the gimbal, does a decent job of preserving details and making colors pop. The artificial intelligence (AI) system kicks in every now and then for scene recognition, autofocus, and colour palette adjustment to keep everything in check.
There’s also HDR to help in trickier shooting situations, such as when a subject is backlit, or skies would otherwise blow out the highlights. Vivo does go a little over the top with the HDR though – it looks great on the phone’s screen, but closer inspection reveals haloing to the edges of subjects.
The 8MP wide-angle camera has become a staple of many phones these days and Vivo’s offering is on par with what you’d expect. You won’t get the same degree of detail as you will from the main camera by any means, but for the sake of getting that ultra-wide perspective on the world it’ll show its worth at different points in time.
This camera also doubles-up as a macro – which is used for close-up shooting. The Vivo X50 Pro uses a crop of the wide-angle sensor to bring close-up shooting to the fore, but this does a better job than most dedicated macro-shooters we’ve seen on more affordable smartphones.
The Vivo X50 Pro’s gimbal camera shows a lot of promise. It’s not perfect at the moment but it’s a true piece of innovation in smartphone cameras and something that we’re bound to see more of in the coming years. That’s particularly exciting when we’ve been faced with nothing but growing numbers of lenses on phones with only a few benefits for some time.
If gaming is a priority, I’d suggest you opt for the OnePlus 8 instead but otherwise, the Vivo X50 Pro definitely makes a mark in a segment that’s quickly being populated by brands, now that the budget segment seems a little too cluttered with competition.