Priya SinghSep 10, 2020 09:04:43 IST
Camera innovation has been one of the focus points for many smartphone manufacturers lately, whether it is Samsung that introduced a 100x zoom camera in the Galaxy S20 Ultra (Review), or Huawei that launched a handset with 60x optical zoom. While the others were busy adding more and more telephoto, Vivo came up with a unique party trick with its industry-first gimbal camera system in the Vivo X50 Pro.
Essentially, Vivo decided to improve the image and video stabilisation while retaining 60x zoom capability. And frankly, at Rs 50,000, you’re paying for the privilege of being an early adopter, because the rest of the device’s specifications are very close to the OnePlus Nord, which is just half the price!
The Vivo X50 Pro has two good things going for it: the gimbal stabilising camera system and its absolutely beautiful design.
Design-wise, the Vivo X50 Pro slays
The Vivo X50 Pro might look like just another flagship handset from a distance (a tall, slim phone with a rectangular camera module) but once you hold it, your opinion is likely to change. I really like the fact that the phone isn’t a fingerprint magnet, thanks to its matte-finish back. The handset is just 8.04 mm thin, 181.5 g in weight, has a premium-looking glass back, a subtle gray colour gradient, curved aluminium edges and a punch hole curved display. Physically, it’s top-shelf.
It’s not perfect, though. There are a few things that might bother some buyers. The protruding camera module wobbles when placed on a flat surface, like many other devices of its ilk. The bump does nothing for the phone’s looks, and adds an element of discomfort when you put your 50k smartphone down on its main attraction. Slapping the included transparent silicone case on solved this issue for me. I would also like to point out that the X50 Pro camera still manages to look better than the Galaxy S20 Ultra camera module, which resembles a nocturnal bird taking a particular interest in you.
I join the growing movement against curved displays with this review. I know they add to the aesthetic value of phones and enhance ‘hand-feel’, but they’re impractical. It gets frustrating to tap on anything toward the edge of the screen. Then there are the accidental touches (I can't remember how many times I accidentally pressed back-arrow while watching Lucifer on Netflix!), and I can’t shake the feeling that the curved edges make the phone more fragile. I would have preferred a flat display, like so many of the tech press.
Lastly, the absence of an IP rating for water or dust resistance is a miss. This might disappoint a few buyers because at 50k, this is a glaring omission.
Moving on, just like any other flagship smartphone, the 3.5 mm headphone jack is still off the table. But to avoid the hassle of buying a new pair of bluetooth earphones, the company includes a pair of wired earphones and a dongle bundled in the box. On the bottom edge of the device, you will see a Type-C port for charging and a single speaker grille.
Overall, I like how the device looks; it is pleasing, light and not very slippery, and the included silicone case is a bonus for a clumsy person like me. With a 6.56-inch display, it is a tall phone and that limits one-handed use.
Absolutely gorgeous display
The 6.56-inch Super AMOLED display is anything but small, but this has some advantages as well. It has thin bezels and a really tiny punch-hole camera in the top-left corner that kind of disappears after a while. This is a good choice for those who like to binge-watch shows or movies, or read a lot of e-books.
I turned on the 90 Hz refresh rate and honestly, I never looked back! With all the smooth scrolling and fluid animations, I was impressed. Although, after the OnePlus Nord, Oppo A53 and many other mid-range handsets, it is no longer a standout feature.
With a 2,376 x 1,080 pixel resolution, the display renders punchy and vibrant colours. The brightness does not disappoint, even when using it outdoors. The in-display fingerprint sensor is also quick, and is placed just right.
The gimbal tech works
Let’s circle back to the big story here: the gimbal camera system. It’s designed to make your images and videos more stable and in my testing, it does what it says on the box.
The smartphone carries a quad rear camera setup that includes a 48 MP Sony IMX598 sensor main camera, an 8 MP ultra wide lens, a 13 MP portrait lens and an 8 MP telephoto lens that allows 60X hybrid zoom. In ideal light, it clicks decent images. I noticed great contrast, colours, but I think some sharpness was lacking. When you zoom in to the image, you start to see softness. Some might also complain about the punched-up colours in some scenarios, but they didn’t make the images look unrealistic.
Images shot in low light manage to retain colour and even detail to a large extent, all thanks to the gimbal camera system. Even in pitch-black conditions, the results were jaw-dropping! However, the images are not perfect, and still show hazy details when you zoom in. I liked the images, on balance. You also get a few filter options for night mode.
I compared this camera with the OnePlus 7 camera that also has a 48 MP Sony IMX586 sensor and a 5 MP depth sensor. The Vivo X50 Pro clearly wins the battle, especially in capturing detail and colour. In low light shots, the Vivo X50 Pro still wins fair and square, as it shows surprisingly adequate detail while maintaining colour balance.
Of course, the X50 Pro does come with some bells and whistles like the ‘SuperMoon’ mode that lets you capture the Moon with 60x zoom. The results are mind-blowing, and I have to admit that it kind of grew on me for a while. But short of impressing your friends on occasion, it has limited use. You will also see a ‘Starry’ mode as well but that looked more like a gimmick to me, as the images had a lot of noise. Not even insta-worthy.
The Vivo X50 Pro comes with a 32 MP selfie camera. It produces beautiful images with good colour accuracy. However, it does make the faces glow and soften a bit. Not unnaturally so, but I would appreciate more sharpness. The portrait mode also does a good job at capturing eye-catching images that have fine details and punchy colours. Subject separation is not always accurate, however, and often ends up softening your hair. I expected better from the Vivo X50 Pro as its main attraction is the camera. Am I complaining? A little. Do I still like it? Hell yes!
For video, the stability promised is quite evident. It smooths out shaky movement while you are walking, and even while filming a video from a moving vehicle. The gimbal system performs really well when the shaky movement is sideways. Details and colours captured are good. So yes, gimbal tech is not just a gimmick, it actually works most of the time. It won’t completely eliminate jerks and shakes, but does a really good job in compensating for slight movements.
The idea of gimbal tech in a smartphone is still in infancy, and I’m sure that the company will refine it in future handsets.
Performance at par
The Vivo X50 Pro is powered by the new mid-tier Snapdragon 765G chipset. The handset runs on the Android 10-based Funtouch OS 10.5 and offers 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of internal storage. The Snapdragon 765G is not the quickest processor and price competitors such as the OnePlus 8 (Snapdragon 865), and the Mi 10 (Snapdragon 865+) clearly have a performance edge over the X50 Pro. This is where Vivo made the trade-off to keep the price down.
For what it's worth, if you are not into heavy gaming, the 765G is still a fine option. It will handle all day-to-day tasks nicely without any lag or heat issues.
It did not disappoint me while switching between apps or playing RoadRash and Asphalt. I watched Cursed on Netflix to test the picture and audio quality, and my conclusion is that Vivo should have worked more on the latter. Colours were correct and bright. While the audio was loud enough, I wasn't impressed by the sound quality. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but there’s room for improvement.
The Android 10-based FuntouchOS comes with an app drawer, dark mode, customisation options for notifications, fingerprint animations and more. The OS is good overall, but it comes with bloatware and I personally don’t have the patience to deal with it.
With this handset, Vivo has dipped its toes into 5g waters, but since we have no such waters in India, the feature is irrelevant for Indian users.
Good enough battery
The Vivo X50 Pro comes with a 4,315 mAh battery that supports 33W Vivo FlashCharge 2.0.
With around 4-5 hours of screen time that included texting, surfing Instagram, clicking pictures, playing games like Asphalt, listening to music on Spotify, the life of the battery was crushed in less than a day’s time. This is with the 90Hz display refresh rate turned on. The device eats up around 5-10 percent of battery overnight on standby.
The fast charger filled up the dead battery to 50 percent in about 25 minutes. Compared to rivals such as the Mi 10 (4,780 mAh battery with 30W fast charge), the Vivo X50 Pro isn’t exactly a battery beast, but thanks to FlashCharge 2.0, it is not that bad.
With 8 GB RAM, 256 GB internal storage, and workable battery life, new gimbal technology that actually works and of course the gorgeous design, it’s a contender. Vivo offers a lot at 50k without actually cutting too many corners or underperforming in any area.
The Vivo X50 Pro is a good phone but not for everyone.
I will only recommend this smartphone to those whose top priorities are camera and design. The gimbal camera tech is a nice-to-have, but not a game-changer. The device has a recent chipset, enough RAM and storage and 5G connectivity to give it a bit of longevity.
That said, Vivo X50 Pro is clearly an overkill for those who are in a mid-range mindset. Those buyers are better served by the OnePlus Nord which, at a starting price of Rs 24,999, offers similar specs with a 90 Hz refresh rate display, Snapdragon 765G chip, up to 12 GB RAM, a 4,115 mAh battery that supports 30T warp charging and a quad camera setup.
The Vivo X50 Pro is not compelling when stacked up against players within its price range. For example take the OnePlus 8. It falls in this price bracket and offers more value for money. At 50K, it not only offers a powerful chipset (Snapdragon 865 SoC) but also provides up to 12 GB RAM, 256 GB storage and 5G connectivity. Even the Mi 10 5G, which is a flagship smartphone, offers up to 12 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 108 MP quad camera setup, Snapdragon 865+ SoC and 5G connectivity under 55K.
Long story short: buy it because it’s a pretty camera, or look elsewhere.
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