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Vivo X50 Pro review

A hardware-software disparity like no other

(Image: © Aakash Jhaveri)

TechRadar Verdict

The Vivo X50 Pro is the best phone from the company and brings one of the best hardware and design packages we've seen. It's not often we see an unassuming compact phone that is filled to the brim with camera tech. The battery life and display are solid too. As always, the software experience will be key make-or-break factor.

Pros

  • +

    Design and ergonomics

  • +

    Enjoyable cameras

  • +

    Reliable performance

  • +

    Display

Cons

  • -

    FunTouch OS

  • -

    Inconsistent cameras

Vivo is a household name in India and is now the third-largest smartphone company by volume. Its rise was primarily driven by its budget smartphone and mid-rangers. With its foot planted firmly, it now hopes to get a piece of the premium segment with the X50 Pro

Vivo’s tango with the premium segment hasn’t been particularly momentous. The last smartphone to try and carve a name for itself was the Vivo X21 from 2018, which was far from mainstream. This time though, Vivo’s execution is a lot more mature with the X50 series, bringing interesting upgrades on the hardware front that few others offer.

As always, for a manufacturer going up the price ladder, brand image and software experience become more important factors of the decision matrix. This is a key point for price-sensitive markets such as India, where the premium segment is dominated by a handful of players and newcomers have always struggled (opens in new tab).

The Vivo X50 Pro goes up against established competition such as the OnePlus 8, the Xiaomi Mi 10 and even the iPhone SE (opens in new tab), all of which are formidable offerings on their own. The approach of bringing hardware innovations to a slowly-evolving aspect is commendable, and one that deserves to be iterated upon. It is Vivo’s most polished phone till date, but the software experience continues to remain its weakest link. 

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Price and availability

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

India is one of the first overseas markets to get the Vivo X50 series. The X50 Pro comes in a single configuration with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and is priced at Rs 49,990 (opens in new tab). The first sale is scheduled for July 24.

Design

  • Alpha Grey colour
  • 8mm thick, 181g heavy

When it comes to high-end smartphones, most opt for an imposing design that is big and bold. The Vivo X50 Pro is a breath of fresh air, bringing a sexy, luxurious design that is somewhat compact too. It is one of the only Android flagships that isn’t large or heavy. 

Until now, most high-end smartphones, especially those with a periscopic camera or a large sensor, have been big and bulky. Vivo somehow manages to fit in all those along with a large gimbal system without going overboard with the dimensions.

Its heft, rather the lack thereof, is evident the moment you pick it up. It tips the scale at just 181g which is pretty well distributed along the body. Moreover, the curved front and back seamlessly meet at the sleek metal frame, greatly aiding the ergonomics. These help in giving the phone a smaller footprint than what we’ve come to expect from smartphones with a display this size.

The Alpha Grey finish looks stunning, and you have to see it to believe it.

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

The Vivo X50 Pro has one of the best feel-in-hand on any recent smartphone. Along with a slim waistline, the soft satin finish of the glass back with a classy matte metallic hue gives it a unique and amiable look. This was probably the first time I heard such unanimously positive feedback around a phone’s colour from people, each time I showed it to someone. It is definitely eye-catchy (in a good way).

The camera module, on the other hand, is polarizing. We get a two-layer island that has the telephoto lens on the lower level and the other sensors on the higher. Vivo says that it was a conscious decision to give the X50 Pro some personality and identity, and for the most part, it delivers on that. The camera bump also doesn’t protrude a lot so using it while lying on a table is still possible. However, for most people, the camera housing will be a little too distinct amid an otherwise minimal back—the ‘big eye’ design is not for everyone. I personally liked, but that’s probably because I prefer my phones to stand out from the crowd.

Other physical elements include the power button and the volume rocker on the right side and the USB port and the loudspeaker on the bottom. The buttons, even though slightly creaky, are extremely meaty to press. While the sides are slim and rounded, the top and bottom are perfectly flat. It is one of the few phones which can be propper up to stand up. The flat-top has a ribbon-like aesthetic, which Vivo calls a ‘choker’. It has the phrase ‘5G’ and ‘Professional Photography’ embossed in a way that shines in many colours when seen from some angles and becomes invisible from others.

Photos don’t do justice to how pretty the Vivo X50 Pro looks. It takes the craftsmanship from the NEX and Apex series and makes it mainstream in the best fashion possible.

Display

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)
  • Curved 6.56-inch AMOLED panel
  • 90Hz refresh rate
  • 100% DCI-P3 coverage

Vivo has opted for a high refresh rate panel, as every 2020 flagship should. We’re looking at a curved 6.56-inch E3 AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate as well has HDR10+ capabilities. As mentioned earlier, it is one of the more compact phones of the season, thanks to slim bezels, a small bottom chin and a 55-degree curve along the sides. One-handed operations are still a stretch, but not impossible.

The internals are very capable to handle the 90Hz output, which is evident across the interface. You can set it to 60Hz, 90Hz and adaptive refresh rate to switch according to apps. Tiny transitions such as the live wallpaper, opening and closing apps, multi-tasking, all have been designed to remind you of the extra fluidity. The 180Hz touch response also helps in making operations feel instantaneous.

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

With the peak brightness of 1,300 nits (500 nit typical, 800 nit HBM), I almost never had to crank up the brightness to max. Outdoor legibility was not a problem. The minimum brightness of 1.9 nits was also usually sufficient for use at night. Playing HDR content was a joy on the Vivo X50 Pro, bringing out details that are usually lost on either end of the luminance scale. Staples such as a system-wide dark mode, blue-light filter and eye protection are also present. The display also covers 10% of the DCI-P3 colour space, 

The curves made swiping and scrolling through the interface a lot more fun, making system navigation gestures seem intuitive. There were barely any accidental palm touches in my usage. The selfie camera is housed in a hole-punch on the top-left of the screen and is small enough to be ignored. In most cases, it gets covered by the status bar anyway. 

For what its worth, the X50 Pro is one of the few phones with a curved display that comes with a decent screen protector pre-applied and has stayed there without bubbling up. 

All in all, the Vivo X50 Pro ticks all the boxes that are characteristic of modern smartphone displays and should serve everyone well. Considering how little difference moving to 120Hz or QHD+ resolution makes, this is the next best mix.

Audio

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)
  • Single downward-firing speaker
  • No headphone jack

Audio is an equally important element of content consumption that is often overlooked. The Vivo X50 Pro has a single mono downward-firing speaker. Owing to the flat bottom, it is the easiest speaker grille to muffle down to 0 volume. When not, the output is loud and clear with very little distortion in the bass at full volume.

It’s a little disappointing to see a phone so expensive to sport such a basic speaker setup, but we fathom that the phone’s dimensions and space limitations played a hand in this. There’s no headphone jack either. Audio over USB Type-C was good but there would be occasional static or drops in the output. Bluetooth playback was great.

Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.