The first thing to great consumers upon opening up the Vivo X50 Pro, recently sent to Android Headlines for review, is the smartphone and a tagline reading "Photography. Redefined." That's not entirely surprising either. The phone was initially billed as being a flagship-like mid-ranger that's great at snapping images. But it also sets up an expectation for something new and unexpected. It's an expectation that this phone more than matches.
Not only does this phone snap photographs that should easily place it among the top devices on the market today. Vivo also tucks in a wide assortment of camera features that all but ignore those found in other smartphones. AR stickers, AI-driven adjustments, and the like are present. But Vivo X50 Pro is also loaded with a ton of software features that are wholly unexpected and that arguably step the device away from the competition.
And snapping photos is absolutely not the only thing this phone is great at. A powerful processor under the hood, optimized software, and good battery life make this a great phone for gaming. And for day-to-day use.
There are, of course, a few caveats at least. Those arise from audio, design, and bloatware, for the most part. But this is a phone that sets out to prove that digital photography with a smartphone can be a great experience. That's without cluttering up the UI, even with extra features and adjustments available. And on that front, it easily meets its goal.
Vivo may not be the most well-known company around — at least in the west. But the Vivo X50 Pro, this review proves beyond doubt, is a smartphone that should not be overlooked.
Vivo X50 Pro hardware and design left me with mixed feelings
In terms of design, the Vivo X50 Pro proves to be an exception to the rules about more budget-friendly devices — or at least that was my experience during the review.
The phone is available in two colors, light or dark blue. Vivo sent out the lighter hue for testing, which features an almost silvery sheen. So it looks more like metal, as opposed to the appearance of the bright, gaudy tones found on some other gadgets. The side edges are almost completely symmetrical and round while the top and bottom edges are flat, giving the phone a great curve as well as a balanced feel in-hand.
Likewise, the slim profile and moderately heavy weight make this phone feel like a premium device. As do the smoothed-over edges, ports, and speaker grilles. A punch-hole front camera, the already-mentioned but barely perceptible earpiece speaker grille, combines seamlessly with the curved edge glass and almost-identically-symmetrical bottom and top bezel to drive that premium look and feel home.
There won't be too many heads turned by the design since it is more refined than some other smartphones. But there's also no mistaking that Vivo put quite a lot of effort into ensuring a better design than many competitors offer.
Like the design aesthetics and in-hand feel, the build-quality here seems to be top-notch. 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. And those 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. And it definitely doesn't feel like a phone priced at under $1000.
It's not until I first put this phone down that I realized there were some minor problems with its build and design. And that comes back to the camera hardware. As we'll cover later on, this phone has one of the most advanced camera arrays to be found on any smartphone. That hardware, of course, needs to go somewhere. And on this phone, that's an oversized, rectangular camera bump.
The bump here is different from many others in that it is dual-leveled. That means that a portion of it pokes out just slightly further than the rest of the camera bump. Aside from making the phone sit unevenly, wobbling from side to side when placed down face-up, that makes the camera array feel particularly exposed. So, although this is among the most well-balanced phones, in-hand, it does seem like those cameras could get damaged more easily than many others.
The included case goes a long way toward rectifying that. But this phone also isn't IP-rated for water and dust ingress. So the protrusion seems as though it'd be a weak point on that front too, offering somewhere for water that might get splashed and intrude to pool. I didn't test this phone for water protection due to the lack of a rating. But those two points are well-worth noting on the design front before this phone is purchased.
This bright, vibrant 90Hz display panel easily holds to the flagship standard
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 screen quite as a review does.
Not only did Vivo incorporate the display complete with color options to better suit users. That includes a vibrant mode, standard mode, and "normal" mode — the latter of which cuts out some of the blue light. It also allows switching to a more mid-range standard 60Hz refresh rate. Or, as is set by default, users can use an automatic switching mode. And, unlike some other flagships that will go unnamed, that actually seems to work smoothly here.
In terms of real-world experience, that display is still very punchy, even in standard mode. It also manages to do that without over-saturating everything.
Inputs are responsive and fluid too. So interactions, with the odd exception we'll discuss in a bit, are lag- and latency-free. That, coupled with the screen's comfortable shape and Gorilla Glass coating, makes for a decidedly premium experience. Better still, the under-display front-facing camera doesn't take up much room at all. 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 as any flagship I've tested.
Gaming with Vivo X50 Pro is a secondary, but still viable use case …mostly
Of course, because this phone is using a near-top-end chipset, the Snapdragon 765G, it is definitely a performer. The chipset is backed by no less than 8GB RAM and up to 256GB storage. So there's plenty of resources there to enable the Vivo X50 Pro to work as a budget-friendly gaming phone. But this phone performs nearly as well as a flagship in day-to-day use.
In system apps and standard third-party applications from the Google Play Store, this phone just doesn't lag. It isn't going to load up a big video or photo editing application quite as quickly as a full-blown flagship. But that's going to be something that only the most tech-savvy users even notice. It's not going to struggle to run those applications either.
For gaming, the performance is helped along by a 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.
When playing a game such as Call of Duty: Mobile, Angry Birds 2, or Smash Hit, the optimization software in Game Assistant Optimizes RAM, CPU and GPU utilization, Networking, and even touch interactions. That's setting aside thermal management, which keeps this phone running cool under even long, online game sessions. It can also be customized to block calls, notifications, lock screen brightness, enhance visuals, allow off-screen autoplay, and take screenshots or screen-capture videos.
Accessed via the Ultra Game Mode in the system settings, the feature does even more. There's an Esports Mode to better optimize everything, sound and visual enhancements, gaming picture-in-picture mode, and even a "4D Game Vibration" setting that works with select games. All of that greatly enhances the experience. But in some titles, that can result in a complete freeze-up of the app.
That eventually causes the app to effectively restart or force close. So there are definitely some optimizations still needed.
I didn't notice the issue in any major titles. And it doesn't seem to impact titles based on how resource-intensive they are. Call of Duty ran just fine with no hiccups. And it looked great, even compared to more expensive phones. But Flippy Knife — a much less intensive app — had serious issues. That game hiccuped and froze after under an hour or so of gameplay, even when that time wasn't consecutive.
The Vivo X50 Pro throughout this review delivered an incredibly enjoyable experience in both games and day-to-day use. Even with those caveats. Since titles can be removed via the Ultra Game Mode and that seemed to fix the problems, those caveats are in no way a dealbreaker either.
This is the camera you want, you can stop looking now
The photos I took with the Vivo X50 Pro under review speak undoubtedly speak for themselves. But a great camera experience isn't just about the resulting captures. It's also about the software itself and what's included on this Vivo handset is intuitive, easy-to-find, and extensive.
We could discuss at length Vivo's decision to utilize a 48-megapixel primary snapper — with PDAF and gimbal-based OIS. Or how well it's wide-angle f/1.6 aperture lens should theoretically work. The same holds for the periscope-enhanced telephoto 8-megapixel lens with 5-times optical zoom and 60-times digital. Or the 13-megapixel PDAF, 2x optical zoom, portrait-specific lens. Or the 8-megapixel ultrawide 120-degree lens. That's capable of up to 4K video at 30 frames-per-second with gyro-assisted EIS.
A lot could be said about the 32-megapixel front-facing HDR-compatible snapper or its ability to shoot at 1080p at 30 frames-per-second too.
None of that would betray just how good this camera is. That is, of course, with the exception of zoom beyond 10-times zoom. Those shots are unfortunately not great.
Typically, I'd discuss how great color accuracy is or how detailed shots are in this segment of a review. Those things are true of this camera and it may even be good enough to rival the top flagship performers at a lower cost on those fronts. But those things do actually pale in comparison to the other ways this phone sets itself apart.
First and foremost, while there is a RAW-recording Pro Mode with all of the bells and whistles, I didn't feel the need to use it. Instead, I just let the built-in AI do all the work. That provides scene management as well as suggestions for lens switching and more. All of which are displayed seamlessly and unobtrusively on-screen. Lens selection itself, in addition to camera-mode-specific enhancements, is displayed right at the forefront too. And each has a UI that makes it effortless to use.
Some lenses, such as the 'Super Macro Lens' are autoselected by the AI algorithm when needed. So the feel of using this camera seems comprehensive and automatic as well as adaptable, as needed. That's further backed up by deeper software settings, beyond the standards such as slow-motion, panoramic, Vivo's Jovi AI camera, and others.
For instance, users can access a dedicated "Starry Night" mode and a dedicated "Moon" mode, in addition to Night Mode. Each of those automatically detects when a tripod is being used and adjusts shutter time accordingly.
That means that they can have even better detail and realistic shadowing. Regardless, shots didn't turn out blurry and details weren't lacking despite that I don't have the steadiest hands. For the sample gallery linked a few paragraphs down, I took one shot with and one without a tripod, in succession. When night mode shots are being captured, a timer counts down the remaining seconds. And users are presented with real-world representative image changes to show exactly what the camera is capturing.
For this review, all of my captures were taken with quite a lot of surrounding light pollution, showcasing just how well this camera takes night shots.
For everything shots, the dedicated gimbal that works exceedingly well, keeping everything smooth and blur-free. This is, summarily, a very advanced camera and its shots prove as much.
Now, one of the other great things about this camera is the way it handles filters.
In our sample gallery via Flickr, that's highlighted in four different shots that were taken in Night Mode indoors. The shots are identical but use different "styles." And the results are unlike those produced by the overwhelming majority of phone cameras. Typically, filtered photos look obviously fake and somewhat unprofessional. Even where the filtering works properly, the results can be somewhat cheesy.
With Vivo X50 Pro, even in low-light in this review, the results are definitely altered but somehow appear more natural than I would expect.
That's setting aside the fact that, unless under extreme low-light conditions, this camera captures photos in great detail at night. By extreme low-light, of course, I mean photos taken under conditions where the human eye can't discern outlines, let alone details. As shown in the above-mentioned gallery, that shot definitely had some artifacts. But the artifacts are offset by an impressive level of detail.
And all of that is setting aside what the above-mentioned Super Moon mode does for shots of our nearest neighbor in the solar system — as shown in the gallery.
Audio is respectable but doesn't begin to approach greatness
To say that audio from built-in speakers in smartphones has improved over the years would be an understatement. But it is equally true to point out how big of a disappointment those tend to be. And that's going to, unfortunately, remain the case with the single bottom-firing speaker on the Vivo X50 Pro, my review revealed.
Now, there are custom sound settings based on age in settings. And the company includes Hi-Fi support there too for headphone-based listening. That's also controllable on a per-app basis. So this phone isn't going to disappoint for those who use a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter. Or for those who use Bluetooth headphones. On those fronts, the Vivo X50 Pro is flagship material. Albeit without the benefit of an equalizer, as is often found in flagships.
But the speakers themselves, while not necessarily "tinny" or lacking in bass representation, lack punch. And they definitely highlight mids and highs more than bass tones. The result is similar to sounding tinny in that everything sounds like it's at a higher register. But there's none of the other effects often associated with tinny audio. So, bearing in mind that most smartphone speakers don't sound any better, it's difficult to say these are bad.
The speaker here is just far and away from what could be called "impressive."
Audio quality in calls was great though. And Vivo does offer some visual candy for those who love listening to music on their phones. The latter feature takes the form of a "Music light effect" found under Ambient lighting settings in the Settings app. That takes advantage of the display's curved edge to show lighting along those edges when the screen is off. As might be expected, the lighting shifts and changes based on the rhythm of the music.
It's a novel feature with four options in terms of effect. But it's still nice to have, highlighting just how many features Vivo has managed to squeeze into this device.
Vivo X50 Pro software is bloated
We've already covered quite a few of the features included on the software side for this smartphone. And there is plenty more to discover from theming and organization to built-in smart assistants. But what struck me most when I first booted my Vivo X50 Pro review unit up is just how bloated the firmware is.
That's going to mark out software as one of the few areas where Vivo could really be doing better.
To begin with, both the Google Play Store and Vivo's dedicated V-Appstore are installed. That creates a disparity when it comes to updates. The system, as often as not, attempts to update via the store that apps were not downloaded from. Since there are regional differences, with the V-Appstore aimed at international audiences rather than being as well localized, that presents problems. Those issues can be overcome by simply avoiding the V-Appstore entirely but it isn't ideal.
Vivo also pre-installs a number of self-branded apps such as an AOSP-based music app, messaging, email, video, clock, and those types of apps. It also includes a lot of Google's apps from the search giant's Gmail app to its News and Files apps. Facebook is pre-installed too.
But that stacks atop a third-party tap-to-pay app, two extra browsers — one from Vivo and one from Opera, in addition to Chrome — and more. For example, Vivo includes two folders for "Hot Apps" and "Hot Games." Those are pure bloatware. They include icons pulled from the cloud for their respective categories. And tapping any of those installs them.
It's simply not a great look to have so many duplicate apps already installed when a less bloated ecosystem presents more users with more choice. Thankfully, the few of those that aren't Vivo services or AOSP can be uninstalled. But that leaves quite a few apps still installed that users might not ever use.
Otherwise, the software here is easy to navigate, with special features clearly marked and functionality very similar to stock Android.
The battery life with Vivo X50 is on-par with current standards
Battery life is among the most important aspects of any smartphone. And that's only likely to be amplified as tech continues improving at a more rapid clip than either charging or cell capacity. So, it might be expected that a top-performance phone that's great in terms of both the display and the camera falls behind a bit. But that's not quite how things went.
Thanks in part to rapid charging at 33W and a 4,315mAh battery the Vivo X50 Pro performed like a champ under the battery test segment of my review.
On the charging front, Vivo claims its 33W charging can take users to 57-percent battery capacity in around a half-hour. My experience matched up almost identically with that. And 15-minutes filled up just a bit over 25-percent of the capacity too. Meanwhile, a full charge from completely dead took right around an hour and five minutes.
That's not the most impressive charging around but it's also nowhere near the long wait users can expect from many smartphones in the same price bracket.
With that said, the battery drain isn't exactly amazing. At least not when it comes to stand-by mode. Letting the phone put itself to sleep for a full 6-hours still resulted in around 3-percent of the battery being drained. Comparatively speaking, I've seen other, similarly-specced handsets go that same length without losing a single percent. So it does seem like this phone, with stock, out-of-the-box settings aren't quite as well-optimized as others.
That sentiment didn't hold through the rest of the battery test though, with only around 18-hours and 11-minutes spent on standby overall.
Three hours and 22-minutes of usage — with the screen brightness maxed, volume at about half, and no battery-saving features turned on — was spent in calls, messaging, and web browsing. That was mostly comprised of the latter activity. I spent three hours 19-minutes streaming video and music at the maximum resolution. In both cases that happened with the screen on and around two hours of that was listening via Bluetooth. I played video games, conversely, for two minutes over two hours.
The total screen-on time from my battery test was around 8-hours and 43-minutes. While not mind-bogglingly good, that's at or better than what some smartphones offer in the same price bracket. And the gaming here included advanced game-enhancements too as well as online gaming. So this wasn't exactly the weakest or least battery-intensive test. This phone should easily last just about anybody all day long.
Connections here aren't going to be bleeding-edge and that's really okay
Taking a closer look at how this device functions as a phone is revealing. As with storage, Vivo didn't opt for the latest-gen tech with its X50 Pro and it shows under a thorough review. But that's not going to be a dealbreaker since this isn't a flagship. What is included is more than capable of matching and, in many cases, surpassing the competition.
For instance, Vivo opted to go with Bluetooth 5.1 in this handset rather than Bluetooth 5.2. But the differences there are minimal. This phone still provides nearly lossless audio over Bluetooth. And it does that at theoretical, line-of-sight ranges that are almost unreasonably vast.
NFC and no fewer than four GPS protocols are in place and supported too. As is USB OTG via the Type-C 1.0 connector. Of course, Wi-Fi 5 is supported but not the latest Wi-Fi 6 protocol. And because there's no headphone jack, there's no FM radio to be found here. Regardless, all of the features found here worked beautifully, presenting no indication that they will fail to perform as expected.
All of that works as expected so the only question that remains is how Vivo X50 Pro worked as a standard cellphone under review. The answer to that is, as might be expected, it works. And that's true even in the US.
I tested this smartphone utilizing Google Fi, which utilizes T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular towers. So this phone should be compatible with 4G, at the very least, on those networks. It's not immediately clear whether it will work with 5G in the US once that's more widely available. But if the bands line up, it almost certainly will.
Now, that's not a dealbreaker either way since this phone isn't even intended for the US — although it can be shipped there. But SMS, chat, and other messages went through without a hitch while phone calls came through loud and clear. That's on both ends too, with friends and family on the receiving end of calls reporting no problems whatsoever. Data connections were strong as well.
Don't overlook this phone if you want solid performance and a brilliant camera
In wrapping up this Vivo X50 Pro review, it immediately became apparent that this is going to be one of the best mid-range smartphones around — at least where it's available for purchase and it works with carriers. While there are issues with software redundancy and bloatware, as well as performance optimizations in games, there are key areas where this phone truly outshines its competition.
On cameras, the Vivo X50 Pro isn't just a brilliant smartphone. It readily lives up to the "Photography. Redefined." tagline that's been assigned to it. The Vivo X50 Pro doesn't just redefine great mobile photography. It redefines the questions about what it takes to create a truly great mobile photography experience. And it questions whether or not campy AR features and unnatural-looking filters are really an answer to that question.
Instead, Vivo presents users with a professional-feeling camera. And that includes the filters and effects that are packed in. It offers a camera that can snap clearer pictures of the moon and nighttime sky. And it does that without compromising on any of the features users have come to expect in modern flagships.
For performance, the Vivo X50 Pro stands up proudly alongside its flagship betters and proclaims that high price tags are wholly unnecessary. And it again manages that without compromising on battery life or display quality. There may not be a headphone jack and the speakers are far from the best around. But that's hardly going to matter. Especially since Bluetooth continues to improve, prices on great headsets keep falling, and USB-C audio offers great alternatives to that with this device.
Summarily, the Vivo X50 Pro is an exceptional offering that is well-deserving of its place among the best devices around. And, especially for mobile photographers, ignoring this phone would be a serious mistake.