Vivo X50 Pro+ Review – Best-In-Class Camera With High-Value Performance To Match

00 Vivo X50 Pro One 5G review AH 2020

This phone proves that no OEM should be sleeping on Vivo on anything from cameras, to build quality, display, or audio.

Vivo X50 Pro+
$720
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • Incredibly balanced, premium in-hand feel
  • Excellent design
  • Up to 120Hz display rate, with UHD audio and visual upscaling
  • Ultra Game Mode for
  • Snapdragon 865 SoC
  • 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
  • Low latency, responsive high-resolution display panel
  • Audio is above par
  • Best in class cameras with dedicated star and moon modes
  • Among the strongest battery showings in its price bracket
Cons
  • No IP rating is unacceptable in a modern flagship smartphone
  • Some conditions cause artifacts in night shots
  • Extremely limited US connectivity
  • Need workarounds for Google Play Store & apps
  • On-speaker audio falls just short of expectations set by the rest of the phone
  • No 3.5mm audio jack
  • Heavy bloatware is an understatement

The Vivo X50 Pro+ is the more expensive of two X50-series handsets and the second of the two devices sent to Android Headlines for review.

As might be obvious for anybody who has checked out that other review, the expectations here were set high right out of the gate. And, the Vivo X50 Pro+ meets and exceeds just about every expectation I set.

Now, there are a number of ways it managed to do so. And there are a few other ways it didn't quite meet my expectations at all. But this phone is well-deserving of a closer look. So let's dive in and see how Vivo did with its X50 Pro+.

This phone comes with a standard glass back …or a leather one

01 Vivo X50 Pro+ review AH 2020
Vivo X50 Pro+ is arguably the best-feeling and looking phone around.

Vivo X50 Pro+ comes in two colors — and materials — but Vivo sent out the orange-brown leather variant for review. Much like the blue-tinted glass-backed version and the glass Vivo X50 Pro, this phone is fantastic in-hand. The company packs everything into a thin, balanced profile. But that profile, despite those attributes, doesn't at all feel weak. It feels exceptionally well made.

A clear case is included for those who aren't convinced about the durability. That'll be exceptionally useful for the glass-backed variant.

Now, there's no IP rating to be found here. So I made a point to never drop this phone in water or take it out in dusty environments when the wind was blowing. But it should survive some rain during use, at the very least, and some dust isn't going to kill the phone either.

With that said, the lack of any rating is concerning for a phone that's otherwise as good as this one is.

In terms of ports and buttons, those are exceptionally well-made too. Each holds snug with no jostle or wiggle. The buttons click through with a satisfactory sound.

The top and bottom edges of the phone, contrary to the almost completely-rounded corners of the left and right, are flat and slightly concave. But the entire build feels just as smooth and comfortable, regardless of that difference. There are no sharp edges to catch in the USB-C port, dot-style speaker grille, or edges. Even the sharper-edged camera hump doesn't feel too sharp for comfort. Just sharp enough to keep fingers off the lenses.

Summarily, Vivo currently makes what I would deem one of the best in-hand phones on the market. And the quality, aside from the above-mentioned caveat, is there too. As is style and sophistication on aesthetics.

The Vivo X50 Pro+ display goes well beyond a high pixel-count

The display isn't quite edge-to-edge but it's feature-packed and comes pretty close

Now, Vivo packed its latest display — with respect to notifications, fingerprint scanning, face-unlock, and other theming elements — with a lot of features. But the Vivo X50 Pro+ is also among the most bright, detail-representative displays on the market anyway and that shows under review.

Only 60-percent brightness is needed for direct sunlight, while eye protection mode, dark mode, and more are part of the build. But those aren't the best features either. Vivo includes Ultra HD upscaling and Dynamic Compensation too.

The former does what its name implies. The latter adjusts videos for smoother frame-by-frame playback. So lower frame-rate videos and animations, in some cases, play like they have a much higher frame-rate. Up to 60fps."Smart switch" to dynamically adjust between the two.

Additionally, screen responsiveness, including the under-display fingerprint scanner, is among the best of any non-gaming smartphone I've reviewed.

All of that equates to a best-in-class experience at well above the expectations based on pricing.

Performance is stellar across the board

03 Vivo X50 Pro+ review performance AH 2020
Vivo X50 Pro+ takes game mode performance almost to gaming phone levels but also beyond in other ways.

When Vivo set out to make this phone, it's clear that the company planned to take on the gaming phone segment to a certain degree. And, as this review of the Vivo X50 Pro+ shows, it came incredibly close.

Not only does the dedicated Ultra Game Mode come packed with visual, vibration, touch-control fine-tuning, and pop-out features. It's almost entirely unnecessary, just with any dedicated gaming phone.

That's because Vivo packed this phone with the Snapdragon 865 SoC, backed by up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. But it's also because the software optimizations and tuning are so well executed. Even with the mode turned off, this phone ran and looked noticeably better than other flagships I've had the chance to go hands-on with.

That includes lower-tier flagships but also heavy-hitters made by the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi. Vivo nailed this phone down firmly on the performance front.

I never experienced any latency or lag on touch inputs. Or in visual acuity, audio, OS responsiveness, or anywhere else. This phone just goes and goes, with no care for intense multitasking or gaming.

Battery life from Vivo X50 Pro+ is staggeringly good

The Vivo X50 Pro+ has a fantastic battery life, all things considered

The Vivo X50 Pro+ battery is another area where the company shines beyond what's usual in the smartphone world — or at least under my review. Battery tests, even standardized ones, are finicky and unreliable. But this phone lasted quite a long time under extraneous conditions.

Not least of all, as noted in the connectivity segment below, this phone didn't have the best connection in my region. But the screen brightness, Bluetooth volume, and performance features were all turned on throughout the test too. While all battery-saving features were kept off. It didn't do the best on standby, with 11 hours of standby killing battery by 5-percent. But that hardly seems to matter since screen-on time was still around 10-hours and 14-minutes.

Now, of that, 3-hours and 50-minutes were streaming video and audio. I spent no less than 2-hours and 22-minutes in games. The remaining 4-hours and 2-minutes, I spent browsing, in video calls, checking emails, and in other day-to-day usages. Just 12-hours and 40-minutes were spent on standby.

Despite all of that and the subjectivity of the test, this phone took just under an hour to full. That slows down towards the last 10-percent. But the first 50-percent of the battery filled in well-under a half-hour.

Right now, arguably, nobody does cameras better than Vivo

05 Vivo X50 Pro+ review camera AH 2020
Vivo delivers full features for the X50 Pro+, and then some.

Anybody who wants a camera-phone that takes the best shots around, this is arguably the one. For all the hype surrounding its competitors, the Vivo X50 Pro+ lives up to its more affordable counterpart, the Vivo X50 Pro, and surpasses it under review.

The first words to be seen when opening the Vivo X50 Pro+ box are "professional photography," written directly on the packaging. And, while the pro modes are all included on the software side, assisting the built-in-gimbal-enabled device, they really aren't needed. Shooting in standard mode, even without the AR stickers and RAW shooting or 3D audio tracking enabled by this device, is fantastic.

In fact, our gallery of sample photos, found at Flickr, speaks for itself. Vivo proves that its mastery of color capture, shutter speed, 4K or 8K video, and optical, hybrid, and digital zoom are top-notch. Detail quality and HDR shots are going to be hard to match here too. But where this phone really shines, thanks in part to its gimbal but also its ability to recognize when it's on a tripod, are night shots and macro shots.

There are two 'night' shooting modes — not including the extra "tripod" mode that enables when the camera is stable enough for longer exposures  — are super moon and starry night shots. Shots can be taken automatically, resulting in long-exposure, daylight-like colors, and crystalline views of the colors in the night sky, or interrupted for a bit more realistic, dark coloration.

Now, some artifacts can occur under the right conditions, particularly in the moon-related mode when zoomed out. But the Vivo X50 Pro+ has the best camera around, in my opinion, bar none. Especially for night shots.

The audio here doesn't align with the rest of the Vivo X50 Pro+ but isn't bad

No 3.5mm audio jack in sight but on-device, Bluetooth, and USB-C audio all sound fantastic, comparatively

In terms of the microphone audio — in Wi-Fi calls, at least — and speakerphone audio, Vivo X50 Pro+ didn't disappoint during my review. I also didn't notice any cut-out, drops, distortion, or fuzz in any media format. Whether Bluetooth, via speakers, or USB-C audio. Those all sound exactly as they should, and better than expected, thanks to built-in audio software.

The software, of course, includes HiFi upscaling and dynamic age-based adjustments. So the experience here really is as close as it can be to the best it can be.

But all of that calls attention to two details that can't be overlooked. Namely, there's no 3.5mm audio port in play here and the speakers aren't quite as good as some competitors.

Now, neither of the caveats is going to impact the overwhelming majority of users. On the latter front, for instance, only a few competitors are going to surpass audio quality here. The sound is clear, balanced, and notably portrays audio nuances not often seen in smartphones. But bass hits are also all but powerless due to speaker size. There are phones out there that do it better if not many.

On the audio jack front, this is a decision more and more OEMs are making but no less to the chagrin of consumers. Many buyers will or won't buy a smartphone on the basis of that plug alone. So it seems a risky decision at any rate, regardless of how many OEMs are following the trend.

Software is bloated and that's this phone's biggest downfall

07 Vivo X50 Pro One 5G review software AH 2020
Google Play is non-existent and the software comes pre-bloated on the Vivo X50 Pro+

Now, well-optimized software is all good and well. But nobody wants to open up a brand new phone and see it loaded down with pre-installed apps. A few extras, such as a resource manager, clock, theming, and gaming tools are nice to have. As are the standard Google apps since most Android users make use of those.

The 'bonus' apps seen during my review of the Vivo X50 Pro+ don't really fit all the bills. Of course, there's also no Google apps at all. That's going to make things even more frustrating for anybody who wants to use those. The situation can be rectified by installing a Google Play Services-reliant app. That's from the V-Appstore, offered on all Vivo devices. The Play Store will download automatically.

But that only bloats things up further.

Fortunately, the most frustrating of the potentially-included apps, those that aren't even full-blown apps but only offer suggestions for downloads, aren't present.

The bloat that is included can be uninstalled. That doesn't make things much better with all of the apps loaded to the home screen and no option for an app drawer before set-up is even completed. Almost all the other settings are stock Android. But there are dozens of apps pre-installed here. And that's going to make for an annoying experience, even if things do continue operating smoothly in spite of it all.

Most frustrating of all, almost none of these issues were present on the more affordable Vivo X50 Pro model.

Connections seemed solid but weren't, for me at least

4G LTE worked intermittently in the US. But it wasn't good enough to recommend the phone for that market.

Now, the Vivo X50 Pro+ is a 5G and 4G LTE device that would, in theory, work in the US for this review. It also connected readily to the network in my area using Google Fi — T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular bands, mostly the former. But it didn't.

Instead, I was relegated to using Wi-Fi 90-percent of the time because the connection was barely stable enough to periodically send a text message. And mobile data only periodically worked for other purposes too.

That likely comes down to the bands in use here and not aligning perfectly with requirements for an increasingly split set of requirements from US carrier to carrier. It was, nonetheless, disappointing. Especially with the appropriate emblems showing in the notification bar.

Where connections did work, they were snappy and responsive. Alluding to strong underpinnings that should sign in the proper global markets. But that wasn't something I was able to test thoroughly.

Bluetooth connections were rock-steady and without issue.

Wrap-up

09 Vivo X50 Pro One 5G review final AH 2020
If you don't need Google apps and live where it works, Vivo X50 Pro+ is well worth the money

The lack of any apps typically associated with Android would seem to mean this phone isn't among the best around. But, although it does prevent an Editor's Choice award here, that's simply not the case.

Between performance, camera quality, build, in-hand fit, and battery life under this review, the Vivo X50 Pr0+ has more than proven itself a worthy contender. That's in spite of minor caveats such as problematic US connectivity, the lack of a headphone jack, and a decision not to get the phone certified against water and dust.

For mobile photographers, in particular, this phone is arguably well ahead of the competition. And that holds true for performance too, to a certain extent. Anybody who happens to be in a region where this phone is sold would be making a mistake not to include it on their shortlist.