Review: Vivo X50 Pro smartphone
Vivo X50 Pro: is it worth your purchase?
- The Gimbal camera
- Super fine
- Big screen
- Night mode disappoints
- Can only be imported
The main selling point of the Vivo X50 Pro is the built-in gimbal, still this would be a competitive mid-range phone even without it.
Retail price (RRP)
From CNY4,298 (about $ 600)
Review: Vivo X50 Pro smartphone
After Huawei, Vivo is probably the most important phone brand in China, if you have not heard of it yet it is because the company has not yet made a great effort to open up to the international market.
However, that is about to change, proof of this is the arrival of the Vivo X50 phones.
The X50 and X50 Pro are the first Vivo upper-mid-range X-series phones to have an international launch, though the high-end X50 Pro + remains only in China for the time being.
The X50 is a fairly standard mid-range device, but the X50 Pro is a bit more special, as it features the world’s first built-in gimbal stabilizer for a phone’s camera, making for a potential game changer both for video as for night photography.
Camera: the power of the gimbal
But the most important thing: you can have the worst pulse in the world and the Vivo X50 Pro will be able to maintain its cameras. The Pro (and China’s Pro + only) are the first retail phones to incorporate the smartphone technology that Vivo first displayed on its Apex 2020 concept phone earlier this year.
If you don’t know, a gimbal is a stabilizer that essentially mounts the camera to float and moves it in the opposite direction of any outside movement – such as shaking hands – to keep the image itself stable.
They are usually large and bulky equipment used in professional film montages, but in recent years they have been reduced enough to be used to mount smartphones, such as the DJI Osmo Mobile series, and now Vivo.
To be clear, gimbal technology is only built into the 48MP main lens, but that makes sense, it’s the one most often used to shoot video or take long-exposure night shots where it helps. It offers two-axis stabilization, but is combined with three-axis electronic stabilization to amplify the effect.
In the case of video, the effect is immediately obvious. Whether it’s keeping a single shot steady or shooting something inherently shaky like walking, the X50 Pro smooths out the worst of camera shake. There is a slight stickiness every time you pan, as the gimbal at first tries to compensate for movement, but beyond that there are very few drawbacks and a fairly obvious advantage in video quality.
This will be of interest to most, although I know many YouTubers and vloggers who will undoubtedly have fun with it, but anyone who shoots any video, even just for Instagram Stories or TikTok, will immediately find better results.
An optional on-screen visual aid shows you when you move too far to compensate for the gimbal, and the ultra-stable mode cuts the video even further to combine the gimbal with extra electronic stabilization.
When it comes to regular shots, that 48 MP lens produces images with bright, striking colors and a decent dynamic range. There’s a little less detail than I expected, and occasionally crawling artifacts and noise, but overall this is a very capable shooter.
There’s a noticeable drop in detail when it comes to the 8MP ultra-wide, but that’s to be expected, and its color gamut is almost as impressive as that of the main camera.
The zoom of the periscope is not bad – definitely can not match Huawei technology or Oppo to keep the details to high levels of zoom , but they are the best of the best, and this is not bad.
Switch to night mode or astrophotography and you’ll see the gimbal activate to stabilize these long-exposure shots. I had high expectations here, and I admit I was a little disappointed.
The gimbal is clearly doing its job of preserving detail and sharpness, but there’s still a lot of noise, and color rendering is clearly far from Google and Apple, with a tendency to try to take low-light photos as if they were taken in daylight. Nor does he possess that magical ability to save shots taken in dark conditions …
On the self-image side, there is only one lens, which offers a high resolution of 32 MP but a less impressive f / 2.5 aperture. That Glitters detail in the selfie crisp and portraits, but definitely lost a bit palette.
The X50 Pro’s camera setup is great for stable video, and solid for everything else. This isn’t the best camera out there, and it’s not even the best camera at this price point, but it’s capable, versatile, and especially strong on video at least.
Specifications and Features
The X50 Pro’s camera may impress, but the Pro’s nickname feels a little less applicable to the rest of the phone’s inmates, who are more upper-midrange than the Pro standard.
At the heart of the phone is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G, a 5G-enabled chipset that won’t match the top-tier Snapdragon 865 (or the recently announced 865+) but will stick around.
Vivo has paired the 765G with 8GB of RAM and a choice of 128GB or 256GB storage (availability may end up varying depending on the market). The result is more than enough for most people: the phone flies through everyday tasks. Although, as you can see in our benchmarks, it is notably behind the OnePlus 8, powered by 865, and even the Realme X3 SuperZoom that used the Snapdragon 855 from last year, in terms of CPU and GPU performance.
There’s only one speaker – no stereo sound, sadly – and there’s no headphone jack either. At least there’s NFC, so contactless payments are supported, and there’s Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 5 – not the latest Wi-Fi standard 6.
As for biometrics, you can use the single-use camera to unlock your face, although it won’t be too safe. The on-screen fingerprint sensor is better, and it’s one of the fastest and most reliable on-screen sensors I’ve used so far.
Speaking of that screen: it’s a 6.5-inch curved AMOLED, with Full HD + resolution, HDR10, and a refresh rate of 90Hz. If you’re not talking about specs, that means it’s bright, vivid, and smooth, though it won’t be as sharp or smooth as the QHD and 120Hz displays of some flagships this year.
Most people won’t be able to tell the difference anyway, and I’ve honestly found this display a constant joy to use.
Finally, the life of the battery. With a 4,315mAh cell, the X50 Pro comfortably lasts an entire day of use, even with the display always on, and should last longer without it.
33W fast charging isn’t the best on paper, but in my tests it averaged 62% charge in half an hour, beating Vivo’s 57% claim, and it’s fast enough to satisfy even the most ardent fans of speed.
Please note that there is no wireless charging, and there is also no IP rating for waterproofing.
Design: X hits the target
I must say that if there is one thing that surprises me about the X50 Pro it is how much I have enjoyed the design, construction and simplicity of the phone.
The Pro is only available globally in a color called Alpha Gray, an attractively muted gradient. It has a frosted matte glass finish, which looks great and feels smooth and grippy at the same time. Don’t worry about it getting out of hand, but don’t sacrifice any of its sense of elegance and quality to get there.
It helps that with a 6.5-inch screen it’s a big phone, but it’s not uncomfortable. The curved display sits at the sweet spot between comfort, style and practicality, and at 181g it’s reassuringly heavy without feeling heavy in your hand.
The self-adhesive camera is discreet, and I love that Vivo has introduced a two-step rear camera module that allows the main lens to protrude from the body – a necessity given the gimbal – while keeping the periscope a little more flush, and finished in a different tone. It somehow makes the thick camera module feel smaller than it is, a smart flourish that Samsung could learn one or two things from.
If I were to allow a slight complaint, it would be the choice to emblazon the top edge of the phone with a holographic “5G: Professional Photography” graphic. It’s small, it’s subtle, and you can forget it’s there. But it still looks pretty silly.
Software: It’s not fun
And here is the big caveat for the X50 Pro: the software . While shipped with Android 10 (good) it is covered by Vivo’s Funtouch operating system (bad).
Anyone who has used a Huawei, Xiaomi, or Oppo phone before those companies made their foray into the West will know that the sensitivity of Chinese software differs from that of the West, and Funtouch still proves it. To be fair with Vivo, Funtouch is now much better than the last Vivo device I reviewed, last year’s Nex 3, but there is still work to be done.
There’s a lot of customization, but it’s downright overwhelming at times, and there’s no clear internal logic in the settings section layout. The result is that it’s often difficult to find the settings you want to change, and that if it often involves struggling with unrelated past options, you barely understand them.
It is also curiously disrespectful to user options. The phone ships with a selection of rotating wallpapers. I turned them off, replacing them with one of my own photos – a process that itself took 5 minutes of play with the settings to understand.
Since then, I get a pop-up notification every few days asking if I want to resume lockdown posters and get Vivo’s “beautiful wallpapers” again. It’s not as egregious as Samsung’s built-in ads, but it’s not far behind.
Price and availability
This is where things get a little more difficult. The X50 Pro is already in China, and Vivo has announced that it is going to have a global launch. However, it will launch in “the next three months” and the only confirmed European countries are Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, not to mention the UK or the rest of Western Europe.
We probably won’t see the launch of the X50 Pro here officially, but at least one launch in Eastern Europe will make the phone easier to import. The price isn’t known at the moment either, but the Chinese price of CNY 4,298 ($ 600) for the 128GB model, and CNY 4,698 ($ 660) for the 256GB model gives us an idea of what to expect.
If western prices are similar, that makes the X50 Pro quite competitive, especially since that gimbal camera offers something that can currently only be found on this phone.
Still, for now at least buying the X50 Pro will involve importing it, so you might want to check out our ranking of the best mid-range phones you can buy in the US and UK to see similar options that are a bit easier to get.
The Vivo X50 Pro will live and die for its camera. On the other hand, this is a decent upper-middle-range phone with solid specs, sleek design, and pretty much software .
But if you want to stabilize the camera’s gimbal for low-light photos or videos, this is the only game in town. Add the 5x optical zoom periscope, portrait lens, and wide angle, and it’s easy to see the appeal.
Still, for many this camera will be overkill, so decide carefully. If you’re not likely to get the most out of it, there are plenty of other Snapdragon 765G phones that offer similar specs for less outside of photography …
Vivo X50 Pro: Specifications
- Android 10
- 6.5in FHD + (1080×2376) AMOLED, 90Hz, HDR10 +
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Leaflet Processor
- 8GB of RAM
- 128/256 GB internal storage
- 48Mp f / 1.6 main camera with gimbal stabilization
- 8Mp f / 2.2 ultra-wide
- 8Mp 5x optical periscope
- 13Mp f / 2.5 2x optical portrait
- 32Mp f / 2.5 selfie camera
- Fingerprint scanner (on screen)
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.1
- Single / dual-nano SIM
- Mono speaker
- Non-removable 4315mAh battery
- 33W fast charge
- 159 x 73 x 8mm