Vivo X50 Pro Review: Does the gimbal-stabilized camera make a difference?

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In the past few years, we have seen a lot of innovation when it comes to smartphone imaging. Whether that is a certain company working on core hardware or improving behind the scenes software. In either case though, we have yet to truly see complex moving parts on a smartphone camera. That is until the Vivo X50 Pro. While this is the company’s flagship smartphone, its key selling point is not top of the range hardware. There is an emphasis on the camera unit of the device, where a gimbal mechanism comes built-in. But is this development in addition to the smartphone’s other features enough to justify its Dh2,999 price tag?

Design and build quality

We have spoken in length about the smartphone’s in-hand feel in our first look video. And since then, there is not much to complain about. At 8mm thin and 182g, the Vivo X50 Pro gives off just the right profile. During usage, it has survived a few accidental falls with no problem. The top and bottom of the smartphone is squared off whereas the sides are curved. This blend of ergonomics also contributes to comfortable extended usage. And quite frankly, going back to a larger and bulkier flagship is something I am not looking forward to.

The Alpha Grey color finish on the Vivo X50 Pro looks different from various angles

The Vivo X50 sports the general array of I/O you would expect on any modern day smartphone, starting with the in-display optical fingerprint scanner. I found myself having more attempts than usual to unlock the phone especially when outdoors but that aside, it works well. A Type-C USB port for charging and microphones are found on both the top and bottom edge of the device. However, we feel there are a few drawbacks here. For one, the speaker on-board is only a mono one and secondly, there is no official IP water or dust protection found on the phone. We will elaborate on the first point in another section but not having an IP rating for a flagship is quite an odd choice.

Subtle hardware nuances such as the textured power button make all the difference in daily usage

Building on this, you also find the slot for your nano-SIM cards. The phone supports dual-SIM with 5G connectivity although there is no room to expand on in-built storage, so you will have to make a choice between either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 2.1 memory. Something that is commendable though is how the smartphone looks, lending for a clean design thanks to the minimal camera bump. More so, Vivo has worked on minute detail such as a micro texture to the smartphone’s power button which just adds a touch of premium when used on a daily basis.

Multimedia consumption

As we said earlier, the side of the Vivo X50 Pro is curved. The reason for this is the phone’s display. We find a 6.56-inch AMOLED panel on it with an impressive screen to body ratio of 90.6 per-cent. Although the panel is rated at 2,376 x 1,080 resolution, it still supports a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+. From a real world perspective though, it excels on a lot of fronts. First and foremost, you find no issues of banding near its front facing camera nor does it suffer from any black crush issues. Compared to higher-end AMOLED panels, its contrast is on the lower side although this is not a problem unless you use the phone at extremely low brightness levels. Outdoor visibility for the smartphone is great too and quite frankly, Vivo has done a good job.

Content watching is good on the X50 Pro but it would have been better with stereo speakers

Coming to multimedia consumption, there was nothing that felt amiss. Content looked immersive and sharp with the only real way of telling a difference between Vivo’s panel and a more high-end one being if they were side by side. Where Vivo could have worked on was speaker performance. You only find a mono speaker on the device which by itself is fairly loud and clear but also prone to accidental covering. Keeping this in mind, as long as you actively try not to cover the speaker with the palm of your hand, you should have no issues. But if that is not something you are comfortable with, looking at wired or wireless options is your other choice. In fact, the phone comes with a Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter so you could quite easily use a high-end pair of wired headphones if you happen to own them.

User experience

One of the first features of the Vivo X50 Pro that immediately jumps out at you is software. It runs a proprietary Funtouch OS 10.5 on top of Android 10. At first, I was a bit apprehensive of how well I could adapt. But with usage, the skin is not too bad. Of course, better notification management is something I have missed and searching for settings is not the most well optimized. Another feature the software brings is a dark mode, although it resorts to darkening all elements of every application, which inevitably means some things are not as visible.

Adapting to Vivo’s software skin can take a bit of time

There are not many software features about the Vivo X50 that genuinely stand out. For instance, the option to speed up performance or the one for ultra game mode was never used. And sometimes, the latter actually turned on for applications that were not even games. But despite the software being a mixed experience, the use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G processor makes a big difference. Alongside 8GB of RAM, the phone was able to handle just about everything a flagship can. On the occasion, loading times were slightly longer but generally, there was a good level of fluidity. One area though where the difference was felt was with the storage type, opting for UFS 2.1 which meant loading a bunch of photos in gallery took longer than usual and installing times also felt a bit long.

We wish the software was a bit more like stock Android

I know the software will not be everyone’s cup of tea. And having notifications pop up every now and then to update software that you do not even use on a regular basis is annoying. However, if you can look past software and adapt, core performance on the X50 Pro is quite good. Even when gaming, the phone is able to maintain a commendable 60fps experience on PUBG with extended usage. And while other smartphones in this case definitely warm up, thermals on the X50 Pro were very much under control.

Primary camera photos

As we have alluded to in this review, the Vivo X50 Pro boasts a robust camera configuration on paper. It comes with a quad-camera setup, made up of a 48MP wide lens, an 8MP periscope telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom, a 13MP portrait lens with 2x optical zoom and an 8MP ultra-wide sensor. One thing before we discuss camera quality is Vivo’s camera user interface, which is a bit difficult to adapt to just like its software on the smartphone.

The gimbal-stabilized camera setup is unique to the X50 Pro

With the 48MP sensor, you are able to take reasonable photos. However, the smartphone camera does struggle a bit when it comes to HDR processing. This is evident especially if you are facing a bright object like the sun outdoors or a display indoors. Something that has impressed us though is the phone’s periscope telephoto lens. It retains a lot of detail even at 5x zoom and can go all they way up to 60x zoom digitally. Especially when using the latter, the ±3° gimbal-stabilization comes in handy.

We wanted to test the 13MP sensor, especially because because Vivo says it is dedicated for portraits. And while dynamic range is good, the quality of the image is nothing spectacular. Colors look unrealistic and Vivo’s built-in beauty mode seems to be too aggressive. As far as edge detection is concerned, you will face some issues with more complex edges on a subject. Lastly, addressing the 8MP ultra-wide lens, it is not too spectacular. There is an evident drop in quality which is something that flagships should avoid. Reverting to low-light samples, the experience is noticeably better. The X50 Pro is able to take advantage its gimbal-mechanism for better stability when using night mode. You can get some nice results here but using the ultra-wide lens at night is a no-go.

Primary camera videos

Given the nature of the gimbal system, video from the Vivo X50 Pro is naturally smooth. However, it does come with some lag that you get with any gimbal hardware. So, if you happen to be taking video with smooth movement, this is not an issue. But rapid movements will lead to some jerky footage, which on the Vivo can be filmed up to 4K 60fps.

During night time, we initially thought Vivo’s mechanism will make a huge difference. But it does not impact video so much. Some jitter that you might find from smartphone videography at night is eliminated but this is not very substantial. If you happen to use the phone’s ‘Ultra Stable’ mode, a difference is seen. However, this is more useful during the day than the night as the higher 60fps rate that the X50 Pro automatically changes to results in darker looking video in low-light.

Selfie-camera

Housed in the X50 Pro’s hole-punch, you find a 32MP selfie camera capable of up to 1080p video. In our use case, the experience was decent so long as you did not challenge the camera. As soon as dynamic range camera into play, the selfie camera’s performance became poorer. In essence, you will be looking as a passable experience and nothing much more than that.

Battery life

If there is one area where the X50 Pro is flawless, it has to be with battery backup. On the smartphone, you find a 4,315mAh cell which will easily last you a full day of work, and even more. We were clocking screen-on-times of up to 9 hours with 50 per-cent juice still left in the tank.

So quite honestly, even with a heavy day’s worth of use, the battery is hard to beat here. More so, you get 33W fast charging which in our usage got the battery to 55 per-cent in 30 minutes. If there is a feature missing though, it would have to be the lack of reverse wireless charging.

Conclusion

The Vivo X50 Pro is almost the compact flagship we have all been asking for. From a design and performance perspective, there is not much to complain about. And if you are just a bit tech-savvy, we are sure you can get used to the phone’s software, although it does need a face-lift some time soon. Positioning this as a flagship for Vivo is a bold choice. With omissions like IP certification, stereo speakers and wireless charging, the phone will be a downgrade for many who change to it from a previous generation flagship. And unfortunately, the camera system is not as consistent as we are used to at this price range. At the end of the day, recommending this smartphone over a typical flagship is difficult, not because of any issues with performance but more so given its price. Perhaps if Vivo adjusts the price to Dh2,599, the phone could be a more viable choice.