Vivo X60 Pro Review: Playing it too safe?

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When we reviewed the Vivo X50 Pro last year, it felt promising. It focused on optics more than raw specifications. And with the Vivo X60 Pro, the smartphone manufacturer has employed a similar strategy. However, is this enough for a flagship smartphone in 2021?

Design and build

The Vivo X60 Pro remains largely unchanged from its predecessor. It employs a strikingly similar design language with a slightly thinner and lighter build. At 7.6mm and 179g, it is refreshingly compact and lightweight for a flagship. Although a textured back would have been appreciated. In its current form, the Black colour, aluminium frame and AG Glass protection is premium but just a bit too slippery for our liking, perhaps due to the satin finish. A case for the smartphone is provided out of the box but if you want long-term protection and grip, a third-party one is recommended.

Holding the X60 Pro for a long time is not issue thanks to its compact build

Using a case will also come in handy to counteract the wobble on the X60 Pro when used on a flat surface. With the smartphone being so thin, even a minimal camera bump like the one on the device can induce this feeling. But otherwise, we are fine with Vivo’s design language. The power and volume buttons feel solid and are well placed, with a satisfying texture to the former. And the contrast between the flat top and bottom edges versus the curved sides gives the X60 Pro some character.

The textured power button is a nice touch

Even for users with smaller hands like myself, the X60 Pro presents a great use case which is not something I can say about other flagships. Yet, one big durability flaw remains. Despite the X60 Pro being its flagship smartphone in the region, it does not come with official IP protection. Given the rubber seal around the SIM tray, it will not let you down after a splash of water or two. But if you dunk the X60 Pro in a pool by mistake, chances are that it will not survive.

Display and multimedia

Up front, the X60 Pro sports a 6.56-inch curved AMOLED display. It is particularly pleasing to look at because of its uniform top and bottom bezels with a fairly minimal centered punch-hole 32MP selfie camera. You find FHD+ resolution and up to a 120Hz refresh rate here, making elements on screen look smoother than ever.

We like the 120Hz AMOLED display although wish it did not present touch sensitivity issues

While we have no complaints about the fluidity of the display, we did face issues with touch sensitivity, perhaps due to the curved design. When swiping to launch the camera from the lock screen, the screen would not respond even after multiple attempts. Especially in situations when we wanted to launch the camera quickly, this was a problem. A similar issue creeped up when using the in-display optical fingerprint scanner. While it is quick to respond when it works, sometimes it fails to detect my finger altogether. This sort of inconsistency is not something to expect from flagship smartphones so we hope Vivo can find a solution. Likewise, the haptics of display combined with the vibration quality of the motor made the experience feel a bit cheap.

Despite the large panel, navigating the smartphone is easy

Otherwise, from a multimedia standpoint, the display does well. There are no glaring issues with green tint or black crush with colours looking vibrant and appealing for the most part. Viewing angles from the panel are great too and the curved design definitely adds a level of immersion. However, we are disappointed to see Vivo retain a mono-speaker experience. This is something we spoke about in last year’s X50 Pro review and unfortunately, it has not changed. The mono-speaker experience is easily muffled and without a 3.5mm headphone jack, this limitation almost feels like a double-whammy.

Specifications and user experience

The X60 Pro is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G octa-core chip, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. When you buy the smartphone, this is the configuration you will be stuck with owing to the lack of expandable storage. However, there is one thing unique about the X60 Pro. In addition to 12GB of RAM, users can expand this by up to 3GB using the ‘Extended RAM’ feature. This effectively makes the X60 Pro have 15GB of RAM, which we think is borderline overkill.

Funtouch OS is perhaps the most improved operating system over the last year

With regular usage, the X60 Pro takes about 6GB of RAM. And even after throwing on multiple games, the smartphone hardly budges. However, if you have many applications running in parallel, we did find the X60 Pro to unusually heat up. Vivo pre-installs and enables by default an ‘Ultra Game Mode’ on the X60 Pro which does its job to optimize gaming performance. Whether it was Call of Duty: Mobile or PUBG, our sessions stayed smooth with the X60 Pro heating up slightly as expected. But make sure you turn off ‘Ultra Game Mode’ for general usage because it aggressively kills background applications which leads to poor memory management.

Much of this smooth and optimized experience is a result of the hardware inside. But we think Vivo’s software deserves credit. This is one area that the X60 Pro has excelled in with Vivo’s Funtouch OS offering an impressive stock Android-like experience. Out of the box, we found no additional bloatware on the smartphone and at the time of review, it is running Android 11 on the May 2021 security patch.

Having up to 15GB of RAM means multitasking is reliable, even between heavy applications

The software may be bare but adds just enough flair from Vivo to ensure value added features. Shortcuts, accessibility controls and always-on display customization options are just some that are available. We also appreciate the in-built video editor and little pop-up notifications when the X60 Pro receives messages. Quite frankly, we are in awe of Vivo’s change of approach and hope it can continue this with faster security and OS updates in the future.

Photo camera performance

The rear Zeiss optics on the X60 Pro are arguably the most unique when compared to any other flagship smartphone in the market. You find a 48MP f/1.48 gimbal-stabilized primary camera alongside a 13MP f/2.46 telephoto with 2x optical zoom and a 13MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens. For outdoor pictures in good lighting, the X60 Pro is an ideal companion. You can capture some detailed images with great colours. However, we felt that the shutter was slightly on the slower side. And in a more challenging dynamic range situation, the X60 Pro often blew out the highlights.

The Zeiss camera setup on the X60 Pro is great but not the best

Using the telephoto lens is also great for some cropped in images. But you will find portrait images using the lens to be inconsistent, especially with how the X60 Pro handles skin tones. As soon as you see slight drops in ambient light, detail in pictures from the telephoto lens becomes softer. And going beyond a 5x zoom range is not recommend especially after sunset. Perhaps one of the strong suits of the X60 Pro’s camera setup is colour management. Between the primary, telephoto and ultra-wide, we found colour balance to be very good. However, we think the ultra-wide lens lets the X60 Pro down due to visible detail loss even in moderate ambient lighting conditions. The same camera is also capable of macro photography which works well in good lighting but could have worked even better if Vivo had a better ultra-wide angle camera on here.

In low-light situations, all the cameras on the X60 Pro suffer from noise. However, this is where night-mode comes into play. The difference between images captured without and with night-mode is notable, especially with the X60 Pro’s gimbal-stabilized primary camera. But unfortunately, the telephoto and ultra-wide lenses struggle a fair bit in such situations.

As for the front 32MP camera, it delivers good results. We were impressed by both colours and detail from the lens. However, when taking portrait images, the level of background blur needs to be manually set. In the haste of a moment, you may sometimes forget to configure background blur which could lead to portrait images without the bokeh effect. Lastly, there is a night mode on the front camera as well. However, its software enhancement does a bit too much with selfies looking overly bright and unnatural.

Video camera performance

The other aspect to the optics on the X60 Pro is video performance. On this front, it can capture up to 4K 60fps footage, which is a good place to start. While sharper and smoother, 4K 60fps does not support any form of stabilization which means footage will be noticeably shaky. The first instance of smooth and stabilized footage comes at 4K 30fps. Here, you find ‘Standard stabilization’ which is great for steady video.

With it enabled, I was able to capture footage with a degree of ease that not many other Android flagships enable. The ease with which I was able to capture video also carried over to 1080p 30fps. However, beyond this mode, there is another called ‘Super anti-shake’ for even smoother video capped at 1080p 60fps. Personally, the benefit of smooth video in this case was diluted by poorer dynamic range and focus speeds.

We feel that either at 1080p 30fps or 4K 30fps, you can get the best out of the X60 Pro’s video performance. Something of note though is stability when jogging. This is an area where we found the X60 Pro to be lackluster. Despite the dedicated hardware, footage had visible shake and jitter which we did not expect. Perhaps this is an area for Vivo to address in the future.

Battery life

At first glance, the 4,200mAh battery on the X60 Pro may seem underwhelming. However, there is more to it than just size. On days where we have not used 5G at all, the X60 Pro can deliver some solid screen-on times close to 9 hours. However, as soon as 5G is on, these drop to the 6 hour mark. The smartphone can still last a full day however in a situation where it is pushed further, we could see the battery giving users problems.

On top of that, 33W charging is not the fastest available protocol out there, charging up to X60 Pro to 47 per-cent in 30 minutes and 100 per-cent in 1 hour and 13 minutes. While it is fast, 65W solutions from competitors can charge smartphones with similar battery capacities at almost double the speed. This trade-off would have been understandable if Vivo bundled wireless charging support for the X60 Pro however that too is not available here.

Conclusion

If you consider the Vivo X60 Pro at Dh2,999, its video camera capabilities and much improved software experience stands out. Pair that with a current-generation processor and it has an edge over its typical competition. But without an IP-rating, stereo speakers and wireless charging, it misses the mark. The X60 Pro’s direct competition is the OnePlus 9 or Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G. And both smartphones are not only cheaper but also offer more in different departments. If Vivo wants to to gain a loyal consumer base in the UAE, it will either have to price its smartphones cheaper or make less sacrifices. However, until that happens, the X60 Pro is a hard sell.

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