Vivo used to be a mid-range striver. The brand is highly visible, considering its sponsorship of the IPL and such, but self-styled enthusiasts used to give it a wide berth, picking its BBK stablemate OnePlus, if not the iPhones or Samsungs, over it.
While Vivo has taken stabs at flagship grade devices before, it was the X50 trio that launched in 2020 that first gave us a glimpse of what they are capable of at the high end. The X60 line-up that followed took things up a notch, with photography website describing the X60 Pro+ as possibly “the best smartphone out there for photographers”.
It’s a bruiser of a phone.
The X70 Pro+ comes mere months after its predecessor and that’s the device I have in my hand right now.
And it’s a bruiser of a phone. It’s big, heavy, powerful and truly pulls out all stops. I’ve used it as my daily driver for a few weeks now and, before I get into the details, I have to say I’ll miss it now that I’m done.
The models and hardware
The X70 Pro+, selling at Rs 79,990, is the beefier of the X70 siblings launched in India in more ways than one. The Rs 46,990 X70 Pro (minus the plus) comes with a Mediatek Dimensity 1200 chipset and is somewhat more modest in both dimensions and specs.
The Pro+ on the other hand is Vivo bringing its A-game.
With a Snapdragon 888+ (slight upgrade on the regular 888), a 6.78” 120 Hz LTPO display boasting a 1500 nit peak brightness, 12 GB RAM, 256 GB of UFS 3.1 storage, IP68 rating, stereo speakers, wireless charging and a proper 4-camera array – you couldn’t knock the spec-sheet if you tried.
Matte black slab is well built and finished.
The phone itself weighs in at 209 grams, and the size means that even with my long fingers, it’s a bit of a challenge to use one-handed. But otherwise, it’s beautifully built and the understated matte black design combined with top quality build and finish means it feels very premium to hold in the hand. Vivo also supplies an excellent case in the box that adds very little bulk to the device, while protecting the screen corners from drops.
The curved-edge screen is not to my liking but thankfully, the palm-rejection works very well on this model without interfering with typing and general use.
The 120hz LTPO display is great, with accurate colours and class leading brightness and sunlight visibility. 4K HDR videos look dazzling on YouTube (although HDR doesn’t seem to be enabled for Netflix). Even non-HDR content looks a treat, and it’s a great device for watching things. The stereo speakers (a first for Vivo) are loud and have a reasonable bass response, so you can manage without earphones, if you prefer that.
Size means one-handed use can be a challenge.
The fingerprint reader is an in-display unit that is fast and accurate as these things go, but I still prefer the capacitive fingerprint readers which are faster and more accurate yet.
The Vivo X70 Pro+ launched running Android 11, with Vivo’s Funtouch OS 12 skin over it. About a week ago, it got updated to Android 12.
I have to break the bad news here, which is that Android 12 hasn’t changed very much about the whole experience. There are a few changes, of course, including the mic and camera alerts, and the notification management has changed, but the overall look and feel remain largely the same as before. If you care about the beauty of Material You and the visual pizzazz of stock Android 12, this is not the phone for you.
Large camera bump with Zeiss branding shows it means business.
But that apart, the Vivo X70 Pro+ has been snappy to use. I can’t remember any instances where it even stuttered over the past weeks, and the 120 Hz display is smooth as silk. I was all prepared to dislike Funtouch OS because I generally prefer stock Android, but I have to concede that there was little about the interface that I can complain about. The built-in photo app occasionally throws up some highlight notifications, and the built-in fitness tracker throws up (wrong) step-count updates, but apart from these minor quibbles, it overall feels like a mature, stable, clean OS.
Is it good for gaming? I don’t play games, but other reviewers have said that the phone renders games smoothly even at high frame rates.
Battery life was consistently excellent, with the phone giving me over seven hours of screen-on time most days (even creeping above eight hours on some days). The 55W fast charging feels rapid, and while it won’t be life-changing (like the 100+ watts charging that looks set to the 2022 norm), it’s rapid enough that if you forget to charge overnight, you can get it substantially topped up while you get ready. There’s also wireless charging, for good measure.
This is the main course here. The Vivo X70 Pro+ is a camera focused phone and there is no mistaking it. From the prominent camera bump housing the four imaging units, to the Zeiss collaboration for optics and processing, and the dedicated V1 imaging co-processor – Vivo are dead serious about imaging and they get it right, mostly.
The camera array features an ultra wide, a normal, and two telephotos (2x and 5x). These translate to 14mm, 23mm, 50mm and 125mm focal lengths, if you were using a 35mm camera. I’ll skip over the specs of the sensors and lenses and jump to the meat of it. This is a powerful and versatile imaging machine.
The camera delivers stellar results in daylight.
The main camera delivers stellar results in both daylight and at night, with the ultrade wide and the 2x telephoto not too far behind. The colours are vivid without being aggressive, the dynamic range is excellent, and skin tones generally look accurate and pleasing, and the level of detail is consistently good. Zeiss is said to have some involvement in the colours, especially when you keep the Zeiss colour mode on, and while the colours are not exceptional, they are very good indeed.
The ultrawide allows for impactful landscapes and large groups of people – or coconuts.
Zeiss’s other involvement is in the optics, and the T* coating on the lenses means that it fends off ghosting and flare better than other phone cameras that I’ve used. Try shooting into bright light sources or the setting sun and you’ll see the difference.
Portrait mode is among the best that I’ve seen, not only because the masking is top-class, but the Zeiss simulated bokehs are tremendously pleasing to look at. I have always considered portrait mode a bit of a gimmick, but this was the first device where I kept feeling the itch to use it, just to look at that beautiful bokeh.
The bokeh is pleasing and even the foreground bokeh is well-judged.
The masking gets even tricky hair mostly correct.
The focal lengths also work very well. The ultrawide is wide enough for impactful landscapes and large groups of people. The 2x telephoto puts out very high quality images, even in the dark. And the periscope 5x sacrifices some detail and low light performance, but delivers excellent reach when there’s a lot of light to work with. Overall, having this kind of versatility in your pocket, means you’ll reach for the phone to snap something more often than you would otherwise.
Dynamic range is impressive.
The low light performance is mostly top-class whether in regular mode or the slightly slower night mode, although it has a tendency to brighten things up too much (this is an industry-wide malaise of course). The images are clean and detailed, with accurate colours. If they just biased towards a slightly darker more contrasty look I'd have called it perfect.
Night mode yields accurate colours.
The selfie camera does the job well. But despite turning off the beauty filter frequently, it would annoyingly turn back on by itself periodically. While it’s flattering to look like a 20 year old, I’d much rather look like myself, and with the filters off, the selfies are crisp and detailed with natural skin tones.
The 5x gives you great images when there’s enough light.
The camera is not without its flaws though.
Since these devices rely so much on computational photography and the algorithm’s judgement of how a scene “ought to” look, while the results are stellar most of the time, there are some occasions where they are simply perplexing. It will occasionally cast a strange halo over a subject’s face, or brighten shadows to a cartoonish degree, and the sheer number of modes and settings in the interface mean that it is often difficult or impossible to figure out how to work around these foibles.
Essentially, using the cameras in this phone feels like driving a very powerful but unpredictable car. It is a sheer joy when it’s behaving itself, but the fact that it has a mind of its own can at times be frustrating.
The built in gimbal stabilisation works beautifully for video and the video results from the phone are also really impressive, showing accurate colours and excellent dynamic range and detail.
Should I buy it?
If you’re the sort of person who buys Rs 80,000 phones and doesn’t mind a big device, the answer is a resounding yes.
For its price, there is nothing out there that delivers this combination of powerful hardware, slick user experience, and spectacular imaging quality and versatility. Yes, it’s a bit of an unpredictable beast, especially the camera, and the OS is not as easy on the eye as stock Android, but in my reckoning, that trade-off is worth it for all that you get.
Of course, new flagships will start rolling out soon, but at this point in time, this may be one of the most complete phones you can buy on the market.
This Vivo X70 Pro+ was sent to the reviewer as a loaner unit for review purposes. The unit will be returned on completion of the review. Vivo has been given no advance information about the content of this review and exercises no copy approval.
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