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    Vivo X90 Pro review : best phone camera gets better

    We named the Vivo X80 Pro our favorite phone camera of the year last year, so it’s safe to say we’ve been anticipating in this X90 Pro review, which takes things a step further with a whopping great large one-inch camera sensor.

    It’s already giving the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera a run for its money, and even this early in the year, there’s a possibility this could be 2023’s finest phone for photography – well, except for Vivo’s X90 Pro+, which is still only available in China.

    The standard X90 is no slouch in other areas, either, with one of the most recent flagship chipsets, a pleasant grippy leather finish, and all the usual quick charging and top display specifications.

    Design & build

    • Big, but comfortable to hold
    • Premium fake leather rear
    • Massive camera module and busy rear design

    I have conflicting emotions about the Vivo X90 Pro’s design, but let’s start with the positive.

    Vivo X90 Pro review

    I like the black vegan leather texture on the phone’s back, which makes it more grippable and robust than most competitors – and helps it stick out in a sea of glass slabs.

    It’s also long-lasting in other areas. The IP68 classification should protect the phone from dust and water, and the screen is constructed of Schott Xensation, a new competitor to the famous Gorilla Glass.

    I also like how, despite being quite a big phone in general, it feels comfortable and light in the palm. I say deceptive because it still weights a hearty 215g but carries that weight well.

    So, what am I less fond of? For openers, glance past the leather finish and you’ll notice that the phone’s back is…busy. A modest Vivo insignia, a less muted blue Zeiss badge, a weird metallic strip with ‘Xtreme Imagination’ written in calligraphy, and a honking fantastic camera module are all present.

    Vivo X90 Pro review

    That camera protrudes from the phone by a good half-centimetre, and it’s made all the more obnoxious by the fact that only three of the ‘lenses’ are genuine – the bottom-right is merely the location of a fourth lens on the more powerful X90 Pro+, which is only available in China. The camera’s overall capability is likely sufficient to explain its size – more on that later – but you’ll have to learn to live with its design.

    Screen & speakers

    • Expansive 6.8in, curved AMOLED display
    • Full HD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate
    • Standard quality stereo speakers

    The display is one of the few places where the X90 Pro doesn’t quite hurl everything at the wall, but it’s far from bad.

    Vivo X90 Pro review

    The display is a big 6.78in AMOLED screen with curved sides that make it easy to handle. The 1260 x 2800 resolution is adequate, though it is a step down from last year’s X80 Pro, which featured a QHD+ display, as do many of the X90 Pro’s competitors.

    Similarly, the 120Hz resolution is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s a pity that Vivo hasn’t used a modern LTPO display with a completely dynamic refresh rate ranging from 1-120Hz, which would enable the phone to save energy when the fast refresh isn’t required.

    If you frequently need to use your phone in bright, direct sunshine, 1300 nits peak brightness isn’t terrible, but you can find slightly better elsewhere, such as on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

    All of these nitpicks mean that the X90 Pro’s screen isn’t the greatest, but it’s still superb. It’s brilliant, punchy, and appealing, and it supports HDR10+ material. Unless you specialize in screen specifications, you’ll find a lot to like here.

    Vivo X90 Pro review

    The audio speakers are a little less impressive, to say the least. I find it hard to get too worked up about phone speakers either way, and these are fairly standard: decent enough to play songs in a hurry or take a conversation on speakerphone, but with some obvious constraints. Again: not the greatest, but decent enough.

    Specs & performance

    • High-end MediaTek Dimensity 9200 chip
    • Lags a little behind Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 rivals
    • 12GB RAM and 256GB storage

    With the X90 line, Vivo made an odd decision. While the top-tier X90 Pro+ is driven by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 – the current flagship processor – the X90 Pro is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 9200.

    On paper, it’s a comparably specced flagship processor that should be a close match, but in benchmarks, it trails behind 8 Gen 2 phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra and OnePlus 11. Note that every other phone included in the graphics-heavy GFXBench tests operates at a higher resolution, so what appear to be good figures for the X90 Pro aren’t actually that remarkable.

     

    In truth, I’m not convinced any of this matters. No one could ever charge the X90 Pro of being sluggish because it is so quick and fluid. Serious mobile players may appreciate the slight increase in Qualcomm, but no one else would detect the difference on a daily basis.

    It undoubtedly helps that the X90 Pro comes standard with 12GB of Memory, which aids in quick multitasking. The 256GB storage capacity is also ample, though it’s a pity there’s no way to upgrade it or extend it with a microSD card.

    Naturally, 5G is supported, as is the newest Bluetooth 5.3 standard and the not-quite-latest Wi-Fi 6 – for some reason, it does not support the more recent Wi-Fi 6E, though your network is unlikely to support it either.

    Camera & video

    • Probably the best main camera in any phone
    • Excellent supporting lenses
    • No periscope zoom

    Until now, I’ve been positive but not awe-inspiring about the X90 Pro. This is where things shift.

    Vivo X90 Pro review

    It was always going to come down to the camera on this phone. The Vivo X80 Pro had the finest camera in 2022, and it would take some effort for Vivo to outperform it – but it has.

    Let’s start with the most obvious disadvantage: there is no periscopic magnification. A 2x zoom ‘portrait lens’ joins the main camera and ultrawide, producing acceptable images up to 5x magnification or so. Again, the China-only X90 Pro+ has that deeper magnification; it’s just not included here, which is a minor disadvantage in contrast to the S23 Ultra.

    For my money, the excellence of the other three lenses more than compensates for this flaw. The primary camera, powered by the 50Mp Sony IMX989 sensor, is by far the finest. This 1in camera is the largest available right now, which means it can catch more light for a wider dynamic range, more colors, and far superior lowlight performance, all aided by Vivo’s own V2 image processing chip.

    Vivo X90 Pro main camera

     

    There is no phone I’d rather have in my purse for pictures at night than this one. Bright lights are meticulously revealed to reduce glare while maintaining clarity in the frame’s darkened areas. And regions that should be dark, such as the night sky, prefer to remain so. Other flagships come close, but none have the same impact.

    Because of the large sensor size, this camera photographs more like a mirrorless or even DSLR camera, with a narrower depth of field. That means you get a realistic bokeh effect even if you don’t use portrait mode, and your pictures appear more, well, photographic.

    There is a drawback: the shallow depth-of-field makes it simple to blur parts of your subject, so you’ll have to work a little harder to compose photos. However, if you learn how to use it, you’ll be able to capture photos that don’t appear like they came from a smartphone.

    I find the phone’s preset colors a little too saturated, but a single touch activates the Zeiss Natural Colour option – the camera company has long worked with Vivo on camera hardware and software, including a T* anti-glare coating on the lenses here.

    I favor the Zeiss picture option because it maintains true-to-life tones without sacrificing clarity or dynamic range. Other filters, some driven by Zeiss and some solely by Vivo, include a remarkably excellent retro film mode and a rather ridiculous Zeiss option to add JJ Abrams-style lens flare to every picture.

    A 12Mp ultrawide and a 50Mp, 2x zoom are available in addition to the primary camera. The ultrawide lens is the poorest of the three back lenses, with less clarity, a flatter color palette, and poor lowlight performance. That critique almost seems unfair, as it is still one of the best ultrawides available.

    Even better is the 2x telescopic lens. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a periscope, but this camera – which Vivo markets as a ‘portrait’ lens – performs well enough at low zoom levels to cover most use cases, and good stabilisation means it can even take acceptable zoomed shots at up to 10x, though these can’t compete with a true periscope.

    With a smaller sensor, it can’t compete with the primary camera in low light, but colors and crispness are better than the ultrawide in other situations, making it a more pleasant alternative. And, because it has a wider depth of field, it can fill in for the primary camera when the bokeh isn’t quite right, adding flexibility to the entire arrangement.

    The face camera is also impressive. The 32Mp sensor is remarkably high resolution, though the aperture of f/2.5 is a little more restricted. Still, photos amaze when that detail can shine through in decent lighting, but don’t anticipate any of the low light magic you’ll find from the cameras on the other side.

    The back cameras can capture video at 4K@60fps or 8K@24fps. Unless you require the resolution, you may be better off keeping to 1080p, at which point you can take advantage of the phone’s ‘Ultra’ stabilisation, which is among the finest available – and contributes to even superior low-light performance.

    Battery & charging

    • Comfortable all-day battery
    • Incredibly fast 120W wired charging
    • Reverse wireless charging seems broken

    If the camera is the primary area where the X90 Pro shines, the battery is probably a close second.

    The 4870mAh battery is large and nearly as large as you’ll find in a flagship. Most significantly, it translates to a phone that can easily last a complete day, if not much longer.

    When it comes to charging, the phone’s 120W adapter is about as quick as they come. With the phone’s optional ‘Fast charging’ mode activated, it recovered an amazing 70% of the phone’s battery – or roughly a day’s worth – in just 15 minutes of charging, one of the quickest results we’ve ever seen.

    Vivo has also included wireless charging and backward wireless charging compatibility. Wireless charging at up to 50W rates is theoretically possible, but only with Vivo’s certified accessory, which is offered separately – though it will work perfectly at slower speeds with normal Qi charges.

    Sadly, I must add that I’ve found backward wireless charging to be completely inconsistent and virtually non-functional. Trying two sets of earbuds and another phone, all begin to charge but soon loose connection, only rarely sustaining charging. Hopefully, this will be rectified in a future update, because it is currently not functioning.

    Software & updates

    • Ships with Funtouch OS and Android 13
    • Lots of bloatware
    • Three years of Android updates

    Finally, we arrive at what is undoubtedly Vivo’s main weakness in its continuing efforts to break into Western markets: software.

    Vivo’s international Android overlay (in China, it ships the unique OriginOS) is still the terribly called Funtouch OS, and it’s still fairly irritating.

    To be honest, there is some variance here. Bloatware is pre-installed on global variants of the phone, much of which cannot be removed, but on approved UK and European models, there is significantly less of it.

    What remains constant is the issue of over-optimization. Funtouch handles app networking, battery usage, and even permissions actively in the background, causing issues such as shutting down apps you assumed were operating or blocking notifications.

    Other differences are more difficult to describe. For some reason, the autofill feature of my password organizer, 1Password, does not function on this phone. It works on every other phone I try, including the previous Vivo X80 Pro, but I can’t autofill a passcode on this one for the life of me.

    At least in terms of long-term maintenance, Vivo now promises the X90 Pro will receive three Android version upgrades (taking it past this year’s Android 14 and through to Android 16) as well as security patches over the same time frame.

    That’s not as impressive a dedication as you’ll find from Samsung, OnePlus, Google, or others, but it’s a move forward for Vivo, and it means you can count on this phone to perform well for at least a few years.

    Price & availability

    This X90 Pro review is currently unscored because Vivo has yet to clarify how much the phone will cost in the UK and Europe – or even when it will go on sale, though we know it will ultimately.

    Last year, the X80 Pro started at £1,199/€1,099, and I would anticipate a comparable price this year. That would put it in direct competition with rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, but ideally Vivo can find a way to undercut them marginally.

    Verdict

    The Vivo X90 Pro is a potent flagship by any standard, with possibly the finest phone camera available outside of China – though it is not without flaws.

    From the monitor to the processor to the software experience, the X90 Pro is always excellent – and occasionally exceptional – but never the best.

    That all changes when it comes to the camera, where Vivo’s phone is almost unrivaled, particularly when it comes to the incredibly brilliant primary camera – unquestionably the best around. The only true gripe about the camera is that, without a periscope lens, it lacks the flexibility of some competitors, including Samsung’s S23 Ultra.

    Specs

    • 6.78in, 120Hz, 2800 x 1260 AMOLED display
    • MediaTek Dimensity 9200
    • 12GB LPDDR5 RAM
    • 256GB UFS 4.0 storage
    • Camera:
      • Vivo V2 ISP
      • 50Mp f/1.75 main camera (Sony IMX989)
      • 12Mp f/2.0 108-degree ultrawide lens (Sony IMX663)
      • 50Mp f/1.6 2x portrait telephoto lens (Sony IMX758)
      • 32Mp f/2.45 selfie camera
    • 4870mAh battery
    • 120W wired charging
    • 50W wireless charging
    • 5G/4G
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • Bluetooth 5.3
    • GPS
    • NFC
    • In-display fingerprint sensor
    • IP68 water and dust resistance
    • 164 x 74.5 x 9.3mm
    • 215g
    • Android 13 with Funtouch OS 13

     

     

     

     

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