(Pocket-lint) - The Vivo X60 Pro is a timely launch for the brand. As many eyes are transfixed by Euro 2020 football matches taking place around Europe - and with real fans in actual stadiums - you may have caught glimpses of Vivo's white-on-blue logo flashing up on boards, slowly working its way into your psyche.
Sure, that's just advertising doing its job, but for a newcomer-to-the-West brand with a lot of clout and years of experience behind it, it's a strong way to wave its own flag to attract prospective new customers.
The big question, of course, is whether the X60 Pro is, y'know, actually a good phone. Well, here's the good news: with a gimbal stabilisation system unlike anything else out there, a very smart design, and considered software close to stock Google Android, it shouldn't be seen as the underdog - instead Vivo looks like it could be a contender for a new champion.
Design & Display
- 6.56-inch AMOLED, 2376 x 1080 resolution, 120Hz refresh, HDR10+
- Dimensions: 158.6 x 73.2 x 7.6mm / Weight: 177g
- Finishes: Midnight Black, Shimmer Blue
- Under-display fingerprint scanner
Before digging into the X60 Pro, it's worth pointing out that we saw the X60 Pro Plus - the even more spec-heavy model - earlier in 2021. Back then we were excited to see how Vivo would adapt for the European market when it came to launch-o'clock. And it appears Vivo has gone with a (sensible) one-armed approach - as we won't be seeing the standard or Plus X60 variants in the UK, which would make for an overly busy line-up.
That makes the X60 Pro all the more pertinent. This is the handset to focus on, because, well, it's the only high-end Vivo handset from the range coming to these shores. No distractions. No four-figure asking prices to contend with (it's £749/€799 at launch). So it's sensibly positioned to avoid clashing with the ultra-pricey established names, such as Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra, while undercutting the likes of the OnePlus 9 Pro's asking price.
Interestingly, we've preferred using the X60 Pro over the Plus model, simply because it's a little slimmer, a little lighter, and the rear camera unit doesn't protrude to such a pronounced extent. That said, the rear camera unit does still protrude - and its edging is finished in such a way that, after various desk/table/pocket contact, it's started to rub off a little. So some more thought for longevity from chosen design and materials is needed there.
Furthermore, we're glad the X60 Pro doesn't come in any of the 'vegan leather' finish options - because on the Pro Plus they looked and felt too plasticky. Instead, thankfully, the X60 Pro's choice of Midnight Black (as reviewed) or Shimmer Blue have a soft-touch finish given its anti-glare glass with, as Vivo describes it, a 'satin finish'. It doesn't totally remove the presence of fingerprints, but it does avoid looking like the bottom of a chip pan after a few minutes of use.
It's the kind of soft-touch look that began to break through when Huawei was launching the P40 Pro range - an ultimately doomed handset, given it was banned from using Google Services and, therefore, had no Play Store. The Vivo, on the other hand, has no such concerns - it's all Google-ified to the max (but more on the software side of things later).
Flip the X60 Pro over and it reveals its screen, a 6.56-inch AMOLED panel - and the very same as seen in the last-gen Vivo X51. It's got curved edges, which are increasingly on the out in 2021 designs, but is a generally lovely-looking and well proportioned panel - not too big or unwieldy for one-handed use.
There's little top and bottom bezel to worry about, making for a reasonably full-screen display that's only interrupted by the single central punch-hole camera. If you use facial recognition to log-in - instead of the capable in-display fingerprint scanner - then there's a little animation around the edge of that lens which is rather fun (you can switch this off or select from different animation options within the software if you wish).
This panel also offers a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, bringing it in contention with most of the best-going flagships on the market. This can be set to automatically switch between 60Hz, 90Hz and 120Hz as the software deems fit, in the aid of battery life, or fixed to your preference of 60/120Hz. Scrolling through screens is silky smooth as a result, while the amount of processing power means there's no qualms or slowdown with multiple apps being handled.
Resolution isn't of epic proportions - and the 2376-by-1080 pixel count reads as rather unusual across this 20:9 aspect ratio - but there's plenty enough sharpness. And any problems with older Vivo phones scaling graphics in jaggedy form has been rectified too, so no ongoing complaints here.
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 platform, 12GB RAM
- 256GB ROM (3GB available for RAM extension)
- FuntouchOS 11.1 Global (on Google Android 11)
- 4,200mAh battery, 33W fast-charging
The X60 Pro houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 platform, meaning a few core things. One, it's got 5G connectivity. Two, it's really powerful - and while the 870 has a higher clock speed than the top-spec Snapdragon 888, it's based on slightly older architecture and, therefore, not the most powerful you'll get hold of in 2021.
Does this really matter in practice? Not massively. So while you can get hold of the SD888 in the X60 Pro Plus and, indeed, competitors like the Xiaomi Mi 11, the real-world impact on performance and battery life for your day-to-day experience is going to be hard to notice for most people.
Vivo is also doing some interesting things to push the X60 Pro's potential, too, with a large 12GB of RAM on offer, expanding to a sort-of 15GB - as it has 3GB of access to the ROM, so can pile some of the less demanding apps and tasks or buffer processes that are in operation into that stack. You'll be seeing this technique used in more and more phones from here on in, no doubt.
In practice, we've found the X60 Pro to be, well, as 'pro' as its name suggests. The software transitions smoothly between apps, there's no delay in loading, and games at a high level run really smoothly. The processor does a good job of making the most of that 120Hz refresh rate panel too, ensuring smooth visuals and experiences.
The X60 Pro is also the second time we've really seen a Vivo phone running software destined for Europe (after the X51 in the later part of 2020). And what a difference it makes. There's no double-up of Vivo's own apps, no presence of Vivo's own app store (V-app just is not needed in Europe), no bothersome mass of pre-installs, no ads (unlike Xiaomi, which continues to populate folders with them). It's just a really clean experience that's much like Google's own stock Android.
That Vivo continues to call its software FunTouch OS remains a surprise, though, as that's the same name as the Chinese equivalent - albeit here we get 'Global' plopped onto the end to differentiate it. The two feel wholly different - believe us, we've been following Vivo throughout years of launches, up to and including its NEX 3 - and the Global software is really well considered for its target audience.
Well, it is for the most part. Bugs are very rare - we've had some issues with notifications displaying as white cards, not showing their content, but this is infrequent - and otherwise the only irks come from some of the more deep-dive work you may have to do for certain apps.
This is an inherent Chinese maker 'problem' - Xiaomi does it, Oppo does it - by making more demanding apps limited in how long they are allowed to run in the background. Want Strava to run for more than about 30 minutes with the screen off? You'll need to specifically switch off the battery limiting settings within that app's settings. That said, Vivo's system doesn't encounter any of the non-notification issues of some of its competitors (such as WhatsApp message delays in Xiaomi's MIUI software).
Generally speaking, then, after a few small specific tweaks, the FunTouch OS experience here is one of the better that we've experienced. It's not as clean as, say, a Motorola G100's experience. And it's no pure Google Pixel phone. But, given how it sits against the competition, we'll happily take it. Besides, some of those battery limiting settings can, used in the right way, be useful.
Battery life is, considering the middling size of the cell on board, consistently good. The X60 Pro is no two-day phone by any means, but a full-on day of work and play will see us get from wake-up to bedtime with around 30 per cent remaining some 16 hours later. Fast charging, at 33W, is also quick - not the super-fast 55W of the X60 Pro (but that's a given, as the Snapdragon platform differences offer different Quick Charge support) - to ensure rapid top-ups as and when needed.
- Triple rear cameras with gimbal stabilisation system:
- Main (26mm): 48-megapixel, f/1.48 aperture
- Wide-angle (16mm): 13MP, f/2.2
- Portrait (50mm): 13MP, f/2.46
- Punch-hole selfie camera: 32MP, f/2.45
As for the cameras, there's one very particular skill that this Vivo has above and beyond any of its competitors: gimbal stabilisation.
This means the whole camera module is mounted, almost 'floating', within its structure, allowing it to microscopically move to counteract movement and handshake. The results during video recording are truly exceptional - whichever camera you're using - and we think this, for video shooters, is the biggest reason to consider this phone.
Super as the gimbal system is, there are some areas of the triple camera system that could do with some tidying up though. The main camera - a 48-megapixel one - captures generally good quality, outputting using four-in-one pixel processing for 12-megapixel results.
Look close, however, and you'll potentially see some purple 'shadows' - known as chromatic aberration - around brightly lit edges within its shots. A small thing, but a processing aspect that could be addressed - and a surprising result given the co-engineering partnership with Zeiss (a renowned German optics company).
The X60 Pro's main camera is quick to focus, rapidly recognises faces, and touch-to-focus works well too. It can even auto-select between its cameras, touch-up shots based on its AI scene optimiser, and there's a bunch of extra options for different shooting scenarios - useful ones such as night mode being the more practical among the lot.
Then there's the wide-angle lens. This, at 13-megapixels, just isn't of the same quality as the 48-megapixel one you'll find in the X60 Pro Plus. Obviously that sensor component would cost more, but we really think this X60 Pro having a 50MP main and 48MP wide-angle would have made all the difference to its credibility.
Because, as it stands, the wide-angle lens is certainly useful - but not leading in quality. Low-light is a bit of a problem for it, while edge softness and more pronounced aberrations are present. Such a missed opportunity - especially when we've seen what Vivo can do further up its X60 line-up.
Last up, the X60 Pro houses a 2x optical zoom lens, which it calls a Portrait lens. It's handy - albeit lower resolution again, at 13MP, and the colour balance difference is considerable compared to the other sensors - especially if you're shooting people and want them to appear closer up within the frame. Not having a more significant zoom isn't something that feels absent on a phone like this either, so the overall balance and physical camera unit feels light the right choice.
The Vivo X60 Pro is no game of two halves, it's an outright winner. The design is largely on point, in particular that soft-touch rear finish, and while its cameras aren't as all-singing, all-dancing as the Zeiss badge on the camera unit might suggest, the main snapper is certainly capable enough.
Even the software is largely like stock Google Android, with only minor bouts of foul play - like rare blank notification hiccups - showing its typically inconsistent competition, such as Xiaomi, how things can be done.
What's particularly standout about the X60 Pro, however, is the gimbal camera system - delivering stabilisation for video capture that's unlike what any other phone company can muster. The smoothness is mightly impressive, making for a striking feature.
Sure, the X60 Pro is a timely launch for Vivo, given Euro 2020, but this isn't a device that only sells itself through the company name being splashed around stadium ad boards, its one that sells itself on sheer ability. Back of the net!
OnePlus 9 Pro
For a little extra cash you can get the Hasselblad-backed OnePlus. Its got the more powerful Snapdragon 888 on board and the software is arguably even more refined, given the generations of releases leading up this this edition. Even so, the Vivo's gimbal camera experience can't be rivalled in our view.
Xiaomi Mi 11
We prefer the Vivo's design, think its software wins the experience too, plus the gimbal camera is more impressive than Xiaomi can manage. The Mi 11, however, does have the Snapdragon 888 processor on board, technically putting it ahead in the power stakes - if that's what matters more to you.