(Pocket-lint) - One of our surprise star handsets of 2021, the Vivo X60 Pro, came from a company name that's still relatively unknown in the UK market (despite being a headline sponsor of Euro 2020). But that made it all the more refreshing that a newcomer could deliver so strongly.
Its follow-up, the X70 series, reviewed here in the top-tier X70 Pro+ model, enhances the hardware, tweaks the camera setup, and ought to make for an even more accomplished device. Except, oddly, its software setup in this handset is often problematic to significant detriment. Does that undo a lot of Vivo's good early work or are there enough positives here to see the X70 Pro+ shine?
Design & Display
- 6.78-inch AMOLED panel, 120Hz refresh, 1500 nits peak brightness, 1440 x 3200 resolution
- Dimensions: 165 x 75 x 8.9mm / Weight: 213g
- Under-display fingerprint scanner
- IP68 water/dust resistance rating
- Finishes: Black, Blue, Orange
The X70 Pro+ is a little larger than the previous series, opting for an AMOLED display that measures 6.78-inches across its diagonal. That's par for the course in many current flagship devices, except here the choice of subtle curved edges both left and right is akin to a trend that's dying out in many devices - although not all, as the Honor 50 recently showed - because contrast falls off at steeper viewing angles to these edges.
Aside from that curved edge, however, the X70 Pro+ has a super screen. It's large, it's bright, it's got a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth playback (including Smart Switch to auto-adjust between 60Hz as required), while the resolution is WQHD+ for plenty of detail. It's responsive to touch, we've not found accidental touch errors despite the curved edges, and with smooth animations there's little to complain about at all. Except that, as we've found with Vivo's previous X series, it won't take too long before a scratch or scuff appears.
Flip the device over and here's where things get a little unusual. The camera protrusion, while fairly large, doesn't cause excessive 'desk wobble' when the device is laid flat, which is a positive. But it's the strange reflective section next to this camera enclosure that confuses: it looks like a selfie mirror, except isn't, it's just a shiny panel containing the various brand names and logos and, to us, seems entirely unnecessary.
The majority of the rear is otherwise a soft-touch material that's great at resisting fingerprints, but doesn't have that typically premium glass look and feel that you'll find at this end of the market. Each to their own in this regard, really, but we'd ditch the reflective panel and opt for a more eye-catching colour or material finish to really set things apart from the crowd.
Elsewhere we've found the X70 Pro+'s under-display fingerprint scanner to be responsive, the right-side buttons to be well placed for one-handed use and adjustment, and the overall size and weight of the device to be well balanced for day-to-day use.
Which is all a good start, except there are various problems that see the X70 Pro+ take a downward turn...
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888+ platform, 12GB RAM
- 4500mAh battery capacity
- 55W wired / 55W wireless
- Wi-Fi 6/ax, Bluetooth 5.2
- 5G connectivity
- FuntouchOS 12
At launch the X70 Pro+ was among those first devices to feature the then top-end Qualcomm platform: Snapdragon 888+. Since that's been superseded by Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, not that the core power from generation to generation is particularly huge. Either way, it makes the X70 Pro+ mighty powerful, as does its 12GB RAM specification (up to 16GB if you include the additional 4GB it can pull from ROM), so for running apps and games there's nothing that's going to bother this device.
But, as a user, there are things that will bother. The 888+ doesn't run especially cool, so longer gaming sessions will produce heat that you'll feel. Furthermore the battery life is, in a word, terrible. We've been using this Vivo for several weeks, even taking it on vacation, and so frequently we were midday topping up the battery that we've rarely to never got through a full day of use. That's the downside of 888+, for sure.
Then there's the software, which is FuntouchOS built over Android 11, that's surprised us by the number of issues it's presented during our use. Generally speaking it's fine, in that it's like stock Google Android, so doesn't muck about with core features, doesn't cause issues with notifications not showing (a typical Xiaomi issue, for example), and such like.
But the software, in this presumably Asian release handset, has presented runtime errors in multiple apps - American Airlines a particularly bothersome one while trying and failing to check-in - causing various crashes and kick-outs.
We've had the software freeze while a folder is open, necessitating a hard restart - but on multiple occasions the software would then be running at 'double scale', making the pressing of buttons and such like impossible without another hard reset to put things right.
During casual use various other oddities also occur. The size of homepage icons, for example, will often change from a given scale to one that's smaller, despite not adjusting this within the settings (you can, though, as the whole system is heavily customisable).
Then there's the Wisdom Engine, which frequently draws your attention to open apps that are consuming power. But even when telling the system that we're fine with, say, WhatsApp running in the background, it'll still suggest you close it to preserve some of the (already poor) battery life.
That the previous X60 Pro was so deft in its handling of software makes it all the more perplexing that the X70 Pro+ has been such a step backwards. Here's hoping it gets polished up and put right, as it's the one main hurdle that's holding this handset back from better.
- Quad rear cameras:
- Main (25mm): 50-megapixel, f/1.6 aperture, 1.2µm pixel size, phase-detection (PDAF), optical stabilisation (OIS)
- 2x zoom (50mm): 12MP, f/1.6, 1.22µm, PDAF, OIS
- 5x zoom (125mm): 8MP, f/3.4, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS
- Wide (14mm): 48MP, f/2.2, 0.8µm, gimbal OIS
- Rear camera: 32MP, f/2.5, 0.8µm
Despite our software qualms, however, it's the X70 Pro+'s camera capabilities that bring it back from the brink. Vivo, in collaboration with Zeiss, is doing some sterling work here - and the camera app functions fast and efficiently.
Just as we said of the X60 Pro, the X70 Pro+'s implementation of a gimbal stabilisation system is without compare - there's nothing else on the market that can stabilise to this degree, making for great video capture in particular.
The overall camera arrangement has shifted for the X70 series compared to the earlier X60 models too - and all for the better. It's not perfect in every regard, as we'll get to, but the combination of main, wide-angle and two zoom lenses provide a real useful variety of lenses. No gimmicks here.
The main camera, which uses Samsung's Isocell GN1 sensor, is particularly standout on the basis of that sensor choice. Images are really detailed, the high dynamic range (HDR) can pull back a lot of overexposure when needed, and the colours are punchy and consistent throughout. Whether shooting off the cuff or holding steady for night shots in low-light conditions, the results are universally impressive. This is a great main camera, no doubt about it.
One of our biggest complaints about the X60 Pro was its wide-angle camera not being all that great. The X70 Pro+ goes one-up here, by using a much higher-resolution sensor, at 48-megapixels, for far improved results. That said, however, you have to accept that ultra-wide cameras will always suffer from some distortion and can't deliver the kind of crisp sharpness of the main sensor. Still, results are generally impressive.
Then there's a duo of zoom cameras on board: a 2x, which is like a 'portrait lens'; and the 5x periscope zoom, which can capture farther-away subjects as if they're close up in the frame. These sensors aren't nearly as adept as the main camera's one, but both are genuinely useful - so long as you can accept additional image noise from the 5x zoom, especially in low-light conditions.
Which is to say: the Vivo X70 Pro+ has one of the better camera setups that you'll find on any flagship phone. There's room for improvement, sure, but with a stabilisation system as advanced as this and top quality from the main sensor, it's mighty impressive - and easy to use too.
The Vivo X70 Pro+ is, unlike its predecessor, a tale of two halves: there's the undeniable positives of a super camera setup with gimbal stabilisation; but the unexpected negatives of software that presents far too many bugs, plus the overall poor battery life.
We've been using this handset for many weeks, though, because despite its software quibbles we've found it's been worth sticking with for the sake of its considerable onboard power and those highly-capable cameras.
In some areas the X70 Pro+ is an untouchable handset, showing that Vivo can continue to stand out - just, this time around, not in all the right ways.
OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
Another handset that goes big on cameras, although we don't think in this regard it's as adept as the Vivo. However, OnePlus' software is way more stable and the battery far better - so you could actually use this as a day-to-day phone without getting irked by the small things.