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(Pocket-lint) - The Vivo X80 Pro continues a line of flagship-grade devices, looking to muscle into the global market. While well known in China and Asian countries, the push into Europe started with the Vivo X51 (called Vivo X50 Pro elsewhere) in 2020.

We've been through successive models - the X60 Pro and X70 Pro+ followed (both in 2021) and now the Vivo X80 Pro wants to grab your attention.

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And attention is something that Vivo is throwing out: the sponsorship of the (delayed) Euro 2020 competition highlighted how seriously Vivo is taking things.

Our quick take

It you listened to Vivo, you'd think the X80 Pro was a camera. But it's not: it's a smartphone and there's a lot more to it than simple camera performance. Yes, that camera does perform, but there's complexity, an abundance of features and that will not suit everyone's preference. 

The rest of the phone experience is good too: there's plenty of power, battery life that's decent enough and a great display that looks good in pretty much every condition, but Vivo's software in FunTouch OS seems to introduce problems that shouldn't be there. That's what keeps the X80 Pro from offering the smoothest experience - and while no phone is perfect, to convince a Pixel 6 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra user to switch to Vivo, you need to make this experience better.

But there's still a lot to get involved with here, a verifiable flagship experience from Vivo - all we're now waiting for is the price. 

Vivo X80 Pro review: Flagship performance, but could be smoother

Vivo X80 Pro

4.0 stars
For
  • Great finish
  • Good display
  • Great camera setup with excellent low light shooting
  • Plenty of power
Against
  • Some connectivity issues
  • Camera app a bit fussy
  • Software foibles - some notifications never arrive

Design and build

  • 164.57 x 75.30 x 9.10mm; 219g
  • IP68

Vivo continues the design trend it started with the Vivo X70 Pro+, with the biggest talking point being the huge camera unit on the rear of the phone. It dominates the top half of the phone as a big square block, then containing a round section housing some of the lenses - with one periscope camera dropping out of that roundel.

Pocket-lintVivo X80 Pro photo 13

It's similar to the X70 Pro+ - which arranged these lenses in a line to one side - but that's not the only similarity to the X70 Pro+. These phones look very similar, with curved edges, the same button placement and that inscription across the top that reads "professional photography".

We like that little addition, it adds a point of interest, a little like the Redmi Note 11 Pro+'s "Sound by JBL" script.

The rear panel is glass, but it's a matte finish. In fact it's a luscious finish, called Cosmic Black: it's silky smooth and shimmers when the light hits it. There's a case in the box which will really only protect the back of the phone, with a soft touch feeling to it that's a little like leather.

Pocket-lintVivo X80 Pro photo 4

In reality, that supplied case will give you no protection for the screen, so if you're serious about keeping your phone pristine, you'll want to find something more substantial. And you might want a case, because the Vivo X80 Pro is a pretty slippery handset.

There are stereo speakers on the Vivo X80 Pro, bringing a boost to gaming or your social videos, but there's no 3.5mm headphone socket.

To keep the headset protected from dust or water ingress, there's an IP68 rating.

Display

  • 6.78in, 3200 x 1440 pixels (517ppi)
  • LTPO AMOLED, 1-120Hz
  • HDR

There's a very capable display on the Vivo X80 Pro. It's similar to that of the X70 Pro+, with curved edges and fairly minimal bezels. The front camera sits in a punch hole in the centre.

It's an LTPO AMOLED display, which means it also offers adaptive refresh rates between 1-120Hz depending on what you're doing. The aim is to give you the best refresh rate and save power by slowing it down when it doesn't need to update quickly, like when reading static text.

There's the option to choose 60 or 120Hz too, as well as the option for FHD+ resolution instead of the full thing. All these measures are designed to preserve battery life.

Pocket-lintVivo X80 Pro photo 9

The display is bright and vibrant, with good outdoor visibility, even in bright conditions.

The curved edges aren't as en vogue as they perhaps once were: while it's still a hallmark of large flagship phones (mostly to support one-handed use), it does mean that some content can flow over the edges and some touches right by the edges aren't registered as well.

Pocket-lintVivo X80 Pro photo 5

That's the reason you'll find flat displays on gaming phones, but we like to overall effect here and have found there's very little to complain about - it’s a great display, perfectly capable of making your content look good.

Performance and battery

  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 12GB (+4GB) RAM
  • 4700mAh battery, 80W wired, 50W wireless
  • 256GB storage

The Vivo X80 Pro gets the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the hardware that's powering a lot of flagship devices in 2022; this marks it out from the standard Vivo X80 which gets the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 instead (and won't be available in Europe).

That means it's 5G enabled and we've found connectivity to be pretty good, with no problems on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but occasionally we've seen the X80 Pro sample we have drop the cellular connection and report that there's no SIM - before quickly restoring all those services and returning to normal. This might be a limited blip - but we'll keep an eye on it and update as necessary.

Pocket-lintVivo X80 Pro photo 3

As for the core hardware, it's a powerful phone and delivers flagship performance; it offers a lag-free experience and we've found that demanding games like Call of Duty Mobile are delivered with aplomb. There's some warming when playing intensive games, but not to an extent that we'd be concerned about, but it definitely gets toasty.

The battery isn't the largest you'll find in this size of device, with some pushing over 5000mAh. Instead it's 4700mAh, with 80W wired and 50W wireless charging. There's an 80W charger in the box of the UK sample we tested and considering some will make you pay extra for this, it's a welcome addition.

While the charging isn't the fastest around, it will get it juiced in about 35 minutes which is useful. The battery life is generally pretty good from our experience and we've found it getting through a day of mixed usage without throwing up any concerns.

The software experience offered by FunTouch OS 12 sitting over Android 12 seemed stable enough. It looks and behaves mostly like stock Android, giving you some option like navigation controls when you first set the phone up.

Pocket-lintscreens photo 1

Dive a little deeper and you'll find a huge number of options for customisation, such as how the animation works, custom sound options for headphones and a whole lot more. It took some wrestling to get some functions to work properly - Do Not Disturb, for example refused to use the schedule, you'll have to do a lot of digging to find the option to get a new wallpaper on both the homescreen and the lockscreen - and then it seems rather random, or more difficult than it needs to be.

We also found some notifications appeared rather random - including, alarmingly, those for our video doorbell. These don't consistently get delivered, so while using this phone, we've had to keep another powered on to make sure we get those notifications. Then there's other irritations: Vivo's included Albums app threw out a notification for "Memories" based on three boring photos we'd taken the day before - and restricts the ability to disable notifications at a system level, which is tedious to the extreme.

So it's something of a mixed bag on the software front: it's close to being a really great experience, but there's still some pre-loaded bloat and the addition of options that don't always seem to be delivering anything other than changes.

Camera

  • Quad camera system
    • Main: 50MP, f/1.57, OIS
    • Ultrawide: 48MP, f/2.2
    • Portrait: 12MP, f/1.85
    • Telephoto: 8MP, f/3.4
  • Front: 32MP

Often phones boast a "quad camera" and few actually have four usable lenses. Not so the Vivo X80 Pro, which delivers decent cameras in each of those positions. It's a system developed alongside Zeiss, in a partnership we saw introduced on the X60 models.

That means you're getting Zeiss T* labelling on the rear of the phone, providing some sort of perception of quality - although in reality, it feels like the Zeiss involvement has given rise to a number of filters and options within the camera app, replicating some of the things that Zeiss has done in optics elsewhere.

That means you can find Zeiss portrait options, you can access some Zeiss-branded video options, including a cinematic 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There's a wide range of filters or styles too, but it does make you wonder how many people want this at capture, rather than editing in a style afterwards. Be warned too, as these often stay in place once you've selected them, so when you return to grab a selfie, it will often have the previous filter still in place, which might catch you out - there's an option in the menu to "keep settings" which you might want to switch off.

Although Vivo lets you edit images, any effects you've applied to the photo at the point of taking are permanent, except for bokeh in portrait mode. There are filters available in the Albums app you can apply to photos later, but these appear to have different names to those offered in the camera app itself, so it's inconsistent at best.

As we said, however the camera system is good. One of the interesting things that Zeiss does in photos is give you a tap option to engage Zeiss Natural Colour. The idea here is to sidestep the saturated look that smartphones often produce - so tap the Zeiss button and you'll find the sky is less blue, the grass is less green and your photo is less exciting.

Like some of the features that Sony pushes on its Xperia phones, there's a feeling the pursuit of photographic purity often runs counter to what's actually popular in smartphone photography and on social media. Realism often takes a backseat as people tweat the contrast and boost saturation for richer results, but it's there if you want it.

Then there's the issue of having a primary camera with a shallow depth of field - f/1.57. This means that if you get too close to a subject that has any depth, it's likely to blur because you've only got a narrow distance over which it will focus - see the flower photos we've included. While the larger aperture is great for low light situations, it might mean you need to use a different lens for sharper closeups.

And in low light situations the rear camera does perform well, able to get colour in low light shots that the Pixel 6 Pro fails to get, although the most valuable mode is 6 seconds long and if you don't keep it steady - or if anything moves - you just get a blur.

Of particular interest is the breaking out of those two periscope cameras. These offer great quality over longer ranges and from the normal viewfinder you can tap or pinch through zoom, demarked as 2x and 5x - with up to 60x digital zoom on the top of that.

Using the 2x as a portrait lens by default, it jumps in close to the subject, but you can opt for 1x or 5x too, the X80 happy to skip through its lenses. There's also a gimbal on the portrait lens, so it will counter handshake for sharp shots and it does a good job with edge detection for portraits.

Vivo is boasting about stabilisation on video and even this isn't as simple as it should be: firstly, you can engage various levels of stabilisation, but once you hit the Ultra option, there's another toggle elsewhere for "Super anti-shake Pro". There's also a horizontal lock (with option for portrait or landscape orientation) and this offers huge stabilisation if you're moving a lot. It's all really impressive performance-wise, but it should be implemented in a simpler fashion.

In reality, there's loads of options for those who want to shoot video, including 4K/60fps and 8K/20fps - but also within cinematic you have the option for 1080/24fps. Certainly, there's no shortage of things to pay with.

The front camera is fairly is good, once you turn off the pesky watermark, kill the mirroring and switch off the beauty mode that makes you look like your face is smeared smooth, you'll get good results, but it is fixed focus and can get caught out if you're moving. It just doens't seem to have the AI intelligence in tricky situations that some other cameras do, and won't clean up low light noise as effectively as some rivals in darker shots.

Pocket-lintphotos photo 10

In reality there's more in this camera than we can possibly detail in one review, but we return to the earlier point that Vivo seems to want you to do everything in the camera app, rather than tweak in an editing app after - and we do wonder if that's what people want. Because if you shoot something that's specifically styled, there's no going back - but shoot a great normal image and you have a whole world of editing you could be doing to be more creative.

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Overall though, it's a compelling camera system and importantly, point, shoot and you'll get a good result in most conditions, even if you decide never to touch any of the additional settings or options.

To recap

The Vivo X80 Pro is a viable flagshp phone, putting all its emphasis on the camera. The camera is a little muddled, trying to do far to much for you and the same could be said for the FunTouch OS in general, which seems to introduce fuss that doesn't need to be there - the worst of which is that some notifications never arrive. But at it's heart, this is a powerful smartphone that delivers a flagship experience.

Writing by Chris Hall.