Vivo X51 Review: A Phone for Camera lovers

by Nicole on November 10, 2020
Vivo X51 5G
Positives
  • Great fun to use camera
  • Fast smooth UI
  • Beautiful design with great in hand feeling
  • High end display with excellent color fidelity
  • Built in gimbal provides action camera-style video stabilization
Negatives
  • No wireless charging
  • Pricey for a Snapdragon 765G
  • Mono speaker
  • Not officially waterproof

Vivo is known for experimental hardware features that it often shows off in concept form before shipping in commercial products. They had the first in display fingerprint reader and pop-up selfie camera NEX S, a Dual Display phone (which actually launched in China), a port-free concept phone, and the nearly bezel-free NEX 3 flagship.

The Vivo X51 is a real looker and when you pick it up the love affair continues. The curved edges also contribute to the overall comfortable feeling of holding it. Adding to this is a weight of 181g which is lightweight for a modern smartphone.

The display is an AMOLED with HDR10 + support , FullHD + resolution at 90Hz and 6.56”. The brightness is really excellent for outdoor viewing in direct sunlight with its peak hitting above 1000 nits in HDR.

The 90Hz can be managed automatically depending on what apps you’re using according to the applications used or can be activated or deactivated at the user’s discretion. Calibration focuses on saturated, vibrant colors with the default setting, but you can choose a more neutral profile and adjust the white balance.

In general, the multimedia sector is of a good standard , there is no stereo audio but the main speaker is still very powerful. Via software, some customizations are available for listening with headphones (a 3.5 mm-type-C jack adapter is in the box) and high-resolution audio is supported via aptX HD on Bluetooth 5.1.

Performance wise we’re looking at a handset that will meet the needs of 90% of smartphone users. There is a reason that this is the latest in a large group of phones with very similar hardware. It is not top of the range, and you can tell not just by looking at the processor but also little things like the non-LPDDR5 and non-UFS 3.0 memory. But those are just specs that will only matter to select few who really want to push the boundaries of what you can do on a smartphone. If you are using heavier apps you’ll have to wait for large games to open or in the transition between demanding applications. You’ll also find limits like, the camera is capable of recording 4k, but the processor isn’t strong enough to edit the footage on the device.

Software

The X51 has a ‘Global’ version FunTouchOS with is based on Android 10 and is pretty close to stock. It seems that Vivo was very serious about leaving Asia and launching with an operating system that really caters to European users.

What’s interesting about the software is that I hadn’t really reflected on it much while I was using it. I knew going into the review that it was close to stock Android. Over the time I’ve spent with more time thinking about the camera and the overall approach of the brand’s debut in Europe.

It’s probably the biggest praise of the software that I didn’t think twice about it. It’s solid, neutral and very similar to stock Android with some well thought out additions.

I’m primarily a OnePlus 8 Pro user these days and I found that the Funtouch OS Global version is closer to Oxygen 10 than Oxygen 11. If you’re a OnePlus user you’ll know that this means the software is clean and allows for a deep level of customization and control. Oxygen 11 still offers the control but it’s graphically more playful and more inline with what Samsung might choose to do with their UX. Not bad, just more mainstream and mom friendly. (Sorry Mom!).

This might bring me to the 1600 person strong survey Vivo conducted across Europe to get the OS right. I think they nailed it! However, reviewers tend to love stock Android and the general public is happy with simplified operating systems that hide some functionality. *Cough Apple I really like the software, but the average user that’s not a geek!

Camera

The X51’s main camera is a 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor which we first saw in phones like the Honor View 20 at the beginning of 2019. It’s still a common sensor today, it’s in the OnePlus 8T which has a dependable camera. It’s paired with an f/1.6 aperture lens and features PDAF, laser AF, and OIS.

What makes this camera unique on the market is the gimbal system that compensates for hand shake at up to a 3-degree rotation angle. Both the gimbal and the lens physically move, combining that with EIS, Vivo claims this is the most crop-free stabilized video around.

The ultrawide camera is 8MP and is lower resolution than some of the competition, doesn’t really matter, because the autofocus and photos are excellent. The lens sports an f/2.2, 15.7mm equivalent 120° angle of view, and a minimum 2.5cm focusing distance. You dont have a massive difference in quality between the lenses, which can be an issue on some other handsets.

When multi lens setups first came out you often had to choose between zoom or wide angle. That hasn’t been the case for a few generations, but Vivo has not just included one telephoto camera, they’ve got two. The first is a 13MP, f/2.46, 50mm portrait lens with an equivalent 2x zoom camera. The second is an 8MP, f/3.4,135cm 5x optical zoom telephoto lens camera.

Shooting modes include Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, 48MP, Panorama, Slo Mo, Pro Mode, Pro Sports mode, Astro Mode, and Supermoon (Astro Mode mode using the telephoto camera).

The camera intelligently switches depending on what it thinks you’re trying to shoot, and for the most part it’s accurate. If you have the patience, Pro mode is comprehensive, with a max ISO of 3200, and a max shutter speed of 32 seconds.

The camera is fun to use and you don’t have to try very hard to get a great photo, but if you make the extra effort to go into pro mode, you get higher dynamic range than if you just shot in auto.

Low Light

Low light is competitive with other high end handsets, you have the ability to take photos of the stars you don’t even need a tripod! We do like to use Night Mode as it needs less software correction as small stutters during long exposures don´t affect the image quality. Night Backlight Portrait Mode actually takes good low light portraits, as you can see in the samples below.

Audio

  • When recording audio or taking calls, it is smart and recognizes directions and amplifies your voice. Generally the mic quality and volume is really good. For example: On the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra the audio is very low and had background noise when pushing the volume up, making it bad for direct uploads. With the Vivo direct uploads are not a problem.
  • Really good HiFi chip, great for the audiofile who doesn’t want to connect via USB C.

Battery Life

The battery is 4315 mAh and supports 33W fast charging, you’ll get about 55% in 30 min. The upper mid range processor is efficient, so I sort of expected something more. Maybe further optimizations will come as is standard with all smartphone launches. On average I managed to get about 5 hours of screen on time and ended up with 20% battery left at night.

Rating
Design / 9
Camera / 8.5
Sound / 8
Performance / 7.5
Battery Life / 8
Software / 9
Price / 7
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 8
Vivo X51 5G

The X51 offers solid performance, at least it does for 90% of users. This isn’t a smartphone that is going to push the boundaries of what’s possible on mobile.

It is for anyone who cares more about photography than they do about specs, and wants a premium phone with great design, an innovative camera system with plenty of focal lengths.

This is a solid smartphone for someone looking to strike a balance between style, battery life and a few compromises camera experience.

8.1
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