Expert Rating
4/5
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • A large display with impressive visuals
  • Powerful cameras
  • Loaded innards
  • Great battery life
Cons
  • Continues with the older-gen micro-USB port
  • FunTouch OS isn’t the most refined UIs

If you track Vivo’s journey since 2018, it’s clear that the brand is aiming to shed its old skin just like a snake. From bringing innovative features such as a pop-up selfie camera and an under-display fingerprint scanner to bringing such capabilities to the mid-range segment, the company is constantly evolving. This reflects in the brand’s market share as well as it doubled its shipments in Q1 2019. And in a bid to secure its turf in the affordable segment, the company is now launching an all-new online-only Z series of smartphones. The debut offering in the lineup is dubbed the Vivo Z1 Pro, and I’ve been using it for the past one week. And now it’s time to find out whether the phone is as ‘Fully loaded’ as its tagline claims it to be…

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Specs at a glance

Display
Size 6.53 Inch
Resolution 1080 x 2340 pixels
Performance
CPU Dual core, 2.3 GHz + Hexa Core, 1.7 GHz, Snapdragon 712
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 64 GB
External memory Up to 256 GB
Battery
Capacity 5000 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable
Camera
Primary camera 16 MP
Secondary camera 32 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 5000
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie

Hardware and software

CPU:  Dual core, 2.3 GHz + Hexa Cor…
GPU: Adreno 616
RAM: 4 GB
Memory: 64 GB + Up to 256 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 5000 mAH

Considering that Vivo is placing a lot of importance on the hardware aspect, let’s begin this review with that. The Z1 Pro’s claim to fame is the fact that it’s India’s first smartphone with the recently-announced Snapdragon 712 chipset. The SoC – as the name suggests – is an iterative upgrade over the extremely capable Snapdragon 710 chip and promises 10 percent performance upliftment in core tasks. As far as its configuration is concerned, it comes with two quad-core clusters tuned at 2.1GHz and 1.7GHz, respectively. Working alongside the powerful silicon is either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, depending upon the variant. My review unit features the latter and offers good multitasking abilities by holding more than a dozen of apps in memory and switching between them in jiffy.

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It’s evident that the Vivo Z1 Pro is a reliable performer, and not just on paper. Navigating between screens or switching between apps is extremely fluid and so are app opening times. Thanks to an Adreno 616 graphics processor, gaming isn’t an issue for the handset either. PUBG Mobile ran in the highest possible settings and the device didn’t break a sweat even after a 30-minute session. Other intensive titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and Dead Trigger 2 ran smoothly as well without any frame drops. The phone also manages to maintain its cool, and gets slightly warm only when it’s pushed for longer durations. Enhancing the gaming experience is Game Cube, which blocks calls, alongside letting you enable 4D vibration which works really well for offering haptic feedback while playing titles like PUBG

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Another highlight of Vivo’s latest is its powerful 5,000mAh battery, which is increasingly becoming common in this segment. As you could expect, the Z1 Pro is made to last long and you wouldn’t be looking for the charger before the next day. In fact, one of the raw battery-centric tests I have for phones is whether I can attend a meeting or a half-day event with 50 percent juice remaining, and this phone doesn’t disappoint there either.

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Furthermore, you can juice up the smartphone quickly, thanks to the incorporation of 18W fast-charging tech. Vivo’s Z1 Pro goes from 10 to 100 percent levels in about two hours with the supplied adapter.

The only gripe that I have in this section would be for Vivo’s choice of software. The Z1 Pro boots FunTouch OS 9.0, running atop Android 9.0 Pie. Most people will have ‘love it or hate it’ relationship with the UI as it’s significantly inspired by Apple’s iOS to the point that you can get quick toggles by swiping from the bottom. All the apps are present in the homescreen itself, and speaking of that, there’s a lot of bloatware in the form of Amazon Shopping, Dailyhunt, Webnovel, and several others. Thankfully, these preloaded apps can be uninstalled. The company has also offered Jovi (its personal assistant) wherever possible, including a dedicated left-most screen, camera app and more. The dedicated homescreen lets you access shortcuts, provide an at-a-glance view of events, movie timings, etc along with things like weather, to-do list, among others.

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One nice touch in FunTouch (see what I did there?) is the dark mode, which not only converts the OS and its various elements to the darker side, but even forces it for third-party apps, including Twitter (which already has a night mode) and Instagram. I wish more brands follow this suit until the time Google brings dark mode with the forthcoming Android Q. That said, Vivo’s dark mode isn’t perfect due to the forced dark interface, and some of the text isn’t really legible.

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Design and display

Dimensions: 162.39 x 77.33 x 8.85 mm
Weight: 201 grams

In terms of the appearance, Vivo’s Z1 Pro follows all the latest trends in the mid-budget tier… gradient design? Check. Punch-hole display? Check. A side button to invoke Google’s voice assistant? Check.

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Coming to the specifics, the Z1 Pro offers a high screen-to-body ratio, all thanks to a tiny piercing through the display on the top-left corner for holding the selfie snapper and razor-thin bezels on the bottom. And even though the Z1 Pro tips the scales at 201g, its weight has been distributed quite well.

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Flip to the back, and you’ll be greeted by rather an attractive gradient finish. Here, you’ll find the triple shooters arranged in a vertical array, followed by an LED flash along with a squircle fingerprint sensor. With a polycarbonate construction, the build may not be flagship-like, the phone does seem quite robust with the glass-like finish adding to its charm. On the flipside however, the phone will register fingerprints really easily, and hence it’s recommended to use the bundled transparent case. However, this has flaps to protect the charging socket and its quite to remove them when you need to juice up the device. Thankfully, the Vivo Z1 Pro doesn’t slip much, and hence I didn’t need to use the cover as such.

The fingerprint reader unlocks the phone quickly and accurately, although for those with smaller digits it might be difficult to reach. You may not need to do that however, for the face unlock works like a charm. It’s extremely fast and is able to work in low-light environments too, if you enable the screen fill light.

Speaking of ports, it’s worth mentioning that Vivo is still holding out to adapt the latest Type-C standard. Alongside the micro-USB socket, you’ll find the 3.5mm socket and a speaker grille. One thing that I really like is the fact that this dual-tone hue carries over towards the edges as well, which shows Vivo has given attention to details. In terms of buttons, the Z1 Pro features volume keys and power switch towards the right, with the left spine sporting a button to invoke the Jovi assistant. The triple slots are also present on the left edge.

In terms of the display, the Vivo Z1 Pro ships with a 6.53-inch IPS display. While the screen quality isn’t as vibrant as AMOLED panels, it still is quite punchy and offers sharp text, thanks to full HD+ resolution. The good thing is that the punch-hole doesn’t seem very distracting either, and the company has ensured that apps scale up to make the full use of the screen real estate. Sunlight legibility is quite good too.

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Cameras

Primary camera: 16 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 32 MP

With the V15 Pro (review), Vivo was among the first to board triple-camera bandwagon. And with the Z1 Pro, the brand is bringing them to a more affordable price point. Spec-wise, the device features a 16-megapixel main shooter with an aperture of f/1.78, which is accompanied by an 8MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle camera and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. At the front, you get a powerful 32MP shooter residing inside the punch-hole (more on that in the design section).

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The camera app on the Vivo Z1 Pro is crammed with options and modes, although the interface might take some getting used to. It’s interesting however, that the modes like photo, video, AI beauty, night, etc. are placed at the bottom, above which you’ll find the shutter button in the middle with the previously-clicked images and toggle for the front camera. Just above that, there’s image recognizer (just like Google Lens), self-timer, real-time filters (I did like the option for Jovi to recommend the best filter as per the scene), portrait mode, wide-angle mode and the ability to capture the full-screen image. Up top, you’ll find the options to enable or disable flash, HDR mode, portrait light effect, and live photo along with the settings gear.

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Now the loaded app surely raises one’s expectations from the camera performance of the Vivo Z1 Pro, and the phone does manage to do that. Images are full of detail and reproduce accurate colours too. In ample lighting, landscape shots or close-ups turn out to be quite good. The ultra wide-angle camera works really well, and while the sharpness takes a hit, it ensures that the fish-eye effect is kept to the minimum. As far as portraits are concerned, you’ll get impressive shots with well-defined edges, and you can also apply various effects such as studio lighting, stage lighting and more. The device offers an admirable output in low-light settings too, though some times strong light sources do affect the exposure levels. While there’s no OIS, EIS tries to make sure that videos remain smooth. And for selfies, the 32MP shooter makes the Z1 Pro one of the best selfie phones in this segment.

Take a dekko at the camera samples of the Vivo Z1 Pro.

I’m sure you must be wondering the Z1 Pro compares with the 48MP camera-toting Redmi Note 7 Pro or Realme 3 Pro which also boasts serious camera credentials. Well, Vivo’s offering pulls a surprise by offering better pictures in almost all situations. It outputs better colours and noise is also kept in check. Having said that, Note 7 Pro comes out ahead in dim settings as the primary shooter makes use of pixel-binning tech.

Vivo Z1 Pro vs Redmi Note 7 Pro vs Realme 3 Pro camera comparison

Verdict

Vivo must be commended for studying the market well, and changing with times. When online-centric brands like Realme and Xiaomi are attacking its offline presence, the brand isn’t backing down, and is in fact, charging at them by introducing an online-only series. The Vivo Z1 Pro is the launch vehicle of this attack and as the review suggests, is well-poised to take on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro (review) and Realme 3 Pro (review). Add to its rather aggressive starting price of Rs 14,990 for the base model with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage and the company seems to have a winner on its hands.

Comparison-wise, the Z1 Pro offers a larger display, better processor, strong camera performance along with offering an ultra wide-angle shooter and a beefier battery. Even if you pit the Z1 Pro against triple-camera offerings such as the Samsung Galaxy M30 (review) and Honor 20i (review), the Vivo phone comes out ahead with its all-round spec sheet. What also works in its favour is that it’s the most affordable phone currently with a punch-hole display.

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To summarise, unless you’re extremely picky about the software experience (which can be overlaid with a third-party launcher anyway) or older-gen micro-USB port, the Vivo Z1 Pro is easily the most well-rounded mid-ranger that you can go for right now.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros

  • A large display with impressive visuals
  • Powerful cameras
  • Loaded innards
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Continues with the older-gen micro-USB port
  • FunTouch OS isn’t the most refined Android-based UIs

Photos by Raj Rout

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