Vivo X90 Pro makes you wonder if the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra really is worth it - Hindustan Times

Vivo X90 Pro makes you wonder if the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra really is worth it

May 01, 2023 01:52 PM IST

Vivo X90 Pro has the gravitas to make its mark in an Android flagship space that already includes the OnePlus 11, Xiaomi 13 Pro and a significantly more expensive Galaxy S23 Ultra

There is often a criticism aimed at phone makers – they don’t try enough to change the design. That approach has its positives, but more on the perception front, not as much. That is one argument which absolutely cannot be sent Vivo’s way. At least not with the company’s latest flagship Android phone, the Vivo X90 Pro, which is effectively refreshing crucial visual cues and beneath which resides some of the latest tech for smartphones. That includes, and this may be a spoiler alert of some sort, a 1-inch primary camera sensor.

At 215 grams, the Vivo X90 Pro is 19 grams lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)
At 215 grams, the Vivo X90 Pro is 19 grams lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)

Mind you, there is no getting away from flagship-esque pricing.

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The Vivo X90 Pro comes in a singular combination, which is 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, priced at 84,999. This, in essence, is competing with the presently available Xiaomi 13 Pro (that’s around 79,999). More important, and this would be important for most potential buyers, is also putting in perspective the significantly higher price of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (that’s around 1,24,999) – while it is a fairly balanced battle on the spec sheet.

For once, a phone that goes beyond the combination of metal and glass, defining the in-hand feel. A part of the back of the Vivo X90 Pro is wrapped in vegan leather. Not only is it different to touch and feel, but also add a (and this may be subjective) luxurious touch. The other advantage is that this material is very grippy to hold. That’s before I get to the best bit – no fingerprints spoiling the clean look of the phone. But be careful if you’re keeping this in the same pocket with keys or pens, this leather can get scratched.

Also Read: Vivo V27 Pro is incredibly refined, with the camera taking a leap forward

At 215 grams, the Vivo X90 Pro is 19 grams lighter than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. That weight shaved off, along with better grip defining the ergonomics, is something you’ll appreciate on a regular basis. That said, not much choice on the colour front. You only have something called the Legendary Black to pick from, for now.

However, with the use of leather, it is understandable that Vivo isn’t experimenting with different shades – those things can get costly at some point, something that would have impressed upon the price tag subsequently.

Before we get to the bits where Vivo hasn’t made any sort of compromises, it is important to talk about the display. Because here, for some strange reason, Vivo has held back. This is a 6.78-inch AMOLED screen, with gentle curves on either side. It also goes all the way up to 120Hz refresh rate, with support for HDR10+ if you’re interested in video streaming. In terms of usability, it ticks the checklist. Colours are nice and well distinguished, without looking unnaturally vivid. Crispness is spot on too.

Yet, the resolution is limited to 2800 x 1260 pixels, which is lesser than the Xiaomi 13 Pro’s 3200 x 1440 pixels and the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 3088 x 1440 pixels. There is also no support for the Dolby Vision high dynamic range standard. And since Vivo has skipped the latest display tech, this screen cannot dynamically drop to lower refresh rates (some phones can go as low as 1Hz) and follows the fixed steps for 60Hz, 90Hz and 1200Hz.

Photography, and the overall camera package, is where the Vivo X90 Pro absolutely refuses to take things easy. It is a mix of the very capable optical hardware at play, alongside extensive software driven features, most of which you’ll find in the camera app.

First and foremost, there is the 1-inch primary camera sensor at play. This is a good foundation to build with, though we’ve seen something similar in the Xiaomi 13 Pro too. Therefore, the troika starts with a 50-megapixel wide and is joined by a 50-megapixel telephoto and a 12-megapixel ultrawide.

Beyond the hardware, the camera optimisation from the folks over at Zeiss. We’ve seen the advantages of this approach that’s gaining traction in the smartphone space, and it should hold the Vivo X90 Pro in good stead. OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad, and Xiaomi relying on the expertise of Leica, has paid dividends for both phone makers.

This is a more balanced approach compared with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which follows through the pixel binning 200-megapixel primary camera, with a 10-megapixel telephoto and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera.

Daytime photos are rich with detail, combined with good dynamic range and accurate colours. The Zeiss Natural Colour option, if you enable it in the camera app, returns some very well distinguished colours without any unnecessary boosts to make them look brighter than they may be.

If you’re taking photos against the light, be it natural light or an artificial one, there is a coating (Vivo calls this the Zeiss T* coating) which does its bit to reduce light glare from ruining the photo.

Then there are the ‘Astro’ and ‘Supermoon’ photography mode, which should be good news if you are able to escape the polluted metro cities and want to photograph the night sky. This phone does not fake the moon using AI, something the Galaxy S23 Ultra has been found doing.

This is, and there can be subjective arguments about this nevertheless, by far the best Android phone for low light photography. It doesn’t take long to notice how quick the low-light photo capture and processing is. That is one of the improvements of the imaging chip, which Vivo calls the V2.

Secondly, the larger sensor allows for better lighting to come through, which also means there is less need for image processing to step in and remove distortions – that means a more detailed and crisper image to work with.

Video recording can go all the way up to 8K resolution at 24 frames per second, but the sweet spot is 4K resolution at 60 frames per second – this is the ideal balance between uncompromising quality as well as keeping tabs on the storage space used, either locally on the phone or on the cloud.

Vivo has gone down a fairly unconventional path with the choice of the processor here. Instead of the expected Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which seems to be the default choice for Android flagships, this phone draws its power from the MediaTek Dimensity 9200. In the real-world experience, the Vivo X90 Pro feels just as fast as phones running that chip.

Multitasking is smooth, and one of the reasons why there are more system resources available, is the significant curbs Vivo has finally implemented on the FunTouch OS on the bloatware front. There is still work to be done, but there are lesser preloaded apps to contend with on your new Vivo X90 Pro. It is a start.

There is a lot to like about the flagship smartphone play from Vivo this year. A lot of it stems from the right moves they have made, not just with the expected, generational performance improvement. But also, in terms of refreshing the personality and usability. A layer of leather can make a world of difference, and that is so very clear. Things should have been more profound on the display too.

At the same time, Vivo has to improve the software support window, which presently is limited to three years of Android updates and monthly security patches.

That said, for a lot less money being spent, you’re getting a phone which is more wholesome than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, all things considered. The camera being the most potent weapon in its arsenal, the Vivo X90 Pro does make a further case for itself with impressive performance and faster charging speeds too. Those being just some examples. This could just be the Android flagship to consider, if you are in the market for one.

The market is rife with competition, give or take a few specs and features. OnePlus 11, the Xiaomi 13 Pro and the significantly more expensive Galaxy S23 Ultra, possibly featuring on your shortlist. A sensible recommendation would be, do a first layer of elimination, based on price. Save some money in the process.

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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