Vivo has long exerted its dominance in the India’s vast offline retail networks. Now, it seems that the company wants to take on Xiaomi, Realme, and other online-first brands on their own turf. The Vivo Z1 Pro is an effort towards creating an online-first product.
With a spec sheet that stands neck-and-neck with the competition and innovative design additions like a punch-hole display, the Z1 Pro has all that it needs to make a mark for itself, at least on paper. Will that be enough to stand out amidst the myriad well-equipped mid-range handsets? We try and find out in Android Authority’s Vivo Z1 Pro review.
The big picture
The Vivo Z1 Pro comes in at a price point that has no dearth of alternatives. While features like an innovative design should help it stand out, the online-first strategy caters to a more informed buyer. As such, the heavy-handed approach towards software on the Vivo Z1 Pro could end up being a speed bump on the road to success.
What’s in the box
- Vivo Z1 Pro
- 18-watt fast charger
- USB cable
- SIM ejector tool
- TPU Case
- Quick start manual
- Warranty Card
The Vivo Z1 Pro delivers a well-rounded retail package. Inside, you will find everything you need to get started off with the phone. The TPU case is a nice addition to keep the phone free of grubby fingerprints. While the quick start manual and warranty papers are standard fare, it is nice to see a pair of earphones thrown in the box.
- Punch-hole display
- Polycarbonate build
The Vivo Z1 Pro breaks the mould and introduces a design that introduces elements from phones priced much higher. Let’s start with the front of the phone. Following the launch of the Samsung Galaxy M40, the Vivo Z1 Pro is now the most affordable device to pack a punch-hole design. The punch-hole front of the Vivo Z1 Pro definitely helps make it look fresh amongst a sea of notch-toting smartphones.
The Vivo Z1 Pro’s sides are bulging out. It adds to the bezels around the display and makes the phone feel bulkier as well. The phone grips fairly well in the hand, and it’s easy to reach out to all the buttons, but the quality of the buttons leaves a lot to be desired. The volume rocker, power button, and dedicated Google Assistant button exhibit significant wobble, which is never a good sign.
Along the bottom edge you will observe a micro-USB charging port. This is, simply put, a pretty bad look for Vivo. A device that is setting sights at taking on the best should not be packing such an antiquated port. If a headphone jack is a key criteria in your buying decision, you will be delighted to know that the Vivo Z1 Pro continues to sport one.
The back of the phone is where things get a bit more interesting. Gradient-based designs are a dime a dozen these days, but Vivo’s choice of colors helps the phone leave a mark for itself. Dubbed “sonic blue,” the color shifts from a sea-green to a rich cobalt-blue giving the phone a jewel-like appearance. Of course, the ultra-glossy back is a fingerprint magnet so you will want to use the bundled case.
Talking about fingerprints, the rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint reader is plenty good. I found it to be fast and reliable in my week of use.
All said and done, the Vivo Z1 Pro isn’t quite the most comfortable phone to carry around. A bit too large and just a bit too heavy, the Vivo Z1 Pro just isn’t as ergonomic as competing phones like the Redmi Note 7 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy M30.
- 6.53-inch IPS LCD
- Full HD+ (~395 ppi)
- 19.5:9 aspect ratio
The display on the Vivo Z1 Pro is a bit of a mixed bag. There is little to complain about as far as sharpness and legibility are concerned. However, the display comes across as somewhat washed out. The unsaturated look is even more off-putting keeping in mind the gorgeous AMOLED panel on the Galaxy M30 and the equally good IPS LCD panel on the Redmi Note 7 Pro.
I noticed a modicum of color-shift at extreme angles, but not enough to significantly detract from the experience. Outdoor visibility is good enough and it was never a hassle to view the phone even in bright sunlight. Color accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, and, with peak brightness measuring around 400 nits, it is far from the best display in its class.
The big talking point here is the punch hole over at the top-left corner. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this style of display cutout, but it does come across as a bit more unobtrusive when placed next to a tear-drop notch. If you don’t care for a pop-up camera, this is your next best bet and the Vivo Z1 Pro brings it to a whole new price point.
- Snapdragon 712
- 2 x 2.3GHz Kryo 360 Gold
- 6 x 1.7GHz Kryo 360 Silver
- Adreno 616
- 4/6GB RAM
- 64/128GB ROM
- microSD expansion
The Vivo Z1 Pro is the first phone in India to sport the Snapdragon 712 chipset. A small upgrade over the Snapdragon 710, it claims a slight boost in performance through a higher peak clock speed. Packing the same GPU as the Snapdragon 710, you shouldn’t expect much of an upgrade in performance here. Of course, this is still a reasonably power-packed chipset that can run almost anything you throw at it.
The hardware is well mated to the software, resulting in a buttery smooth experience.
To their credit, Vivo has done a rather good job at mating the software to the hardware. The entire usage experience comes across as buttery smooth. General day-to-day usability is plenty good, and for most users spending time in the browser or using social media applications, there won’t be anything to complain about.
We spent some time playing popular games like PUBG on the Vivo Z1 Pro and the results were right in line with our expectations. With the graphics setting at HD, the game is reasonably smooth. It isn’t entirely without frame drops or texture pop-ins, but gameplay is about as good as it gets in this category of devices. Moreover, I didn’t notice the phone getting appreciably warm.
- 18W Fast charging
Packing a gigantic 5,000mAh battery and a fairly frugal mid-range processor, battery life is plenty good. I was a bit surprised to observe that activities like web browsing took a bigger toll than I’d have thought. In our battery testing, the phone didn’t fare much better than the Redmi Note 7S, a phone with a significantly smaller battery.
Regardless, the phone will handily last a full day of use and then some. With mixed use, I observed between six to seven hours of screen-on-time. When it is time to charge up the phone, the Vivo Z1 Pro supports fast charging. Charging the battery from scratch took just about 138 minutes, a fairly respectable time.
- Android Pie
- Funtouch OS
- Significant bloatware
Software on the Vivo Z1 Pro is where things start getting complicated. Yes, the phone runs Android 9 Pie, but has the extremely heavy-handed Funtouch OS skin on top. Simply put, the entire user experience is completely different from how stock Android approaches it. If you are coming from a different smartphone launcher, you might face a significant learning curve here.
Starting off from the home screen, there is no app drawer to speak of. All icons are tossed on the homescreen itself, along with a limited few options to customise the experience. The option to switch the icon layout to a denser grid is hidden deep under settings. Over on the left-most pane, you will notice a widgets pane for quick shortcuts and Vivo’s Jovi smart assistant.
For me, the most polarising bit was how Vivo decided to split the quick toggles and notifications pane. The former is accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the display. The notifications tray, meanwhile, has a shortcut for Jovi, a QR scanner, as well as a search bar to search through apps on your phone.
The sheer amount of bloatware on the phone is particularly off-putting. From third-party apps like PhonePe, to redundant apps like Vivo’s own email client, it doesn’t leave the best first impression. It certainly doesn’t help that a lot of these cannot be uninstalled.
Amongst all the bloat, you can find some smart hidden additions.
On the other hand, there are a few smart additions too. Case in point being the “Motorbike Mode” that can reject all incoming calls or automatically reply with a message. Similarly, you will find a one-handed mode hidden away in the settings. As the name suggests, it lets you scale down the viewable size to one that makes it easy to use with one hand.
- Rear camera:
- 16MP f/1.8 aperture
- 8MP, f/2.2 16mm ultrawide
- 2MP depth sensor
- 32MP, f/2.0 front camera
- 4K 60FPS Video
- No EIS
Between the three rear-facing cameras and the high-resolution front-facing sensor, you would expect the Vivo Z1 Pro to be a camera beast. Unfortunately, actual results are a bit of a mixed bag and not quite best in class.
Let’s start with a standard outdoor scene, something almost any modern phone should excel at. Color tuning on the Vivo Z1 Pro errs on the cooler side, with the scene appearing just a smidgen too harsh. There is also significant over-sharpening going on around edges and pixel-peeping reveals that there is a loss of details in the foliage.
HDR mode on the Vivo Z1 Pro is effective to a degree, but images look anything but natural. The unnatural brightening of the foreground subject, coupled with the forced saturation boost in the background makes for an unappealing shot.
The 8MP wide-angle camera adds a lot of versatility to the set up and definitely comes in handy when trying to capture large buildings, landscapes, or just a big group of people.
Even with the beauty mode turned all the way down, it appears there is some smoothening going on when shooting with the front facing camera. Images have a mild saturation boost and look ready to go up on social media, which might be of interest to you if you’re big on shooting selfies. Similarly for 4K videos, the footage was fairly unremarkable with noticeable over-sharpening. The lack of electronic stabilisation means you will have to work extra-hard to reduce camera shake.
Equipped with a headphone jack, the Vivo Z1 Pro is a rather good option if you listen to a lot of music. We tested the output over wired headphones and found the music reproduction to have a neutral sound signature.
The downward-firing speaker gets quite loud but can crackle just a bit at high volumes. Don’t expect much in terms of sound quality but if you take a lot of phone calls on the loudspeaker, the Vivo Z1 Pro will serve in a pinch.
|Vivo Z1 Pro|
|Display||6.53-inch IPS LCD
1080 x 2340 resolution
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 712
2×2.3GHz Kryo 360 Gold
6×1.7GHz Kryo 360 Silver
Expandable with microSD card up to 256GB
Dual-Engine Fast Charging
|Software||Android 9.0 Pie with Funtouch OS|
|Dimensions and weight||162.4 x 77.3 x 8.9mm
|Price||14,990 rupees (4GB + 64GB)
17,990 rupees (6GB + 128GB)
- Vivo Z1 Pro: 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM — 14,990 rupees (~$215)
- Vivo Z1 Pro: 6GB RAM, 64GB ROM — 16,990 rupees (~$245)
- Vivo Z1 Pro: 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 17,990 rupees (~$257)
There’s no doubting the value here. The hardware is for the most part, as good as it gets. The Vivo Z1 Pro packs enough oomph to satisfy all gamers on a budget. The camera leaves a bit to be desired and that is one area where the Redmi Note 7 Pro pulls ahead by leaps and bounds. However, if you want something a bit more versatile, the wide-angle camera on the Z1 Pro proves to be the better option.
Similarly, the software situation on the Redmi Note 7 Pro and Vivo Z1 Pro is complicated. While the Z1 Pro thrusts a whole bunch of preloaded apps down your throat, the Redmi Note 7 Pro is afflicted by ads across the interface. There is no winning here and users will simply have to chose their poison. Meanwhile, the Realme 3 Pro presents itself as another option with good performance and a cleaner software build.
Vivo Z1 Pro review: Verdict
The Vivo Z1 Pro is a very good effort by the brand to appeal to the online-only audience. Between the good-looking design, versatile camera, and a larger battery, there is enough here to recommend the phone as a competent mid-ranger.
I wasn’t too convinced by the software skin, Micro-USB charging port, and the quality of the display, but once you look past it, this is a smartphone that can handily hold its own against the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro. The Vivo Z1 Pro is definitely worth a second look if you are in the market for a new mid-range smartphone.