They may not cause as much of a stir as the upcoming Samsung and OnePlus flagship launches for the year, but the Vivo X series has carved quite the niche for itself among the ‘camera first, smartphone second’ Android faithful.
As with the Vivo X90 Pro and the Vivo X80 Pro that came before it, the just-launched Vivo X100 Pro is all about putting photography front and center -- from the massive circular camera array and a host of shooting enhancements to the “Professional Photography” inscribed on the thin top edge.
Going beyond cameras this year, Vivo has rounded off the edges with a significantly better display and the new MediaTek Dimensity 9300 chip that takes the fight to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Of course, direct comparisons with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and OnePlus 12 will have to wait, but in and of itself, does the X100 Pro command its ₹89,999 (16GB/512GB) pricing?
You certainly get your money’s worth when unboxing the X100 Pro unlike other premium flagships, with the box packing in a Type-C charging cable, a 100W charger and a well-made, silicon case to protect your investment. Pulling the X100 Pro out of the box, you cannot help but gawk at the almost comically large camera bump which takes up nearly the entire width of the fluorite matte finish glass back panel.
The design is likely to be divisive, more so, thanks to this slightly offset stainless steel ring around the camera module, though I quite like it. If you want a phone that gives off strong camera vibes, this is it.
Elsewhere, it’s still a large, chunky slab (225g) with a slippery, silky finish on the rear panel and a defined curvature to the edges of the display that’s mirrored by the curves on the rear panel.
Despite this making the phone feel slimmer than it actually is, using the case is well advised since it is rather top-heavy and large to grip, and there’s no vegan leather finish to aid hand feel and grip. My larger criticism is the lack of color options -- like the Ford Model T, you can have it any color as long as it’s (Asteroid) Black. Fortunately, no skimping on IP68 dust and water resistance and wireless charging, or the infrared blaster port, for that matter.
Now, while Vivo retained the 6.78-inch screen size and full HD+ resolution from the X90 Pro on the X100 Pro, the new panel it has employed is a huge upgrade, switching to the LTPO variety of AMOLED panels which go from 1Hz to 120 Hz depending on the content you’re viewing, not to mention a bump up to 3000 nits brightness while viewing HDR content.
Gaming is great fun on this device as well, going handily up to 120fps for supported games. The screen looks great outdoors and indoors, and visuals are bright and rich in colors. If you find the colors too rich, or not rich enough, you can switch between Standard, Bright or Pro color profiles.
The screen is likely protected by Schott Xensation as with the previous generation (it isn't specified), but it didn’t pick up any scratches in the three weeks I have used the device.
The Vivo X100 Pro is powered by MediaTek’s latest Dimensity 9300 chip, which has piqued my interest on account of it going ‘big cores for all cores’ of the chip, essentially forsaking the efficiency-oriented chip cores that most chips use for day-to-day tasks in favor of larger, more performant cores. In complex, multi-core scenarios, the chip has an advantage even over Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, demonstrated in benchmark comparisons between the X100 Pro and the iQOO 12. I did not see any issues with multitasking heavy apps with the 16GB of memory, nor did games pose any issues, except for slight warmth and some performance throttling over longer duration sessions.
Typically, this chip configuration (and the resultant gains) would come at the expense of battery life but with the X100 Pro, that’s not the case – there’s a sizable 5400mAh battery that saw me through a heavy day of camera usage, and then some. When you do run out, the included 120W power brick juices it up to full in just over half an hour. Plus, there’s 50W wireless charging support as well.
On software support, the X100 Pro runs FunTouch OS 14, based on Android 14, which sees a fair amount of cleanup and reduction of bloatware but there’s still some way to go in that department. Three years of security and Android updates are good to see as well.
Looks good, so far, doesn’t it? Let’s get to the main attraction – the triple rear camera setup, where practically everything has changed from last year’s X90 Pro, and for the better.
The phone has a 50MP Sony IMX989 main camera with a 1-inch sensor and an upgraded Zeiss coating, along with 50MP wide-angle with autofocus, and a 50MP ‘floating’ zoom and macro lens with 4.3x optical zoom.
Coming to daylight shots, the Vivo X100 Pro does a fantastic job, with images that exhibit good dynamic range and vivid colors, without the excessive sharpening many phones are guilty of. Low-light situations are handled really well with the 1-inch sensor, with minimal noise levels, good details and no artificial brightening of shots, unless it's pitch dark and night mode is needed). Bright lights are handled well, thanks to the Zeiss coating on the lens which reduces lens flare.
The ultrawide is a massive improvement over its predecessor and manages to be color consistent with the primary shooter to boot, but low-light performance is a bit of a hit-and-miss.
The real star of the show is the new telephoto camera, which shoots at a much more useful 100mm equivalent focal length. Coupled with the intermediate focal lengths via digitally cropping the main camera output, the X100 Pro offers a massive zoom range that is very versatile for street photography and for that extra reach when shooting far away objects.
Portraits in particular benefit, with excellent detail at a variety of focal lengths – this is arguably the best portrait shooter around, a use case that the telephoto seems particularly tuned towards. You’ll get excellent details going up to 10x and given how it’s quite the feat stabilizing a 100mm equivalent lens, Vivo’s floating periscope design works wonders. With its 4.3x lens, the X100 Pro is clearly not going to go as far as the S23 Ultra’s native 10x telephoto, which goes handily to 30x in terms of usable shots.
Selfies on the 32MP shooter up front are passable, with good skin tones but slightly crushed details, particularly in low light. All three cameras can shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second as well and go up well against the best Android video shooters.
The X100 Pro represents Vivo’s best and most mature effort yet, and the perfect vehicle for the new MediaTek chipset to take on the might of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that will be seen a lot in the coming weeks.
Big upgrades all round mean that the screen is no longer a concern, the camera is among the best and most versatile around (and the best for portraits by far), and performance is finally class-leading without the need for any caveats or disclaimers. Charging and battery performance leaves no room for complaint either.
It's worth the money, but our recommendation is to wait a couple of weeks for our full reviews of the Samsung S24 Ultra and OnePlus 12, and then decide exactly how far your wallet is willing to go.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.