Over the past few years, Vivo’s flagship X series has earned a reputation for class-leading camera performance, to the point where last year’s X70 Pro+ was widely considered among the best camera phones. The X80 Pro takes up where its spiritual predecessor left off, packing in everything you would expect from a modern premium flagship, albeit with a few tweaks to the company’s proprietary gimbal stabilisation system and a noticeable bump in price ( ₹79,999) that lines it up right alongside the competition from Samsung and Apple.
Pulling the X80 Pro out of its well-accessorised box—the wired headphones, fast charger and case are somewhat of a rarity in this price segment—the phone fits the bill for what you have come to expect from a high-end Android device. You get a large, glass-metal sandwich design with the massive 6.78-inch display that gently curves to the sides and lends the 9.1mm-thick/219g device a luxurious, though rather slippery, hand-feel. Turn it around, and a raised glass window that houses the camera modules dominates the rear panel—though odd design decisions, which see three of the four lenses contained within a circle and the fourth, periscope-style telephoto relegated to an oddball position below, might be polarising for some. Look past this and there’s little to fault in the phone’s fit and finish. There is Schott Xensation Up display protection and IP68 dust/water rating for added peace of mind. Just don’t ask for it in peppier colours—Vivo has launched only a Cosmic Black variant in India.
Under the hood, the X80 Pro has the specifications to match its flagship look and feel (and pricing), with a top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip and 12GB of memory and 256GB of non-expandable storage. Vivo has added its latest dedicated imaging chip, the V1+, to handle some of the heavy lifting in photography and gaming. Expectedly, the X80 Pro is a brisk performer not only in everyday use but even under heavy multitasking and gaming on the expansive display.
The AMOLED display—as long as you can deal with one this size—ticks all the boxes: tack-sharp 1,440x3,200-pixel QHD+ resolution, the latest LTPO 3.0 tech which allows the screen to go all the way from 120Hz down to 1Hz for better power efficiency, and 1,500 nits screen brightness that fares well both in the bright outdoors and while watching HDR content. Coupled with a capable loud stereo speaker setup, watching movies and TV shows is quite the experience.
However, our favourite element of the display isn’t so much the screen as the 3D ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader, which offers a much larger scanning area and unlocks the phone without needing to hunt for the sweet spot on the screen—easily the best on a smartphone.
Battery life is no slouch either, with the 4,700mAh cell lasting well past a day with the always-on display, high refresh rate and maximum resolution switched on. A lighter workload with one or more of these settings turned down would squeeze out more. The 80W fast charger tops up the battery in under 45 minutes; there’s also 50W wireless charging support and even reverse wireless charging to top up your TWS earphones.
But you are interested in how well the X80 Pro’s camera performs, aren’t you? Well, there’s a 50MP Samsung GNV main sensor, with a 12MP 2x portrait lens, an 8MP 5x periscope lens and a 48MP ultrawide (plus a 32MP selfie shooter). It’s familiar territory if you have used the X70 Pro+ but in the X80 Pro, the gimbal stabilisation has been moved from the ultrawide to the 2x portrait lens. The primary camera captured excellent images with good detail and impressive dynamic range in all light conditions, and it impressed with its use of HDR in low-light conditions to handle tricky bright lights in otherwise dark scenes. Colours are slightly oversaturated out of the box but the phone’s Zeiss mode can rein in that habit. Even without the gimbal stabilisation, the ultrawide handles itself well, really coming into its own when the light dims. Portraits of human subjects are captured well, with the edge detection and exposure on point.
Both zoom lenses impress as well but the 5x periscope camera falls a bit short of the results on the Samsung S22 Ultra. With the addition of gimbal stabilisation, Vivo has been able to pull off some impressive low-light portrait video shooting from the 2x zoom camera, and there are a bunch of added tricks in the video department that make this one of the most versatile video shooters across the Android landscape.
If there is a chink in the armour, it’s the software. The phone ships with FunTouch OS running on Android 12, and while Vivo has promised three generations of Android OS updates and three years of security updates, it comes with a ton of bloatware. No phone this expensive should feel this “sponsored” the moment you set it up, but it’s hard not to get this impression when your app drawer is packed to the brim with third-party apps like BYJU’s, Josh, Mok and the like. Not to mention ads for “Hot Apps” and “Hot Games”, which sit among your apps and can’t be uninstalled.
All said, the X80 Pro is an exceptional Android phone that truly deserves a seat at the big boys’ table. You get top-notch specs and battery performance coupled with a stunning display and one of the best cameras in the business, particularly in low-light, though you have to make your peace with the awkward camera module and the less-than-flagship FunTouch OS experience. Looking at the landscape, the Samsung S22+ and the iPhone 13 are good options with excellent imaging chops and performance, but lack the sheer flexibility of the X80 Pro’s cameras.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.