Sticking to routine, adding some width

Brands may be giving specs, numbers and features a lot of attention but when it comes to design, it seems like most smartphone manufacturers are following the same basic template – “How to create a smartphone that looks like it belongs to the year 2019.” Vivo has not strayed too far from that zone, which is why the Z1 Pro looks pretty much like any other smartphone in the price segment launched this year. The smartphone comes with a tall and surprisingly wide display (as compared to its competitors) but that is only one of the only few design details that separate it from the mainstream bunch.

The tall display is surrounded by thin bezels like usually, most displays are. The back is made up of a glass-like shiny and glossy material like they usually are. There is a gradient finish on the back, where the top of the smartphone carries a lighter shade of blue that darkens as it flows down, which is also pretty common now. But all of these common design traits do not make the Z1 Pro a bad looking device, they just make it very… usual, if anything else.

The device fits in perfectly in the mold of a conventional smartphone in today’s day and age. It is not going to turn heads but it is still a very good-looking device.

The display on the front is quite big and is bundled with a punch hole to house the selfie camera and an elongated vertical capsule shaped camera (yes, capsule shaped, again) unit along with a squircle (square with rounded edges) physical fingerprint scanner. Because the phone is a little wider than most smartphones, it is a little difficult to hold and use, as it does not sit as comfortably in hand. But it is giving us more display real estate, so, it is still a positive in our eyes. For more on the design of the Z1 Pro, read our first cut here.

Targeted at gamers

Vivo has bought a fresh series in town with a fresh new chipset. The Z1 Pro is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 processor, one of the first smartphones to sport it in the country. The Snapdragon 712 is a slightly upgraded version of the Snapdragon 710 which we have seen on the Nokia 8.1 and the Realme 3 Pro and is supposed to be 10 percent faster than its predecessor. This new processor is paired with 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage. There are two other variants of the smartphone with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage and 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. Storage on the phone can be expanded up to 256 GB by using a microSD card.

The numbers and specs of the Vivo Z1 Pro might not seem to make the device a gaming contender but this is exactly what the company has aimed the phone at: gaming. Or to be more specific, PUBG gaming. The Z1 Pro is the official smartphone for PUBG Mobile Club Open 2019, which means it is supposed to be a dab hand at handling the game. It comes with multi turbo setup to help boost the gaming side of the phone that includes Net Turbo for better Internet connectivity, Cooling Turbo to keep the temperature in check while you push the phone, AI Turbo, and Centre Turbo amongst others. It also comes with a feature called “Gaming Cube” which comes with a number of features like Background calls, Game Assistant, Block Notifications, Game Countdown etc. which are supposed to add to the gaming experience on the phone.

Game on!

Vivo has paid a lot of attention to how gaming feels on the Z1 Pro and that reflects in the performance of the smartphone. We tried PUBG, Asphalt 9 and NFS: No Limits on the device and while PUBG sailed smoothly, we did see a few lags creep in when it comes to the Asphalt 9 and NFS: No Limits. The Z1 Pro comes with a 6.5-inch full HD+ display with a screen resolution of 1080 x 2330 pixels. The display is pretty bright and responded swiftly during our review, and it handled graphics and delivered good detail. The fact that it is a huge display adds to the overall gaming and viewing experience of the phone. The sound on the phone is decent as well. The speakers are fairly loud and the audio does not crack even when pushed to the max volume. Vivo has also bundled with the device a sufficiently good pair of headphones, which is a rarity at this price point. The audio is pretty one dimensional on the earphones but is definitely loud and clear. That said, if you use wired earphones while playing games, the placement of the 3.5 mm audio jack is going to be a little inconvenient. It is placed on the base, on the extreme left, which got in the way of our natural grip while playing games. The phone also heated up a little while playing high-end games, although it never reached an alarming level.

While gaming was impressive on the Z1 Pro, we found our device crashing sometimes while using basic apps like Google Drive, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Hopefully, Vivo will address this with a software update in the coming days, because it does seem very unusual in a device that is capable of handling such heavy duty work. The fingerprint scanner on the phone is pretty fast and accurate. It also comes with a face unlock feature which is fast but is not very secure as it can unlock your phone even with your eyes shut. The device also has a dedicated Google Assistant button which will come in handy for Google addicts. Connectivity options on the phone include support for dual SIM cards with a slot dedicated for microSD card. Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, USB OTG. Call connectivity was generally good on the phone.

Inconsistent camera…

In the camera department, Vivo has thrown in a triple camera setup on the back of the phone that makes up the primary camera set-up of the smartphone. It comprises a 16-megapixel main sensor with f/1.8 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultra wide sensor with f/2.2 aperture and a 2-megapixel depth sensor with f/ 2.4 aperture. On the front there sits is a 32-megapixel in-display sensor for selfies with f/ 2.0 aperture in that punch hole display. Cameras have been the strength of Vivo smartphones for a while now, but if we had to define the Vivo Z1’s camera in just one word, we would call it inconsistent. We often were really impressed by the color reproduction of the Vivo Z1 Pro as it was literally replicating the colors in real settings, which is such a rarity to see, not just in the mid-segment smartphones but in high-end ones, as well. What, however, spoiled the show was the fact that results varied a lot in the same settings in a matter of minutes. After giving us extremely natural colors both indoors and outdoors, the phone would struggle the very next second and deliver highly saturated colors. [Click here for full resolution pics + additional samples]

Details were also a bit of a miss. Yes, the shots looked okay on first sight but as soon as we double tapped to zoom, the noise and little grains hit us right in the face. We did not get to see as much detail as we were expecting in macro shots and the phone seemed to struggle to highlight the subject at times.

…but no shortage of options

The phone’s camera interface is pretty detailed and is loaded with features and modes. It comes with about nine different modes that include Pano, Fun Video (which seems like a customized version of Tik-Tok, right on the device.The mode allows you to play music/ song in the background and then record video over it.), AR Stickers, AI Beauty, and Night. The modes generally deliver what they promise, but we were disappointed by Portrait Bokeh, which was not implemented well. The phone often missed out the edges of the subject and sometimes missed blurring the background as well. The camera app also offers Portrait Light effect, which is very similar to Apple’s Portrait Lighting, only with a few additions like Loop, and Rainbow lighting.

The front camera is slightly better when it comes to both color and detail as compared to general selfie camera standards in this price band. The selfies (when beauty mode was turned off) turned out reasonably close to the reality. And if you do not like what you see without filters, along with beauty mode, the phone offers a plethora of real-time edit features like Thin Face, Whitening, Skin Tone, Eye Span (all which seem to be subscribing to ridiculous beauty standards that make you look completely different from what you actually look like, but that is another story). The app is very extensive and allows you to do more than some of the camera apps that we have seen on other smartphones.

Funtouch OS can be a little overwhelming

The Vivo Z1 Pro runs on Android 9.0 (Pie) and comes with a detailed and heavy layer of Vivo’s in-house FuntouchOS_9 UI. And well, if the phone’s cameras sometimes miss out on details, the UI does not. The Z1 Pro is as loaded as it gets when it comes to software. No matter which area you might want to get into – the control center, the camera app, the main menu, or the general settings – no matter what tab you open, you will find an array of options floating around. What’s more, the phone comes preloaded with a number of third-party apps that are not arranged well and will stare right in your face the minute you start the phone up. In the settings you will find, a number of features inside a feature, which got a little much for us, to be honest.

We are all for a detailed skin, simply because it lets you do more with the phone but at times, this was too much, even for us. Something as basic as taking a screenshot came with a number of options like Shaped screenshot, Doodle, Lasso, Rectangular and then it had editing bars floating around for good measure. If you like the interface of a stock Android device then this is not the phone for you. Keep looking.

We expected more from 5000 mAh battery

The battery is one of the USPs of the Vivo Z1 Pro as the phone comes with massive 5,000 mAh battery but we were slightly disappointed with its performance. We expected the phone to at least last a day and a half, if not two even through heavy duty work but the phone could hardly see a little more than a day on a single charge when pushed. The phone did last a day and a half with normal usage, though. Thankfully, it comes with fast charging support and an 18W charger is bundled with the phone in the box which means you can get a couple of hours worth of battery life in 10-20 minutes.

Welcome to the Pro Zone, Z1

Priced at Rs. 14,990 for the base model, the Vivo Z1 Pro finds itself fighting against the Pro-est of smartphones in the category — the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro. One that comes from a family of legends and has already taken that tradition forward and the other that has entered recently but has left its imprint on the market.

Now, the Z1 Pro comes with a strong gaming front and with a great display and good sound but lags behind in a few departments like UI, camera, and battery. Considering that its competitors are scoring very heavily in those very departments (especially battery and camera), the Z1 Pro is going to be leaving very heavily on gaming to make is presence felt in this extremely competitive segment of the market. If you are looking for a mid-segment device with a lot of gaming touches, then this is definitely a contender, although some would point to the now even-more-affordable Poco F1, which has a faster processor and also has its own cooling system. Welcome to the Pro Zone, Z1. Best of Luck. You are going to need it. Buy Vivo Z1 Pro on Flipkart