Pushing the limits of smartphone photography
The Vivo X90 Pro is one of those phones that feature a 1-inch camera sensor. There are not many of them out there. That sensor, on its own, is great, but in this phone, it gets backing from both Vivo’s image processing, and ZEISS optics and expertise. The end results are… spoiler alert… outstanding. I had to open this intro with a camera-focused, there’s no other way to do it. The Vivo X90 Pro, of course, has a lot more going for it than just its camera setup, even though that is the highlight of this phone, and we’re here to review it to give you a better idea of what you’ll be dealing with, should you choose to buy it.
The Vivo X90 Pro is the company’s global flagship smartphone. An even more powerful Vivo X90 Pro+ also launched in China, but unfortunately not globally. The good news is, those two phones are very similar. The bad news is, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is exclusive to the Vivo X90 Pro+, and so is the periscope telephoto camera. That aside, the same 1-inch camera is included in both phones, and the MediaTek Dimensity 9200 that fuels this phone is also excellent. So, let’s get started, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
Table of contents
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Hardware / Design
The first thing I thought to myself when I took this phone into my hand is… this is a larger variant of the Vivo X60 Pro+. It feels very similar to that phone, and that’s a good thing. It feels really good in the hand, unlike the Vivo X80 Pro which felt a lot larger (even though it barely was), and a bit more awkward to hold. The vegan leather backplate does help with the grip, which is always preferred when it comes to large phones, in my opinion. Vegan leather does become even a bit grippier after you use the phone for some time, without the case, of course.
Only one color is available outside of China
There is only one color this phone is available in, globally, the ‘Legendary Black’ color. That is essentially a dark gray model. The ‘Red’ color option is available in China only, at least for now. Its front and back sides are proportional, as both of them curve into the aluminum frame. Yes, the display is curved on the phone, and the bezels are quite minimal. There is also a centered display camera hole at the top. All the physical buttons sit on the right-hand side, and the device includes an in-display fingerprint scanner. More on that soon.
It has a large, circular camera island on the back
There is a huge circular camera module on the back, which hides three cameras. The main camera utilizes a 1-inch sensor from Sony, which we’ll talk more about in the camera section. ZEISS branding is visible on the back as well, as is Vivo’s. The company also decided to place a metallic line with an “Xtreme Imagination” caption under the camera module, to separate the top and bottom parts of the phone, in a way. The design does look much better in person, than it does in renders. This design won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the phone feels premium, sits well in the hand, and it’s less slippery than metal+glass slabs. I, personally, don’t have any complaints, as Vivo made the phone feel more compact than it is.
The Vivo X90 Pro we received comes with an included silicone case. You may have seen some models come with a vegan leather case that comes with the same design as the back of the phone. I’m not sure if that’s reserved for the Vivo X90 Pro+ model in China only, or does it come with the Red Vivo X90 Pro model as well. It was not included in this packaging, however, that’s all I can say.
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Display
The Vivo X90 Pro features a gorgeous display, which is also large at the same time. It features a 6.78-inch 2800 x 1260 AMOLED display. This panel can project up to 1 billion colors, and has a 120Hz refresh rate (yes, it’s an LTPO panel). It supports HDR10+ content, and gets up to 1,300 nits of peak brightness. It has a 20:9 display aspect ratio, in case you were wondering, and the display is curved.
The display defaults to fullHD+ mode, and it’s really good
Now, the panel itself looks gorgeous. It’s plenty sharp, even in fullHD+ regular mode that the phone defaults to. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, to be quite honest. The colors are vivid, and the viewing angles are excellent too. You will be able to see some hazing on the sides because of the curves, though, when you look at the display straight on. The display is curved to that point, unfortunately. Also, we know that the Gorilla Glass protects the display, but we don’t know the exact iteration.
The scrolling is smooth, though the touch sampling rate could be higher
This panel is exceptionally adapted to this phone. The scrolling is buttery smooth, and the animations are also excellent. I did speed them up a bit, and they worked perfectly fine before and after that tweak. The touch response is also really good, but I wish Vivo went with at least a 480Hz touch sampling rate, and not 300Hz. The difference is noticeable if you’ve used higher touch sampling rate that’s for sure. If not, this will make no difference to you whatsoever. The only thing I wish for is higher brightness, to be quite honest. It’s perfectly fine and bright enough, until you get under direct sunlight. Oh, and yes, AOD (Always-On Display) mode is also available.
You can tweak this display to your liking, with ease
Vivo also gives you the ability to tweak the display to your liking. You can adjust the color temperature manually, or select one of the pre-loaded modes. If you prefer more vivid colors, that’s not a problem. If you’d like realism… the same thing, Vivo has you covered. The default setting is really good, though, so no worries if you’re not into making such changes.
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Performance
Alright, so… the specs. The Vivo X90 Pro is an immensely powerful smartphone, on paper. It doesn’t include the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC, as its ‘Plus’ sibling in China, but it comes with the MediaTek Dimensity 9200 SoC. That is MediaTek’s most powerful offering now, and it’s immensely powerful. It was my first phone with that chip, and quite frankly, I’m not really missing the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 as far as performance is concerned. More on that soon.
You’re getting both LPDDR5X RAM & UFS 4.0 flash storage here
Vivo also stuffed 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM inside this phone, along with 256GB UFS 4.0 flash storage (that’s the only model available globally). In other words, the company didn’t really skimp out on RAM or storage. These are the latest modules available. Those two, in combination with the aforementioned SoC, keep this phone running smoothly at all times. It doesn’t really matter if you’re using it for multitasking, multimedia consumption, or gaming… it runs really smooth.
It can run even the most demanding games on Android
Even if you end up running the most intensive titles for Android, this phone won’t break a sweat. It’ll get warm at one point, but not hot, nor will that impact performance at all. Vivo thought about cooling here, and it did a great job in that regard. Truth be said, we can’t really say the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and MediaTek Dimensity 9200 apart in day-to-day performance. MediaTek’s chip does benchmark lower than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC, but you won’t really feel the difference in day-to-day usage. This thing can even run Genshin Impact at the highest settings available, so… there you have it.
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Battery
Let’s get the spec details out of the way first, shall we. The Vivo X90 Pro comes with a 4,870mAh battery on the inside. It supports 120W wired charging, and a 120W charging brick is included in the retail box. The device also offers support for 50W wireless charging, though you’ll have to get a wireless charger separately, of course. On top of all that, reverse wired charging is also supported in case you need to charge up your earbuds on the go, or something like that.
The battery life is really good, but it could be even better
Having said that, what’s the battery life like? Well, it’s really good, though not outstanding like we’ve seen on some other flagship phones lately, as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 seems to have great power consumption control. I was able to get between 6-7 hours of screen-on-time during my usage, I even hit 7.5 once or twice. The first few days, I was closer to 5.5-6 hours because YouTube was draining power for some reason. Since I restricted its activity in the background, the battery life did improve, and I was getting around 6.5-7 hours of screen-on-time.
Do note that I’m not gaming on my phone, but I’m editing images, watching plenty of YouTube, taking tons of pictures, browsing, messaging, emailing… basically everything else you can imagine. Another thing to note is that I spend the vast majority of my day on WiFi, as do most of you, probably. Your mileage may vary, though, of course. Different usage habits, different apps, signal, and so on… all that affects battery life.
Even if you run out of battery ahead of time, you get immensely fast charging here
Now, even if you run out of battery ahead of time, don’t fret. Vivo’s 120W FlashCharge can get you from 0 to 50% in only 8 minutes. Getting a full charge takes less than half an hour. 50W charging is slower, but also plenty fast, if you opt for that option. It’s certainly much faster than the 15W charging that Samsung and Apple offer, it’s not even close.
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Camera
Spoiler alert… the Vivo X90 Pro is an outstanding camera smartphone. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, and have taken some really nice pictures, some of which I’ll share below. There’s actually a lot to talk about here, but let’s get the technicalities out first. Unlike the China-exclusive Vivo X90 Pro+, this one does not have a periscope camera, unfortunately. It does have the exact same main camera, though, and it utilizes a 1-inch camera sensor from Sony. That’s the Sony IMX989 sensor, in case you’re keeping track. That is the largest camera sensor made for smartphones to date, and it has huge potential. It needs proper software in order to shine, and Vivo has certainly provided it here.
A truly excellent camera sensor is backed by ZEISS and great camera software
Vivo has a 50.3-megapixel main camera with an f/1.8 aperture and 1.6um pixel size. It has OIS support, and the same goes for Dual Pixel PDAF. Laser Autofocus is also here for faster focusing times. In addition to that, a 50-megapixel ultrawide camera is here as well. That unit has an f/2.0 aperture and a 108-degree FoV. This camera also supports auto-focusing. A rather capable 50-megapixel telephoto camera is also included on the back. It has an f/1.6 aperture, 0.7um pixel size, OIS support, and 2x optical zoom.
When it comes to pictures from the main camera, they’re great. They’re vibrant, filled with detail, and well-balanced. The phone handles highlights like a champ, even in the harshest HDR conditions. Considering the size of the sensor, you’re also getting that creamy bokeh effect which reminded me of DSLR cameras. I’ve never seen such a depth of field on other smartphone cameras, it really does bring a photo to life. Taking pictures of my pets with this sensor was a joy, even in low light. Some such samples are included below.
You can choose between Vivo’s default & ZEISS shooting modes
Now, do note that there are two shooting modes at your disposal here. You can shoot with Vivo’s default setting, or the ‘ZEISS’ mode. I much preferred ZEISS, as the colors were not oversaturated, and the images were closer to real life, but still quite vivid and lifelike. At times, Vivo’s mode came in handy, but I used ZEISS over 90% of the time after I realized what kind of pictures it takes. So, the vast majority of samples below are taken with the ZEISS setting, I’ll also include some comparisons below, so that you can see the difference. I used ZEISS in both regular and low light, as it made images look truly great.
You don’t even have to use a dedicated night mode, it’s not necessary
In low light, there’s really no need for you to use a separate night mode, which is available here. You can, if you want images to be even brighter, but the regular mode does the trick. This phone can take a photo in low light either instantly or in a couple of seconds, depending on the setting. The point is, it’s really fast in that regard, and the results are really good. It balances images really well. It pulls plenty of detail from the shadows, but not the level of overexposure. Thanks to ZEISS’ T* coating, the reflections are kept to a minimum as well. That has been the case with Vivo’s flagships for years, and I’m really glad it’s here. Vivo and ZEISS have been collaborating for a long time, and it shows.
It’s a shame it doesn’t have a periscope camera
I’d much prefer to see a periscope telephoto camera on this phone, in addition to this telephoto camera Vivo included, but… it is what it is. You can zoom in up to a certain level while retaining good details (depending on the scene), but don’t expect a crazy zoom level. Macro photography, on the other hand, is really good. You can see a couple of examples below. Even in a more challenging light indoors, during the night, it managed to do the job. The ring image below shows it best.
The video recording is also quite good
The video recording is also quite good. It’s not the best, as you can see the jelly effect in low light when panning, and there are a couple of other issues, but overall, the video recording is also good. This phone shines when it comes to still, though, it shines to the level that is hard to put into words. The Vivo X90 Pro is my favorite camera smartphone to date, as it takes full advantage of that 1-inch camera sensor to provide outstanding results. It does take some getting used to, but once you do… it’s a joy to use.
No ZEISS vs ZEISS samples:
Various camera samples (almost all in ZEISS mode):
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Software
Android 13 comes pre-installed on the Vivo X90 Pro, with the company’s Funtouch 13 UI on it. Funtouch is different than stock Android, but it has a lot of stock elements in it. It feels like your genuine Android experience, and it’s miles better than the version from years ago were. That being said, I did not really notice any major issues with the software. It worked really well, and was quite fluid too. Even the notification center and quick toggles do resemble stock Android, which is always a good thing. That goes for both looks and functionality. You’re even getting that media widget in the notification center, with the squiggly animation.
Funtouch UI has some useful gestures to offer
You can choose whether you want all your installed apps to be on home screens, or if you want a more regular Android experience with an app drawer. The settings screen looks similar to Samsung’s. The overall look is really nice, and as I said, this UI works really well. You do get some extra functionality here too. You can use gestures, for example, you can swipe with three fingers up or down to activate certain actions, such as taking a screenshot, activating a split screen, and so on. I’ve been using this quite a lot, as I did on previous Vivo phones.
This UI does give you the option to lock apps in multitasking, in case a specific app ends up being killed off, and you don’t want that. The RAM management is generally really good, and if you ever have issues with a specific app working in the background, you can always lock it. I had to do that with an app for my smartwatch, for example. I did it from the get-go, and had no issues after that.
There were a couple of smaller issues, but the software overall is really great
I did have a couple of instances when a notification didn’t arrive the second it was supposed to, but that happened only twice. Everything else was basically instant, so I presume that everything will be polished out soon. I have this version of UI on the Vivo X60 Pro+ as well, and it works like a charm. I really don’t have any major complaints about the UI, and I’m pretty sure most of you will be happy with the software included in the Vivo X90 Pro.
Vivo X90 Pro Review: Should you buy it?
The Vivo X90 Pro is one of the best camera smartphones in the market at the moment. Vivo managed to combine arguably the best camera sensor (for smartphones) currently available with excellent software, and ZEISS optics to provide a truly outstanding experience. The Vivo X80 Pro had its issues with consistency, but the Vivo X90 Pro does not show such problems. I do wish Vivo released the Vivo X90 Pro+ globally, as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 would offer better battery life, and the periscope camera would be useful. Even without those additions, however, the Vivo X90 Pro is an outstanding offering. Its price tag will play a huge part for most of you, and unfortunately, at the moment, we still don’t know its price tag outside of China. One thing is for sure, though, this phone excels in many ways, and doesn’t really have a lot of downsides. So, if the camera performance is important to you, this is a phone you should consider, definitely.
You should buy the Vivo X90 Pro if:
- You appreciate smartphone photography, and want a truly great camera performance
- You like vegan leather backplates that are less slippery than glass
- You don’t mind a considerable curve on the display
- You appreciate and need truly fast wired & wireless charging
- You want the piece of mind IP68 certification offers
- You don’t want to buy a charger separately
- You’re tired of bad in-display fingerprint scanners
You shouldn’t buy the Vivo X90 Pro if:
- You don’t like curved displays
- If you love taking images with periscope cameras
- If you want class-leading battery life