In the last 3 years, it is very easy to extrapolate that Vivo is perhaps the most improved smartphone brand -- especially at the high end of the spectrum. Its apex concept phones spawned the first generation borderless screens and retractable cameras in the Nex. With the Vivo X50 Pro, they amped up low light photography by outfitting a micro gimbal. Along the way, its hardware has become sleeker, more tender while the software is cleaner and usable. The Vivo X60 Pro Plus builds on top of all these maxims by arguably making the most elegant and ergonomic flagship of 2021 while being supremely powerful and having cameras that are right up there with the best in the business. Vivo has partnered with Zeiss this year while introducing its second-generation gimbal camera system which includes the Samsung GN1 sensor. Fundamentally, the X60 Pro Plus is right up there with the Mi 11 Ultra and in many ways better than phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro.
But it treads a different path than these devices -- it doesn't have water or dust resistance, nor does it have the largest screen or battery. It neither has the best haptics or speakers. Its software is also the weakest of the lot underlined with tons of excess bloat that doesn't do anyone favours. But these negatives are overridden by the sheer compactness and single-minded elegance of the X60 Pro Plus which gives a flagship experience in a more manageable and executive form. And the root of this is behind the fact that it is simply lighter than all its competition at 191 grams and feels more warm and friendly to touch thanks to the vegan leatherback, instead of the cold to touch glass or ceramic. This also makes the phone grippier and less frail to drops. The ergonomics are spectacular and it does remind one of a premium Blackberry in the late 2010s.
In all this is hidden the spectacular Vivo gimbal quad-camera system which also has two lenses that get the special stabilisation and also a laser autofocus system. I said the Mi 11 Ultra had the best camera system -- but the reality is that it beats the Vivo only by a smidgeon. In fact, for many, the Vivo could have a better camera stack. It certainly is the faster focusing camera system thanks to the laser. It also has the edge in extreme lighting perhaps thanks to the micro gimbal and it also takes better portrait shots. But what's important to know is that this is a spectacular camera stack that is amongst the best. Personally, I found the Xiaomi solution to be better because of the natural depth of the sensor, better colours, and the number of details the camera resolved. But the Vivo isn't far behind and its tenacity to oversharpen things and a cooler white balance makes things pop especially out in the open. The Xiaomi has better zoom capability and its ultra-wide camera is also arguably better. But there is not much in it despite the Vivo using an older generation sensor. The stabilisation also helps it to take super smooth video -- allowing the phone to take really smooth HD, 4K and even pretty decent 8K video without burning a hole in the heart of the phone. It is right up there with the best -- and even gives the iPhone 12 Pro Max a run for its money. The high order though being here -- the X60 Pro Plus is one of the best camera phones out there -- perhaps the best depending on the way you shoot or like your photos to be processed.
The 6.56" screen is also not too bad on the X60 Pro Plus -- it is a 120Hz OLED panel with curved sides and a pin-sharp resolution. It is also a smaller screen than its rivals which plays to a different kind of customer, looking for a more compact experience playing well with the entire narrative of the phone. That being said, the curves help reduce the size of the phone, they also make typing to be an ordeal. The colours are also washed out a wee bit while the lack of LTPO tech means the screen will suck more power. Yes, you get amenities like HDR support, but it is not as good as on phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. But for most people, this will be good enough. There is nothing rather ghastly happening here -- it is just that the rivals are better.
Being a 2021 flagship, there is plenty of power on tap. Snapdragon 888, 12GB DDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 memory is standard fare -- but the Vivo goes one step further with 3GB of virtual RAM which is being sourced from the storage. This perhaps helps the phone do outlandish tricks with the camera and also gaming but perceptibly, the phone doesn't necessarily feel faster than other Android phones. I will though say this -- the OnePlus 9 Pro feels quicker in multitasking and just feels more graceful to use thanks to its cleaner Oxygen OS. Vivo is getting closer day by day by cutting the clutter from its FunTouchOS -- but right now it is not as “fun” as Oxygen OS, MiUI 12 or OneUI. The good news is that Vivo has committed to 3 years of software updates as well. But again this is me the reviewer -- quibbling, nitpicking, revealing the devil in the details; to the untrained eye, it will feel as Fast and Furious as Vin Diesel's car. Make no mistake, it is one of the fastest phones around, and certainly, when compared to something more expensive like the Samsung S21 Ultra, you will question Samsung's pricing strategy or wonder how Vivo was able to offer this phone for so less.
Battery life on this phone is also surprisingly good considering its 4,200mAh power pack. Firstly, it will also give you a 12-hour workday -- with around 5-6 hours of screen on time and then it will charge rapidly within an hour using the 55-watt fast charger that comes with the package. It is not earth-shattering but it is not a deal-breaker. Many people have issues lugging around monstrosities that are quasi power banks -- I'm looking at you Mi 11 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra -- the Vivo is different, and I'd say I'm glad for that. However, I'm not happy that a phone that costs more than Rs 50,000 doesn't have wireless charging in 2021.
Yes, you get the specs, the looks, the camera and for the most part the performance with the X60 Pro Plus. It is Vivo's best phone ever, and it truly is amongst the best camera phones on the market -- but it is slightly a notch below the likes of the Mi 11 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The devil is in the details -- the refinement of software (not that the Mi UI 12 based phone is far ahead), the haptic feedback which makes you feel special, the loud and clear stereo speakers which support tech like Dolby Atmos, water and dust resistance, wireless charging and a screen that just pops -- these are fundamentals for a flagship. You can't skirt around these things. If one is okay compromising on these things, the Vivo will be an exceptional purchase, but if not then, the Mi 11 Ultra or the OnePlus 9 Pro will be the better choice depending on how important the cameras are for you. On the other hand, if you want a more compact and elegant Android flagship, the Vivo X60 Pro Plus may be your only realistic choice considering it is leagues ahead of the standard Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus -- with a killer camera system, superlative performance and just plain old fashioned good looks.
First Published: IST