Vivo are known for producing some of the best mid range and flagship phones in China, but what has happened with the latest Vivo X5 Pro? Find out what we think of this flashy phone in our Vivo X5 Pro Review.
It seems like a very long time ago that I first walked in to the Vivo store in Qingdao, Shandong and bought my very first Vivo phone. The device was a Vivo Xplay 3S and I was utterly blown away by the phone (which we still have) and Vivo’s level of customer service (way way better than Oppo).
The Vivo Xplay 3S managed to grab my wife’s attention who ‘borrowed’ it indefinitely from me, and I moved on to the Vivo Xshot (which we also still have). The Vivo Xshot went on to be my favourite phone of 2014 and early 2015 until the launch of the Xiaomi Mi Note and LeTV Le 1.
When Vivo Global got in touch to say that they wanted to send me a Vivo X5Pro I was very excited. I was so expectant of this slender Vivo phone that when I received the first message from DHL stating that it would come on Friday I stayed at home all day waiting for it. In fact I continued to wait all day Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (because DHL suck!) and was releaved when I finally received the phone on Wednesday just ahead of jumping on the plane to Sweden.
So was the Vivo X5Pro worth wasting those days for? Find out below.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Design and Build
The Vivo Xplay 3S and Xshot were both made with a similar metal chasis with polycarbonate body. For 2015 Vivo decided to move there build quality up a notch by making the Vivo X5 Pro from glass and alloy.
The resulting phone is very similar to the iPhone 6, in fact if there was a physical home button on the phone the Vivo X5 Pro would be labeled a bit of an iPhone clone. The rounded alloy chassis is similar to the iPhone’s and also many other smartphones of the year (Samsung, Ulefone, Meizu etc) and the dual glass panels are 2.5D curved which add a nice taper from the glossy front and rear on to those alloy sides.
In my mind I thought that Vivo would have lined up the glass taper to meet the alloy chassis to create a continuous smooth feel. Thankfully I was incorect and there is a slight lip between the glass and main body. This should help prevent the phone landing directly on the edge delicate front or rear panels should you ever loose your grip and drop it.
Both Glass panels are flat once the 2.5D curve ends, with only the alloy bezel of the camera protruding slightly from the rear of the phone. I quite like this touch and means that you are never leaning the lens of your camera on a surface helping to maintain a scratch free lens.
While we are looking at the rear, we find a single LED flash, a let down when most phones of this calibre are running a dual LED flash. There is also the Vivo logo and a little company info in English. Remember this is the international version of the phone, the Chinese model will have different text on the rear.
There are no speakers on the back of the Vivo X5 Pro, you find both of them in the bottom of the phone either side a standard USB port. No USB type C on the X5 Pro, which doesn’t effect me and is actually much more convenient if you ever find yourself needing a top up battery power or share files throughout the day.
Along the left of the phone is a smooth uniteruppted expanse of alloy. The top of the phone is where the 3.5mm headphone jack lives while down the right side we have a power button, volume rocker and SIM/SD card tray.
On the business side of the Vivo X5 Pro is a 5.2-inch FHD 1920 x 1080 AMOLED display. 5.2-inch is a great size. In use it feels very similar to a 5.5-inch display and in theory should take up less space, however due to the large bezels of the Vivo X5 Pro the physical size of the phone is almost identical to the 5.5-inch LeTV Le1.
Above the screen is a front facing camera, and below are the capacative keys for navigating through Vivo’s Funtouch ROM.
With glass front and rear and an alloy body the Vivo X5 Pro oozes quality and feels extremely well made. In the hand the phone feels sturdy but remiains light weight. The fact that the phone is thin means it is very pleasing to hold and is virtually unnoticeable when in your pocket.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Display
The Vivo X5 Pro’s AMOLED display, like the build, is a highlight. The screen is super vibrant and much easier to read in sunny conditions than a standard panel. Even Xiaomi’s HDR display (introduced on the Xiaomi Mi4i) isn’t as easy to read in the sun.
That lovely bright display is perfect to enjoy Vivo’s Funtouch ROM on too. With colorul icons and attractive animations everything just pops off the display and wants to be interacted with.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Hardware and performance
The build and display are wonderful on the Vivo X5 Pro, but what about the hardware and the performance of the device?
At the time of completing this review I am running the most up to date version of Functouch which was available via OTA (version 1.12.19). In the change log the update says that the Android Lollipop based ROM has been optimised to be more fluid and should be smoother than before and that it features camera optimisations etc.
I can confirm that the latest build really does go a long way to improving the phone’s usability but it is still far away from being as smooth and responsive as it should be.
When I first used the Vivo X5 Pro it was dreadful. I had never been so enraged by a phone before. The ROM, while beautiful, simply wasn’t optimed for use on the (utterly terrible) Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 (version 1) chipset. Lag and overheating aren’t just issues I have suffered and other reviewers and owners have commented on the issues too.
The latest Funtouch build has helped to keep the overheating down to a minimum, and the phone runs considerably cooler than it originally did. The system is also a lot smoother and more fluid than it was, but it is still incredibly slow at times.
For example opening the camera from the lock screen shortcut takes just over 3 seconds with no apps running in the background. On my LetV I can unlock the screen and open the camera app manually in the same time, and from the lock screen the camera is almost instantaneous.
Only Google Chrome seems to open with any sense of urgency. Facebook, the gallery app, WeChat, WPS, and pretty much every other Vivo or 3rd party app opens and operates at inconsistant speeds. Sometimes I am surprised to find an app opens with amazing ease, only for it to slow down to 1980’s levels of computing after a few seconds.
Having used Funtouch on both the Vivo Xshot and Xplay 3S I know that Vivo can build a beautiful, feature packed and well optimised ROM and I really feel sorry for Vivo’s developers that they have to build a nice operating system to run on the turd that is a Snapdragon 615 SoC. It’s like trying to build a sexy Alfa Romero 2 seater sports car around a Perkins diesel engine that’s been dug out of the mud after 50 years sitting in a field! It’s going to run but it isn’t going to be fun to use or live with.
What ever Vivo had had to do to the system to get it to run as it currently is has also had a dire effect on the memory usage. The phone comes with 2GB RAM which should be more than enough for mid-range phone but it isn’t in this case. Thank god for the various RAM cleaning and app killing features in Funtouch to keep the phone from slowing to a complete stop.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Camera
So even though the phone is slow, surely Vivo can make up for it with a good camera can’t they? The camera on the Vivo Xshot was amazing and the Xplay 3S was good too.
Vivo have opted for the tried and tested Sony MX214 13 mega-pixel sensor for the main camera. Some of you might groan and say “not this camera again” but I like the IMX214. It’s a proven sensor and has been around long enough for must manufacturers to get the most from it resulting in some stunning photos (see the Xiaomi Mi Note and LeTV Le1 reviews for some ideas).
With Vivo’s knowledge of building camera centric phones it should just be routine for them to add a great camera to the X5 Pro too. Shouldn’t it?
The camera is ok but it is far from perfect. My main issues with the camera are the slow capture and save speeds and problems with light being reflected back in to the lens while taking photos at night. Initially I was really disappointed with the camera, but after using it more often I can see that it is good in most situations, just not as good as what the competition are offering.
In standard or normal mode the camera on the X5 Pro can get some nice images in very bright conditions, but I feel that HDR really gets the best from the hardware on the Vivo X5 Pro.
When there isn’t much light about it is better to use the settings in Funtouch to switch to either HDR or night mode as shooting in normal mode can result in images with more noise than we would like to see.
Funtouch also has a great mode called ‘Broken’ for getting photos with great field of depth and a ‘Child’ mode which plays a fun sound (duck, cat, dog) to grab the attention of your subject to snap a photo.
Overall the Vivo X5 Pro has a good camera and the OS has some very good features (without even mentioning the Pro mode), but at this price point there are phones which offer better results and operate much faster.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Audio, connectivity and battery
Audio is very good on the Vivo X5 Pro. As usual Vivo have managed to give the phone HIFI quality sound that you can enjoy with a good pair of earphones (the included ear buds are actually pretty good) or through the external speaker.
Connectivity during my time with the Vivo X5 Pro has been excellent too. I’m most impressed with GPS which seems to have an instant lock and remains locked on while navigating.
4G LTE worked flawlessly though my trips to the UK, Sweden and Spain as did WIFI, and 3G.
Battery life is a little difficult for me to judge. The phone is thin and has a small battery when compared to most, and with the overheating of the past ROM there was some serious battery drain. Now the ROM has been updated the heat issues aren’t as bad but I haven’t really used the phone enough with this ROM to be able to tell if there is better battery performance. I’m not likely to either until the annoying slow downs and lags are completely solved. If I did attempt to run the battery flat in its current state I would launch the phone at a wall within hours.
Vivo X5 Pro Review: Conclusion
The good points are the build, design, audio, GPS speed, screen, and Funtouch OS. Actually, after writing those good points down, it is clear to see Vivo did get a lot of the Vivo X5 Pro right. The camera is pretty good too if you can take the time to set it up and don’t mind slow capture and save times.
It is the speed of the phone which really lets it down though. At this price point we can get a lot of phone for the money and all of them will be much much faster, smoother and easier to live with than the Vivo X5 Pro. Really, Vivo need to get rid of all those gremlins and get that Snapdragon 615 chipset running properly to make the phone competitive, but as it stands you would be better off spending your money elsewhere.
Thanks to Vivo Global for supplying us with the Vivo X5 Pro for review. I’m also happy to report that Vivo have taken the criticism on the chin and are working to resolve the optimisation and lag issues. We will keep updating the phone and let you know if there are many major improvements.