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Vivo Z1 Pro Review: Is This Gaming Device Also A Good Overall Phone?
The PUBG fever has taken the world by storm. First released in December 2017, the mobile game quickly rose to fame and engrossed the youth in a never-ending battle royale to be played on smartphones. The survival-based shooting game has been criticized and even made headlines for its ban in multiple countries, including India in various regions due to its addictive nature.
- Big Screen Serves Well For Gameplay And Multimedia Streaming
- Smooth Gameplay and Snappy Day-To-Day Performance
- Above-Average Camera Performance
- Long-Lasting Battery Life
- Not An Ideal Fit For One-Hand Use
- Dated MicroUSB 2.0 Charging Port
- iOS inspired Vivo’s FunTouch UI Is Not Very User Friendly
- Below Average Audio Performance
- Better Display Smartphones Available in Market
However, the ban was later reserved by authorities in some regions, leaving it to youngsters to decide how they want to go ahead with the game-addiction. This seems a fair decision as banning a popular game just because it's violent in nature and is widely accessible makes no sense in the 21st century. The decision should be left to an individual of how he/she wants to utilize its time with technology in today's era.
This brings us to the world of smartphones- the most popular platform to play the PUBG game. As the game is being played widely on mobile devices, smartphone manufacturers are constantly working to improve and enhance the gameplay experience for users. A number of gaming smartphones have been launched in last year; however, most of them carry a premium price tag and fail to target the masses.
Vivo wants to change it. The Chinese smartphone manufacturer has just announced an affordable smartphone, which is targeted primarily at PUBG players. Priced aggressively at Rs. 14,990 for the base variant (4GB RAM+64GB), Vivo Z1 Pro is equipped with a number of game-centric software customizations to enhance your gameplay experience. We played games and also tested other important features of Vivo Z1 Pro to evaluate its performance as a daily driver.
Here's what we have to say about Vivo's new affordable game-centric smartphone for Indian smartphone users, and especially PUBG fans. We tested the 6GB RAM+64GB ROM variant of the phone which retails at Rs. 16,990.
Not An Ideal Fit For One Hand Use
Vivo Z1 Pro is a big device, which has its pros and cons. The 6.5-inches panel takes up the entire front of the phone and offers a good real estate for multimedia streaming and gameplay. However, it also makes the device unfit for one-hand use. There's no way your thumb can reach the corners of the screen. With such big form-factor, all you can do with one hand is perform basic operations like lock/unlock the device, use the dialer, swipe to different home screens, access control centre, scroll to your social media timelines, etc.
Button and Ports Placements
The phone requires both the hands for all other day-to-day tasks such as camera usage, typing a text message, gameplay and even bringing down the notification panel. Thankfully the buttons on Vivo Z1 Pro are placed at suitable spots. But then the conventional fingerprint scanner is positioned slightly upwards from the sweet spot and demands a little bit of effort every time you want to unlock the phone. Overall, Vivo Z1 Pro is not a very comfortable phone to use in daily routine.
Ideally, you should not expect perfect ergonomics from today's smartphones. Very few handsets manage to get the right form factor for comfortable in-hand use. Motorola One Vision and Galaxy M40 are two handsets that offer better ergonomics than Vivo Z1 Pro.
Big Form-factor Serves Well Only For Gameplay
The big form factor of Vivo Z1 Pro only helps when you stream videos and play games, serving the very task for which the phone is essentially designed. As the 6.5-inch panel spreads across the entire front of the phone, you get a very good real estate for gameplay and video playback. If you prefer big-screen phablets, Vivo Z1 Pro is a good option.
The rear panel is glossy and is covered with a Blue-green gradient shade. A triple-lens camera module is placed at the top-left corner of the phone. The 3.5mm headphone jack and the dated microUSB 2.0 port sits at the bottom along with a mono speaker unit and a microphone.
Big 6.5-inches Full HD+ IPS LCD Display
A big and vivid screen is a must for a game-centric device. Vivo Z1 Pro has got it right for most of the part as the big 6.5-inch IPS LCD display works well for gaming and multimedia streaming; however, it fails to impress in various display related properties such as contrast, viewing angles and vividness. The IPS LCD panel offers a resolution of1080 x 2340 pixels, translating to 395 ppi in 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The display on Z1 Pro fails to match the likes of screen performance on devices like Redmi Note 7 Pro, Realme 3 Pro and Samsung's sub 20k priced handsets that boast vivid AMOLED panels. Moreover, Motorola One Vision's LCD panel also offers better visuals than Vivo Z1 Pro's IPS LCD display. If display is your priority, there are better handsets in the market in sub 20K price bracket.
Gaming Performance- Highlight Feature Of Vivo Z1 Pro
Vivo made some big claims for the gaming performance of Z1 Pro. To test the company's claims, I installed the most popular and graphical intensive games on the handset. These include Asphalt 9, Injustice 2, and probably the most popular one- PUBG. Let's start with the latter one for which the Z1 Pro is essentially designed for.
PUBG gameplay On Vivo Z1 Pro
PUBG runs in high settings by default and with high-frame rate. As soon as you fire up the game, the built-in game-centric software optimizes the CPU and RAM and also restricts the background notifications to deliver a smooth gaming experience. The big screen really makes a difference here and gives you an immersive gaming feel.
The PUBG gameplay on Z1 Pro is free of any noticeable frame drops. The handset also handles heat issues very well. There were minor heat signatures recorded after playing heavy games for over 30 minutes straight within a room temperature of 31 degree Celsius, which is totally acceptable.
No HDR Mode In PUBG- Big Miss for Vivo Z1 Pro
It comes as a disappointment that Vivo Z1 Pro does not support HDR mode in PUBG even though it is built essentially for PUBG players. Priced at Rs. 19,990, Moto One Vision offers HDR mode in PUBG. Moreover, Moto One Vision's 21:9 aspect ratio screen offers slightly more immersive in-game experience than Vivo Z1 Pro's 18:9 aspect ratio panel. But there's one downside of Moto One Vision. It heats up much quicker than the Z1 Pro while playing such graphical intensive games. The heat optimization is much better in Vivo Z1 Pro, which is quite essential for a game-centric handset.
Intuitive Game-centric Add-Ons
There are some notable software add-ons in Vivo Z1 Pro to enhance the gaming experience. The most significant one is the 4D vibration which can be enabled within Game Cube, the gaming suite that offers a number of customizations to improve the installed games' performance. Once enabled in games like PUBG, 4D vibration can really step up your gameplay experience.
It basically triggers situational vibrations in supported games at specific moments. For instance, 4D vibration makes it easy to figure out the direction from which other players are charging and shooting at you in PUBG. This can make a huge difference while indulging in intense combat sessions to secure a Chicken Dinner.
Block Notifications, Check GPU, CPU Performance At Glance
Additionally, Game Cube can also be used to block background calls, notifications, and even to reject calls for uninterrupted gameplay. If you don't want to miss any important call, you can set incoming calls to open in the background with hands-free mode. You can also enable Pop-up feature in Game Assistant, which basically shows all game-related functions and optimizations while launching a game. Moreover, the Game sidebar can be enabled to bring up all required game controls within gameplay. Both these features really give you a feel that this phone is specially designed to enhance your gaming experience. Moreover, you also get a game counter which basically places a timer widget on the home screen to notify you for an ongoing match. Last but not least, you can also change your voice in gameplay. I doubt you want to do that.
Dedicated Esports Mode
In addition to Game Cube and Game Assistant, Vivo Z1 Pro also comes equipped with a dedicated Esports Mode. The mode is essentially designed for Battle Royale game players. When enabled, the Esports mode makes some significant optimizations at the hardware level. It basically allocates the required amount of CPU resources to games for smooth frame rates to enhance the gaming experience. It also prevents accidental touches and maintains a balance between performance and heating effect of the device for interrupted gameplay experience.
Besides PUBG, other graphically intensive games like Asphalt 9 and Injustice 2 also ran pretty well on Vivo Z1 Pro. There were no frame drops, no stutters and graphics looked really immersive.
Below Average Audio Performance
The audio produced by the Z1 Pro fails to impress. The handset features one bottom firing speaker which fails to deliver a rich audio delivery. The earpiece does not contribute anything to the audio delivery and you are left with very shrill one-directional audio while tuning to your music and playing games. You cannot experience immersive gameplay if you don't have headphones handy. You have to have a good pair of the audio device if you want to enjoy games on Vivo Z1 Pro.
Feature-Rich Capable Camera Setup
Let's talk about camera performance. Vivo Z1 Pro boasts a feature-rich triple-lens camera setup. The setup primarily consists of a 16MP sensor (F/1.78), 8MP wide-angle lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. The front of Vivo Z1 Pro sports a big 32MP selfie camera places inside the punch hole. The camera app on Vivo devices is quite feature-rich and offers a lot to experiment with photography. You can enable HDR mode (No Auto HDR), Portrait light effects (which offers a variety of iOS-like studio effects), Bokeh mode, wide-angle mode, Live photo, real-time filters, Night mode, AI Beauty and the list goes on. The AI works effectively on this device and can instantly recognize objects like leaves, sky, sunset, documents, watch, etc. to optimize the camera settings for the best possible output.
Still Camera Performance
The 16MP shots come out crisp and show decent detailing. Colors are mostly accurate, something which we have noticed in Vivo's previous smartphones. The HDR effect works well. It enhances shadows and also adds some good dynamic range to the shots. Images captured on Vivo Z1 Pro look sharp and will impress shutterbugs. The 2MP depth sensor is also doing a good job here. The camera was able to focus on the subject while diffusing the foreground and background at the same time.
There's a dedicated lens to capture wide frame. The 8MP lens has the ability to capture 120-degree wide-frame. The wide-angle shots might not look as detailed as 16MP standard images; however, they do allow you to add a good perspective to pictures. Lens distortion is very well controlled but the dynamic range could have been better in wide-angle shots.
The camera can record 4K videos at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps/24-30fps and 720p videos at 60fps and 24-30fps. You can also record slow-motion and time-lapse videos. Video output is decent but not extraordinary. 4K videos look crisp but make sure you have a tripod handy as hand-held videos come out very shaky. 1080p/60 fps videos look equally crisp and can be used for YouTube and other media platforms.
Selfie Camera Performance
Vivo has been making good selfie cameras from a while and the new Z1 Pro also gets a massive 32MP front-facing shooter. The fixed focus lens captures incredibly sharp selfies. A variety of modes and filters are provided to help you step up the selfie game for social media platforms. You can also apply beauty mode and can also tweak the shape of individual facial elements to give your face a specific kind of look. In short, Vivo Z1 Pro has all the ingredients of a good selfie smartphone.
Latest SD712 + 6GB RAM Makes Z1 Pro A Snappy Performer
Vivo Z1 Pro is the first handset to be powered by the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 chipset. The latest Qualcomm's 700 series processor is engineered on the 10nm manufacturing process, which was used to design the 2018's flagship Snapdragon 845 SoC. The CPU in Z1 Pro is paired with ample 6GB RAM to handle multitasking. The combination ensured smooth performance throughout the review duration. Heavy games and apps ran without any glitch. The phone also handles other day-to-day tasks efficiently. I did not come across any app crashes and stutters while using multiple tabs in Chrome or editing heavy JPEGs in third-party photo-editing software.
We also ran our usual set of benchmarks tests. The latest SD712 powering the Vivo Z1 Pro scored 2,074 in Sling Shot Extreme- Open GL 3.1and 1,982 in Sling Shot Extreme- Vulcan in 3D Mark. Just to put in reference, Huawei P30 Pro which is powered by the flagship Kirin 980 CPU and costs much higher, scored 2,051 in Sling Shot Extreme- Open GL 3.1 and 2,208 in Sling Shot Extreme- Vulkan. This clears that SD712 is indeed a flagship-level CPU.
The smartphone touched a score of 18,2,421 in Antutu and 6832 in PC Mark Work 2.0.
If you compare the PC Mark 2.0 score of SD712 with SD710, the former is ahead by 217 points. SD710 powering up the Realme 3 Pro touched 6596 in PC Mark Work 2.0. Interestingly, Redmi Note 7 Pro and Vivo V15 Pro scored 7471 and 7505 respectively in the same test. Both these handsets are powered by the previous generation SD675 CPU. Snapdragon 675 still comes out as an overall faster processor due to the powerful Kryo 460 cores.
Like the SD710, the latest Snapdragon 712 chipset also gets the older Kryo 360 cores but better Adreno 616 GPU. What this means is that the SD675 powered chipset might feel slightly snappier in day-to-day performance; however, SD710 and SD712 backed handsets offer better gaming performance due to the better graphical processing unit.
Long-lasting Battery Performance
Vivo has provided a big 5,000 mAh battery unit with Z1 Pro which can easily last a day upon heavy usage. A big battery also helps you to continue extra game sessions without worrying much about the remaining battery power. During our review duration, the battery on Vivo Z1 Pro managed to last a full day with heavy usage of the device that included gameplay of more than 60 minutes, camera usage, video streaming, lots of calls, social media and photo editing. This is quite promising and better than most of the sub 20k smartphones.
Dated MicroUSB 2.0 Port
It is halfway 2019, and Vivo is still stuck with the dated microUSB 2.0 charging port. Xiaomi, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, etc. offers Type-C port handsets in sub 10K price-point. Notably, Type-C port allows for faster data transfer speeds and is also easy to plug in as compared to conventional microUSB 2.0 charging ports which are gradually fading away from the smartphone market. Vivo really needs to take note on this.
Vivo’s FunTouch OS Is Fluid, Feature-Rich Yet Not User-Friendly
Vivo has made some significant improvements in the company's in-house Android skin in the last two years. The latest iteration of FunTouch OS offers some really useful features like Game Cube, Motorbike Mode, Feedback app, Gestures, App Clone amongst many. FunTouch OS also works without any performance issues for most of the part. It's fluid, responsive and is usually free of app crashes and stutters. What seems missing here is the Ease-of-use.
Cluttered Control Center
For instance, the custom skin's notification panel can be really confusing at times. You cannot access quick controls like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, etc. from the notification panel, which is the usual case with the Android ecosystem. The iOS-like control centre gives access to all such features. You cannot change wallpaper by long-tapping on the home screens. The action only allows you to place widgets on the home-screens and to alter the sliding effects. The latter should have been swiped for some other function as changing sliding effects of home screens is usually a one-time affair. Vivo FunTouch OS gestures can be damn irritating at times. Besides, the FunTouch OS still has lots of unwanted bloatware.
The phone also comes preinstalled with Gaana, UC Browser, Web novel and some other insignificant bloatware. If you are a stock Android fan, Vivo's FunTouch OS will mostly come as a disappointment. You will not face any issues if you are already a long time Vivo user. I think it's high time for Vivo to stop copying iOS and bring something of its own. Android offers a world of customizations and the company is still stuck with a clumsy iOS rip off.
The first smartphone- Z1 Pro in the company's new series is quite feature-packed and is targeted at gamers. Vivo has launched the handset at a very aggressive price-point. The big 6.5-inch display, the massive battery unit and game-centric add-ons make Z1 Pro a solid offering for avid gamers in the sub 20K price bracket. If your priority is a game-centric device with long-lasting battery life, Vivo Z1 Pro is a good buy, especially for users who are die-hard fans of PUBG. Vivo Z1 Pro is also an excellent selfie smartphone.
However, there are some shortcomings of Vivo Z1 Pro that can prove as a deal-breaker for consumers who want an all-rounder Android phone in sub 20K price bracket. These include- dated microUSB 2.0 charging port, sub-par audio delivery, average IPS LCD screen and not so good Vivo's Funtouch UI.
If you prefer stock Android feel, you can consider Motorola One Vision which retails at Rs.19,990 and offers a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio display, better software and much better audio performance. Samsung Galaxy M40 is another very good option in the similar price-bracket as the handset runs a very clean and smooth OneUI and offers best-in-class AMOLED screen. Galaxy M40 also easily fits in one hand and is better at ergonomics.
Besides, you can also consider the Realme 3 Pro which is a full-packed Android smartphone at a very reasonable price. Last but not least, if you want to save bucks and don't miss out on features and performance, the widely popular Redmi Note 7 Pro is still the one-of-the best buy in the sub 20k price bracket.
Vivo Z1 Pro comes in three variants- 4GB RAM+ 64GB ROM at Rs. 14,990, 6GB RAM+ 64GB ROM at Rs. 16,990 and 6GB RAM+ 128GB ROM at Rs. 17,990. Vivo Z1 Pro will be made available in the market from July 11 via Flipkart.com and Vivo's online store. Flipkart is offering a discount of Rs. 750 on the purchase done via ICICI credit or debit cards. Moreover, Jio users will also get Rs 6000 benefits.