Vivo S1 Review: Good Looks Aren’t Enough

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Back in July, when Vivo launched the Vivo Z1 Pro, it was seen as one of the best mid-range smartphones that delivered a decent price-to-performance ratio and a worthy alternative to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro and Realme X.

Now a couple of days ago Vivo announced its Y7s smartphone rebranded as Vivo S1 in India. While the V-Series Vivo smartphones are really popular, with Vivo S1 the company is now expanding to other price segments as well. In the sub-Rs 15,000 price segment, the Vivo Y series has become popular. For the gamers, the Vivo Z series is a wallet-friendly choice. But now the company is adding a new style-centric S series with Vivo S1, boasting an AMOLED screen with a 32MP front camera sitting in the waterdrop notch, a glass-like gradient back, huge battery with fast-charge support, an in-display fingerprint sensor, all under Rs 20,000.

Looking at the specification chart and features, this phone seems to be a balanced mix of style and feature-centric in its segment. Sure the Vivo S1 is stylish, but what about the performance? We test it to find out.

What’s in the box?

The Vivo S1 ships with a pair of headphones, an 18W fast charger, as well as a TPU case. A SIM ejector tool and manuals are also boxed with the smartphone.

Design and build quality

  • Dimensions: 159.5 x 75.2 x 8.1 mm (6.28 x 2.96 x 0.32 in)
  • Weight: 179 g (6.31 oz)
  • Plastic Build
  • Schott Xensation 3D Glass

Vivo S1 Review_01

As mentioned before, Vivo is targeting the fashion-conscious audience with its primary focus on the design. It comes with a curved glass-like cover on the back with a gradient finish, reflecting different color hues when looked at from different angles.

The Vivo S1 is available in two colors, Diamond Black and Skyline Blue. The first one has a laminate back with a diamond pattern design and a gradient color finish. The second one looks good too with its bluish-white tone which also reflects a shade of purple.

The front of the phone is covered by a fairly large display with a small waterdrop notch. The side bezels are manageable but the chin on the bottom is quite noticeable. This is the first time Vivo has introduced the Schott Xensation 3D Glass, protecting the display against micro-abrasions and scratches. We would have preferred Corning Gorilla Glass as seen on the Redmi Note 7 Pro, but it remains to be seen how well it manages over long-term use.

The sides of the phone consist of a power button, volume rockers and a dedicated Google Assistant button which is a surprising addition. Along the bottom edge, there is a headphone jack, speaker grille, and a dated microUSB port for charging. It is disappointing to see a MicroUSB port on the Vivo S1, considering that most other smartphones at this price point have moved to USB Type-C. There’s also a triple slot for housing dual sim cards and a microSD card for storage expansion. Vivo S1 uses an optical fingerprint sensor hidden beneath the display and it is quite fast and unlocks the phone successfully most of the time.

Coming to the build quality, the entire construction is plastic. It does feel a little cheap in the hands as the back does not seamlessly meet the frame, and you can feel rough edges. With the competition stepping up their game by using superior materials and premium finish, the Vivo S1 with its polycarbonate frame certainly isn’t able to match up. The phone also doesn’t come with a splash-proof rating, so be careful when using it around the water.

Display

  • 6.38-in Super AMOLED
  • Full HD+
  • 19.5:9 Aspect Ratio
  • ~83.3% screen-to-body ratio

Vivo S1 Review_02

The Vivo S1 boasts a 6.38-inch Super AMOLED display with a tiny dewdrop-style notch at the top. The display resolution is Full-HD+ (1080 x 2340), stretched to a 19.5:9 tall aspect ratio. The screen looks great because of the use of sAMOLED panel and it offers excellent saturation levels. Text and images look sharp too. The peak brightness of the display is around 400 nits, which is sufficient for outdoor use and enough to stay visible under direct sunlight. The Vivo S1 also comes with a pre-installed removable screen protector which is good.

Performance and Battery Life

  • Chipset: Mediatek MT6768 Helio P65 (12nm)
  • CPU: Octa-core (2×2.0 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6×1.7 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Mali-G52 MC2
  • RAM+ROM: 4GB+128GB,6GB+128GB
  • Battery: 4500mAh with 18W Fast Charging

Vivo S1 is the first smartphone launched with MediaTek’s latest Helio P65, a small upgrade from the Helio P60. The Helio P60 paired Cortex A73 and Cortex A53 cores, but with Helio P65 it is now a pair of two Cortex A75 cores with six Cortex A55 cores. The major difference between these two chipsets is that multi-threaded performance has seen a downgrade in the Helio P65. The GPU has also seen a downgrade from Mali-G72 to Mali-G52. We’re not really sure why Vivo chose this chipset for this smartphone.

Vivo S1 runs on Vivo’s customized skin named Funtouch OS on top of Android 9.0 Pie. Vivo has optimized it quite well to deliver a smooth user experience. RAM management is decent, but there were some hiccups seen when starting up resource-intensive games like PUBG and Asphalt 9, but the games ran perfectly fine at medium settings.

We also ran Antutu and Geekbench benchmarks and it managed to get a pretty respectable score, though it is underwhelming compared to the competition from Xiaomi and Realme at the same price segment.

Vivo S1 Review_03Vivo S1 Review_04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, battery life is one of the key areas where Vivo S1 really shines. The Screen-on-time is more than enough for a day and the phone can certainly last two days with light usage. The phone also supports Vivo’s rapid charging technology and comes with an 18W fast charger in the box. A full charge from zero percent takes around 2 hours, which is not bad considering the 4500mAh battery size.

Camera

  • Primary sensor: 16MP, f/1.78, Sony IMX499
  • Ultrawide sensor: 8MP, f/2.2, 120-degree Field-Of-View
  • Depth sensor: 2MP, f/2.4
  • Front camera: 32MP

Vivo S1 Review_05

Vivo has chosen for a triple-camera setup on the back for the Vivo S1. This consists of a 16-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.78 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor with f/2.2 aperture, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture. The selfie camera at the front is a 32-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture.

On paper, it looks like a solid camera package. However, image processing is mediocre on this device. The Vivo S1 is a poor performer when compared to other smartphones in the same price segment.

In daylight, the focus was quick but photos came out underexposed. But the photo turned out quite detailed and text at a distance was readable. When using the ultrawide camera for the same scene, the photo was exposed better but lost out on details.

There is a noticeable lack of dynamic range in photos taken from the primary sensor. The shutter lag makes it difficult to capture a sharp image at the first attempt. Toggling on HDR results in unnatural chromatic aberration and bumps up the saturation which looks artificial.

Low-light camera performance was average, with limited detail and a significant amount of noise. Unlike the Vivo Z1 Pro, Vivo S1 doesn’t have the night mode feature which could have helped to improve the low-light photos just a bit.

The 32-Megapixel front camera is a big selling point for Vivo S1, though once again, unfortunately, selfies came out overexposed but retained good details. The bokeh mode did manage good edge detection on the rear camera, but the front camera produced photos with imperfect edge detection.

Video quality isn’t great either. It maxes out at 1080p for both the primary and front camera. There is no video stabilization on Vivo S1. Also, the recorded audio sounded quite muffled. Most smartphones at this price are capable of 4K video recording and use EIS for 1080p footage.

The camera app offers a lot of modes and settings depending on your needs. Vivo certainly didn’t skimp out on camera settings and also added some extra features.

Vivo S1 Review_09

Audio

The single loudspeaker along the bottom edge gets loud, but starts distorting at the max volume. It isn’t suitable for listening to music, but it’ll do just fine for calls and casual Youtube sessions.

The headphone jack also did well, producing loud and clear audio. It will be able to drive most of the regular earphones just fine.

Software

If you are currently using a smartphone that runs stock Android, get ready to be disappointed as Vivo S1 runs on Vivo’s FuntouchOS on top of Android 9.0 Pie. It is far away from stock Android and resembles Apple’s iOS. Though with the new iteration of Funtouch OS, Vivo has added new features but also bloatware. Even Google Play Protect identifies Vivo’s own app as spyware which is definitely not ‘fun’.

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Verdict

The Vivo S1 is priced at Rs.17,999 (4GB RAM,128GB ROM) and Rs.19,999 (6GB RAM,128GB ROM) respectively. While the Vivo S1 offers good battery life, its average chipset and mediocre camera performance failed to impress us. The heavily customized software is also not great. For the asking price, you can get a marginally better smartphone such as the Realme X (Review), or spend less and get the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review), or spend a little more for the Redmi K20. In fact, if you compare Vivo S1 to the previously launched Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), Z1 Pro is a better choice as it maintains a great balance between style and general usability.

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77%
Awesome

Vivo S1

Vivo S1 offers good battery life, its average chipset and mediocre camera performance failed to impress us. The heavily customized software is also not great.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Performance
  • Battery

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