Vivo V17 Pro review: Six fun cameras, one mediocre phone
Largely overshadowed globally by its more trendy BBK stablemates Oppo and OnePlus, Vivo’s strategy of releasing affordable phones with quirky, cutting edge features has proven to be a winner, particularly in India. While the brand’s most ambitious projects are saved for the Nex series, the brand’s creativity also trickles down to its mid-range phones, including its latest V-series phone — the Vivo V17 Pro.
Armed with two pop-up selfie shooters, another four cameras on the rear, and a handful of other upgrades over the V15 Pro, is the V17 Pro another winner for Vivo? Find out in our Vivo V17 Pro review!
What is the Vivo V17 Pro?
The Vivo V15 Pro, launched earlier in 2019, was one of the first budget phones to feature a pop-up camera as an alternative to the dreaded notch or a punch hole cutout. With rivals like the Realme and Xiaomi jumping on board the pop-up camera bandwagon, Vivo has gone one better for its successor and installed a second selfie camera into the V17 Pro for taking wide-angle shots.
Priced at Rs. 29,990 ($423), the V17 Pro is butting heads with other affordable phones in the region from Xiaomi, Realme, and Oppo. With so much strong competition, can the promise of super selfies carry the V17 Pro through to victory?
Do you really need two selfie cameras?
The V17 Pro’s pop-up is one of the largest to date which is kind of fair enough as it has to house two cameras — a whopping 32MP sensor and a secondary 8MP ultra wide-angle lens. There’s also a handy flash in the middle.
Does anyone really need two selfie cameras?
I should note from the start that unless you’re really into beauty modes, you may not like the results from either selfie shooter. Even with all the many, many face and posture settings turned down to zero, it’s quite tricky to get a natural looking shot as there’s clearly some tweaking going on in the background.
That said, the main selfie camera produces some solid, social media-ready snaps with a decent amount of detail.
Switching to the ultra wide camera comes with a little extra noise and grainy edges, but if you’ve got a bunch of buddies you want to get into shot that extra field of view may be worth the trade off in quality.
Do you really need two selfie cameras? I’m not convinced, but there’s no denying it’s fun to shoot… widies? No, that’s horrible. Moving on.
How good is the quad camera?
Not content with two cameras on the front, Vivo added another four on the back for a whopping six in total.
The main 48MP rear shooter and 13MP telephoto sensors are both pretty fantastic for a phone in this price range, and HDR, exposure, and colors are all on point.
The ultra wide-angle rear camera again gets really noisy and suffers from oversharpening.
The final lens is a depth sensor for those bokeh shots, which misses some edges but generally deliver a satisfying portrait effect.
Below are a few additional shots taken on the Vivo V17 Pro or for a whole bunch of full resolution camera sample shots head here.
What’s good about the Vivo V17 Pro?
So we know the dual-selfie and quad rear cameras are decent, but what about the rest of the phone? Here’s a few other positives the V17 Pro has going for it:
20:9 display — I’ve struggled to get to grips (quite literally) with tall 21:9 phones, but the Vivo V17 Pro’s 20:9 aspect ratio super AMOLED panel strikes the right balance between size and usability. Unless you’re putting your eyes unhealthily close to the screen there’s no reason to bemoan the 1080p resolution as this is a competent display that’s bright, and has always-on display and WideVine L1 certification support.
USB-C, finally — This doesn’t seem all that great, but you may remember the V15 Pro had a Micro-USB port in 2019. Thankfully that’s been rectified for the follow up.
Fast, accurate biometrics — The in-display fingerprint sensor on this phone is fantastic — I rarely got to a second attempt, let alone the third necessary to activate face unlock as a backup. Good stuff.
Headphone jack — It has one, which is great!
What’s not so good?
Ugly design — Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I’m sorry this phone is plain ugly. Not only is it chunkier than even the Asus ROG Phone 2 (which was understandable because of the massive battery), but there’s a noticeable lip around the edges. Vivo has made no attempt to make the display flow into the frame. Instead, what you get is a raised panel with sharp edges that protrudes out of the frame by around 2mm. The V17 Pro looks like two halves of completely different phones smashed together. The Crystal Black model’s off-gray is uninspiring (go for Crystal Sky if you have to) and the rear camera module is a nightmare for anyone who likes symmetry between the lenses.
Funtouch? More like Miserabletouch — With a few notable exceptions, Chinese OEM skins are largely a mess of bloatware, confusing menus, and garish visuals. Funtouch OS — which is perhaps the worst name for a skin since TouchWiz — is one of the worst out there. From the pointless, iOS-like quick settings dock to the missing app drawer and painfully tiny notification icons, I just couldn’t stomach using the V17 Pro without a custom launcher.
Mediocre performance — It’s getting increasingly hard to tell the difference between a mid-tier and top-end processor for everyday use, but when Vivo’s rivals are packing the Snapdragon 855 for around the same price there’s no excuse for stuffing a phone with a distinctly middle-of-the-road Snapdragon 675 SoC. The 8GB of RAM keeps things ticking smoothly, but you immediately feel the weakened GPU when playing games on anything but low-to-mid settings.
Shoddy haptics — They’re just not great. Vibration motors in cheaper Chinese phones usually leave a lot to be desired and while the V17 Pro’s motor isn’t the worst, you can still hear it loudly whirring away when you get a notification.
Price — Just over $400 isn’t a bad price point for a phone of the V17 Pro’s caliber in a vacuum. However, compared to some of the other phones available in this price range in its target markets — especially India — it feels sorely overpriced based on the hardware on offer.
What alternatives are there?
The main market for the V17 Pro that we’re interested in is India where there’s no shortage of phenomenal alternatives to what is a largely underwhelming phone.
Want the best you can buy for close to Rs. 30,000? The Redmi K20 Pro absolutely blows the Vivo V17 Pro out of the water for just Rs 27,999, while the OnePlus 7 can often be picked up for Rs. 29,999 on discount.
Vivo V17 Pro specs
|Vivo V17 Pro specs|
|Display||6.44-inch Super AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080
20:9 aspect ratio
2.5D curved glass
84.3% screen-to-body ratio
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 675|
Expandable up to 256GB with microSD card
48MP primary sensor, ƒ/1.8 aperture, 0.8μm, PDAF
8MP ultra wide-angle sensor, ƒ/2.2, 1.12μm
13MP telephoto, PDAF, 2x optical zoom
2MP depth sensor
32MP motorized pop-up camera, ƒ/2.0
8MP ultra wide-angle motorized pop-up camera
18W fast charging
|Sensors||In-display fingerprint sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
|Software||Funtouch OS 9.1
Android 9 Pie
|Dimensions and weight||159 x 74.7 x 9.8mm
Should you buy the Vivo V17 Pro?
If you want an affordable camera phone you can do a lot worse than the Vivo V17 Pro. The dual-selfie camera is a bit of a gimmick, but performance across the six total cameras is solid enough to at least ensure the phone isn’t a terrible purchase.
You could probably do a lot worse than the Vivo V17 Pro, but you can definitely do a lot better.
However, unless you really need that second selfie sensor or you really don’t like its admittedly quite garish design, the Redmi K20 Pro has the V17 Pro beat in every single department and still leaves you with some extra cash in your pocket.
Unfortunately, Vivo has dropped the ball at a time when mid-range phones are better than they’ve ever been. Here’s hoping the next V-series isn’t just a one-trick camera phone.
That’s it for our Vivo V17 Pro review! Do you disagree with our verdict? Let us know in the comments.