When I first used the Vivo V20, one of the key things that I looked for in the phone was one exceptional bit that would have any buyer choose it, over the more popular options in the Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 price segment. While the OnePlus Nord, Google Pixel 4a and even the Samsung Galaxy M51 may have been worthy choices in this segment, the V20 was quite a bit less expensive than its rivals. Now, we have with us the Vivo V20 Pro, which at Rs 29,990 is smack in the middle of the OnePlus Nord vs Google Pixel 4a tug of war. In such a setup, does the V20 Pro really stand for being a worthy recommendation?
The Vivo V20 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 765G SoC, and hence comes with 5G connectivity. While that makes absolutely no difference right now, it does mean that if you do buy this phone now, you won’t need to upgrade it when 5G services do roll out in India. The only other thing that is ‘pro’ about the V20 Pro is its front camera setup – while the V20 gets a single, 44-megapixel front camera, the Vivo V20 Pro gets a dual front camera setup with 44-megapixel primary and 8-megapixel ultra-wide units. That, though, is about it. Given the ‘pro’ moniker in the name, I would have at least expected a faster display refresh rate, but nothing doing here.
Does it, then, warrant a place in your shortlist should you want to buy a phone for around Rs 30,000? Does it have enough to wean the attention away from the more fanciable OnePlus Nord and the grossly understated Google Pixel 4a? Is it also ‘pro’ enough to warrant the extra Rs 5,000 over the Vivo V20? Here’s what we feel.
Display, design and ergonomics: Literally the same as V20, and that’s not great
When it comes to the design, in-hand feel, ergonomics and display performance of the Vivo V20 Pro, there’s literally nothing new to say here from what we already did in our Vivo V20 review. To sum up what we had already said, the V20 (and in turn the V20 Pro) is built well despite a plasticky side rim, and depending on your fashion choices, you’ll find the Sunset Melody gradient colour shade either excellent or too tacky. The light body still feels sturdy, but the raised fitting of the screen is annoying in a world where in most phones, the display sits flush with the sides.
The display by itself is good enough, featuring a 6.44-inch AMOLED panel. It looks typically oversaturated and over-sharpened as most AMOLED panels do. However, it’s really not bad for watching shows or even live sports, thanks to its crisp contrast ratio. Touch response for general usage is also good enough. However, it’s important to note that in a phone that claims to be ‘pro’ at things, the least we would have expected is a faster refresh rate. 90Hz and 120Hz panels clearly make a difference in the usage experience, and the Vivo V20 Pro missing out on it doesn’t really make sense.
In short, while you’ll be content with how things look on the V20 Pro, you’ll be rather unhappy when your friends turn up beside you with much less expensive phones that have much smoother displays.
Performance: All in order, but for the annoying software
The Snapdragon 765G is clearly the better chipset than the 720G that powers the Vivo V20, but that doesn’t really need any expertise to know. The on-paper advantage of the Vivo V20 Pro clearly translates in the real world as well, and the V20 Pro takes on average everyday tasks without any fuss. It loads emails, calendar entries, messages, social apps, notes and music apps without any ado, and notifications tie in smoothly to load a new app or recall one from the background. In short, the Vivo V20 Pro performs smoothly enough for all your everyday work tasks.
Even in gaming, the V20 Pro does quite well. It is very evidently smoother than the V20 at gaming performance, and is certainly at par with the OnePlus Nord (they both use the same chipset and same amount of RAM). Given the smoothness with which most heavy mobile games load and play out, you’ll never feel that the Vivo V20 Pro makes a compromise when it comes to performance. Graphics fidelity is on point too, and is in line with how well and how smooth things should perform on a mid-premium range smartphone.
What kinda ruins things, though, is the software. Vivo’s custom FunTouch OS is, in my books, a completely unnecessary layer of customisation that the V20 Pro would have done much better without. I particularly do not like the custom design of the notifications menu, and neither do I like what Vivo has done with the settings menu rearrangement. There is also a certain amount of bloatware on the phone, which thankfully can be uninstalled. The custom animations for the under-display fingerprint scanner, edge notification lighting etc are interesting touches, but do not look particularly minimal. Then again, given that Vivo is selling the V20 Pro in this alarmingly violent shade of orange-meets-purple-meets-blue, minimalism is a far cry from everything that this phone offers.
TL;DR? The Vivo V20 Pro performs as well as the OnePlus Nord, but we’d recommend the latter simply by virtue of the software usage experience. Simply having Android 11 out of the box does not steal the deal, and the OnePlus Nord has 5G compatibility as well.
Cameras: The strongest bit about the phone
The camera performance is where the Vivo V20 Pro has a winner in its hands. In fact, this is one area where Vivo’s software tweaking kinda pays off – Vivo’s camera app does well at gauging distances portrait shots, the software-driven iris control emulates a physical lens reasonably well, the ‘AI’ algorithms do surprisingly well in balancing harsh backlights and on overall terms, the performance from the 64-megapixel triple camera unit is solid and reliable. What particularly impresses me is its auto-recognition Backlight HDR mode, which actually does what a high dynamic range mode should – preserve more shades in harsh backlight, therefore reducing its intensity while improving illumination of the subject in front.Bright light, ultra-wide camera (left), dim light, macro camera (right) show the overall competence of the Vivo V20 Pro's camera performance. (Image: Shouvik Das/News18.com)
This is further helped on by eye tracking autofocus, which does its job well quite often. It is not 100 percent accurate, but is certainly a significant improvement for mobile cameras. This particularly comes handy in the front cameras – the Vivo V20 Pro’s eye tracking and face recognition algorithms make sure that the 44-megapixel dual front cameras stay locked in focus while recording video blogs.
Gimmicky as it may sound, the eye tracking autofocus unit on the Vivo V20 Pro actually works, and I quite appreciate what Vivo has attempted to do with its camera software here. It is still no match for Google’s computational photography algorithms, particularly in low light conditions as well as matching up with the levels of intricate details and sharpness. But, on standalone terms, the Vivo V20 Pro is a pretty good camera phone to use – and an easy, intuitive one at that too.
Battery: The average daily driver
The 4,000mAh battery is yet another area that you may have expected to gain ‘pro’ upgrades over the V20, but sadly, it does not. As a result, once 5G services kick in, what you will actually get in real life is poorer battery life over the V20. That said, for average work usage right now, the V20 will easily sail you through a full work day. Nought to 30 percent comes up in 15 minutes, and with the bundled 33W fast charger, 100 percent came up in a shade below one hour. With any other USB-C charger, the full charging took close to 90 minutes. As a result, the battery life is not bad, but nothing exceptional, either.
Verdict: Acceptable, not compelling
In overall terms, the Vivo V20 Pro is an acceptable smartphone. It performs quite well in terms of daily tasks and gaming, and its camera performance is even better. The phone feels good in hand, and you may even find it to be a good-looking one. All this, plus 5G, Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 with LE make it a sound package. However, there are shortcomings galore – FunTouch OS is not great, the camera struggles with details in low light, and the phone severely lacks ‘pro’ features unlike what its name suggests. Case in point – no larger battery despite 5G, no high refresh rate, no 12GB RAM variant (at least until now), no Wi-Fi 6 support and no aptX HD high resolution wireless audio streaming, among others.
So, what should you make of the Vivo V20? All things considered, I reckon it should still be in your shortlist. The camera performance can rival the Nord (the Pixel 4a is still better), and that itself is a strong proposition. The question is, would you be okay with just this, when spending Rs 29,990 on a smartphone? I probably won’t.