A dual, pop-up selfie camera: Nice to have, but not essential.
Vivo V17 Pro
- Versatile selfie camera
- Notchless OLED screen
- 8GB of RAM
- Ultra-wide selfies are ridiculously distorted
- Confusing UI
- Not the best bang for the buck
The Bottom Line
Vivo's V17 Pro is one of the best phones for selfies, but overall it doesn't offer the best value.
⚡ Mashable Score 3.5
Cool Factor 4.0
Learning Curve 3.0
Bang for the Buck 3.0
Smartphone makers these days have a tough task in making their devices stand out. You have to hand it to the Chinese : They're doing a really good job at it, even when the results are less than perfect.
In the past couple of years, China's Vivo has consistently produced solid smartphones that offer at least one feature that distinguishes them from the pack, such as the notchless, or the Vivo V7+ with its 24-megapixel selfie camera.
The company's latest smartphone, Vivo V17 Pro, continues in that tradition with a dual, pop-up selfie camera. Coupled with top-notch specs — a 32-megapixel sensor and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor — this should make the V17 Pro the king of selfies.
This phone can take some cool selfies, but some are downright laughable
The key word is should. It sort of does, but it also doesn't. I've spent a week with the V17 Pro and found it to be great for taking selfies of groups, especially in cramped spaces. It also does a great job in low-light conditions. On the flip side, the phone's extreme ultra-wide sensor often feels like a joke.
This is best illustrated with three photos. The first one would be impossible to take with any other phone; no selfie camera I've tested goes this wide. It's far from perfect, but hey, I didn't even have to fully extend my hand to fit three people in the shot.
The second one shows that the 32-megapixel sensor does great in a dimly lit hallway (the iPhone 11 Pro Max struggles a bit in the same conditions). Vivo's photo is sharper, and the colors are more true to life. The 32-megapixel resolution helps, too, especially if you zoom in. Note that even Vivo's main selfie sensor distorts the image near the edges.
Vivo V17 Pro
Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE
iPhone 11 Pro Max
Image: STAN SCHROEDER/MASHABLE
Finally, in this odd-angle photo, you'll easily notice just how much the Vivo V17 Pro's 8-megapixel, ultra-wide sensor distorts the image. You might even find the effect cool, but a good photo, it is not.
It's worth noting that the pop-up mechanism of the selfie camera is fairly quick; the camera will flip from front to back faster than it does on an iPhone 11 Pro Max (yeah, I don't know why the iPhone is so slow, either) but slower than on the LG V40.
With the V17 Pro, there are four more cameras to talk about, all of them on the back, but they aren't very exciting, given that most Chinese mid-rangers these days come with a similar setup. In a nutshell, the 48-megapixel sensor will produce great photos in good light, and pretty awful ones in low light. You'll get very similar results from the 13-megapixel telephoto sensor. The ultra-wide sensor (which, again, goes far wider than on most other phones), is great for taking photos of large groups and gatherings, but the photo quality is mediocre. Finally, the 2-megapixel depth sensor should improve bokeh shots, but they still aren't very good. Check out some photos I've taken over the last week, below.
Decent specs marred by boring design and shoddy UI
The rest of the V17 Pro is easy to describe — it's an average phone. It has a mid-range, Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,100mAh battery, all of it perfectly capable of enduring most tasks, but you do have to get used to Vivo's Funtouch 9.1 UI, which is a mix of Android and iOS features that left me confused quite a few times (three-finger swipe screenshots, anyone?). It's also ugly — just look at the shortcut center, which you get by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, below.
The pop-up nature of the selfie camera means that the 6.4-inch screen is fully notch-less, and it's an OLED, meaning you get high contrast and blacks almost as deep as on your favorite, far more expensive flagship. I compared it with the iPhone 11 Pro Max's display (which is roughly the same size), and I struggled to see the difference.
The overall design of the phone is bland. Hats off to Vivo for sending me a black device and not some rainbow-hued monster (the ultra-colorful phones are severely overdone at this point), but there's just nothing here that stands out. The wide pop-up selfie camera module is different, but it's far from beautiful. Don't get me wrong — there's nothing horrible about the V17 Pro's design. It's just slightly boring. A small nitpick: The phone comes with a case that appears to be very protective but it's hideous and really tough to get on and off the phone.
A few other details. The Vivo V17 Pro comes with a USB-C port, which may sound like a redundant bit of info, but up until recently Vivo phones mostly had the old, microUSB connector. It also has a headphone jack, which is something I'll apparently keep applauding forever. And there's an in-display fingerprint scanner, but it only offers face unlocking as assistance to that scanner.
Wrap-up: Great for selfies, but there are cheaper alternatives out there
The price for the Vivo V17 Pro is Rs. 29,990 ($421), which is far cheaper than top flagships from Apple and Samsung, but isn't great compared to, say, the recently launched Redmi Note 8 Pro, which offers a bigger battery and a 64-megapixel quad rear camera for half the money.
Android phones these days are all alike. Heck, all smartphones are similar: They perform similarly and they can do roughly the same things. Because of this, a phone needs to not only stand out with one or two special features but also be very good at everything else. Kudos to Vivo for trying something new with the double pop-up camera, which really is quite powerful. The beautiful, notchless OLED screen is great as well. But the bland design, confusing UI, and so-so rear camera makes the Vivo V17 Pro a good choice only for people who are really, really into selfies.