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Vivo S1 review: The ‘S’ is for style, but where does it rank on performance?

Vivo S1 review: Vivo S1 is the first S-series phone from Vivo in India and it promises a lot on the specifications. Here's how the device performs in real life.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rs. 17,990
Written by Mohammad Faisal | New Delhi | Updated: August 27, 2019 7:10:07 am
vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 performance, vivo s1 looks, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 gaming, vivo s1 features, vivo s1 specifications Vivo S1 review: Here’s how the ‘stylish’ S-series Vivo device performs. (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

Vivo India has introduced the S-series in India, where the ‘S’ stands for Style. The brand, which is number three in the Indian smartphone market had adopted an aggressive strategy announcing several new series this year. The strategy has worked and numbers are proof. Research firm Canalys showed that Vivo’s shipments stood at 5.8 million units in Q2 2019. Vivo saw its market share jump to 18 per cent from 10 per cent a year ago, according to Canalys.

The Vivo S1 is the first device under Vivo’s new S series, which puts emphasis on the style quotient. While Vivo S1 looks stunning for its price of Rs 17,990, performance is the key when it comes to surviving in the cluttered Indian market. Here’s our review of the Vivo S1.

 

Vivo S1 price: Rs 17,990

Vivo S1 specifications: 6.38-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display | MediaTek Helio P65 processor | 16MP+8MP+2MP triple rear cameras | 32MP selfie camera | 4,500mAh battery with 18W fast charging | Funtouch OS 9 based on Android 9 Pie

Vivo S1 review: Design and display

The Vivo S1 gets full marks for design and display. I had the Skyline Blue colour variant for review and it easily one of the best-looking smartphones– alongside the likes of Redmi K20 series and Huawei P30 Pro. In fact, some in the office confused it for the more premium Huawei phone.

The little tint of violet at the bottom left corner merges with the shiny blue colour in a swift gradient finish. The rounded plastic frame of the Vivo S1 makes it comfortable to hold, but the frame does not meet the back seamlessly. It creates a sort of rough line at the back near the edges.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 performance, vivo s1 looks, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 gaming, vivo s1 features, vivo s1 specifications Vivo S1’s gets full marks for design and looks. (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

At the back, there is only a triple rear camera setup aligned to the left side in a vertical module and the Vivo branding is aligned to the same at the bottom. The fingerprint sensor is placed under the display, and so we have a neat looking back. The Vivo S1 also sports a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side.

Vivo S1 features a 6.38-inch FHD+ display which has a tiny notch on top. While the chin is a bit thick, the bezels are quite slim. The Super AMOLED display is really bright and it makes the Vivo S1 a visual treat. I did not face any difficulty using the device outdoors be it reading text or browsing social media. The blacks are deep, the colours are sharp, viewing angles are great, and the contrast levels really are good.

Since the notch is too small and the screen is quite vibrant, video watching experience is as good as it can get in a mid-range device, only next to the Redmi K20 and its full-screen Super AMOLED display.

Vivo S1 review: Performance and software

Vivo S1 is the first smartphone in India to be powered by the MediaTek’s Helio P65 processor. The chipset is a mid-range SoC based on a 12nm process paired with Mali-G52 integrated GPU. The phone is available in three storage models — 4GB/128GB, 6GB/64GB, and the 6GB/128GB. I had the top-end model for review.

The Vivo S1 does a good job when it comes to day-to-day tasks like internet browsing, using social media, YouTube, calling and other usages. I did not notice lags or stutters even when I had multiple apps opened in the background. Even a flood of notifications does not freeze the device and switching between Chrome tabs and recent apps is also smooth on the phone.

The notch on the Vivo S1 to host the front camera is very small. (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

Vivo S1 can play graphics-heavy games like PUBG Mobile, but the game runs at the medium settings by default. You can set the settings to high but I would not suggest this as the frame drops increase quite a bit. Also, after 25 minutes of gameplay, the device got warm. One hour straight gameplay caused the Vivo S1 to heat up to an extent that it became tough to keep playing.

Vivo S1 runs its custom Funtouch OS on top of Android 9 Pie. I am not a fan of Vivo’s OS but it has some elements, which are a welcome addition including the option of full-screen navigation gestures. The quick access settings like the brightness control and switches for Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, Airplane Mode and others can be accessed by scrolling upwards from the bottom like you do in an iPhone.

Funtouch OS also comes with pre-installed bloatware, most of which can be uninstalled easily. Even though the UI is heavily customised, the phone performs smoothly.

Vivo S1 review: Camera

The triple rear camera setup on the Vivo S1 does not impress. I had a hard time evaluating camera performance because it is not a simple case of good or bad. The performance varies shot by shot and I’d say it’s a mixed bag. The Vivo S1 carries a 16MP primary sensor clubbed with an 8MP ultrawide angle lens and a 2MP depth sensor.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 performance, vivo s1 looks, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 gaming, vivo s1 features, vivo s1 specifications The Vivo S1 carries a 16+8+2 MP triple rear camera setup. (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

The colour reproduction is good, but the pictures do not carry details. Vivo S1 manages to capture the scenic landscape with vibrant colours. However, close up shots are tricky– while some pictures look nice, others look washed out.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 specifications Vivo S1 camera sample: Rear camera shot, normal mode. (Image resized for web) (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

Surprisingly, portrait shots look nice with proper skin tone and good colours. The edge detection is not that good. However, you have the option to change the blur levels and focus-point after you take a picture, which comes handy in certain conditions.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 specifications Vivo S1 camera sample: Left- Portrait mode | Right- Portrait after re-shifting the focus. (Image resized for web) (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

The ultrawide sensor captures a wider field of view but it doesn’t perform on par with the primary lens. The colour reproduction and dynamic range are not good and it retains even lesser details than the main camera sensor.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 specifications Vivo S1 camera sample: Left- normal mode | Right- ultra-wide angle shot. (Image resized for web) (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

Selfies, taken from the 32MP front camera, look visually appealing. The colours are accurate, exposure levels are good, and skin tone is natural, but it oversharpens some areas and blotches details around facial hair.

Vivo S1 camera sample: Front camera. (Image resized for web) (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

The performance of both the front and rear camera fall flat in low light conditions. The phone does not have a night mode so you get washed out photos with too much noise.

Vivo S1 camera sample: Left– produced good colours | Right– colours aren’t good, details are smudges. (Image resized for web) (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

Vivo S1 review: Battery, face-unlock, fingerprint sensor, and sound

The Vivo S1 delivers good battery backup. It takes around two hours to fully charge the phone via micro-USB port but once charged, it can get through a day-and-half on moderate usage, which includes using camera, playing videos, using social media, internet browsing and half-hour gameplay of PUBG Mobile.

The face-unlock and in-display fingerprint sensor on the Vivo S1 get full marks. Unlocking the device is never troubling on this phone as both the face unlock and fingerprint sensor work instantly. Also, both these modes can work in conjunction to provide a seamless phone-unlocking solution.

vivo s1 review, vivo s1, vivo s1 performance, vivo s1 looks, vivo s1 camera, vivo s1 camera samples, vivo s1 gaming, vivo s1 features, vivo s1 specifications The violet tint at the bottom looks very pretty on Vivo S1’s back. (Express Photo: Mohammad Faisal)

The sound quality of the Vivo S1 is not that great, still, the speaker is loud enough. I really liked the in-box earphones that come with the Vivo S1. The sound quality is perfect for calling and other nominal use.

The ear-pods like shape give it a perfect hold in the ear. The weight of the earpiece is almost negligible and I could have them in my ears for four hours straight without feeling the urge to take them out.

Vivo S1 review: Verdict

Vivo S1 is a stylish phone and the Super AMOLED display adds to its charisma. The phone comes with good battery life, fast in-display fingerprint sensor and face unlock along with decent performance. However, the phone lags behind the competition in the camera department and long gaming sessions can cause it to heat up. If you can make your peace with the camera performance and you are not into graphics-heavy games, Vivo S1 is not a bad deal at Rs 17,990.

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