Vivo S1 vs Realme X: The Next Big Sub-Rs. 20,000 Smartphone Showdown

Two sub-Rs. 20,000 smartphones stand before us. Which one will impress us the most?

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Vivo S1 vs Realme X: The Next Big Sub-Rs. 20,000 Smartphone Showdown

The Vivo S1 (left) and Realme X (right) have a lot in common but there are a few critical differences

Highlights
  • The Realme X offers excellent value for money
  • The new Vivo S1 offers style & features, but it might not be for everyone
  • Both models are available online as well as offline, at the same price

The Realme X stormed through the Gadgets 360 reviews lab last month, asserting itself as a fierce contender in the sub-Rs. 20,000 market and displacing many of our previous favourites. We found that it's not only one of the best all-rounders in its own class, but it can even hold its own against the higher priced Xiaomi Redmi K20 in many situations. One of the models that Realme stole some thunder from was the value-packed Vivo Z1 Pro, and now Vivo has already launched a new contender, the Vivo S1. Interestingly, both the Vivo S1 and Realme X are now available offline as well as online, which makes a comparison between the two more fair.

The particular review units that we have of the Vivo S1 (Review) and Realme X (Review) are priced nearly exactly the same, at Rs. 19,990 and Rs. 19,999 respectively. That money gets you 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage if you choose the Vivo S1, or 8GB of RAM with the same amount of storage on the Realme X. We're going to compare the performance, cameras, and battery life of both phones, and throw in our findings about their software, construction quality, and ease of use as well. Which of these two smartphones will be the winner? Read on to find out.

Vivo S1 vs Realme X design

Vivo and Realme, as well as sibling company Oppo all now offer smartphones with attention-grabbing gradients and patterns on the rear and sides. In fact, neither the Vivo S1 nor the Realme X are available in plain, solid colours. The Vivo S1's Skyline Blue and Diamond Black feature light swirls and dark diamonds respectively, and both are designed to stand out.

The Realme X is relatively more sober, with simpler colour gradient options called Polar White and Space Blue. The higher-priced variant, which we have for review, is also available in highly distinctive Onion and Garlic inspired finishes. These extremely unusual options feature vertical stripes as well as the signature of designer Naoto Fukasawa.

The units of both phones that we have feature gold accents – the power button in the case of the Realme X, and a ring around the camera module on the Vivo S1. Both also have large contrasting brand logos on their rears. In terms of pure aesthetic appeal, the Realme X has our vote for its less distracting finish.

As for construction quality and ergonomic comfort, the win goes to Realme again. The Realme X has a nice curved rear that fits comfortably in the hand. This phone is actually slightly larger than the Vivo S1 in all dimensions but it's much easier to handle.

The Vivo S1, on the other hand, is blocky with a flat back. In our review, we found that the rear panel and frame don't meet in a smooth curve, and in fact there are rough seams that can be felt in ordinary usage. We also noticed scuff marks and scratches on the body after just a week or so of careful use.

The power and volume buttons on both phones are within easy reach. The Realme X features a pop-up front camera, so its screen is uninterrupted whereas the Vivo S1 has a waterdrop-style notch. Both phones have relatively thick chins below their displays, but the Realme X still looks slicker and more modern. Finally, the Vivo S1's rear camera module sticks out quite a bit and is off-centre, while its opponent's cameras are nearly flush with its rear.

vivo s1 realme x comparison rear ndtv vivorealmeColours and patterns are very in this year

 

Vivo S1 vs Realme X specifications, performance, and battery life

Realme is known for offering very competitive hardware at low prices, while Vivo is more of a mass-market brand. That distinction proves to be true when comparing the Realme X against the Vivo S1. Realme has outfitted its phone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC, while Vivo has gone with the brand new MediaTek Helio P65.

These two chips have a lot in common, at least as far as CPU performance goes. Both feature two high-performance ARM Cortex-A75 cores and six efficient Cortex-A55 cores (although Qualcomm uses its own Kryo cores which are derivatives of these designs). As a result, the two phones trade blows and have very similar scores in some cases.

It's the Vivo S1 that pulls ahead slightly in most benchmark tests, but the Realme X isn't too far behind. Geekbench's single-core scores for the two phones were 1,853 and 1,461 respectively, while the multi-core scores were 6,034 and 5,832. However, AnTuTu favoured the Realme X with 155,897 points as opposed to 146,412 for the Vivo S1.

However, the Snapdragon 710's integrated Adreno 616 GPU is leagues ahead of the Mali-G52 graphics that the Helio P65 offers. GFXBench's T-rex scene ran at 36fps on the Vivo S1 but managed 54fps on the Realme X. The 3DMark Slingshot Extreme test scores were 1,829 and 1,093 respectively.

The Realme X is available with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for Rs. 16,999, and you can bump the RAM up to 8GB with the same 128GB of storage for Rs. 19,999, which seems like an excessive difference. Vivo sells the S1 starting at Rs. 17,990 for 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and Rs. 19,990 for 6GB of RAM with the same 128GB of storage which is more disappointing. To add to that, there's a confusing variant priced at Rs. 18,990 with 6GB of RAM but a reduction in the storage capacity to 64GB. Realme has the advantage with a lower priced base variant and more RAM if you choose to step up.

Both phones have AMOLED screens with the same 1080x2340 resolution, though the Realme X's panel is slightly larger at 6.53 inches compared to 6.38 inches for the Vivo S1. Realme offers Gorilla Glass protection, which Vivo doesn't, and of course there's no notch.

In terms of screen quality, both phones are quite good but the Realme X is more engaging than the Vivo S1. Everything feels lighter and brighter, with a bit more pop and better contrast. The same videos looked crisper and more vibrant. Of course there's also the fact that it lacks a notch, which does make a difference when watching video. Neither model has a particularly good speaker, but the Realme X did allow music to sound a little clearer and richer.

The downside of not having a notch is that the popup front camera makes face recognition just a tiny bit slower. The Realme X also unlocked itself when our eyes were closed, though you can override this behaviour manually. Both phones' in-display fingerprint sensors worked just as quickly, though the one on the Realme X is slightly higher and therefore easier to reach.

The Realme X unfortunately does not support storage expansion, while the Vivo S1 has a dedicated microSD card slot. Both phones support Bluetooth 5 and dual-band Wi-Fi, and are equipped with all the standard sensors. Vivo also offers its buyers FM radio, which Realme does not. On the other hand, the Realme X features a USB Type-C port whereas Vivo still uses the older Micro-USB standard for the S1.

The Vivo S1 has a 4500mAh battery while the Realme X has a surprisingly modest 3765mAh one. Both have their own quick charging standards. Unsurprisingly, these two phones lasted for 16 hours, 38 minutes, and 14 hours, 28 minutes respectively in our HD video battery loop test. In day-to-day usage we found that we could go for roughly a day and a half before either phone needed to be recharged.

vivo s1 realme x comparison bottom ndtv vivorealmeVivo has stuck with a Micro-USB port on the Vivo S1 (top) while Realme has embraced USB Type-C with the Realme X (bottom)

 

Vivo S1 vs Realme X software and ease of use

Both smartphones run Android 9 Pie with their respective custom UIs on top. The Vivo S1 was on the May 2019 security patch, while the Realme X had received the June 2019 update. Vivo's Funtouch OS is much more customised than Vivo's Color OS compared to stock Android. There are some aspects to it that we really don't think make a lot of sense, most notably the iOS-inspired ‘Shortcut Center' for quick toggles that is pulled up from the bottom of the screen.

Funtouch OS doesn't have an app drawer, whereas Color OS does. Both have unique controls and options to play with in their respective Settings apps, and there are loads of gestures, shortcuts, and conveniences that you can try out. You can learn much more about both custom OSes and all that they offer in our detailed reviews of the Vivo S1 and Realme X, as well as other models from their respective companies.

Unfortunately, both phones have plenty of preloaded bloatware including their own app stores, and some of these apps can and will generate spammy notifications from time to time. Both UIs offer multiple styles of gesture navigation if you'd like to ditch the on-screen Android buttons.

Overall, we'll call it a tie between the Vivo S1 and Realme X in terms of software and usability. There are pros and cons to both approaches — you might prefer the cleaner and more modern look of the Realme X's UI, or you might go for the simpler and more familiar software on the Vivo S1.

Vivo S1 vs Realme X cameras

Our two contenders have so far been quite similar, but when it comes to their camera features and quality, it's a different story. The Vivo S1 has three on its rear — a standard 16-megapixel camera with an f/1.78 aperture, a secondary ultra-wide-angle one with a 120-degree field of view and f/2.2 aperture, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The Realme X only has two cameras, but the primary 48-megapixel one uses the high-end Sony IMX 586 sensor and has an f/1.7 aperture, and the depth sensor has a 5-megapixel resolution.

Both phones have feature-rich camera apps, though we prefer Realme's UI layout. Realme offers a night mode called Nightscape and a Chroma Boost option that makes everything more vivid, as its name suggests. Vivo on the other hand offers AR stickers and a “fun video” mode with creative effects.

The Vivo S1 does not have any form of video stabilisation, which is a disappointment. You can shoot video at up to 1080p at 30fps, while the Realme X goes up to 4K or 1080p at 60fps. Realme has put a 16-megapixel camera on the front of its phone, while Vivo has prioritised selfies with a 32-megapixel one.

Daytime landscape (tap to see full-sized image)

 

We took both phones out in order to take exactly the same shots with both of them at the same time under the same conditions. Starting with landscape shots in the daytime, we found that it was the Vivo S1 that usually delivered better results. Details were clearer and colours were much more distinct, while the Realme X's photo samples looked washed-out, cloudy, and grainy in comparison. The Vivo S1 also has the benefit of its wide-angle camera for some compositions, though photo quality is nowhere near as good.

Daytime closeup (tap to see full-sized image)

 

With daytime closeups, it was pretty much the same story. Our Realme X camera samples looked weaker, with muted colours. However, the exposure balance was far better in shots with significant contrast between dark and light areas. On closer inspection, many of the Realme X's shots had much better realism as well as detail in very light and dark areas, which the Vivo S1 could not reproduce at all.

Portrait (tap to see full-sized image)

 

The Vivo S1 offers an adjustable Aperture mode, while the Realme X has a fixed portrait mode. Using these, neither phone managed perfect edge detection, but the flaws in both cases were minor. The Realme X produced a more natural-looking background blur, but we still found colours muted and details on our subject's face a bit lacking. The Vivo S1 went to the other extreme, with very crisp details and bright lighting on our subject's face, but it upset the colour balance of the scene and boosted colours far too much in the process.

Low-light landscape with Nightscape (tap to see full-sized image)

 

At night, the Vivo S1 and Realme X produced very different results. All of our shots taken with the Realme X seemed to have a yellowish tint but were far brighter with a lot more visible, especially in the distance. The Vivo S1 was more restrained, with slightly less noise and a much more neutral tone, but weaker colours and black blotches in many places where its competitor managed to reveal significant amounts of detail. The Vivo S1 is better for closeups at night where the background doesn't matter, while the Realme X would be better for shots of events or places.

Low-light landscape (tap to see full-sized image)

 

Low-light closeup (tap to see full-sized image)

 

We preferred the selfies that we were able to take with the Realme X, for their more natural skin tones and less obviously fake beautification. The Vivo S1 really overdid the skin smoothening at its default setting and we felt that we had lost a lot of detail. We also preferred the Realme X's portrait selfies which made us look great.

Daytime selfies (tap to see full-sized image)

 

Low-light selfies (tap to see full-sized image)

 

The Vivo S1 loses out when it comes to video recording, because of its resolution limits and lack of stabilisation. Video footage definitely showed that motion is not handled well, and quality just wasn't at the same level as what we were able to record with the Realme X. Both in the daytime and at night, the Realme X came out on top. There's a bit of shakiness, but quality is far better.

It's a close call between the two in terms of camera quality and features, but we think that the Realme X deserves to win overall based on the usability of its photo and video output.

Verdict

Both Realme and Vivo come under the umbrella of Chinese parent company BBK Electronics, but these two phones are not the same at all. Coming in at practically the exact same price, it seems that Vivo is going after a more style-conscious buyer, while Realme wants to offer marketable features and specifications.

These two phones offer very different experiences, and they are fairly evenly matched in many cases. A lot of the choice between the two will come down to personal subjective preferences.

That said, we think that the Realme X edges out the Vivo S1 enough for it to win this showdown. It's more future-ready with its specifications, and it's easier to handle thanks to its design. Little touches, such as the USB Type-C port and use of Gorilla Glass on the front also won our approval. The overall camera performance is also better than what the Vivo S1 offers.

The Vivo S1 is by no means a bad phone, but it is somewhat in the shadow of its competitor. We've seen what this company can do, and you wouldn't be unhappy if you chose this phone for its extra rear camera or software.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Good battery life
  • Quick in-display fingerprint scanner
  • Bundled 18W fast charger
  • Bad
  • Average CPU performance
  • Cameras could’ve been better
  • Micro-USB port
Display6.38-inch
ProcessorMediaTek P65
Front Camera32-megapixel
Rear Camera16-megapixel + 8-megapixel + 5-megapixel
RAM4GB
Storage128GB
Battery Capacity4500mAh
OSAndroid Pie
Resolution1080x2340 pixels
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Good build quality, premium design
  • Vivid OLED display
  • Good overall performance
  • Capable cameras
  • Bad
  • A bit too large for some hands
Display6.53-inch
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 710
Front Camera16-megapixel
Rear Camera48-megapixel + 5-megapixel
RAM8GB
Storage128GB
Battery Capacity3765mAh
OSAndroid 9 Pie
Resolution1080x2340 pixels
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Jamshed Avari

Jamshed Avari has been working in tech journalism as a writer, editor and reviewer for over 13 years. He has reviewed hundreds of products ranging from smartphones and tablets to PC components and accessories, and has also written guides, feature articles, news and analyses. Going beyond simple ratings and specifications, he digs deep into how emerging products and services affect actual users, and what marks they leave on our cultural landscape. He's happiest when something new comes ...More

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