Vivo has been on a phone launching spree over the past few months in India. We've seen the Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), Vivo Z1x (Review), Vivo S1 (Review), and recently, the Vivo U10 (Review) and Vivo V17 Pro. We've already tested all these new offerings, and now it's time to check out the Vivo V17 Pro. This is the successor to the Vivo V15 Pro (Review), which launched earlier this year. Just like the rest of Vivo's V-series, the selfie camera is the main highlight. In fact, the Vivo V17 Pro features two pop-up selfie cameras and four at the back, for a total of six cameras.
The Vivo V17 Pro is priced close to Rs. 30,000, which makes it a direct competitor to the likes of the Oppo Reno 2Z (Review), Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro (Review), Asus 6Z (Review), and even the OnePlus 7 (Review), as long as it remains discounted. While the Vivo V17 Pro takes the lead when it comes to the number of camera sensors it packs in, is it competitive enough on other fronts? Let's take a look.
The new Vivo V17 Pro features an all-too familiar design now, sporting a nearly all-screen front with no notch and relatively slim bezels all around, including the chin. The older Vivo V15 Pro (Review) was actually one of the first phones to sport this kind of design at this price point, before everyone else caught up.
The polycarbonate body feels sturdy, and the laminated back didn't seem to pick up many scuffs during our review period. It does attract a lot of fingerprints and smudges though.
The Vivo V17 Pro is available in a Midnight Ocean trim, which we have, and also a lighter shade called Glacier Ice. The edges of the back are curved slightly, so it's relatively comfortable to hold.
On the front, we have a bright 6.44-inch Super AMOLED display with a full-HD+ resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 6 for protection. A screen guard also comes pre-applied, because Vivo thinks you can never be too careful. Colour saturation is very good, text looks sharp, and the brightness is sufficient for use outdoors under sunlight. There's an in-display fingerprint sensor which works well, and you can customise the on-screen fingerprint icon and unlock animations.
The Vivo V17 Pro has face recognition too but this is only usable as a last resort, in case fingerprint authentication fails three times. The pop-up mechanism is a little slower than other implementations we've seen, which is probably why it's not offered as one of the primary methods for unlocking.
The volume and power buttons on the right have good feedback and there's an extra ‘smart button' on the left, which can be configured to launch Google Assistant or Vivo's Jovi image search, with a short press, long-press or double-press. On the bottom, we have a USB Type-C port, a tray for two Nano-SIM cards, and a speaker. There's no microSD card slot. Vivo has also managed to make space for a headphone jack on the top, despite the wide cutout for the pop-up camera module.
The four cameras on the rear are aligned vertically in a module in the centre, which does not protrude much. The overall design of the Vivo V17 Pro is premium, and the phone feels well put-together. The 20:9 aspect ratio of the display means that this phone is fairly tall, and it's on the heavier side too, tipping the scales at just over 200g.
In the retail box, you get a pair of in-ear headphones, an 18W fast charger, a USB Type-C cable, a plastic case, and a SIM eject tool.
Phones such as the Redmi K20 Pro and OnePlus 7 have made Qualcomm's top-of-the-line processors very accessible, so for the V17 Pro, we were expecting Vivo to use something similar or at least close. Sadly, this phone uses the now slightly dated Snapdragon 675 SoC, which is incidentally the same chip used by the Vivo V15 Pro (Review). It's a relatively capable octa-core chip, no doubt, but it's quite underpowered for a phone at this price level.
There's only one configuration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, USB-OTG, the usual suite of sensors, and support for three satellite navigation systems. The phone also supports Widevine L1 DRM certification so it can stream video at HD and higher resolutions from apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
For software, the Vivo V17 Pro uses Funtouch OS 9.1, which is based on Android 9 Pie. There's no official word on when the Android 10 update will roll out. If you've never used a Vivo phone before then Funtouch OS will take some getting used to. We ourselves still find it a little confusing to navigate Vivo's menus at times.
The single-layered interface has heavy customisations everywhere, including the icons, lock screen, and notifications shade. The quick settings are all on a pull-out menu called ‘Control Centre,' and you have to swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen to pull it up. This is reminiscent of Apple's implementation on older iPhones. Even the Settings app needs a lot of digging around before you can find what you're looking for.
You can customise the look and feel of Funtouch OS through the ‘iTheme' app but most of the themes need to be purchased. Jovi is Vivo's AI helper, which is used in the camera app to help frame your shots and identify subjects. It also has something called ‘Smart Scene' which shows you various information cards for the weather, events, cricket scores, etc, in one place. It can be accessed via the Sony Walkman-like icon in the notification shade or by swiping to the left of the first homepage.
Other features include Ultra Game Mode which blocks notifications, etc when gaming; Motorbike Mode which automatically rejects calls when riding; one-handed mode; and scrolling screenshots. There are loads of preinstalled apps including Gaana, Amazon, and PhonePe, but you can uninstall all the third-party ones. Sadly, some redundant ones including Vivo's game store can't be removed.
Funtouch OS might not be our favourite Android skin, but it ran smoothly without any issues on the Vivo V17 Pro. It took a while to get used to the quick toggles being in a non-standard place. Also, when using an app in landscape mode, the toggles can only be accessed by swiping inwards from the right edge of the screen, instead of the bottom. The custom look of the UI might appeal to some, but we wish Vivo would give users a choice to switch back to stock Android too.
The RAM and SoC are more than capable of handling your everyday apps and games. In benchmarks, we got decent numbers, as one would expect from this SoC. AnTuTu gave us a score of 1,77,512 while the T-Rex test in GFXbench returned 40fps. These are not bad numbers, but not as good as those produced by other phones in this price range sporting the Snapdragon 855 or even the Snapdragon 730G, for that matter.
The earpiece on the Vivo V17 Pro is in the pop-up selfie camera module, similar to the design of the Oppo Reno 2 (Review), and sound is channeled through a cutout in the phone's front panel. However, unlike Oppo's offering, audio through the earpiece on the Vivo V17 Pro sounds clear and not muffled.
Multitasking is handled well, and heavy games like PUBG Mobile ran smoothly at the ‘High' preset. After about 20 minutes of gameplay, we noticed that the back of the phone got quite hot, which seems to be a trait of this SoC that we've encountered before with phones such as the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) and Samsung Galaxy M40 (Review).
Within games, you can access a slide-out carousel which lets you toggle blocking calls, notifications, and more. In games that support voice chat, you can use a real-time voice changer which is pretty cool. The single speaker at the bottom gets fairly loud, even without any enhancements. Audio quality is not too bad either.
The Vivo V17 Pro has a 4100mAh battery, which fared quite well in our HD video battery loop test, running for 16 hours and 47 minutes. With normal usage, we typically easily managed a day and half of runtime. With heavier apps, we still managed a full day's worth of usage. Fast charging is supported and the Vivo V17 Pro can go from zero to 36 percent in half an hour and up to 74 percent in an hour. It took us a little more than two hours to fully top it up. It's not the fastest, but it's not too bad either.
The highlight of this phone is its front cameras, so let's start there. You get a 32-megapixel primary camera with an f/2.0 aperture along with an 8-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The primary selfie camera itself has a pretty wide field of view but the secondary one lets you get an even wider shot, though it adds a slight fish-eye effect. This is also one of the few phones, apart from the Google Pixel line, that lets you use Night Mode with the selfie camera (though only the primary one).
In daylight, the Vivo V17 Pro captured striking selfies. Details were good, textures were sharp (a little too sharp at times), and colours really popped. The exposure wasn't always perfect, and at times we noticed some blown-out highlights, but overall, we were quite pleased with the results. HDR was handled well too. The ultra wide-angle camera captured slightly softer images, but that's expected.
Strangely, it takes two taps to switch to the ultra-wide camera as the toggle is hidden in a menu. There's also a Bokeh toggle, and portrait shots taken in this mode had good edge detection and background blur. These photos are oversampled, giving you 8-megapixel output instead of 32-megapixel shots, like you get when taking standard selfies.
The separate ‘Portrait' shooting mode feels uncessary since it offers just one extra feature compared to the standard 'Photo' mode, which is beautification. The ‘Posture' setting is interesting here as it suggests various poses for selfies (for one or more people) by showing you outlines of the pose for you to mimic. If you take your selfies seriously, then you're in for a treat.
Video quality with the primary front camera is also quite good but there's no stabilisation. Low-light photos were quite grainy but the fill-light helps here. Night mode made a big difference in brightening up shots taken under dim lighting, getting rid of most of the noise and improving the exposure significantly.
Coming to the rear cameras, there's a 48-megapixel primary sensor which captures oversampled 12-megapixel photos by default. It also has an f/1.8 aperture. Next up is a 13-megapixel 2x optical zoom camera; an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera which is also used for super-macro shots; and finally, a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
You can switch to the telephoto camera by hitting or dragging the Zoom button in the viewfinder, but it still takes two taps to switch to the wide-angle camera. You can zoom in all the way to 10x (digitally).
In daylight, the main sensor captured pleasing details and colours. Objects at a distance had good definition, although shadow areas at the sides of the frame tended to have a bit of noise. Close-ups had punchy colours, good natural bokeh, and good detail. HDR also worked well and dynamic range was good. With the ultra wide-angle camera, colours can look a little boosted but you do get a lot more in each frame.
The telephoto camera is nice to have but 2x zoom isn't much, and in low light, the camera simply uses digital zoom through the main camera. The Super Macro mode worked well for us, and we were able to get some good-looking shots.
Low-light stills were usually above average in quality. There was mild grain in the shadows but details were good and colours were well represented. The ultra-wide-angle camera isn't very useful in the dark, since details are bleak and you can't use Night mode. However, with the primary camera, Night mode had a big impact, making scenes look more dramatic and preserving details.
You can record videos at up to 4K resolution but without any stabilisation. Image quality was decent and colours weren't exaggerated, which is good. Stabilisation does work well at 1080p. You can shoot 1080p videos with the wide-angle camera too, but without stabilisation. At this resolution, you can choose either 25/30 or 60fps. However, video quality was very poor in low light. Also, the framerate defaults to 25fps, making motion feel jerky. Another thing we didn't quite like was the fact that we had to jump into the camera settings menu to change the resolution, instead of being able to do it from the viewfinder.
Other shooting modes include 48MP, which lets you shoot at the full sensor resolution; Panorama, Timelapse, Live photo, Pro, Doc, Jovi, and AR stickers. We found some of the AR stickers to be quite fun. There are also some interesting features to play around with in the camera settings, such as AR Portrait framing, which guides you into positioning the camera correctly for a portrait shot.
As a camera phone, the Vivo V17 Pro packs in some good hardware, but the software still needs a bit of polish. Accessing certain basic functions can be a multi-step process, when it shouldn't be. If you love taking selfies, the dual front cameras offer plenty of creative freedom, especially with features such as the posing guides. Low-light video is one area which needs a lot of work, as apart from the below-average image quality, the drop in framerate is quite jarring.
As an all-rounder, the phone delivers mostly good results. It has a vibrant screen, the build quality is solid, the interface is snappy, the extra programmable button is handy, and battery life is very good. However, at nearly Rs. 30,000, Vivo should have done a lot more in order to make this phone truly competitive. The Snapdragon 675 just doesn't cut it at this price, as the competition is offering much more power. We're also not big fans of Funtouch OS, which can feel unnecessarily complicated, especially for novice users.
If you live and breathe selfies, the Vivo V17 Pro might appeal to you. If not, you should look at phones such as the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) and Oppo Reno 2Z (Review) which sell for around the same price and offer better processors, especially for gaming, and equally competent cameras. If you can stretch your budget just a little bit, you could get the Asus 6Z (Review) or even the OnePus 7 (Review).