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Vivo V17 Pro review: An impressive midranger, but probably not worth importing

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
350
inc. VAT

The Vivo V17 Pro doesn’t really do anything wrong, but without a UK release in sight it remains a tough sell

Pros 
Good camera array
Solid day-to-day performance
Fairly priced
Cons 
Hard to source in the UK
Quite a weighty beast
Confusing Android skin
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The best thing about the rise of Chinese phone manufacturers is the fact that you can get ludicrously over-specced phones for relative pennies.

The keyword here is “relative” – to be absolutely clear, it’s still a *lot* of pennies, but comparatively speaking, Chinese phones like the OnePlus 7T and the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro offer top of the range specs for around half the price of the latest Samsung or Apple flagships.

The Vivo V17 Pro doesn’t quite target the flagship end, instead targeting those who find phones fast enough, but wouldn’t say no to more features. In this case, that’s no fewer than six cameras. Six.

Vivo V17 Pro review: What you need to know

Those six cameras are divided unevenly between the front and the back. Four are on the rear of the device – covering everything from telephoto to macro photography – and two front-facing snappers, which pop up from the top frame when required for a virtually bezel-free experience.

There’s also a 6.44in Super AMOLED screen with an in-built fingerprint reader, a chunky 4,100mAh battery and a generous 8GB of RAM. The only thing holding this back from flagship rivals is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, last seen powering the Samsung Galaxy A70 and, awkwardly, the V17 Pro’s predecessor, the Vivo V15 Pro.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Price and competition

So, the million-dollar question – figuratively speaking – is how much it costs. Annoyingly that’s a difficult one to answer. The phone launches in India first, costing 22,990 Rupees, or around £300 to £350 in a straight currency conversion. However, with no firm UK release date in sight, you might have to pay import tax if you decide to buy from abroad.

Okay, let’s talk alternatives. The Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro mentioned above is the obvious choice, going for £399 and packing a superior Snapdragon 855 processor. Staying in the same factory, there’s also the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 which launched at £330 but now goes for under £300. It packs last year’s Snapdragon 845 chip, but it’s still no slouch.

Finally, there’s the £399 Google Pixel 3a. It’s comparatively underpowered thanks to the Snapdragon 636 processor, but it has the same best-in-class camera as the superior Pixel 3.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Design

From the get go, the Vivo V17 Pro certainly looks the part. The front-facing cameras’ pop-up mechanism means that there’s virtually no bezel to speak of, although that effect is slightly lost by the fact that the frame juts out a little bit from behind. That’s not a problem for me, as I personally feel that the race to remove the bezel is all a bit silly, but given Vivo clearly does think it’s a problem, it’s a bit of a weird oversight all the same.

The camera mechanism also adds a bit of heft. I don’t usually bother commenting on phone weights as it’s all much of a muchness, but this one feels bulkier than most, so I looked into it. It tips the scales at 202g – for reference, the Google Pixel 3 weighs 148g, while the Samsung Galaxy S10 is 157g. So yes, the Vivio V17 Pro is a chonkster.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t nicely designed, mind. Our review model is in “Crystal Sky” colour, which basically is a shimmery white, that goes a faint blue when the light catches it the right way. There’s not really a good way of hiding more than a couple of cameras on the back of a phone (see the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4’s attempts), but Vivo does as good a job as you could hope for, with all four lenses stacked vertically in the top-middle section of the phone, like the bottom of one of those long thin Lego pieces.

In terms of extra design features, the Vivo V17 Pro is pretty bare. It does have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but there’s no microSD card slot, wireless charging or certified water resistance.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Screen

The Vivo V17 Pro’s screen is a 6.44in Super AMOLED effort with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080. That means you’re looking at around 409 pixels per inch, which looks pretty sharp, albeit not quite as sharp as a QHD screen would be. Realistically though, your eyes won’t be seeing any jagged edges surrounding text and images on a screen this size.

And it’s certainly a good screen – or it is as soon as you turn off the horrendously oversaturated default colour settings. Our colorimeter measured 95.1% coverage of the sRGB gamut from a volume of 96.5% which is very good indeed. It’s AMOLED, so contrast is essentially perfect and while we could only hit a peak brightness of 389cd/m2 on the slider, shining a torch at the ambient light sensor with the auto-brightness setting engaged produced far brighter results, hitting 508cd/m2. In other words, it’ll be fine in bright sunshine.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Performance

Despite its flagship looks, the Vivo V17 Pro isn’t powered by Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 855 chipset. Instead, it has to make do with the Snapdragon 675, last seen powering Samsung’s Galaxy A70 and Vivo’s own V15 Pro. This is backed by 8GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of onboard storage, though there’s no microSD slot to expand this, so that’s all you’re getting.

So what does that mean in terms of performance? Well, for day to day usage, it’s absolutely fine. The Snapdragon 675 isn’t a budget chip, after all, it’s just not the top end. In our CPU benchmark below, you can clearly see that it’s not a bad performer, ahead of the Google Pixel 3a and closing in on the Xiaomi Pocophone F1. It is, however, no match for the Snapdragon 855 that powers the Mi 9T Pro.

If you’re a gamer, however, the Snapdragon 675 gets considerably less competitive. It’s weaker than both the Snapdragon 845 and 855, obviously, but sadly it also trails the Snapdragon 670 which powers the Pixel 3a. So it’s a question of whether you prefer processing power or graphical grunt – or both, in the case of the two Xiaomi phones.

I don’t usually mention differences between versions of Android, as there’s usually not much between them, but the Funtouch OS that covers up Android Pie here is really quite aggressive. While most things are where you’d expect them to be, Funtouch bafflingly moves the Android taskbar to the bottom of the handset for “easy” access to settings, airplane mode, flashlight and the like. Notifications, meanwhile, remain at the top. No doubt this could be fixed by downloading a different launcher, but it would drive me absolutely mad if I bought the handset myself, so forewarned is forearmed for you.

In terms of stamina, the 4,100mAh battery certainly does the job. In our standard looped video test, with the screen set to 170cd/m2 brightness and airplane mode engaged, the Vivo V17 Pro lasted a whopping 21hrs 55mins before giving up. That’s well over a day of real-world use.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Camera

Okay, let’s talk cameras, because the Vivo V17 Pro certainly has enough of them.

There are four round the back, lined up vertically like a set of traffic lights that’s gained an extra bulb. The main one of these is a 48-megapixel lens with an f/1.8 aperture, and this is augmented by three extra cameras. There’s a 13-megapixel, f/2.5 2x optical zoom camera, an 8-megapixel f/2.2 super wide-angle and macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor for arty bokeh shots.

That’s a lot of cameras by anybody’s definition, but how do they perform? The short answer is pretty well. In bright conditions (well, brightish: this is London in October, after all), the Vivo V17 Pro takes pretty good snaps, offering a good level of detail.

Good, but not quite as good as the Google Pixel 3a, as you can see by the zoomed side-by-side snaps below. The picture is both more saturated and lacking in finer detail, especially on the brickwork and roof tiles.

To be clear, it’s still a good camera, with the Pixel 3a being very much the gold standard in this price bracket – and remember it will cost you around £50 more, so the Vivo V17 Pro is still to be commended. Doubly so when you look at the quality of its indoor shots:

Compared with the Pixel 3a, it’s a much closer call here, although ultimately Google gets the nod. While both coped admirably with the lack of light, the clincher for me is the extra detail on the figure in the bottom left corner of each snap.

Of course, there are still two front-facing cameras on the Vivo V17 Pro to assess. These pop up out of the top like you’re occasionally being spied on by a robot from 80s classic film ‘Batteries Not Included.’

Like the robots from the film, though, the lenses are slightly mismatched. There’s a 32-megapixel f/2.0 wide lens and an 8-megapixel ultrawide unit for when your vanity extends to include friends.

And they’re both decent, though on the subject of vanity it’s incredibly easy to go overboard here, and you’re able to tweak every aspect of your visage from your nose length to your jaw size until you’re completely unrecognisable. Here’s a snap of me without beauty mode enabled compared with another where every setting is set to max. Nightmarish, isn’t it?

And here’s the regular shot and ultra-wide angle version for comparison, with all the beauty options safely turned off again.

Vivo V17 Pro review: Verdict

In all, you won’t be disappointed with the Vivo V17 Pro. It’s decently priced, performs well and the cameras are good, even if your average snap won’t be as nice as one taken on the slightly more expensive Pixel 3a.

But there are niggles which would personally prevent me from buying one. The first is the faff of getting hold of the Vivo V17 Pro in the first place: at the moment, there isn’t an official UK release, so you’re looking at a grey import. It’s also quite weighty in the hand and I’m not a fan of the Funtouch Android skin which just feels unfamiliar and awkward.

You’ll get over those problems, no doubt, but when it’s not the kind of phone you can just wander into a store and buy, the question is why would you bother? For me, the Pixel 3a and Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro are better buys, even if you have to spend a bit more.

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