our opinion and our impressions on the smartphone with integrated gimbal

The first flagship of the Vivo brand for the French market, the X51 is a smartphone with a balanced technical sheet and a few additional finery that allow it to stand out from a fairly close competition. In particular the gimbal. a new generation of optical stabilizer. But the smartphone is sold at a fairly high price compared to the competition. Is the gimbal worth this extra cost? Answer in this comprehensive test.

It had been a while since a Chinese manufacturer had the courage to launch into Europe. In the spring of 2018, Xiaomi and Oppo practically arrived together. The first with the Redmi Note 5, which turned the affordable phablet market upside down, the Mi MIX 2S and the Mi 8. The second with the Find X, a very ambitious high-end smartphone with a sliding design revealing a selfie sensor hidden in a retractable part of the frame.

Two years later, while Huawei is in a very strong loss of speed, Vivo, the last thief of the World Top 5 not to be present in Europe, takes advantage of this weakness to formalize his arrival. An arrival accompanied by four smartphones including the standard bearer is the X51 with which we got acquainted for a few days. Note that the X51 is none other than the X50 Pro launched in China just before summer. The difference between the X50 Pro and the X51 is software, as we will see in this review.

Technical sheet

Vivo X51
Dimensions 158.5 x 72.8 x 8 mm
Weight 181.5 grams
Screen 6.56 “Full HD + AMOLED (398 ppi)
HDR10 +
90 Hz
Chipset Snapdragon 765G (7nm)
BONE Android 10 + Funtouch
RAM 8 GB
Storage 256 GB
microSD no
Rear photo sensors 48MP + 13MP + 8MP + 8MP
2x optical zoom (portrait sensor
5x optical zoom (telephoto)
Optical gimbal stabilizer on main sensor
Classic optical stabilizer on telephoto
Front photo sensors 32MP
Drums 4312 mAh
Quick Charge Flash Charge 2.0 (33 watts)
5G Yes
Audio Mono speaker
No 3.5mm jack port
3.5mm jack to USB Type-C adapter included
Biometrics fingerprint sensor under the screen

Price and availability

test vivo x51 cover 2

The X51 will be launched in France on October 30. He will benefit from a nine-day pre-order period, starting tomorrow, October 21. During this pre-order period, Vivo will be giving away a pair of TWS Neo headphones. The value of the headphones is around 70 euros.

The Vivo X51 is marketed at 799 euros, excluding subsidies and promotions. This is a relatively high price for a smartphone with the proposed configuration (see datasheet above). It is the same price as Oppo’s Reno4 Pro, a smartphone tested in our columns a few days ago. At this price, the Vivo X51 is positioned against many premium smartphones, even high-end from Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus, Sony, Samsung or even Apple.

Design

vivo x51 front panel design test

The X51 is an elegant smartphone, based on a relatively classic design for 2020. We find an aluminum frame sandwiched between two sheets of mineral glass. The glass that protects the smartphone is Schott Xtension, a slightly more confidential alternative to Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Vivo has worked with Schott for several years to cover their smartphones.

The mineral glass is curved on both sides and meets at the level of the metal edges. The latter separated thanks to clearly visible insulating strips to isolate the various network antennas. Notice on the top edge this mineral glass part that cuts the antenna partitions.

vivo x51 rear panel design test

The color of our test copy is called Alpha Gray with texture ” icy effect “. It is a gray that is gradually fading. It’s quite beautiful. And it goes perfectly with the metallic color affixed to the aluminum. On the front, also notice the punch at the top left to house the selfie sensor.

On the edges, you find the power button and the volume control on the right, the mono speaker, the USB type-C port and the SIM drawer at the bottom, as well as the secondary microphone at the top. The left edge is blank.

vivo x51 design straight edge test

The handling of the product is rather pleasant. Mineral glass is rather slippery, but this is inherent in all smartphones dressed in this material. The size is rather controlled, especially thanks to the fact that the screen is curved. The mobile is becoming narrower. The X51 is also quite light, which doesn’t hurt. On the other hand, there is a small, slightly unpleasant flaw: the protection preinstalled above the curved screen “itches” the finger. It wouldn’t happen on a flat screen.

Screen

vivo x51 screen design test

The X51 has a screen of 6.56 inch. The slab is AMOLED and is manufactured by Samsung. The definition is Full HD + for a resolution of 398 pixels per inch. As mentioned earlier, this screen is curved on both sides. This can have some consequences on the readability of some content, such as games for example.

The panel is compatible HDR10 +. The colors are therefore vibrant and shimmering to the eye. If they are a bit too much, you have options in the settings menu that allow you to configure the color temperature to your liking. The panel displays rather faithful colors compared to reality, even if the whites have a small bluish tint.

Given its AMOLED nature, the X51 has a very nice contrast ratio, with deep blacks and colors well separated from each other. The viewing angles are very wide. The panel benefits from a maximum brightness of 1300 nits when the phone is exposed to the sun. So you can reply to a text message in the middle of the street without having to squint or move in the shade.

test vivo x51 screen interface

The display refresh rate is 90 Hz, offering a better impression of fluidity at the interface. A mode allows you to force the refresh 90 Hz, for maximum fluidity, or 60 Hz, to optimize battery life. Note that there is also an adaptive mode that goes from 60 Hz to 90 Hz. But we have not detected all the conditions that allow the interface to choose its mode.

Two more points on this screen. First, the touch layer offers a response rate of 180 Hz, which is twice the refresh rate of the display. Then, a fingerprint reader is present on the front, under the screen. It is activated when the panel is switched off or on. And it is relatively fast.

Interface

vivo x51 general interface test

Once the mobile is on, you discover Funtouch 2.5, based on Android 10. Or, more precisely, the “European” version of Funtouch. A different version of the Chinese version or the Indian version, but also less rich. As a preamble to this test, we explained that the difference between the X50 Pro and the X51 is software. So it was Funtouch.

Vivo’s goal with this version of Funtouch is to get as close as possible to pure Android, removing parasitic software and providing a few additional options to further improve the user experience.

So you find an Android interface that could almost resemble that of a Pixel. A relatively simple welcome with a search bar for Google, round icons and a time and date widget. An application drawer enabled by default. A newsfeed screen with Google Assistant. The notification area and quick setting. Etc.

test vivo x51 application
Ultra Game mode setting, link to Vivo.com web application and choice of applications to install at startup

Among the few improvements found in Funtouch, we note the presence of live wallpapers. In fact, the wallpaper installed by default is animated. You can of course install another one, if that bothers you too much. But this function is visually very nice.

Besides all the system apps and software from Google, Vivo has added three apps to its smartphone. First Facebook and Instagram. Kind of obligatory passage. And iManager, a toolbox similar to Phone Manager from other manufacturers. It is used to delete unnecessary files, hunt viruses and manage notifications.

vivo x51 game mode test
Ultra Game Mode launched with Dead Cells

We also note the presence of a “game” mode which optimizes the performance of the smartphone and blocks certain functions (such as the display of notifications). Funtouch will recognize some of them. But more will need to be added for them to be supported. To do this, go to the settings menu, tab ” ultra game mode “.

Unlike MIUI, EMUI, or ColorOS, this version of Funtouch lacks a lot of interface customization tools. For example, you can choose a theme, but you cannot customize the theme. There is also no theme “store” to adopt a look that is all yours. There are ultimately quite a few ergonomic options compared to the competition. Second example, it is not possible to change the order of the virtual navigation buttons (but it is possible to switch to gestural navigation), although this option is relatively common.

vivo x51 test iManager application
iManager

Another big difference between this version of Funtouch and the one deployed in Asia, you do not have access to the shortcuts pane of favorite applications. This “pane” is a semicircle which appears above the interface when called up and which is made up of application icons (a bit like the side pane of Xperia). This pane can be useful for quickly switching to a current application when you are using another.

Finally, the ultra game mode is more sparse in our version. No options on vibration, sound or display. Less control over notifications. And a largely truncated menu. In return for these few concessions, Funtouch is a very light interface, very fluid and not very greedy in storage space. A bad for a good in a way.

Performance

vivo x51 performance test

This fluid experience is certainly offered by theoptimization (even frugality) of the European version of Funtouch, but also by a platform with some technical resources. The chipset is the Snapdragon 765G which we are starting to get to know well now, since it equips a large part of the mid-range and premium mid-range smartphones compatible with 5G. In this growing list, you find the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G, Reno4 Pro, Find X2 Neo, Find X2 Lite, OnePlus Nord, Motorola Edge, Nokia 8.3, etc.

test vivo x51 performance bench 1
test vivo x51 performance bench 2
test vivo x51 performance bench 3

He is here accompanied by 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage, a configuration slightly lower compared to certain direct competitors, in particular the Reno4 Pro, which is priced the same, but which offers 12 GB of RAM. The difference in benchmarks, however, is not so important. Worse, the Vivo X51 is often a bit above the Reno4 Pro, whether in 3DMark, Geekbench, GFXBench or PCMark.

This shows that 12 GB is not necessarily necessary in a mobile powered by a Snapdragon 765G. And for good reason, you will only need 12 GB for very demanding applications, such as competitive games where RAM is very busy. That doesn’t mean you can’t play with the Vivo X51. But you won’t have the same experience with the X51 as with smartphones running Snapdragon 865, like the OnePlus 8T, or even more so than with the ROG Phone 3.

test vivo x51 game dead trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2
test vivo x51 game dead cells
Dead Cells
test vivo x51 dolphin emulator game
Dolphin emulator

We have launched several fun applications with the smartphone. We tried Dead Trigger 2, our standard game. The latter behaved very well, providing a very smooth experience. We also tried Dead Cells, the excellent Metroidvania from Playdigious. He also showed excellent behavior. Finally, we tested the Dolphin emulator. We experienced some slowdowns. We expected a lot more. And so that’s a pretty good surprise. Proof that ROM optimization really brings a lot.

Autonomy

vivo x51 audio test and charge

The smartphone therefore provides a fluid experience on all daily tasks. It remains to be seen if this greatly impacts the autonomy of the Vivo X51. The smartphone battery has a capacity of 4312 mAh. Which is relatively comfortable. Depending on your use, the autonomy of the X51 varies between a big day and a day and a half. If you regularly use your phone during the day, don’t expect to reach two days of battery life.

test vivo x51 battery interface

Several tools and tips allow you to significantly increase the autonomy of the phone. First, you have an “energy saving” mode (other manufacturers offer several). Then the system notifies you when an application is consuming power in the background. You can also force the display to 60 Hz mode to reduce consumption. Finally, you can block background apps that are consuming too much.

test vivo x51 charger

The X51’s battery is compatible with wired fast charging (Flash Charge 2.0), but not wireless charging. According to Vivo, it takes you just under half an hour to charge the battery to 50% and just over an hour to charge it to 100%. According to our measurements, we managed to go from 0 to 100% in just over 70 minutes. Promise kept.

The smartphone comes with a Flash Charge 2.0 compatible charger, delivering the 33 watts of power the phone is compatible with. No need to buy an optional charger to take advantage of fast charging. To take advantage of Flash Charge, you must use the charger supplied with the phone. Another 33 watt fast charger will not be recognized by the smartphone. This will restrict the power of the load. And therefore its speed.

Audio

vivo x51 audio test and selfie sensor

On the audio side, the Vivo X51 is also quite simple. The phone has a single speaker, placed on the lower edge. The telephone earpiece therefore does not act as a secondary earpiece, unlike some competitors, including the Reno4 Pro. The audio experience is therefore relatively average.

While this loudspeaker offers some power without getting too sizzling, it lacks grain in both the highs and lows. In addition, it is placed so that it will be regularly obscured by a finger when you hold the phone horizontally (which actually happens quite often).

test vivo x51 hands-free headphones

On the helmet side, the X51 is without 3.5mm jack. However, and this is great news, you have in the box a USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter to plug in your headphones or … the pair of wired headphones that come with the smartphone. Indeed, without this adapter, you would not be able to use the supplied accessory. Does a USB Type-C headset cost more?

When you plug in headphones, regardless of the connection, you benefit from a hi-fi audio chipset: the AK4377A provided by Asahi Kasei Microdevices. It is a component providing a good quality 32-bit stereo signal. Of course, this will depend on the intrinsic qualities of the accessory used to enjoy it. Our tests with the helmet provided in the box are average, without excelling.

test vivo x51 jack adapter

The ergonomics of these wired headphones are above average, with an in-ear part that offers a first level of passive noise isolation, which many other hands-free kits do not. Several tips come with the X51 to adapt these headphones to the user’s ear size. You will obviously find in this hands-free kit a classic remote control with microphone.

In conversation, the X51 offers a good experience. You can hear your interlocutor well and they can also hear you. Active noise reduction with the secondary microphone seems better handled if you hold the smartphone to your ear than if you use the loudspeaker or a hands-free kit.

Photo

vivo x51 photo module test

The photo part is important at Vivo. And more particularly with the X51, the first smartphone (with its twin brother, the Chinese X50 Pro) to opt for a stabilizer type gimbal, equipped on its main photo sensor. We told you about it at the start of the test: this is the big novelty of the X51 and its major advantage over the competition.

A small point first on the gimbal. A “real” gimbal stabilizer is photo and video equipment used to stabilize a camera. It is a very bulky material. Widely used in cinema, television and online media (our studio which produces the excellent videos that feed our YouTube channel is equipped with it, for example), the gimbal compensates for the movements of videographers and photographers during a shot. view.

vivo x51 photo main sensor test
48 megapixel sensor, automatic mode

The smartphone gimbal has nothing to do with the filmmaker’s gimbal. Rather, it is akin to an “advanced” optical stabilizer. It does not only act on the photo lens like the others, but on the whole “sensor plus optical” couple. This is why the sensor 48 megapixels (Sony’s IMX598) is isolated at the top of the photo module: the gimbal takes up space. And this partly explains the protuberance of this block. You find relatively similar technology in the iPhone 12 Pro Max which Apple introduced a few days ago.

In use, the gimbal really brings something new: quality optical stabilization, whether in photo or video, day and especially night. Thanks to him, no unsightly blur. Of course, it consumes a bit of energy. The 48 megapixel sensor, stabilized on 2 hardware axes and 3 software axes (with the gyroscope), take sharp photos every time. When you shoot video, you see on screen the adjustments made by the sensor, which continues to follow the subject despite the parasitic movements.

The 48 megapixel sensor captures in 12 megapixels by default (in Quad Bayer mode). It offers beautiful shots, with contrast, beautiful colors and sharpness. Reprocessing of the image sometimes tends to distort certain details. The sensor can switch to 48 megapixels, for more precise photos, but less bright.

The night, the IMX598 and its gimbal do wonders. Even if you have to sit for several seconds with your arms in the air waiting for the picture to be taken, the stabilizer compensates for all movements. It’s a real stabilizer as we like it. Especially since the X51 takes advantage of many night modes: classic night mode, night portrait mode, extreme vision mode for dark rooms and starry sky mode for taking in the stars. Excellent results.

With the other three sensors, it’s not the same song. Of course, there is no gimbal. But Vivo still seems to have taken a lot more care with the 48-megapixel sensor than with any other sensor. The 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor offers interesting results during the day, but less at night, because it lacks light. It offers beautiful contrasts, it compensates well for distortions, but the details are distorted. At night, the results are much less convincing. The help of night mode is mandatory here to get some details, even if you are not using a stabilizer.

test vivo x51 photo sensor wide angle macro
Ultra wide-angle / macro sensor, automatic mode

The 13 megapixel sensor for portraits offers 2x optical zoom. Or the equivalent of a 50mm lens. This sensor is automatically activated when you select portrait mode (except in the case of a selfie, of course). The results are quite good, with beautiful contrasts here too, vibrant colors (if not too much) and a well-controlled background blur. Be careful to avoid activating portrait filters which can alter the face. Note that you can manually switch back to the 48-megapixel sensor in portrait mode.

vivo x51 photo sensor test wore
13 megapixel portrait sensor, portrait mode

The last sensor, an 8 megapixel model isolated at the bottom of the photo module, is associated with a periscope telephoto lens offering 5x optical zoom. You can climb up to 60x digital. But according to our tests, it is preferable not to exceed 20x otherwise you will get pictures that are very difficult to use (sometimes even to recognize).

The quality of the photos produced by this sensor is good, although it lacks, as always, brightness. The more conventional optical stabilizer helps reduce blur when zooming. Note that the night mode does not allow the use of 8 and 13 megapixel sensors with optical zoom. The zooms offered in night mode are digital only (with the 48 megapixel sensor).

vivo x51 test zoom comparison photo
2x optical zoom (portrait sensor), 5x optical zoom (telephoto), 20x digital zoom and 60x digital zoom

On the front, you will find a 32 megapixel selfie sensor which produces fairly classic self-portraits. The colors could be more pronounced, but you can obviously turn on HDR to accentuate them. There is a portrait mode with this selfie sensor. And in this portrait mode, you have the option of turning on background blur. The effect is less natural than the true portrait mode combined with the 13 megapixel sensor.

On video, the X51 shoots up to 4K @ 60 frames per second. For stabilization, it uses the gimbal system. But that’s limited to 4K @ 30 frames per second. However, you get very stable videos with no blur. And it’s a great performance. In addition, the colors are well respected, with contrast and light. Note that the X51 also offers an ultra stable mode. It can only be accessed at 1080p @ 30 frames per second, because it films in 4K and shrinks the frame to 1080p to compensate for unwanted movement.

Accessories

test vivo x51 accessories

The X51 comes with several accessories in the box. First, a transparent soft plastic shell. Almost all Chinese manufacturers deliver a shell with their mobile. And it’s a great initiative to keep mobile in the best possible condition.

The X51 comes with a Fast Charge 2.0 compatible charger, as we reported earlier. It is a charger with a USB type-A plug. The cable that comes with the charger has a USB Type-A port on one side and a USB Type-C port on the other.

The smartphone also comes with a pair of wired in-ear headphones. As we have seen previously, this headset plugs into a 3.5mm jack. However, as the mobile does not have a 3.5mm jack, it is sold with a 3.5mm jack to USB type-C adapter. Which is extremely handy for connecting another headset (if you have a wired audio accessory). Finally, tips for the headphones are present in the box.

Conclusion

test vivo x51 cover 1

The X51 offers great services and a very qualitative experience. This is a smartphone that we liked very much in the editorial staff for its elegance and fluidity, not to mention the qualities offered by its gimbal stabilizer, which is equally at home in 4K video as in night mode. The X51 also benefits from very good performance, above the average for smartphones equipped with a Snapdragon 765G, even including those with 12 GB of RAM.

Obviously, we don’t have all praise for this smartphone. In photo, with secondary sensors sometimes a little too far behind (or even useless). In game, with somewhat fair performance on competitive or demanding titles. In audio, with a mono speaker which will not be unforgettable and an absent jack port. In the interface, with a little choice in terms of customization options.

Despite these few imperfections, the X51 is a good product which the real flaw is its price. 799 euros. We don’t expect this amount for a Snapdragon 765G smartphone. Of course, the gimbal certainly costs a lot more than a simple stabilizer. But is this enough to justify the price differential with certain competitors?

With the OnePlus North for example. Sold at 499 euros with 4 GB of additional RAM and a fairly close spec sheet, the affordable smartphone from OnePlus is one of the best value for money today. The Vivo X51 can hardly fight. And what about the OnePlus 8T, sold at 699 euros in its best version and having an excellent technological proposal, above that of the X51? We don’t believe the gimbal alone can compensate for this.

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