vivo is a new player in the Australian market. Its first phone here, the vivo S1, is available from JB Hi-Fi for $449. It is value-packed and gets GadgetGuy’s recommendation.
Before you ask what the hell is a vivo S1 and why should we
care let me tell you that it is part of the BBK stable including OPPO, OnePlus
vivo is huge in China where the vivo S1 is extremely popular with the proletariat. It had to work hard to get there by packing in more features and reliability than most competitors to meet the price point. vivo can do that because the combined output of BBK either makes it the second or third largest smartphone maker on the planet – economy of scale.
It is very well specified but its paddling in the hugely competitive mass-market field where is competes with: Huawei P30 Lite ($449); OPPO Reno Z ($499 yes the same parents), Samsung Galaxy A50 ($499), Motorola One Vision ($499), Xiaomi M1 A3 ($499). PS: these are genuine Australian certified models and not the cheap grey/parallel imports you can find on-line.
Review format change
Over 60% of GadgetGuy’s traffic is now via mobile, and our
traditional long-form (4-6-page) reviews don’t suit that. We now look at the
buyer profile and what they expect for the price. The result – we will put
everything you need to know in the first two pages. You will see the word
‘Pass’ if it meets or exceeds our extensive paradigms.
Don’t worry – for more expensive flagship and beyond purchases we will appendix any heavy tech stuff and specifications.
Market position: vivo is a worker’s phone for those who expect a lot more.
As vivo may be unknown to Aussies you can count on its
BBK/OPPO heritage – it is well made, quality assured and has local support. The
other model sold here is the $369 vivo Y17 that we are yet to review.
Let’s start with some basic vivo S1 features:
6.38-inch, 2340 x 1080, 404ppi, Super AMOLED
MediaTek MT6768 Helio P65 (12nm) Mali-G52 MP2
6GB RAM and 128GB storage (105GB free) plus
dedicated microSD slot to 256GB
Dual sim, Wi-Fi AC, BT 5.0, GPS
Tripe rear camera (16/8/2MP) and 32MP selfie and
lots of AI
Under glass fingerprint scanner
Android 9 and Funtouch OS 9 UI
4500mAh battery and fast charge 5V/2A and 9V/2A
159.5 x 75.2 x 8.1 mm x 197g
Let’s just say that for a $449 device this ticks all boxes
for phones costing far more. Comparing it to the $499 OPPO Reno Z it has
similar specs. On the plus side it has a MicroSD slot and bigger battery and on
the minus side – the cameras are quite different, and it has micro-USB (we
think all phones should have USB-C now, but the Chinese worker still wants the
Screen: 6.38-inch Super AMOLED
We understand it is a Samsung sourced Super AMOLED panel
widely used by the BBK family.
It is bright (at least 550 typical and 600 peak nits).
Screen protection is Gorilla Glass (we suspect level 5).
It is rare to see AMOLED with Always on Display in this price bracket. The vivo S1 has three modes – standard, normal and bright and colour temperature adjustments. It can reach 90% sRGB in Bright mode.
Pass – excellent screen with good daylight readability
Under the hood MediaTek MT6768 Helio P65
This is a new chip, and vivo is the first to use it. It uses
two big 2.0 GHz Cortex-A75 and six small 1.7 GHz Cortex-A55 cores. Our 15-minute
CPU Throttle test shows flat-out consistent performance at 117,000GIPS and proper
GeekBench 5 shows a respectable 305/1308 single/multi-core performance (multiply by 5 to get GeekBench 4 figures), and that puts it pretty close to the Kirin 960 (Huawei P10) or Qualcomm SD835 (Note 8 and Pixel 2).
Pass – CPU, ram and storage – 6GB and 128GB plus a dedicated microSD means it ticks all the boxes.
As a phone
It scores very well on signal strength reception at -89dBM (Note10+ is -100 – lower is better) and picks up the second nearest tower at -93 (Note 10 is -110). It has bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8,28, 38, 39, 40 and 41 – perfect for Australia.
Volume is excellent for ring and hands-free. Music is listenable
– better over the 3.5mm jack or BT 5.0
Pass – with flying colours
Comms – Wi-Fi and GPS (no NFC)
Its Wi-Fi AC and has good sensitivity at -52 (Note10 is
-46). It achieves 390Mbps out to 5 metres.
GPS is capable of turn-by-turn navigation, and it has an
Pass – would have loved NFC but its hard at this price.
Android 9 and Funtouch 9
The Chinese need a User Interface because Google apps and services are banned there. Funtouch 9 is a little quirky compared to its brother OPPO’s Colour OS 9.
You need to swipe to get a shortcut (other Android you swipe
down), and there are things Jovi, Ultra Game Mode, Smart motion/split and more.
It is Android 9 underneath (no mention of its upgrade policy) with a September
As far as I can tell, Jovi is a voice assistant, and you can
use Google Assistant instead.
Pass – small learning curve but its still Android 9
Battery 4500mAh battery and fast charge 5V/2A and 9V/2A (18W) support
4500mAH is huge, and in two days of heavy use, it still had
30% left. At 100% load, it exhausts in seven hours but playing a 720p video
gets that to 19 hours.
Micro-USB is so yesterday, but the supplied charger can intelligently charge at 5V/2A (10W) or 9V/2A (18W).
Pass – excellent battery life and fast charge (don’t lose
Primary sensor: 16MP, f/1.78, 1.12um, Sony
IMX499 (mainly used by vivo), PDAF,
Ultrawide sensor: 8MP, f/2.2, 120-degree FoV
Depth sensor: 2MP, f/2.4
Front camera: 32MP, f/2.0, .8um (likely a Sony
IMX616 as used in OPPO Reno Z) and with pixel binning for 8MP image
Accurate colours, good contrast, good detail and no over-processing
Office Light (600 lumens)
Accurate colours, good contrast, good detail and no over-processing
It lights the room courtesy of the f/1.78 aperture but the colours are artificial (the Windows screen is more blue – see below), and detail is lost. Still a good social media shot.
Pass – the camera is strong shows a balanced sensor/lens
setup. The Selfie at 32MP has all the usual beauty features.
GadgetGuy’s take – the vivo S1 is a strong mass-market device with an excellent BBK pedigree.
There is a lot to like and little to complain about this
phone. Solid, well-made and offering features (particularly the battery and selfie
camera) that make it excellent value.
Funtouch 9 is a little different at first and reflects its
In the beginning, I said it was a crowded category. Would I
spend $50 more and get the OPPO Reno Z, Moto One Vision or Samsung Galaxy A50?
The answer is in two parts – if $449 is your budget you are
buying the best value phone. It scores 5-out-of-5 for that price.
If you have $50 more, the OPPO Reno Z is very enticing with NFC and a 48MP rear camera. Then it scores 4.7-out-of-5.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating16 Votes
At $449 you dont expect AMOLED, 6/128GB/microSD, 4500mAh fast charge battery and a 32MP selfie
vivo is from the BBL stable that includes OPPO, OnePlus, realme - good pedigree
micro-USB is so yesterday but it does have fast charging