In a market dominated by a handful of mobile phone manufacturers, I’ve always been interested in seeing what relative outsiders can bring to the table. Before my current iPhone 11, I was always a Huawei fan because of their solid camera offerings compared to the competition. In 2021, the market is very different though, with plenty of mid-tier manufacturers offering great value phones with features that provide a premium feel.
Vivo, while not a giant in the mobile market, has slowly built a reputation in recent years for offering solid performing phones at a fraction of the price of the competition. The X51 is a bit of a venture outside of their typical production, proving a more premium feature set compared to the other models. With a Qualcomm SM7250 Snapdragon 765G, an Adreno 620 GPU and a 8GB of RAM, the X51 isn’t at the bleeding edge, but is more than prepared for anything you throw at it.
Running Android 10, Funtouch 10.0, the Vivo X51 runs incredibly smooth. From gaming to camera use and even everyday browsing, the phone never skips a beat delivering excellent performance consistently. It’s the smoothest I’ve personally seen Android running on a phone for some time and even comes close to the seamless feel of iOS.
Backing up that performance is a 4315 mAh battery that performs pretty solidly with moderate use. Typical use without any gaming usually lasted me anywhere between one to two days, while a game heavy session might bring that performance down to a day. Fortunately a fast-charging USB-C port – although the phone does not come with a fast charger – should have your battery back to full in no time.
The Vivo X51 really shines in two different ways. Firstly, it has a versatile set of camera features that gives some of the biggest phones in the market a run for their money. Featuring four cameras on its back panel, the X51 features a quad 48MP camera with an inbuilt gimbal for smooth video filming. The four cameras provide a dizzying array of photo options including a brilliant night mode, autofocus motion tracking, and a 60x zoom mode amongst other things.
I really have to talk about the night mode and how well the camera picks up light. I’ve always been a fan of astrophotography and having got a tripod early last year, I will occasionally go out and snap some images of the sky above if it was clear. I ventured out with the X51 at 1 AM on Christmas morning and snapped some of the clearest and most detailed night sky images I have taken to date. It far exceeds the capabilities of my iPhone 11 and my Huawei P20 Pro, and Vivo should be commended for that.
The gimbal feature is also a fantastic addition, creating smooth footage in a number of different scenarios. As someone who used to film wrestling shows from a mobile phone, I can’t tell you how useful having a gimbal was in that situation. Rather than using a large physical gimbal, the X51 fits it within the camera system itself, giving users the ability to shoot high-production visuals without the extraneous budget that comes with it. It’s a shame the gimbal feature is limited to 1080p footage, as it’s pretty standard for phones to film in 4k these days.
The other area the X51 shines is in its gaming mode. Similar to the way many PC CPUs can overclock for extra performance in gaming, the X51 comes with a performance mode designed to get just a little more out of games. Titled ‘Ultra Game Mode’, the phone turns off all notifications, offers numerous optimisation modes and brings options like surround sound to the table. While I’m not sure there’s much extra raw performance it adds to games, playing titles like Genshin Impact and PUBG felt incredibly smooth to me with no obvious performance issues or frame drops. Every little boost helps, of course.
I’m also a big fan of the X51’s design. It’s big, but not overly large, with a curved screen that looks smart and stylish as it wraps to the side sides of the phone, and the silver back providing the look and feel of a premium product. I never really understood the allure of curved screens until using the X51, but the 90hz display looks fantastic when watching YouTube or browsing Instagram, providing an endless feel to the corners of the screen.
On the audio front, the X51 is a little disappointing, lacking a dedicated headphone slot and packing a mono speaker. For a phone geared at mobile gaming, it’s likely that people might want to have their phone plugged while gaming, so a dedicated audio jack would mean users don’t have to choose between the two – Bluetooth headphones often have a little latency. A mono speaker also feels like another shortcoming in a phone that’s designed for multimedia use, especially should users decide to play games through them.
Price-wise the X51 is one of the most expensive in the company’s range, setting customers back around £750, although the phone has already come down in price since its release. You can currently grab one for below £700 at a number of websites. Even at that lower price, the cost is considerably expensive for the specs on offer, with the primary draw at that cost being both the camera and its gaming performance. Sitting in that pricing bracket pits the X51 against the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S20 and even the Apple iPhone 11 which are all premium handhelds and have better specs.