Vivo S1 review: Impressive battery and performance?

The first Vivo phone we used was Vivo V7 Plus, and ever since then, their subsequent models have kept impressing us. Of course, there were shortcomings and flaws in V9 and V11 Pro, but there were always more pros than cons.

Somehow, V15 and V15 Pro did not have the kind of craftsmanship we expected after V11 Pro. Their popup selfie camera was a newer trend in favor of a full view display, but it failed to impress us aesthetically. However, it was interesting to see their motorized camera concept getting followed by Oppo F11 Pro and Huawei Y9 Prime 2019, but our views about their popups are no different.

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This time, it is altogether different in case of Vivo S1. We will talk about the design in the following part, but for now, it is enough to say that S1 is the first to feature Helio P65 processor and the design speaks for itself in many ways.

After using this phone for a couple of weeks, we realized that Vivo had created a benchmark for itself in the mid-range category. Is it rightly priced or not and in what way it has inspired us, let’s find out below in our review.

Brief specs of Vivo S1

  • Display: 6.38 inches Super AMOLED
  • OS: Android 9.0; Funtouch 9.0
  • Chipset: Helio P65
  • RAM/ROM: 6GB/128GB
  • Camera (rear): 16MP + 8MP + 2MP
  • Camera (front): 32MP
  • Battery: 4500 mAh
  • Full Specs

Design/Display

The moment you hold the phone in hands, it speaks loud of its design language. I used Huawei P30 Pro a few months back and the S1 kind of reminded me of the color pattern on the backside. Not only the skyline color resembles but somehow the triple-lens placement seems to have been partially inspired by their Chinese rival.

Despite its shiny rear outlook which gives us a feel of glass, it is a plastic body that merges with the front glass through a much more polished plastic RIM. Overall, this formation has helped keep the weight of the device on the lower side.

Usual controls occupy sides of the device; a dual SIM + microSD slot is on the left side that also shares the space with a dedicated Jovi button; the right side has a power key and a volume rocker. The top is empty, and the bottom side is busy with our favorite audio jack, microphone hole, micro USB cable slot, and the speaker grille.

Turn on the device, and you get a full view display with a water-drop notch noticeable at the top dedicated for the front camera. Right above the notch, there is an ear speaker grille delicately placed at the edge.

I wouldn’t call it a bezel-less display due to a considerable bottom chin and top black stripe that appears when you try to hide the concave area (notch) from the settings menu. But, personally, I can live with the notch as it expands the viewing area.

In my opinion, Vivo should give another option to hide and activate the notch universally in addition to the app by app basis. The latter is the only option available currently, which feels a little time taking.

Vivo S1 has this Super AMOLED screen which was the feature in Vivo V15 Pro earlier but not a part of the standard V15, but this time it is a common trait of both S1 and S1 Pro which is a welcome sign. The 6.38 inches screen, 1080p resolution further add up value to the display, which does not degrade the viewing experience by more than 25% under direct sunlight. Watching from extreme angles also does not blur the view, another good sign for movie maniacs.

Vivo S1 under sunlight
Vivo S1 under sunlight

Performance

Vivo S1 is the first phone that carries the newly launched Helio P65 (Mediatek 6768) Octa-core chipset that offers better AI support and 2X performance boost than the previous version of the family.

There is Mali G52 GPU that coupled with the main chipset promises better graphic handling, especially the gaming experience.

Here in Pakistan, the only variant comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB ROM support which is more than enough when they work along with the new chipset.

The benchmark scores are impressive in this category.

Mediatek’s P65 scored much better on Geekbench (single-core: 1844, multiple-core 6014) than what its own sibling P70 does for Oppo F11 Pro and Vivo V15. Though, P65 falls in the middle of P60 and P70, but don’t let this placement confuse you as this chipset is the successor to both of them and exceeds in performance by a considerable margin.

On paper, the specs look convincing, but S1 isn’t short of skills on the ground either. Though I made it my primary driver during our testing period, I will mention one of our multitasking sessions of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The session included resource-hungry applications of the likes Asphalt 9, Whatsapp video calling, a 22-minute call on other networks, browsing through some heavy sites, downloading a 3 GB file in the background, listening to music for almost 40 minutes during my daily walk. The phone remained connected to the 4G network during this period.

Apart from a very slight lag at the time of switching apps, especially the browser, the phone ran damn smooth, and never it felt like a mid-range device to me. The battery consumption was even interestingly comfortable, which I will discuss in the following section.

Vivo S1 Home, Kids Mode, i Theme
Vivo S1 Home, Kids Mode, i Theme

Ever since I am using Funtouch, the newer version (9.0) is much improved and comprehensive. I am not a fan of the bloatware that comes attached to the Chinese phones, but some of them have proven to be very useful. But honestly, I would like a few to go away, for example, vivo.com, though it gives price updates on Vivo phones it still is an unnecessary addition. 

On the other hand, Kids Mode is helpful to almost anyone who shares his/her phones with the kids.

It can restrict their app’s usage and duration. Kids can’t alter the settings unless they have your password or access to the fingerprint scanner.

“i Theme” has lots of makeup options but most of them belong to the youngsters. Maybe Vivo is targeting youngsters more with this phone, but it should be bringing more stuff for all age groups.

On Vivo S1, you will likely use at least three areas more frequently; Notification Center (swipe down from the top), Control Center (swipe up from the bottom), Smart Launcher (swipe right, if enabled). You can manage most of the daily tasks from here quite easily. Instead of digging deep, you just need to get used to it for easier access to almost anything.

“Easy Touch” is another easy way to access the apps and tools for quick execution, but it solely depends upon your personal choice. When turned on (Setting>>More Setting>>Easy Access) it parks a circle on the edge of the screen, tap it, and it will show your pre-selected icons.

Vivo S1 Notification, Short Cut Center, Smart Launch
Vivo S1 Notification, Short Cut Center, Smart Launch

All these four areas have their benefits and limitations, but in my opinion, the pros exceed the cons. Vivo must avoid the duplicate existence of tools in these shortcut areas for improvising the user experience. The phone comes with a plethora of feature that is enough to customize the look and working of your S1, thanks to more than complexed Color OS.

A Few more things I liked and disliked about this phone;

  • Face unlock is quick and works like a charm even in the dark.
  • Recent apps can be blurred for keeping the privy eyes away
  • Task Timer is an excellent option to avoid disturbance during critical hours
  • Privacy and app encryption/file safe are handy features
  • The behavior of defaults app can be changed from System App Settings
  • Jovi image recognizer is still useless as before

Battery

Most of the apps we use every day in our smartphones to remain connected with the world put a toll on the battery. Whether it is Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube, a game like PUBG or a WhatsApp video call, they all eat data and the battery at the same time.

Vivo S1 carries a 4500 mAh battery that is accompanied by the fast charging characteristic. Like many areas, the battery is another feather in S1’s cap because it lasts as long as you would expect it to. It never betrayed me, both indoors or outdoors.

One thing I should mention about the mobile phone testing that I always use cellular data for making my tests as close to a real-life scenario as possible and in case of S1, I used 4G SIMs.

It took 2 hours and 20 minutes to charge S1 on several occasions fully.

However, in our back to back 720p video playtest, it lasted for 18 hours and 4 minutes. We do the video test with both the SIM cards active and Wifi turned off.

In another session, it only dropped 12% of the battery during 113 minutes of Netflix session while I was traveling on the motorway with 4G connected all the way. The phone consumed nearly 585 MB of data while streaming movies.

In our 3 hours battery test that we perform on every phone to test its might against data-hungry apps, Vivo S1 consumed 46% battery in 3.5 hours of consecutive drainage on social media, gaming and video calling.

Here is a summary of our battery test;

Vivo S1 Battery Test Graph

Camera

Triple and quad camera is the rage today and even the world’s top flagship makers, who earlier did not believe in more than one lens, have gone beyond the conventional approach of only relying on software tweaking.

Vivo has already experimented with popup cameras and AI-based photo treatment in its earlier phones and this phone, Vivo S1, continues with the tradition. The phone comes equipped with a triple-lens setup featuring 16MP wide-angle, 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth sensor, all placed vertically on the left side mimicking the P30 Pro placement pattern. Vivo has tried to make it a little different by putting an LED flash underneath the lenses, unlike the P30 Pro. Of course, there is no match between them; the camera specs are entirely different.

The default camera app inside is clean and simple, offering every required mode on the default interface, unlike Huawei’s camera app where HDR, bokeh and wide-angle ask for a couple of clicks to reach.

In the camera department, the strength of the Vivo S1 lies in its front selfie camera.

The 32MP lens of f/2.0 aperture captures some fine details of the subjects that we haven’t experienced in the earlier mid-range Vivo phones.  Its autofocus tracks face brilliantly, no matter whatever you put in between the lens and the subject, the focus remains on the face.

Photos appear very pleasant on the phone’s screen, but they make you look unrealistically fairer – something very much in-demand for the social media presence. But on larger screens, images look less artificial. It’s basically the AI that does the magic and makes everyone happy and beautiful.

So what if it is an overtreatment? Isn’t it everyone going after?

If you are not happy with the standard settings, there are tons of options in the “AI Beauty” mode for turning you, even more ideal looking person than you actually are. You can shape up almost every part of your face, and while doing so, you can always compare it with the original photo.

The front cam doesn’t end here; you get to play with panorama shots, videos and something more interesting; Fun Videos and AR Stickers. Fun videos could be the most popular tool for youngsters and elders alike. Though it looks quite childish but can be very handy for Tiktok and Instagram content creators, the tool can use a lot of inbuilt filters and background sounds for dramatizing a few seconds .mp4 video that can be shared anywhere on social media.

Through its rear camera setup, Vivo S1 additionally offers Wide-angle and Bokeh photos through its 8MP ultrawide angle lens and 2MP depth sensor respectively. The primary lens of 16MP can take some impressive photos which are mostly higher in contrast, but when the wide-angle toggle is turned on, the captured photos lose some details while a warmer effect creeps in. Overall, the AI has significantly improved in Vivo S1, which auto enhances the colors as per its own internal algorithm; it tends to increase the exposure in almost every shot on both front and back cameras.

Daylight photos with both, front and rear lenses, are rich in details, HDR keeps things higher in contrast and punchy but sometimes overexpose to such an extent that makes backgrounds look flat, especially the sky. Pictures look vibrant on its AMOLED screen, and they don’t lose much of their flavor on bigger displays.

S1 doesn’t seem to struggle much at night either, as long as you are not zooming in. It washes out some details at 1x but going beyond 3x loses way too much which is quite normal for a mid-range phone.

Bokeh isn’t the perfect especially for the subjects with sharp edges, and you might notice blurry outline around the object in focus which sometimes spoils the photo.

Verdict

Vivo S1 is an all-rounder in the mid-range price category. This beautifully designed device carries the latest Helio P65 processor with enough RAM to support its fluent processing. Although Funtouch is a little more complicated than rival OS skins, it has all the features to customize and secure the phone. One needs a little time to get used to it.

Battery and front camera are its prominent features. So if you love to carry a phone that is stylish, fast, last long, S1 is the phone.

Design
9
Display
8
Performance
8
Battery
9
Camera
7

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