vivo X90 hands-on review

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The vivo X90, launched in China last November, began its international rollout this year with the vivo X90 Pro. We already reviewed the X90 Pro and found it to be an exemplary flagship smartphone with impressive imaging skills, but now we got a chance to spend some time with the more affordable vivo X90. We used the vivo X90 for a month and here’s what we found about it.

Packaging

The vivo X90 comes in a blue-colored retail box similar to the X90 Pro’s box with the same contents. You get a protective case, a SIM card ejection tool, a USB-C cable, a 120W charger, and the usual paperwork. The package doesn’t include USB-C wired earphones nor a 3.5mm headphone jack adapter.

vivo X90 hands-on review

Design

The vivo X90 is built around a 6.78″ FullHD+ curved AMOLED display, protected by SCHOTT Xensation α glass. The panel has 120 Hz screen refresh rate and 1,300 nits peak brightness. It also has a punch hole in the center for the 32 MP selfie camera.

vivo X90 hands-on review

Additionally, there’s a fingerprint scanner underneath the screen for biometric authentication. We found it to be fast and accurate in our usage and quite like it, but we don’t like its positioning. The UD fingerprint reader is close to the bottom bezel, which makes it difficult to reach. This is also the case with the vivo X90 Pro. Placing the fingerprint reader a tad higher, like the vivo X80 Pro, would have been more convenient and offered a better unlocking experience.

vivo X90 hands-on review

Turn the vivo X90 around, and you get a Fluorite AG Glass panel sporting what vivo calls a “Big Eye” camera module housing three cameras (the fourth circle is for the Laser Focus Sensor). On its right side is the LED flash, along with some camera specs and ZEISS branding, and below it is a strip with Xtreme Imagination written on it, just like the X90 Pro. However, this one’s plastic instead of metal and doesn’t feel premium.

vivo X90 hands-on review

It’s worth mentioning that vivo has used a “stronger and more durable glass lens with higher light transmission” for the camera module, made from Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6, while the cameras come with ZEISS’ T* coating.

vivo X90 hands-on review

The vivo X90 is offered in Asteroid Black, Breeze Blue, and Red colors with the availability varying by market. We received the blue model, which looks beautiful. Its back cover with curved edges has a subtle glittery pattern and matte finish, which prevents smudges but makes the phone slippery, similar to the vivo X80 Pro. Regardless, this version feels nice to hold in hand, even though it wobbles on flat surfaces due to the protruding rear cameras, with the bundled protective case not doing much to fix it.

The X90 doesn’t have flat frames like some lower-end vivo smartphones, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your preference.

vivo X90 hands-on review

The frames themselves are made of aluminum alloy and have antenna lines on all four sides. On the phone’s right-side frame is the volume rocker and power button with good feedback, and at the bottom is the USB-C port, flanked by the SIM card slot, primary microphone, and a speaker grille.

Up top is the secondary mic, joined by an IR blaster. You also have the “Professional Photography” text at the top, like the Pro variant, and a secondary speaker above the selfie camera near the bezel for an immersive audio experience.


Ports and controls
Ports and controls
Ports and controls

Ports and controls

We like the overall design of the vivo X90. It may not feel as premium as the X90 Pro, but it certainly doesn’t feel cheap when you hold it.

Display

The vivo X90’s 6.78″ curved AMOLED display has 1,300 nits peak brightness, 120 Hz refresh rate, and a pixel density of 452 ppi. It supports 1.07 billion colors and comes with HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG certifications. It also has Widevine L1 certification, allowing you to stream 1080p videos on supported apps.

The vivo X90’s screen has good haptic feedback, courtesy of the X-Axis Linear Motor. And when paired with the phone’s slim profile, it made typing fun. The panel’s also pretty bright, and we had no issues reading textual content under direct sunlight at max brightness.

Like the vivo X90 Pro, the vivo X90 also comes with the vivo V2 chip to enhance the phone’s photography and display capabilities. With the latter, it offers 120 Hz Game Frame Interpolation, which allows gaming at higher frame rates with lower power consumption. However, only a limited number of games support Game Frame Interpolation right now.

vivo X90 hands-on review

The vivo X90 has Smart Switch, 60 Hz, and 120 Hz refresh rate options, and the display supports three refresh rates in total – 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz. When you select the 120Hz option, you get an additional “Apps running at a high refresh rate” setting that lets you choose which apps/games can run at 120Hz. We turned it on for all the apps and games installed on our unit.

With the Smart Switch mode, the refresh rate is bumped up from 60Hz to 120Hz for most of the system menus and apps when you are interacting with the screen, except for a few apps – including YouTube, Google Chrome, Google Photos, GSMArena, and Quora – which remain at 60 Hz. For Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the display refreshes at 120 Hz when you interact with the screen and comes down to 60 Hz when you are watching an image or playing a video.

vivo X90 hands-on review

In the 60 Hz mode, the refresh rate expectedly remained at 60 Hz for everything, whether you are interacting with the screen or just looking at it. The 120 Hz mode is basically the Smart Switch mode, but with all apps reaching 120 Hz when interacting with the screen instead of staying capped at 60 Hz.

We tried Call of Duty Mobile, Dead Trigger 2, Real Racing 3, and Sky Force Reloaded on the vivo X90. In Smart Switch mode, only Dead Trigger 2 reached 120FPS when interacting with the screen and remained at 60FPS when just looking at it, whereas in 120Hz mode, both Dead Trigger 2 and Sky Force Reloaded reached 120FPS when interacting with the display.

If you want a smooth experience, the 120 Hz mode is your best option, provided you are willing to go through the hassle of individually enabling it for the apps/games from the “Apps running at a high refresh rate” setting.

Despite the press materials claiming 90 Hz refresh rate option at no point did we see it activate. On the upside we didn’t face any screen mistouch issues with the vivo X90 due to the curved display.

Software and Performance

The vivo X90 has the Dimensity 9200 SoC at the helm – the same chip that powers the more expensive vivo X90 Pro. It comes with up to 12 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256 GB of UFS 4.0 storage. Ours came with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. Regardless of the memory configuration you opt for, the smartphone runs Android 13-based Funtouch OS 13 out of the box since Origin OS is still restricted to Chinese units.

Our unit is currently up to the slightly dated May 1, 2023 security patch level. vivo has promised three generations of Android upgrades and three years of “regular security updates.” How regularly vivo manages to roll out the security patches is something only time can tell.

The vivo X90 comes pre-installed with third-party apps, but fortunately, most of them can be uninstalled if you want. It’s also worth mentioning that the vivo X90 comes with uninstallable Hot Apps and Hot Games, which the X90 Pro doesn’t. It’s unclear whether that’s a cost-cutting measure or because the X90 is cheaper than the premium X90 Pro.

The software experience you get with the vivo X90 is the same as what you get with the X90 Pro, so we suggest you read our vivo X90 Pro review if you want to learn more about Funtouch OS 13.

vivo X90 hands-on review

Previously some vivo/iQOO flagships that launched in India previously weren’t as snappy as other phones with the same chipsets, which, fortunately, is not the case with the X90 and X90 Pro. vivo finally did enough to smooth out the user experience and it was about time too. However, switching between apps using the navigation buttons continues to be a laggy affair since there’s no improvement on that front. Obviously gesture-based navigation is the way to go these days, but it can still be annoying for old-schoolers.

A few more bugs need ironing out too. The Always-On Display is automatically disabled if the phone’s battery is completely drained out. This happened with the Indian X90 Pro as well, but not with the previous vivo (and iQOO) flagships we used in India.

Moreover, vivo needs to improve the X90’s ability to remain latched to 5G networks since it kept switching to 4G/4G+ when held in a certain way and kept in certain areas of the room. It also switched from 5G to 4G when charging, which isn’t ideal. A few other 5G smartphones we used similarly on the same network in the same room didn’t have these issues. Fortunately, the network switch issue was fixed with the May 2023 Android security update, but vivo hasn’t fixed the issue with the Always-on Display.

That said, while the software experience of the vivo X90 wasn’t without its flaws, the overall performance of this Dimensity 9200-powered smartphone was snappy and smooth. There were hardly any stutters during everyday use, and the phone handled long gaming sessions well. However, the vivo X90 often got warmer than usual, even when used for web browsing, which is hardly a surprise, since in our experience, the Indian models of many vivo and iQOO smartphones have historically faced overheating issues. There were also instances of the X90 getting quite hot when it wasn’t used and lying on a table. vivo needs to come up with proper optimizations to fix that.

Camera

The vivo X90, like the X90 Pro, features four cameras – one on the front and three on the back. The X90’s front camera uses a 32MP sensor which is the same as the Pro model, but the triple camera setup on the back is different. It comprises 50MP primary, 12MP ultrawide (108° FOV), and 12MP telephoto units. The fourth circle houses the Laser Focus Sensor.

The 32MP selfie camera has f/2.45 aperture and can record videos in up to 1080p resolution at 60FPS. It also supports five ZEISS Styles for the Portrait Mode photos – Biotar, Sonnar, Planar, Distagon, and Cinematic. vivo introduced a new ZEISS Portrait Style with the X90 series called Cine-flare, but it’s unavailable for the front cameras on the X90 and X90 Pro.

vivo X90 hands-on review

The 50MP primary camera on the rear has f/1.75 aperture and OIS. It uses the Sony IMX866vcs sensor that can shoot videos in up to 4K resolution at 60FPS. It can also record HDR10+ videos in 1080p at 30FPS, and you also have the option to shoot videos with the ZEISS Cinematic filter.

The two 12MP cameras use a Sony IMX663 sensor, but one sits behind a telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom, while another is placed behind an ultrawide lens. It’s also worth mentioning that the 12MP telephoto unit, advertised as the “Professional Portrait Camera,” has an f/1.98 aperture, whereas the 12MP ultrawide camera has an f/2.0 aperture. The latter can also take macro shots with the Super Macro mode.

vivo X90 hands-on review

All three cameras of the vivo X90 were quick to capture images in default Photo mode, and we didn’t face any shutter lag. The primary camera also did a great job of taking photos of flowers and plants in windy conditions without any blur. We also like Sports Mode, which is meant to help users take blur-free pictures in fast-paced situations. We took some photos of fast-moving vehicles from inside a fast-moving vehicle, and the results were better than expected.

Compared to the X90 Pro, and considering its lower price, the X90 took nice photos during the day and night. However, despite using ZEISS T* coating on all rear cameras, photos taken with the primary and ultrawide cameras during the night and in low-light conditions produced lens flare, which also happened with the more expensive X90 Pro.

Pictures taken with the Portrait Mode had nice subject separation, but the algorithm often struggled with the spectacles and blurred parts of it regardless of the distance between the camera and the subject. We also noticed some discoloration of distant objects in some scenes in photos captured with the ultrawide camera.

The vivo X90 also has a Supermoon Mode, which lets you take pictures at 1x, 2x, and 10x zoom levels. The photos of the Moon we took at 1x and 2x magnifications looked fake and artificial compared to 10x zoom, so we preferred that instead. However, it’s best to use a tripod when taking pictures at 10x zoom in Supermoon Mode.

You can check some pictures we took from the vivo X90 below.

Daylight Photos

Let’s take a look at the daylight photos first.


Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera

Primary camera

Here are some pictures taken with the ultrawide camera.


Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera
Ultrawide camera

Ultrawide camera

Some images taken with the Super Macro Mode.


Super Macro with Ultrawide camera
Super Macro with Ultrawide camera
Super Macro with Ultrawide camera

Super Macro with Ultrawide camera

A couple of photos taken with the Sports Mode.


Sports Mode
Sports Mode

Sports Mode

Nighttime Photos

Now let’s take a look at some nighttime photos.


Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera
Primary camera

Primary camera

Pictures taken with the Supermoon Mode.


1x
2x
10x

Supermoon Mode: 1x • 2x • 10x

Battery

The vivo X90 packs a 4,810 mAh dual-cell battery, which is 60 mAh smaller than the X90 Pro’s battery. We couldn’t run our standard battery tests on the vivo X90 since the phone wasn’t tested at our HQ. However, anecdotally speaking, the vivo X90 got us through the day on a single charge with an average of 4.5 to 5.5 hours of screen-on time on moderate to heavy usage with 120Hz screen refresh rate and 5G mobile data and Wi-Fi hotspot enabled the whole time. The usage consisted of web browsing, streaming YouTube videos, using social media apps, and at least an hour of playing resource-intensive games.

vivo X90 hands-on review

Once the battery is drained, you can juice it with the bundled 120W power adapter, advertised to fill it from 1% to 50% in 8 minutes. In our testing, the smartphone charged from 1% to 23% in 5 minutes, 42% in 10 minutes, 50% in 12 minutes, 59% in 15 minutes, 99% in 30 minutes, and 100% in 32 minutes. We ran these charging tests during the hot summer season in India with the Always-On Display and 5G mobile data turned on, and your mileage will likely vary depending on your usage and ambient temperature.

Conclusion

The vivo X90 is not a premium flagship like the vivo X90 Pro, featuring an impressive camera system headlined by a primary camera using the 50MP 1″ type sensor. It also doesn’t sport a 50MP telephoto unit or support wireless charging like the Pro model. Then again, the vivo X90 doesn’t cost as much as the X90 Pro either.

In India, the vivo X90 Pro comes in a single 12GB/256GB memory configuration priced at INR84,999 ($1,040/€950), while the X90 with the same amount of RAM and storage costs INR63,999 ($780/€715). There’s also a model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage onboard, priced at INR59,999 ($730/€670).

Despite not being a proper flagship, the vivo X90 has much going for it. It has a nice, slim design with an IP54 rating, and the Breeze Blue model looks absolutely beautiful. The overall performance is snappy, even when it comes to gaming, with the AMOLED screen being vivid and bright.

vivo X90 hands-on review

The vivo X90’s battery life is not the best around, but it got us through the day on a single charge. And support for 120W wired charging ensures the smartphone gets fully charged in about half an hour.

Talking about the cameras, the vivo X90 doesn’t offer the same results as its Pro counterpart. However, it took nice pictures during the day and night time. The phone does get warmer than usual, though, and there were weird software bugs, some of which have been ironed out by vivo.

To conclude, if the vivo X90 Pro – which is vivo’s flagship offering in the international market right now (Pro+ is China-exclusive) – doesn’t fit your budget, or if you don’t want to pay the premium for a 50MP 1″ type sensor, 8K recording, an excellent design with IP68 rating, and a tad bigger battery with 50W wireless charging, then you can’t go wrong with the vivo X90.

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