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Vivo V23 Review: Mid-Range Selfie Camera Phone Done Right

Vivo V23 Review SA AH 1
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Vivo V23 is a minor step down from the V23 Pro but it captures as good selfies.

Vivo V23
About $400
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Likeable design with metallic frame
  • Great selfie cameras
  • Good battery life
  • Highly customizable software
Cons
  • No stereo speakers
  • No official water resistance
  • Not very color accurate AMOLED display
  • No SD card slot and 3.5mm headphone jack

Vivo supplied us with a review unit of the Vivo V23 but the company didn’t have a say in our opinion, nor did it see this review before you. We’ve been using the device for a couple of weeks before forming an opinion.

Vivo launched the V23 alongside the V23 Pro that we recently reviewed. It is slightly lesser specced in some departments. We have a MediaTek Dimensity 920 chipset instead of Dimensity 1200, a 64-megapixel primary rear camera instead of 108-megapixel, and a marginally smaller display and battery.

These downgrades translate as a roughly $100 benefit to buyers. But despite that price cut, it retains the color-changing glass back, 50-megapixel dual selfie cameras, up to 12GB of RAM, and 5G cellular connectivity. So is the Vivo V23 a better buy than the V23 Pro? Read on to find out. We advise you to read our Vivo V23 Pro review first as we will be referring to it several times in this review.

Vivo V23 unboxing and design

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The Vivo V23 comes in an identical dark-blue card box featuring a catchy glittery element on top. The internal packaging is also identical, with the handset sitting up top inside its own plastic cradle. Digging deeper, we find a 44W charging adapter and cable, a pair of 3.5mm wired earphones, a SIM ejector tool, and a USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio dongle. Yes, this phone also lacks a separate audio jack and hence the dongle is here.

Coming to the phone’s design, it’s another excellently designed handset by Vivo. It retains the V23 Pro’s raindrop rear camera array and the shiny back panel that has a sandy yet extremely soft feel to it. The embossed Vivo logo also doesn’t change position. The display notch is a little less wide but doesn’t look too dissimilar. The placement of the down-firing speaker, USB Type-C port, microphone, and the dual nano-SIM tray at the bottom edge is unchanged, and so is that of the physical power and volume buttons as well as the secondary microphone at the top.

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However, despite these similarities, Vivo has managed to achieve two distinct designs. For one, the V23 Pro has curved front and back glass and a pretty thin middle frame, making for a slim aesthetic. The vanilla V23, on the other hand, goes after an iPhone-ish look with a flat back and front as well as flat metallic edges. So flat that the handset can stand on its edge. The overall thickness and weight of the device are pretty much unchanged but this design allows for better handling of the device as the V23 Pro is too slippery.

A broader frame means the Vivo V23 gets slightly bigger physical buttons that have a more comfortable feeling. But I like the tactile feedback on the V23 Pro better.

 

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The vanilla Vivo V23 also gets the color-changing back

The Vivo V23 series gained a lot of attention from the media and public alike thanks to its color-changing back. The company is using a Fluorite AG glass on the back of the Sunshine Gold color variants of both models with a paint job that’s reactive to sunlight. If you expose the device to sunlight for a minute or so, it magically changes its color from golden to blue, with hints of yellow or green shades in between this transition.

It’s a cool party trick but I find it a bit gimmicky. For one, you are likely to put a case on the phone and unless you opt for a transparent one, the magic is gone. Moreover, as we discussed in our V23 Pro review, using the phone outdoors could result in a messy rear due to your hand blocking sunlight from some portion of the back panel, causing partial color changes. You can use this trick to draw some illustrations or logos but that’s about it.

Nonetheless, since Vivo charges as much for the Sunshine Gold color variant of the V23 as the Stardust Black variant, which doesn’t change color under sunlight, opting for the former won’t hurt your wallet.

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But don’t forget to put a case on it. There’s no grip issue here but like the V23 Pro, this model also doesn’t sit flat on its back due to the bumpy rear camera island. A case makes it a bit more stable.

Vivo supplies the phone with a plastic film on the screen, which gets Schott’s Xensation Up glass protection, which is also found on Vivo’s X60 Pro and X70 Pro smartphones. It isn’t the latest and best offering from the company though. The Xensation α glass found on the V23 Pro is.

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A decently bright flat AMOLED display

The Vivo V23 sports a 6.44-inch flat AMOLED display with an FHD+ (1080×2400 pixels) resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. That’s marginally smaller than the 6.56-inch curved panel found on the V23 Pro. The dual-camera notch at the center is also a little less wide and you will get used to it pretty quickly. You can even customize which apps can use the portion of the display on the sides of the notch as per your liking.

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Vivo could have done better with thinner bezels around the display but it’s not a big deal. On that note, the LED notification is missing here as well, which is disappointing since there’s enough space to add one. Thankfully, we have a proximity sensor and light sensor here. The earpiece grille above the top bezel is more prominent on this phone.

The optical under-display fingerprint scanner is as snappy as on the V23 Pro. But I don’t find this technology an upgrade to a physical capacitive fingerprint scanner. That doesn’t mean it’s bad though. Just not as effective in certain situations.

In terms of brightness, the display on the Vivo V23 is slightly worse than that on the Pro. It’s still usable in any lighting conditions though. Should not be a dealbreaker to anyone. The same can be said for color accuracy as well. The display colors on this phone are a little worse than its pricier sibling. But once again, not a big deal.

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Vivo offers the same three options for color modes here — Standard, Professional, and Bright. You also get a color temperature adjustment slider. Unless you’re switching from a flagship smartphone, you’ll not be disappointed with the color accuracy on this phone. The device renders colors in photos and videos quite accurately.

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Stream videos in the highest quality

Like the Pro, the vanilla Vivo V23 also comes with the Widevine L1 DRM certification. Meaning, you can stream content from streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in the highest possible quality. Since the display caps at 1080p resolution, that’s what the highest resolution means here. We also have support for HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG standards but no Dolby Vision.

Thanks to the 90Hz display refresh rate, navigating through menus is smooth. You will find the transition between two images on the screen fluent enough. But if you’re willing to give up some of this smoothness for better battery life (which we will take about in more detail later), you can choose to keep the refresh rate fixed at 60Hz. Vivo also offers a Smart Switch feature that automatically switches between the 60Hz and 90Hz refresh rates depending on the ongoing task. But it doesn’t seem to always work as intended. There’s a lot of room for improvement here. We hope Vivo will look into it. Meanwhile, we advise you to use the device in 90Hz mode for a better experience.

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This phone seems to lack the TÜV Rheinland display certification for low blue light emission, something the Pro model boasts. But we do have the software-enabled eye protection feature that shows warmer colors on the screen to reduce eye strain. You can manually adjust the warmth of colors and also schedule the feature to automatically turn on at customized times.

Vivo V23 offers a decent performance

Processor is one of the main downgrades over the Pro model but the vanilla Vivo V23 doesn’t disappoint with its performance. Its Dimensity 920 is based on the same 6nm process node from TSMC as the Dimensity 1200 found on the Pro. But we now have only two Cortex-A78 CPU cores clocked at a lower speed of 2.5GHz. The six Cortex-A55 operate at a maximum frequency of 2.0GHz. The Mali-G68 GPU is also a downgrade from the Mali-G77. Vivo is still offering the device in 8GB+128GB or 12GB+256GB memory configurations with its Extended RAM 2.0 technology. It allows you to use 4GB of ROM as RAM.

We have the 12GB+256GB variant and it offered a satisfactory performance during the review period. It handled multitasking efficiently without any notable lags, crashes, or killing of background apps. Don’t forget to switch on the 90Hz display refresh rate if you want a consistent experience though.

Extended gaming sessions caused some expected heating but the broad metallic frame helped in heat dissipation. I also noticed occasional stutter with graphic-intense games like Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI — Indian version on PUBG). But it runs smoothly on high frame rates most of the time. Vivo’s dedicated game mode is here for an enhanced gaming experience.

Like the Pro model, this device also misses out on expandable storage. Since system files occupy a few GBs, you’ll get just over 100GB of storage space if you opt for the base model. We do have OTG support here for connecting external storage when needed, but you’ll not get the best data transfer speeds with USB 2.0.

Overall, the Pro model marginally leads the performance battle with faster loading or switching between heavy apps. But the vanilla Vivo V23 also offers solid day-to-day performance in this segment.

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Highly customizable Funtouch OS UI with flavors of Android 12

The Vivo V23 runs Android 12 out of the box, with the company’s Funtouch OS on top. It’s pretty much the same highly customizable (and customized) UI found on the Pro model. The overall user experience is unchanged as we have the same menus, settings options, app drawer, widgets, shortcuts, icons, and customization options. Some stock Android features such as the green notification dot for camera and microphone access, privacy dashboard, and parental controls are here as well.

But Vivo has included its Jovi Home personalized services platform here. It offers suggestions, recommendations, and shortcuts based on your usage and interests. It sits left to your home screen, alongside Google Discover. Additionally, Vivo has also replaced a few Google apps with its own alternatives on the V23. Messages, Phone, and Contacts app on the V23 Pro are from Google. But this could vary by market. And it isn’t much of a problem either.

The rest of the software thing is consistent across the two models. As far as software support from Vivo is concerned, we aren’t hopeful of more than two major Android OS updates, i.e. Android 13 and Android 14, for this phone. There’s no official word from the company in this regard yet though.

Interestingly, Vivo also has a new Android skin called Origin OS in development. It was announced back in 2020 but is only available in the company’s homeland China so far. It’s unclear whether Vivo plans to replace Funtouch OS with Origin OS globally.

Vivo V23 app drawer screenshot
Vivo V23 Settings app screenshot
Vivo V23 Settings app Dynamic Effects screenshot
Vivo V23 Ultra Game Mode screenshot
Vivo V23 Jovi Home screenshot
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Vivo V23 Settings app Dynamic Effects screenshot
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Vivo V23 Jovi Home screenshot

There are no stereo speakers here either

 

Vivo had to cut a few corners on the V23 series to make it more appealing at one glance. There weren’t many areas where it could do that and, unfortunately, it had to sacrifice stereo speakers. We have a single down-firing speaker on both models. I don’t have any complaints regarding the loudness of this speaker. But the lack of stereo speakers is a bummer.

As far as audio and sound-related software features are concerned, Vivo disappoints again. There’s no sound equalizer on this phone. Thankfully, we have sound profiles that let you optimize the audio quality based on your hearing capability. People with impaired hearing will find this feature particularly useful.

Interestingly, despite being a lower-end model, the vanilla V23 boasts NFC, at least in some regions. That’s a surprising decision by Vivo and we can’t fathom the reason behind it. Moreover, this phone also leads its pricier sibling in the haptic feedback department. I didn’t expect miracles on this phone having seen what Vivo offered on the Pro. But I am more than happy with what we have here.

In addition to NFC, we also have the usual connectivity features including 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, and GPS. The device supports SA (standalone) and NSA (non-standalone) dual-mode 5G connectivity as well. But you’re only getting access to sub-6 aka low band 5G networks. Like the Pro, the Vivo V23 also doesn’t support mmWave 5G.

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Excellent battery life with 44W fast charging

The Vivo V23 packs a 4,200mAh battery, which is marginally smaller than the 4,300mAh unit in the Pro model. While you will find bigger batteries in some phones in this segment, the battery life on this phone isn’t bad. It offers a screen time of more than six hours on regular usage. By regular usage, I mean browsing the internet, checking social media, a few video calls, capturing a lot of photos and videos, and about an hour of gaming. That number is with the 90Hz display refresh rate enabled. So if you use the device in 60Hz mode, which I don’t recommend, you may be able to stretch the screen time further.

The overall battery life falls just short of what I got on the V23 Pro. But the V23 will still get you through the day more often than not. Of course, the battery life depends on your usage pattern. If you’re a heavy gamer, you might need to charge your phone more frequently. But that will not be much of a hassle either. Vivo is offering an identical 44W fast charger here.

With this charger, your phone will reach about 25 percent charge from zero in just ten minutes. That should be enough to run the device for a few hours on regular usage. Half an hour of charging will replenish 62-63 percent of the battery juice. A full charge from zero to 100 percent takes just over an hour.

Vivo V23 camera review

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Along with the design, the camera has been one of the main focal points of Vivo’s V23 series. The Pro model didn’t fair bad but we have a different primary shooter here, a 64-megapixel one instead of the 108-megapixel Samsung ISOCELL HM2 sensor. So we will be testing things from the scratch up again.

The 64-megapixel main camera on the Vivo V23 is a Samsung S5KGW1 sensor with an A/1.9 aperture and PDAF (phase detection autofocus). We once again don’t have OIS (optical image stabilization) here. The camera uses pixel binning technology to combine four neighboring pixels and capture 16-megapixel images by default.

Like the Pro, this phone also captures pretty good stills in bright conditions. The level of details and dynamic range in photos is usable but nothing exceptional. Vivo is still applying some kind of pop effect to 16-megapixel images for sharper output. That post-processing is not applied to 64-megapixel “high-resolution” images though. We saw something similar on the Pro model as well. But in this case, the high-resolution photos come out a little worse. Worse enough you wouldn’t like them over the 16-megapixel ones.

The 8-megapixel ultrawide lens and the 2-megapixel macro camera are unchanged from the V23 Pro and capture pretty much identical photos. Ultrawide shots are usable with enough detail and colors. Like stills from the main camera, Vivo sharpens these photos as well, and a bit too much. A low resolution means there’s not much to talk about when it comes to the macro camera. Just there for you to capture so-so close-up shots if you want to.

VIVO V23 CAMERA SAMPLE — FLICKR GALLERY

Decent portraits but below-par low-light photos

 

The Vivo V23 doesn’t have a dedicated zoom camera. The phone still offers up to 10X digital zoom but you might want to avoid going there. These cropped photos from the main camera don’t look like photos but oil paintings. Well, this phone captures decent zoom photos only up to 2X, or 3X at max.

This phone lacks a dedicated depth camera as well. But portrait shots come out pretty amazing. Separation of the subject is still not perfect but not disappointing either. If there’s adequate light, you’ll get satisfactory results.

As for low-light photos, the Vivo V23 isn’t a very good tool. We have a dedicated night mode here that takes its own sweet time to capture the frame depending on the amount of light. If it gets enough light from artificial sources, photos don’t look bad. You will see good details in the images. But as the environment gets darker, you’ll start to lose quality with lesser natural sharpness. There’s room for improvement here.

The camera app on this phone also comes with several other camera modes, including Slo-mo, Timelapse, Pano, Sports, Documents, Dual View, and Double Exposure. The only thing missing from the Pro models is a “Pro Sports” mode. Vivo also no longer integrates Google Lens in the camera app. The pleasing sound for the zoom slider is here and so are the easily accessible built-in filters, AI scene optimizer, and HDR controls.

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Vivo V23 is a great selfie shooter

Like its pricier sibling, the Vivo V23 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to selfies. We have the same dual-camera setup on the front of this phone — a 50-megapixel F/2.0 main camera with autofocus and an 8-megapixel F/2.3 wide-angle lens with a 105-degree field of view (FoV) — and they both capture impressive selfies.

With the main selfie camera, you will get good natural color and dynamic range in photos. The amount of detail is also great. You’ll lose some crispness in ultrawide selfies but the photos are still usable.

Interestingly, the vanilla V23 captures much better low-light selfies than the Pro. This might have something to do with optimizations and Vivo could sort things out with a software update, but as things stand, the former is a clear winner when it comes to night selfies. The latter regain some of the lost ground when you turn on the dual-tone flash but it is still behind.

Speaking of the dual-tone flash, which Vivo calls spotlights, each flash unit can emit white and yellow lights and you can enable those individually. So if you want your selfies to look warmer, select the latter. And if you want them to look less warm, select the former. By default, both lights are enabled for a balanced look. Vivo also offers an Aura flash option that illuminates your face with light from the display. It works pretty well too.

Coming to selfie portraits, the Vivo V23 impresses once again. Some portrait shots from the front camera are comparable to those from the rear camera. That is quite remarkable. Ultrawide portraits from the front camera don’t come out satisfactory though.

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Decent 4K videos but stabilization can be an issue

The Vivo V23 Pro can capture 4K videos at 30fps (frames per second) with both front and rear main cameras. Videos recorded in daylight conditions contain enough detail and dynamic range. The colors are fine too. But the lack of OIS means you may have stabilization issues if the phone is not stationary.

Vivo does offer EIS (electronic image stabilization) as well as an ultra stabilization feature but it doesn’t work for 4K videos. You’ll have to sacrifice some quality for more stable footage. Focusing could also be a problem if your subject is moving, particularly with the back camera.

The two ultrawide cameras on either side of this phone can capture 1080p videos. You’ll lose some detail and dynamic range but that is expected. The same goes for zoom videos. The more you zoom in, the less usable videos turn out.

Low-light videos from the Vivo V23 Pro come out fine too. The phone captures enough details. Of course, the two main cameras capture better footage in darker environments. Videos from the ultrawide cameras aren’t bright enough.

Should you buy the Vivo V23?

Starting at ₹29,990 (roughly $400) in India, the Vivo V23 has a lot of competition in the market. It may not be the best all-around phone you can get at this price, with stereo speakers, OIS, and official waterproof rating being some of the notable bummers. But if you’re looking for a stylish device that can capture great photos, particularly selfies, then you might not need to look beyond this phone. It certainly offers a better value than its Pro sibling.

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