Vivo V23 Review

Vivo V23 Review

Introduction:

The vanilla V23 is a very interesting mid-range smartphone with a slick design and a few nifty bits and tricks here and there to make it stand out from the crowd.

In terms of specs, the vanilla V23 is just a slightly watered-down version of the V23 Pro. It is smaller but slightly thicker and heavier than its bigger sibling, most probably due to its flat frame made of metal instead of plastic. It comes with a smaller display, which apparently offers similar specs on paper – a 90Hz, HDR10+ AMOLED screen. The V23 comes with mediaTek’s Dimensity 920 chipset, a step down from the Dimensity 1200 chip.

Last in the list of downgrades is the 64MP main camera which replaces the 108MP camera found on the Pro sibling.

Body

157.2×72.4×7.4mm, 179g; Glass front (Schott Xensation Up), aluminum body, glass back.

Display

6.44″ AMOLED, 90Hz, HDR10+, 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 409ppi.

Chipset

MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G (6 nm): Octa-core (2×2.5 GHz Cortex-A78 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G68 MC4.

Memory

128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM.

Operating System

Android 12, Funtouch 12.

Rear Camera

Wide (main): 64 MP, f/1.9, 26mm, PDAF;

Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.2, 120-degree, 16mm, 1/4.0″, 1.12µm;

Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4.

Selfie Camera

Wide (main): 50 MP, f/2.0, AF;

Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.3, 105-degree.

Video capture

Rear camera: [email protected], [email protected], gyro-EIS;

Front camera: [email protected], [email protected]

Battery

4200mAh; Fast charging 44W, 1-68% in 30 min (advertised).

Misc

Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); Color changing back panel when exposed to sunlight.

The Pro model and vanilla model share the signature Sunshine Gold color variant that has a UV-reactive dye, which changes color when exposed to sunlight or other UV light.

The two vivo V23 models are nothing short of a unique and distinct 2022 mid-ranger. In fact, vivo somehow managed to create two “flavors” of essentially the same formula without harming the identity of either one of them in any obvious way. Damn straight impressive stuff!

Unboxing:

There is a lot of common stuff between the two vivo V23 models in terms of packaging. The V23 ships in a thick and solid two-piece cardboard box. One in an eye-catching dark blue color scheme and a sparkling coating on top.

Inside the box there is a 44W FlashCharge adapter and a USB Type-A to Type-C cable. Furthermore, there is a plastic, transparent TPU case and a pair of nice, white, wired vivo earbuds with a 3.5mm jack. The V23 just like  its older sibling, lacks a 3.5mm jack, so vivo has also thrown in a Type-C to 3.5mm audio dongle in the box.

Design:

The V23 is undoubtedly a stylish and gorgeous-looking phone, with an overarching design language. The V23 goes for a flat front and back panel alongside a flat wide middle frame.

While the actual thickness of the V23 isn’t different from V23 Pro, the aesthetic sure is, with the V23 going for a pretty obvious iPhone-ish look. Even the angles of the display and edges look pretty Apple-esque to us, which we don’t see as a negative.

Due to its shape and flat design the V23 offers plenty of comfortable grip. If you still want some additional grip, the included TPU case provides plenty, but you do have to give up on the particular feel of the back panel.

The back panel on both V23 and V23 Pro is actually covered with Fluorite AG Glass. It has a sort of soft yet sandy feel. Achieved through a special crystal finish that reminds of the Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G Dimensity model’s rear panel. The vivo logo is also kind of embossed, which is a nifty little detail.

While the finish on the back side is likely to be polarizing in terms of feel, the fact that it doesn’t get greasy or otherwise dirty easily should be universally appreciated.

We can’t discuss the back of the V23 series without skipping its “party-trick” – the UV reactive paint job. Kindly note that just the signature Sunrise Gold color is UV reactive. The other Stardust Black variant still has the sandy feel but does not change colors, making it a bit more understated overall.

Depending on the amount of UV light, the color change itself can take anywhere from under a minute to a few minutes. You can often end up with a mid-way change in some environments, like on a cloudy day and never get the proper “blue” color.

All things considered, though, it is a really cool “party-trick” that even works fairly well through the TPU case in the retail bundle, which is neat. And if you aren’t a fan of it, then you can always slap a solid case and forget it was ever a thing.

The front is mostly flat, though it does sort of taper-off at the sides. Vivo chose to go for thick bezels on the top and bottom and extremely slim bezels on the left and right.

That looks pretty modern but could potentially be an issue for making a proper edge-to-edge glass screen protector for the V23. Perhaps, there is just enough room to get some adhesive on there, but we can’t say for sure.

The selfie notch on the V23 is neither quite as big nor exactly the same shape as that on the iPhone 13. One could argue that with two impressive selfie cameras in there and some light and proximity sensors, vivo is making much better use of space. Though, it should be noted that Apple’s extra-wide notch is pretty much filled up with hardware as well. It’s just more specialized in nature, rather than a second camera.

Controls

The V23 has a fairly simple control scheme. The right side of the frame is home to the power button and volume rockers. These are well positioned and easy to feel. They do feel pretty good but their tactile feedback is still not perfect.

The V23 has an optical under-display fingerprint reader. It is quite snappy and reliable. We have no complaints about it.

The left side of the frame is completely empty, and the top section accommodates a single hole for the secondary microphone. The “barren” look makes the rather thick plastic antenna line stick out a bit more.

The bottom houses the dual Nano-SIM card slot. It is missing the microSD card slot, which is a bit of a bummer.

Speaking of bummers, there is just a single bottom-firing speaker on the V23. No stereo setup, not even a hybrid one. There is no 3.5mm audio jack either. The Type-C port is wired for USB 2.0 data speeds but does support OTG.

There is no notification LED hidden away somewhere, which is pretty much expected. Vivo has tried to conceal the proximity sensor and light sensor somewhere in the selfie notch or top bezel, both of which are appreciated over virtual alternatives.

The earpiece is neatly hidden away above the selfie cameras and just has a tiny little slit for the sound to pass through. Of course, not to forget the two dual-tone LED torches for selfies, also hidden away near the top left and right edges. These are invisible while turned off as well.

Display:

In yet another case of “quite similar, yet pretty different”, the vanilla V23 borrows most of the display specs of its bigger sibling. Vivo still went for an AMOLED panel. It is slightly smaller at 6.44-inch over 6.56-inch on the V23 Pro. The resolution is technically the same at FullHD+, though the two phones have a slightly different aspect, with the V23 running a taller 20:9 aspect, hence a few extra vertical pixels and a native resolution of 1080 x 2400px. Not a major change compared to the 1080 x 2376px on the V23 Pro. Though, the smaller display-diagonally results in a slightly higher pixel density. The phones practically look pretty much identical and perfectly sharp.

The overall shape of the screen is undoubtedly the biggest difference. Whether or not you prefer the flat look and feel of the regular V23 or the aggressively curved edges of the V23 Pro is a matter of personal choice. Apart from that, the two screens are pretty much identical due to their very similar notch designs.

The V23 managed a maximum brightness of 435 nits on the slider while on auto the brightness maxed at 629 nits. That’s still quite usable outdoors, but not really in direct sunlight. On a slightly positive note, the V23 has slightly dimmer whites at minimum brightness.

The V23 comes with 90Hz refresh rate support, which should be considered “basic” or “entry-level” high refresh rate on the current smartphone screen. You can choose between fixed 60Hz and 90Hz modes and “Smart switch”. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t work well at all.

Navigating through the Vivo UI and its menus actually works just fine. The phone goes up to 90Hz when you interact with it and then back down to 60Hz after a few seconds of inactivity. That comes in handy when it comes to battery saving.

Battery life & Charging speed:

The vivo V23 has a 4,200mAh battery. Far from the biggest around, but still very respectable for its thickness of 7.39mm on the Stardust Black or 7.5mm on the Sunshine Gold and weight of 179 grams on the Stardust Black and 181 grams on the Sunshine Gold.

This is actually the first Dimensity 920 SoC powered chip we are reviewing, and its efficiency doesn’t disappoint at all. You can continue talking for 26:38 hours. The device can survive for 16:06 hours of web browsing or watch videos for slightly over 18 hours.

In any case, the V23 and its Dimensity 920 chip managed to deliver some solid numbers all-around in both on-screen and Off-screen.

It was great to see vivo’s amazing 44W FlashCharge on their V23 Pro, and it’s even better to see the vanilla model get the same. This is the exact same tech found on the flagship X70 as well.

Seeing how the V23 has a slightly smaller battery than the V23 Pro, going by logic it should charge faster. Sadly, that is not how battery charging works, and it is actually typical to see slower overall charging rates with the decrease of total battery capacity. You just have to extend lower wattage charging and trickle charging periods more to preserve the health of the smaller battery and you might have to put in extra effort towards heat dissipation. That seems to be the case with V23 since it does charge a bit slower than its V23 Pro sibling. Perhaps, it is just not making full use of the 44W charger.

A 30 min charge brings the vanilla V23 from 0 to 60%, and a full charge takes just over an hour, pretty impressive.

Speakers:

It’s sad, the V23 only has a single bottom-firing speaker, just like its older brother. No stereo setup, not even a hybrid one with the earpiece. That’s a bit disappointing seeing how you can get a phone with some pretty good stereo speakers for this price.

The speaker here is decent but not overly impressive. It has average loudness but has pretty clean sound, at least that’s a plus. The audio performance of both V23 and V23 Pro is quite similar.

Performance:

The regular V23 runs a very recent Dimensity 920 chipset. Contrary to which the V23 Pro uses the well-established and proven Dimensity 1200 chip.

The Dimensity 920 surely impressed us nicely in terms of battery efficiency and of course the excellent response towards everyday menial tasks. We are still quite interested in running it by the benchmarks just to see how well it holds up in raw numbers.

A few words on the specs of the Dimensity 920. The Dimensity 920 is pretty similar to the Dimensity 1200 and 1100. It is based on the same TSMC N6 process and also uses the same “big” ARM Cortex-A78 cores and “little” Cortex-A55 ones. The Dimensity 920 has a total of two big CPU cores, clocked at up to 2.5GHz and six more Cortex-A55 ones, running at up to 2.0GHz. Compared to the Dimensity 1100 and 1200, which both have four Cortex-A78 performance cores each. That’s one difference to note.

Another major difference is the Mali-G68 GPU cores used inside the Dimensity 920. This is the first time we are seeing these as well. The Dimensity 920 has a total of four GPU cores, clocked at 950MHz. Here we are talking about the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage model.

On Geekbench, the device achieved a score of 2,140 and 739 points on multi core and single core tests, respectively. Moving on to the AnTuTu benchmark, it marked a score of 406,498 points. The V23 is clearly holding its own as an excellent mid-range performer.

Camera & Photo quality:

Rear Camera

Wide (main): 64 MP, f/1.9, 26mm, PDAF;

Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.2, 120-degree, 16mm, 1/4.0″, 1.12µm;

Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4.

Selfie Camera

Wide (main): 50 MP, f/2.0, AF;

Ultra wide angle: 8 MP, f/2.3, 105-degree.

Daylight photo quality:

The 64MP main camera is a Quad Byer unit, which means it does four-way pixel binning by default and captures 16MP photos. These look good overall but aren’t particularly impressive. On a positive note, the colors look good – not exactly “natural”, but not overly exaggerated either. Dynamic range is also fine, the same can also be said for level of detail.

The sharpening algorithm seems to be working extra hard on edges and straight lines, accenting them way too much. Some of the lines, which are definitely straight in person, often end up “wavy” in the shots, simply due to the highly aggressive processing taking place.

Shooting in an unbinned 64MP mode isn’t something we would generally recommend on most phones. However, on the V23, it mostly fixes the major issues we just described. Namely, surfaces no longer look nearly as soft and edges come out more natural and oversharpened. Not to mention they are straight instead of wavy. Being able to see actual texture brings back a lot more depth, previously lost in the default camera mode with the AI scene optimizer on. Not that disabling it does a lot of good anyway. Still, it is not available at all in 64MP mode, which could be helping.

Sadly, the 64MP shots are not perfect. They tend to have a narrower dynamic range, presumably since they lack the extra HDR stacking and processing. Also, the exposure seems a lot more inconsistent. And of course, there is the size issue with each still taking up roughly 20MB in 64MP resolution.

There is a portrait on the main camera. The shots look okay, but aren’t terribly impressive either. Subject detection and separation are good but not stellar. The background bokeh effect is pretty decent. The portrait mode works surprisingly well on non-human subjects.

There is no dedicated telephoto hardware on the V23, but you can still get a decent 2x crop from the main camera. Sadly, these photos suffer from the same issues as the 1x stills.

You can zoom up to 10x digitally, but you really don’t wanna go there if you value image quality.

The 8MP ultrawide shooter performs decently well, but is far from impressive. Level of detail isn’t great, and you get a lot of softness throughout the frame. The sharpening algorithms then pretty much do the same to these photos as they do the main camera ones, which results in some aggressively enhanced lines and over-sharpening artifacts.

Dynamic range isn’t amazing, and you can get inconsistent exposure from time to time. Even so, you can do worse in an ultrawide. At least colors aren’t too far off from those on the main cam.

The 2MP macro camera is nothing to write home about. It has decent detail for its small resolution and gets the job done with enough patience.

Low-light photo quality:

The main camera captures solid 16MP low-light shots, though just like in good light, these photos seem overprocessed. There is a rather aggressive sharpening applied, particularly to straight lines.

Arguably, this overprocessed look is a bit more palatable in low-light shots. The surface softness is also easier to accept. Shadows look decent, though still a bit dark for our taste. Light sources are clipped quite a bit and could have been contained better.

Night mode is a bit of a mixed bag on the vivo V23. Generally speaking, it can salvage some shots on the main camera and make them better. Interestingly enough, depending on the particular scene, the end result can either look a bit cleaner and more natural than regular shots or still have a pretty overprocessed and artificially sharpened appearance.

2x zoom shots at night are just a bit softer than 1x zoom ones, but not by much. Overall, they retain the same characteristics, and we would consider them usable.

The 8MP ultrawide camera struggles quite badly in  low-light. It captures soft and particularly noisy shots. Highlights and light sources, in particular, are clipped, though shadows don’t look half bad.

Using Night mode is definitely the way to go with the 8MP ultrawide camera. SHots still look soft, but the noise is noticeably less. Plus, the shots surely look better after the algorithm sharpens them.

Selfies:

The vivo V23 is very well equipped in the selfie department. Let’s start with the 50MP selfie cam since it’s the star attraction here. It captures photos at around 12.5MP by default since it is also meant to do 4-to-1 pixel binning. These shots look great.

The detail is great , and so is the dynamic range. The colors look natural, and the background has some pleasing natural bokeh.

The V23 has a toggle labeled “Auto HD portrait” for selfies, which is on by default. This first set of shots was captured with it turned on. Here are the same shots with the HD portrait disabled. We can’t notice much of a difference.

The secondary 8MP selfie camera is decent but rather plain in comparison. The level of detail is good and its fixed focus plane is fairly wide. We surely like that it’s very wide, which kind of justifies its inclusion alongside the otherwise superior 50MP shooter.

Apart from that, colors seem washed out and dull, and the dynamic range isn’t quite there. But again, that’s mostly because we compare it to the 50MP selfie cam. In isolation, this would be considered a solid, although unimpressive, selfie experience.

As expected of the bigger, autofocus-equipped 50MP camera performs amazingly well in low-light conditions. The detail is there and the noise is nowhere to be seen. The photos look sharp and the dynamic range is great, all things considered.

The 8MP ultrawide held-up surprisingly well in low-light as well. Naturally, you get noticeably softer and noisier shots all around, and you have to be careful to end up in focus, but it did not disappoint.

However, the cool low-light party trick on the vivo V23 and V23 Pro are the two dual-tone “lights” near the top of the display. These work really well to illuminate a subject and boost overall quality, simply thanks to a more uniform and stable light.

As for which of the three color settings you should choose for the dual-tone LEDs, it depends on the situation. The warm setting seems to be more suitable for a cold winter night. Then again, it is worth noting that even the “aura light” option, which uses white light from the display to lighten the selfies, works surprisingly well.

However, using the spotlight lets you confidently click selfies in nearly complete darkness. That’s pretty cool.

 

The spotlights are slightly less impressive when used with the 8MP ultrawide selfie but still offer some advantage.

While the night mode is not all that impressive on the selfie camera of the V23 Pro, the V23 seems to do noticeably better. Odd seeing how the two devices have the exact same hardware and should be running the same software. Regardless, the V23 lacks the destructive “beauty filter” look on night mode selfies, which is a big plus. Still, we aren’t sure we would actually choose night mode over the excellent pair of lights for night-time selfies.

Final verdict:

The vivo V23 is a pretty unique device in more ways than one. The same can also be said for its Pro sibling. Due to its high MSRP, the V23 Pro was arguably a bit easier to shoot down as a properly viable, good value for money you spend on it. The V23 starts at a much more reasonable price point, effectively fixing that issue. Although, with omissions such as ingress protection, OIS and stereo speakers, it is still an overall better value, well-rounded mid-range device for the same price or less.

However, if you aren’t necessarily prioritizing selfies or a conversation starter UV-reactive back panel, you can always skip it and look for another option elsewhere.

Pros

  • Trendy iPhone-inspired design. Sturdy aluminum frame. The UV-sensitive back panel is a nice party trick.

  • The 90Hz, HDR10+ display has good performance, but slightly lags behind the V23 Pro.

  • Impressive battery life and very fast 44W charging.

  • FuntouchOS 12, covering the Android 12, offers great performance and customizations.

  • The new Dimensity 920 chip is a solid all-around performer. Runs cool and is quite battery efficient.

  • Truly great selfie and video experience from the 50MP selfie cam.

  • The two-dual-tone selfie LED “spotlights” are excellent in practice.

  • A truly amazing vlogging experience.

Cons

  • No ingress protection. Last year’s Scott Xensation Up protective glass replaced the new flagship Xensation α found on the vivo V23 Pro.

  • No SD card slot, no 3.5mm audio jack.

  • Poor automatic refresh rate switching and underwhelming color accuracy.

  • Just a single, mostly underwhelming bottom-firing speaker.

  • 16MP shots from the main cam tend to be overprocessed and a bit soft.

  • Both the back and front ultrawide cameras are a bit inconsistent and lag behind the other cameras.

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