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vivo V23 5G Review - Best in style, great for selfies

OPPO
Huawei
In case you missed it, vivo Philippines recently launched the V23 5G in the country a few weeks ago.
vivo V23 5G review Philippines

In our first impressions article, we praised vivo for giving it a stunning look with unique color-changing capability. We also enjoyed that it has several upgrades in terms of overall specs and cameras compared with its predecessor.

But, how did it fare after more than 2 weeks of use? Is it worth the PHP 27,999 price tag? Is this the proper content creator-focused smartphone for you?

Let's dive into our full review.


Multimedia Experience

Large enough and vibrant display

Coming from the V21 5G, the numbers didn't really change that much. It is still using a 6.44-inch 
AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and FHD+ resolution.

But, the V23 5G is now using a flatter and more rigid display that looks neater.

In terms of display quality, it is still crisp enough since it is using a panel with 1080p+ resolution. vivo didn't specify the type of AMOLED panel they used here, but as expected it delivered images with punchy colors yet it feels closer to accurate and not oversaturated. What we mean is it is very close to being just right.
HDR display
HDR display

It even has up to HDR10+ support. So, playing videos on this smartphone feels upgraded with enhanced contrast and colors. Of course, it has Widevine L1 to allow users to stream high-definition content on apps like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Impressive portable viewing experience for Netflix, iQIYI, YouTube, and more!

On the display settings, it even has COLOR MODE that lets you choose from "Standard" to "Professional" to "Bright" as well as slide the color temperature from cool to warm depending on your liking.

Personally, I use often use "Standard" to enjoy content with a bit brighter and punchier colors. The "Professional" mode is ideal when we edit images and clips as it is calibrated to bring near life-like images.

The device also has Adaptive brightness and Eye Protection (warmer colors to lessen eye strain when reading in the dark), and a Dark theme mode.

The brightness level is decent and a bit viewable under direct sunlight, but it isn't as bright as other PHP 28K phones. For indoor situations, its brightness level is more than enough.

Probably, the major criticism about this device will be the notch on top. vivo didn't use a pill-shaped cutout house the two front cameras. Instead, it has a slightly bigger notch.

Thankfully, the notch is still smaller and less distracting than the notch of the iPhone 13 Pro.

The company also ensured it has slim bezels with a 91.4 percent screen-to-body ratio for a more immersive viewing experience.

At 90Hz, it also offers a smoother refresh rate that lessens eyestrain. Animations and transitions within the user interface (UI) of the device will be silkier as well. On supported games, the viewing experience will be a bit better as well.

Just a nitpick, 90Hz is smooth. However, it is lower than the 120Hz found on several similarly priced phones. 120Hz is becoming a standard even on devices in the sub-PHP 25K range.

This device has an option to switch from 60Hz to 90Hz automatically to save battery life with the help of the Smart Switch function.

For audio, the device has a single down-firing speaker. It is loud, crisp, and has good quality. It is also quite full-sounding for a single speaker and can deliver decent bass punch and response. Distortion and peaks are also minimal at max loudness.
Speaker and mic, top and bottom
Speaker and mic, top and bottom

The higher-end X70 still has a better single speaker. This is at least 80 percent of it and that's not bad.

But of course, small speakers often have limitations and are not comparable with large ones.

Decent single speaker, but it isn't stereo unlike the competition

However, it isn't stereo. Most competing phones have a stereo speaker setup for louder tunes with a wider soundstage.

In terms of wired audio, the V23 5G is boasting Hi-Res Audio certification. In layman's terms, this simply means that it is designed to provide a richer and truer audio experience versus smartphones without Hi-Res Audio.

In our actual experience, it can make most small headphones shine at around 60 to 70 percent loudness. For smaller and easier-to-driver earphones, you will just need about 50 percent to 60 percent loudness levels to fully enjoy them. The output it can produce is also balanced in general.
LDAC-ready
LDAC-ready

If you want wireless audio, it can support up to LDAC. This simply means that it can allow its users to enjoy high-quality wireless audio via Bluetooth up to 990 kbps at 32-bit/96KHz on supported headphones. That's sweet to the ears.

We also tried the device to record our voice using its two microphones. It records in stereo quality that is crisp and clear as long as you are in a quiet environment. It can block outside noise a little, but it is not flagship-grade as expected.

For calls, the usual. Its earspeaker is quite loud and clear enough in quiet places and could still be hearable in noisy situations.

Camera

Capable cameras?

Behind, the V23 5G is loaded with a 64MP main shooter with f/1.89 aperture size and PDAF focus. This also has a 4-in-1 pixel binning solution to output crisper and better 16MP shots. It is paired with an 8MP f/2.2 105-degree ultra-wide-angle camera plus a 2MP f/2.4 macro helper. It also has a bright dual-tone LED flash that could be used in dim areas when needed.

vivo retained the 64MP main shooter from V21 5G...

What's missing is an OIS (optical image stabilization) to aid its EIS for more stabilized shots.
The camera UI and other features
The camera UI and other features

For the camera UI, the company kept it simple. It has an easy toggle for Night, Portrait, Photo, Video, flash, HDR, and Super macro. When you click the "More" text, you will find High resolution, Pano, Live Photo, Slo-mo, Time-lapse, Pro, ARN  Stickers, Documents, Double Exposure, and Dual View. The Pro mode has up to ISO 3200 and 1/1200 to 32s shutter. The Night mode has plenty of filters to try from Black & gold, Cyberpunk, to Silver orange.
Camera UI
Camera UI


For taking pictures, the experience is generally great. Autofocus is fast are rarely misses in broad daylight. Shutter speed and image saving speed are quite speedy as well.

Back Camera Samples

Bright daylight shot
Bright daylight shot

Similar to what we said in our impressions article, the V23 5G takes good images in bright lighting situations. Colors are a bit enhanced or saturated, but this simply means that they are social media-ready.
Ultra-wide sample
Ultra-wide sample

The ultra-wide-angle camera is only at 8MP. Fortunately, it can still take good images. It even has the "Super wide-angle correction" function and we think that it works. Just take a look at the sample we posted, barrel distortion is minimal.
Portrait mode

For portrait mode, it has decent edge detection and there are several effects to choose from. Quality is decent, but it isn't as good as other devices with a telephoto camera where you can choose from 2 to 3x shots with up to 77mm equivalent or ToF sensors for even cleaner edge detection.
Daylight against the light
Daylight against the light
Daylight against the light ultra-wide
Daylight against the light ultra-wide

For against the light shots, its HDR capabilities will kick in and will give you respectable results. From here, you will see that the main camera will take the shots with crisper details, wider range, and nicer colors.

The ultra-wide shooter is not bad, it is just a bit blueish. Color consistency needs a bit of calibration. Via software update maybe?
Without macro mode vs with macro mode
Without macro mode vs with macro mode

The third camera of the device is the macro shooter. But at 2MP only, don't expect it to produce jaw-dropping results. In daylight, it can take pretty good images. But for indoor situations even with pretty bright lighting, the output is just "okay". This is a mode that I won't personally use that much.
Indoor 1x vs 2x
Indoor 1x vs 2x

For indoor shots, the main is also crisp. We also tried the up to 2x lossless digital zoom function. The picture quality is noticeably softer than the main cam shot.
Indoor 1x vs 10x
Indoor 1x vs 10x

It also has up to 10x digital zoom which could help its users read text or see things from afar. It is respectable for digital zoom, but it might not be that flauntable to be posted on your social media account.
Auto low light vs Night mode
Auto low light vs Night mode

In the dark, the main camera will struggle on default mode. Sometimes, it'll even register violetish hues. Thankfully, it has a decent handheld Night mode which allowed us to take images with better details, less noise, and more vibrant colors even if the light source is minimal.
Main cam Night mode
Main cam Night mode
Ultra-wide Night mode
Ultra-wide Night mode

In front, this device is the first in the country to feature a 50MP larger sensor for taking selfies. In particular, it is using the custom 50MP f/2.0 JNV ISOCELL 3.0 sensor with f/2.0 aperture size. It even has Eye AF for faster and more accurate focusing on human eyes and EIS for video stabilization. Note that the Eye AF only works on the main 50MP front camera.

Unfortunately, there's no OIS again unlike the front camera of V21 5G.
Flash in front!
Flash in front!

Fortunately, it has an 8MP f/2.3 105-degree ultra-wide secondary helper that could help its users take selfies with a wider field of view. This could be great for groufies and even vlogs.

50MP + 8MP selfie camera goodness!

The camera UI is similar to the main camera with the addition of an HD portrait feature on the Night mode selfie. The background blur (bokeh) effect is adjustable from f/16 to f/0.96 similar with many high-end camera phones.

It provides some of the most detailed selfie shots today!

Lastly, this front camera setup is paired with Dual Tone Spotlight which could further help its users take better selfies in the dark. This could even be configured from Cold white to Default to Warm yellow as well as pair it with the Night mode selfie for crisper-looking low light shots.

Selfie Camera Samples

Well-lit selfie with Portrait mode

As you can see here, even with beauty mode, the V23 5G didn't over beautify the subject. This well-lit Portrait mode also showed that it has pretty good edge detection.
Daylight wide selfie
Outdoor wide selfie

The ultra-wide camera is also quite good even if it has lesser details than the main cam. Look at the background here. Even the details on the sky and building are visible. Not bad.
Indoor selfie 
Indoor wide selfie

We also like that colors are consistent across the primary selfie cam and the secondary selfie cam. As expected from a custom 50MP shooter with the pixel binning solution, shots are highly detailed.

My personal iPhone 13 Pro is still more color accurate as of the V23 visibly makes my skin tone a bit whiter, but it is ahead in detail.
Detailed selfies
Detailed selfies

When I'm not using the beauty mode, its main front camera can visibly see even the darker and dryer part of my skin.
Low light selfie vs Low light selfie with Night mode and Dual Tone Spotlight flash
Low light selfie vs Low light selfie with Night mode and Dual Tone Spotlight flash

In this scene, we took a shot in near pitch-black lighting. The output is respectable thanks to its use of a large sensor for a front camera. With the help of the Night mode and Dual Tone Spotlight flash, the output we got is comparable if not better than plenty of high-end smartphones.
Cool Portrait effects
Cool Portrait effects

It even has cool Portrait effects such as Hearts, Stars, Butterfly, and Cherry blossoms. 
Low light wide selfie
Low light wide selfie

Like what we showed in our impressions article, it can take respectable night shots using the ultra-wide cam. It is a bit softer, but this is still decent for a secondary cam. Ghosting is just present on the flare of the bulbs on the upper corners of the frame. It shows that it has a bit of distortion as well.


For videos, we enjoyed that it has the ability to take 4K videos for both the back and front cameras. This somehow helps in minimizing Even if it is just at 30fps, the quality is generally crisp in most lighting conditions. Just note that this feature is only available for the primary shooters at the back and in front.

Both cameras have plenty of filters to try. Beauty mode is also available up to 1080p in quality. There is a movie mode as well for those who need a cinematic aspect ratio.

Behind, it has stabilization by default (Standard) even if up to 4K 30fps. It has a noticeable crop though. When you switch to "Ultra" stabilization, the crop is even bigger. But of course, the shake will be lesser.

Personally, I'll shoot in 1080p using this device since it has up to 60fps. This allowed us to take shots that are smoother. It will also give editors the chance to do a few slow-mos without making the shot look like it lags.

For selfie videos, its 4K mode even allows HDR shooting. Eye AF also works and it comes with the Steadiface to help focus on your face even while running and help reduce blur and shakiness.

Steadiface is not available at 1080p though. The ultra-wide shooter doesn't support HDR shooting as well.

The ultra-wide selfie cam will be one of the most used features of vloggers who like doing groufie videos or showing the background of their shots.

We wish it has OIS on both back and front cameras like the V21 5G.

Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

vivo V23 5G is the most powerful V series smartphone that has ever been launched in the Philippines as it is equipped with the 6nm-based MediaTek Dimensity 920 octa-core processor with Mali-G68 MC4 GPU, 12GB LPDDR4X RAM, up to 4GB Extended RAM using the internal storage, and 256GB of large internal storage. 
But, it is also the most expensive at PHP 27,999.
PCMark and 3DMark
AI Benchmark, CPDT

vivo V23 5G benchmark scores:

1. AnTuTu - 487,936
2. Geekbench - 730 (Single-Core), 2,132 (Multi-core)
3. PCMark Work 3.0 performance - 8,238
4. 3DMark Wild Life - 2,294 and average 13.7 fps
5. AI Benchmark - 157.2K 
6. CPDT - 462.19 MB/s (Sequential write speed), 627.14 MB/s (Sequential read speed)

The RAM and storage size that they used here are great at this price point. But, the chipset is a bit underwhelming versus the competition and even some lower-priced smartphones even if it has some old flagship-like capabilities.

It would have been so much better if they used at least the Dimensity 1100 here as it is closer to the performance of Dimensity 1200 that is found in some sub PHP 25K smartphones. Dimensity 920 is speedy enough for most apps and games, but it is a step below what most are using for the price.

Speedy enough for most apps and games...

Anyway, in real life and for the target market of this device, the configuration they used is more than enough. Personally, I never had issues running social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok as well as several photo and video editing apps. 

For gaming, it handles Mobile Legends: Bang Bang with ease at a High Refresh Rate and Ultra Graphics. Call of Duty: Mobile with High Graphics Quality and Very High Frame Rate.

It'll only struggle with more demanding games like Genshin Impact. Lag is noticeable in Medium settings. Most phones at this price point can handle it at higher settings better.

It also has the Multi-Turbo feature designed to improve processor performance and network connectivity to reduce fps drops on the current popular games as well as the Ultra Game Mode to force the device from using the Performance mode on more demanding games, block calls, or notification, lock brightness, Autoplay with the screen off, screenshot, and record screen.

When it comes to managing heat, the V23 5G uses a 7 component liquid cooling system. This is impressive considering that the phone is super-slim.

AND, it works. The device that we tested is cool most of the time. It won't heat up to alarming levels even on games like CODM and MLBB. When it gets hot on demanding games like Genshin Impact that need plenty of processing power, it'll cool down quite fast after you finish the game.

Connectivity-wise, it is using the new WiFi 6 standard. It also has 5G SA/NSA, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, and dual SIM slots. In our tests, the WiFi signal at home is strong. In areas with 5G, you can enjoy super-fast mobile speeds. Of course, it has backward compatibility with 4G. We never had major issues with doing calls as well.

For security, it has a fast and accurate In-Display fingerprint reader. Face unlocks work even in the dark and it rarely fails.
16 hours and 11 minutes

For battery, vivo managed to fit a 4,200mAh big-enough cell on its small and slim frame. 

At the PCMark Work 3.0 battery life benchmark test, it clocked 16 hours and 11 minutes. This shows that it is as good as most phones with a 4,000 to 5,000mAh cell. This also means that the 6nm power-efficient chip of this handset helped in its battery optimization. The Smart Switch feature from 60Hz to 90Hz automatically probably helped as well.

It isn't as strong as some thicker phones with bigger 4,500 to 6,000mAh batteries with power-efficient chips, but it is understandable.

For actual usage as our main smartphone for several days, it showed that it can last from 9 AM to 10 PM with around 15 to 25 percent left in the tank depending on how heavy we used the device.

For charging, it is using the 44W FlashCharge solution, the same one found on the flagship vivo X70. In our experience, it can charge the device to around 55 percent from 0 to 100 percent in 30 minutes and about 1 hour and 5 minutes to full charge it. This is fast.
vivo UI 1
vivo UI 1
vivo UI 2
vivo UI 2

Sofware-wise, vivo keeps on getting better. The FuntouchOS 12 based on Android 11 with circular icons is modern-looking. Transitions are also fast and smooth. It also has most of the modern features found on most premium smartphones. When you swipe down, you will see the notifications and shortcuts to WiFi, Mobile data, Bluetooth, and Hotspot to Flashlight, S-capture (screenshot), Eye Protection, Dark theme, Record screen, Ultra Game Mode, Split screen, and many more.

So far, my gripe on its UI is the ads that you will see when you use its search bar and in the notifications (V-Appstore).

But, I also like that it has the iManager to help you manage and optimize your device.

Pros - Stunning design, beautiful display, large RAM and storage, fast charging, great selfie cam experience, strong connectivity options like WiFi 6 and 5G
ConsDimensity 920 falls behind most similarly priced phones, 90Hz, a single speaker only, no IP rating, no wireless charging

vivo V23 5G Specs

Display: 6.44-inch SCHOTT Xensation Up protected AMOLED screen w/ 90Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, FHD+ 2400 x 1080 resolution at 409 ppi
CPU: 2.5GHz 6nm MediaTek Dimensity 920 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G68 MC4
RAM: 12GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 256GB UFS 2.2 expandable via microSD card up to 256GB
Back Camera: 64MP f/1.89 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.25 105-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP macro + dual-tone LED flash
Selfie Camera: 50MP f/2.0 JNV ISOCELL 3.0 sensor w/ Eye AF, EIS + 8MP f/2.3 105-degree ultra-wide + Dual Tone Spotlight
Battery: 4,200mAh w/ 44W FlashCharge
OS: Android 11 w/ FuntouchOS 12
Connectivity: WiFi 6, 5G SA/NSA, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: In-Display fingerprint sensor, Hi-Res Audio, dual mic, 7 component liquid cooling system, USB-C, Colors: Stardust Black, Sunshine Gold (Color Changing Glass)
Dimensions: 157.20 x 72.42 x 7.39 mm (Stardust Black), 157.20 x 72.42 x 7.55 mm (Sunset Gold)
Weight: 179 g (Stardust Black), 181 g (Sunshine Gold)
Price: PHP 27,999

Verdict

For its purpose of being a stylish selfie-focused smartphone, the vivo V23 5G did its job well.

This device is one of the most stunning and premium-looking phones with a fancy color-changing effect at the back. The primary camera is also one of the very best today.

We can also see that vivo really focused on content creation here as its entire camera system is loaded with effects and features that could help you take decent images for the price and detailed 4K videos with electronic stabilization.

Overall, this could be a pretty good phone for those who are looking for a very flauntable device with strong camera features despite the lack of OIS. It also has a cool-looking and immersive display, Hi-Res Audio, and super-fast charging.

However, if you are looking for an all-around smartphone, there's plenty of fish in the sea. If you don't mind not having its gorgeous body and 50MP selfie camera, you can get phones with faster processors, displays with higher refresh rates, and more capable back cameras for less or the same price.

In general, we enjoyed using this device and it served its purpose well.

Build/Design - 4.5
Multimedia Experience - 4.25
Cameras - 4.25
Performance - 4
Average - 4.25/5
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