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Vivo V23: The Ultimate Selfie Phone

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There’s a lot to love about the Vivo V23. It performs well, has masses of space and memory to handle anything you throw at it, and a gorgeous camera system. It’s carved out a niche of selfie and TikTok lovers—and if that’s your niche then this is simply the best smartphone you’ll find for creative freedom and an edge over everyone else.

Specifications

  • Brand: Vivo
  • Storage: 256GB
  • CPU: Dimensity 920
  • Memory: 8/12GB
  • Operating System: Android 12 (Funtouch OS customization)
  • Battery: 4200mAh
  • Ports: USB-C (headphone adaptor included)
  • Display (Size, Resolution): 6.44″ FHD+ 90Hz
  • Camera (Front): 50MP selfie camera, 8MP wide-angle
  • Cameras (Rear): 64MP main camera, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro
  • Price: Under $500 for 12GB model as reviewed
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, 5G, Wi-Fi
  • Colors: Iridescent, UV-reactive sunshine gold; or black
  • Weight: 181g (6.38oz)
Pros

  • Industry-leading selfie camera system, including wide-angle lens
  • Equally impressive rear camera system
  • Good performance and snappy UI, thanks to 12GB memory and 90Hz screen
  • 44W Flash charger included
Cons

  • No OIS on front cameras
  • Funtouch OS comes with a lot of annoying bloatware
Buy This Product

Have you ever wondered why manufacturers put so much effort into their rear camera systems, then tack on a front camera that’s barely passable in Zoom call? If you love taking selfies or recording TikToks, it’s especially frustrating when the front camera is so obviously just an afterthought. But the Vivo V23 is here to save your selfies from the bane of mediocrity, featuring both a 50MP 4K-capable main front camera, and a 8MP wide-angle camera for those group shots, along with a bevy of live AI beauty adjustments to have you looking your finest.


Join me as we take a closer look at the Vivo V23, and laugh at my attempts to take a half-decent selfie. All the AI in the world can’t help me, it seems.

Vivo V23 vs Vivo V23 Pro

It’s worth taking a moment to examine the differences between the standard and Pro model of the V23, as well as the similarities.

  • Both feature 256GB storage, and have an 8GB or 12GB RAM model.
  • The selfie camera systems are the same.
  • Internal specs are mostly the same.
  • Both come in black, or UV-reactive iridescent sunshine gold.

In terms of differences, it mostly comes down to style:

  • The Vivo V23 standard model is square at the edges, while the Vivo V23 Pro has a curved glass display.
  • The V23 Pro features a 128MP rear main camera, while the standard model is 64MP.
  • The V23 Pro can record at 4K 60FPS from the main front selfie camera, while the standard model is limited to 4K30 FPS.

MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY

We’re reviewing the V23 12GB in color-changing sunshine gold.

Vivo V23 Design and Style

Though the V23 does come in black, but if you’re the type of person who wants their phone to be a fashion statement too, the iridescent sunshine gold is an obvious choice, and it does in fact look incredible. Move it around as the light reflects, and you’ll see the color change through shades of green, blue, deep orange, and back again.

The only slight disappointment is the camera surround, which is also sunshine gold, but doesn’t have the same color-changing properties. The Vivo logo sits unobtrusively on the bottom left of the rear panel.

vivo v23 device photos - rear

The intriguing coloration has yet another magic trick up it’s sleeve: it’s UV-reactive. Not in a 90s glow disco kind of way, but if you leave it in the sun it’ll change color, giving a temporarily purple, blue, and green hue. This also means that if you leave an object on the rear to block out the light, there’ll be an imprint of it. The effect isn’t permanent of course and will return to normal coloration after around 10 minutes.


vivo v23 device photos - UV imprint

Yes, the color-changing property is a bit gimmicky, but it’ll certainly make heads turn when you’re taking those selfies, which is exactly what this phone is designed for.

Elsewhere, the style is decidedly minimalist. Rather than on the back or side, the thumbprint reader is situated under the screen itself. When it detects motion, an icon appears to indicate the exact location where you should place your thumb. It works reliably and responsively, and I didn’t notice any discoloration or brightness difference in the screen in normal use. On the right-hand side you’ll find the power and volume rocker, with a USB-C port, SIM tray, and speaker grill on the bottom edge. The single speaker is unimpressive, but gets reasonably loud, and that’s the last we’ll say of it.

vivo v23 device photos - contents

Thankfully, a clear gel case is included in the package to keep everything clean and scratch-free.

Vivo V23 Specs and Performance

The screen is a gorgeous 6.44-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080px) capable of 90Hz refresh, though it features a wider than average notch thanks to the dual camera system. There’s about 2mm of bezel around the sides, and 3mm on the top and bottom. So while it’s not quite seamless, there’s little wasted real-estate.

vivo v23 device photos - held in hand

A 4200mAh battery provides you with over a day of usage, and in a bold move with clear disregard for their carbon footprint, Vivo has included not just any charger in the box, but a 44W Flash charger, which can get you back to full in less than an hour. That said, I wouldn’t recommend using Flash charging on a daily basis. The faster your phone charges, the more stressed the battery will be. As the chemical bonds break down, the overall lifespan of your battery will decrease. Flash charging is convenient for emergencies, but I’d recommend trickle charging overnight to extend the lifespan of the Vivo V23.


The raw processing power is certainly there, thanks to the Dimensity 920 SoC with Mali G68-MC4 GPU, and backed up by 12GB of RAM (in our test model anyway; an 8GB model is also available). This gave mid-range results across the board:

  • 3DMark WildLife – 2307, average 13.8 frames per second
  • GeekBench 5: Single-core 731, Multi-core 2136, GPU compute 2779
  • PCMark Work 3.0: 7736

You won’t have trouble running any current generation of applications on this. Since Genshin Impact is apparently a popular thing nowadays, I gave that a go, and experienced no lag or slowdown during any of the early fight scenes.

For faster-paced games, the screen supports up to 90Hz refresh, which should in theory automatically ramp up when needed. If it doesn’t, you have the option of forcing either 60Hz or 90Hz.

In terms of storage, a generous 256GB fills out the package, which is ample for all your selfies as well as epic anime based online games.

Vivo V23: The Selfies

We’re going to spend a fair chunk of this review covering the selfie features and front camera system, because that’s really where this device shines. If you have no interest in taking selfies or recording TikTok videos with the front camera, look elsewhere: this is not the phone for you.

Image Gallery (11 Images)

The astounding selfie capabilities of the Vivo V23 comes from a combination of both hardware and software. On the hardware side, you have a dual-camera system, consisting of a standard 50MP f2.0 main camera, and an f2.8 8MP super wide-angle (105-degree) camera. It’s the only smartphone that offers that level of quality from a front camera system. That’s also backed up by two dual-tone spotlights, or you can opt for softer lighting from the Vivo V23 screen with the “Aura” lighting.

Before we get into software features for the cameras, it’s worth noting that it’s not just for static portrait shots: you can also record 4K video from the main front camera, at 30FPS (or 60FPS on the Pro model). While shooting 4K from a rear camera is increasingly common nowadays, from the front selfie camera is unheard of, either on Android or iPhones. That said, the front cameras lack any kind of optical image stabilization (OIS), which as you can see in the full video, results in quite shakey output. You’ll definitely want to pair this with a stabilizing gimbal of some sort for the best results.

Onto software features then, but I warn you, it can be quite overwhelming.

First, is the choice of cameras: standard or wide-angle. Both produce fantastic quality pictures—certainly some of the best quality selfies I’ve seen from any phone yet—though you have a few less software features if you opt for the wide-angle camera. Wide-angle shots allow you to fit more of your friends or surroundings in the shot, or just to de-emphasize the focus from you, and point towards where you are instead. This alone makes it a great choice for the selfie-lover, opening up a lot more creative freedom.

vivo-v23 sample selfie wide angle and filter

Next is the bokeh adjustment. This is algorithmic, but generally worked well, with only a few anomalies on edge detection.

If you’re using the main camera selfie camera, you can adjust the bokeh shape as well—so any blurred light sources in the background can have, for example, a cherry blossom or heart shape applied. However, unlike most of the selfie software features, this isn’t visible in the live preview, which led me to believe it wasn’t working initially. Bokeh adjustments and focus changes can also be done after the fact, with depth information saved to the photo metadata.

vivo-v23 sample portrait bokeh shape

Less unique are the filters. You’ll find a range of standard color filters, as well as some bolder lighting filters, such as a cyberpunk pink and purple or teal orange action film mode. Only the standard filters are available for video shooting though.

Then we move onto the AI beauty adjustments, and bear with me, because this itself has three submenus!

The first set of live beauty adjustments, which can be applied to portraits or video, are a whole range of facial and skin touch-ups, for which it’ll remember your preset. You can buff out blemishes, change your skin tone, move your chin, widen your face, make it slimmer, change your eye distance, make your eyes enormous like an anime girl; or if you’re doing profile shots, you can make your enormous schnozzle a bit smaller. Frankly, it’s terrifying how much you can change, and all will be previewed live as you take your shot. Be careful how you wield this power!

Image Gallery (2 Images)

Need a bit of makeup, but can’t be bothered to actually apply some? Not a problem (but not available in video mode). From the makeup tab, you can customize an entire face full of delicate makeup adjustments, choosing from the built-in presets or editing each part of them. I must admit this worked a lot better on my Chinese wife than on my decidedly ham-colored western face, so your results may vary.


vivo-v23 sample portrait makeup

I’m not finished yet though: the final tab is for posture, and it contains a huge library of pose suggestions, in case your selfies are all starting to look a bit samey. First, choose the type of shot, including things like group or couples shots. Then choose from the sample library. The sample will stick on screen as a reference, and you’ll now find a dotted yellow outline that you should match your pose to. The guide will stay on screen, so you can go back and adjust your makeup etc if needed.

Of course, a lot of these features you might already have been using elsewhere, but to have them all in the main camera app, with live preview, and without the use of third-party apps, is terrific.

Your results may vary. Sadly for myself and our Kune Kune pig Sakura, the AI beauty filters didn’t appear to do much—after all, there’s very little one can do to improve upon perfection.

vivo-v23 sample portrait with pigs

Vivo V23 Rear Camera Samples

With a main 64MP camera, a wide-angle 8MP camera, and a 2MP macro lens, the rear camera system is equally as good, but certainly not outstanding or unusual in the wider marketplace. I don’t say that to detract from the quality of shots you can get, though. Comparing against my daily iPhone X, the Vivo V23 produced superior photos in every way, with the combination of HDR and AI resulting in stunning landscapes with perfectly captured clouds.

However, many mid-to-premium Android devices also feature a 64MP rear camera system, so it’s not a standout feature of the Vivo V23. You’re buying this for the front cameras; but you won’t be disappointed by the rear ones either.

Funtouch OS is Anything But Fun

After performing a factory reset and deselecting all the recommended bloatware, I still found the home screen littered with unwanted apps. Most were were easy to remove, but would immediately prompt a notification from Vivo’s own V-appstore recommending an alternative. You can’t uninstall the V-appstore, and you can’t silence it’s notifications. The same is true of all the Vivo-branded system apps, all of which are entirely unnecessary.

The only advantage to using the V-appstore is that you don’t need to create an account. While that might appeal to some privacy concious folk, I doubt that type of person is buying a Chinese phone with a custom OS, or likely to trust a the V-appstore.

Funtouch OS even offers a default alternative to the Google Home feed, called Jovi Home. It’s equally as pointless as the rest of the pre-installed apps. You’ll find a generic blue button to activate it permanently situated in the top right of your quick settings drawer; and a shortcut at the top of the actual Google Home feed to swap between the two. I tried it briefly, and saw nothing at all compelling enough to make me want to keep using it. In fact, one of the modules was broken at the time of testing, so I got a big grey box instead.


While all this is completely understandable for a market where Google services isn’t actually available, there needs to be an easy way to not include all this bloatware for other markets where Google is available. The current siutation leads to a confusingly schizophrenic interface, where you constantly have to question your actions so as not to accidentally open the wrong app store. I’m sure some of you are screaming at me right now, loudly proclaiming that I should just use ADB to freeze or remove the apps manually, but you’ll forgive me for thinking that on a phone designed for young selfie-obsessed TikTokers and Instagrammers that such complex procedures to make the phone UI more ususable shouldn’t be needed.

On the upside, it’s Android 12 underneath it all, and the interface is highly responsive. This is in part due to the 12GB of that our model was equipped with, ample processing power, and a variable refresh screen driver that can ramp up to 90Hz when required. I experienced no frustrating slowdowns, crashes, or other awkward banding when scrolling webpages. From a performance perspective, I’d have no qualms recommending the Vivo V23 for most people.


Should You Buy the Vivo V23?

There’s a lot to love about the Vivo V23. It performs well, has masses of space and memory to handle anything you throw at it, and a gorgeous camera system. It’s carved out a niche of selfie and TikTok lovers—and if that’s your niche then this is simply the best smartphone you’ll find for creative freedom and an edge over everyone else.

From the iridescent color changing case to the focus on front cameras though, most people would get better value elsewhere and a more satisfying stock UI. It is however great to see some actual innovation in the space, and if Vivo wasn’t already on your list of smartphone makers to consider next upgrade, it definitely should be.

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