Over the past year, the sub-Rs. 40,000 smartphone segment has become crowded with plenty of options to choose from. Most of these smartphones are premium devices or “value flagships”, as they tend to offer top-tier performance and capture vastly better photos than lower-priced, mid-range phones. Their affordable price tags (compared to flagship smartphones) usually means that features such as an IP68 rating or wireless charging get the boot, although we have seen a few exceptions.
The Vivo V23 Pro seems to have graduated to the value-flagship segment, and the reason for this is its price, which starts at Rs. 38,990. That’s roughly Rs. 10,000 more than the Vivo V21. Compared to the previous Pro model, which was the V20 Pro (Review) launched back in 2020, the V23 Pro features several hardware upgrades such as a 108-megapixel rear camera, 50-megapixel front-facing camera, and front-facing LED flash for selfies. Is the Vivo V23 Pro a worthy upgrade to the V20 Pro, or does the competition offer better value? Let’s find out.
Vivo V23 Pro price in India
The Vivo V23 Pro is available in two variants. The base variant, which I received for this review, has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and is priced at Rs. 38,990 in India. The top-end variant has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and is priced at Rs. 43,990. Both are available in two finishes – Stardust Black and Sunshine Gold.
Vivo V23 Pro design
The Sunshine Gold finish that I received is the snazzier of the two. The glass on the back is treated with a special paint that changes colour when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The phone appears to have a gold finish indoors, but shifts to a rich blue (with hints of green) when used outdoors under direct sunlight. When using the V23 Pro indoors, you can get a glimpse of this hidden blue colour if the back of the phone faces a UV light source. The reactive layer retains its blue colour for a few minutes even after the phone is brought indoors, after which it gradually changes back to gold. It’s a neat trick and it works well. If this effect isn’t for you, the Stardust Black option has a plain subtle matte black finish.
The back panel of the Vivo V23 Pro is made of a fluorite AG glass and has a matte finish that does a very good job of rejecting fingerprints. Just like the curved-edge glass on the front, this rear panel also curves along the left and right sides. The phone has a very narrow polycarbonate frame. This gives it a very slim appearance. It also looks delicate, but feels solid enough for regular use.
Vivo has upgraded the V23 Pro’s display drastically, compared to the V20 Pro, from a flat AMOLED display to a curved-edge AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate. There’s no hole-punch cutout; instead an iPhone-style notch houses the two front-facing selfie cameras. The bezel is quite narrow all around the display but Vivo has managed to squeeze in two LED flash units (which it calls Dual-tone Spotlight Flash) on the sides of the display notch. The earpiece speaker is almost invisible between the frame and display.
Vivo V23 Pro specifications and software
The Vivo V23 Pro uses the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 SoC which we’ve often seen in lower-priced phones such as the Poco F3 GT (Review) and the OnePlus Nord 2 (Review). This is not the most competitive SoC in this segment anymore. The V23 Pro does not have any storage expansion option, which could also be a dealbreaker for some. There is a dual Nano-SIM tray and the phone supports 5G radios with dual-5G standby. The phone also supports Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi ac, and the usual satellite navigation systems. It has a 4,300mAh battery that can be charged quickly using the bundled 44W charger.
The V23 Pro is one of the first Vivo smartphones to come with Android 12 out of the box. It still has Vivo’s Funtouch OS 12 layer over it, and its design language seems to be a bit of a mismatch against Google’s Material You redesign. The new widgets for Drive, Conversations, etc feel out of place on the home screen with their bold outlines and fonts. Vivo has tried to blend some of the new privacy features such as the Privacy Dashboard and Permission Manager into Funtouch OS 12’s Settings app, but these still look out of place when you access them.
While the two design sensibilities don’t mix well, the Vivo V23 Pro does offer access to the Android 12’s privacy features. You get small audio and video indicators that pop up in the notifications area when the microphone or camera are being used. Apart from the Material You influence, there still are the familiar animated FunTouch widgets (that have trickled down from Origin OS). The new notifications tray and Quick Settings menu do not look like the ones on a Google Pixel running stock Android 12. The powerful new search functionality in the app drawer is missing, but notification history makes it, and you can access this by scrolling to the bottom of the notifications tray (after activating it in Settings).
Vivo has added a new Game Space app but it does nothing apart from showing how long you’ve played each game that’s installed. All the useful options you might expect can be accessed via a slide-out menu in-game, after activating the Ultra Game mode.
Vivo V23 Pro performance and battery life
The Vivo V23 Pro performed as expected in our standard benchmark tests. It scored 6,24,567 points in AnTuTu, along with 950 and 3,216 in Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests, respectively. These numbers are definitely on par with mid-range smartphones and are lower than what you’d get from similarly priced devices with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC, such as the Realme GT or the iQoo 7 Legend.
Gaming performance was quite good. I initially had my doubts given how slim this smartphone is, and the Vivo V23 Pro did get hot when playing Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends at the highest possible settings. However, it handled extended gaming sessions very well without any noticeable impact on performance. While Asphalt 9: Legends ran flawlessly with the 60fps mode enabled, Call of Duty was not very enjoyable as the display’s touch sensitivity was not able to keep up with the need to move and aim quickly to take enemies down. This noticeable delay resulted in plenty of lost tournaments. I even reduced the graphics quality to the minimum level, but the lag did not go away.
The Vivo V23 Pro has a single bottom-firing speaker which gets quite loud but sounds a bit distorted at high volume. A stereo speaker setup would have made audio more balanced and immersive (especially while playing games). The lack of stereo sound is unfortunate since nearly every smartphone competing in this price range offers this.
The AMOLED panel on the Vivo V23 Pro was quite good, showcasing bright, saturated colours, but it washed out a bit when viewed under direct sunlight. The 90Hz refresh rate seemed sufficient, but several competing smartphones have higher peak refresh rates. What makes this panel stand out is its curved edges. These were not not distracting in everyday use but the medium-sized notch did feel a bit odd given that most Android smartphones (above and below this price level) now have hole-punch cutouts that look neater and take up less space.
The battery life of the Vivo V23 Pro was surprisingly good for such a slim smartphone. It managed to last 12 hours and 7 minutes in our HD video loop test which is below average. With regular use, the phone lasted a full day on a single charge which is also not the best in this segment, so power users might want to look elsewhere. Charging the phone with the bundled 44W charger was quick. It managed a 65 percent charge in 30 minutes, and was fully charged in an hour.
Vivo V23 Pro cameras
For a fashion-forward smartphone, the Vivo V23 Pro is surprisingly packed to the gills with camera features. Both the front and rear cameras are capable of 4K 60fps recording. The front camera also supports HDR video recording, and has two LED flash units. There are three rear cameras and two front-facing cameras in all. There’s a 108-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera and a 2-megapixel macro camera on the back.
The front-facing camera setup includes a 50-megapixel primary with autofocus and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera for group selfies. The camera interface is well laid out and offers quick access to important settings through a menu in the top left corner (when held horizontally). One thing to keep in mind is that most of the special video features, such as Steadiface and Super Night, are limited to 1080p at 30fps. HDR video is also limited to 30fps (1080p and 4K) and Super Stabilisation mode only lets you record at 1080p 60fps.
Photos taken with the 108-megapixel rear primary camera were saved as 12-megapixel photos. Shots taken in daylight turned out a bit oversaturated but with good detail and dynamic range. Samples from the ultra-wide angle camera were a bit below average in terms of detail and were only usable if shot in daylight. However, these were far from ideal in terms of quality as they had plenty of barrel distortion.
The 50-megapixel selfie camera also saved binned 12-megapixel images by default. Selfies taken in daylight came out sharp and clear with good dynamic range and background separation. Switching to Portrait mode resulted in excellent edge detection and detail. This was also the case with the rear camera’s Portrait mode. Results from the ultra-wide-angle selfie camera were also surprisingly good and very usable compared to shots taken with the rear-facing ultra-wide camera. The 2-megapixel macro camera is potentially useful for extreme close-ups but shots come out just average in quality.
In low light, the primary rear camera captured good detail and dynamic range. Night mode shots looked better, with a bit more detail to scenes. Objects appeared sharper, and better contrast made the results look a bit more dramatic. However, there were several photos in which I noticed that some highlights were overexposed near street lamps and other sources of lighting. Photos taken with the ultra-wide angle camera using Night mode looked fine on the phone’s display but were low on detail when viewed on a monitor.
Selfies taken in low light looked sharper and more detailed when using the Spotlight flash as compared to the screen flash, which made faces look a bit harsh. However, neither of these options made photos look better than just average. Night mode also did not seem to help, as photos lacked depth and had very poor details. In most cases, it appeared that the primary selfie camera struggled to lock focus in low light, even with the flash enabled.
Moving to video, things were again a bit disappointing. Vivo has tried to cram in a lot of extra features but appears to have forgotten the basics. The phone managed its best quality video when shooting at 4K 30fps. 1080p videos seemed to have issues with detail even in broad daylight. Stabilisation was decent at best at 1080p but was non-existent when shooting video at 4K 60fps.
There is an ultra-stabilisation mode that makes video appear rock-steady when shooting, but the resolution is limited to 1080p 60fps, which also means that the quality wasn’t the best. Selfie videos at any resolution tended to overexpose the background when shooting in daylight. The HDR video mode brightened up subjects and backgrounds but these clips ended up looking overexposed at best with below-average detail. Vivo has introduced a stabilisation feature called Steadiface which works well both in daylight and low light, making footage appear smoother.
Low-light selfie videos were quite grainy. The Super Night video mode helped reduce noise to acceptable levels but at the cost of an unsteady frame rate, which made video appear choppy. Details were on the lower side when shooting at 1080p. Video shot at 60fps looked a bit too dark, and stabilisation was not great. There’s also a noticeable shimmer effect when walking. Bumping the resolution up to 4K, the shimmer effect was still present, but I also noticed some random stabilisation artefacts, such as parts of the scene appearing to shake. 4K 60fps footage was too dark and looked very shaky even when panning. Ultra Stabilisation mode made videos looked blurry and murky at best.
For anyone looking to buy a slim and light smartphone, or in search of the latest available serving of Android, the Vivo V23 Pro could be attractive. Its colour-changing back panel is quite unique, and it’s one of the very few smartphones with a curved-edge display in this segment. However, it’s not for everyone, especially those who want good gaming performance and battery life.
The V23 Pro has stiff competition. Having reviewed the Realme GT (Review) and the iQoo 7 Legend (Review), I can confidently say that iQoo has the best cameras of the three. There are also other smartphones at this price point such as the OnePlus 9R (Review), Xiaomi Mi 11X Pro (Review) and the recently launched Xiaomi 11T Pro (First impressions), which offer better gaming performance than the Vivo V23 Pro. All these competitors also have stereo speakers and AMOLED displays with 120Hz refresh rates. The Mi 11X Pro even has an IP53 rating.
While the cameras of the Vivo V23 Pro are quite reliable for stills, recorded videos need a lot of work. The Vivo V23 Pro seems like a worthy successor to the V20 Pro, but it’s far from perfect. The higher price tag also means it has to compete with premium smartphones that perform a lot better.