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Vivo V23 Pro 5G review: Steals the spotlight

Arguably the best V-series phone that Vivo has ever made. But does it have the X-factor?

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review: Steals the spotlight
The V23 Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs 38,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Vivo probably had just one goal when it set out to make the V23 Pro. That is, this new phone will turn heads, put the spotlight if you will, on whosever chooses to flaunt it. You’d think that’s business as usual for any V-series phone and while that’s correct to a certain degree, full marks to Vivo for being able to do it consistently, year after year.

Over the years, these phones have built a reputation for offering one of the best selfie camera experiences possible on any midrange device. Their design, too, has almost always managed to stand out from the crowd in more ways than one.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G review: Is the sequel as good as the original?

The V23 Pro sticks to that script, mostly, but it tries to do a whole lot more to appeal to a much wider audience than before. Obviously, all this comes at a price – this is the most expensive V-series phone that Vivo has ever made – but there are some valuable upgrades tagging along, that should justify the higher asking price. Let’s find out, if that’s indeed the case.

Design, build quality, and display

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Vivo was doing crazy, over-the-top designs and psychedelic colour schemes when most phones were akin to bland and boring slabs serving a pre-defined utility. It showed phones could be more than that. They could spark joy. The V23 Pro is cut from the same cloth. In fact, Vivo has outdone itself with its new “colour-changing” glass, conjuring one more way a phone could look pretty—eye-catching.

The version we have for review, is aptly called “sunshine gold.” It is gold, on any given day (or night). Take it out in the sun—or expose it to any other UV light source—and the whole thing turns teal. It isn’t gaudy or anything which we believe is a big achievement considering how a design like this could easily spill into borderline obnoxious territory. We’re all in for “this” version of gold. That it feels like carrying two different phones with you, is the icing on the cake. If you’re looking for something more run-of-the-mill, the phone also comes in black.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Both versions will get you the same matte textured glass which is exceptionally good at resisting smudge and fingerprints. The rear curves into the front glass. The corners are rounded, too. The frame is made of glossy plastic. The camera island is also very striking with its copper strip and individual lenses stacked vertically, sort of like the LG Velvet. The phone is very slim (7.36mm) and light (171g), obviously.  

All in all, the V23 Pro is built well. The in-hand feel is nice and premium. The buttons are placed just about right. They’re nice and tactile, too. There is no ingress protection, whatsoever, though. No headphone jack, either.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Flip over to the front and you get a tall 6.56-inch curved AMOLED display with a 1080p+ resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. There is a wide notch at the top to house two selfie cameras. There is Schott Xensation α protection and support for HDR10+ playback though it does not work on Netflix at the time of writing. The optical in-screen fingerprint reader is fast and reliable.

It’s a good display but there are a couple of concerns—colour accuracy is not that great, and the panel doesn’t get very bright. Spec-nerds would also point out the lack of 120Hz refresh rate but that is not a deal-breaker. Be sure that there are phones with brighter, more colourful and colour accurate, and faster displays at the V23 Pro’s price point.  

Cameras

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

What would be hard to find is the sheer number of megapixels you’ll get out of all the cameras on display here. There are three on the back—a 108MP main Samsung HM2 sensor behind an f/1.8 aperture lens, an 8MP sensor behind an f/2.2 ultrawide lens with 120-degrees field-of-view, and another 2MP macro sensor behind an f/2.4 fixed-focus lens.

On the front, there are two—a 50MP main sensor behind an f/2.0 lens with autofocus and another 8MP sensor behind an f/2.3 fixed-focus ultrawide lens with 105-degress field-of-view. This setup is paired with dual tone LEDs cleverly tucked inside the left and right top corners of the frame. Vivo calls it spotlight, which is another apt use of a marketing term.

You can record up to 4K@30fps videos—only—from both the rear and front cameras. There is no optical image stabilisation, though there is EIS.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Right out of the gate, the V23 Pro shoots the best selfies available on any phone at its price point. Photos come out with lots of detail and natural colours. The processing is spot-on. The secondary camera, too, is useful especially when there is lots of light available, but its biggest highlight is its wide scope that lets you fit more in the frame. Vivo could have used the higher-resolution main sensor to mimic this through software but there’s no denying the merits of “real” optics.

Low light—or no light—isn’t a problem for this phone because “spotlight” is there to save the day. Not only does this phone have dual LEDs, but you can also control their temperature manually. Vivo gives you as many as three levels that you can pick and choose from. It’s not limited to the primary camera either. Even the ultrawide can access these lights. Portraits and videos also benefit from all this. Basically, what you’re looking at here is the ultimate Vlogging-rig.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The rear cameras are a mixed bag. Default pixel-binned 12MP photos taken with the main sensor have good details and wide dynamic range when lighting is good but they’re also overprocessed with boosted colours, sometimes tad too aggressively. This happens regardless of the lighting situation. Night mode photos shot with the main camera, are bright and well exposed, mostly. The ultrawide camera takes soft photos, generally, even when there is lots of light. The 2MP macro is just a spec-filler. We would much rather have autofocus on the ultrawide and have it double up as macro.   

Performance and battery life

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The V23 Pro is probably the first V-series phone in a while that doesn’t seem underpowered next to competition. Under the hood, it has MediaTek’s midrange flagship chip, the Dimensity 1200, paired with up to 12GB LPDDR4x RAM and up to 256GB UFS3.1 storage—this is non-expandable. In areas like software, it’s also giving some of them a run for their money by launching with Android 12.

We are very pleased with the all-round performance of this phone. Basic day-to-day tasks are handled well, and graphically demanding games are playable at medium settings without any trouble. There was no perceivable throttling or overheating in this phone during our testing, even when it was stressed, which is impressive considering its compact size and dimensions.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Battery life is great, too. Our video loop test gave us almost 14 hours out of it, which is a fantastic score. The 4,300mAh battery inside the V23 Pro will easily last a full day for most users with moderate usage. There is support for 44W fast charging. A compliant charger is also shipped in the box—this charges the phone from 0-100 percent in about 50 minutes.   

5G is obviously supported. In all, the V23 Pro packs support for seven bands—n1/n3/n5/n8/n41/n77/n78—which is respectable.

Vivo V23 Pro 5G | Should you buy it?

Vivo V23 Pro 5G review
(Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The V23 Pro 5G is not an out-and-out flagship killer, yet it manages to carve out a niche of its own. Despite stiff competition, the V23 Pro stands out with its beautiful design and class leading Vlogging prowess. But it doesn’t stop there. This phone also gives you dependable performance, latest and greatest in Android software, and outstanding battery life. It’s arguably the best V-series phone that Vivo has ever made.

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Having said that, Vivo could have priced it slightly better. The V23 Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs 38,990. The 12GB/256GB version will set you back by Rs 43,990. It’s bested in almost every way—except may be the all-round selfie experience—by the X60 which is currently selling at a starting price of Rs 34,990. It gets you a faster 120Hz screen, more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 chip, and ZEISS-tuned cameras with a dedicated telephoto lens.

ProsCons
Beautiful designNo IP rating
Premium fit and finishNo headphone jack
Best-in-class selfie experienceNo storage expansion
Good all-round performanceMono speaker
Android 12Rear camera setup a mixed bag
Great battery life

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First published on: 08-02-2022 at 09:26 IST