Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Review

The term “Fan Edition” has been retired, but the spirit of the FE series persists. Enter the new Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, reviving the popular affordable flagship concept, now emphasizing its Standout Features rather than the original FE meaning. Packed with numerous highlights, the Galaxy S23 FE is under review in its US version, featuring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset.

A refreshed iteration of the well-received Galaxy S21 FE, the S23 FE enhances design, performance, and camera quality. The standout element is its striking Purple variant, boasting an exceptionally captivating colorway. The phone retains the IP68 rating, resembling the Galaxy S23 models, but showcases a matte frame. Its display mirrors the Galaxy S21 FE, offering a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with 1080p resolution and a smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Review
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

With an inevitable chipset upgrade, the Galaxy S23 FE leaps forward, featuring the Exynos 2200 (akin to the Galaxy S22 series SoC) for the international model and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 for the US variant, a step up from the Snapdragon 888. The base model remains at 128GB, accompanied by 8GB RAM, albeit lacking microSD expansion—an absent fan-favorite feature. The camera setup mirrors that of the S21 FE but introduces a higher resolution 50MP OIS primary camera, along with an 8MP 3x OIS telephoto and a 12MP ultrawide camera. The selfie camera adopts a 10MP imager.

Remaining consistent with the S21 FE, the S23 FE retains familiar features like dual speakers, a 4,500mAh battery supporting 25W fast charging, wireless charging, and an in-display fingerprint scanner. Running on Android 13 with One UI 5.1, the S23 FE ensures a familiar software experience.

In essence, the Galaxy S23 FE represents an evolution from its predecessor, boasting notable improvements in design, performance, and camera capabilities while maintaining several cherished features from the previous iteration.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Specs Overview

– Design

Dimensions 158.0×76.5×8.2mm, 209g; Glass front and back (Gorilla Glass 5), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistance (up to 1.5m for 30 min).

– Display

6.40″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1450 nits (peak), 1080x2340px resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 403ppi.

– Processor

Exynos 2200 (Intl), Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (USA); Octa-core CPUs – Intl: 1×2.8 GHz Cortex-X2, 3×2.50 GHz Cortex-A710, 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A510, USA: 1×3.00 GHz Cortex-X2, 3×2.50 GHz Cortex-A710, 4×1.80 GHz Cortex-A510; Xclipse 920 GPU (Intl), Adreno 730 GPU (USA).

– Memory

128GB/8GB RAM, 256GB/8GB RAM.

– OS/Software

Android 13, One UI 5.1.

– Camera

Rear – Wide: 50 MP, f/1.8, PDAF, OIS; Ultra-wide: 12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚; Telephoto: 8 MP, f/2.4, 3x optical zoom, PDAF, OIS. Front – 10 MP, f/2.4.

– Video

Rear – 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240fps, 720p@960fps. Front – 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps.

– Battery

4500mAh; 25W wired, PD2.0, Wireless.

– Connectivity

5G, eSIM, Dual SIM, Wi-Fi 6e, BT 5.3, NFC.

– Features

In-display fingerprint reader, stereo speakers, Virtual proximity sensing, Samsung DeX. The Galaxy S23 FE offers a blend of premium features with compromises for affordability: impressive display, robust hardware, and capable camera setup. Some cost-saving measures include last year’s chip, lower-resolution telephoto camera, and a shift from Gorilla Glass Victus to Glass 5. Nevertheless, these curated features create a well-rounded smartphone, at least on paper.

Notable upgrades from the Galaxy S21 FE include a next-gen chip and a higher-res main camera. However, these changes might not entice S21 FE owners, representing the primary drawback of the S23 FE for existing users.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Unboxing the Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE comes packaged in Samsung’s familiar slim, eco-friendly box, a design seen in their recent releases. Inside, you’ll find the S23 FE itself, accompanied solely by a black USB-C to USB-C cable and a SIM ejection PIN. That comprises the entire retail package.

Design, Built, Quality, and Handling of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE mirrors the design of the Galaxy S23 lineup, seamlessly fitting in among its peers. With its 6.4-inch display, it neatly bridges the gap between the S23 and S23+ models. This device stands out with its diverse color options, notably the striking Purple variant that catches the eye when exposed to sunlight. Alongside Purple, there are other appealing hues like Mint, Cream, Graphite, and Indigo.

Weighing in at 209 grams, the S23 FE feels noticeably heavier compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy S21 FE, despite their similar size and thickness. It’s slightly larger and thicker than the 6.6-inch S22+, albeit sharing most of its hardware.

The S23 FE boasts a dual-glass construction with an aluminum matte frame, an upgrade from the Galaxy S21 FE’s plastic back, though the switch from Gorilla Glass Victus to Gorilla Glass 5 might be seen as a downgrade in materials.

Notably, the S23 FE maintains IP68 dust and water resistance, a standard feature in modern Galaxy S smartphones. Examining the front, you’ll find the 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with extended 1080p resolution and reasonably thick bezels. Despite its non-flagship status, the phone features a relatively small punch-hole for the selfie camera. The under-display fingerprint scanner, though invisible, proves fast and reliable.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Review
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

In terms of appearance, the S23 FE bears resemblance to the S23 and S23+ but distinguishes itself with a matte frame that doesn’t match the back panel color. This dual-tone design, accentuated by silver camera rings, adds visual appeal to the S23 FE.

The Purple back panel and silver camera rings create an attractive aesthetic. The camera setup includes a 12MP ultrawide, a new 50MP primary, and an 8MP 3x telephoto, all surrounded by the aforementioned silver rings.

Crafted from brushed aluminum, the frame offers a pleasant touch but lacks a grippy texture. It has a subtle curve, enhancing the phone’s slender appearance. On the device’s sides, the left accommodates antennas, the right houses the volume and power/lock keys, the top contains a microphone and dual-SIM tray, and the bottom features two microphones, a USB-C port, and a second speaker.

Measuring 158 x 76.5 x 8.2 mm and weighing 209 grams, the S23 FE is slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor, potentially affecting its handling comfort. While it boasts flagship design and water protection, the noticeable screen bezels and weight might deter certain users.

Display of Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE sports a familiar 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen akin to its predecessor, the S21 FE. Offering an extended 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate with HDR10+ support, the display maintains a sharpness of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels or 403ppi. Officially, Samsung lists the peak brightness at 1,450 nits, but our test readings show a maximum of 985 nits under automatic brightness and 451 nits under manual control.

– Color Accuracy

Providing two color modes—Vivid (wide color, DCI-P3) and Natural (standard color, sRGB)—the Galaxy S23 FE exhibits consistent and accurate color performance, aligning well with DCI-P3 (average deltaE of 3.5) and sRGB (average deltaE of 2.4) targets. While the Vivid mode leans slightly towards cooler tones, adjustments via a dedicated slider offer similar results.

– Refresh Rate

With Adaptive and Standard Motion Smoothness modes, the Adaptive mode dynamically switches between 60Hz and 120Hz for enhanced battery life, automatically adjusting to optimize performance across various apps and interface interactions.

– Streaming and HDR

The display supports HDR10+, ensuring compatibility with popular streaming apps, offering seamless high-resolution HDR10 content streaming, facilitated by Widevine L1 support.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Battery Life of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Housing a 4,500mAh battery, identical to the S21 FE and S22+, the S23 FE boasts improved efficiency due to its new 4nm chipset. In our Active Use Score, it lasted 9:45h, showcasing solid performance in calls and video streaming but below-average figures for web browsing and gaming.

Charging Speed of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Supporting 25W fast wired charging, 15W fast wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging, the S23 FE’s charging test exhibited similar results to the S21 FE’s. Reaching 30% in 15 minutes, 58% in 30 minutes, and a full charge in 84 minutes, the phone lacks an included charger but supports max charging power using any 25W PD+PPS charger.

Speakers – Loudness and Quality of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Boasting a hybrid stereo setup, the S23 FE’s speakers yield a Very Good rating in loudness tests—an improvement over the Galaxy S21 FE. The bottom speaker delivers louder and bassier audio, enhancing sound quality with richer bass, clearer vocals, and improved high-frequency presentation.

Software of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Running on Android 13 with One UI 5.1, the Galaxy S23 FE offers the same user interface as higher-end Galaxy models, promising “up to” 4 years of OS upgrades and 5 years of security patches. Notably, it supports DeX.

The Always-on Display features clock styles, including Image Clock and music info. With AoD customization options like always-off, always-on, or tap-to-show for 10s, users can tailor their preferences. Face unlock supplements the under-display fingerprint reader, though it’s less secure.

Key features encompass standard UI elements, accent color palette generation based on wallpapers, and stacked widgets for swifter accessibility. Modes and routines, similar to Apple’s Focus, allow personalized settings based on specific activities.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Samsung’s proprietary features include Edge panels, Game launcher for gaming distractions, Gallery app, file manager, and Split-screen multitasking. Enhanced device connectivity simplifies connections to Smart View, Samsung DeX, and Chromecast-enabled devices for screen casting and streaming audio.

One UI 5.1 introduces a “Continue browsing on PC” feature for seamless transitioning between Samsung Internet on mobile and a PC’s default web browser.

Performance and Benchmarks of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Galaxy S23 FE exhibits chipset fragmentation across markets, offering the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC in the US and the Exynos 2200 chip globally. The Exynos 2200, a 4nm chip from last year, mirrors the Galaxy S22 series’ configuration with CPU cores and an Xclipse 920 GPU, while the Snapdragon variant employs the Adreno 730 GPU.

Featuring 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and storage options of 128GB or 256GB, the S23 FE performs competitively in benchmarks, ranking alongside recent Dimensity chipsets and the Exynos 2200.

Despite robust performance, stress tests reveal stability concerns, with the CPU scoring 66% stability and the GPU showcasing considerable drops in performance after approximately 5 minutes, impacting demanding gaming experiences due to throttling issues.

While capable, the Galaxy S23 FE’s thermal performance and throttling may necessitate adjusting gaming expectations and graphic settings for optimal performance.

Camera of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Samsung chose to retain a similar triple camera setup from the Galaxy S21 FE for the Galaxy S23 FE, upgrading the primary lens to a higher-resolution 50MP sensor. Comprising a 50MP OIS primary lens, an 8MP OIS 3x telephoto lens, and a 12MP ultrawide camera, alongside the S22 series’ 10MP selfie camera, this setup offers versatile photography capabilities.

The primary 50MP camera uses a Samsung S5KGN3 1/1.57″ sensor with a Tetracell filter and saves photos in 12MP resolution, capturing wide field-of-view shots with a stabilized f/1.8 lens. Similarly, the 8MP telephoto and 12MP ultrawide cameras deliver upscaled 12MP images, showcasing quality and wide field of view, respectively. The 10MP selfie camera provides detailed, noise-free shots with realistic colors.

The camera app mirrors Samsung’s standard interface, allowing mode switching via swipes, zooming shortcuts, and settings access for fine-tuning. Features like Night Mode, Pro Mode, and Expert RAW mode are available, offering diverse photography options.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

In daylight conditions, the cameras capture detailed, noise-free images with vibrant colors and wide dynamic range. However, upscaled telephoto shots may exhibit softer details, while ultrawide photos maintain high quality with minimal corner softness.

In low-light settings, Auto Night Mode and Night Mode produce bright, detailed photos with minimal noise across all cameras. Yet, upscaled telephoto images show less detail and increased noise, whereas ultrawide shots maintain good saturation despite minor artifacts.

Video recording supports 4K30 across all cameras, with additional options like 4K60, 8K24 (primary), and Super Stable mode. Footage from the primary and selfie cameras showcases high detail, accurate colors, wide dynamic range, and minimal noise. However, low-light 8K video exhibits noise, while telephoto camera videos can be blurry in such conditions. Ultrawide camera videos maintain good detail and lively colors in both daylight and nighttime, with effective electronic stabilization.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, available officially in select countries, has seen fluctuating prices since its release. It doesn’t precisely fit as an affordable counterpart to the Galaxy S23+ or the S22+, feeling more like an S22 FE arriving later than expected.

Targeting the niche of offering flagship features at an accessible price, this model’s compact size could be appealing to users valuing smaller devices. Initially priced at $600 (US) and INR 60,000 (India), it fluctuated to $500 and INR 49,000, now seemingly returning to its original cost.

Comparatively, the original Galaxy S23, priced at $800 (US), is a close competitor, offering a smaller yet brighter screen, a robust Victus 2 build, a swifter chipset, and superior telephoto and selfie cameras. Another alternative, the Nothing Phone (2), at the same launch price, stands out for its distinctive Glyph UI, impressive specs, including a larger OLED, faster charging, and a unique camera setup lacking a zoom lens but offering a solid overall experience.

Additionally, the OnePlus Nord 3 or the OnePlus 10T, slightly cheaper but competitive options, present IP54 rating, larger Fluid AMOLED screens with higher resolution, and a reliable Dimensity 9000 chip. While lacking in the camera department compared to the S23 FE, they serve as budget-friendly flagship killer options.

Despite the confusing nomenclature, the Galaxy S23 FE, with a settled price, presents a compelling package: a dual-glass design, excellent OLED screen, capable hardware, reliable cameras, impressive speakers, and flagship software.

While lauding its design and new color variations, criticisms include extra weight and thicker bezels. However, the device retains a classic design that appeals to many users. The 6.4-inch 120Hz OLED screen offers good brightness, sharpness, HDR10+ streaming, and accurate colors, albeit with a slightly larger punch hole.

Praised for its louder and superior speakers and consistent camera quality across all lenses, day or night, Samsung’s approach to vibrant colors might not suit everyone’s taste but remains popular. The powerful chipset, while flagship-grade, exhibits GPU stability issues, and subpar battery life during intensive usage, particularly in gaming scenarios.

Overall, priced around $500 or lower, the Galaxy S23 FE emerges as a viable option, nearly a flagship-killer, albeit belatedly introduced. While not worth it at $600, at a reduced price, it stands as a good value proposition with its array of impressive features and capabilities.

Pros & Cons of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Pros

  1. Elegant classic design with dual-glass build, IP68 rating.
  2. Swift OLED display with good brightness, impressive color accuracy, and HDR10+ support.
  3. Excellent stereo speakers.
  4. Performance at flagship level.
  5. Consistent camera quality across all lenses.
  6. One UI featuring DeX support and assured 4 major Android updates.

Cons

  1. Closer in kinship to S22 despite releasing 18 months after S22 series.
  2. Heavyweight with thick screen bezels.
  3. Below-par battery life.
  4. Notable GPU throttling, chipset variation based on regions.
  5. Launch price doesn’t align logically.

Published on 11/28/23 9:35 | by Rawa John

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