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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE smartphone review: Almost a flagship

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At the end of 2023, a new smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, entered the market. It is an extension of the flagship Samsung phone lineup, as indicated by the letter S in the model name.

S23 FE

However, in the model name, there are two more important letters, FE, which stand for Fan Edition. These letters are used by the manufacturer to denote phones that are close in features to premium models in the lineup, such as the S23 and S23+, but with a significantly lower price due to the omission of certain options and simplification of some technical solutions. The Samsung FE smartphone series is designed to attract buyers who want a premium smartphone but are unwilling to pay too much for it. Sometimes, such phones are referred to as “flagship killers.” Ideally, the model aims to compete not only with other Android smartphone manufacturers but also with Apple device owners. Now, it’s interesting to see how well this plan has worked.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE specifications

  • Screen: 6.4″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 1080×2340 resolution, 120 Hz refresh rate
  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 2200, 4 nm, 8 cores (1×2.8 GHz Cortex-X2 and 3×2.50 GHz Cortex-A710 and 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A510)
  • Operating system: Android 14, One UI 6
  • Memory: 128/256 GB OF RPU (UFS 3.1), 8 GB OF OSD (LPDDR5)
  • Cameras:
    • Main: 50 megapixels, f/1.8, 24 mm (wide), PDAF, OIS
    • Telephoto lens: 8 megapixels, f/2.4, 75 mm, PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
    • Ultra-wide-angle lens: 12 megapixels, f/2.2, 123˚
    • Video recording resolution: 8K@24 fps, 4K@30/60 fps, 1080p@30/60/120/240 fps, 720p@960 fps
    • Front camera: 10 megapixels, 4K@30/60fps video, 1080p@30/60fps
  • Battery: 4500 mAh
  • Sound: stereo, Dolby Atmos
  • Charging: 25W fast charging function (50% in 30 minutes), 15W wireless charging with charge recovery
  • Connectivity: 5G/4G/3G/2G+eSIM, dual SIM support, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax/6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, USB 3.2 Gen 1
  • Navigation: GPS, A-GPS, Beidou, Galileo, GLONASS
  • Sensors: fingerprint scanner, accelerometer, barometer, Hall sensor, magnetometer, light, proximity, gyroscope
  • Body: display – Gorilla Glass 5; back panel – Gorilla Glass 5; frame – aluminum, IP68 protection
  • Dimensions: 158.0×76.5×8.2 mm
  • Weight: 209 g
  • Colors: graphite, mint, purple, beige

Above, the task that Samsung is trying to address by releasing simplified models from flagship lineups with the designation FE has already been mentioned. Speaking directly about the background of the Galaxy S23 FE model, it is an update to the Galaxy S21 FE, which proved to be a popular product. The S23 FE is intended to continue its success by improving the design, performance, and camera quality. It’s important to note that the starting price of the S23 FE model is lower than the starting price of the S21 FE. In Ukraine, the model costs approximately $700 for the 8/128 GB version and $760 for the 8/256 GB version.

Galaxy S23 FE

Read also: Samsung Galaxy S23 review: the cool compact flagship

Package contents

The smartphone comes in a minimal package. In addition to the test unit in a small box, there is a set of documentation, a USB Type-C cable, and a SIM card ejector tool. It is worth noting that a potential owner will need to separately purchase a case, protective film or glass, and a charging adapter.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Design

The phone’s exterior appearance is simple, I would say brutally simple. Two planes are encased in a robust aluminum frame. The corners of the frame are noticeably felt by the hand. Another visually weighty element is the wide black border around the phone’s screen perimeter. The phone is quite heavy (209 g), which adds to its solidity.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FEThe power and volume buttons are located on the right side. Despite the phone’s sizable dimensions, it is quite convenient to operate with one hand. I’m referring to my adult male hand. At the top, there is a slot for two nanoSIM cards and one of the microphones. In the bottom part, there is a USB Type-C port, two more microphones, and a speaker.

The back cover is made of glossy Gorilla Glass 5. In the upper-left corner, the triple camera lenses are vertically arranged, with the flash located to the right. The lenses are encased in aluminum rings. It’s important to note that the substantial use of aluminum in the design can play a cruel joke on the external appearance of this model, as it is a soft metal prone to quick damage. It’s worth reiterating that when purchasing the S23 FE, delaying the purchase of a case is not advisable.

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The front camera is designed in a punch-hole style in the upper part of the display. The optical fingerprint sensor, embedded in the screen, works precisely and without issues. Face unlock is also supported by the phone.

The Galaxy S23 FE comes in four back cover colors: graphite, mint, purple, and beige. Exclusive versions – blue and orange – are available on the Samsung website, with the latter being particularly popular and often out of stock.

Due to the back cover being made of glossy glass, it tends to retain fingerprints. However, on the tested model with a light cover, they are not very noticeable. It’s possible that on a dark cover, they might be more prominent.

Galaxy S23 FE

A significant plus is that the Galaxy S23 FE has an IP68 dust and water resistance rating. It can confidently be taken to the beach or on a hike.

Summing up the examination of its exterior, I would say that the phone has a simple, reliable, and solid appearance. Good build quality, absence of gaps and seams, a body made of glass and metal, and the noticeable weight of the model – these elements prevent it from looking cheap. However, it lacks a distinctive feature.

Galaxy S23 FE

Read also: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone review: An unprecedented flagship

Display

The screen utilizes a Dynamic AMOLED 2X matrix with a diagonal size of 6.4 inches, a resolution of 2340×1080, and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The display supports HDR10+ technology. Samsung has indicated that the peak brightness of the display reaches up to 1450 nits, a value confirmed by independent laboratory tests.

The display features vibrant and saturated colors, providing clear visibility of the image under both natural and artificial lighting. By default, the display is configured for bright colors, but users have the option to switch to a natural color profile through the settings.

Galaxy S23 FEThe default refresh rate is adaptive, automatically switching between 60 Hz and 120 Hz, ensuring a certain level of smoothness in the operation of applications and the user interface. If adaptive frequency is disabled, it will be fixed at 60 Hz to increase battery life.

The display features the Always On Display (AoD) function, which is customizable. Inside it, users can choose from various clock styles for the always-on display or select a clock with an image. Music information is also supported. AoD can be always off, always on, scheduled, shown only with new notifications, or set to display for 10 seconds after touching.

In general, the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE smartphone is a strong point. It is clear, bright, and smooth. Perhaps the only downside is the wide black border around the display, which takes up a portion of the screen and, visually, in conjunction with the aluminum frame, makes the phone appear bulkier.

Galaxy S23 FE

Read also: Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: A plus for size and battery

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Sound

The stereo speakers, one at the bottom and the other integrated with the earpiece, complement the display well, providing loud and clear sound. They support Dolby Atmos technology, offering a broad soundstage, particularly valuable for multimedia content. There is a specific option to enable Dolby Atmos specifically for gaming. Overall, the speakers deliver sound of excellent quality.

Stereo speakers

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Performance

When choosing the processor for the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, the manufacturer has followed the familiar path of “divergence” in models. The smartphone for the American market is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, while on other markets, it features the Samsung Exynos 2200 (from the S22 series). From experience, I can’t say that one chipset is significantly better than the other; their performance is on par. However, some people believe that the Snapdragon tends to work more stably. Both processors are paired with 8 GB of LPDDR5 RAM and come with two storage options – 128 GB or 256 GB. The phone does not have a memory card slot.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

It’s worth noting that both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and the Exynos 2200 were announced in the period from late 2021 to early 2022, making them part of the same generation. The use of not the latest processors and limitations on memory capacity have indeed been among the key steps taken by the manufacturer to make the S23 FE more affordable.

The Samsung Exynos 2200 for the European market is a 4nm chip. The octa-core processor features a powerful Cortex-X2 core with a clock speed of up to 2.8 GHz, three Cortex-A710 cores running at up to 2.5 GHz to provide a balance between performance and efficiency, and four small Cortex-A510 cores with a clock speed of up to 1.8 GHz for energy efficiency. The chipset is equipped with the Xclipse 920 graphics processor.

benchmarks

With everyday tasks such as reading news, browsing social media, watching videos, and handling most games, the phone performs effortlessly. It works well with the shooting and editing of 8K videos.

However, when launching graphically advanced games like Genshin Impact on maximum settings, some image lag and a bit of heating on the back cover of the phone were noticed. To address these issues, it may be necessary to lower the graphics settings, which might not be favorable for gaming enthusiasts.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Overall, it can be said that the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE handles all tasks well, as long as one doesn’t push it to its limits.

Read also: Samsung Galaxy Flip5 review: There’s simply no better foldable smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Cameras

In the S23 FE model, following the analogy of the Galaxy S21 FE, Samsung opted for a triple camera setup featuring a new 50-megapixel sensor (compared to the 12 MP sensor in the S21 FE). The main module comes with optical stabilization (OIS). Additionally, there is an 8 MP telephoto lens with 3x zoom (also with OIS) and a 12 MP ultra-wide-angle camera. For selfie shots, a 10 MP front camera is employed.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE cameras

Interestingly, the main camera shares specifications with the S23/S23+, but due to the more powerful processor, the photo quality in these models is superior.

Photo and video quality

Let’s talk about the photo quality. For the average user whose main goal is to take photos and share them online, the S23 FE is an excellent choice. The phone, with its automatic settings, captures clear and detailed images in daylight.

In low light conditions or at night, the Samsung Nightography features come to the rescue, ensuring clarity in photos and realistic color reproduction—regardless of which available camera you use. Additionally, like in all Samsung phones, the FE enhances color saturation, making colors generally more vibrant than in reality. However, this makes them ready for use on social media, and they look great on the screen or when shared with family and friends.

For enthusiasts of artistic photography, there is the Pro mode. It provides detailed exposure settings and manual focus with shutter adjustment up to 30 seconds for all cameras. There is also a Pro Video mode that comes with a range of individual settings.

The Portrait mode of the Galaxy S23 FE impresses with precise boundary detection, whether you’re capturing faces, pets, plants, or objects. It also offers flexible adjustment of the strength and background blur effects during post-editing.

The 3x optical zoom delivers superb quality.

However, if you zoom in extensively, the enlargement will be digital, and the quality may not be optimal.

The quality of shots from the wide-angle lens is slightly lower compared to the main camera, but if you need to capture more in the frame, it’s still a useful option.

There are no complaints about selfies, they are good in all modes.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE can record video with a resolution of up to 4K30 using all four cameras. The 4K60 option is available on the main and selfie cameras, and the main camera additionally supports 8K24 recording. You can enable electronic stabilization for all cameras, across different resolutions and frame rates. There’s also the Super Stable option with a resolution of 1080p, which works best when shooting at 60 frames per second. In my opinion, the video quality is excellent, even in low light conditions.

Read also: Samsung Galaxy Fold5 review: updated, flagship, foldable

Camera application

The camera control application is standard. Swiping left and right allows you to switch between available modes. There is an option to rearrange or delete some modes from the viewfinder. Vertical gestures in any direction switch between the front and rear cameras.

In the viewfinder, there are three zoom icons: 0.6x, 1x, 3x. Tapping on any of them will reveal additional zoom levels – 2x, 10x, 20x, 30x.

In addition to the main shooting modes such as “Photo,” “Portrait,” and “Video,” the user can choose additional modes like “Pro,” “Pro Video,” “Night,” “Food,” “Panorama,” “Portrait Video,” “Slow Motion,” and others, all grouped under the main selection row labeled “More”.

The settings icon is located in the top left corner of the screen. Here, you can find common features such as scanning, grids, location data, and more. You can also toggle hints on and off to improve the quality of the photos you capture.

In my opinion, for the average user whose main requirement is the ability to capture events in photos or videos and share them with friends or on social media, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is an excellent choice. I give a significant plus to the model for the quality of the images it produces.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Software

The phone runs on Android 14 with the Samsung One UI version 6. One UI is more than just a “skin”; it’s essentially an operating system with its own design and a plethora of customization options. In my opinion, it’s one of the best on the market.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FEOne of the features of One UI is its extensive customization and personalization options, allowing users to tailor the phone to their preferences and needs. Changing themes, downloading new icons and wallpapers, and utilizing various smart features provide a convenient and personalized user experience.

Samsung’s approach to multitasking differs somewhat from pure Android. While it’s possible to run two applications simultaneously, Samsung goes further by allowing users to store pairs of apps on the Edge panel (a hidden taskbar). This way, you can easily launch two apps together whenever needed. Additionally, a third app can be opened in a pop-up window, appearing over the home screen or the pair of running apps.

If you want the S23 FE to function like a regular PC, you can connect it to a monitor/TV (wired or wirelessly) and use a keyboard and mouse. Samsung’s DeX mode provides a desktop-like experience, allowing you to run applications in regular windows.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE dex

Samsung promises four years of system updates (meaning you’ll get Android 18) and security updates until 2028. So, the S23 FE won’t become outdated as quickly as some other mid-range phones.

Connectivity and data transfer capabilities are identical to its flagship counterparts: Wi-Fi 6E, 5G support, Bluetooth 5.3, and NFC. The phone also supports eSIM, which is a notable advantage over many competitors.

Battery and operating time

The Galaxy S23 FE is equipped with a 4500mAh battery. Under typical usage throughout the day, the phone consumes approximately 80% of the battery for moderate activities such as video playback, social media browsing, gaming, and web browsing. While not the best option, it offers the ability to last an entire day without needing a recharge. With more active usage, the phone may require additional charging during the day. Interestingly, according to tests conducted by various media outlets, the version with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 lasts nearly an hour longer than the one with the Exynos 2200.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The phone supports 25W fast charging, and the adapter is not included in the package. It follows the PD3.0 standard, reaching 50% charge in around half an hour and a full 100% charge in just over an hour.

Additionally, the S23 FE features 15W wireless charging support. It also includes reverse charging capability, allowing you to charge other devices such as compatible headphones or a Galaxy Watch directly from the phone.

Read also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Plus review: a balanced choice

Summary and competitors

In summary, after getting acquainted with the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, it can be concluded that from a technical standpoint, the buyer gets exactly what the manufacturer promises. It is a phone that resembles the flagship Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+, but it falls slightly short of them.

On one hand, we have a device with a beautiful 120Hz display, impressive speakers, IP68 dust and water resistance, and a triple camera setup that captures excellent photos. On the other hand, there are several compromises aimed at reducing costs: a not-so-latest chipset, only 8GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of non-expandable internal storage, a battery with a modest capacity, and a frugal set of accessories. Moreover, certain design choices, such as the relatively heavy weight and wide bezel around the screen, also raise questions.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Personally, I can’t bring myself to label this model as a “flagship killer.” In my view, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE would make a great smartphone for handling everyday tasks like internet browsing, social media, and posting with attractive photos. However, gamers might want to think twice before settling on this model and explore other options.

Additionally, there are many competitors in the market, so I would like to compare the S23 FE with other “flagship killers” at a similar price point. Especially considering that, apart from models from other manufacturers, a significant contender is the company’s flagship itself – the Samsung Galaxy S23.

At the launch, the price of the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE with 128GB storage is $700. The 8/256GB version costs $760. Considering the fact that the “real” flagship Samsung Galaxy S23 is only slightly more expensive than its FE counterpart with the same 8GB/128GB configuration, the Galaxy S23 appears to be a more advantageous option in terms of design (slightly better build materials, slightly smaller screen bezels), performance (thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor), a brighter display (though with a slightly smaller diagonal – 6.1″ instead of 6.4″), and more advanced cameras (though the camera modules are almost identical in specifications, the processor plays a crucial role here). Samsung enthusiasts may find it worth considering.

As an alternative, one could also consider the Galaxy S22, even in the “plus” version if a larger screen is desired. The prices for it are currently quite reasonable, offering similar performance and excellent cameras.

Looking at competing brands, there are interesting alternatives as well. For the same price as the S23 FE 128GB, you can purchase the Nothing Phone 2 with a 512GB storage capacity (we recently reviewed it). While the design of the model might be a matter of personal preference, the phone offers a larger 6.7-inch display, 12GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, and a more powerful battery, aside from the increased storage.

nothing phone 2

A good alternative is also the Xiaomi 13T, a model that closely matches the S23 FE in many specifications. The version with 256GB of storage costs around $530. The only notable difference might be the software, which may not be as polished, but for many users, this might not be a critical factor.

Xiaomi 13T

One more brand to consider is OnePlus, with models like the Nord 3 and 10T being significantly more affordable while still offering comparable performance and camera capabilities.

Finally, the Google Pixel 8 is worth mentioning. Priced similarly with 128GB of storage, it comes with additional advantages such as a superior camera, longer battery life, clean Android experience, and rapid software updates.

Google Pixel 8

My verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a good all-around smartphone, almost a flagship, but not a “flagship killer.” It is quite decent, but the market is filled with smartphones offering similar or better features for the same or lower prices. Moreover, it was released in late 2023, and by January, the S24 series had already been announced, making even the name sound somewhat outdated. In my opinion, potential buyers might view this model not as a groundbreaking release from a globally renowned brand but rather as another smartphone among similar competitors. It’s not certain that the final decision of buyers will favor the Galaxy S23 FE. However, there are those who prefer Samsung for the strength of the brand.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

P.S. It’s possible that over time, the prices of the Galaxy S23 FE smartphones will decrease, and the purchasing interest in them will significantly rise. Currently, there are already offers starting from $610, which is more favorable than the official price (though, of course, not in major retail stores).

Read also:

Approved

Review ratings
Design
9
Ergonomics
8
Materials and build
9
Display
8
Performance
7
Cameras
8
Sound
9
Software
10
Battery life
6
Price
6
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a versatile smartphone, almost a flagship, but not a "flagship killer." It's quite good, but the market is filled with smartphones offering similar or better specifications for the same or lower prices. However, there are those who prefer Samsung for the strength of the brand. I believe that when the device's price drops, it could become a sales hit.
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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a versatile smartphone, almost a flagship, but not a "flagship killer." It's quite good, but the market is filled with smartphones offering similar or better specifications for the same or lower prices. However, there are those who prefer Samsung for the strength of the brand. I believe that when the device's price drops, it could become a sales hit.Samsung Galaxy S23 FE smartphone review: Almost a flagship
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