Samsung's latest overachiever, the Galaxy S23 FE, brings premium style and performance in a more affordable package. This savvy smartphone struts a sleek flagship design, smooth performance, and solid cameras worthy of its S23 namesake. But a budget-friendly $869.99 price requires some understandable compromises like an older processor and thicker bezels. Still, the S23 FE delivers outstanding overall value for shoppers wanting high-end functionality for less.
My Hands-On: Samsung Galaxy S23 FE First Impressions
Samsung's latest affordable flagship left me with some peculiar initial impressions. The Galaxy S23 FE continues Sammy's trend of iterative upgrades, landing in an uncanny valley between familiar and fresh. This middle child borrows premium style but makes smart compromises on materials and internals to hit a budget-friendly $869.99 price.
After unboxing the slick Prism Purple model, I noticed the S23 FE's curved aluminum frame provides a comfortable, premium feel at first blush. Its 6.4″ Dynamic AMOLED display dazzles too, even if somewhat held back by thicker bezels. At a glance, the S23 FE could pass for its pricier Galaxy Skin.
But creak the back plastic cover off and differences emerge. The S23 FE packs last year's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, not the latest hotness. Its triple camera array lacks bleeding-edge shooting modes. Still, overall performance should prove speedy for most tasks. And Samsung's photographic prowess usually impresses.
While not radically innovative, the S23 FE brings welcome Flagship value like a smooth 120Hz display, versatile camera setup, 25W fast charging, and Samsung's polished One UI software. Four Android OS upgrades and five years of security patches match its siblings too.
Slotted between the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus in size, the Goldilocks S23 FE also sits at the heart of Samsung's expanding Fan Edition line. Flanking it are the new Galaxy Tab S9 FE tablets and Galaxy Buds2 FE earbuds, rounding out an ecosystem of quality Samsung devices without the flagship price tags.
Of course, extended testing will reveal if the S23 FE's compromises are worth the savings over springing for the S23. And competition from Google's Pixel 8 looms large at a similar $949 cost. But for shoppers wanting premium features for less, the S23 FE could become the FE family's golden child. Stay tuned for my full review parsing out the value versus concessions.
SAMSUNG Galaxy S23 FE Cell Phone + $100 Amazon Gift Card, 128GB, Unlocked Android Smartphone, Long Battery Life, Premium Processor, Gorilla Glass, Hi-Res 50MP Camera, US Version, 2023, Graphite
Key First Impressions:
- Premium styling and build at a budget price
- Familiar design lands between S23 and S23 Plus
- Brilliant 6.4″ OLED display with 120Hz
- Capable Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, if dated
- Triple camera array with Samsung imaging prowess
- Lengthy OS and security update commitment
- The core of expanding Galaxy FE ecosystem
- Compromises over pricier S23 models TBD
- Value versus Pixel 8 is still to be determined
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE brings flagship flair at an affordable price but makes some expected compromises. My hands-on left intrigued to see if its familiar fusion of premium and practical proves a budget knockout.
Premium Build and Display Minus the High Price
This stylish overachiever brings flagship fabulousness in a more affordable form. The stunning 6.4” Dynamic AMOLED display pops with colour, while the Gorilla Glass back adds durability and polish. Its smooth rounded rectangle shape exudes refined elegance. Slip one in your palm, and the aluminum frame provides a cool, comfortable feel. Despite cost-cutting, the S23 FE looks and feels like phones $200+ more.
Vibrant colours leap off the expansive 6.4” FHD+ display, while a silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate keeps scrolling and animations buttery. Punchy OLED pixels radiate excellent brightness for easy viewing, even in harsh sunlight. Watching videos or playing games is immersive on this panel. When you want volume, the stereo speakers blast loud, distortion-free audio.
Powerful Performance for the Price
Under the hood, last year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and 8GB RAM keep the S23 FE running smoothly. While not cutting-edge specs, real-world speed impresses, easily juggling mobile gaming, multi-tasking, and intensive apps. Only visually demanding games push their limits. In benchmarks, it scores 1,497 single-core and 3,977 multi-core on Geekbench and hits 14,471 on PCMark Work 3.0 tests. This lags slightly behind the latest 2023 flagships, but far outdoes its mid-range price point. For shoppers wanting great performance without a flagship cost, the S23 FE over-delivers.
Gaming performance also beats expectations. Graphics-intensive titles like Genshin Impact run smoothly at medium to high settings with minimal slowdown. Even long play sessions only get slightly warm. Plus, Samsung's Game Booster software optimizes performance by blocking notifications and minimizing battery drain. For a mid-priced phone, the S23 FE holds up admirably for mobile gamers.
Long Battery Life and Fast 25W Charging
The sizable 4,500mAh battery reliably lasts over 10 hours on a single charge in our streaming video battery drain test. That's enough juice to get through a full day of heavy use with power to spare. When you do need to recharge, 25W fast charging zips from 0% to 50% in just 30 minutes. Both wireless and reverse wireless charging add convenience. For the price, this battery life and charging speed excel.
Versatile Triple Camera System
The rear camera array keeps up with pricier phones with a 50MP main shooter, 12MP ultrawide lens, and 8MP 3x telephoto camera. This versatile setup handles wide panoramas, crisp close-up portraits, and optical zoom shots capably. The 10MP selfie cam also impresses, capturing accurate colours and plenty of detail. Low light performance shines as well.
While AI photo enhancements of the Pixel 8 are missing, the S23 FE outputs vibrant, detailed images in Samsung's signature style. Multiple modes like Night, Portrait, Pro and Panorama offer creative options. The cameras deliver impressively high image quality for a mid-priced device.
8K 24fps video recording and 4K at a smooth 60fps provide crystal clear capture and playback. Optical image stabilization reduces shakiness effectively when filming a video on the move. For vloggers and mobile content creators, these cameras allow high-quality production on a budget.
One UI Software with Lengthy Updates
Samsung's intuitive One UI software built on Android 13 offers convenient features like Edge Panel app shortcuts and Dex desktop mode. While the Pixel 8 still promises longer 7-year software support, Samsung leads other Android makers with 4 guaranteed OS updates and 5 years of security patches. This keeps the S23 FE smooth into the future.
One UI 5 provides a polished interface, extensive customization, and helpful tools like Easy Mode for simplifying menus and increasing text size. For privacy, the Permission Manager offers granular control over app access. Overall, One UI enhances the Android experience.
An Outstanding Overall Value
The Galaxy S23 FE crams premium features like a stunning OLED display, long-lasting battery, and versatile camera setup into sleek Samsung hardware for just $869.99. Despite understandable concessions from cost like an older processor and thicker screen bezels, performance remains smooth and speedy for everyday use. Competitors like the Pixel 8 add smarter AI photo editing and longer software support for just $100 more. But if sticking to a budget is critical, the S23 FE shines by delivering exceptional hardware, user experience, and value.
The Bottom Line
For just $869.99, the Galaxy S23 FE provides a premium Samsung smartphone experience on a budget. With its gorgeous OLED display, speedy performance, versatile cameras, and long battery life, the S23 FE delivers outstanding overall value.
The Galaxy S23 FE squeezes impressive flagship-tier features like a smooth 120Hz AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 power, and a versatile triple camera system into a beautifully designed phone priced at just $869.99.