Launched in Malaysia with minimal fanfare a few days ago, the new Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is their latest budget flagship smartphone that aims to offer the premium experience of the Galaxy S23 series at a more modest price point that is still cheaper than a baseline Galaxy S23.
In effect, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE blends much of the aesthetics, experience and performance of the Galaxy S23 series as possible while keeping the price to RM3,299 for the 256GB model and RM2,999 for the 128GB model though you can get at a much lower discount if you purchase it before 30th November 2023 in Malaysia with up to RM1,150 in perks and rebates.
We managed to get our hands on a sample for field testing and took it for a quick spin at its first appearance at Sneakerlah 2023 in Malaysia. Here’s our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE first look where we share our first impressions of the phone and check out what’s in the box. You can also check out our recently completed Galaxy S23 FE Malaysia review here.
What is the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE?
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Samsung has a phone for every price point and to fill in the niche between their midrange Galaxy A series and premium S series flagships, they created the Galaxy FE series phones.
Standing for Fan Edition, the Samsung Galaxy FE series typically do not appear every year with the clockwork regularity of their flagship Galaxy S23 series or Galaxy A series phones.
The first ever Galaxy FE series phone was the Note 7 FE that appeared way back in 2017 before the series underwent a temporary hiatus before returning with the Galaxy S20 FE in 2021 and the Galaxy S21 FE in early 2022. Oddly enough, a Galaxy S22 FE doesn’t exist as it never officially saw release last year, making the Galaxy S23 FE a direct successor to the Galaxy S21 FE.
Regardless of its provenance, the Galaxy S23 FE series aims to offer the hallmarks of a flagship experience that include powerful cameras, excellent performance and battery life as well as a premium display at a lower price point.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE First Look – Build and Design
Much like the premium Galaxy S23 series phones, the Galaxy S23 FE comes in a matte black box with the colour of the unit within it indicated on the cover.
Popping the box open reveals the usual minimal accessories in smartphones in keeping with Samsung’s long term goals for minimising e-waste in the long term. You get the phone itself sans any preapplied screen protector, a USB-C to C charging cable, a quick start guide and warranty paperwork as well as a SIM eject pin.
At first blush, our Galaxy S23 FE first look sample bears all the aesthetic hallmarks of a Galaxy S23 series phone, including its linear triple camera array on the rear framed by chromed rings around each cameras lens, its gently rounded corners and its premium heft and feel that makes it a pleasant delight to hold one-handed.
The phone remains relatively slim, measuring in at 8.2mm though it’s still thicker than even the baseline Galaxy S23 by 0.6mm. It is also heavier than even a Galaxy S23+ by 13g with its 209g carry weight though it still feels wonderfully top-shelf with an even heft all around.
Samsung has improved its materials design this time and the rear backplate and front finish both resist fingerprints surprisingly well which is also helped by the light colours of its pastel Mint colourway. If Mint doesn’t quite appeal, you can acquire it in Graphite Black, Cream and a quaint shade of deep Purple.
Closer inspection of our Galaxy S23 FE first look sample reveals that some modest concessions have been made all around to keep the cost down especially in terms of the materials used in its manufacture.
Both the front and rear of the phone are sheathed in Corning Gorilla Glass 5 with the frame of the phone constructed of conventional aluminium alloy as opposed to the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and Armor Aluminium that are standard issue for the flagship Galaxy S23 series phones.
On paper, this does mean it is not as resistant to nicks and scratches but Gorilla Glass 5 still offers excellent scratch and shatter resistance and it should not matter in all but the most extreme scenarios. What it does share in common with the Galaxy S23 series is a robust IP68 rating for dust and water resistance which means that it is able to shrug off 1.5 metres of fresh water immersion for up to 30 minutes and resist all dust ingress.
The base hosts a USB-C port for charging and has one of the two speakers that form a stereo pair on the phone with the other one emplaced up near the top edge of the AMOLED display.
On the right, the phone hosts a power button and volume rocker with the left and top being otherwise unremarkable with the main draw being its large Dynamic AMOLED 2X display up front. For those uninitiated into the minutiae of Samsung’s various phones, it easily looks like a Galaxy S23 series phone in all but name.
Samsung Galaxy 23 FE First Look – Display
One of the most important determinants as to whether a phone is flagship grade is its display. Our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE first look sample does not disappoint with a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with FHD+ resolution at 2,340 x 1,000 pixels, a crisp 403 ppi and which is also rated for 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut by VDE Germany while featuring up to 1,450 nits peak brightness and an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate.
Granted, it isn’t as bright as the Galaxy S23 series which are rated for a 1,750 nits peak brightness but it is still plenty bright and more than visible enough during the time I took it around and about in the streets of Kuala Lumpur under the blazing sun.
At the top of the display is a tiny punch hole for the front-mounted 10MP F/2.4 selfie camera with the bottom featuring a slightly thicker bezel than the side and top edges which lends it a 19.5:9 aspect ratio similar to the Galaxy S23 series.
The display also hosts their Vision Booster tech that uses technology that first saw service in the Galaxy S22 series and which uses both hardware and software to offer enhanced screen visibility onscreen especially under direct sunlight conditions.
From a practical perspective, the Galaxy S23 FE may just be a Goldilocks phone for those who insist on a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display and who find the baseline Galaxy S23 with its 6.1-inch display too small and the Galaxy S23+ and its 6.6-inch display too large as its 6.4-inch puts it squarely between both with enough width for most people to comfortably reach across from edge to edge with their thumb.
Samsung Galaxy 23 FE First Look – Charging and Battery
Our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE first look sample hosts a USB-C port for 25W charging for the 4,500mAh battery. If cables aren’t your thing, the phone also has wireless charging support via a Qi-charging coil on the rear panel.
You also have reverse wireless charging too to charge other gear like the recently launched Galaxy Buds FE. From a charging perspective, the Galaxy S23 FE has the full monty of features expected of a flagship phone.
We haven’t quite tested its endurance yet or put it through the usual round of benchmarks on its Exynos 2200 processor so we can’t quite comment on how long it will last in the field but we’ll keep you posted in our full review.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE First Look – How are the cameras?
Our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE first look sample hosts a triple camera array that is built around a 50MP F/1.8 camera with optical image stabilisation and phase detection autofocus, a secondary 8MP F/2.4 telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and a 12MP F/2.2 ultra wide angle camera.
Of note here is that only the primary 50MP camera has hardware stabilisation which is likely a concession to cost versus the Galaxy S23 series which have OIS on both its primary camera and the telephoto camera.
In terms of capabilities the Galaxy S23 FE’s camera setup is capable of shots at up to 30x digital zoom and videos at up to 8K@24fps resolution as well as footage captured at a more practical 4K@60 or 30fps. The front 10MP/2.4 single selfie camera is capable of up to 4K@60fps video though there’s no zoom or stabilisation.
At first blush, shots from the rear camera look good across daylight and indoors but we’ve yet to fully test its limits. The front selfie camera belying its specifications is capable of surprisingly decent mugshots though we’ll need to test it further under more scenarios to determine its capabilities.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE First Look – The Exynos 2200 returns
Aesthetics, endurance and imaging capabilities aside, the biggest concession to cost is arguably the use of an Exynos 2200 processor to power the Galaxy S23 FE. For the uninitiated, the Exynos 2200 is a flagship-grade 4nm chipset made by Samsung with 5G connectivity that first saw service in the Galaxy S22 Ultra in other regions; Malaysia had the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 version of the phone.
While the Exynos 2200 isn’t the cutting edge of tech, Samsung did retrofit it with a 39% larger vapour chamber compared to the Galaxy S21 FE which aims to help it especially during sustained heavy tasks like gaming.
Paired with the Exynos 2200 is 8GB RAM and either 128GB or in the case of our Galaxy S23 FE first look sample, 256GB of non-expandable storage. Our Galaxy S23 FE first look sample runs the latest Android 13 with OneUI 5.1 as well as Samsung’s commitment to offering 4 years of OS updates and 5 years of security updates.
At first blush and initial setup, Samsung Galaxy S23 FE first look booted up in a swift fashion and the usual tasks like web browsing were handled without any obvious delays. We’ll have to give it a full field test before we sum up our opinions on this interesting phone – stay tuned for our full Galaxy S23 FE review.
In the meantime, you can still acquire the 256GB version at a cheaper price point than its official retail price of RM3,299 and if you’re a part of Samsung’s #Galaxytroop, you can get even more discounts, paring the price down to RM2,499; if you trade in an old phone you can get even more. For more details check out Samsung’s official site here. You can also check out our Galaxy S23 FE review here.