A week or so back, we gave our first impressions of Samsung’s latest successor to their prior FE series line. Here’s our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review where we examine if their concept of a budget flagship is worth your money. The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is an interesting design that attempts to offer as much of the Galaxy S23 series flagship experience at a price point lower than the official price of even the cheapest model in the line-up.
Where the Galaxy S23 8GB RAM/128GB model, the most affordable variant, officially retails for RM3,899, the Galaxy S23 FE clocks in at just RM3,299 for the 256GB version while offering a bigger display, larger battery, an OIS-stabilised primary camera and quite a few additional features too albeit with some subtle concessions to keep the cost down. The 128GB version of the Galaxy S23 FE clocks in even cheaper at just RM2,999.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Review – Specifications and Performance
Table of Contents
In our prior first look feature, we inspected the build and design of the Galaxy S23 FE which mimics the floating camera aesthetic of the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ including its rounded corners and otherwise flat design while also retaining a robust IP68 dust and water resistance rating which is a notable achievement.
The tradeoff here is that the Galaxy S23 FE uses slightly less protective Gorilla Glass 5 and uses conventional aluminium alloy for the frame whereas the Galaxy S23 uses Samsung’s own tougher Armor Aluminium and Gorilla Glass Victus 2 which offers better resistance to nicks and scratches. To be fair, over the week plus that I’ve been testing the phone, my Galaxy S23 FE review sample has remained nick free when used as a primary phone and getting tossed around on tables, dressers and whatnot.
This theme continues with the hardware powering Samsung’s budget flagship phone. Our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review sample runs on last year’s Exynos 2200 processor paired with 8GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage. A variant exists that runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that is only available for now in the United States.
Both the Exynos 2200 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 powered versions of last year’s Galaxy S22 series and both were released at about the same time period though Malaysia’s Galaxy S22 series phones used the Snapdragon chipset. In keeping with flagship phones of recent vintage, the Galaxy S23 FE retains 5G connectivity with both sub-6 and mmWave bands and features fast WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 and NFC support.
Under the hood, our Galaxy S23 FE review unit runs on Android 13 with their own OneUI 5.1 firmware along with their standard commitment to 4 OS updates and 5 security updates which lends it exceptional longevity. In keeping with their commitment to ensure a flagship experience, the Galaxy S23 FE has the same RAM Plus virtual RAM as flagships with the option to assign up to 8GB vRAM off the onboard storage in 2GB increments.
Another important addition, especially for power users is that the phone runs Samsung’s DeX, a potent feature that allows it to function as an ad hoc PC when paired up wirelessly to a monitor or even via a HDMi cable while offering a desktop interface. Add in a wireless mouse and keyboard and you literally have a PC in a pocket. It still runs Android and uses the Google Play store for apps but the desktop interface makes productivity tasks an easier affair in lieu of a full PC or laptop.
Here’s our our unit stacks up on paper:
|128GB (RM2,999), 256GB (RM3,299)
|6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 1,080 x 2,340 pixels, 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1,450 nits peak brightness
|Exynos 2200 4nm
|Android 13 w/ OneUI 5.1
|8GB RAM / 128GB or 256GB storage (review unit)
|50MP F/1.8 w/ PDAF + OIS, 8MP F/2.4 3x optical zoom, 12MP F/2.2 ultra wide camera [rear] / 10MP F/2.4 [front]
|4,500mAh w/ 25W wired charging, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging
|158 x 76.5 x 8.2mm / 209g
The Galaxy S23 FE’s Exynos 2200 processor does have a critical upgrade – a 39% larger vapour chamber compared to the earlier Galaxy S21 FE that ensures better sustained performance under heavy loads. When subjected to synthetic benchmarks, our Galaxy S23 FE review unit score the following benchmarks:
|3D Mark Solar Bay
|3D Mark Solar Bay Unlimited
|3D Mark Wild Life
|3D Mark Wild Life Unlimited
|3D Mark Wild Life Extreme
|3D Mark Wild Life Extreme ULTD
|Geekbench 6 Single Core Score
|Geekbench 6 Multi Core Score
|Geekbench 6 OpenCL Score
|Geekbench 6 Vulkan Score
|PCMark Work 3.0
|PCMark Battery Life
|12 hours 5 mins
Unfortunately, we don’t have any examples of another phone with an Exynos 2200 in our inventory but when compared to last year’s Galaxy S22 review that we tested which had an Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor that’s also built on a 4nm process as the Exynos 2200 in our Galaxy S23 FE review sample, it offered equivalent scores with slight improvements in some 3D Mark scores. When subjected to the new 3D Mark Solar Bay Stress Test, it saw a modest drop in performance before stabilising though temperatures ran rather hot, maxing at 46°C with most of the heat concentrated on the upper half of the phone.
To be fair, this is likely not a scenario nor a workload that you’d encounter in day to day use. When further compared to this year’s Galaxy A54 and Galaxy S23, it runs rings around the former’s Exynos 1380 processor but is outpaced, understandably so by the cutting edge Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy in the Galaxy S23.
In more practical scenarios, our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review unit managed to acquit itself in a very capable fashion. Web browsing on Chrome, Gmail, and the usual Google suite apps were fast and smooth without discernible lag and video editing on CapCut offered no noticeable slowdowns. For gaming, it easily handled the likes of Call of Duty Mobile on high settings though Genshin Impact was only able to comfortably run on low settings though to be fair the latter is a demanding affair even on the latest hardware.
The display on our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review unit proved to be a visual treat with all the hallmarks that Samsung AMOLED displays are renowned for with vibrant and accurate colour rendition, a smooth 120Hz refresh rate and excellent brightness with good visibility outdoors.
It’s only upon closer inspection that it’s a step or two behind the panels used in the Galaxy S23 series as it’s not as bright at 1,450 nits peak brightness versus the 1,750 nits the Galaxy S23 panels are capable of and it has a lower 60Hz refresh rate threshold versus the S23’s displays that can go as low as 1Hz on paper depending on what’s happening onscreen. This is primarily for power efficiency especially when viewing static content but it otherwise doesn’t impinge on the viewing experience. The paired stereo speakers are on par with the Galaxy S23 series and have a similar level of good detail and volume.
Battery life for our Galaxy S23 FE is overall excellent, with its 4,500mAh cell and generally efficient Exynos 2200 chipset easily offering close to two days of normal use including a bit of gaming and an hour or two of movies per day.
In PCMark’s battery life test, it managed a good 12 hours 5 minutes of battery life which exceeds the baseline Galaxy S22 but is still outpaced by the baseline Galaxy S23 despite having a smaller battery on account of the more power efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor.
Charging is a relatively fast affair with 25W wired charging and you’re able to get a full charge in about an hour plus with a compatible charger. The phone also has wireless charging and reverse wireless charging support which ensures you get the full monty of features expected of a flagship phone.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Review – Cameras
On the imaging front, our Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review unit has a triple rear camera array built around a primary 50MP camera with an F/1.8 aperture steadied with PDAF and optical image stabilisation. Accompanying the main camera is a secondary 8MP F/2.4 camera with 3x optical zoom. Last but not least, it hosts a 12MP F/2.2 ultra wide angle camera. One thing to note is that only the main 50MP camera has OIS.
This setup enables the phone to capture up to 8K@24fps video and more steady 4K@60fps video at up to 10x zoom for 4K video and 6x digital zoom for 8K video along with lossless stills up to 3X zoom and digitally zoomed shots at up to 30x magnification. Up front, you get a single 10MP F/2.4 fixed focus selfie camera with up to 4K@60fps video capture capabilities.
Functionally speaking, this front and rear camera setup lends it capabilities akin to the older Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ though the Galaxy S23 FE’s telephoto camera has a slightly smaller sensor and no OIS which means you’ll need steady hands for zoomed out shots though the Exynos 2200’s built-in NPU helps to digitally steady footage somewhat.
Shots in brightly light conditions offer excellent detail and colour accuracy with usable stills all the way out to 3x zoom. Even at 30x zoom, the AI enhancements yield viewable if not Pulitzer prize-winning shots. In low light, the Galaxy S23 FE handles much in the same fashion as the earlier S22 and has snappy subject acquisition and detail retention.
Videos at 4K@60fps are more than sufficient for social media use and light content creation though the Galaxy S23 still delivers better and smoother 8K videos albeit at a higher price point. Selfies on the front camera offer good rendition of skin tones and is capable of good mugshots indoors and in dimmer light conditions. In general, you’re getting a proven, very capable set of cameras at a lower price point which is exact role that the Galaxy S23 FE fulfils.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE?
In essence, the Galaxy S23 FE is still a flagship phone, one that outguns anything in the midrange Galaxy A-series line-up but is just a few paces short of Samsung’s current-gen flagship phones.
For prospective smartphone buyers on a budget who want something beefier than a Galaxy A series phone but can’t quite afford the Galaxy S23 or just want something a bit larger than the baseline S23 but smaller than the Galaxy S23+, the Galaxy S23 FE 256GB fits the bill nicely with its excellent display, good set of cameras and great battery life for RM3,299. If you’re on a budget, you can acquire the cheaper variant with 128GB storage at RM2,999.
However, if are fairly patient, you can wait for the inevitable discounts for the Galaxy S23 series when its successor rolls around next year.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review sample courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. For more details and to purchase please visit https://www.samsung.com/my/smartphones/galaxy-s23-fe/buy/
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
In essence, the Galaxy S23 FE is a budget flagship phone, one that outguns anything in the midrange Galaxy A-series line-up but is just a few paces short of Samsung’s current-gen flagship phones. If you’re on a budget but still want a flagship experience, the Galaxy S23 FE 256GB fits the bill nicely with its excellent display, good set of cameras and great battery life for RM3,299. If you’re on a budget, you can acquire the cheaper variant with 128GB storage at RM2,999.
Great quality display
Larger vapour chamber ensures better sustained performance
Good primary camera
Excellent battery life
Has DeX mode
Only primary camera has OIS
Base display refresh rate bottoms out at 60Hz