Samsung Galaxy S23 Review – Could this small in size and big on performance phone be the best compact Android flagship of 2023?
The successor to last year’s Galaxy S22, the Samsung Galaxy S23 features a series of subtle yet meaningful refinements to its specifications and design while retaining the same compact form factor. Here’s our Galaxy S23 review where we see if it’s worth your money.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review – Build and Design
Aesthetically speaking, the Samsung Galaxy S23 bears a similar design and form factor to the older Galaxy S22 save for a new ‘Floating Camera’ design that places each camera in its own individual housing versus last year’s ‘Contour Cut’ design in the Galaxy S22 that has a raised metallic sleeve to protect each camera.
The new design has a similar 7.6mm thinness as its predecessor while being a tiny bit longer, a wee bit wider and 1g heavier at 168g though it’s not apparent unless you use a measuring tape and a weighing scale.
Rather than going all-in on a mere aesthetic facelift, the Galaxy S23 has upgrades where it counts. This time around, both the front and the rear backplate feature a new generation of armoured glass dubbed Gorilla Glass Victus 2 that has better drop resistance than the Galaxy S22’s Gorilla Glass Victus+.
This is on top of an Armor Aluminium chassis that is markedly more durable to dings and dents compared to the standard grade of aluminium used in competing phones. The phone is also rated IP68 for water and dust resistance too.
On top of additional toughness and durability, Samsung has retained the proven small form factor that makes it an absolute joy for one-handed use with a screen that’s just wide enough for your thumb to reach from one end to the other without effort.
The backplate of our Galaxy S23 review sample is done up in their traditional shade of Phantom Black which works out to a classy looking matte black finish that also resists fingerprints nicely while having the side benefit of being easier to grip without it slipping from your fingers by accident.
The triple rear camera array gets slightly more prominent chromed rings protecting each camera housing with a similar camera setup as its predecessor albeit with enhancements to computational photography with a 50MP camera that has OIS, a 12MP ultra wide angle camera and a 10MP telephoto camera with 3X zoom and OIS as well.
On the base of the phone is a dual nano SIM card slot, a USB-C charging port and a speaker grille for one of the two matching speakers that form a stereo pair on the phone. The right side features a power button and volume rocker while the left and top sides are otherwise plain. Perhaps the only quibble here is that unlike the matte frosted backplate, the chromed sides of our Galaxy S23 review sample were fingerprint magnets.
Up front, our Samsung Galaxy S23 review sample sports a flat 6.1-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate and a number of subtle refinements under the hood.
According to 9to5Google, the panel is a new ‘low power consumption OLED technology’ design that is more power efficient while also offering enhanced brightness with a peak 1,750 nits up from the Galaxy S22’s 1,300 nits with about 13-16% reduced power consumption.
There’s a tiny punch hole up top for the 12MP selfie camera which is upgraded from last year’s 10MP model along with a tiny cutout for the earpiece and the other half of its stereo speaker setup. The bottom quadrant of the display sports an under-display fingerprint reader and the panel itself is also rated for 100% DCI-P3 as well as HDR10+ content support.
Build quality is top notch befitting a Samsung flagship phone with the rounded corners and flat sides making it very pocketable. In keeping with Samsung’s recent efforts at sustainability, our Galaxy S23 review sample only comes with a USB-C cable, a SIM eject pin and a warranty card while the entirety of the box itself is made of recyclable material.
If the Phantom Black finish doesn’t quite appeal, you can also alternatively acquire the Galaxy S23 in Cream, Lavender and Green as well as several online exclusive colours if you buy it from the Samsung official website in Malaysia.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Review – Performance and Benchmarks
In terms of hardware, our Galaxy S23 review sample features the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor running Android 13 overlaid with OneUI 5.1 paired with fast 8GB LPDDR5X RAM that can be further augmented with up to 8GB of RAM Plus virtual RAM allocated off the main storage.
For the uninitiated the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor is a custom processor unique to the Galaxy S23 series that has a faster clocked processor and Adreno 740 GPU versus a stock variant and has a dedicated image signal processor (ISP) for better photos and videos. At this point in time, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy CPU is the fastest Snapdragon processor in the market.
Storage options for the Malaysia market at present consist of a 128GB variant and a 256GB variant, with our Galaxy S23 review sample being the former.
One thing to note is that unlike the rest of the Galaxy S23 series, the base Galaxy S23 128GB storage variant uses slightly slower UFS 3.1 storage versus the new UFS 4.0 standard used in its other siblings. The phone also has an upgraded vapour chamber for more efficient heat management.
Keeping the lights on in the new Galaxy S23 is a 3,900mAh battery which is 200mAh larger than its predecessor while retaining the same 25W fast wired charging, 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging options.
The Galaxy S23 also features fast WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity though it lacks the Ultra Wideband (UWB) tech seen in the Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 Ultra. Of note is that the Galaxy S23 will get four years of OS updates and five years of security updates, which means that it will get updates until Android 17 which means it’ll keep getting updates until 2027.
Here’s how our Galaxy S23 review unit stacks up on paper:
|Price||RM3,899 (128GB), RM4,199 (256GB)|
|Display||6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, FHD+, 1080 x 2,340 pixels resolution, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1,750 nits peak brightness|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy|
|OS||Android 13 w/ OneUI 5.1|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR5X RAM / 128GB (UFS 3.1) or 256GB (UFS 4.0) storage|
|Cameras||50MP F/1.8 w/ OIS, 12MP F/2.2 ultra wide, 10MP F/2.4 w/ 3x optical zoom + OIS [rear] / 12MP F/2.2 w/ Dual Pixel PDAF [front]|
|Battery||3,900mAh w 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, reverse wireless charging|
|Size/Weight||146.3 x 70.8 x 7.6mm / 168g|
In comparison to its siblings, the larger Galaxy S23+ has a similar RAM, storage and front/ rear camera setup as the Galaxy S23 but features a larger battery and slightly larger display. The Galaxy S23 Ultra though has a larger and higher resolution QHD+ 120Hz display, an entirely new ISOCELL HP2 200MP camera sensor, a much larger battery and an S Pen stylus.
For the uninitiated, the upgrades to the Galaxy S23’s display, processor, RAM and storage speed as well as battery seem tangential at best but in combination, these enhancements combined result in meaningful enhancements where it matters the most for users – namely performance and battery life.
When subjected to synthetic benchmarks with the default amount of 4GB RAM Plus virtual RAM, our Galaxy S23 review sample got the following results:
|3DMark Wild Life||Maxed out|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited||13,066|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme||3,719|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited||3,744|
|Geekbench 5 Single core||1,465|
|Geekbench 5 Multi core||4,027|
|Geekbench 5 Vulkan||6,948|
|Geekbench 5 OpenCL||8,719|
|PCMark Battery Life||13 hours 1 minute|
|PCMark Work 3.0||14,993|
Unlike prior generations of the Galaxy S series flagship phones, the Galaxy S23 series exclusively uses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor rather than opting for Exynos chips in certain regions.
The combination of a more energy efficient display, faster processor, larger vapour chamber along with the faster RAM and storage blows the older Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered in the Galaxy S22 out of the water when compared side by side in almost every benchmark.
In terms of performance, our Galaxy S23 review unit is a bona fide flagship with blazing fast performance for every task asked of it from gaming in Call of Duty Mobile, swapping between multiple Chrome browser tabs all the way to editing 8K@30fps video in the native video without stuttering. It does get a bit warm after extended gaming sessions as well as extensive usage of the cameras, but that’s to be expected in a compact smartphone.
The revamped OneUI 5.1 interface feels snappier and smoother than the older OneUI 5.0 with the addition of stacked widgets so you can add multiple widgets on top of each other to save on screen real estate.
Much like earlier Galaxy S series phones stretching back to the Galaxy S8, the Galaxy S23 features their vaunted DeX mode that offers a virtual desktop interface when wirelessly paired to a display or hooked up via a HDMI cable, effectively turning the phone into a laptop of sorts.
It’s been a linchpin of the Samsung OneUI experience for years and is absolutely essential for power users looking to travel light as you can get some serious work done on a larger display just with DeX mode in tandem with a wireless mouse and keyboard.
Another unique addition with the Galaxy S23 is in regards to gaming with its Game Booster game management app offering a bypass charging mode to juice the phone directly instead of charging the battery which helps especially with extended gaming sessions. You can check it out on NL Tech’s walkthrough video here.
The new energy efficient AMOLED displays used in the Galaxy S23 are marvellous to behold with pin-sharp detail and lush colour rendition along with a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate that can dial down to as low as 24Hz when viewing static menus and web pages up to 120Hz when scrolling through content. If needs must, you can dial the refresh rate down and cap it to 60Hz to further save on battery life.
If the provided default colours aren’t to taste, you can tweak it via their Vivid or Natural settings or go down to the nuts and bolts and tune the reds, greens and blues to taste on a colour slider.
Screen brightness especially outdoors is superb with wonderful clarity for text as well as colour consistency to prevent hues from looking washed out on account of their Advanced Vision Booster tech which has three levels of screen contrast, colour and brightness adjustment that are dependent on ambient light conditions.
Audio is excellent as well and belying its size, the Galaxy S23’s stereo speakers are capable of a good amount of volume and detail for an otherwise pleasant (and loud) gaming and movie watching experience on the go.
Battery life for our Galaxy S23 review sample is excellent with PCMark’s battery life test yielding a fantastic 13 hours and 1 minute when set to an Adaptive refresh rate. This is a marked improvement over the Galaxy S22’s 11 hours and 23 minutes.
In otherwise normal use with a combination of data or WiFi on and constant social media use with a mix of YouTube videos and a few minutes of light gaming, the Galaxy S23 was easily able to last a full day plus of usage at full tilt and charging was consistent and while not the fastest in town, it was able to get to about 55% in about 30 minutes of charging with a compatible charger and to a full charge in just over an hour.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Review – How are the cameras?
The hardware for the rear camera array is otherwise unaltered from the prior Galaxy S22 with a 50MP primary camera that has optical image stabilisation, a secondary 12MP ultra wide angle camera and a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom that also has optical image stabilisation.
In terms of capabilities, our Galaxy S23 review sample is able to capture 12MP pixel-binned stills and snaps at 3x optical zoom but is still capable of taking snaps with a steady AI-assisted digital zoom at up to 30x if you really need to nail that shot from a distance as well as up to 8K video capture.
Hardware aside, enhanced ISP from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset is the key upgrade here, enabling the Galaxy S23 to capture smoother 8K video at 8K@30fps which is up from the S22’s 8K@24fps as well as Ultra Steady video capability at up to 4K@60fps versus the older S22 that capped Ultra Steady video at 1080P@60fps.
Optical image stabilisation has also been slightly enhanced as well with the phone now capable of a slightly wider field of stabilisation for even steadier video that lets you capture smooth footage at a steady jog rather than the prior stately plodding from last year.
While 8K videos are still somewhat limited in use on account of the difficulty to edit them and platforms that play it save for Samsung’s own TVs that support such high resolution content, the Galaxy S23 is able to yield smooth and detailed videos especially in 4K@60fps with Ultra Steady on that are more than adequate for casual use like family videos, TikTok and the like.
Of particular note is that the Galaxy S23 series now has a dedicated astrophotography video mode that’s accessible by selecting Hyperlapse mode and picking the 300x setting. With a suitably sturdy tripod, you’re able to take a short video of fantastic starscapes though this is contingent on a place that’s free of light pollution; if you’re living in downtown Kuala Lumpur that’s usually not possible.
You can also capture stills of the night sky via the optional downloadable Expert RAW mode too though we weren’t able to test this as we were in a primarily urban setting for the duration of the review.
While results pale in comparison to the sheer imaging majesty of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, our Galaxy S23 review unit manages to give a good accounting of itself especially when compared to other competing flagship phones.
Shots in daylight from the ultrawide camera, the primary camera and the telephoto camera are crisp and detailed with the classic Samsung emphasis for slightly more vibrant greens and blues. Stills in dimly lit conditions especially with the enhanced ISP retain better detail especially from the shadows and offer greater colour retention in shots.
You’re also able to capture snaps at the full 50MP but the results aren’t all too far from what you get from the default 12MP mode on auto on account of the generally excellent ISP.
Up front, the Galaxy S23 uses a 12MP selfie camera with Dual Pixel PDAF that’s capable of offering 12mp stills and up to 4K@60fps video along with an improved AI-enhanced Portrait mode that now does a better job of separating the background and fine details from the foreground to deliver pleasingly good mugshots.
In this regard, the Galaxy S23 is on par with its peers as even the Galaxy S23 Ultra also has the same 12MP selfie camera. Selfies and shots in Portrait mode offer better background separation with more natural looking blur on both the front and the selfie camera too.
As the popular adage goes, the best camera you have is the one you have on you and in that regard, the compact size of the Galaxy 23 will ensure you have a solid camera on hand at all times.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S23?
The Samsung Galaxy S23 features a subtle but meaningful array of upgrades that make it one of, if not the best compact flagship smartphone in the market. You get a vibrant and energy efficient AMOLED display, the fastest Snapdragon processor currently in the market, improved battery life and an enhanced array of cameras that are more than sufficient for casual users to capture excellent snaps of daily life.
Users demanding unsurpassed performance in every way should gravitate to the bigger and more powerful Galaxy S23 Ultra but for most users in the market, those who are looking to upgrade and haven’t done so in the past year and especially those who need a small yet powerful phone, the Galaxy S23 ought to be at the top of your list. You can also check out our Galaxy S23 Ultra review here.
Samsung Galaxy S23 review sample courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. For more details please visit https://www.samsung.com/my/smartphones/galaxy-s23/buy/
Samsung Galaxy S23
Samsung Galaxy S23
The Samsung Galaxy S23 features a subtle but meaningful array of upgrades that make it one of, if not the best compact flagship smartphone in the market. While it may not be as compelling a proposition for those who have the S22, the Galaxy S23 is an excellent choice for those who haven’t upgraded their phone in the past year and beyond. You get a vibrant and energy efficient AMOLED display, the fastest Snapdragon processor currently in the market, improved battery life and an enhanced array of cameras that are more than sufficient for casual users to capture excellent snaps of daily life.
Tougher build quality with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 Great battery life Excellent performance Improved cameras with better low light performance
No significant upgrade to charging speed Conservative aesthetic facelift