Samsung Galaxy S23 & S23+ review: Samsung without the fluff
Overview, Design, Handling, Display, Audio, UI, Features, Imaging Performance
Flagship goodness, courtesy of Samsung
TLDR: Samsung could do more in between each generation of Galaxy S devices, but the Galaxy S23 and S23+ are great options even in the current smartphone landscape.
In this age when most people are obsessed with getting the biggest and the greatest, some phones will inadvertently fall through the cracks and be overlooked. Some for a good reason, but others, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+, deserve more limelight than they’ve gotten during the Galaxy S23 series launch.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (review here), there aren’t many physical changes to the phone, with most of the upgrades within.
Both the S23 and S23+ come with 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM. The two models have a 256GB storage option, although only the S23 has a 128GB storage option, and only the S23+ has a 512GB storage option. Other than the UFS 3.1 storage on the 128GB Galaxy S23, the rest carry UFS 4.0.
Additionally, both phones come equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which does mean faster performance, which you’ll see in our benchmarks later.
While we don’t see new cameras on the rear for both models, the selfie camera has been improved slightly from the old 10MP to a new 12MP version that offers HDR10+ support for selfies.
Since the launch of the S23 series, Samsung added a new Galaxy Enhance-X app that utilises AI to help edit photos for their blurriness, removes unwanted shadows and more. We’ll explore how this new app works in the imaging performance section of the review.
Are there any compromises when you’re not getting the flagship model? Are they significant? Let’s take a look.
|Samsung Galaxy S23||Samsung Galaxy S23+|
A standardised look across the range
The biggest and most noticeable change externally is that there’s no more Contour Cut raised camera housing hugging the lenses. It looks almost identical to the S23 Ultra, with each camera protruding individually from the body.
Love it or hate it, Samsung has started to ensure that the rear of their phones looks congruent, from the flagship S23 Ultra to the budget Galaxy A series phones.
Durability was improved slightly, however. While the frame is still made of aluminium, the glass front and back are now using Gorilla Glass Victus 2 instead of Gorilla Glass Victus+, which Corning said can better survive drops onto concrete while still maintaining the same level of scratch resistance as Gorilla Glass Victus.
The display panel sizes are pretty much the same as before, 6.1-inches for the S23 and 6.6-inches for the S23+. Both models have an FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, supports HDR10+ and can reach a peak brightness of 1,750 nits. Both S23 and S23+ come with flat displays, unlike the S23 Ultra’s curved edges, which can be a crucial differentiator subject to your display appetite.
Viewing content on both phones is an enjoyable experience with their rich and vivid colours. Their 120Hz refresh rates also help with web browsing and gaming, making graphics and scrolling through websites buttery smooth.
In the hand, both 2023 models feel almost identical to last year’s S22 series. There’s still IP68-rated dust and water resistance on both, so there’s absolutely no problem when bringing these phones out and about with you to the beach or pool.
These phones have a wide variety of colour options and are the same choices across both the S23 and S23+. There’s Lavender (which we have here with the S23) and Cream (which we have on the S23+). There are also Phantom Black, Green, Lime and Graphite colourways. The Lavender and Cream colours are gorgeous, and we reckon the Lime would be just as fun for people who prefer a hue beyond the standard black or grey colours for phones.
Another big difference between these two models and the S23 Ultra is that there’s no S Pen support.
The stereo speakers on both models are decent for games and videos, but you’ll want to invest in a pair of earbuds for when you’re in the mood for some music.
Zoom in and… Enhance
We’ve reviewed most of the new Samsung’s One UI 5.1 software in our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review, so we won’t repeat them here.
One cool new app that Samsung released after the phones’ launch window is the Galaxy Enhance X app. Samsung said it’s still in beta (at the time of publishing) and only available for the S23 lineup. However, the company has mentioned it’ll be coming to the S22 series and other A series Samsung phones in the future.
Five main features come with Enhance X: Magic, HDR, Upscale, Moiré and Shadow Removal.
Magic is your foolproof, all-in-one magic button. It detects noise, blurriness, loss of detail, low-light conditions and more, using AI to try and fix it all.
HDR, as the name implies, analyses the highlights, shadows and contrast before adjusting each component to create a more vivid photo with a greater dynamic range.
Upscale is the option for compressed images. The app is supposedly able to upscale the resolution up to 4x for images under 1MP and remove compression noise.
If you’ve ever taken a photo of your television or computer monitor, you’ll be no stranger to those wavy lines called moiré. The Moiré option here removes those wavy lines from the image.
Lastly, Shadow Removal identifies and removes shadows from photos that might obscure the main subject.
Let’s get to how it all comes together with the hardware.
As mentioned, Samsung kept the 50MP main camera on the rear for the S23 and S23+ instead of bumping it up to the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP, which is a bit of a shame. Fortunately, increasing the megapixel count may not matter much to most people who use their photos for social media. Digitally, it’s not that big an issue to me.
There’s the same 12MP ultra-wide camera (f/2.2 aperture,1.4µm, 120˚ FOV) and the 10MP telephoto lens (f/2.4 aperture, 1.0µm) and, the phones are still using the Dual Pixel PDAF from before. Both phones can pixel-bin to a 12MP image with their primary camera, resulting in better performance under low-light conditions.
Main camera standard shots (pixel-binned 12MP)
Taken straight out of the camera and pixel-binned to 12MP, the shots have the hallmarks typical of Samsung, with vibrant colours and decent detail retention. Under low-light conditions, the Nightography mode does a very good job of brightening the image.
Main camera 50MP shots
You get more pixels and detail retention here, but again, it’s rare to require the full 50MP if you’re just using these photos for social media.
The ultrawide camera is pretty serviceable on both the S23 and S23+ with their 13mm focal length giving you plenty of space to capture subjects, while being light on distortion.
3x optical zoom
The optical zoom caps out at 3x on the S23 and S23+, instead of the 10x that the S23 Ultra has. They are still serviceable and sufficient for tighter shots on a subject.
Nightography (aka Night Mode)
Samsung’s Nightography has certainly improved over the years, and there’s a marked difference in the shadows when Nightography is enabled versus when it’s not. The downside is that the phone needs to be held still for 1 to 3 seconds, depending on how dark the scene is, while multiple exposures are taken and stitched together. So, if there are moving subjects, this won’t be very useful.
New Enhance X app
Let’s now get into Enhance X.
First, the Magic function. I purposely took a blurry shot of this bowl of oxtail stew to see how the app would fix it. After enabling the Magic function, it noticeably sharpened up the image while bumping up its saturation and contrast. If you don’t need additional tweaks beyond fixing blur, there’s an alternate Fix Blur option that allows control over the rest of the photo editing process.
As for HDR, there are five levels you can choose from. The fifth level is too exaggerated for my taste. Levels One and Two offer very decent boosts while not making the image too artificial or overly edited.
Upscale is a tad bit redundant as most photos nowadays look decent even after compression, but we did try it out by compressing an image that was initially 4,000 x 3,000 resolution and 3MB large into a 1.18MB image, and compressing it further to 640 x 480 before throwing it at the Galaxy Enhance X app. Under the download button on the top left, there’s the option to rescale the resolution by 4x, up to 2,560 x 1,920.
The upscaler makes some details look slightly sharper and less pixelated, but parts of the photo also looked smudged. After all, you can only do so much when the AI is working with such limited detail.
Moiré works very, very well and if you need to take photos of screens regularly, this is an excellent tool to make the moiré lines much less noticeable.
Shadow removal is also decent as it mitigates the darkest parts of the shadow, although it’s still visible.