Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Is good enough really good enough?
Overview, Design, Imaging Quality
Note: This review was first published on 28 November 2023.
Fan Edition returns
After skipping a generation, Samsung has returned with the Galaxy S23 FE, offering the same enticing proposition of flagship-level features at a much more affordable price.
Starting from S$888 (128GB), the S23 FE offers features like a 50MP main camera, a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x display that goes up to 1,450 nits max brightness and supports up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, as well as a 4,500mAh battery that supports Samsung’s 25W Super Fast Charging.
To keep it under S$1,000, Samsung scaled back some components. The biggest elephant in the room is the in-house Exynos 2200 chip instead of a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, as well as only having 8GB of RAM along with limited 128GB and 256GB storage options.
TL;DR: A good phone for those on a budget who still want some flagship features. Power users may not be excited for its Exynos 2200 chip.
Do those limitations diminish the performance of the Galaxy S23 FE? Is the phone still a good bargain for people who are on a budget and don’t require all of the latest and greatest bells and whistles? Let’s take a look.
|Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Looks just like its flagship Galaxy S
The Galaxy S23 FE looks incredibly similar to the flagship S23 and S23+ models, with the only noticeable changes including its repositioned rear flash module and the switch to matte rails instead of shiny ones (which looks more preferable to me).
Unfortunately, the rails feel rather slippery, so I recommend using a phone case to protect your phone in case it falls out of your hands.
The volume rocker and power buttons are all on the right side of the phone. It’s easy enough to activate with the press of the thumb or finger without having to stretch.
On the front, Samsung has had to take a small downgrade on the glass, using Gorilla Glass 5 instead of Gorilla Glass Victus on the S21 FE. However, Samsung has changed the back plate to Gorilla Glass 5 instead of using plastic like the S21 FE, which makes the S23 FE feel more premium in hand.
The display remains unchanged at 6.4 inches, with the same Dynamic AMOLED 2x screen that supports a 120Hz refresh rate, although it only goes between 60-120Hz instead of being able to drop down to 1Hz to conserve battery like a true flagship would be able to. There’s also HDR10+ support, and videos and other content are generally crisp and vibrant regardless of whether you choose the Vivid or Natural display options.
Our mint green colour is an understated, nice pastel shade, with other colourways in the lineup like Tangerine, Indigo and Purple offering a brighter pop of vibrance.
Unfortunately, the rails aren’t colour-matched, so you’ll always have the same silver aluminium sides no matter which variant you choose.
The phone does come with IP68 dust and water resistance so there’s plenty of protection whether you’re planning on bringing the S23 FE to the beach or the pool. Also, S$888 with IP68 protection is a plus point in our books.
We’ve covered Samsung’s One UI 5.1 in both our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 reviews, so we won’t go over it again. One thing we have to point out is the odd omission of support for Samsung’s Galaxy Enhance X app, which provides some cool photo editing features.
Because the app is supposed to be supported by Galaxy A-series phones, we’re guessing that the Galaxy S23 FE series might get support in the future as well. If it doesn't, well, that's quite an oversight by Samsung.
Samsung also promises four years of software updates and five years of security updates, making the S23 FE’s lifespan similar to that of the flagship S23 phones.
With a triple camera array on the rear, the Galaxy S23 FE has received some new updates in this area.
It has a new 50MP main camera (f/1.9 aperture, PDAF, OIS. 1.0µm). The phone also has an 8MP telephoto (f/2.4 aperture, PDAF, OIS, 1.0µm) with 3x optical zoom and a 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2 aperture, 123˚ FOV, 1.12µm).
The main camera's sensor is the same one found on the Galaxy S22, S23 and S23+, so while it’s not top-of-the-line, it does provide the same vibrant photos that Samsung is known for while retaining a good amount of detail and sharpness.
The 50MP un-pixel-binned images come out a little less processed, which means there’s more leeway for editing if you prefer. These do take up more storage space, however, so you’ll have to be mindful as the Galaxy S23 FE only comes with 128GB or 256GB storage, which can fill up very quickly with 50MP images.
The ultra-wide lens works well with Samsung minimising the fish-eye distortion effect so it’s rare to really catch any major distortion in images. It does struggle slightly with dark foliage at night, but generally, ultra-wide images from this phone still retain detail and pleasant colours.
The 3x optical zoom on the telephoto lens is also surprisingly good, with great rendering and excellent colours, although you do start losing detail and noise is introduced in shaded areas of the image, but all in all, the photos out of the telephoto lens are very usable.
Night mode also works well, as is usually the case with Samsung phones. I did find the saturation boost a little overdone for my liking. Even without night mode turned on, the Galaxy S23 FE can do a good job in boosting image brightness, as long as there’s a decent enough amount of light present.