Samsung’s Galaxy S23 FE – a mid-price marvel with prestige features

October 29, 2023
3 mins read
Start
10/10

Summary

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

PAT PILCHER spends quality time with Samsung’s new mid-price Galaxy phone and discovers that it offers more than just bang for buck.

$1099

It’s been over a year since Samsung launched a Fan Edition (FE) phone. Now they’re back with the Galaxy S23 FE. It’s no secret that Witchdoctor rates Samsung’s A-Series phones (read about them here). After all, the Galaxy A54 is one of the better affordable mid-range smartphones currently available. So why launch the Galaxy S23 FE? Is there a place for it in Samsung’s lineup? Is it any good? Stick around, and we’ll dish up the good oil for your reading pleasure.

It might be affordable, but the Galaxy S23 FE isn’t wanting in the features department. It has decent cameras, an IP68 water-resistant rating, a zippy Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU, and fast charging/wireless charging.

While the Galaxy S23 FE is priced to sit between the Galaxy A54 and Galaxy S23, Samsung’s logic gives buyers on a budget wanting Galaxy S23-like performance over the A54 a decent option, but without having to sell their firstborn.

 


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The Galaxy 23 FE comes in four different colour options: mint, purple, cream and graphite. On the storage front, you can get either 128GB or 256GB, which is ample for anyone with a big media collection. Design-wise, it bears more than a passing resemblance to its upmarket sibling, the Galaxy S23. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed not to mistake it for that model owing to its alloy frame and Gorilla Glass front and back. The Galaxy S23 FE feels great and seems solidly constructed while featuring an IP68 water-resistant construction (just like the S23), an improvement over the Galaxy A54 and most other similarly priced mid-range phones.

The show’s star is the 6.4″ AMOLED display that delivers vivid colours, wide viewing angles and decent contrast levels. The display looks as crisp and vivid as its counterpart on the far pricier Galaxy S23. Samsung also won brownie points for equipping the phone with the same silky smooth 120Hz refresh rate you’d typically get with far costlier models. The front shooter’s tiny cut-out is also thoughtfully done: it’s subtle and doesn’t stick out like a set of dog balls. This also applies to the suitably thin screen bezels. For use under direct sunlight, the FE’s display remained perfectly visible.

Speaking of shooters, it also appears the FE keeps what works with the Galaxy S23 photography-wise. The FE has a triple camera setup on its rear. This consists of a main 50MP shooter, a 12MP ultrawide snapper and an 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom. A dedicated optical zoom camera is a luxurious and unexpected addition to a mid-range phone. More often than not, most vendors use a third camera for a macro shooter and rely on digital zoom.

While capable, the camera setup is good but not outstanding. This became apparent when shooting in low light, which saw colours becoming a tad washed out and images looking a little over-processed. That said, its video chops give you 4K video at 30fps and 1080p at up to 240fps and, unexpectedly, I can also shoot 8K video. Equally compelling, Samsung has added a manual mode for photos/video, slow-mo, hyper lapse and director’s view, just like the Galaxy S23. These capabilities are not what you’d typically expect at this price point.

If you’re a Samsung user, the good news is that S23 FE’s UI will be instantly familiar. This comes down to the FE running Samsung’s One UI skin over Android 13. All told, the UI feels refined, elegant and, above all, intuitive. Keeping everything running smoothly is the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU used in the Galaxy S22. It might not be the latest in silicon, but it packs enough power for anything you’re likely to do with the FE – and some. This translated into no glitches, stutters or pauses and smooth gameplay. A large vapour chamber helps keep things cool when running demanding apps and games. Given the $1099 sticker price, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU is a pleasant bonus. Before its launch, it was expected to be powered by lesser and more affordable silicon.

Keeping everything running is a 4,500 mAh battery, which delivered a day’s heavy use and still had 15% in the tank as my head hit the pillow and I drifted off to the land of nod. When it comes to recharging, the S23 FE has 25W wired charging that took it from 0 to 50% charged in just over 30 minutes. An unexpected bonus, however, was the inclusion of wireless charging, which niar phones at this price point omit.

With fancy pants innovation no longer happening every week when it comes to smartphones, the Galaxy S23 FE gives consumers a good reason to get excited by giving them more choices in Samsung’s lineup. Where most mid-rangers tend to arrive at their sticker price by tossing out features and specs, Samsung seems to have the balance between price and spec just right. If you want near-flagship performance without selling your firstborn, it’s a solid choice.

https://www.samsung.com/nz/smartphones/galaxy-s/galaxy-s23-fe-cream-128gb-sm-s711bzwbxnz/

 

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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