The S23 FE is Samsung’s value flagship smartphone that comes with impressive cameras, a modern design and almost-flagship-level performance.
It takes the best features from the S23 and the S23+ and I have enjoyed using it for the past month and here’s my review.
Before that, here’s what you get in the box:
- sim ejector tool
- a USB-C to USB-C charging cable
The S23 FE has the same sleek design as the flagship S23 series – at least the S23 and the S23+. It sits between a reasonable size – coming at 6.4-inches. While its siblings pack slimmer bezels, the S23 FE has a sizeable amount around the screen like its midrange cousin, the Galaxy A54. I had no issue with it but this is where you start noticing Samsung’s compromises.
The back has the same floating camera island as the S23 series. It’s made of glass with Gorilla Glass 5 protection instead of Victus 2. My only gripe is that this is a glossy back instead of matte and it picked a lot of fingerprints and smudges so you’ll want to slap a case to avoid this and also to help you with grip as it slides a lot.
My unit came in Graphite Black but you can choose among other colours – Purple, Mint and Cream.
The SIM card and MicroSD card slot are on the top with the secondary microphone on the opposite end. It has an aluminium frame with the right side sporting the volume rocker and power button while nothing is on the left side.
At the bottom, you’ll find the USB-C port, the dual primary microphones and the bottom-facing speaker. There’s no headphone jack.
There’s face unlock and an under-display fingerprint reader which, unlike the S23’s ultrasonic sensor, this one is optical. Both functioned well for quickly accessing my phone.
The phone is IP68 rated.
The front is dominated by a 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support, Vision Booster and up to 1500 nits peak brightness. This is a reasonable size for the screen and it was bright enough when I was out and about. It is protected by Gorilla Glass 5.
When it comes to consuming multimedia content, the S23 FE’s screen and Dolby-Atmos-tuned speakers are excellent. The display is stunning, with punchy hues and sharp contrast and I enjoyed binging the latest Horror flicks.
Its fast refresh rate is handy not only for gaming but also for interacting with the phone’s interface, scrolling social media feeds and browsing the web.
The speakers are really the best – they are loud without the distortion when the volume is increased. I could clearly listen to Taylor’s latest album – 1989(Taylor’s Version) with no complaints while I was in the shower. I enjoyed listening to podcasts and other playlists as well.
The triple microphones come through for crisp phone calls.
Overall, I liked the build quality of the S23 FE.
Samsung opts for the Exynos 2200 chipset to power the phone for the international versions of the S23 FE instead of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. This is an indication that the upcoming S24 series will see us get the Exynos 2400 processor instead of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.
You also get 8GB of onboard RAM, 8GB of virtual RAM and 128GB of storage. The S23 FE also ships with Android 13 and OneUI 5.1 with Samsung promising four years of Android OS upgrades and five years of security updates.
While it is less powerful than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy in the S23 series, I didn’t notice any slowdowns with real-world performance.
It’s snappy with multitasking – swiping between apps is a breeze. Playing games was smooth – no frames were dropped even in their highest graphic settings. It could get warm during long sessions and that’s where the vapour chamber comes in to help cool the phone – it’s worth noting that it’s larger than the one found in the base S23.
The performance is really good overall and the software support Samsung has in store for the S23 FE makes it an easy pick.
The S23 FE has a bigger 4500mAh battery compared to the 3900mAh of the S23. Charging speed is capped at 25W wired, 15W wireless and 4.5W reverse wireless. It’s not the fastest but you can easily top up to 50% in half an hour.
With regular use, you can go a day with full charge. I was getting on average 7 hours of screen-on-time. Most people are going to get through with a full day of use.
The S23 FE has the same 50MP primary camera with OIS and VDIS(advanced digital image stabilization) as the S23 with an 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom and a 12MP ultrawide.
It also comes with a 10MP selfie camera.
The S23 FE can record up to 8K 24fps video with the main cameras and 4K 60fps with the front-facing camera. The Gallery app has nice additions such as object eraser, colour correction and filters to use.
Overall, the camera system is impressive with quick processing. The photos looked outstanding whether during the day or at night – sharp, well-detailed, with deep contrast and colourful with a nice dynamic range. Selfies are really good and the S23 FE handles bokeh really well.
The videos were impressive, especially on lowlight – so you’ll want to get this phone during your night outs as I did – taking videos(and photos) of Kenyan Swifties having the time of our lives dancing and singing during and after the Eras Tour screening.
Here are some samples:
WIDE AND ZOOM SHOTS
If the high price of the S23 did put you off from purchasing a unit, then the affordability of the S23 FE will entice you. It packs the power and performance of the S23 series with minor compromises to put it right under the 100K price mark. The build and design are impressive and the flagship quality camera performance is impeccable.
One other thing most of you will be asking is if you should wait for the S24 and my answer is that it’ll be rather a long wait and the phone will still be pricier with similar or slight changes to the S23.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is going for Ksh 97,999 and Ksh 105,999 for the 128GB and 256GB storage versions respectively at Samsung’s official retail stores countrywide.
Purchasing one gets you Galaxy Buds FE wireless earbuds for free and Samsung Care+(Register within the first 30 days of purchase) with 1 year of free screen replacement.