ZDNET’s key takeaways
- The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE It is the company’s latest Android phone, featuring a 6.4-inch display, triple camera system and OneUI software.
- With a starting price of $599, it sits awkwardly between the similar Galaxy A54 5G ($449) and the more premium Galaxy S23 ($799).
- Users should consider the Galaxy S23 FE if they want a great-value Samsung phone that doesn’t compromise on finer things like IP rating, wireless charging, and software support.
I have been tested Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Over the past two weeks and I hate to admit how much of a struggle it has been to find the best buying advice.
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Don’t get me wrong, the $599 Android phone is a solid deal; It also has many of the best features on phones that cost twice as much. But its design feels uninspired, the late-year release feels like an afterthought, and Samsung no longer sticks to its “fan edition” branding, shedding some of the “for the people” sheen that launched the original model.
So, why does the Galaxy S23 FE exist? After much thought and several crazy walls, I’ve come up with the definitive list of why you should buy Samsung’s latest smartphone, even if it’s the company’s most confusing release this year.
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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
The company’s latest Galaxy phone doesn’t scream premium, but it packs enough features to put it a notch above the mid-range competition.
First let’s talk about the design. There are some elements to like, and some others that aren’t as interesting to me. For example, I love the flat, 6.4-inch AMOLED display that refreshes at 120Hz. This screen, in most lighting conditions, is more vibrant and bright than any other sub-$600 phone I’ve tested. And the absence of a curved display – something the industry as a whole seems to be finally moving away from – means applying a screen protector is much easier.
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On the other hand, the aluminum sides, while polished and seemingly durable enough to take a drop or two, don’t bend as smoothly into the back glass as I’d like. This makes the Galaxy S23 FE feel rougher around the edges, especially when pressed against your palm. The bezels are also outrageously thick for a 2023 phone, but I digress.
Speaking of durability, this model comes with a Gorilla Glass 5 front panel, a lower grade on paper than the Gorilla Glass Victus found on more expensive phones, but secretly better for everyday use.
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Because while Gorilla Glass 5 isn’t as shatterproof as its successor, the lower level of hardness means that the display is also less likely to get scratches and smudges. I may not drop my phone every day, but I keep it in my pants pocket to hold coins, keys, and other small trinkets that can leave marks on the screen.
Smartphone colors are getting boring, but not here. Samsung, like previous FE models, offers the Galaxy S23 FE in Cream, Graphite, Mint and Purple (pictured below). It’s more of a Barney-purple color than anything else and helps the device pop in a sea of dark-colored slabs. If you normally use your phone without a case — or with a clear TPU case — you’re in for a treat.
A $599 phone can only give you so much, and the compromises you should be aware of with the Galaxy S23 FE mainly come from the processor and camera system. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip powers the device and is capable enough to handle more demanding tasks like video editing and running game emulators.
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But, it only takes a few minutes before the phone starts heating up, causing frame rates to drop and apps to freeze. If Samsung had gone with a more power-efficient chipset, like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus that came out a few months after the 8 Gen 1, the Galaxy S23 FE would have been in a much better place.
As for the cameras, I’m mostly impressed by the 50MP main sensor, which captures surprisingly color-accurate photos and certainly passes the eye test. Shutter speed is also better than I expected, on par with the $900 iPhone 15 Plus and $1,700 OnePlus Open that I was testing at the time. Where the triple camera system falls short is in the 12MP ultrawide and 8MP telephoto lenses, both of which — as much as I enjoy the versatility — can’t produce as much detail and clarity as the main sensor.
ZDNET’s buying advice
In summary, here is the list of reasons why you should buy Galaxy S23 FEWith some extras that are subtle but make a significant difference:
- One of the best displays in the $600 sub-market, ideal for streaming and gaming on the go
- Gorilla Glass 5 is less useful for users who don’t drop their phones often but experience scratches and scrapes frequently.
- Mint and purple colors look boring on other phones.
- An IP68 rating and wireless charging support are often missing from phones in this price range. Not here.
- Samsung promises five years of security patches and four years of operating system updates.
That said, the Galaxy S23 sits within the FE Galaxy A54 And S23 Within the Samsung lineup, that doesn’t necessarily make either one less valuable. In fact, you’re more likely to find two older Samsung phones on sale this holiday shopping season than the S23 FE, which launched just a few weeks ago.
If retailers knock $100-$200 off the Galaxy S23 model, as they did during July’s Prime Day event, the S23 FE will be a tough sell — and Samsung has only itself to blame.