Premium feel to a more budget-friendy handset.
Hands on review with the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Samsung is back again this year introducing the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE. The 'Fan Edition' range began in 2020, offering a stripped down version of the Galaxy S flagships introduced earlier in the year.
After skipping the S22 FE, the S23 FE is a return to this formula focusing mostly on delivering Galaxy camera quality at a sub-$1000 pricepoint. We got the chance to have a play with the device before release its release on October 12th - these are our initial thoughts.
Camera set-up: This time around Samsung has drastically upped the MP count on the FE's lenses. Where the S21 FE had a 12MP+8MP+12MP set up, the S23 FE boasts 50MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, and 8MP telephoto. The biggest upgrade is on the primary lens, bringing it up from 12MP to 50MP - and on par with the S23 flagship.
A MP count isn't everything when it comes to photography, but generally more MP means more detail. In initial tests the S23 FE took clear shots with a good amount of clarity and detail to them. These were taken in a well-lit room however, so we can't be sure how the camera set up will perform in low light conditions.
According to Samsung, the handset will have all the fixens of its flagship's Nightography, 3x telephoto zoom, and 30x Space Zoom.
Premium look and feel: Despite the price-tag, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE doesn't look or feel like a cheaper device. It shares much of it's design DNA with the S-Series flagships, including the aluminium frame, and circular lens frames in leiu of a looming camera-bump.
On the rear, the S23 FE opts for a coloured glass finish which comes in a range of pastel colours. My personal favourite Tangerine which is reminicent of the OPPO Find X2 Pro, but you'll also find the device in Graphite, Cream, Mint, Indigo, and Purple.
While it doesn't feel as nice in the hand as say the new iPhone 15, it doesn't have the trademarks of a cheap phone.
Ray Tracing: Mobile gaming has been pushed to the front of phone announcements, and the S23 FE is no different. Along with the 6.4-inch AMOLED display, Samsung announced that the budget device has Ray Tracing.
Whether the Exynos 2200 processor will be able to handle the power needed for mobile gaming that utilise the rendering technique is yet to be seen. According to Nanoreview.net, the Exynos scores a 75/100 for Gaming Performance, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (seen in the Samsung S23 proper) gets full marks. Regardless, the forethought makes the S23 FE more future proof as Ray Tracing makes its way further into the mobile experience.
Good value: Phones are getting more expensive, so any sub-$1000 option is a win in my books.
Not enough price disparity between other models: Affordable handsets are absolutely crucial, especially with the cozzie lives but the S23 FE doesn't quite make its case well enough.
Samsung announced the Galaxy S23 line up in February this year, and since then the whole series have experienced a range of promotional discounts. Right now, the 128GB S23 is going for just $1,098 on a plan with Vodafone. That is only $99 more expensive than the S23 FE. Of course this discount isn't everywhere, but when you can pick up the flagship device for under $100 more, it makes it difficult to justify the sacrifices.
This is not a comment on the S23 FE though, more on the Samsung release schedule. I'd hazard a guess that the S23 FE would be a more compelling sell if it came out alongside the rest of the S-series in Q1. But then again, Samsung wouldn't have anything to release alongside Apple.
There are still a lot of unknowns about the Samsung S23 FE, but the outlook on the device is good. From our initial hands-on we anticipate solid camera performance, but we'll have to wait and see on the rest.
Our full review will take a closer look at how the camera set-up fares in all conditions, battery life, and how the Exynos 2200 processor handles gaming and day-to-day use. For now however, if you're looking for a new Samsung it is worth exploring the deals going on the S23 flagship series before ordering the FE. While $999 is a good price for the specs stacking up in the S23 Fan Edition, if you can get the S23 proper for just $99 extra then it is the better buy.
How much does the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE cost?
In Australia, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE starts at $999 for the 128GB model. Upgrading to the 256GB version will set you back an extra $100. Check out the widget below for a round of the cheapest postpaid mobile plans for the device.