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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Should you buy it?

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Should you buy it?

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The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE retains most of what makes the Galaxy S23 a good phone, like the triple-lens camera array and refined aluminum and glass construction. It isn’t as compact, and the processor gets hotter, but it’s a good enough value at $600.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: At a glance

  • What is it? The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a budget offering in the Galaxy S23 family, which makes a few hardware changes in order to hit a lower price point. It has a 6.4-inch 1080p OLED screen, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, and 8GB of RAM.
  • What is the price? The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE retails for $599.99 or $629.99 if purchased from Samsung directly.
  • Where can you buy it? You can purchase the Galaxy S23 FE from Samsung, Best Buy, or Amazon in unlocked form. There are also carrier versions for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular.
  • How did we test it? I tested the Galaxy S23 FE for two weeks. The review unit was supplied by Samsung.
  • Is it worth it? The Galaxy S23 FE is a fairly unremarkable sub-flagship Android phone, but it’s a good buy for Samsung fans who can’t justify the cost of the Galaxy S23. The FE variant gets you almost all the same features for $200 less.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE?

Galaxy S23 FE in hand

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

A quick glance will tell you the Galaxy S23 FE is a Galaxy S phone — Samsung just cut a couple of corners to keep the price down. It’s got the same general shape, camera design, and button placement as the other S23 phones. Like those devices, the S23 FE has an aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass on both the front and back. However, it’s Gorilla Glass 5 instead of the latest Victus 2, as seen on the S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra. It’s a well built phone overall that feels good in the hand, but it’s a shame we’re not getting more modern Corning glass when the similarly-priced Pixel 7 and Pixel 8 both have first-gen Victus protection.

Yes, the S23 FE is IP68 rated just like the rest of the S23 family.

One place you’ll notice the cut corners is, well, the corners. There’s a lot more space around the screen on this phone compared to the more expensive S23 phones. This wasted space makes the device larger than it needs to be — the S23 FE has a 6.4-inch display, but it’s slightly larger and heavier than the Galaxy S23 Plus with its 6.6-inch screen. I was also far more aware of the front-facing camera. There’s a reflective ring around the lens, which makes it stand out from the surrounding screen. That’s not the case with the other S23 phones. You also get stereo speakers (one bottom-firing and the other in the earpiece) that sound passable. There’s essentially no bass, but the sound is crisp until you push the volume almost to the max.

The S23 FE has a 6.4-inch display, but it’s slightly larger and heavier than the Galaxy S23 Plus with its 6.6-inch screen.

The OLED panel itself isn’t quite up to the standard set by the other members of the S23 family, but that’s not surprising, as displays are one of the most expensive smartphone components. The resolution is still good at 1,080 x 2,340, and the FE retains a 120Hz refresh rate. However, the brightness tops out at 1,450 nits, several hundred lower than the Galaxy S23. The S23 FE’s screen does look more dim and reflective outdoors compared to the more expensive models, but it’s still readable. There’s also a fingerprint sensor under the display, but it’s not the fancy ultrasonic variety. Instead, it’s a cheaper optical sensor. The speed is fine, but I saw more false negatives than most other phones I’ve tested with optical sensors.

Galaxy S23 FE fingerprint sensor

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

In day-to-day use, the S23 FE felt more than fast enough to me. It’s running a flagship processor, but it’s not the latest model, with Samsung instead sticking with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 from the Galaxy S22 series. The Gen 1 is still a very fast chip, at least at first. We already know from our extensive testing that this processor tends to overheat under sustained load, causing performance to tank. In a 20-minute 3DMark Wild Life GPU stress test, the S23 FE shed almost half of its speed due to thermal throttling. Qualcomm addressed this drawback with the TSMC-made Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 in mid-2022, but Samsung opted for the hotter (and probably cheaper) chip for the S23 FE.

The Galaxy S23 FE comes out of the box with Android 13 and One UI 5.1, the same software that runs on the other S23 devices. This phone has a capable processor, so Samsung didn’t have to skip any of its signature software features. You’ll find the DeX desktop mode (wireless and wired), multi-window, automatic hotspot, and more. Samsung’s Android software is more streamlined than it once was, but the menus are still cluttered, and there are some duplicative Samsung apps pre-loaded. There are also a few third-party apps like LinkedIn and Facebook that you may want to uninstall.

The Galaxy S23 FE’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 tends to overheat under sustained load, causing performance to tank.

The Galaxy S23 FE will get the Android 14-based One UI 6 update as part of Samsung’s four-year OTA commitment, but it won’t get the update at the same time as other S23 phones. There’s a beta for Android 14 on the Galaxy S23 right now, but as the S23 FE runs a different chip, Samsung will have to develop a separate update. Nevertheless, Samsung’s update policy remains among the best in the business, albeit now behind Google in the Android world.

Galaxy S23 FE back purple

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

With a 4,500mAh battery, the S23 FE will make it through a day without trouble. I managed around five or six hours of screen time using the S23 FE heavily before it needed to go on the charger. The 25W wired charging isn’t particularly fast in 2023, but it’s the same you get on the base Galaxy S23 (which has a smaller battery). You have to step up to the Plus or Ultra to get 45W charging.

Yes, it can charge at up to 15W with a Samsung-approved wireless charger.

Samsung’s previous FE phones took a big step down in camera quality, but the S23 FE only loses a bit compared to the rest of the S23 lineup. The 50MP primary and 12MP ultrawide cameras are identical to the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus, but the 3x telephoto steps down from 10MP to 8MP, and the selfie camera is 10MP instead of 12MP. Since you have the same primary sensor as the Galaxy S23, this phone shoots up to 8K video at 24 fps. It looks as good as the more expensive phone’s video, which is to say it’s better than the majority of Android phones.

Galaxy S23 FE side

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Photos captured with the S23 FE’s primary and ultrawide cameras look as good as those shot on the Galaxy S23. The main camera bins shots to 12.5MP, captures images quickly, and retains good detail. However, the S23 FE seems a little more prone to over-brightening images, which blows out details in brighter areas. Zoom shots that use the telephoto camera can come out blurry if not shot in bright light, probably due to the lack of optical stabilization for that lens, which the more expensive S23 has. That said, very few phones in this price tier even have a dedicated telephoto lens.

You can check out full-res samples at this Drive link.

For $599, it’s hard to complain about what you get with the S23 FE. But while you can get the S23 FE for that price from Samsung’s carrier partners, Samsung is selling the device for $630. It’s still a good enough deal in spite of the arbitrary hike, but it’s also getting perilously close to the Pixel 8, which has an improved OLED display, Google’s more elegant take on Android, and captures better photos.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FESamsung Galaxy S23 FE

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Slightly larger than S23 • Good size battery • Competitively priced

More than just a Fan Edition

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE landed as more than just a slimmed down S23, it’s a fourth size phone in the line. With a 6.4-inch display, it’s larger than the S23, but smaller than the S23 Plus. Running the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, this phone offers few compromises over the S23 for a decent cost savings.

What are the best Samsung Galaxy S23 FE alternatives?

Galaxy S23 FE comparison

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE (bottom left) versus the Google Pixel 8, Samsung Galaxy S23, and Motorola Razr

The S23 FE retails for $600-630, depending on where you buy it, and it’s not the only option in this near-flagship price range. Below are the top picks we’d suggest instead, but you can also head over to our dedicated S23 FE alternatives page to see more options.

  • Samsung Galaxy S23 ($799 at Amazon): The Galaxy S23 is a better version of the S23 FE with a faster, cooler processor, slightly improved cameras, and narrower bezels. However, it costs $200 more.
  • Google Pixel 8 ($699 at Amazon): Google offers a better camera experience on the Pixel 8, and the more elegant software will be kept up to date for an impressive seven years.
  • Motorola Razr (2023) ($699.99 at Amazon): The Motorola Razr has a larger 6.9-inch OLED screen, and when you’re not using it, the phone folds in half. The camera isn’t as good, though.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE specs

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Display

6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED
FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080)
120Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 5

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US)
or
Exynos 2200 (Global)

RAM

8GB

Storage

128GB or 256GB
No expandable storage

Battery and power

4,500mAh
25W wired charging
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
No charger in box

Cameras

Rear:
-50MP primary (ƒ1.8, OIS)
– 12MP ultrawide (ƒ2.2, 123-degree FoV)
– 8MP telephoto (ƒ2.4, 3x optical zoom)

Front:
– 10MP single (ƒ2.4)

Audio

No 3.5mm headphone jack

Security

In-display optical fingerprint sensor

Water-resistance

IP68 rating

Connectivity

Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
eSIM
Dual-SIM (varies by region)

Materials

Gorilla Glass 5 front
Metal frame
Gorilla Glass 5 back

Software

Android 13

Dimensions and weight

157.9 x 76.5 x 8.1mm
209g

Colors

Cream
Graphite
Indigo (Samsung exclusive)
Mint
Purple
Tangerine (Samsung exclusive)

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: FAQ

The S23 FE supports one physical nanoSIM and one eSIM.

No, the USB-C is the only port o this phone.

Yes, but it’s optical instead of ultrasonic like in the more expensive S23 devices.

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