Samsung’s Galaxy S-series flagships have evolved considerably over the past years, and with the latest S23 series, Samsung has tried to refine its flagships as much as possible. The smallest phone in the lineup, called the Galaxy S23, succeeds the Galaxy S22 from last year with a bigger battery and a more powerful chipset. However, as Samsung confined itself within the boundaries of refinement or is the Galaxy S23 more than a refined Galaxy S22? Let’s try to reach a conclusion to this question in our review of the Samsung Galaxy S23.
Galaxy S23: In-hand Feel, Speakers & Haptics
Last year, we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S22 alongside the Plus model, where we thought that the devices feel extremely premium in hand and the Galaxy S23 is no different. The in-hand feel of the Galaxy S23 is actually quite identical to last year’s S23, as the footprint of the device remains the same. The flatter sides help with grip, while the compact form factor further instils confidence when using the device single-handedly.
The buttons have a tactile feel while the haptics remains identical to last year’s model, which is to say they are strong and one of the best on any Android flagship. The stereo speakers now have a fuller sound with a slightly more hint of bass. They sound louder to me, with better mids and lows.
The rear design of the Galaxy S23 and S23+ has now been changed to stand in line with Galaxy S23 Ultra’s design. This brings more uniformity to the lineup. However, I liked the Galaxy S22’s design better because it stood out more due to the separate camera array, but S23’s design doesn’t look bad either. The Lavender colour we got looked like pink in bright light but is overall a subtle colour which looks decent. The device is IP68 water and dust resistant as well.
Galaxy S23: Display
The Galaxy S23 has a display identical to last year, which is a 6.1-inch FHD+ (2,340 x 1,080) AMOLED screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate. It supports HDR10+, has a pixel density of 422 PPI, and is covered in a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The refresh rate of the display can change dynamically between 48 Hz and 120 Hz.
Apart from the increased strength of the display, it stays identical to its predecessor. The display doesn’t look too different from last year’s Galaxy S22 and is bright and vivid. It gets 1750 nits of peak brightness, which is enough for outdoor use even when it’s extremely bright. The refresh rate is in line with what the competitors are offering, and overall, Samsung once again shines with its forte, which is the company’s display panels.
One more design aspect I would like to point out is the presence of symmetrical bezels. While they may not be as important to people, they do elevate the front design of the device and are a treat to look at, especially because they are thin while being symmetrical.
Galaxy S23: Performance & Software
The Samsung Galaxy S23 is powered by the ‘Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor. The terms ‘for Galaxy’ indicate that the processor has been overclocked especially for the Galaxy S23 series, for better optimisation and smoother performance. Fortunately, this has worked well for Samsung.
In terms of performance, the Galaxy S23 remains the smoothest Samsung smartphone I have used after Galaxy Z Flip4. Even with the Flip4, which is my daily driver, I do face frame rate stutters in general animations, but there’s no such thing with the Galaxy S23. The animations are buttery smooth, and there has been no lag of sorts.
You can throw anything at the Galaxy S23, and it will handle those tasks without a hiccup. OneUI still remains one of my favourite Android skins after stock Android on the Pixel series, and with OneUI 5.1, Samsung has gone a level ahead. The optimisations are done really well, and there are a good amount of features onboard.
From Good Lock’s Camera Assistant, which can remove shutter lag in the camera app, to the Theme editor, you can customize almost each and every element of the software. Bixby Routines work well to automate certain actions, such as turning off the Wi-fi at night and turning it back on automatically in the morning. Samsung has confirmed you would get four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches.
As for gaming performance, the S23 doesn’t disappoint at all. The Galaxy S22, due to its smaller footprint and less surface area to dissipate heat, didn’t achieve an efficient performance when gaming on high graphics, which made it heat more often. Hence, throttling occurred. However, now, due to a better heat dissipation system and a more efficient processor, the Galaxy S23 can easily sustain demanding performance for longer periods.
Galaxy S23: Battery Life
The Galaxy S23 packs a 3,900mAh battery and offers 25W wired and 15W wireless charging with reverse wireless charging support. Compared to Galaxy S22, the Galaxy S23 has a 200mAh bigger battery. While the S22’s battery backup was decent, the S23’s battery backup is exceptional for a battery this size.
The Galaxy S23 can easily last you more than a day with moderate to light usage, such as watching a few videos, browsing through social media, some texting and calling. You can get close to 6 hours easily when it comes to screen-on time.
However, with heavy use, such as while using maps or when gaming, you can kill it before the day ends. Overall, the Galaxy S23 performs impressively when it comes to battery life.
With charging speed, though, it remains the same as Galaxy S23’s predecessor. While the Galaxy S22 took around 1h 17m from 0 to 100 percent, the Galaxy S23 took 1h 10m from 4 to 100 percent which is decent but not the best, as other flagships, support considerably faster charging speeds. 15W wireless charging takes more than 1.5 hours to charge from empty to full.
Galaxy S23: Cameras
The Galaxy S23 comprises a 50MP primary wide camera with f/1.8 aperture, multi-directional PDAF and OIS. Then there’s a 10MP telephoto sensor with 3x Optical Zoom support, an f/3.4 aperture, OIS, and PDAF and a 12MP ultra-wide sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree FoV. It has a 12MP f/2.2 front-facing camera.
Now, last year’s S22 came out with some of the best pictures, and once again, the S23 carries on the legacy of Samsung’s great cameras on the S-series devices.
The primary camera outputs some of the sharpest photos with vivid colour tones and accurate detailing. Exposure is well handled by the phone, however, do not expect a colour science that is leaned more towards natural tones. In any case, the contrasty photos work well for Samsung alongside impressive dynamic range.
The wide-angle photos from the Galaxy S23 are again sharp enough and the colours do not deviate much compared to those from the main sensor. In low lighting, the sharpness and detailing do take a slight hit, but it’s manageable. In broad daylight and under good lighting, the wide-angle sensor doesn’t disappoint by any means, be it details, sharpness, or colours.
Portrait shots from the telephoto sensor are again excellent. The camera identifies the subject quickly, and the bokeh effect looks natural with impressive edge detection. Colours look very vivid and bright, the same as those from the main sensor, so that consistency is maintained.
Shots with 3x optical zoom look filled with details as expected. However, you shouldn’t expect much from the 30x zoom as it is unusable in most cases considering the poor quality of the photo.
Shots under low lighting look more than decent until you start zooming in and begin pixel-peeping. I feel they could have had more details and could have been less noisy. Under artificial lighting, details and sharpness is maintained with natural colours, thereby outputting satisfactory shots.
In night shots, the Galaxy S23 is capable enough to get you the shot you need. Exposure is decent, and once again, details are maintained well for my liking. With night mode on, I wouldn’t say there was a drastic difference in terms of details but the colour tones did change quite a bit with the photo getting slightly brighter.
Lastly, the selfies from the 12MP sensor are more detailed than last year’s 10MP sensor. I also wanted Samsung to improve the colour tones with selfies, and they seem to have delivered on that part. The bokeh effect in portraits is also the same as last year’s, which is to say perfect. The sharpness and minute details in the shot are consistent.
What can be said for the 2023 phone is that it’s a rocket, and it’s not surprising with such mobilespecs because it has the top-end gen2 dragon on board, which actually finally bribed me when choosing a new device. The most noticeable improvement is the fingerprint. Here it works many times faster and, most importantly, does not shine a bright cold light directly into your eyes when you try to unlock it. Unfortunately, it allows you to register only 4 prints.