OnePlus 12R vs Galaxy S23 FE: Samsung has some serious competition to worry about

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OnePlus 12R vs Galaxy S23 FE

Intro


Mid-range phones are arguably the most interesting battleground in the smartphone market at the moment. This is where each manufacturer is striving to find the best balance between price and quality. This time we are comparing the OnePlus 12R and the Galaxy S23 FE, both great phones in their own regard.

We have a $100 price difference here, so the question is does the Samsung bring more to the table for that extra hundred bucks? Well, the short answer is maybe not so much, but there's much more to this story, so let's take a look at the details.

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Also read:

OnePlus 12R vs OnePlus 11 differences explained:



Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Two very different approaches


Each of these midrangers mimics their more expensive counterparts, i.e. the OnePlus 12R adopts the look of the OnePlus 12 and the S23 FE that of the S23 series. Personally, we feel the Samsung is better looking, but that is a subjective matter.

One thing you will notice immediately once you see the 12R and S23 FE next to each other is just how more compact the Galaxy is, which also makes it a bite more comfortable to hold and carry. Both have glass backs and aluminum frames, but the Samsung's sides are flat, in contrast to the curved edges that meet the back panel and display of the OnePlus.

Buttons are equally tactile and satisfying to click no matter which one you pick up, but there is a difference in the level of water resistance, with the 12R having only an IP65 certification compared to the S23 FE, which is certified at IP68 dust and water resistance and can be submerged up to 1.5m for 30 min (the same as with most flagship phones on the market).

Colors-wise, you can have the OnePlus 12R in Cool Blue (the model you see in our photos) and Iron Gray. The S23 FE comes in more color options including Mint, Cream, Graphite, Purple, Indigo, and Tangerine.

The unboxing looks totally different between the two. OnePlus is obviously more focused on having a nice presentation and offering a more memorable unboxing experience. Not to mention the added charger, which is an absolute rarity in this day and age. Samsung keeps it simple and minimalistic.

Here's what you get inside the OnePlus 12R box:

  • The phone itself with a pre-applied screen protector
  • An 80W charger with USB-A port (100W outside the US)
  • A red OnePlus cable with USB-A to USB-C connection
  • Transparent silicone case
  • Stickers
  • SIM tool
  • User manuals

And this is what you receive with your Galaxy S23 FE:

  • The phone
  • USB-C to USB-C cable
  • SIM tool
  • User manuals


The larger body of the OnePlus 12R, of course, comes with a bigger screen, and by no small margin at that, with 6.78 inches vs 6.4 inches on the S23 FE. But the benefits of OnePlus' display don't end there. The 12R also goes brighter than the Samsung, which was noticeable whenever we placed to two phones right next to each other.

Both phones have a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes scrolling and any animation on the screen buttery smooth and satisfying. The difference is that the 12R comes with the 4th generation of LTPO display tech, which is much more power efficient.

There's also the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protecting the OnePlus 12R's display, which should be somewhat more durable than the S23 FE's Gorilla Glass 5. What really helps the 12R take the cake with its display, however, is OnePlus' new Aqua Touch tech, which keeps the phone responsive even when the screen is really wet.

Another difference is that the OnePlus midranger supports HDR10+ as well as Dolby Vision, whereas the Samsung S23 FE only supports the former. That's not too big of a surprise given that the HDR10+ codec is proprietary to Samsung, but it does feel a bit disappointing and insecure on Samsung's part.

Biometrics are snappy and precise on the OnePlus 12R and Galaxy S23 FE, so nothing out of the ordinary here. And that is true for both the fingerprint scanners and the face recognition, although unlocking the phones with your face is still the less secure option.

Performance and Software

OnePlus 12R simply offers more power per dollar

There is a big difference between the OnePlus 12R and the Galaxy S23 FE in their performance, as well as their software. For one, the 12R comes with a more recent flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, whereas the S23 FE comes with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in US (Exynos 2200). It's a bit ironic, really, since it is the OnePlus that has the same silicon as the rest of the S23 family, but the S23 FE itself does not.

Another major difference between the two is that the OnePlus 12R's 256GB storage variant comes with UFS 4.0 storage, which is twice as fast and much more power efficient than UFS 3.1, which is the only type available with an S23 FE. And on top of that, higher-specced 12R comes with 16GB of RAM vs the 8GB on the Samsung.

Both phones handle gaming and other more intensive tasks like photo and video editing very well, despite the S23 FE's older chipset. But the OnePlus is simply faster, especially if you go for the upgraded option.

Then there are the different Android skins the two manufacturers install on their phones — OxygenOS for OnePlus and OneUI for Samsung. OxygenOS comes much closer to the stock Android look and experience, which is what you would find on a Google Pixel phone, compared to Samsung's OneUI, which has a bunch of tweaks and added features. Check our OneUI 6.0 article for more information about Samsung's latest software update. 

When it comes to software updates, Samsung might have jumped to 7 years with its flagship lineup, but that does not cover the Galaxy S23 FE which came out before the new S24 models. So, in other words, you still get 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security patches. The OnePlus 12R loses the race on this front though, having only 3 promised Android updates and 4 years of security patches.

Camera

It's about more than just the megapixels



Both phones come with a triple camera setup, with the OnePlus 12R rocking a 50MP main (wide), an 8MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP macro camera. The S23 FE also has a 50MP main camera, but it comes with a higher-resolution 12MP ultra-wide (although that doesn't result in better images as you will see below), and its trump card — an 8MP telephoto with 3x zoom.

As for the front, the 12R comes with a 16MP selfie camera whereas the S23 FE has a 10MP one.

Main Camera




The Galaxy S23 FE appears to capture sharper photos, although it is not immediately visible. What we like about the OnePlus 12R in this case is the more natural color reproduction, with more true-to-life colors. The S23 FE seems to introduce a magenta hue and more contrast, which ends up making the feel off in a way.

Zoom Quality




Let's be honest, the OnePlus simply has no chance of winning here. One of the best things about Samsung's mid-range phones is the fact that they come with a dedicated telephoto camera, and the one on the S23 FE does a tremendous job. Everything from dynamic range (how much detail can be captured between the shadows and highlights) to sharpness is clearly better on the Samsung.

Portrait Mode




Both phones are accurate in separating the subject from the background, but the way the S23 FE simulates the "out of focus" area is more realistic, making the blurred out spots look closer to what hardware would achieve.

Ultra-wide Camera




The ultra-wide camera on the Galaxy S23 FE is wider, so it captures more in the shot, but we would take the one on the 12R any day because its images look sharper and with more detail. With the Galaxy's shots, the edges of the image are extremely blurry, with only the center being somewhat sharp. Not to mention that we once again see that magenta hue changing the natural colors and misrepresenting what was actually being photographed.

Selfies




We think that the selfie cameras on both phones deliver the same level of high detail and sharpness, but we once again see the Galaxy ruin the image by misrepresenting the colors. With the front-facing camera, however, it seems to cast a green hue instead of magenta. In contrast, the 12R image is pretty accurate.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

Many of the characteristics we noticed while taking photos are also present in video recording on the 12R and S23 FE. For one, the Samsung has a more saturated look to its footage, with higher contrast. The biggest difference, however, is when you start to zoom in, where the 3x zoom telephoto camera on the FE shines through.

Audio Quality and Haptics


The speakers on the OnePlus 12R are top notch, especially for a phone of its price range. They get very loud and the even more impressive part is that the audio quality does not drop once you maximise the volume, which is not something we can say for the Galaxy S23 FE. Samsung's midranger does not have bad speakers, but they are just not as good as those on the 12R.

As for haptics, both phones are able to produce precise and strong vibrations. The OnePlus' vibration motor seemed to be a little better, but the difference wasn't significant.

Battery Life and Charging

OnePlus 12R will last you longer and charge faster

OnePlus has decided to include an absolutely massive 5,500 mAh battery inside the OnePlus 12R and it really showed during our time with the phone. We could easily make the 12R last for 2 days of regular use. The Galaxy S23 FE is rocking a smaller, 4,500 mAh battery in comparison, which is still not bad but needs a bit more attention.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
OnePlus 12R12h 35 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE8h 3 min
Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
OnePlus 12R15h 41 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE16h 15 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
OnePlus 12R13h 37 min
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE4h 25 min

We expected the OnePlus 12R to blow the Galaxy S23 FE out of the water in every test, if not for anything else than at least because of the significantly larger battery, but that wasn't exactly the case as you can see from the results above.

The 12R did tremendously well in our video streaming battery test, beating the S23 FE by more than 4 hours. Web browsing was where the two phones were more or less on even ground.

We will soon update the graph with the results from our 3D Gaming battery test, so stay tuned.

The topic of charging capabilities is quite interesting in this case. The OnePlus 12R comes with 80W wired charging speeds, and an 80W charger in the box to boot. On the other hand, the Galaxy S23 FE maxes out at 25W, but it also comes with 15W wireless charging (something the 12R lacks), and 4.5W reverse-wireless.

Specs Comparison


If you compare the Galaxy S23 FE vs OnePlus 12R specs, you will notice that there is more to differentiate the two besides just the $100 price difference. There are different benefits depending on the option you go for.


There is a lot here to unravel, but here's the gist of it. For starters, have two different generation of chipsets, with the Galaxy S23 FE rocking the older ones. And we say "ones" because the S23 FE comes with different silicone depending on the region you buy it from. Then there's the fact that you can get the OnePlus 12R with 16GB of RAM and UFS 4.0 storage, which is twice as fast.

Of course, there also some significant difference with the camera systems. More specifically, you get a somewhat irrelevant macro on the 12R, whereas you have a 3x telephoto camera on the S23 FE.

The last major difference that should be mentioned is the much larger battery on the 12R and its faster 80W charging compared to the S23 FE's 25W. That said, what Samsung's mid-ranger has going for it is 15W of wireless and 4.5W reverse-wireless charging, whereas the OnePlus has none of that.

Summary and Final Verdict



We have two very different phones here, which is a good thing, because this way it should be easier to know which one is more to your liking.

With the OnePlus 12R you pay $100 less and get faster charging, longer battery life, better performance, more true-to-life images from the cameras, and more high-tech display. With the Samsung you get wireless and reverse-wireless charging, a more compact body, and a great telephoto camera.

For us, the OnePlus 12R is the better purchase, as it comes with more perks for a lower price. Not to mention some of the other details like the better unboxing experience with several accessories inside and the better speakers.

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