Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: trusty camera system, outstanding display, great value

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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE preview: the Fan Edition makes a return!

Galaxy S23 FE Intro


Samsung has announced its latest Fan Edition phone, the Galaxy S23 FE, and it just by taking a look at its spec sheet really quick, it looks like we are in store for a nice overall refresh this time around.

From a new main camera (which might be the same as the S23 flagship) to dropping the plastic back panel for a new glass one, the S23 FE is shaping up to be a treat for those who don't want to spend too much cash but still want some of that high-end user experience, especially with the new price tag that is a little lower than before!

6
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
What we like
  • Stellar display, can't ask for better at this price
  • A powerful and well-rounded camera system
  • Long battery life
What we don't like
  • Sharp edges, can be uncomfortable
  • Speakers have more room for improvement
  • Limited storage options
6
PhoneArena Rating
6.5
Price Class Average
Battery Life
6.1
7
Photo Quality
6.6
6.6
Video Quality
5.3
5.7
Charging
6.5
7.1
Performance Peak
3.6
4.6
Performance Daily
5.8
6.1
Display Quality
7
7.4
Design
5
6.7
Wireless Charging
6.4
5.9
Biometrics
7
7
Audio
6
6.7
Software
6
6.6
Why the score?
This device scores 7.7% worse than the average for this price class, which includes devices like the OnePlus 12R, Google Pixel 8a and Nothing Phone (2)
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Above, you'll notice that the Galaxy S23 FE total score is now lower than one might expect. This isn't due to any shortcomings with the iPhone itself, but rather because we've introduced a new rating system at PhoneArena. This system provides readers with a more comprehensive understanding of a phone's performance across various categories. Be sure to examine the scores and compare them to the class average – we're confident you'll find them incredibly informative. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Review Scoring system here.

What’s new about the Galaxy S23 FE:

  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4nm) / Exynos 2200 (4nm)
  • New 50MP main camera
  • New 10MP selfie camera
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Glass back panel
  • Refreshed design to match S23 flagship lineup

Table of Contents:
Also read:

Galaxy S23 FE Unboxing


The Galaxy S23 FE has a rather simple unboxing experience. All you get inside besides the phone itself is a USB-C to USB-C cable, a SIM ejector tool, and your usual documentation.

Galaxy S23 FE Specs


The Galaxy S23 FE specs place it higher on the mid-range phone spectrum. Here are the Galaxy S23 FE specs:


We are happy to see that the most used cameras, the main at the back and the selfie camera, have been upgraded with the S23 FE, but more on that later when we address the camera system.

One thing that might be a disappointment for some is the lack of a 512 GB variant, especially given that there is also no microSD card slot for expandable storage. Not that this is anything new, as the Galaxy S21 FE also came with this setback, but we would have liked to see some change here.

Galaxy S23 FE Design & Colors


The Galaxy S23 FE is a bit larger than its predecessor, but still somewhere close to the size of the Galaxy S23 Plus. With the new glass back panel, the phone is also heavier than before, which we definitely felt while spending time with it. Here's a quick size and weight comparison that might give you a better idea of what to expect:

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Dimensions

6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches

158 x 76.5 x 8.2 mm

Weight

7.37 oz (209 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23+
Dimensions

6.21 x 3 x 0.3 inches

157.8x76.2x7.6mm

Weight

6.91 oz (196 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Dimensions

6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23
Dimensions

5.76 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches

146.3 x 70.9 x 7.6mm

Weight

5.93 oz (168 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Dimensions

6.22 x 3.01 x 0.32 inches

158 x 76.5 x 8.2 mm

Weight

7.37 oz (209 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23+
Dimensions

6.21 x 3 x 0.3 inches

157.8x76.2x7.6mm

Weight

6.91 oz (196 g)

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
Dimensions

6.13 x 2.93 x 0.31 inches

155.7 x 74.5 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.00 oz (170 g)

Samsung Galaxy S23
Dimensions

5.76 x 2.79 x 0.3 inches

146.3 x 70.9 x 7.6mm

Weight

5.93 oz (168 g)

Compare these and other phones using our Size Comparison tool.

As you can tell from the numbers above, we are talking about quite a large phone in all dimensions, including thickness. Now, that wouldn't have been a problem if the S23 FE did not have such sharp edges around its frame. So sharp, in fact, that it was somewhat an unpleasant experience to hold the phone. Not a major issue, given that it could easily be remedied with a case, but worth pointing out.

Besides its dimensions, the overall look of the S23 FE fits the rest of the Galaxy phones that have come out in 2023, all of which share a similar design to that of the S23 flagship series. The difference with the S23 FE is that its three cameras at the back are smaller compared to its pricier sibling.

We have Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the back panel and display, and the same IP68 water and dust resistance rating that we got with the S21 FE. The glass back is a total fingerprint magnet though, so keep that in mind in case you fall into the no case lifestyle.

As for the colors, there are more than a couple to choose from:
  • Purple (the one we got at the office and genuinely love the look of)
  • Mint
  • Cream
  • Graphite

Galaxy S23 FE Display


The display is one of the areas where we see almost no upgrades this year, although we can't exactly consider this a bad thing as there is little Samsung can do to make the display on its Fan Edition series better. After all, we have a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with HDR10+ support and a variable refresh rate of 120Hz. 

The company could have opted for a higher peak brightness here, but we have the same maximum of 1450 nits, which is to be expected given the lower price tag. Plus, we are quite happy with the display's visibility in most scenarios.

One thing to note here is that the bezels are be a bit thicker on the S23 FE compared to its predecessor. Samsung increased the dimensions of the phone, but did not do the same with the screen, so there you have it. That said, bezels are hardly an issue nowadays, and the ones on Samsung's latest Fan Edition model did not bother us at the slightest.


The color accuracy of the Galaxy S23 FE's display is more than great. We would argue that it is among the best for this price point, and outside of this price point for that matter. At least those are the impressions our unit left us with.

Galaxy S23 FE Camera


One of the most significant upgrades that come with the Galaxy S23 FE is its new main and selfie cameras. The new main shooter on the back of the phone comes with 50MP, and can churn out stunning photos, especially in good conditions with plenty of light, but it also handles low-light situations well too!

The other two cameras, the ultra-wide and 3X telephoto, don't appear to be upgraded. That being said, both cameras are also great performers, with the shots coming out of them offering sufficient detail. There are a couple of hiccups here and there, like the lower levels of detail with the telephoto or some HDR issues with the ultra-wide, but overall the additional cameras on the S23 FE make up a strong package.

At the front of the phone, we have a new 10 MP selfie camera. The previous generation had a 32MP one which produced shots with satisfying detail, and so does this new one. In fact, it is visibly better in terms of color accuracy and sharpness.

Main Camera - Day



In classic Samsung fashion, the colors are popping. Frankly, we are totally okay with that, except for the blues. They seem overly saturated and definitely need to be toned down, as something like the sky can end up getting very distractful and take away from the whole image. It's also not great when shadows start getting too much of a blue tint.

Everything else about the main camera, however, is a chef's kiss in terms of success.

Main Camera - Low-light



Unlike the more affordable options such as the Galaxy A54 5G, the S23 FE's main camera delivers satisfying results with its 50 MP main camera even when there isn't that much light to go on, so you are able to get good photos even when you are out during the evening with your friends, or on a quiet morning stroll before sunrise.

Zoom Quality



The S23 FE comes with 3X telephoto camera, which for most intents and purposes is absolutely usable. The 5X digital zoom also seems alright to us, but going above that can only work as a tool to check out some text from afar.

Ultra-wide Camera



The ultra-wide camera on the Galaxy S23 FE is just about good enough to produce a pretty photo. As long as you don't look too closely, the images look clean with well-balanced light. That being said, in some cases the HDR can be jarring, like with the last photo provided above. This is a setback we have witnessed before on Samsung phones, but we don't think it is a deal-breaker.

Selfies



The new selfie camera on the S23 FE seems to be doing well with balancing out the bright and shadowy areas, while still preserving a contrast across the whole image. We would like to see a little less sharpening after the photo has been taken, but overall it won't leave you hanging.

Video Quality


Video Thumbnail

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Most of the pros and cons that come with the Galaxy S23 camera system while shooting stills are also present during video recording. There is a bit of oversharpening that is typical for a Samsung phone. You will also notice some haloing, as it is called, around edges of foliage such as bushes and trees. This is a result of poor HDR implementation, and you don't notice it in something like the Galaxy S23, for example.

The most visible issue with the S23 FE's camera system is when you start shooting video using any other camera except the main one during low light conditions. The image is barely usable. That is a very much expected limitation, however, given the price point.

We were generally quite happy with the video stabilization across the board, so kudos to Samsung for providing quality on that front with its latest Fan Edition.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
PhoneArena Camera Score
BEST 154
133
PhoneArena Photo Score
BEST 160
143
Main (wide)
BEST 85
77
Zoom
BEST 27
18
Ultra-wide
BEST 25
21
Selfie
BEST 30
26
PhoneArena Video Score
BEST 149
124
Main (wide)
BEST 79
69
Zoom
BEST 24
12
Ultra-wide
BEST 23
19
Selfie
BEST 28
24

We have rigorously tested the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE and above you can see the results of those tests. We carefully measure the performance of all cameras in various test scenes, ranking the performance across important metrics like exposure, subject exposure, color accuracy, detail, artifacts and more. We do these tests for both photos and videos. 

You can learn more about our PhoneArena Camera Score testing protocol here.
 

Galaxy S23 FE Performance & Benchmarks


The Galaxy S23 FE comes in two variants chipset-wise: either with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 from Qualcomm, or the Exynos 2200 from Samsung. The Snapdragon version is available in the US and Canada, while the Exynos one is for the rest of the world. We have the Exynos 2200 variant with us, which we compared to the rest of the S23 family (the S23 series comes only with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2), and the previous Fan Edition model. These are the results of our tests:

Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1566
Samsung Galaxy S23+1909
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE1278
Samsung Galaxy S232023
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE3839
Samsung Galaxy S23+4997
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE3505
Samsung Galaxy S235180
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE2208
Samsung Galaxy S23+3857
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE1445
Samsung Galaxy S233807
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE1208
Samsung Galaxy S23+2191
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE907
Samsung Galaxy S232079

As you can see, the S23 FE does not come too close to the capabilities of Samsung's 2023 flagship phones, but it is nonetheless considerably better than the S21 FE.

The base memory capacity has increased, going from 6GB to 8GB of RAM on the S23 FE. Actually, you get 8GB no matter which version of the S23 FE you go for (128GB or 256GB storage).

In our time with the S23 FE we didn't encounter any lag while scrolling through the UI or the web. Gaming was also smooth, thanks to the FE's powerful chipset. As with most Samsung phones, however, the camera was a bit choppy at times, especially while shooting in low light.

Galaxy S23 FE OS / Android version


The Galaxy S23 FE comes with Android 13 installed, and it will get 4 years of software updates with 5 years of security patches — pretty standard for a Samsung phone, especially of this caliber. You have Samsung's own One UI 6.0 skin on top of Android, which comes with neat new improvements and features such as a more readable font style, more customization options for the Lockscreen and the Quick Settings dropdown menu, and a bunch of other visual tweaks and overhauls.


The Galaxy S23 FE will get the following Android versions before it loses support:
  • Android 14 (2023)
  • Android 15 (2024)
  • Android 16 (2025)
  • Android 17 (2026-2027)

Security updates will continue until 2028.

Galaxy S23 FE Battery


Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
( 4500 mAh )
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Battery Life Estimate
6h 17m
Ranks #28 for phones tested in the past 2 years
Average is 6h 39m
Browsing
16h 15m
Average is 15h 9m
Video
8h 3m
Average is 10h 5m
Gaming
4h 25m
Average is 7h 53m
Charging speed
25W
Charger
58%
30 min
1h 15m
Full charge
Ranks #49 for phones released in the past 2 years
Wireless Charging
15W
Charger
29%
30 min
1h 59m
Full charge
Ranks #8 for phones released in the past 2 years

There are no changes with the Galaxy S23 FE battery, we get the same 4500mAh battery that is also found in the predecessor. That being said, compared to the S21 FE, there are some differences we noticed during our tests.

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE16h 15 min
Samsung Galaxy S23+16h 37 min
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE9h 39 min
Samsung Galaxy S2315h 21 min
Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE8h 3 min
Samsung Galaxy S23+8h 15 min
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE7h 19 min
Samsung Galaxy S238h 6 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE4h 25 min
Samsung Galaxy S23+6h 47 min
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE4h 55 min
Samsung Galaxy S236h 7 min

While the S23 FE seems to be among the best of its peers for saving battery during video streaming, our tests showed that it is not as efficient when gaming. That's to be expected though, since the Exynos 2200 is not as power-efficient as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the rest of the S23 lineup, but it is still much more powerful than the Exynos 2100 that's inside the S21 FE, especial in terms of graphical performance.

Galaxy S23 FE Charging Speeds



Wired charging speeds are remain at a maximum of 25W. Same goes for the 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse-wireless. In our charging test, the Galaxy S23 FE managed to charge from 1-100% in a little over an hour, with Samsung's 30W charger. Here are the battery percentages at the 15 and 30-minute marks:

  • 15 minutes of charging: 29%
  • 30 minutes of charging: 58%

Galaxy S23 FE Audio Quality and Haptics


We found the speakers on the Galaxy S23 FE to be overall enjoyable as far as speech goes, but the sound coming out of them lacks richness. They do get pretty loud, but once you pass the 80% mark the audio begins to deteriorate, so we advise you stay below that range.

The haptics are pretty solid on the S23 FE, just like they were on the S21 FE. We did turn the intensity down on some of the vibrations, however, as they can be too strong when maxed out. Suffice it to say, this is not one of those phones that makes you turn off vibrations immediately, unless, of course, you are not a fan of haptic feedback in general.

Galaxy S23 FE Competitors


The mid-range phone segment is arguably the most interesting one. At this price range you have every manufacturer trying their best to give what it thinks users want from a phone, without all the unnecessary excess that usually comes with the higher-end models.

With the mid-range phone segment going from the lower-end of $400 to higher end of $700, there are plenty of options to choose from. The S23 FE might be a great phone in many ways, but so are its competitors. Here are a couple of examples you might want to consider.

Google Pixel 7


Speaking of great cameras, the Google Pixel 7 should definitely be checked out as an alternative to the Galaxy S23 FE. Now, it does not have as powerful of a chipset, or as long of a software support, but if you are looking for the best camera quality and the most camera features for this price than the Pixel 7 is arguably the better purchase.

But the Galaxy S23 FE is better when it comes to performance, especially the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 version of it. Google's Tensor G2 might be neat for AI magic, but when it comes to pure horsepower for things like mobile gaming, it has difficulty achieving the same results.

Nothing Phone (2)


The Nothing Phone (2) also comes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, just like with the Galaxy S23 FE (the U.S. version at least). The main difference you will notice between the two is in design, both the physical kind and the UI kind.

The Phone (2) is known for its transparent back, which shows some of its internal parts. It also helps with one of the device's most unique features, its LED lights that are there for show, but also for some neat software features like showing you your battery percentage.

As for Nothing OS, the Android skin that Nothing installs on its phones, the Phone (2) has an operating system that heavily focuses on minimalism, convenience, clarity, and simplicity. The aim of NothingOS design is to encourage you to use your phone less.

One area where the Nothing Phone (2) is NOT better at, however, is its camera system. The S23 FE definitely has it beat on that front, not only because it has an additional camera on the back, but in overall image detail too.

Galaxy S23 FE Summary and Final Verdict


We think the Galaxy S23 FE fills in the boots of Samsung's Fan Edition series well. We found it hard to find something to complain about. Some of us here at the PhoneArena were not really keen on the looks of the S23 FE much, but that is undeniably a subjective matter. There are the sharp edges which we addressed, but that is something that can be fixed with a case.

The cameras and the display are the S23 FE's best assets in our opinion. The main camera does a great job, yes, that we was to be expected, but the pleasant surprise was that even the ultra-wide and 3X telephoto provided quality that was on a good enough level to be more than usable. Same goes for the selfie camera at the front.

As for the display, well... do we even need to say it? It is super smooth and makes using your phone a joyful experience, especially with that flagship chipset. It's also bright enough for outdoor use, and color accurate.

As long as you like the way Samsung handles its software and the OneUI Android skin, the S23 FE should leave you happy with what it offers for the price of $629.

Pros

  • Stellar display, can't ask for better at this price
  • A powerful and well-rounded camera system
  • Long battery life
  • Flagship-level performance

Cons

  • Sharp edges, can be uncomfortable
  • Speakers have more room for improvement
  • Limited storage options
  • Video recording is still just about average

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