Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Big on performance, compact in size

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Samsung Galaxy S23 review summary

Editor’s rating: 4.2/5

Design

Display

Performance

Battery

Camera

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros

  • Outstanding Display
  • Top-notch performance,
  • Best software experience on Android
  • Excellent cameras

Cons

  • No UltraWideBand support.
  • No Dolby Vision
  • No improvements in fast charging
  • No charger in the box

With consumers increasingly prioritizing larger screen sizes on their smartphones, the availability of devices with a compact form factor has been decreasing year after year, particularly among flagship models. However, there is still a market for consumers who value easily manageable phones and brands have taken note of this demand. 

The recently launched Samsung Galaxy S23 is a compelling option for compact phone buyers. While it may not be a perfect smartphone, it is undoubtedly the most powerful compact Android device available. In my detailed review, I will explain why the Samsung Galaxy S23 is a standout option for those who value both power and portability.

Galaxy S23 Unboxing

As is typical for Samsung’s S series, the S23 comes in slim packaging that contains only the phone and its charging cable, along with additional materials such as informational pamphlets and a SIM removal tool.

However, the packaging for the Galaxy S23 breaks the mold by being entirely made from recycled paper. This reflects Samsung’s commitment to making its products more environmentally friendly. The Galaxy S23 also incorporates sustainable materials, such as 20% recycled plastic and 22% recycled glass in its construction wherever feasible.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Review: Design

The Samsung Galaxy S23 comes in sober colors such as Phantom Black, Cream (beige-like), Green, and Lavender (purple-ish) that are understated and earthy, exuding a low-key elegance.

The design of the Galaxy S23 phone is not exactly the same as the S22 model. The bulky camera module that jutted out from the phone’s frame is gone, replaced by a sleek and flat back with only the lens-protecting metal rings visible. The phone can still be laid flat on a surface, preserving its classic design.

The metal frame on the sides is flat with a slight curve, while the screen is also completely flat. The Galaxy S23 has a compact and pocketable design, making it an excellent option for those who prioritize one-handed use over a large display for multimedia consumption.

The Galaxy S23 includes a durable aluminum frame and a flat back, which replaces the previous contour-cut camera housing and Gorilla Glass Victus 2 panels. The new Victus 2 glass offers improved protection against drops on rough surfaces, such as concrete, increasing the likelihood of surviving accidental drops.

The armored aluminum frame is advertised for its improved drop and scratch resistance compared to regular aluminum and is the same across all Galaxy S23 models. It features a slight curve and matte finish. Finally, the Galaxy S23 is IP68-rated, like many previous Galaxy S phones, and can survive in 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes. Overall, the Galaxy S23 is not only convenient but also feels tough and durable. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 review: Display and audio

The display on the Galaxy S23 is a 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, which is the same as seen on the previous Galaxy S22 model. The improvement this time around is a 35% increase in peak brightness, enhancing the HDR viewing experience. The display boasts a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels and a pixel density of 422ppi for sharp and clear visuals. Additionally, it features a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate, a wide color gamut, and HDR10+ compatibility. 

The Galaxy S23 offers two color profiles to choose between Vivid (rich color, DCI-P3) and Natural (standard color, sRGB). Both modes display exceptional accuracy, closely aligning with DCI-P3 and sRGB standards.

According to device hardware scans, the screen supports fixed refresh rates of 10Hz, 24Hz, 30Hz, 48Hz, 60Hz, 96Hz, and 120Hz, consistent with the Galaxy S22.

In Adaptive mode, we observed the screen using a refresh rate of 120Hz across the interface and supported apps with a few games. The software usually switches to a refresh rate of 24 Hz when the image is static. Video streaming and playback also adapt to the frame rate, with 24fps videos displaying at 24Hz refresh, 30fps videos at 30Hz refresh, and so on. A 120fps video will play at 120Hz refresh rate.

The Always-on display operates at a 24Hz refresh rate, which is the minimum. We could not get the screen to switch to 10Hz, 48Hz, or 90Hz at the testing time. Interestingly, 48fps and 90fps videos and games always used a 120Hz refresh rate.

When using the Standard mode, the refresh rate operates similarly to Adaptive, with 24Hz, 30Hz, and 60Hz used as appropriate. The 120Hz mode is unavailable for games or video playback when Standard is selected. Like most Samsung phones, its flagship S23 also comes with Widevine L1 support for FHD streaming and HDR 10+ streaming on popular apps. 

Coming to audio, the Samsung Galaxy S23 boasts a hybrid speaker system where a bottom-firing speaker is clubbed with an earpiece speaker to create a stereo effect. The Galaxy S23 performs well in terms of loudness and clarity, featuring rich bass, clear mids, and balanced highs. This is clearly one of the best audio experiences on a phone in 2023. The device also has Dolby Atmos, which works on speakers and headphones. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 review: Software and performance

The Samsung Galaxy S23 runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, with an exclusive Samsung twist – it has an overclocked CPU and GPU compared to the standard SD8G2. Rumors have it that this Samsung-exclusive chip will debut as Snapdragon 8+ Gen 2 later this year. 

The Samsung-exclusive SD8G2 features 1×3.36 GHz Cortex-X3, 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A715, 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A710, and 3×2.0 GHz Cortex-A510 cores, with the prime Cortex-X3 clocked higher at 3.36GHz compared to the standard 3.2GHz.

The Adreno 740 GPU in the Galaxy S23 runs at 719MHz, compared to 680MHz in other SD8G2-powered smartphones. All Galaxy S23 models come with 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM, but storage options vary. The 256GB and 512GB versions utilize faster UFS 4.0 chips, while the 128GB model uses the older UFS 3.1 standard. 

We tested it against our standard performance measures, and it excelled over extended time frames, likely due to the better heat dissipation system that Samsung adopted with the Galaxy S23 Series.

In day-to-day use, the Galaxy S23 is a top performer. It operates seamlessly without hiccups or lag and is quick and responsive. Despite its compact size, it packs a punch and can comfortably handle demanding tasks like photo and video editing, gaming, and more.

The Galaxy S23 debuts with the latest Android operating system, Android 13. However, Samsung has a tradition of customizing its Android phones with the One UI skin, the newest version being One UI 5.1.

Samsung’s software is packed with innovative features that enhance the Android experience. These include easy split-screen shortcuts, edge panels for multi-tasking, and seamless integration with the SmartThings Hub ecosystem.

It’s worth mentioning that Samsung has dramatically improved its software update process. New flagships are guaranteed four major Android updates and five years of security patches. This means that although the Galaxy S23 launches with Android 13, it is expected to receive future updates up to Android 17.

Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Camera

There are no significant updates to the Galaxy S23 camera system. It remains the same 50 MP main, 12 MP ultra-wide, and 10 MP telephoto setup as its predecessor. The physical cameras appear to be unchanged, but the performance improvements from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 ISP certainly have a noticeable impact.

We noticed a slight adjustment toward warmer tones compared to the S22. Additionally, the HDR has been improved, effectively capturing better dynamic range than its predecessor. In terms of color accuracy, the Galaxy S23 delivers more realistic tones than its predecessor. 

Although the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip offers exceptional subject separation for Portrait mode, this is mainly because Samsung’s Portrait mode already worked quite well. The zoom capabilities on the Galaxy S23 are limited to 30x digital, which is good enough for most users. However, the jump to a 12 MP selfie sensor is noticeable, with impressive detail in shots and no oversharpening. 

The Galaxy S23 also supports 8K video recording at up to 30 FPS and has improved stabilization.

Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Battery

The battery capacity of the Galaxy S23 has increased by 200 mAh to 3,900 mAh. The battery endurance of the Galaxy S23 is better than the Galaxy S22. On days when we didn’t push it to the maximum, we could have the screen on for up to five hours, but on days when we did, that number dropped to four. Fortunately, the standby time is excellent due to the efficient management of background processes.

On days that we used it sparingly and took enough pauses along the way, we could make it from eight in the morning to nine at night with approximately 5% remaining. 

While the Galaxy S23+ and S23 Ultra support fast wired charging at up to 45W, the charging power of the Galaxy S23 is limited to 25W. It still offers fast wireless charging and supports both reversed wired and wireless charging.

Review verdict: Should you buy Samsung Galaxy S23?

The Samsung Galaxy S23 boasts exceptional performance, delivering a true flagship experience despite its compact size. This phone impresses with its sturdy build quality and the use of sustainable materials. It excels at everyday tasks like browsing, texting, playing games, and watching movies, providing an outstanding experience for Android users.

The Galaxy S23 caters to a specific group of consumers who seek a performance-driven compact phone. If you fall into this category, the Samsung Galaxy S23 is an excellent choice that will provide you with flagship-level performance in a compact form factor.

Reasons to buy Galaxy S23

  • Outstanding Display
  • Top-notch performance,
  • Best software experience on Android
  • Excellent cameras

Reasons to not buy Galaxy S23

  • No UltraWideBand support
  • No Dolby Vision
  • No improvements in fast charging
  • No charger in the box
Deepak RajawatDeepak Rajawat
Experienced technology journalist with over 7-years of experience. Before embracing online journalism, he has worked with several legacy publications including print editions at Hindustan Times and The Statesman. He also has a keen interest in Sports, which he used to cover with equal enthusiasm in his early career.

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