After a year's absence, Samsung has brought back its Fan Edition devices, which provide consumers with “flagship smartphone experiences at an accessible price point”. The new Samsung Galaxy S23 FE has some downsides, notably its processor, that are balanced out by its flagship-like features, such as the IP68 rating, wireless charging, and an upgraded 50MP main camera. However, the S23 FE does start at a more attractive S$888 — compared with S$978 for the S21 FE — and should appeal to a wider audience.
- 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (FHD+, 60 to 120Hz)
- Samsung Exynos 2200 chipset with 8GB RAM and 128/256GB storage
- 4,500mAh, 25W wired charging, fast wireless charging
- Cameras: 50MP, 8MP telephoto (3x optical), 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP front
With a 6.4-inch display, the S23 FE is squarely in between the 6.1-inch S23 and the 6.6-inch S23+. I like this screen size. It probably helps that the display is almost as good as the other S23 phones. It's a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with an adaptive refresh rate from 60 to 120Hz. It's not quite as bright (up to 1,450 nits peak brightness compared with 1,750 nits), but it's still plenty usable outdoors. However, the S23 FE's bezels appear thicker, and are not uniform. The aluminium frame is slightly curved, which makes the phone nicer to grip without a case. But I didn't like the distinct, almost sharp edge between the glass front/back and the frame that occasionally digs into my hands. The phone is also heavier (209g) than it looks. You do get IP68 water and dust resistance, like the other S23 phones.
Unlike the other S23 phones, the S23 FE has an optical fingerprint sensor instead of an ultrasonic one. It's not as fast, and often requires a few more attempts to unlock the device. But Samsung did put a much-better 50MP main camera in the S23 FE. This camera performed well in bright well-lit conditions, with crisp and pleasant-looking photos. Lowlight performance was better than I had expected. Photos turned out very usable, albeit with some extra-heavy processing to reduce the noise. The portrait mode was generally fine, though it once messed up spectacularly during my testing. The selfie camera, too, is good, and captured lots of detail. It even does 4K 60fps video, though the other cameras can do 8K 24fps. However, the telephoto camera is so-so, and produced soft-looking images. Overall, the S23 FE's cameras are more upper mid-range than flagship, but are still good enough for most users.
The cost-saving is evident when it comes to the S23 FE's chipset. There are two variants, with either Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Samsung's Exynos 2200. Both are older chipsets from last year, so they won't impinge on the more expensive Galaxy S23 models. In Singapore, the S23 FE comes with the Exynos 2200. But the real-life performance is close enough that you probably can't tell the difference between the two variants in most apps and games. Note that the Exynos 2200 generally falls slightly short of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in benchmarks. And the Galaxy S23+ and S23 phones, which use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, remain significantly faster than the S23 FE in benchmarks. While I had no issues playing games on the S23 FE, the phone did feel fairly warm.
In 3DMark's Wild Life Extreme stress test, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE peaked at 45 degrees Celsius. Performance had also dipped by around 30% by the end of this benchmark. In comparison, the Galaxy S23+ topped out at 46 degrees, and declined by 40%. I have no major complaints about the S23 FE's battery life, though. It lasted 8hr 9min in PCMark's battery test, which is about 20 minutes shy of the Xiaomi 13T Pro. For S$888, the S23 FE offers good value for money. Samsung has nailed the key areas — display and camera — while the cost-saving downgrades should be acceptable to most users. If you're keen on the Indigo and Tangerine colours, they are exclusive to the Samsung website. For the Mint, Cream, Graphite, Purple colours, you can get them from Lazada and Shopee.
Note: Review unit provided by Samsung.
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