Samsung Galaxy S23 Review - Flagship performance, compact size
- Samsung recently launched the Galaxy S23 smartphone in India.
- The smartphone shares the custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC with the S23 Ultra.
- It is the smallest smartphone in the Galaxy S line-up.
AdvertisementWith the preference of consumers growing towards a large screen size on their smartphones, the options for a device with a compact form factor are shrinking every year, especially when it comes to flagships. And brands are listening to this demand. Case in point - Apple did not introduce the iPhone 14 mini this year, but instead went for the bigger 14 Plus. Fortunately on the Apple front, we still have the regular iPhone 14 which sits in the middle in terms of size.
Well now Android has its answer, all thanks to the Samsung Galaxy S23. Is this a perfect smartphone? No. But it is the most powerful compact Android smartphone out there. I tell you how, in my detailed review.
Price & Availability
Samsung Galaxy S23 is available in 2 variants. There is a variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage available for a price of ₹74,999. Then there is a variant with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage offered at a price of ₹79,999. You can buy the S23 from Amazon, Samsung Online store and offline stores across the country.
I am fortunate enough to have reviewed the S22 last year, and since then I have been a fan of compact smartphones. Since the images were out for Galaxy S23, I assumed that the in-hand feel of the device will be similar to last year. As it turns out, I was right. Sporting a flat glass-sandwich form factor, the device is easy to hold and maintain a grip on.
Even though this is a compact device, it makes its presence felt when you hold it. Not only does that make it usable but also worthy of the moniker - premium. I have been taking the S23 everywhere, and people have come to me and asked about the device.
Samsung has not tinkered a lot with the cosmetics of the device. Considering there was not much that they could do in the first place. So all we get is a new execution for the camera module. The silver casing around the cameras is gone, and the back is now in line with the universal design language Samsung follows. This means 3 separate camera modules, placed in line. I have been trying to nitpick on the design ever since I started using the S23, but so far I haven’t been able to.
The variant with me is in the cream color, which is a paler shade of white from last year's S22. It’s subtle and definitely adds to the appeal. For that matter, I would suggest this over the black since it enhances the look.
The design changes are not worthy of a massive shoutout, but they help in distinguishing the device from the previous model. Something that iPhone 13 and 14 users can’t do.
AdvertisementOfcourse, we have to talk about build quality here. The phone sports an aluminum frame which holds together a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 front and back. This is an upgrade from last year, and yes, the smartphone can dodge some nasty drops. Don’t go around testing it though.
It is also IP68 dust and water resistant. Now last year I crossed a waterbed with an S22 in my pocket and it worked fine. This year I did good old testing. Pouring water directly on to the smartphone, and yes it worked like nothing had happened. This isn’t surprising to me at all, Samsung has been at it with the IP ratings since the Galaxy S7. The smartphone is airtight as one would expect.
One area where Samsung should work are the edges. The silver frame registers micro scratches very quickly, and is prone to look old sooner than later. I feel next year, Samsung should provide a unibody color for the regular S23 as well, like we see on the mighty S23 Ultra.
Rest of the characteristics are well intact. We see a similar placement of volume rockers on the top right which are easy to reach. For that matter, I have been taking screenshots with my right thumb itself. On the bottom we have the speaker grill, USB Type-C charging port and the SIM card tray. You can place 2 nano SIMs in the smartphone.
The changes from S22 to S23 started getting more visible once I interacted with the device. The first realization struck with the display itself. The screen size and technology are similar to last year. This is a 6.1-inch dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a screen resolution of 1080 X 2340 pixel resolution. But this is where the similarities stop, since the experience is definitely elevated both on paper and in person.
Starting with the most obvious - brightness. The Galaxy S23 has a peak brightness of 1750 nits which is a significant bump over the 1300 nits on the S22. And yes, you can feel it. From the ease of reading texts on the always-on display to watching content.
Samsung knows their displays well, so it comes as no surprise that this is off the park as well. Even though I had to compromise on the screen size, I have been watching content on the Galaxy S23. The screen, while being small, projects everything perfectly.
The colors are well saturated, skin tones look perfect and the blacks are Z blacks. I caught up with StarWars Bad Batch season 2 this weekend, it's an animated TV show set out in space. It provides a wide canvas for me to judge the display in terms of motion, image projection and sound. S23 has passed the visual experience test without even flinching. The performance was consistent in terms of quality.
However, I would recommend keeping the auto brightness off on this one. Yes, it manages to get the brightness level correct eventually, but it takes its sweet time. This gets particularly annoying when you are outdoors. To avoid this, I kept the brightness at 100% at all times, of course this also helped in judging the battery life.
The screen is also super responsive, and if I may say better than the S22. I have been typing my emails from the Galaxy S23 for the better part of last week, and the screen registers precisely where I am tapping. I have big sausage-like fingers which makes it difficult for me to type on smaller displays. I was ready for the struggle here too, but it was better than what I expected. The haptic feedback also helped, however I think the haptic motor is a bit more violent for the smartphone's size.
The smartphone provides a max refresh rate of 120Hz, wherein you have the option for adaptive refresh rate as well. And yes, it works perfectly well, and definitely better than the S22.
The screen instantly switches the refresh rate when you go through different apps. I was getting a consistent output of 90-120Hz while I was scrolling on a web page, and it would switch instantly when I would start a game.
Another area where I noticed an improvement is the fingerprint sensor. Samsung’s ultrasonic sensor works very differently than the optical units we see on other devices. Simply put, it registers the pulse from your skin and unlocks the device in a split second.
It was quick on the S22 but S23 is even faster. A normal user might not notice it, but since I have used both the devices, I could tell the difference. I also want to point out here how simple it is to register the fingerprint on the S23. A maximum of 4 taps with the freedom to play around with the placement and you are done.
Closing this section with the stereo speaker set-up on the Galaxy S23. Frankly, I did not notice any real difference from last year. It is loud, for the size in which it fits in, but for a better experience you should connect a pair of headphones.
AdvertisementI also feel Samsung should have added a headphone jack on the regular S23 like Asus does with the latest Zenfone. Given the small form factor, it can add a lot of value and become a differentiating factor for the device among the line-up.
The Galaxy S23 runs on Android 13 out of the box which is paired together with Samsung’s One UI. Yes, this is the same skin we see across all Samsung devices with little tweaks and add ons. On the S23 however, it’s straightforward and very easy to understand.
I don’t want to touch upon the aesthetics of it since it looks exactly how it did last year. We get similar animation styles, widget options and themes. Customization options is a strong suite on One UI, and it shows up here as well. There is not one element which you cannot change here. From the font, text color to custom themes everything can be rejigged. While this is good, I hope I can write something different about the UI next year. Samsung is introducing innovation to the UI in high-end devices like the Z Fold 4,I hope they bring something here as well.
With that out of the way I want to talk about how stable Android 13 is on the S23. I have used S22 as well with the Android 13 update and I was impressed with the execution there. S23 takes it ahead significantly, which can also be attributed to the latest chipset.
Android 13 is famous for providing bigger app icons and tiles, but One UI improves upon it. Since on the S23 the skin is less blocky and has translucent colors against the solids. This is across the smartphone.
I thoroughly enjoyed using Android 13 specific features on the S23, like text selection from an image. From the native camera app I could select the text and take them out from the image. This was at times faster and more precise than my iPhone 12 running on iOS 16.
The case was similar for cropping out subjects from images as well, where a longer tap would deliver perfect edge detection.
I also want to appreciate the dialer app in Samsung devices, which happens to be one of the last native skins on a device. I say this since most other OEM’s simply opt for the stock Android dialer.
What I am not a fan of is the Samsung keyboard. The layout for emojis and other gifs is something which does not appeal to me. So, I opt for the Gboard. It is more familiar for me and I can maintain faster typing speeds on it.
Another area where the S23 surprised me was the ease of connectivity with other devices. I have a smart speaker at home and usually it’s a problem connecting it with any device, especially Android. But with the Galaxy S23, the drop down menu instantly showed me the device via Wi-Fi and it was all set.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S23’s performance is bug-free and is easy to understand. The changes might not be noticeable at first glance, but extensive usage will show improvement in efficiency.
Samsung Galaxy S23 is powered by a ‘’customized for’’ Galaxy Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC. This is my second encounter with the chipset, having tested the standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on the iQOO 11 5G. Even then, I was amazed with the results, so I was excited to see what Samsung brings to the table. Especially in this compact form factor, and spoiler alert - it is top tier. Also, this is where I experienced significant improvements over the S22.
Starting with demanding, graphic intensive tasks. I have been playing COD:Mobile and Genshin Impact on the S23, and the device has been handling both the games beautifully. The render speeds are top notch and there is negligible throttle. The smartphone is stable with games running on maxed out graphics for prolonged periods of time. I was getting respectable frame rates in both the games and sometimes better than the iQOO 11 as well.
But where it fell short was heat dispensation. No it does not get as hot as the S22 with the 8 Gen 1 processor. While that was mostly a limitation attributed to the processor, here it seems other hardware choices are to blame. The smartphone doesn’t get so hot that you can’t handle it, but gaming for over 30 minutes or shooting 8K for 20 minutes would pop up a notification that it needs to cool down. Of course, these are situations that are curated for testing the limit, but it’s important to point them out.
To give you a reference I did run a Geekbench performance benchmark score on the Galaxy S23. The single-core score for the device is 1522 and the multi-core score is 4725.
Generic work loads are well taken care of, as one would expect. In my week of testing the smartphone has not lagged once or kept me standing on any application. The boot up speed has been blazing fast across all apps.
The variant with me packs in 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage which is sufficient to handle all operations. I have not felt so far that the smartphone has underperformed. Until we come to the battery life.
This is where things get subjective. No matter how much I appreciate the power and form factor, the limitations of a compact device tend to show up in the battery compartment. Galaxy S23 is not an exception. The 3,900 mAh battery can put out a decent screen on time if hyper-miled, but if you are a heavy user, carrying a charger is necessary. In my lighter days of usage where I would use social media and write emails, casually watch youtube videos I was getting a screen on time of 4 hours and 35 minutes. This number went down to 4 hours if I consumed content, or played games.
Another area which I am not too hyped about is the charging speed. The smartphone maxes out at 25W, which for 2023 standards is peanuts. If we look around in the Android ecosystem, devices less than half the price are offering 120W fast charging. I hope Samsung looks into this for the next iteration, considering consumers are not too forgiving about low charging speeds now.
The Galaxy S23 features the same camera setup we saw in last year's S22. We have a triple camera set-xp on the back. The Primary camera is a 50MP sensor which is paired with a 10MP telephoto sensor and a 12MP ultrawide sensor.
The main camera by default clicks images in 12MP resolution, however you can change that in the settings to shoot in full 50MP.
In natural lighting conditions, the camera delivers a familiar experience like the S22. The images are sharp, well detailed and close to natural colors. It also reiterates Samsung’s classic characteristics of high contrast. It’s not too loud that it stands out, but definitely amps up the colors.
AdvertisementThe 50MP images definitely add another layer of details to the images. The files are also a tad bit heavier, but they are worth it. The HDR on the images is also spot on.
The camera is reliable and boots up in a jiffy. I have been taking the S23 to my event shoots and it has been in my pocket for emergency shots. Not once has the camera left me stranded.
Coming now to the telephoto lens, this is ofcourse truly amazing. This isn’t as premium as the set-up we see on the top-end S23 Ultra, but for an enthusiast, it is more than enough. The pictures capture details, and the lens doesn’t deliver a color shift in the frame. The dynamic range is also satisfactory. Optical image stabilization came in handy when I clicked images from a moving vehicle.
AdvertisementOf course the camera app's assistance comes in handy while choosing the correct subject while setting the frame.
The primary camera has also surprised me this time with its low light performance. The sharpness in images is impressive, and the camera can identify each light source without distorting them. The night mode on the camera turns on automatically in lower lighting conditions, which also comes in handy.
The ultrawide sensor is also working perfectly fine, with providing stringent corners and contrast. However, the colors here tend to get a bit cooler than the source. Night photography with the ultra-wide sensor is also impressive. While they do end up losing out on detail, with some patience you can get pictures with decent dynamic range and colors. However, noise in pictures is high here.
The portrait shots from the primary camera are stunning as well. I observed perfect edge detection and bokeh effect. The blur level can be over the top sometimes but you can fix it in the camera app. Gallery also has quirky features to play around with the portrait shots.
Video performance from the primary camera is top-notch. The smartphone can record 8K videos up to 30fps. However, I would recommend sticking to either 4K or 1080P especially if you shoot in a vlogging format where the camera stays on for longer durations. In 8K recording, the smartphone starts heating within 10 minutes, and the files are also considerably heavier. The videos in all formats look crystal clear with well captured details and colors. There is also no lag in video feed which is encouraging. Audio from the primary microphone is also clean and you can use it directly for your videos.
The selfie camera this time around is new, with a 12MP sensor. And the selfies are also favorable. The noise is in control, sharpness is intact, details are well put together with correct colors. The selfie camera also provides us an option to open the frame for a wide angle shot. It’s not a significant jump but enough to fit in three people.
Portrait shots from the front camera are also crisp, and the blur is managed well across multiple subjects as well.
Videos from the front camera are solid, especially at 1080P 30fps. The wide angle frame paired with correct colors make for a good combination. So, if you are a vlogger, you should take notes.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 is truly a marvel in terms of performance. A compact smartphone with all the bells and whistles of a flagship. Despite sharing the podium with the mighty S23 Ultra, this device can carve out its own demand. What makes it very difficult to suggest is the price. By adding a few thousand Rupees more, you can get yourself a S23 Plus.
This smartphone is for the section of audience who swear by a compact phone and cannot compromise on features.
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