When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Reviews / Smartphones / Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: almost the greatest hits

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: almost the greatest hits

This 'for the fans' sub-flagship borrows the best bits from the full-fat S23

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review front

Stuff Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE distills the S23 formula down to a more appealing price, without too many compromises – but the mid-range competition is fierce and in many cases provide better value


  • Styling and screen match top-tier phones
  • Decent performance and all-day battery life
  • Very capable main camera


  • Telephoto camera not very impressive
  • Rivals offer similar hardware for less cash
  • The Galaxy S23 isn’t that much more expensive either


Samsung’s Galaxy phone line-up has always stretched further than a few flagship handsets, but it’s only recently that fan edition versions have brought the “best of S” to a price point normally occupied by the Galaxy A series. In theory the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a recipe for the perfect mid-range smartphone; similar styling to the fully-fledged S23, a bright OLED display, a proficient trio of rear cameras and a chipset that can keep pace, and a long-lasting battery, at a price that won’t massively damage your wallet.

It lands early enough in the launch cycle not to be overshadowed by the next generation – and even more impressively, for $100/£100 less than its predecessor. With bank balances currently under more pressure than buried diamonds and dinosaur fossils, that sounds like a win to me. The Galaxy S23 FE also undercuts the $699/£699 Google Pixel 8. Its closest competition is the Nothing Phone 2, and the now two-year-old iPhone 13.

Is there enough here to make it the obvious choice for anyone looking for a fresh handset, but who doesn’t want to pay a premium for it? I’ve been finding out.

How we test smartphones

Every phone reviewed on Stuff is used as our main device throughout the testing process. We use industry standard benchmarks and tests, as well as our own years of experience, to judge general performance, battery life, display, sound and camera image quality. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: family resemblance

With flat front and rear glass, an aluminium frame and a trio of protruding camera lenses, the S23 FE is the archetypal modern Galaxy smartphone. Just one that’s a little thicker, and with slightly chunkier display bezels than the current flagship. I expected the 6.4in S23 FE to sit neatly between the 6.1in Galaxy S23 and 6.6in Galaxy S23+, but it’s actually the largest of the three – although not by a lot. At 209g it’s also more than 10g heavier.

You get a brushed aluminium frame and more reflective rear glass panel here, instead of the full fat S23’s chrome frame and matte glass back. The SIM tray has also been relocated to the top edge instead of the bottom one, but everything else (USB-C port, speaker grille, punch-hole selfie camera, power and volume buttons) are where you’d find them on its bigger brothers. The phone looks suitably high end, and feels pretty premium in the hand too.

You can grab one in Mint, Graphite and Cream colours similar to the Galaxy Z Flip 5, or the more distinctive Purple and Indigo. My Cream review sample did an OK job of hiding fingerprint smears and smudges; the mirror-like finish means the other colours won’t be as kind, so you’ll want to invest in a case.

It’s great to see IP68 water and dust resistance, and Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides should be fairly resilient to scratches, even if it falls short of the S23 proper’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection.

You still get an under-display fingerprint sensor, but it’s an optical one, rather than ultrasonic. It was perfectly speedy to recognise my digits, but I found it sat a little too close to the bottom edge of the phone for perfectly balanced one-handed unlocking. Face unlock is an option too, though it’s not secure enough for banking apps and the like.

Screen & sound: big and bright

What’s this? Another Samsung smartphone with an epically colourful, impressively bright display with unparalleled contrast? The Galaxy S23 FE’s AMOLED panel is a treat for the eyes, with accurate yet impactful colour and consistently great viewing angles. The 2340×1080 resolution is par for the course in a non-flagship phone, and looks perfectly crisp from all distances. HDR10+ content is wonderfully vibrant.

The adaptive refresh rate hovers between 60 and 120Hz, depending on the on-screen action. I found it was always quick to kick in when scrolling through web pages or playing games that support higher rates. It’ll use more battery power than a fully variable screen would, especially if you engage the always-on display option, but not so much you’ll want to switch it off while away from a plug socket.

The S23 FE can’t quite match the Galaxy S23 on display brightness, in manual mode. When left to its own devices, the panel boosted high enough that I could see things reasonably clearly while outdoors on a fairly sunny autumn day – but those living in warmer climbs where sunglasses are almost a necessity may be a little underwhelmed.

I was impressed with the front-facing earpiece and down-firing main speaker; the potent combination can really pump out sound, getting louder than some bigger flagship phones. They’re not going to rival a Bluetooth speaker for bass, but vocals were clean and high frequencies weren’t overly sharp. It’s more than OK for catching up on YouTube clips or listening to podcasts.

Cameras: third wheel

The S23 FE’s trio of rear cameras is made up of a 50MP main snapper, a 12MP ultrawide, and an 8MP telephoto good for 3x optical zoom. Both the main and zoom lenses get optical image stabilisation, and all three get treated to Samsung’s familiar image processing treatment. Expect saturated colours, plenty of sharpness, and a preference for highlights over shadow definition.

In good light, the main sensor captures clean, detailed shots. It copes well with distant subjects, even where fine details such as foliage or brickwork are concerned, and dynamic range is very good. Noise is kept to a minimum too. I’d argue my sample shots just lean into unrealistic territory in terms of colour vibrancy, but they are undeniably easy on the eye, which is apparently what Samsung’s customers prefer.

Even during the day it could struggle with fast moving subjects in a way the equivalent Google Pixel doesn’t. I found it even harder at night, although the auto night mode did a great job with static objects. Noise was well controlled and there’s a decent amount of detail on display. Colours still look a little unrealistic, though.

The 12MP ultrawide is a decent secondary snapper, with just a little softness at the frame edges and exposures largely consistent to the main lens. Detail drops off as your subjects get further away, but otherwise it’s on par with many rivals at this price. That stays true in low light, although the night mode image processing has to do more heavy lifting.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE camera samples tunnelSamsung Galaxy S23 FE camera samples tunnel ultrawide
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE main camera (left) vs ultrawide

It’s all well and good when a phone offers 3x optical zoom, but only if it produces results better than what rivals can manage by cropping and digitally enhancing their main sensors. Unfortunately I don’t think the S23 FE’s 8MP telephoto camera can, so doesn’t quite justify its inclusion here.

I found it struggled to focus at times, even in well-lit scenes, and because it upscales each snap to 12MP, everything has a softer appearance and slight reduction of detail. It also defaults back to the main sensor as soon as the light dips, on account of its slow f/2.4 lens. At least contrast, colour and exposure are consistent with the other sensors. Still, the cheaper Pixel 7a does a better job with Google’s Super Res algorithms.

The 10MP selfie cam up front is just fine for video calls, and takes a decent self-portrait in almost all lighting conditions.

Software experience: filled with features

The S23 FE lands with Samsung’s OneUI 6.0 interface, which is based on Android 14. It’s as full-on as it’s ever been, with custom icons, a heap of pre-installed apps (including plenty of Samsung’s own, which largely duplicate Google’s defaults), and the Bixby voice assistant. Pop-out menus can be handy for setting up pairs of apps in split-screen view, and the optional Good Lock app offers more personalisation options than virtually any rival manufacturer’s default skin, so there’s plenty to play with.

Samsung also refuses to adopt gesture navigation as standard, defaulting to its usual onscreen navigation buttons – which are reversed from the old Android norm. Happily it took me ten seconds in the menus to swap over to gestures.

Otherwise there’s little here you won’t find on the pricier Galaxy S23 trio. The 128GB of on-board storage is respectable for a mid-range phone, with about 110GB available to use out of the box.

Four years of OS updates and five years of security updates is about as good as it gets for a Samsung phone right now. Rivals including Google offer more, and the equivalent iPhone can probably expect seven major iOS revisions, but I’m still glad to be able to squeeze half a decade out of a mid-range handset.

Performance & battery life: plenty punchy

When I heard Samsung would be selling the S23 FE in Europe with an Exynos CPU, I was worried it signalled a return to a two-tier system where only the US got faster, more efficient Qualcomm hardware. However, American S23 FE handsets use a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – not the newer plus variant – which is renowned for running hot and being demanding on battery life. Turns out an Exynos 2200 wasn’t a bad choice after all.

Synthetic performance is up there with other current mid-range phones, and and can give last year’s flagships a run for their money. Temperatures seemed largely under control even under sustained load, and I never saw any issues with throttling. In the real world, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE felt more than responsive enough for my liking, opening apps quickly and keeping several in memory at once (thanks to the 8GB of system memory).

Gaming is where the Exynos silicon falls a little short compared to Qualcomm’s chip, if only slightly. The most demanding titles can’t hit such high frame rates without dialling back detail settings (when the games will let you), and can’t make the most of the 120Hz display. Simpler games run pretty much flawlessly, though. I could also play Diablo Immortal without any major stuttering, so only hardcore players will feel short-changed.

A 4500mAh battery felt a little conservative given how big the phone was, but I still managed to last all day on a single charge. The Galaxy S23 FE can drain its cells much quicker when you’re thrashing the CPU or GPU, but for daily duties (social scrolling, calls, messaging, web browsing, music streaming and photography) it has no issues lasting from breakfast until bedtime. Wireless charging is a welcome inclusion, as it’s not a guaranteed inclusion on a mid-range device, but wired speeds of 25W are pretty basic in 2023.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE verdict

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review Stuff website

Are you a big fan of Samsung’s take on Android? Do you like how photos look when shot on Galaxy hardware? Maybe you’ve already got a Galaxy Watch on your wrist? You’ll feel right at home with the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE. It takes the best features from the full-fat S23 and significantly lowers the price of entry. The styling is on point, battery life is dependable, and it takes a very good snap with its main camera.

There are some weak links, though, like the mediocre telephoto lens. The plastic rear also gets grubby rather quickly, depending on your colour choice. More importantly, there are multiple rivals out there for similar cash that compete on performance, photography and battery life.

It’s not quite a case of “only Samsung disciples need apply”, but the true fans this device claims to be for have probably already picked up a regular S23 – or are patiently waiting for the S24.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Distills the Galaxy S23 formula down to a more appealing price, without too many compromises – but the mid-range competition is fierce and in many cases better value still.


Styling and screen match top-tier phones

Decent performance and all-day battery life

Very capable main camera


Telephoto camera not very impressive

Rivals offer similar hardware for less cash

The Galaxy S23 isn’t that much more expensive either

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE technical specifications

Screen6.4in, 2340×1080 AMOLED w/ 120Hz
CPUSamsung Exynos 2200 octa-core (international) / Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (USA)
Memory8GB RAM
Cameras50MP, f/1.8 w/ PDAF, OIS + 8MP, f/2.4 telephoto w/ PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom + 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide rear
10MP, f/2.4 front
Storage128/256GB on-board
Operating systemAndroid 13
Dimensions158x77x8.2mm, 209g
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming