While the high-end Galaxy S23 Ultra has been hogging all the spotlight, let me tell you why the Samsung Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+ deserve much more attention as well in this full review. So if you look at the global pre-booking/sales numbers, you’ll find that the S23 Ultra has seen a tremendous response. Almost in every market, more than 80% of sales of Samsung’s S-series this year have gone to the Ultra model.
That’s understandable too. I mean, Samsung’s “Ultra” lineup brings all kinds of exciting features and updates every year. And what the S23 Ultra brings to the table this time with improved battery life and the new 200MP camera is truly amazing. But behind all this, the S23 and S23 Plus are being severely underlooked.
Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ Review: Specifications
|Galaxy S23||Galaxy S23+|
|Dimensions||70.9 x 146.3 x 7.6mm||76.2 x 157.8 x 7.6mm|
|Weight||168 gm||196 gm|
|Durability||Gorilla Glass Victus 2 (front/back), Armored aluminum frames, IP68 dust/water resistant|
|Display||6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz refresh rate||6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz refresh rate|
|Brightness||1750 nits (peak), 1200 nits (HBM)|
|Resolution||FHD (2340 x 1080 pixels), 19.5:9 aspect ratio|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (4nm)|
|CPU||1x Cortex-X3 (3.36 GHz) + 2x Cortex-A715 (2.8 GHz) + 2x Cortex-A710 (2.8 GHz) + 3x Cortex-A510 (2.0 GHz)|
|GPU||Adreno 740 (719 MHz)|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR5X RAM, Up to 512GB UFS 4.0 storage|
|Software & UI||Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI 5.1 on top|
|Rear Camera||Triple (50MP primary with OIS, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom)|
|Front Camera||12MP f/2.2 sensor (hole-punch)|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, No 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Security||In-display fingerprint sensor (optical)|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Ambient light, Barometer, Geomagnetic, Gyro, Hall, Proximity|
|Connectivity||Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 6e a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.3, GPS / A-GPS / Glonass, Galileo / Beidou, 4G LTE (VoLTE), Dual 5G|
|Battery||3900mAh with 25W charging||4700mAh with 45W charging|
|Wireless Charging||Yes (10W), 4.5W reverse wireless charging|
|Color Options||Lavender, Cream, Phantom Black, Green|
|What’s in the box||Galaxy S23/S23+, USB-C to USB-C cable, SIM ejector tool, User manual, and other documents|
|Price in Nepal||Rs. 127,999 (8/256GB)||Rs. 151,999 (8/256GB)|
|Buy here||Buy here|
Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ Review:
Okay, let me put some context to this, if you remember, there was a pretty huge gap between the Galaxy S22s (the regular ones) and the S22 Ultra last year, which made the Ultra an obviously better choice.
Design and Build
- S23: 70.9 x 146.3 x 7.6mm, 168 gm
- S23+: 76.2 x 157.8 x 7.6mm, 196 gm
- Glass front/back, Armored aluminum frames
- IP68 dust and water resistance
But this year, Samsung has really worked to narrow that gap. First off, all the design elements on the S23 and S23 Plus are as premium as the S23 Ultra. From the frosted glass back protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2 to armored aluminum frames to the use of recycled materials and IP68 rating, everything is the same.
In fact, I actually prefer the flat edges of the S23 more over the curved boxy design on the Ultra. Maybe that’s because I am used to using the iPhone 14 Pro Max as my primary device which has a similar design, but the S23 Plus felt more natural to me. The thing I appreciate the most, however, is its size. I’ve been using the S23 Plus for 2 weeks now and its size is just perfect—it’s not too big, not too small, and just the right size.
However, if you prefer an even more compact form factor, you can get the vanilla S23 model too. The S23 is a bit too small for me considering all the content consumption I do on my phone, and my battery requirement is a bit demanding too. But if you are someone who likes a handy form factor, you will love the S23!
I am also happy to see that the vanilla S23 and S23 Plus have ditched the camera island to feature cleaner aesthetics like the Ultra model this year. The S23 series looks more uniform now, which has not been the case with the previous S-series.
- 6.1″ (S23) / 6.6″ (S23+) FHD AMOLED panel
- 120/240Hz refresh/touch sampling rate
- 1200 nits (HBM), 1750 nits (peak) brightness
- Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection
The display side of things on the regular S23 models is equally good too. It’s no surprise that Samsung makes the best displays and the entire S23 series is a prime example of that. You get everything here—these screens get really bright, the color rendition is just amazing, and the smoothness is on point.
What’s more, is that their quality is almost identical to the more expensive S23 Ultra. The Ultra is slightly brighter among the three, but the regular models are just about good as well.
There is one catch though.
Spec-wise, the S23 and 23 Plus miss out on something called an “LTPO” controller. While the S23 Ultra has a third-gen LTPO display and thus can switch between 1 and 120Hz depending on the content being displayed to preserve battery, the regular models are still stuck on the older LTPS tech. That means its refresh rate is variable, yes, but it can only switch between 10 and 120Hz.
Now, does it make a whole lot of difference in terms of experience? Not so much. I’ve found that the S23 Plus’ display changes refresh rate quite effectively. I didn’t quite catch it going as low as the advertised 10Hz, but when idle, it dips to as low as 24Hz and goes on to 48, 60, or 120Hz dynamically.
- S23: 3900mAh with 25W wired charging
- S23+: 4700mAh with 45W wired charging
- 10W wireless, 4.5W reverse wireless charging
Having used the Galaxy S23 Ultra side by side, I would say the battery drain between LTPO and LTPS is quite minimal, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. And as far as my experience goes, I am quite satisfied with the battery life of the S23 Plus. It has easily been giving me 6-6.5 hours of screen-on time on my typical kind of usage which converts to an entire day of use from morning until I went to bed.
My friend Rajesh has been using the Galaxy S23, and we both have a very similar usage pattern, and he is getting around 5 hours of screen time, which is still pretty solid considering how bad the S22’s battery backup was.
Same charging speeds
Charging remains the same as last year though. Samsung’s official 45W charger takes the S23+ from 0-100% in 1 hour, whereas the S23 is limited to 25W charging which takes around 15 minutes more.
Moreover, I’m also happy to see Samsung has fixed the overnight battery drain issue from last year. I remember complaining that my Galaxy S22+ used to lose around 3 – 4% battery overnight, but that has gone down significantly on the S23 models. These phones would only lose 1 – 2% battery on idle, which goes on to show just how well Samsung has optimized the battery on this thing!
- Triple camera setup at the back
- (50MP primary, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto)
- 12MP selfie camera (hole-punch cutout)
Okay, now one of the major changes you will find on the S23 in comparison to the Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely the cameras. The Ultra has this new, bonkers camera prowess while the hardware on the regular models basically remains the same as it was before. You’re getting a 50MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultrawide lens (with no autofocus like the Ultra), and a 10MP 3x telephoto zoom lens at the back.
While the use of similar lenses on the S23 and its predecessor does sound a bit uninspiring, I can tell you that the camera quality in terms of optimization has certainly been improved here.
But honestly, when I started using these phones, I was not concerned about how much improvement they bring over the last-gen S22. All I wanted to know was how good they are when you stack them up against the S23 Ultra. And here’s what I got to say. As a stand-alone camera, the S23’s photos are great, it’s just much much better than some other flagships like the OnePlus 11 and iQOO 11.
I have shared tons of pictures shot from S23 on social media and the feedback has been really positive. I’ve absolutely loved clicking pictures of my pets, landscapes, my friends, and myself from this phone. But at the same time, I have also been comparing it with the S23 Ultra and I found differences mainly in 2 key areas only: sharpness and noise management.
Normally, in broad daylight, both the S23 and the S23 Ultra shoot pretty similar pictures with identical color science. But when you zoom in, that’s when you will notice the S23 Ultra’s 200MP camera managing better sharpness.
And because it has a bigger sensor as well, the amount of light it can take in is a lot more. Which is why its images have less noise, especially in the shadow areas. In some instances, the highlight control is also a bit superior on the Ultra.
This is more evident as the sun goes down. At tricky lighting situations such as dawn, the S23’s images are noisier than the S23 Ultra while struggling a bit to maintain natural sharpness.
The S23 Ultra, on the other hand, excels at that and even at very low lighting conditions, the sharpness on the S23 Ultra looks natural while a little bit of processing is evident on the S23. Human subjects also appear a bit soft on the S23.
Talking about human subjects, portraits from either phone look great! I was actually surprised to see that in some instances, the S23 managed better edge detection than the Ultra.
But then again, you will notice better-looking blur and highlight management on the S23 Ultra, in both indoor and outdoor situations. And while shooting against the sun, the Ultra manages better shadow processing too.
Selfies are pretty similar from both devices.
The S23 Ultra has a slightly red tone in the subject’s face while the S23 favors a yellowish tone instead. So it’s all a matter of personal preference which color tone you prefer.
Ultrawide, Zoom Images
In terms of ultra-wide images, I found both the phones doing a pretty similar job again in both day and night time while the 3X photos don’t have that prominent difference either.
Zooming beyond that, the S23 Ultra’s 10x or 30x images shine through and through. No doubt on that.
So, if I have to give my judgment on the photography prowess of the S23, well, I would say that it competes beautifully with the S23 Ultra. If you are not zooming in and nitpicking, the actual differences are not that significant for a normal user. Both the S23 and S23+ still give you a flagship camera setup minus the 200MP sharpness and ridiculous zoom capabilities.
In the videography aspect, the S23 is actually as good as the S23 Ultra. 8K videos from the S22 series, honestly, weren’t really usable before, they had visible jerks and they were super cropped out too. But not this year.
The 8K 30 fps videos on the S23 also have a wider field of view, they are steady, with no jerks noticeable whatsoever, and they are usable overall. Like actually usable. So, it’s good to know that Samsung is ready for the future when 8K videos could be the standard across different platforms like how 4K is right now!
Besides 8K, the 4K 60 fps videos also look great with nice colors and good stabilization from both the main and ultra-wide cameras! Not quite there on the iPhone level, but it’s still maybe the second best. Even from the front camera, selfie videos look nice and most importantly, you get good quality even at 4K 60 fps.
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC (4nm)
- 8GB LPDDR5X RAM, Up to 512GB UFS 4.0 storage (fixed)
- Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI 5.1 on top
- 4 years of OS, 5 years of guaranteed security updates
Okay, apart from cameras, performance on the S23—in fact—the entire S23 series is also really good. As I said in my Galaxy S23 Ultra review, Samsung’s decision to partner with Qualcomm to make the custom “8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” is the best thing they have done as far as the performance side of things is concerned.
So anything you do on these phones is just fast, multitasking is smooth, and the way Samsung has optimized One UI is incredibly commendable.
As I said previously, I have been using an iPhone for the past 2 – 3 years and I have never felt that Android phones really catch up to their level of performance. But with the S23 series, I am genuinely impressed. Especially in the gaming department.
I tested all three phones side by side and as you can see in the chart above—on the gaming front—all these phones have great fps numbers in even the most demanding games. The S23 Ultra has slightly better thermal results because it has a larger vapor cooling system, but you can see that the difference is not really that huge.
Samsung has also introduced something called “Bypass charging”, which can be really useful for gamers. When you enable it, the phone will power up directly from the charger without charging the battery. Doing so generates less heat which contributes to better thermals, better sustained performance, and better battery health as well.
Audio and Haptics
- Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos audio
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
Along with the performance, I like how Samsung has not differentiated in terms of overall experience among all three models too. You get the same kind of excellent vibration feedback on all three devices.
There is some difference in the audio front though. Don’t get me wrong, the speakers on the S23 are excellent. They sound loud, crisp, and the instrument-vocal separation is really good. But the S23 Ultra has better audio output in terms of loudness and depth.
Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ Review: Conclusion
To conclude this review, I am honestly really impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra. The whole squad. This time, what I like the most about the vanilla S23 duo is that you are not getting a lot of compromises versus the S23 Ultra in terms of camera quality, display, performance, or even battery life.
Yes, you don’t get a fancy S-Pen, 100x zoom, or a 200MP camera, but not everyone needs that and these phones. And the S23 and S23+ are a couple of good flagship options without having to go all in with your money.
So yeah, Samsung has nailed it on how to make non-flagship premium phones this year. Which, ironically, is something Apple struggled with the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus by offering an overall inferior product to upsell their “Pro” iPhones this year.
- Watch our video review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 and S23+
Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+ Review: Pros and Cons
- Well positioned versus the Galaxy S23 Ultra
- Excellent build quality
- Great AMOLED display overall
- Decent battery backup
- Cameras are plenty reliable (although not “Ultra” level)
- Top-notch performance all around
- Lowlight photography needs further optimization
- Still not on par with the latest iPhones in terms of videos
- Doesn’t use an LTPO display
- The speakers could’ve been tuned better
- No option for 12GB RAM