Samsung Galaxy S23 review: Outshines everything else
The Galaxy S23 may seem “standard spec” for 2023 but one comparison with its rivals crowns this as the winner.
Cost cutting is on everyone's mind and you can see that on the current generation phones.The struggle to build and sell something new is difficult, and it all comes down to minimum compromises. You throw in some nice cameras, maybe reuse the design from last year, add some software tweaks, reuse the processor from the outgoing one, and just a new name; wait, that's the new iPhone 14. Good phone but it is pretty much the same phone from last year. Samsung loves to oppose this and with this year's Galaxy S23, it seems as if Samsung didn't get the memo that Apple received a few months ago.
From every angle and perspective, the Galaxy S23 is new. Yes, there are reused bits but these are the best reused bits the market has to offer at this price. For almost the same price as the iPhone 14, Samsung offers a new look, a new chipset, and an overall new experience. Plus, the initial offers are quite tempting, since you get the 256GB variant for the price of a 128GB variant. On paper, I can't find any reason to choose the iPhone 14 at this price, unless you love the world of AirDrop and iMessage.
Samsung has some of the finest phone designers in its arsenal and this year, the simplest of tweaks has made a striking impact on onlookers. Be it black or white, the Galaxy S23 is a striking phone to behold in any colour. The floating camera lenses look unique and give the phone a clean yet trendy look (LG did it first though on the Velvet). The matte finish is lovely on the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 layers, which so far has resisted scratches and an accidental drop on the concrete floor well (Phew!).
mobile to buy?
This being the compact model, the Galaxy S23 is easier to hold (than the S23 Ultra) and the lack of extra weight only helps. The IP68 water and dust resistance is a boon, and Samsung is doing a lot of ecologically right things while building it (good for you if you are into saving the planet). No charger in the box but you get the USB-C cable. All in all, this is one nicely built beauty (that I might splurge my savings on).
Being the “standard-spec” model, Samsung is giving all the standard stuff here – a 6.1-inch AMOLED, 8-bit panel, 1750 nits of peak brightness, variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz, and an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor. This combo might lose out to those Chinese origin flagships but it beats the iPhone 14 by miles. In the real world, the Galaxy S23 has a beautiful display to flaunt. Be it your photos or Insta feed, it all looks vibrant and full of high contrast. That 1750 nits of peak brightness comes in handy outdoors. Plus, the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor works with wet fingertips, although speed is still a concern – I have to wait for a while to get it working.
The biggest gain the Galaxy S23 makes is with regards to its raw performance. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a marvellous chip and this “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” custom version dials it up further. With slightly higher CPU and GPU clockspeeds, this chip can play those demanding games like Call of Duty Mobile and Apex Legends Mobile at high graphics settings for longer durations. And unlike last year's chip, it doesn't heat up and go haywire in minutes.
The gains also come in efficiency, where the chip sips a lot less battery power than before. This results in the 3900mAh capacity battery to now deliver a full day's stamina on a single charge, considering moderate use cases. That said, you can still deplete the battery before the day ends if you game more, or use your cameras for hours. The 25W wired charging is slow to fill up the battery but it is good to give 50 percent juice in almost 30 minutes.
Moving beyond the new chip and the Galaxy S23 is a pleasant phone to live with. The One UI 5.1 interface based on Android 13 is well optimised with slick animations and fast app loading times. Every feature is well laid out and at arm's reach. Yes, there are lots of features that you may not need ever but it is all there, tucked inside the Settings menu. I am glad to report no sightings of ads in Samsung apps and widgets. I love the Samsung Free app that offers live TV feed, and the sidebar for quick access to favourite apps. And those Always On Display customization features are so cool but it drains the battery faster.
One other thing worth appreciating is the audio quality via the stereo speaker setup, the output of which has been tuned nice enough. It lacks the low-end oomph that you get from the iPhone 14 speakers but the overall quality is good and the volume levels can go quite high.
Being a global model, the Galaxy S23 supports all flavours of 5G and as of writing this, I was only able to test the Airtel 5G and the connectivity performance was satisfactory. I also did not face any issues such as unexpected call drops, and network reception was good even in tricky areas.
Sustainability is the key focus with the S23 lineup and Samsung promises 4 Android OS updates and 5 years of security updates. This is the most number of OS updates promised by any Android phone maker, outdoing Google's Pixel 7 lineup. Given Samsung's update record in recent years, this becomes a good reason to buy the phone.
Let's get straight to the point – the Galaxy S23 has a set of solid cameras although it is no Google Pixel 7. There is a majority of people who love Samsung's saturated tones and the “HDR” look in their photos; the Galaxy S23 is going to make them happy. Daylight photos are bright, full of details, and deal with shadows aggressively, whereas low light sees the phone amping up its processing to enhance textures and suppress noise. The main camera is the most reliable one of the three at night, whereas the ultra-wide and telephoto are best suited for sunlit situations. Video performance is great as well, having great dynamic range and superb exposure control, reducing the gap to the iPhone's edge in this regard. The 12MP selfie camera is good as well, doing lots of details and well managed skin tones as well as background exposure.
Click here to check camera samples of Samsung Galaxy S23
That said, the colour science isn't natural, and unlike the Pixel 7, it tends to crush the shadows aggressively. You are always getting sharp photos with nice colours but the result is far from what you see. Thankfully, Samsung has managed to reduce the lens glare to negligible levels this time.
Last year's Galaxy S22 was a great phone overall barring its battery life and this year, the minimal yet necessary changes Samsung introduces make a big impact. For less than Rs. 80000, the Galaxy S23 is currently one of the best smartphones you can buy, if not the best. The battery life has improved drastically, allowing this to be a more reliable phone on a daily use case scenario. The custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip performs much better and for longer, eradicating the heating issue. The One UI experience is once again a highly polished one, especially next to Apple's stale iOS 16, and the promise of 4 OS updates make it more tempting. The cameras are tuned nicely for almost all lighting conditions, and I think the absence of the big camera hump makes it an adorable looking phone, especially in the Green shade.
That said, you have to look at what the competition offers. The Apple iPhone 14 at this price is inferior in terms of outright spec-bragging rights but is a more reliable package, especially with its ecosystem benefits. The Google Pixel 7 is still our top pick for still photography and the sublime Android experience but the compromises are noticeable. And then you have the bunch of Chinese Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 powered flagships, all of which are feature rich but lack in the overall experience.
This makes the Samsung Galaxy S23 a superb well-rounded package for anyone wanting to spend less than Rs. 80000 on a new phone today. It's got good looks, a nice and smooth display, tremendous performance, good battery life, and a versatile set of nicely tuned cameras – what else do we need to crown it the king of this segment?
- Looks beautiful
- Flawless performance
- Superb build quality
- Good cameras
- Battery life could be better
- Slow charging
Display6.1-inch FHD+ AMOLED 120Hz
ChipsetSnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
OSOne UI 5.1 on Android 13
Rear Cameras50MP + 12MP + 10MP
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