Review: Galaxy S23 FE is likely the best value smartphone of 2023

Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is likely the best value smartphone of 2023.
The Galaxy S23 FE is out now in New Zealand. Photo credit: Newshub.

Samsung has released its latest FE or "fan edition" smartphone - the stripped back, cheaper version of its flagship S series.

The Galaxy S23 FE has launched in Aotearoa at a price of $1099 and after using it for a couple of weeks, I reckon this is probably the best value smartphone of 2023.

It sits in between the cheapest of the top-end S23 range and the most expensive of the A-series which both launched earlier this year at $1599 and $799, respectively. But using the FE, it feels more like the S23 devices than the A54.

That feel and look of the phone is crucial. It doesn't feel cheap, it doesn't feel mid-range even, it feels like a premium product - just one released a couple of years ago rather than the latest and greatest of 2023.

Samsung achieved that feel largely through the design. The FE has flat glass on the front and back that seamlessly integrates within the rounded aluminium frame, all with a lovely finish to it. Colour-wise there is graphite, mint, purple and cream on offer.

Samsung Galaxy S23FE.
It has a 6.4-inch display with a 1080x2340 resolution. Photo credit: Newshub.

So what has been cut out of the S23 to make the cheaper FE?

The biggest difference is the less powerful chip and camera setup. The FE runs on an Exynos 2200 rather than the mighty, customised Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 of the S23, which could be a problem if you want to run really demanding games on your phone.

Compared to the standard S23, the display is also less bright, with a peak of 1450 nits versus 1750. I used the FE outside on a bright sunny day and had no problem seeing it, however.

It also has thicker bezels and a lower screen-to-body ratio, but only slightly - 3 percent, to be precise. That is noticeable when they're side by side, but probably not in day-to-day use.

The Gorilla Glass isn't quite as tough as that of the S23 and the aluminium may not be quite as durable, either, but without getting smashy I had no way to test the durability while reviewing this thing.

Daniel Rutledge reviews the Galaxy S23FE for Newshub.
It weighs 209g. Photo credit: Newshub.

You still get IP68 water and dust resistance, a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display that boats 120Hz and is capable of HDR10+, Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.3, an under-display fingerprint sensor - the sort of features not available in the best phones on the planet not that long ago.

I was really impressed with the battery on this FE model. At 4500mAh it's more than I needed for a full day of use and could potentially go two days before needing a recharge if you are a light user.

Although the camera isn't as good as the flagship models, it's still very much good enough for most users. It has the usual Samsung triple lens setup, here as 50MP wide, 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom and 12MP ultrawide.

It can shoot 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at up to 240fps and it can even shoot 8K video if you're into that for some reason.

For your standard point and shoot, everyday photos for social media and personal memories, the S23 FE is great. It can't do everything the S23 Ultra or iPhone 15 Pro can of course, but considering the price difference this is a brilliant smartphone camera.

Samsung releases cheaper Galaxy Tab S9 FE and S23 FE in New Zealand.
A Galaxy Tab S9 FE alongside the S23 FE. Photo credit: Newshub.

I used the S23 FE along with a Galaxy Tab S9 FE, a similarly cutback, cheaper version of the latest Samsung tablets released this year. That is also an impressive device and using both together was super convenient with ecosystem benefits similar to using an iPhone with an iPad and MacBook.

As a standalone device, however, I preferred the Oppo Pad 2 to the S9 FE, which is only $150 more but has a more premium feel. 

The verdict

The Galaxy S23 FE is seriously good value for money as the latest and cheapest S series Samsung smartphone released this year.

At $500 less than the standard S23, it won't look like you've skimped on getting a new phone when you're using it in public and I never found it sluggish during standard usage, although I didn't get into any serious gaming on it.

The S23 FE has Gorilla Glass 5 on its front and back, and an aluminum frame.
The S23 FE has Gorilla Glass 5 on its front and back, and an aluminum frame. Photo credit: Newshub.

Obviously, some people only want the very best device possible when they're investing in a new phone and if you are one of them and can afford shelling out at least $1600 - or at least $2300 for the top-of-the-line S23 Ultra - then the FE is not for you.

But if you can do without the fastest smartphone chips in the world and don't need all the bells and whistles with the camera, this should definitely be a consideration.

Newshub was supplied a Galaxy S23 FE for this review.