I underestimated the Samsung Galaxy S23 as a mere incremental update due to the immense excitement surrounding the Galaxy s23 Ultra. However, my initial assessment was proven wrong.
So, what are the essential characteristics of a top-notch compact flagship? For starters, it must be compact and offer uncompromising performance, cameras, and decent battery life. After using the s23, I can confirm that it meets almost all of these criteria and more.
In this comprehensive review of the Galaxy s23, I will delve into its exceptional features.
Galaxy S23 Design
One of the biggest reasons for my preference is its comfortable one-handed use. The s23’s compact size is comparable to the iPhone 14 Pro. Additionally, the s23’s camera module features individual camera rings. These are in line with the design of the Galaxy s23 Ultra and A series.
The phone’s build includes Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on both the front and back. And also a shiny, sturdy armored aluminum mid-frame. The Gorilla Glass Victus 2 offers excellent sturdiness, while the aluminum mid-frame adds to its build quality.
Moreover, the phone is IP68 rated and supports wireless charging. It also boasts stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, which produce rich and dynamic sound quality despite its compact size.
Galaxy S23 Display
The Samsung Galaxy s23 boasts a top-tier display, featuring a 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. Although the refresh rate is automatic, you can’t always switch it on at 120Hz. The peak brightness of 1750 nits is standard across all s23 series phones.
The LTPS panel of the s23 is the LTPS or Gen 2 panel, which Samsung claims can refresh down to 48Hz. Compared to other Android phones, the s23’s LTPS technology may not be the highest quality. But it doesn’t make too much of a difference in daily usage.
What matters more is that the s23’s display is color accurate and has excellent HDR tuning, making it an excellent choice for watching HDR videos on YouTube and Netflix. However, it’s worth noting that the PWM (pulse width modulation) on Samsung phones is very low.
Overall, the s23’s display is gorgeous from the front and boasts excellent color accuracy and HDR tuning.
Galaxy S23 Performance
The Samsung Galaxy s23 is equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. However, it doesn’t perform as well as other phones with the same processor. In fact, it scored the lowest in both Antutu and Geekbench among all the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones we’ve tested so far.
Moreover, Samsung tends to throttle the performance, which affects the stability of the phone. If you stress it too much, like playing games for an extended period or shooting in the hot sun, the phone does tend to get warm. Nevertheless, the performance tuning on this phone is still acceptable.
Galaxy S23 Battery
The battery life of the Samsung Galaxy S23 is impressive, especially for a small phone. While it may not be as powerful as the S23 Ultra, it still offers around 6 to 7 hours of screen time, which is quite impressive for a compact device.
Moreover, this battery life would easily last for a day with approximately 18 to 20 percent of the battery remaining. Comparing it with the S22 and S21, the former lasts for a day, and the latter requires charging twice a day.
Samsung has prioritized power efficiency over performance tuning, which is suitable for the S23, as it’s not primarily designed for gaming. Therefore, if you play casual games or a few sessions of Call of Duty, you’ll find the Galaxy S23 a great option.
Additionally, the S22 and the iPhone 14 from the previous year are still excellent smartphones.
Capture Life: Galaxy S23 Camera
Let’s discuss the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy s23 and how it compares to the iPhone 14. The primary advantage that the s23 has over the equivalently priced iPhone 14 is its telephoto camera. In comparison samples, the s23 captured more details and was sharper, especially in daylight. Additionally, the HDR performance on the s23 was better tuned than on the iPhone 14, which tends to blow out highlights.
The attached lens on the s23 is wider at 23 millimeters compared to the 26 millimeters on the iPhone 14. While the colors are more natural-looking on the iPhone, Samsung’s pictures are vibrant and punchy, ready for social media sharing. However, when it comes to capturing skin tones, the iPhone’s accuracy is handy. The yellowish skin tone of the s23 may not look as good as the iPhone’s, but it’s not bad either.
In portrait mode, the s23 can punch in 3x, giving it a significant advantage over the iPhone. Samsung’s edge cutout and bokeh drop-offs are also preferred over Apple’s in portraits. Low-light shots are another area where Samsung performs better than Apple, which has a tendency to crush shadows mercilessly. The s23 can easily spot and display details in darker portions of the image, while the iPhone 14 captures sharper details even around the corners where the s23 is soft.
For ultrawide shots, the color consistency is better on the iPhone, which tends to make the shots slightly cooler. However, the iPhone can shoot a wider field of view, while the s23 offers sharper ultrawide shots in low light. Selfies in good lighting conditions are equally matched for sharpness and exposure correction, but the skin tones and colors on the iPhone 14 are more accurately captured.
HDR selfies are better on the s23, as the iPhone’s overexposed sky can be an eyesore. However, the edge cutout is cleaner on the iPhone, especially around the hair region. For video recording, the iPhone 14 wins with its ability to shoot 4K 60fps with Dolby Vision and better sound recording. The s23 comes close, but there is still some catching up left. Overall, the answer is plain and simple: s23 for photos, iPhone 14 for videos.
Speaking about the phone’s software, it runs on UI 5.1, which is based on Android 13. This version of UI is clean, smooth, and doesn’t stutter as much as its previous versions. Samsung promises four years of software updates and five USA security updates, which it actually delivers. During my time with the Galaxy s23, I found Bixby to be one of the very underrated voice assistants out there.
The offline processing capability of Bixby is better than both Siri and Google Assistant, especially when it comes to controlling the phone. With UI 5.1, you get different kinds of modes. For example, when I connected the s23 to my car’s USB, it immediately switched to driving mode. This kind of intelligence is definitely helpful.
Samsung is doing a good job with UI, and I feel that it’s getting better with every iteration. However, some fans of stock Android don’t like the way UI is tuned because it sometimes feels cluttered, has big icons, and doesn’t have a vertically scrolling app drawer. But honestly, if you can make peace with these things, this is very good software.
Although I have a soft spot for small phones, there’s no denying that the Galaxy S23 is quite expensive this year. You really need to want a compact phone to overlook the fact that there are other good options like the Xiaomi 13 Pro, the OnePlus 11, and of course, the iPhone 14. However, I think that’s a bit of a stretch because even after paying 75,000 for it, the S23 has a lot going for it.
In India, I would say that this is the best compact phone you can buy, especially compared to the iPhone 14. With the S23, you get a high refresh rate display, better battery life, and an extra telephoto camera, which makes it far more desirable. However, when it comes to Apple fanboys, they won’t listen to reason, unfortunately.
Personally, I’m considering using the Galaxy S23 as my daily driver over the S23 Ultra. I like small phones, and I don’t see that much of a compromise with the S23. Sure, I’d get better battery life and an extra 10x telephoto on the S23 Ultra, but the S23’s battery life for a compact phone is pretty good, and the size difference makes the S23 more desirable for me.