With the bleeding edge reserved for high-end big phones—smaller phones, including both Android and iOS sides of things, have suffered. Not only has it become increasingly difficult to find flagship phones that don’t compromise on specifications, user experience, and battery life, but over time, the few phones that do have gone up in price. Samsung, however, with the launch of the Galaxy S23 series, has hit a home run. Despite being smaller of the lot, compared to Galaxy S23 Plus and the top of the line Galaxy S23 Ultra, the smaller (compact by today’s standards) holds its own—in every way possible—be it cameras, display, or even battery life.
In this long-term review of the Galaxy S23, we will see if the latest compact flagship from Samsung deserves a place in your pocket and does it get the crown for the best compact flagship in 2023.
Design and Display: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Adopting the design from last year’s Galaxy S22, the Galaxy S23 retains the boxy, squared-off look—while making enough changes to give the phone a new identity of its own—with the new minimalist camera bump. The frame of the phone is made out of polished aluminum, and as expected, the back is glass, with Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front as well.
When it comes to durability, I’d rate the latest Samsung flagships highly. Over a couple of months of my testing, the phone has held up well—with little to no micro scratches and barely a mark on the frame. It still looks brand new.
The bezels surrounding the gorgeous 6.1” FHD+ display are also symmetrical—giving the phone a premium feel. The punch-hole camera cutout on the front also sits well, with no visible distortion.
Talking about the display, the 6.1” panel looks incredible and stays true to the roots that Samsung AMOLED panels are known for. With a peak 1750 nits brightness, the display remains easily visible even in harsh sunlight, and watching TV shows and movies in HDR is truly a joy on the panel.
And, speaking of aesthetics, I have the Cream color with me and honestly, it looks brilliant. It’s not entirely white, and nor is it a total warm shade, it just looks right, and coupled with the matte back, the phone feels posh and quite upmarket.
Performance and Battery Life: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Brings Refinement and Reliability
The Galaxy S22 was infamous for its heating issues and poor battery life—stemming from the poorly optimized Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. But now, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, all of those problems have been rectified and honestly, the performance is the best I’ve seen on an Android phone. It has become the gold standard, really.
Moreover, underrated things like the bare main idle drain, the brilliant standby time, and the in-app performance are brilliant. Switching between apps, keeping them in memory, and editing photos and videos is the best I’ve seen on an Android phone. This holds true for other models—the bigger Galaxy S23 Plus and the S23 Ultra.
Gaming is also a joy on the Galaxy S23 series smartphones. Check out our dedicated gaming review of the Galaxy S23 Ultra; everything applies to the base Galaxy S23.
Battery life has also vastly improved since the last generation. Now, it easily lasts a full working day, and I’m left with more than 20% battery. So, if you use it judiciously, it can last you a day and a half. On a good day, with a balance between mobile data and Wi-Fi, the Galaxy S23 got me around 7hrs of screen on time, with a full day’s usage.
I can’t say good things about the charging experience though. Despite calling it Super Fast Charging,” Samsung has capped the charging to 25W with the Galaxy S23, and allows the more expensive S23 Plus and S23 Ultra to get faster 45W charging. It’s truly baffling to see this. But yes, using the 25W charging, you can charge the Galaxy S23 in about an hour and a half from zero to full.
Camera: A reliable camera system with a few inconsistencies
Unlike the Pixels and iPhones of the world, Samsung chose to include a third telephoto sensor with the vanilla model, and I truly appreciate the brand for not skipping the lens. Apart from me, I know a multitude of people who’d rather have a telephoto instead of an ultrawide lens, but it’s always a good thing to have them all. So, the camera setup consists of a 50-megapixel wide camera, a 3X telephoto, and a 0.6X ultrawide lens—which makes the camera quite versatile—even compared to the nearest competition.
The photos coming out of the main camera are excellent—with phenomenal dynamic range, sharpness, and minimum noise in low lighting situations. The lens also controls flaring, which was a notable issue with previous Galaxy flagships. The colors and skin tones are also reproduced well in natural lighting but in artificial lighting, the camera tends to boost the yellows—especially in the skin tones—and that causes skin to appear yellow. I believe a software update can fix this and should not deter you from enjoying what is overall an excellent camera system.
Portrait mode is also quite rock solid with the Galaxy S23—with solid edge detection and natural bokeh. I’m especially fond of the portrait mode images using the 3X telephoto lens, which gets you a background compression that resembles that of an 85mm full-frame equivalent lens. Compared to even the iPhone 14 Pro, the edge detection is phenomenal and works consistently well.
Samsung, for quite some time now, has included the Pro modes—for both photos and videos, and here, you can tweak the images according to your liking. And even get high-resolution photos in 50-megapixels—for those who want the maximum detail.
However, the major gripe with Samsung flagship cameras, for quite some time now, has been the infamous shutter lag, and with the Galaxy S23, it unfortunately makes a return. It isn’t as bad as it used to be, and most users will not even notice it, but if you are an enthusiast and want to capture fast-moving subjects—like children, pets, and more—you will consistently end up with soft-looking photos.
And talking about the video capabilities, the 4K60 and 4K30 video is excellent, almost creeping up to iPhone standards—with great dynamic range, nice highlight roll-off, accurate color reproduction, and minimal noise in low light. I’m also a fan of the Portrait Video feature—which is in its fourth generation now. It holds onto the focus and provides a natural-looking focus roll-off.
Overall, the Galaxy S23’s camera system is one you can depend on, and certainly gets you a dynamic and versatile setup—anyone would enjoy having in their pockets.
Here are some more camera samples:
Attention To Detail: Masterstroke!
Talking about the nitty gritty stuff, the Galaxy S23 impressed me here too. Right from how well the haptics are—thanks to the brilliant vibration motor—to the way how it works with other Samsung devices like the Galaxy Books, Samsung has left no stone unturned to ensure a premium user experience. OneUI 5.1 is also a major improvement compared to few iterations in the past.
The animations are buttery smooth, and other features like Quick Share ensure a seamless experience if you are in the Galaxy ecosystem. I’ve been also using the Galaxy Book3 Pro alongside the Galaxy S23, and let me tell you the experience is no less than Apple’s. Copy-pasting, drag and drop images, and even using your mobile devices as a secondary screen—it all comes together!
Verdict: A reliable compact Android flagship that you have been waiting for
The Samsung Galaxy S23 features a sleek and robust design along with a stunning 6.1-inch FHD 120Hz display that’s bright, symmetrical, and features a punch hole camera cutout on the front. Thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the phone delivers exceptional performance without any heating or battery issues that were present in the previous model.
Additionally, the battery life has significantly improved, offering a full day of usage and 7 hours of screen on time on a single charge. However, the charging experience is limited to 25W. The camera system is also reliable, delivering excellent photos with a versatile set of lenses, although there are some inconsistencies in artificial lighting.
Overall, I’d rate Samsung Galaxy S23 quite highly, and if you are on the lookout for a compact Android flagship phone that doesn’t compromise on specifications and the overall user experience, look no further than the Galaxy S23.
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