Samsung Galaxy S23 FE Hands-On Impressions

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE will land in Australia on the 12th of October for $999. Is it worth it? Here’s my early hands-on thoughts.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Galaxy FE (“Fan Edition” according to Samsung, because… it sounds snappy, I guess?) phone from the South Korean tech giant, given it skipped out on releasing a Galaxy S22 FE at all.

Ahead of its official reveal — while it was heavily leaked, and you can read into that yourself around how much is truly “leaked” about these kinds of devices — I had a limited bit of hands-on time with the Galaxy S23 FE and associated FE devices.

There’s also new $199 Galaxy Buds FE and Galaxy Tab S9 FE and Galaxy Tab S9FE+ ($749 and up), but I spent what little time I had mostly playing around with the Galaxy S23 FE.

Playing, not testing, I hear you ask? Well, yeah, to be totally transparent that’s about the best you can hope from with one of these kinds of sessions.

It’s not like I can install apps, test battery life or take photos away with me for a more concrete review. Think of these as my early thoughts around the Galaxy S23 FE, pending getting hold of a device for a proper review.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Early upsides

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Nicely built: The frame of the Galaxy S23 FE felt good in the hand, although fans of smaller phones might not love its bulk. The range of colours is appealing with a little something for everyone; I can’t say I love the tangerine colour, but the violet/purple hue is, I think, a winner.

Smart camera choices: A lot of sub-$1000 “premium” phones opt for a camera array with wide, ultra-wide and maybe a macro lens if you’re lucky. The Galaxy S23 FE — being an “FE” phone with the essentials of the bigger Galaxy S line — eschews macro in favour of a 3x optical telephoto lens.

That’s a stronger inclusion in my book, simply because it gives you more genuinely useful tools to work with. Quick snap tests with the Galaxy S23 FE showed it mostly working well, though I couldn’t really put it through its paces.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Decent screen A 120Hz Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen is nothing to be sneered at. Again, early days and early impressions — and Samsung’s far from alone in the faster refresh rate game — but the 6.4 inch display is a good size without being massive in the hand. Or at least, massive in my hands, anyway.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Early downsides

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Space Zoom remains a gimmick The Galaxy S23 FE can manage 3x telephoto zoom natively — because that’s what its zoom lens can manage — but you can boost that up with smart cropping of the 50MP primary sensor, a feature that Samsung has long called “Space Zoom”.

I’ve yet to hit a Samsung phone where Space Zoom has really impressed me, especially at maximum range. It took all of three seconds zooming in on a simple shot from a window with the Galaxy S23 FE to remind me that it’s still not very good, except for feeling like some kind of peeping tom.

Exynos 2200, not Snapdragon Of late, Samsung’s flagships in Australia have shipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, typically the best of that given year, and sometimes even with some Samsung-specific tweaks under the hood.

That’s not what you get with the Galaxy S23 FE, however. It’s using Samsung’s own Exynos silicon, the Exynos 2200 specifically. Typically, the Exynos high end has offered better battery life but lower performance than Snapdragon in a given year — and that also has to be weighed against the S23 FE’s 4500mAh battery, given so many Androids these days have 5,000mAh power packs.

Indigo and Tangerine are Samsung-online-only It’s great that the Galaxy S23 FE comes in so many colours — I really do think that’s a plus — but if you’re keen on the Tangerine or Indigo colours, you’ll have to buy them through Samsung online in Australia — officially, at least, they’re not going out to general retailers.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

The S23 FE competes with a LOT of phones Got $999 to spend on a smartphone? You’ve got a LOT of choices; just off the top of my head that could buy you a Motorola ThinkPhone or Razr 40 for example.

If, as Samsung insists, this is a “Fan Edition”, then fans could also consider an older flagship Samsung model, because it’s not that hard to find those on sale at retailers at (or sometimes below) the S23 FE’s asking price.

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