The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE might be the newest smartphone from Samsung, but is it the best? Building off the success of the Galaxy S23, the S23 FE offers a slightly dumbed down version of the flagship, with a few missing features you may or may not miss.
Table of Contents
The Galaxy S23 and S23 FE share a few family resemblances, as well as a few key differences. For starters, the Galaxy S23 FE is slightly larger than the S23, but the latter features a newer chipset and a few other features that the S23 FE doesn’t offer. Here’s what the two devices look like on paper:
Galaxy S23 specs:
OS: Android 13/One UI 5.1
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
Dimensions: 5.76 by 2.79 by 0.3 inches
Display: 6.1-inch, 2340 x 1080 resolution at 120Hz
Cameras: 50MP, 12MP, 10MP (rear); 12MP (front)
Battery life (as tested by PCMag): 13 hours and 12 minutes
Galaxy S23 FE specs:
OS: Android 13/One UI 5.1
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Dimensions: 6.22 by 3.01 by 0.32 inches
Display: 6.4-inches, 2340 x 1080 resolution at 120Hz
Cameras: 50MP, 12MP, 8MP (rear); 10MP (front)
Battery life (as tested by PCMag): 10 hours
Despite being the cheaper phone, the S23 FE actually has a slightly larger display than the S23. The Galaxy S23 is Samsung’s more compact option in the lineup, sporting a 6.1-inch display. The S23 FE, on the other hand, bumps up the screen size to 6.4 inches.
The size isn’t the only difference here, though. While both offer similar resolutions, the Galaxy S23 is made using Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the latest and toughest version of Corning’s glass. The Galaxy S23 FE uses 2016’s Gorilla Glass 5, which is still shatter-resistant, but doesn’t offer the same level of protection as the S23’s glass. If protection matters most, the S23 has the edge here. (But if you’re prepared to slap a screen protector and/or case on your phone, this difference may not matter much.)
The display on the Galaxy S23 is also rated for a maximum brightness of 1,750 nits, while the Galaxy S23 FE peaks at 1,450 nits. Both are still plenty bright to see outdoors, but that extra brightness on the S23 might make a difference in direct sunlight. Also, while both offer the same resolution of 2340 x 1080, the Galaxy S23 is smaller, with a slighter higher pixel density. To the trained eye, it might appear a bit sharper, but that’s not something most will notice.
PCMag tested both devices intensely to reach the battery life metrics reported above. As such, both the Galaxy S23 and S23 FE should get through the day without needing to be charged, so long as you aren’t constantly playing games or scrolling through TikTok.
The Galaxy S23 sports a 3,900mAh battery, while the Galaxy S23 FE offers a slightly larger 4,500mAh battery. But that larger size doesn’t always mean longer battery life: The FE’s larger display, for example, takes up a bit more power to run than the S23’s. Both also offer wireless charging up to 15W, and wired charging maximums of 25W. That means you can reach 0 to 50% battery in 30 minutes, and 0 to 100% in less than 100 minutes on both devices, though the Galaxy S23 does charge slightly faster because of its smaller size.
If you’re going strictly for battery life, the Galaxy S23 is again the winner here, as it offering an additional three hours of active usage over the cheaper Galaxy S23 FE.
The Galaxy S23 FE foregoes the usual sacrifices made by mid-range devices and offers a similar camera stack to the Galaxy S23. Unfortunately, those cameras aren’t quite enough to make it stand out from the competition (namely, the impressive Pixel 7a), which is something I touched on in my first look at the Galaxy S23 FE.
If you’re looking at strict camera power, the Galaxy S23 is the winner here. However, the S23 FE comes in a very close second. The biggest difference, of course, is the 10MP telephoto lens on the S23, as opposed to the 8MP telephoto lens on the S23 FE, and the 12MP selfie cam on the front of the S23. The S23 FE has a slightly lower-resolution 10MP front camera, but both are perfectly adequate for capturing photos in portrait mode.
While an extra two megapixels might not seem like a huge difference on the rear telephoto lens, it definitely helps the Galaxy S23 capture slightly better images. The f/2.2 aperture also means it performs slightly better in low-light than the S23 FE’s f/2.4 aperture camera. Plus, the S23 has Samsung’s 30x Space Zoom feature, which is unfortunately missing on the cheaper Galaxy S23 FE.
Those looking for the crispest, highest resolution photos will want to go with the Galaxy S23’s improved cameras over the S23 FE’s cheaper options. In the end, though, both devices suffer from Samsung’s long-standing over-saturation issues, but that’s something you can fix in post with a third-party program.
The Galaxy S23 sports a newer CPU, so it benchmarks slightly higher than the S23 FE. When tested in Geekbench 6, the Galaxy S23 scored 1857 in single-core and 4908 in multi-core. The Galaxy S23 FE’s slightly older chip scores 1564 in single-core and 3750 in multi-core in Geekbench, according to NanoReview.
While those numbers are different, especially in multi-core, it comes down to actual real-world use. Even with its two-year-old SoC, the Galaxy S23 FE packs more than enough punch to get you through your daily tasks. Plus, the larger display means you’ll have more room for multitasking, should you want to take advantage of the various multitasking options Samsung has built into its devices over the years. The S23 is undeniably the faster phone, but that extra power only really pulls ahead during the most demanding tasks.
The bottom line
Both the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 FE are great devices that offer all the features Samsung brought to the table this generation. The S23 starts at $799.99 for an 8GB/128GB model, and jumps up $60 for the 256GB model. The Galaxy S23 FE, on the other hand, starts at $599.99 for 8GB/128GB, and jumps to $659.99 if you want to double the storage.
My take is this: In terms of overall value, the Galaxy S23 FE takes the cake here. For a savings of $200, you still get the full Samsung experience with the FE. Of course, if you want the best that Samsung has to offer, including the newest processor and display panel, that’s the Galaxy S23. But you shouldn’t feel like you’re missing out on anything huge going with the S23 FE.