Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: buy this phone instead of that other one

Whatever they say, this one is still for the fans

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review
(Image: © Future / Philip Berne)

TechRadar Verdict

The Galaxy S23 FE is the best phone to buy in this price range, and its price is its distinguishing feature. You can get an older phone for the same price, or you can find a few oddball options, but the S23 FE is a solid, reliable handset that looks good, and even comes in some unique colors. It isn’t as refined as the rest of the Galaxy S23 family, but it’s a huge step up from other bargain phones. If the price is right and you like the looks, the Galaxy S23 FE is a solid buy.

Pros

  • +

    Solid, durable build quality

  • +

    Nice color options stand out

  • +

    Design reminiscent of the Galaxy S23 Ultra

Cons

  • -

    Bigger and heavier than the Galaxy S23

  • -

    Uneven bezels and thick frame

  • -

    Camera isn’t as good as S23

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Galaxy S23 FE: Two-minute review

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

If you ask Samsung folks what the ‘FE’ in Galaxy S23 FE stands for, they’ll tell you it no longer stands for ‘Fan Edition’; it doesn’t stand for anything. I’m telling you this really is a Galaxy S23 for the fans. By ‘fans,’ I mean folks who appreciate the best that Samsung offers, even when they can’t afford the best that Samsung offers. Like car fans will look for great used car deals, and fashionistas find flash sales and samples, Samsung fans can still get (most of) the best of the Galaxy S world without paying sky-high prices. 

The Galaxy S23 FE is a bargain, especially if you find it on sale, and it quickly went on sale for Black Friday soon after launch. This phone lists for $599 in the US, but it dropped as low as $399 for Black Friday, and it’s still got a discount as of this writing. This is a phone that is meant to fill the wide price gap between the Galaxy S23 and the Galaxy A54, but it will also be a terrific bargain when sales are active. 

What makes this a Galaxy S23 for the fans? It’s very powerful, thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 platform that was the engine for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It has solid cameras with excellent features, including cool photo modes that are easy to use and make your photos look much better. It also has a solid build quality, with total water resistance. It even comes in some cool colors. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

Of course, because it’s a Samsung, the Galaxy S23 FE also goes over the top in ways that other bargain phones don’t. For instance, the Galaxy S23 FE can run DEX, Samsung’s desktop environment that turns your phone into a laptop when you plug it into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. That’s a great feature if you use your phone for email, apps, and playing games that you don’t usually run on your computer, and I can’t believe it’s included on the Galaxy S23 FE. 

The Galaxy S23 FE is overloaded with features, like every good Samsung phone. It not only includes wireless charging, it can share its charge wirelessly with other devices, so if your earbuds run out of battery you can just sit them on the Galaxy S23 FE. 

In some ways, the S23 FE even tops Samsung’s biggest competitor. It has Wi-Fi 6E, which the iPhone 15 can’t match. The iPhone has USB-C, but the Galaxy has a much more capable USB-C port with faster charging. Oh, it also has a real telephoto zoom lens with 3X optical zoom, in addition to the wide and ultra-wide lenses. Take that, iPhone. 

The downside? It looks like a cheaper version of the Galaxy S23. It doesn’t look like a bargain phone. Bargain phones gussy up cheap plastic to make a nice-looking shell that isn’t really durable. The Galaxy S23 FE feels plenty durable. It also feels thick and heavy. Definitely not chintzy, not at all, the materials feel strong and premium. Samsung just didn’t bother cutting any bulk from this big guy.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

That said, you’ll appreciate the durability in three or four years when you are still using this phone. Samsung has made an excellent promise of four years of OS updates and five years of security patches, and that’s stellar for a phone in this price range. 

The Galaxy S23 FE is easy to recommend, whether or not it’s on sale, especially against other phones you can find for the same price. It’s more powerful than a Google Pixel 7, with more features. It’s got better cameras than the Motorola Edge. It’s not already two years old, like the comparably-priced iPhone 13

If you’re deciding whether to spend a little bit more to get this phone, I’d say it’s worth the extra. Samsung gives you a lot when you jump into the Galaxy S family. If you want a phone that’s better than this, you’ll have to spend a lot more.

Want more of our thoughts on the latest Galaxy phones? Check out our news round-ups for the upcoming Galaxy S24 and the rumored Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S23 FE review: Price and availability