Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: flagship fanfare for a cut of the price

The Fan Edition returns, but does Samsung's affordable S23 FE arrival make sense so near to the S24's launch?

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
T3 Verdict

The whole 'Fan Edition' label may seem like a misnomer, as the true target audience for this phone will be lured in by its many features and sensibly pitched price point. While older-gen hardware means so-so battery life, the 6.4-inch display will bring appeal over the original 6.1-inch S23, while the design is every bit the flagship in look and feel, and the cameras are compelling for a phone of this level.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Accomplished design fits neatly into Galaxy family

  • +

    6.4-inch display larger than base S23 model

  • +

    Strong main camera performance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Older-gen hardware and so-so battery life

  • -

    The smaller Galaxy S23 now costs less

  • -

    3x tele zoom camera has limitations

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When I think about the best Android phones, Samsung's flagship S series always springs to mind – the Galaxy S23 Ultra certainly earns its place among my favourites – but at the more affordable end of the scale the Korean phone-maker had seemingly backed away from producing its FE or 'Fan Edition' model. 

Yet here we are, at the tail-end of 2023, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE – which I've been using for two weeks now for this review – has now gone on sale worldwide, following its October announcement, offering a more affordable and slightly different take on the Galaxy S23 series.

However, the recurring question in my mind is "why now?". With the absence of the earlier Galaxy S22 FE and on the cusp of a Galaxy S24 series launch in January 2024, where does the Galaxy S23 FE belong? For me this isn't truly a 'phone for the fans', rather a Galaxy device that, in isolation and at the right price, will serve Android bargain hunters wanting a Samsung handset.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE: Price & Availability

Available to buy right now, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is priced at £599 in the UK, $599 in the US, and AU$899 in Australia. That's for the 128GB storage and 8GB RAM model (there's a 256GB option too, but that's the only other variation). There have been some decent discount promotions already, too, so you may find it for even less.

That reads like a fair price, especially when considering that the original Galaxy S23 went on sale at £849 ($799/AU$1349). The Fan Edition is cheaper – except, given the time since the original device's release, it actually isn't. You can pick up a smaller yet more powerful S23 for less money right now, as you can see in the shopping widget embedded above. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: What's New?

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

When discussing 'what's new?' about the Galaxy S23 FE, I mean that more as 'what's different?' compared to the rest of the Galaxy S23 series. In terms of physical scale the Fan Edition – with its 6.4-inch screen – sits in between the 6.1-inch Galaxy S23 and 6.6-inch S23 Plus. That makes it a neat small-scale device and gives it a point of difference and appeal.

To look at, however, the Fan Edition model fits perfectly into the S23 series' aesthetic character. It's got the same looks, same triple camera layout on the rear, same flat screen arrangement. It's an echo of all the good stuff about the series, just in a slightly different format. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

And while those cameras on the rear may look familiar, the zoom lens – it's a 3x telephoto here – is reduced to an 8-megapixel sensor for capture and, inevitably, is of lesser quality. The front-facing selfie camera is also reduced to a 10MP offering. However, the main 50MP and wide-angle 12MP sensors mirror that of the base S23.

Inside is where you'll find one of the bigger shifts: the S23 FE features Samsung's own Exynos 2200 processor, the likes of which you can find in some regional generation-old Galaxy S22 models. That puts it a step behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon-toting releases of late (except for the USA, where it features the now two-generations-old Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 platform).

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Design & Display

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
  • Colours: Indigo, Tangerine, Purple, Mint, Cream, Graphite
  • Dimensions: 158 x 76.5 x 8.2mm / Weight: 209g
  • Display: 6.4-inch OLED, 1080x2340 pixels, 120Hz

As said of the previous Samsung Galaxy S23 model, the Fan Edition is part of the company's big drive to up the proportion of recycled parts that compose the device. I'd argue that having yet another S23 model in the range at this stage is quite the opposite of sustainable, though, even if at least 10% of its plastic, 10% of its glass and 30% of its aluminium are from recycled sources. 

While the Cream colourway of my review Fan Edition model is the same as found elsewhere in the S23 series, it has an abundance of other colour choices: Purple, Mint and Graphite are available from various retailers, while the punchier-looking Tangerine and Indigo (blue) options are exclusive to Samsung's online store. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

As I've said, visually the Galaxy S23 FE could be mistaken for either the base S23 or marginally larger S23 Plus as it's the middle-size doppelganger. It's flat, a little thick (at 8.2mm it's actually thicker than its surrounding models), and feels weighty for a small handset. But it's well-built, comfortable to hold and attractive to look at. 

The display is a delightful 6.4-inch AMOLED panel that features a 1080 x 2340 resolution (the same as the S23, just across a larger surface area), is suitably bright, and as is typical of OLED delivers deep blacks, punchy colours and great contrast. It's also a 120Hz refresh rate panel, which makes everything look smooth, and I'm glad that feature wasn't chopped from the spec for the sake of cost or ranging. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Performance & Battery

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
  • Samsung Exynos 2200 processor (international; SM8450 in USA)
  • 8GB RAM & 128GB storage (256GB option also available)
  • 4500mAh battery, 25W wired charging

The decision to serve the Galaxy S23 FE with an Exynos 2200 processor is certainly interesting. Samsung's own silicon has often been said to deliver less on battery performance and my initial experience with this handset was troubling in terms of longevity. 

However, as I've learned from reviewing countless Samsung phones over the years, they can take a bit of time to settle down. My concerns were of less bother in the end, but with that said the Fan Edition model still doesn't last as long per charge as I'd like. I struggle to get through a full day without reaching for the charger, with circa 13 hours per charge being my typical norm.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

That could be down to my practices, though, as I've noticed when playing games such as Mighty Doom that the handset can run pretty hot. And if you're using it as a mobile hotspot then expect the battery to spin out much quicker. 

In terms of raw power the Galaxy S23 FE is a step behind the base S23 and its Plus and Ultra siblings. That's because Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has a faster clock speed (and, from my experience, seems gentler on battery consumption). In practice I've not noticed performance be an issue, however, indeed I've had better performance here than, say, from Google's Pixel 8 Pro and its Tensor G3 processor. 

In summary then: the Galaxy S23 FE performs to expectation, with enough power. to rival flagships of the here and now, despite older-gen hardware. However, the battery life isn't quite up to scratch, despite a relatively sizable cell under the hood. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
  • Main: 50-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
  • Zoom (3x): 8MP, f/2.4, OIS
  • Wide: 12MP, f/2.2
  • Selfie: 10MP, f/2.4

Above I've laid out the four main cameras you'll find on the Galaxy S23 FE so you can see what you're getting. If the list looks familiar that's because, with the exception of the resolution drops for the zoom and selfie cameras, it's the same setup as you'll find in the base Galaxy S23. And that's a pretty good thing for an affordable handset to offer.

First the not-so-good stuff: that 3x optical zoom, while practical, is just a step down from the already average 10MP version found in the original S23. It left me wanting greater clarity and, often, the ability to focus closer-up to subjects too. All of which made me largely shun that optic and instead use the main camera with the intent to crop into images after. 

Fortunately the main camera on the Galaxy S23 FE is excellent. The 50-megapixel main resolution on offer is well-equipped to deliver detail in all manner of shooting conditions – and I really enjoyed using the handset to shoot some great images when away on holiday. Whether sun-drenched vistas, or dimly lit evening scenes, anything I cared to frame with the S23 FE came out respectably. There is some grain in low-light shots, however, so there are limitations.

One of the take-away points about Samsung's camera arrangement is that it's just so easy to use, which I find a big plus point. And while the S23 FE's camera setup isn't mind-blowing, it's a significant step beyond many mid-level sub-flagship handsets will offer you. Indeed it may be one of the main reasons to consider buying this phone... although the Google Pixel 8 does present stiff competition.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review: Verdict

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

I've ummed and ahhed about how I truly feel about the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE. Because in my job I review new phones every couple of weeks – yes, I'm effectively a spoiled superfan – the presence of this handset feels like it sits in the shadow of the wider S23 line-up. And with the S24 series reveal now imminent, I think that true Samsung Galaxy fans are going to be questioning "why this?" and "why now?".  

While the S23 FE's use of older-gen hardware is technically a step down, I really didn't feel that in use – there's plenty of power here. However, certain apps will cause the handset to run warm and my biggest issue of all is that this hardware combination delivers battery life that's so-so at best. 

So while the whole 'Fan Edition' label seems like a misnomer to me, the true target audience for this phone are going to really like many of its features. It's got a larger display than the base S23, which I think will be a major appeal. The design is every bit the flagship in look and feel. The cameras are compelling for a phone of this level.  The software runs nice and smoothly too. 

Therefore, in isolation, the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE is a compelling little Android phone – and one that's keenly pitched its asking price perfectly. And with some early discount offers already available, those seeking out a Samsung Galaxy bargain ought to keep an eye on this handset as an affordable option.

Also consider

If you're happy with an even smaller handset, then the original Galaxy S23 is actually cheaper at the time of writing. It's technically more powerful, too, although the more limited battery capacity may not deliver better innings. 

If you're happy to look outside of Samsung then I'd suggest considering the Google Pixel 8, which is priced in a similar ballpark and is a great handset both visually and in how its cameras work. Its Pixel 7 predecessor can be had for even less cash as an alternative. 

Or, if you're feeling content to go off the beaten track, then the Nothing Phone 2 is a fun and affordable alternative that's powerful and just a little different. 

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.