Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ hands-on review: Small changes to a solid formula

Do the new AAA mainstream Android phones deliver?

Samsung Galaxy S23
(Image: © Future)

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It’s new Samsung time, and two of the most heavily leaked phones are here: the Galaxy S23 and S23+. Both bring some small tweaks to the design and cameras, while updating its internals to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets with bigger batteries.

From my position, it looks like Samsung has worked hard to answer some of the key gripes with the S22, but what are these phones like to use in person? I went hands-on with both for a short amount of time and I can report that while you’re not getting much new here, it is a sound upgrade to this household name in Android flagships.

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ pricing and configurations

The base model S23 is $799, which gets you 8GB of RAM and 128GB of on-board storage, increasing by $100 for the 256GB model.

Upping it to the Plus, you’re looking at a starting price of $899 for the same spec, with the same $100 bump for double the memory. These prices remain consistent with the Samsung Galaxy S22 line.

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ design

Samsung Galaxy S23

(Image credit: Future)

On first look, it’s fair to say that not much has changed. But one glance at the camera bump shows that Samsung is moving towards a more unified Galaxy phone lineup — copying the Ultra’s homework.

Samsung’s phone looks and feels a little more refined in the hand with its shiny aluminum band that’s been chamfered to a curved shiny finish. I do miss the integrated camera bump into the edge, though, as the company has opted for individual lens bumps (like the S23 Ultra).

And the dimensions remain largely the same to the S22 too, with the S23 measuring in at 5.75 x 2.79 x 0.29 inches, with a weight of 5.89 ounces, and the S23+ coming in at 6.21 x 3.0 x 0.29 inches and weighing 6.91 ounces. Made from recycled aluminum, glass and plastic, these materials give it a nice premium, substantial feel. 

Completing the device is Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front and rear, and an IP68X water resistance rating, along with protection from dirt, dust and sand.

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ display

Samsung Galaxy S23

(Image credit: Future)

It should come as no surprise that the displays are gorgeous. Screens are Samsung’s bread and butter after all.

In the case of the S23 and S23+, these smartphones have a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and HDR10+ support. For the standard phone, it’s a 6.1-inch screen width, whereas the plus bumps it up to 6.6-inches (both with 2340 x 1080 resolution).

In personal use, the colors pop off the screen with an impressive luminosity, suggesting the brightness is nice and strong, and the slickness of the UI just slides across the display with effortless grace.

But that’s not all, as Samsung has added a few eye-safe features to prevent eye strain and increase comfort depending on the lighting environment. There’s the proprietary Enhanced comfort feature that adjusts color tones and contrast levels along with Vision booster which offers  three levels of lighting in order to combat brightness and glare in daylight. 

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ performance

Samsung Galaxy S23

(Image credit: Future)

No, we were not allowed to benchmark the demo units. I asked and the Samsung rep got a little cross at me. But I can tell you that much like the Ultra, the S23 and S23+ will pack a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset with Adreno chipset.

There are promises of impressive gains over the last generation with its 4nm process. How significant? Well, we don’t know for sure. But based on the numbers the RedMagic 8 Pro is pumping out with the same setup (5,059 multi-core score), the jump could be dramatic.

Performance is the big question mark hanging over the Galaxy S23 right now. What is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 going to be like in a phone that doesn’t have a fan like the Redmagic 8 Pro we tested (review coming soon)? We’ll have to get it through the lab to figure that out.

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ cameras

Samsung Galaxy S23

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S23 and S23+ have the following camera setup:

  • 50MP main camera with f/1.8 aperture
  • 12MP ultra-wide with f/2.2 aperture
  • 10MP telephoto with f/2.4 aperture
  • 12MP selfie camera

If you’re thinking “that sounds familiar,” it is. That is exactly the same setup as the Galaxy S22, but Samsung does claim enhanced night-time photography, thanks to some AI object-aware enhancements and dual-pixel autofocus.

In the small amount of time I had to test the S23, the photo quality is very “Samsung.” By that, I mean rich in saturation. Of course, there are tools and filters you can use to either edit them in post or turn down that color. But if this look is not your thing (and you don’t want to go the iPhone route), I’d recommend looking towards the likes of the Google Pixel 7.

Samsung Galaxy S23/S23+ battery life

We haven’t tested both the Samsung Galaxy S23, but we already know the battery life is going to be improving a bit thanks to the 200mAh extra capacity — taking it up to 3,900mAh and 4,700mAh respectively. 

That said, though, the S22 was already pretty good at stamina. We saw this in our battery informant test result of 11 hours and 3 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra software

Samsung flashed the Galaxy S23 and S23+ with the latest version of its One UI software. It’s fast and responsive and chock full of Samsung features. For security, Samsung Knox is still here, keeping your sensitive info under lock and key. As for future commitments, Samsung is promising five years of security updates and four generations of Android updates. 

But the bigger news is that Samsung has made a concerted effort to make this latest generation of phones play nice with its new line of laptops. Similar to the Apple ecosystem, Samsung is employing deeper levels of connectivity including second screen capabilities and Multi Control, which lets you use the S23 line as a mouse or second keyboard with a Samsung PC or tablet. 

There’s also the ability to copy and paste between devices. And thanks to the S Pen, video conferencing can be even more collaborative. In a Google Meet call, you can now co-edit docs instead of looking at a static shared screen. 


Samsung Galaxy S23

(Image credit: Future)

Much like the Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy S23 and S23+ are on an incremental update process. Of course, the design is a little fresher and more refined (RIP camera bump integrated into the edge), but on current first impressions, we’re in for something rather nice this year.

With the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform, improved night photography and a bigger battery, the Samsung Galaxy S23 vs iPhone 14 battle looks set to be a tight fight. But we’ll leave a full opinion for our proper hands-on review of both these phones.

Jason England
Content Editor

Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.