Let us get one thing straight – Samsung has pretty much perfected its flagship phone making process.
Regardless of what your feelings are regarding the iterative nature of its releases, which is an industry-wide issue these days, the South Korean outfit has not failed to impress with its devices since the Galaxy S8, which followed the problematic Note 7 that had a propensity to catch a light while in flight.
Those kinds of manufacturing concerns are long behind the company, with its more recent efforts turning towards foldables and getting the crease right on those flexible displays.
But we are not here to talk foldables. Instead our focus shifts to the Galaxy S23 series, which was the first Android flagship lineup to be revealed for South African audiences last month.
As has been the case in recent years, Samsung has looked to set the pace and get ahead of its competition. While smartphone sales have generally slumped on the back of the pandemic, in most regions it operates in, Samsung dominates.
The same can be said of the Galaxy S23 series – everything just works. And works well we might add. So how does the base model S23 stack up?
We have had the standard S23 in review for the past couple of weeks, with our review model coming in the rather fetching Cream colour option. While the base model S23 is the smallest of the trio of new flagship phones from Samsung at 6.1″ (2340×1080 FullHD+), it is not lacking in any other department.
Here’s what we discovered after a couple of weeks of use.
Let’s start as always with design, and at launch we remarked how the new S23 series looks a lot like an iPhone from an aesthetic standpoint. That opinion has not changed, with the frame looking quite similar to what Apple likes to employ for its phones. The camera array is also quite similar, although the orientation of lenses is a little different, sitting in a neat vertical row.
That was the case with the S22 series, however, the housing jutted out. That is not present on the new models.
It is also worth mentioning that the S23 and S23+ have new designs while the Ultra retains the elements of its predecessor. This is likely down to the fact that it sports an S Pen recessed into the frame of the phone, not to mention that Samsung probably wants to differentiate the Ultra from the other models.
Back to the base S23 and it features a matte textured back cover. Sticking with the cover, no protective one features in the packaging for the device, along with Samsung continuing to ship the S series sans charger. Only the charging cable, SIM tray tool, and some literature on the device itself is present.
We understand the company is placing an emphasis on sustainability, but shipping a phone that costs R20 995 (RRP) without a generic plastic cover or charger seems a little absurd. We have voiced our frustration over this decision in the past, and nothing has changed in that regard. As such, when buying any of the S23 phones, be aware that you’ll need to budget for a charger and protective cover of some kind too.
Now that we’re done venting, we can now start to appreciate the design of the S23. It is sleek, simple, understated, and premium feeling all at once. Like we said at the beginning of the review, Samsung has gotten very good at making flagship phones.
Ready to work
It is time to talk performance, and here the base Galaxy S23 really starts to shine. Running things is the latest mobile silicon from Qualcomm, namely the octa-core Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which is paired with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage. It is a solid mix that yields the best benchmarking we have recorded to date.
Interestingly this includes the S23 Ultra, which we have in for review too, with that processor setup to focus more on media in our benchmarking.
Back to the base model and it yielded a single-core and multi-core score on GeekBench 6 of 1 939 and 5 061 respectively. As such, the S23 is well appointed when it comes to its processing power. This is match by the in-hand experience, with no noticeable lags while multitasking, switching between apps and running benchmarks. The same went for media and gaming, with the S23 handling both with ease.
When it comes to all-rounders, the Galaxy S23 is starting to separate itself from the competition.
On the photography side of things this phone is well appointed too. Here a trio of lenses are on offer, with a 50MP wide-angle option handling the primary shooting. Added to this is a 12MP ultra wide-angle and 10MP telephoto lenses.
The mix serves up solid images in a number of lighting environments, and we were particularly impressed by the responsiveness of the 50MP lens.
The only issue we had was that this option had to be toggled on in order to use. We understand why this is the case, as the images it produces would take up valuable storage, but it is something we’d like to be able to switch on/off in settings for a longer period of time.
The last two elements we wish to touch on are the battery life and UI. Starting with the latter the modest 3 900mAh battery on offer delivers a surprisingly long amount of life, as we were able to get through a day and a half before a charge was required. Two days would be nice, but we’re starting to nitpick here.
As for the UI, it is relatively clean and simple to use. Here we can only fault the fact that there are several duplicated apps, as Samsung tries to push you towards its own ecosystem of products. Most of these can be removed from the home screen, or uninstalled, but it is a bit of unwelcome admin.
The base model Samsung Galaxy S23 is a good phone, but you already knew that. It is the latest in a long line of flagship offerings from the South Korean outfit that delivers a simple and clean aesthetic, powerful performance, clear display, and solid battery life.
The problem is that you could say the exact same thing about its predecessor, or indeed the model before that. If you already own an S22, upgrading to the new option does not make a lot of sense, unless you can get a seriously good trade-in amount. Otherwise, there is no real need to upgrade right now.
That is not a slight on the S23, simply the result of a smartphone maker releasing a very good flagship phone only 12 months ago too.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5 OUT OF 10.