The Samsung Galaxy S23 is both underwhelming and great, or so it looks

Leonard Sengere Avatar

If you ever needed more proof that it is now wasteful to upgrade your phone every year, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy S23 series. Samsung launched this year’s latest and greatest yesterday and as you would expect, it seems like the phones are great. Just not when you’re comparing them to last year’s S22s. Or even 2021’s S21s.

Don’t get me wrong, Samsung improved on already stellar phones and so should you get an S23, you will enjoy it. It’s just that the improvements we are now getting year on year are not enough to warrant an upgrade. But if your pockets are deep enough, you can go ahead and grab these bad boys.

So what’s new in the S23s?

No more Exynos, YAY!

If you didn’t know, Samsung used to use two different processors in their flagship phones. North America and a few other markets got Snapdragon processors whilst the rest of the world got their in-house Exynos processors.

The problem was, save for one or two years in over a decade, the Snapdragon processors were better than the Exynos ones. So, while you and an American would boast about your Galaxies, the American almost always had the better phone.

That all changes with the S23 series. They are ditching the Exynos and now, like with every other phone manufacturer, there will be no hardware differences in phones with the same name. It’s crazy that Samsung even got away with this practice for as long as they did.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy

We talked about this SoC, the latest and greatest from Qualcomm, here. You can read about how its GPU is the best in the business, beating out Apple’s. We knew this beast of a processor would be overclocked for the Samsungs and now we know a little more about what exactly is different with the Snapdragon for Galaxy.

The ‘for Galaxy’ Gen 2s have a primary clock speed of 3.36GHz as opposed to 3.2GHz for the vanilla Gen 2. The GPU clock speed comes in at 719MHz, up from 680MHz in the Gen 2 that all other Android flagships will be using.

I think it’s safe to assume that these ‘for Galaxy’ processors will score higher in benchmarks. However, it’s unlikely to lead to any meaningful real-world advantage.

The specs above are the highest clock speeds the chips can hit. Thing is, you will rarely be hitting those highest clock speeds. It would be too taxing on the battery to operate at such high clock speeds. It’s not even necessary anyway in most cases, WhatsApp and Facebook where you spend most of your time are not that taxing on processors.

So, all in all, it’s not that big of a deal that the ‘for Galaxy’ processors are overclocked. The big deal is that everyone is getting the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, regardless of where they live. It is a powerful chip, overclocked or not.

AI and ISP

The other tweaks that were made to the ‘for Galaxy’ Gen 2s involve an upgraded Snapdragon Hexagon processor for better AI performance.

Samsung also gets the first crack at Snapdragon’s Cognitive ISP. This fancy Image Signal Processor (ISP) is part of the 8 Gen 2 but the S23s will be the first to go live with the feature. The vanilla Gen 2 will get it but Samsung gets it first.

This ISP figures out the different objects/elements in images so that they can be processed accordingly. The oft-given example is that if the ISP identifies that the subject is wearing sunglasses, the processor knows glare could be an issue.

It all sounds fancy but we don’t know just how big of a difference it will all make in the real world.

The 200MP camera

That is an insane number of pixels to have in a mobile phone’s camera, 200MP. Last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra had a 108MP camera. For context, the Pixel 7 Pro has a 50MP sensor whilst the iPhone 14 Pro has a 48MP one.

Should we just crown Samsung the photography champs then? Not quite. Megapixels are not the be-all and end-all of photography. For the longest time Pixels and iPhones topped out at 12MP and yet routinely beat out cameras with much higher megapixel counts.

That doesn’t mean the S23 does not have a great camera though. I reckon it will compete with the very best in the business and hold its own.

About that 200MP camera, you will be able to take 200MP images if you want. However, that will not be the default setting. By default, Samsung will be ‘pixel binning’, and outputting 12.5MP photos from that 200MP sensor. There is also an option to take 50MP images.

When pixel binning, the Image Signal Processor averages the input from multiple pixels to produce one super-pixel. The combined pixels should neighbour each other and should be like-coloured as well.

So, the 200MP sensor combines the input from 16 pixels into one to produce 12.5MP images. Or it combines 4 pixels to produce 50MP images.

The tiny pixels on phone camera sensors capture little light but when combined, light sensitivity improves. So, although you get 12.5MP images from this 200MP sensor, you get much better light capture than if it were a 12.5MP sensor. This is especially useful in low-light conditions. Hence why these new phones take such good photos in those conditions.

The 200MP sensor is on the Ultra only, the S23 and S23+ have 50MP main cameras.

What else is there to talk about?

The S23s also come with the fastest storage ever on a phone with their UFS 4.0 chips. We talked about what that all means here. To note though is that the small S23 will not be rocking these UFS 4.0 chips but rather will be using UFS 3.1 like last year’s S22s.

When it comes to design, you would be hard-pressed to tell the S23 Ultra from the S22 Ultra. They look almost identical although the newer phone is boxier.

This trend of recycling a flagship’s design for a few years is here to stay, apparently. I’m not mad at it. We have established that yearly upgrades are no longer a wise move. So, we expect those that will be upgrading to the S23 for example, to be coming from the S20 and older phones. To them this design is fresh.

Apple is pushing it though when it comes to this philosophy. Three whole generations of the iPhone have the same design.

Back to the S23. There are 3 models as always. The 6.1-inch S23, the 6.6-inch S23 Plus and the 6.8-inch S23 Ultra. All have the exact same processor and run the same software, Android 13/One UI 5.1. For spec lovers, here’s what we are looking at:

The specs

Galaxy S23Galaxy S23+Galaxy S23 Ultra
RAM+Storage8+128GB, 8+256GB (UFS 3.1)8+256GB, 8+512GB (UFS 4.0)8+256GB, 12+512GB, 12GB+1TB (UFS 4.0)
Display6.1″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate, 425ppi, 1,750nit (outdoor peak)6.6″ FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate,393ppi, 1,750nit (outdoor peak)6.8″ QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2x, 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate, 500ppi, 1,750nit (outdoor peak)
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, ultra-wideband5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, ultra-wideband
Battery3,900mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging4,700mAh, 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging5000mAh, 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, Reverse wireless charging
Rear Camera50MP f/1.8 primary, Dual Pixel AF, OIS; 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (120° FoV); 10MP f/2.4 3x optical zoom sensor with OIS; 30x space zoom50MP f/1.8 primary, Dual Pixel AF, OIS; 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (120° FoV); 10MP f/2.4 3x optical zoom sensor with OIS; 30x space zoom200MP f/1.7 primary, OIS and PDAF; 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (120° FoV); 10MP f/2.4 3x optical zoom sensor with OIS; 10MP f/4.9 10x optical zoom with OIS; 100x space zoom
Front Camera12MP f2.2 with PDAF12MP f2.2 with PDAF12MP f2.2 with PDAF
PriceStarts at $800Starts at $1000Starts at $1200

When it comes to those prices, expect to pay way more than that in Zimbabwe. Will you be upgrading to these bad boys or are you going to pass? Let us know what you think about these phones in the comments section below.

Also read:

How frequently do you need to upgrade your smartphone?

Samsung doubles phone storage speed, energy efficiency up 45% with UFS 4.0

Samsung plays it safe with improvements to folding phones, Flip 4 and Fold 4, still impressive though


What’s your take?

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  1. Samsung Galaxy Unpacked

    From out here in the peanut gallery, these look great! I like the Plain Jane S23. The extra simplicity is refreshing, and their design had to back up their use of recycled materials by getting rid of useless bling. If the FE version come with a nice price drop, I might make a good faith effort to get one.

  2. Leonard Sengere

    For some reason the small one is pulling me in too. Is there going to be an FE version this year though? We didn’t get the S22 FE last year if you recall.

    1. Samsung Galaxy Unpacked

      Noooooo! Really?! I hope it was just a supply chain issue than a permanent cancellation. FE was such a good idea! I actually wish I had managed to get my hands on the OG Bomb FE😂🔥

  3. 20

    I’m waiting for the fan edition as well. Bit disappointed with the battery though quick charge is a must for me. Esp with zesa

  4. 20

    Here an idea s23 Africa edition
    Last year’s processor up 4g only
    6000mah quick charge battery with reverse charging for our friends.
    2 flash lights for those dark nights

  5. Fatso Latso

    Samsung Foundries was never going to be able to keep up with TSMC & SnapDragon. Glad the differentiation got unsustainable and SD took over the entire thing! It will be interesting to see if this overclocked chip doesn’t overheat in hotter parts of the world like ours

  6. granny

    Haizzz, Now I just have the ability to buy A23