Samsung Galaxy S23+ review: A solid phone that probably isn't worth the upgrade

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DDespite what companies would have you believe, you don’t have to buy a new phone every year or two. So while Samsung’s 2023 lineup of its flagship Galaxy S phones might look disappointing compared to the last generation, it’s not a bad thing that these devices offer little reason to upgrade. It’s just that having said the same about the 2022 models, as well as competing phones from Apple and Google, it’s hard to get more excited about non-folding smartphones.

Like most competitors, Samsung has focused on tweaking the camera and software features of the S23 series, as well as small tweaks to the display and design. We’ve also got the typical processor upgrade and promised battery life improvements, which are objectively good things on paper, but in reality don’t have much of an impact on your day-to-day use.

Galaxy S23+


  • Great battery life
  • Dynamic dispaly
  • Fast performance

The inconvenients

  • Rear cameras struggle in low light compared to other flagships

We’ve already reviewed the S23 Ultra which, thanks to a large display, built-in S-Pen and 200-megapixel camera, aggressively targets power users. For anyone looking to get a new Android phone, there’s the S23+ or the S23. Samsung has yet to make the smallest model available for review, so we’re focusing on the Plus model here. If you’re considering Samsung’s middle child, it’s probably only worth it if you’re currently using something that’s at least three years old or if you’re outside of the US.


One of the most noticeable changes between the S23+ and its predecessor is this year’s sleek looks. Both phones are basically the same, save for the glossy camera housing on the back of the older model, which wraps around the top left corner. Samsung introduced that “cut-outline” case on the S21, and I’ve come to love the aesthetic, especially on the lavender and pink versions.

Looking at the S22+ and S23+ side by side, I’m ambivalent – they’re both harmless. Whether you prefer the cleaner look depends on your personal taste. Functionally, nothing is too different between the two models – the S23+ wobbles a bit less, but that was never a big issue on the S22. I liked the lavender color of our review unit, as well as the green version I saw at Samsung’s hands-on event, but the cream and black options bore me.

In terms of physical dimensions, the differences between the two generations are negligible. They are virtually the same weight, width and length and exactly the same thickness. The S23+ is thinner and lighter than the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Plus, although both of these have larger screens.

Display and audio

Speaking of, one area that Samsung has improved somewhat on the S23+ is its screen. Yes, it’s essentially the same as before, with the same size, same FHD+ resolution and up to 120Hz refresh rate. By now you’ve probably heard reviewers like me extol the virtues of the displays with high refresh rates and how great they are for scrolling through your Instagram or Reddit feeds. The S23+ is no exception.

Side view of top half of Galaxy S23+ held in one hand.  In the background is a blurry fence.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

But it’s now able to hit up to 1,750 nits outdoors versus 1,200 nits before, which means it should be easier to read in sunlight. There haven’t been many sunny days recently, so it’s been hard to put that to the test. But, the S23+ still offers a vibrant and colorful screen, as is the case with Samsung’s mobile products.

Meanwhile, when it comes to audio, the Galaxy S23+ is as good as any flagship smartphone. That is to say, it offers clear vocals and sufficient volume, but is slightly lacking in bass. The vocals of The Weeknd, SZA and Rihanna all sounded clear in the songs I listened to, although the instruments in the latter’s cover of love on the brain sounded a bit messy.


The S23+’s triple rear camera system is the same as before. That is to say, its 50-megapixel main sensor is accompanied by a 10MP telephoto and a 12MP ultrawide. On the front, however, the S23+ features a new 12MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and an 80-degree field of view.

Purple Galaxy S23+ held aloft with its rear cameras facing outward, held aloft with both hands.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As a professional(™) pixel peeper, I could just make out the lesser difference in sharpness between selfies taken with the S22+ and the S23+, especially in the highlighted strands of my hair. There was some distortion in photos taken with the older phone, while the same lines were sharp on the 12MP version. Overall, though, barring general variations in color temperature, it was hard to tell the two images apart.

Compared to the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro, the S23+ has a slight edge in detail retention, thanks also to its dual pixel autofocus. I took selfies with a friend as we cackled maniacally one night, and Samsung’s flagship was the only one that kept the gorgeous greens, purples and blues in her hair, while capturing every strand of her lashes. You could even see the texture of the pigmentation in her purple eyeshadow.

The Pixel’s 10.8-megapixel front camera also managed to capture the hues of her hair, but her image just wasn’t as detailed or clear. Meanwhile, the 12MP iPhone photo barely showed my friend’s hair colors.

Although they remain unchanged, the rear cameras of the S23+ are still quite capable. In most situations with adequate light, they deliver similar quality images to the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro. My shots of the New York cityscape on an overcast day all showed slightly different colors. The S23+ had the deepest and brightest blue, while the Pixel was the most neutral. Samsung’s 3x telephoto lens allows me to get closer to distant buildings and still get sharp photos, although Google’s algorithms still deliver sharp results.

Gallery: Galaxy S23+ sample cameras | 18 Pictures

In low light, however, the Pixel consistently outperformed the S23+, with better exposure and clarity retention in my many appetizing food shots. Whether it was a brilliant fried shrimp or a mouth-watering plate of scallops, the Pixel delivered more even highlights than the S23+. Google’s portrait mode also kept subjects in focus, although occasionally the S23+ produced a surprisingly sharp outline photo of my subjects.

While not on the same level as flagship cameras from Google or Apple, the S23+ isn’t far behind and offers some versatility for those looking to shoot from a distance.

Performance and battery life

This year marks the first time that Samsung has used a Snapdragon processor in all variants of the Galaxy S series, regardless of where they are purchased. That means if you were relegated to using a version with Samsung’s own Exynos chip in the past, getting an S23 would be a bigger upgrade for you than someone in the US. The Exynos models have been criticized for performance and battery life drawbacks compared to their Snapdragon counterparts, so swapping your S22 for an S23 would make more sense in Europe or Asia than in the US.

The S23 series is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, which is a customized version of Qualcomm’s high-end mobile processor. It has slightly higher clock speeds than the regular edition, so if that’s the only deciding factor for you when choosing between a Galaxy and, say, a OnePlus, know that this difference is extremely slight.

The Galaxy S23 Plus held in the air.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

In day-to-day use, the S23+ was as fast as any of the newer phones I’ve tested recently. Whether I’m swiping and dropping my face between apps, learning Japanese on “Hey Japan,” mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, or trying to get into Genshin: Impact, the S23+ never wavered. I usually expect pretty smooth performance from new phones like this, so I can’t say I’m particularly impressed, and it’s probably more realistic to gauge performance after a few months with the phone.

I can, however, speak of the impressive battery life. In general, the S23+ matches the Pixel 7 Pro which I also carried when testing their cameras, and both devices lasted over two days without charge. Admittedly, I wasn’t using either much during this time, mostly whipping them around for taking pictures and video throughout the day.

In our video battery test, the S23+ clocked 25 hours, beating just about every phone we tested in 2022, plus the Galaxy S23 Ultra and OnePlus 11.


It might sound finicky, but with so few significant changes, the S23+ doesn’t seem worth upgrading if you’re using an S22 or S21. It is, at least, if you are in the United States. Those living with an Exynos version of an older Galaxy flagship will likely find a bigger boost in performance and battery life, making it a more worthwhile upgrade.

But just because the S23+ isn’t full of surprises and updates doesn’t mean it’s not a good phone. It still ranks among the best Android phones around. Samsung has consistently delivered capable phones with well thought out software and features over the past few years and with the S23+ it continues to be a strong contender for those looking for a great Android phone.

Galaxy S23 Plus


Galaxy S23 Plus

Just because the S23+ isn’t full of surprises and updates doesn’t mean it’s not a good phone. It still ranks among the best Android phones around.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices correct at time of publication.

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