Stuff had a chance to play with Samsung’s newest smartphones. We got our hands on the Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra… for a few minutes. It wasn’t nearly long enough for a proper review but it was enough to show us that Samsung hasn’t taken any steps backwards.
It was also enough to show that the company hasn’t made any massive strides forward. Once you hit a certain level of quality there’s bound to be diminishing returns and Samsung’s handsets… have just been too good lately. There’s not much headroom for improvement.
A refined experience
If there hasn’t been much of an exterior change, it’s because it isn’t a requirement. There are small changes to the handsets, most notably to the S23 and S23+. Last year’s models featured a very chunky camera bump. These have been scaled back to the relatively svelte arrangement seen in the S22 Ultra last year. Now everybody’s got an understated camera, a little less weight in the pocket, and more or less the same frontal design as last year.
That’s true of the screens as well. The various handsets feature the same sized displays as 2022 and, as far as we could see, the rest of the panel is identical as well. There’s no problem with that. Super AMOLED, 120Hz, all that jazz — it’s extremely pretty to look at. But so is last year’s phone. The screen and design, in other words, are just barely reasons to upgrade unless you’re coming from the Galaxy S21 or older.
It’s a snap
There are a collection of speed upgrades in the Galaxy S23 lineup that Stuff will explore in more detail just as soon as we’ve got more time with the phone. The prime one, that of the customised Snapdragon chipset, will take some measuring. First, we’ll have to find something with a stock Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and then race it alongside Samsung’s tweaked version of the chip. Still, we’re expecting excellent performance from all three of Samsung’s flagships this year. Outstanding, though? That remains to be seen.
We did have some time to fiddle with the camera — specifically the 200MP camera in Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra. The other two handsets feature identical layouts that, while quite competent, aren’t supposed to be the system seller the S23 Ultra’s camera is. As before, we’re expecting them to perform as expected. It’s the jump from 108MP to 200MP in the main sensor that’s the most eye-catching.
Samsung arranged a little demo in our brightly-lit hands-on room — a very small but very detailed image. The task was to take a 200MP picture and then zoom in as far as we could, searching out the hidden details. We’ve got no doubt that the task was skewed towards Samsung’s hardware — that’s just good marketing — but the demo also worked as claimed. Even tiny details were accurately reproduced. It took some doing to get to where the photograph broke down into individual pixels. This is a feature we’re looking forward to spending more time with.
Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup initial verdict
At first glance, it’s going to be hard to recommend an upgrade for a certain stripe of Samsung fan. If you’re using the Galaxy S22 Ultra, making the jump to the Galaxy S23 Ultra is only marginally attractive and only if you’re camera-mad. The same goes for the two smaller handsets. They are updates. Great updates, we’re sure, but still updates.
But, like we said, that’s at first glance. Upon spending more than a collective ten minutes with them, we’ll have more fully-formed opinions. We can say that anyone using a member of Samsung’s older range — the S21 and backward — will probably be blown away by the performance improvements in store for them. Stay tuned for a full review of each handset as we can pry them out of Samsung’s proud clutches.