Samsung Galaxy S23 Series First Impressions: Iterative Upgrades, Meaningful Features

At the Galaxy Unpacked event, Samsung announced three new smartphones in the Galaxy S23 series line-up. These include the Samsung Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 Ultra. All three smartphones bring iterative upgrades over the previous generation, but Samsung has added a lot of meaningful features that set them apart from their predecessors. We got to play around with the devices ahead of the launch, and below are our first impressions.

Samsung Galaxy S23 price and release date

The Galaxy S23 will start at $799, whereas the Galaxy S23 Plus variant will retail at $999. The premium Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will set you back by $1,199. The smartphones are already available to pre-order and will go on sale starting February 17.

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Refined ergonomics, use of more sustainable materials 

All the Galaxy S23 models come with refined ergonomics, where the display now has a flatter edge and rounded corners offering a better grip and in-hand feel when using the devices. The S23 and S23 Plus models also feature a floating camera design, which brings the design in sync.

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Samsung has increased the sustainability credentials of its flagship smartphones with some improvements over the Galaxy S22 series. The glass, body, power button and volume rocker, and even the casing for the S Pen on the Galaxy S23 Ultra are made from recycled materials, although proportions are still too low to be considered truly sustainable. The Galaxy S23 has 12 internal and external components made from recycled materials (including the recycled aluminium used in the side key and SIM tray), up from six in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. While these are steps in the right direction, Samsung has a long way to go before it can be considered a sustainability pioneer. Read more about our analysis of sustainability here.

WATCH: Samsung Galaxy S23 Series First Look

Qualcomm inside: Powered by exclusive Snapdragon SoC    

The entire Galaxy S23 smartphone line-up is powered by a customized Snapdragon chipset, globally. This is the first generation of the Galaxy S-series with a 100% share for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC, up from 75% in Galaxy S22. It’s clearly a good design win for Qualcomm. Called “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” the chipset has a max clock speed of up to 3.36GHz, making it the fastest Snapdragon chipset yet.

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The new chipset has a 34% faster CPU, 41% faster GPU, and 49% faster NPU over the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Qualcomm and Samsung have closely worked on the chipset to bring features like real-time raytracing, and AI-powered adaptive performance catering to both casual and hardcore gamers’ needs.

The Adreno GPU is also optimized to offer a balance of both power and efficiency. All three smartphones now come with up to a 2.7x larger vapor cooling system, which will help moderate the potential for thermal performance throttling in intensive use cases.

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The Qualcomm AI engine paired with the Hexagon processor enables micro tile inferencing to accelerate AI performance. It also unlocks other on-device AI experiences such as echo canceling and noise cancellation for calls.

The Snapdragon X70 5G Modem-RF system with a 5G AI processor offers better 5G coverage, efficiency, and speeds. The Galaxy S23 Ultra features Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 whereas the S23 and S23 Plus models come with Qualcomm FastConnect 6900, offering ultra-low latency, multi-gigabit Wi-Fi speeds, and high-res Bluetooth streaming capabilities.

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There are many more camera-centric features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy unlocks, which we will discuss next.

BONUS Video: Samsung Galaxy Unpacked: In conversation with Qualcomm’s Alex Katouzian

Upgraded cameras with improved photo and video features

The camera resolution on the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus is the same as the S22 series. However, the new Cognitive ISP of Snapdragon SoC enables enhanced features like real-time semantic segmentation, ultra low-light video capture, multi-frame noise reduction, and more. In terms of specifications, you get a 50MP main camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom capabilities.

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The biggest upgrade comes to the Galaxy S23 Ultra model where you now have a Samsung 200MP ISOCELL HP2 image sensor. With a 1/1.3-inch sensor size and 200-million 0.6-micrometer (μm) pixels, to deliver claimed improved photography and videography experience. The Super Quad Pixel technology uses all the 200-million pixels to offer up to 1.5x faster autofocus. In low-light scenarios, the camera AI can intelligently adapt to combine four or 16 adjacent pixels to shoot photos in 50MP (1.2μm) or 12.5MP (2.4μm) to achieve sharp, bright, and noiseless photos in varying light conditions.

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With the main camera, you can now record 8K 30fps videos for a more cinematic feel. The camera also comes with a 2x wider (3-degrees) OIS that can effectively compensate for the handshake to take blur-free photos and videos. There is also a new astrophotography hyperlapse mode where you can set the timer to a maximum of 300 seconds to capture star trails. There are even more features like AI stereo depth for better portrait mode photos, better HDR for capturing photos against the sun, and more.

Up front, all three Galaxy S23 series smartphones come with a new 12MP selfie camera with auto-focus. The upgraded ISP and AI enhancements also enable better low-light photos and up to 4K 60fps video recording for the front camera. In our limited usage, the cameras impress us, but we could not test all the features and will reserve judgment for our final review.

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One more addition where the updated Expert RAW camera app now supports up to 50MP high-resolution image capture and front camera 16-bit RAW support.

Overall, the Galaxy S23 series brings a series of iterative upgrades. But the real story is more about the features unlocked by better software and hardware integration. On paper, the new smartphones look like a promising upgrade experience for Android users. More will be revealed in our in-depth devices testing.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Galaxy S23 series is powered by a customized Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC.
  • The refined design of the Galaxy S23 series offers a better grip and in-hand feel.
  • The use of more sustainable materials is a step in a right direction to reduce the carbon footprint.
  • Features like real-time raytracing, AI-powered adaptive performance mode, and vapor chamber cooling show Samsung’s seriousness toward mobile gaming.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s highlight is the 200MP along with upgraded astrophotography and 8K 30fps videography features.
  • The front camera with features like 4K 60fps videos, and AI stereo depth effects is a good upgrade.