The Galaxy S23 has arrived, and if you're in the market for a new smartphone, you've got a decision to make — buy the Galaxy S23 or hold off to see if any other of the best phones out there prove to be a better buy?
While the Galaxy S23 doesn't reach stores until February 17, it pays to make a decision now. Galaxy S23 preorders are underway and some of the best Galaxy S23 deals let you save on the new phone if you order it right away.
On the flip side, other devices are coming soon — the OnePlus 11 makes its debut outside of China on February 7, for example. Maybe that phone or one of the pricier Samsung models like the Galaxy S23 Plus or Galaxy S23 Ultra will prove to be better choices for you than the Galaxy S23.
To help you make a decision, we've put together a Galaxy S23 hands-on with initial impressions of the new phone. You can also peruse the Galaxy S23 specs to see what the latest Samsung flagship has to offer. And our Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra roundup details the differences between the latest models.
As for whether to buy or skip the Galaxy S23, here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Samsung's new phone based on the phone maker's launch event and our own initial time using the device.
Reasons to buy the Samsung Galaxy S23
A powerful new chipset
Every new flagship gets the latest and greatest silicon, promising big gains in performance and power efficiency. In the case of the Galaxy S23's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, though, it sounds like this isn't just talk, at least when it comes to performance.
The Galaxy S23 family isn't just using an off-the-shelf version of Qualcomm's latest silicon. Instead, it's a customized version called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy, with a faster clock speed on the main CPU core.
We don't have test results specific to the Galaxy S23 yet, but we've run some initial Galaxy S23 Ultra benchmarks, which give us a sense of how the S23 should perform. (Both the $799 Galaxy S23 and the $1,199 Galaxy S23 Ultra use the same silicon, which is a big mark in the cheaper phone's favor.) The S23 Ultra blew away other Android devices and even managed to top the Geekbench multicore result turned in by the iPhone 14. The A16 Bionic-powered iPhone 14 Pro remains our top performer, though the S23 Ultra did manage to top it on one of our graphics benchmarks tests.
While the Galaxy S23 Ultra likely benefits from extra RAM — our test unit has 12GB to the 8GB in the S23 — the same general results should translate to the Galaxy S23. This figures to be a very powerful phone, especially for this price.
A bright display
Not long ago, I compared the screens for the Galaxy S22, iPhone 14 and Pixel 7 to see who had the best overall display among flagship phones. It was close, but last year's Samsung flagship took the title. So how does Samsung improve upon that with the Galaxy S23?
By making the display even brighter than before.
Trust me, the Galaxy S22's screen was already plenty bright. Last year's phone boasted a peak brightness of 1,300 nits, and it came pretty close to matching that in our testing when our light meter hit 1,152 nits with HDR turned on.
For the Galaxy S23, Samsung is bumping up maximum brightness to 1,750 nits — the same maximum as the S23 Plus and S23 Ultra. If the Galaxy S23 even gets close to that number in our testing, it should outshine all other phones in its price range.
We'll have to wait for Galaxy S23 drop tests to emerge once the phone starts shipping later this month, but the Galaxy S23 figures to be more durable than its predecessor. The Galaxy S23 series will be the first to feature Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus 2 adding a new level of protection to both the front and back of the phone.
In addition, the scratch-resistant aluminum Samsung used on last year's flagships returns with the Galaxy S23, and the new phones also maintain the IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. If you're someone who likes to hold onto their smartphone for as long as the device can last, it sounds like the Galaxy S23 is built to remain in good shape over the years, no matter what life throws at you. (We'd still probably invest in a Galaxy S23 case, though.)
A revamped front camera
Continuing on with the trend of Features Found in Other S23 Models That Samsung Also Included with the Cheaper Galaxy S23, there's a new front camera for Samsung's flagships. In the case of the Galaxy S23, the 12MP shooter is a step up from the 10MP selfie cam featured on the Galaxy S22.
But this is more than just a minor megapixel bump. The new front camera on the Galaxy S23 series should benefit from a faster autofocus and improved night photography features for when you want to capture low-light self portraits. The front camera can capture 4K video at 60fps, too, so everything you capture with that lens should look smoother.
Even more low light features
Night photography has been a focus for Samsung for more than a year now, and that trend continues with the Galaxy S23. Among the features Samsung touted during the Galaxy Unpacked launch was an AI-powered ISP algorithm for enhanced detail and color tone in whatever it is you're shooting. What's more, the S23's AI Stereo Depth Map figures to help your subjects stand out in portrait shots, even in low light.
On paper, these changes sound great, but it's going to take testing to confirm that the Galaxy S23 delivers on what Samsung's promising. Still, if you've been dissatisfied with how your low-light photos have been turning out with other camera phones, it seems like the Galaxy S23 could be just what you're looking for.
A stylish new design
We had an argument in the Tom's Guide office the other day as to whether the Galaxy S23 really offers much of a new look. Until I saw the phone in person, I would have said that it did not. But it really makes a difference to see the S23 next to last year's Galaxy S22.
I think the lack of a camera bump makes a world of difference for the Galaxy S23. The phone looks smoother and more polished than before — the sort of device you're paid a lot more than $799 to buy. That it echoes the look of recent Galaxy S Ultra models probably explains that effect.
And that's just comparing the Galaxy S23 to its predecessor. If you're upgrading from an older model, you're likely getting a far more elegant look in return with the S23.
Reasons to skip the Samsung Galaxy S23
No improvements to the rear camera hardware
It's good that Samsung is smartening up some of the photo-processing features on the Galaxy S23. Because apart from that revamped front camera, all the other lenses on the S23 are unchanged from last year's model.
The 50MP main camera? It's the same as what you get on the Galaxy S22. The same goes for the 12MP ultrawide shooter and the 10MP telephoto lens. The biggest camera improvement — the 200MP main camera — is restricted to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the most expensive model in this lineup.
Depending on which phone you're upgrading from, this normally wouldn't be that big of a deal. Who cares if the Galaxy S23's cameras are unchanged from the Galaxy S22's so long as they're better than the cameras on your current phone? Normally, I'd share that sentiment, but Samsung is keeping the Galaxy S22 around at a reduced cost. If you're looking to save money on your next phone, you could simply grab a $699 S22 and enjoy the same camera hardware as Galaxy S23 owners.
Only 128GB of storage in the base model
We applaud Samsung's decision to bolster the amount of storage on some of its phones. Both the Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra now start with 256GB of storage — double what you got with the Galaxy S22. It's also double the amount of storage included on any iPhone 14 base model.
But the key words there were "Plus" and "Ultra." If you want the Galaxy S23, you get 128GB of storage with the $799 starting price. To get up to 256GB, you need to pay an additional $60.
There's a workaround, but you have to act quickly. Samsung's preorder deal includes an automatic storage upgrade at no cost. That means you can get the 256GB Galaxy S23 for $799, and you're eligible for an additional credit you can use on accessories for your phone. This preorder offer is only good while supplies last, and after that, Samsung goes back to the $859 pricing on the 256GB S23.
Galaxy S23: $100 credit + storage upgrade @ Samsung
Samsung is one of the best sites for Galaxy S23 deals. Preorder your Galaxy S23 at Samsung and you'll get a free memory/storage upgrade and $100 Samsung credit. Additionally, Samsung is offering exclusive access to the phones in Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue, or Red colors. Samsung will even let you purchase your phone on any carrier direct from the Samsung website.
No changes to charging speed
If you like a fast-charging phone, maybe hold out for the OnePlus 11, which will bring 80W wired charging to U.S. users (and 100W elsewhere). By comparison, the Galaxy S23 plods along, with 25W wired charging speeds.
It doesn't necessarily have to be this way. Both the Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra offer a more respectable 45W charging speed. But Samsung has apparently decided that this is one of the ways it can distinguish its more expensive models from the entry-level S23. So you're stuck with the same speeds as the Galaxy S22.
As you can see, there's plenty to recommend the Galaxy S23, even before we get a chance to more fully test the phone. From improved performance to some intriguing camera features, you're going to get one of the best Samsung phones if you opt for this new flagship device.
The reason to push pause on any purchase is to confirm that the enhanced photo processing features are as good as advertised. If you want features like more storage and faster charging speeds, then one of the more expensive S23 models may be more up your alley.
Stay tuned for our full Galaxy S23 review once we get more hands-on time with Samsung's latest phone.