Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: a fantastic phone (with a catch)

Back of the pink Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus

MSRP $999.00

“The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus isn’t the S23 model everyone should buy. But for the right person, it’s pretty tough to beat.”


  • Comfortable, practical design
  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Outstanding performance
  • Storage starts at 256GB
  • Two-day battery life
  • 45W wired charging


  • Bland camera design
  • Only 3x optical zoom
  • Awkward price

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is a strange phone. It sits right in the middle of the S23 lineup — not the cheapest of the trio and not the high-end flagship either. It’s the odd choice of the S23 family, and it’s understandable why some people may write it off as that and nothing more.

But to do so would be a huge disservice to what’s a really great smartphone. The Galaxy S23 Plus has a bigger screen, larger battery, and more storage than its cheaper sibling — all while being significantly more affordable than its Ultra counterpart. Competition from other Android phones can make it a tough sell, but for the right person, it’s tough to beat.

About our Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review

This review was written and published by Joe Maring after using the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus for over a week in the U.S., connected to Verizon’s 5G network. The review below is based on that week of use, and we’ll regularly update it with additional thoughts as we keep using the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: design

The pink Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus lying on a pillow.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Compared to the Galaxy S21 Plus and S22 Plus before it, the Galaxy S23 Plus brings a refreshed design. Gone is the wraparound camera housing; in its place are three floating sensors placed directly on the back. It’s a clean, simple look that’s inoffensive and gets the job done. I certainly don’t hate it, though I do miss the lovely two-tone designs the S21 Plus’ camera brought with it.

But the rest of the S23 Plus’s design is so good that I really don’t care. The front and rear glass are both covered with Gorilla Glass Victus 2, while the metal frame gets Samsung’s Armor Aluminum treatment. Paired with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, the S23 Plus has all of the durability chops you could ask for (though I’d still recommend looking at Galaxy S23 Plus cases and S23 Plus screen protectors — just to be safe).

Unlike the flat edges and sharp corners found on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the S23 Plus has rounded corners and smooth edges throughout, making it a more comfortable smartphone to hold. That’s also helped by the phone’s 6.91-ounce weight, which is significantly lighter than the S23 Ultra’s 8.25-ounce body. It’s still a big phone, but the S23 Plus is vastly easier to handle one-handed and throw in a tight pocket than the Ultra is.

Samsung also does a great job with the finer details. The buttons are tactile and clicky, the in-screen fingerprint sensor is tremendously fast, and — though a bit bland for my liking — the Lavender color of my review unit looks quite nice. If that’s not your cup of tea, other Galaxy S23 Plus colors include Cream, Phantom Black, and Green. If you order the S23 Plus direct from Samsung’s website, you can also find the phone in Lime and Graphite options.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: screen

A video playing on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Taking up the front of the Galaxy S23 Plus is a 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a Full HD+ resolution and 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The pixel density clocks in at 393 pixels per inch (ppi), while the brightness gets all the way up to 1,750 nits — the same as the S23 Ultra.

The Galaxy S23 Plus has an incredible screen.

There’s no other way to put it: the Galaxy S23 Plus has an incredible screen. That shouldn’t be a surprise for a modern Samsung flagship, but it’s true. Colors are rich and vibrant, blacks are lusciously deep, text is razor crisp, and the 120Hz refresh rate allows everything to move like butter. And on the few sunny days we’ve had here in southwest Michigan, the 1,750 nits of brightness allowed the S23 Plus screen to be easily visible even in direct sunlight.

Something else to note is the shape of the display. Unlike the S23 Plus, which has a slight curve on the left and right edges, the Galaxy S23 Plus’ screen is completely flat. I’ve yet to have any issues with the S23 Ultra’s curved approach, but there’s something practical and reassuring about a screen that’s totally, 100% flat. I never have to worry about missed palm rejections, screen protectors will be easier to apply, and it just looks very clean.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: performance and software

Quick Settings panel on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Powering the S23 Plus’ great display — and everything else — is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. As Samsung is happy to point out, this isn’t just any Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Instead, it’s a special version of the chip that Qualcomm worked closely with Samsung to make just for the S23 lineup.

It’s largely the same chip you’ll find in phones like the OnePlus 11 and Iqoo 11, but with a faster CPU clock speed and improved software tricks for image processing. The important thing you need to know is that it makes the Galaxy S23 Plus ridiculously fast.

Open any app or game, and it loads instantly. Bounce back and forth through multiple apps all at once, and the S23 Plus has no problem keeping up with you. Play Marvel Snap or Call of Duty: Mobile with graphics settings cranked up to their maximum, and the Galaxy S23 Plus powers through everything without breaking a sweat. I’m regularly and thoroughly impressed with how insanely capable this smartphone is — especially when it does all of this without ever heating up too much.

Marvel Snap running on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Assisting the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is 8GB of RAM, with your choice of 256GB or 512GB of storage. The 256GB of storage is the new base amount for the S23 Plus and S23 Ultra this year, and it’s a fantastic change. That’s compared to the 128GB that has become the standard base storage amount for most flagship phones, including the Pixel 7 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro, and others. Getting 256GB for the same starting price as the 128GB Galaxy S22 Plus last year may seem like a subtle upgrade, but it’s a hugely important one that you’ll be more and more thankful for the longer you hold on to the phone.

On the software front, the Galaxy S23 Plus ships with Android 13 and Samsung’s custom One UI 5.1 interface layered on top. If you’ve used a Samsung phone over the last couple of years, you should know what to expect here. Samsung adds a lot of extra functionality on top of “stock” Android, and while it can feel a little overwhelming at times, there’s also plenty to love about it. Here are just a few of my favorite software features I’ve stumbled across:

  • You can change the two lock screen shortcuts to any app you want.
  • Long-pressing the lock screen brings up a slick customization UI for changing your clock and notification appearance.
  • You can choose button or gesture navigation options, and access deep customization options for both.
  • Link to Windows offers syncs notifications, photos, and more with your Windows PC.

There’s plenty to sink your teeth into if you want to experience everything One UI has to offer. But if there are features you don’t care about, Samsung does a good job of keeping them hidden and out of sight. I still prefer the aesthetics of Google’s Pixel interface, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer utility of Samsung’s approach.

But that’s not even the best part. Samsung promises four major Android upgrades for the Galaxy S23 Plus, in addition to five years of regular security updates. Yes — that’s longer support than even Google offers for its own smartphones. This means the S23 Plus you buy today will eventually be updated all the way to Android 17 and will be safeguarded from malicious vulnerabilities through 2028. It’s a huge perk for anyone who plans on keeping their phone for the next few years — and something other Android manufacturers (Google included) need to take note of.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: cameras

Rear camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The big Samsung camera news this year is all focused on the Galaxy S23 Ultra — and rightfully so! The new 200-megapixel sensor is outstanding; in our Galaxy S23 Ultra versus Pixel 7 Pro camera test, Samsung more than proved what its flagship phone camera is capable of.

The Galaxy S23 Plus misses out on the 200MP sensor this year, but the camera system it is equipped with is still very good. You get a 50MP main camera, 12MP wide-angle camera, 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP selfie camera.

Looking at the main camera, many of the same qualities from the S23 Ultra are present in the S23 Plus. Photos deliver bright, punchy colors that aren’t always 1:1 accurate but are very pleasing to look at. Pressing the shutter button captures an image quickly, there’s ample detail throughout pictures, and I’ve generally found it quite difficult to take an outright bad photo.

Portrait mode photos also look really nice. Samsung’s edge detection is noticeably better than the iPhone 14 Pro, even when working in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. Night mode photos are also solid. Zooming in closely on these shots quickly reveals a lot of noise and lacks fine detail, but the S23 Plus does a great job of really brightening a scene when you need it to.

Perhaps the biggest compromise compared to the S23 Ultra is the S23 Plus’s zoom capabilities. The 3x telephoto mode does a good job of getting close to a subject while preserving a lot of good detail. But zoom in to 10x or 30x, and it doesn’t take long for photos to look like watercolor paintings.

I haven’t felt compelled to go out with the Galaxy S23 Plus and look for unique photo opportunities the way I do with the S23 Ultra. But that’s also not really the point of this camera. If you’re an avid photographer looking for the most complete camera experience possible, the S23 Ultra will always be the better choice. But if all you need is a well-rounded, reliable camera system that consistently delivers good results, the Galaxy S23 Plus has what you’re looking for.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: battery and charging

Battery settings page on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S23 Plus sports a 4,700mAh battery to get you through each day. That’s 200mAh more than the 4,500mAh battery used in the S22 Plus last year and just slightly below the massive 5,000mAh battery in the S23 Ultra. And just like the S23 Ultra, battery life on the Galaxy S23 Plus is excellent.

Even with regular use throughout the day, the Galaxy S23 Plus can easily become a one-and-a-half-day smartphone. I began one day at 9:05 a.m. with a 100% charge and proceeded to stream YouTube TV for well over an hour, play Marvel Snap for over an hour, browse Twitter for 30 minutes, scroll on Reddit for 20 minutes, and stream about 20 minutes of YouTube. After racking up 4 hours and 26 minutes of screen-on time, I still had 31% battery left at 11:35 p.m. that evening. Even when I want to, I just can’t kill the phone in a single day.

Battery life on the Galaxy S23 Plus is excellent.

If you aren’t gaming or streaming live TV for an hour or more, two days of use on a single charge with the S23 Plus isn’t out of the question. It’s not quite as amazing as the S23 Ultra’s endurance, but it’s right there behind it.

When it comes time to charge up, the Galaxy S23 Plus supports wired charging up to 45 watts, 15W wireless charging, and 4.5W reverse wireless charging. With a charger that supports the full 45W output, expect the S23 Plus to go from 30% to a full 100% in a little under an hour.

It doesn’t match the ridiculous 80W charge speeds of the OnePlus 11, but it is faster than wired charging offered by the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro. It also handily beats the 25W wired charging the regular Galaxy S23 is still capped at.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: price and availability

A home screen setup on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is available for purchase now
with 256GB of storage and a price of $999. If you need more space, you can upgrade to the 512GB storage model for $1,199.

As for availability, you can find the S23 Plus just about anywhere you look. In addition to buying directly from Samsung’s website, the Galaxy S23 Plus is also available at Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and other smaller carriers.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: verdict

Someone holding the pink Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

So, should you buy the Galaxy S23 Plus? On its own, there’s no question the S23 Plus is worth the $999 asking price. It has a fantastic design, beautiful display, virtually perfect performance, reliable cameras, powerful software, and fantastic battery life. There’s honestly not much to complain about.

But there’s a catch to all that. When you start putting the Galaxy S23 Plus next to the competition — both from Samsung and other companies — things get complicated.

For $200 less, the regular Galaxy S23 gives you virtually the same experience. You have to be OK with a more compact display, smaller battery, and slower charging, but at $799, it’s an excellent deal. Even more appealing is the OnePlus 11. It can be yours for just $699 and has the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, a 120Hz AMOLED display, a similarly great camera system, and even faster 80W charging. And if it’s a Google phone you prefer, the $899 Pixel 7 Pro delivers a more capable camera and cleaner software for $100 cheaper.

The Galaxy S23 Plus wouldn’t be my first recommendation for everyone. But that’s not to say there isn’t a market for it at all. If you know you want a Samsung phone, need a bigger screen and larger battery than the base S23, and can’t quite afford the flagship S23 Ultra, this is the phone for you. It’s probably not the Samsung phone most people should buy, but if it’s the one you’re after, you’re highly unlikely to be disappointed with it.

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