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Samsung Galaxy S23 FE and Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE - It's All About the Chip

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Oct 2023, 2:49PM

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE and Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE - It's All About the Chip

Glenn Hart,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 Oct 2023, 2:49PM

The Fan Edition has always been a bit of a weird concept to me.

What's the idea here? We have these devices everyone seems to like but they'd like them even better if they were cheaper?

This prompts the further question; how do we make them cheaper yet still keep the stuff people like most?

A couple of years ago, despite my scepticism, Samsung nailed this tricky balancing act with the Galaxy S21 FE.

At the time I really felt like I was using a genuine flagship device, despite the cheaper price tag.

However, there wasn't S22 FE in 2022 (sorry fans) perhaps due in part to how late the S21 FE was to hit the market. So late in fact, it ended up competing with the following year's S22 flagships. Whoops.

This year, Samsung has managed to drop a new Fan Edition with plenty of time to spare. What's more, there's not just a phone but a tablet and earbuds too.

Now the question is, will they be just as well received?


So first up, what are we dealing with? Well, basically it's a whole new ecosystem, just for fans; the Galaxy S23 FE, Galaxy Tab S9 FE, Tab S9 FE+ and Galaxy Buds FE.

I can't tell you much about the Galaxy Buds FE as I haven't seen or tried them yet but I do know they look quite different to other Samsung earbuds, they have Active Noise Cancelling and they're supposed be easier to hold and control.

This last feature looks promising because one criticism I have of the older Galaxy Buds2 Pro I've been using for this review is although they're very low profile, it's virtually impossible to put them in or out or adjust them without accidentally playing or pausing your media. The new FE design should sort this.

The new buds also claim "Seamless Pairing" - the ability to be paired with multiple Samsung devices simultaneously yet magically know which of them you're using at any given time. More on this feature shortly.

The Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ is fabulous. I'm not really a tablet guy but everyone has been raving about the 2023 line of Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 devices and now I have one I can see why. Samsung has pretty much owned the Android tablet space for several years now - combining superior stylus (S-Pen) technology with its desktop-like DeX Mode interface. 

Because Galaxy Tabs are Samsung, you're pretty much guaranteed incredible display quality and impressive audio performance too.

As far as I can tell, the main difference between the FE and FE+ versions of this tablet is screen size - 10.9-inches on the base model and a whopping 12.9-inches of bright, crisp, clear display on the Plus I've been playing with - and I do mean playing.

Not only have I enjoyed streaming video content on the Tab S9 FE+ but I've been giving Ashpalt 9 a pretty good bash too. The game flies along with no issues at all, looking and sounding fantastic. Although the screen only supports an adaptive refresh rate of up to 90Hz, I hardly noticed as I nitro-ed my way through the pack to win race after race.

The other thing many people have appreciated about the Tab S9 series is the IP68 dust and water rating - not many tablets boast that kind of durability and I was pleasantly surprised to discover the FE version is equally safe to use poolside.

To be honest, the more I use the Tab S9 FE+, the more I wonder what it doesn't do that its more full-featured and more expensive siblings can. Starting at NZ$849.00 for the base model, it's a great device.

Then we come to the star of the show, the Galaxy S23 FE.


Available in Mint, Cream, Purple and Graphite, it certainly looks the part with its modern, sharp edges and glass-covered back panel. Unfortunately, that makes it potentially less durable than the plastic-backed S21 FE from 2021 - and it's certainly bloody slippery to hold. It's Corning Gorilla Glass 5, both front and back but if it was my phone I'd be slapping a decent case on there before I even lifted it out of the box.

The triple camera array on the back also has a premium look to it - a combination of 12MP Ultra Wide, 50MP Wide and 8MP Telephoto lenses. That means you get 3x optical zoom on a midrange phone - not bad. Of course, you can zoom in even closer but there'll be a noticeable drop in quality - as demonstrated by these pics of the neighbour's cat.



Overall, I've been very impressed by what the camera setup is capable of. Many, if not most of the S23 flagship photo features are to be found on this phone too. Great digital stabilisation, Director's View - which lets you shoot from both forward and rear cameras simultaneously, Auto-Framing - to keep you in shot when streaming or video-chatting and Portrait Mode works just as well when using the 10MP selfie camera as it does with the primary shooter, blurring the background to your personal preference.

While I couldn't ask for more photographic performance - especially at this price, there is an issue. And it's one that holds this phone back across the board.

Many times when I've tried to open the camera app it's crashed or frozen - either from the quick launch icon on the lock screen or by double-clicking the power button (this is a customisable shortcut - a kind of "action button" if you will). This is pretty annoying, given the one thing I like to do with my phone is quickly snap off a few spontaneous pics when the muse takes me.

And it's not just when trying to get the camera going when I've run into trouble. Over the last few days I've encountered several lockups which require closing the app I'm using or turning off the screen and unlocking it again to get the phone to respond. 

It gets mysteriouser.

Yesterday while out walking, I had the S23 FE in my pocket, playing podcasts to my bluetooth-connected Galaxy Buds2 Pro. Suddenly the connection cut out and when I looked at the phone to see what was going on I was alarmed to see it had put itself into recovery mode and I had to reboot it to get it going again.

I can only put all these issues down to the chip; the Exynos 2200.

Not only is this last year's chip, it's not even the chip found in New Zealand's S22 handsets - they were lucky enough to sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 - generally agreed to be superior in most departments.

2023's S23 flagships were fitted with the updated Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 worldwide - more power, better graphics performance and significantly more efficient. So in effect, the Exynos 2200 running the S23 FE is at least two generations out of date... and I'm afraid to say it feels like it.

This is an otherwise cracking device - the screen looks amazing and with its variable 120Hz refresh rate should feel much more fluid than it does. 

I cranked up Asphalt 9 on this device too and again, it sounded very nice through the stereo speaker setup but it did stutter during gameplay from time to time.

The S23 FE has great features like face unlock and an under-display fingerprint sensor - except neither works very well - especially the face unlock. I wouldn't be surprised if this is also due to the same lacklustre chip performance.

As for the "Seamless Pairing" feature when using the phone, tablet and buds together, I've found this works well sometimes and not at all other times. Whether this is due to the chip in the phone or the fact I only have older Buds2 Pro and not the new Buds FE, I can't be sure.

Quick Share is another promising tool, letting you transfer files wirelessly from device to device. It worked every time from tablet to phone but much more erratically the other way.

And that's ultimately how I feel about the S23 FE - so promising but it keeps not delivering at the exact moment I need it to. Yes, starting from NZ$1099.00 it's dramatically cheaper than even the base-model S23 but there might just be too many compromises here for the savings to make sense.




Click here for more information on the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE.


Click here for more information on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+.


Click here for more information on the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE.

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