With the Samsung Galaxy S23 range you have a choice: go all-in for the curved-screen S23 Ultra with its built-in stylus control addition; go small-scale with the flat-screen and more pocketable S23; or, if you like the idea of kind-of smooshing those two handsets together for a large-scale, flat-screen and stylus-free handset then it's the Galaxy S23 Plus that'll appeal to you the most. That's what this review is all about.
Having used and loved the top-end Galaxy S23 Ultra for a couple of weeks prior, I arrived at the S23 Plus later down the line than I expected. I've also arrived to it with a heap of questions, especially given its position in context of the best Android phones around right now.
While I saw the previous S22 Plus as the sweet spot in the 2022 range, for 2023 the tweaked design of the S23 Plus is... well, it's about all that's really different about it. And with a price rise over its predecessor, plus hot tickets such as the Xiaomi 13 Pro unexpectedly bossing things in the camera department, does Samsung's 'Plus' model has as obvious a place any more?
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus: Price & Availability
Available right now, the Galaxy S23 Plus is priced from £1,049/$999/AU$1,649. That's for the 256GB version, which climbs upwards from there. I would prefer a 128GB option for a smaller asking price really.
Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Samsung's store is the only place you'll be able to buy the S23 Plus in interesting 'secret' colours. I've got the green model in for review, which isn't quite so exciting overall compared to the Samsung Store's exclusive Sky Blue, Lime, Red and Graphite options.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: What's new?
If you're a Galaxy S22 Plus owner then you'll inevitably be wondering what's new about the 2023 model. The answer, as I alluded to above, is not a whole lot.
What Samsung has done really well here, however, is give the Galaxy S23 range a more unified look and feel. The rear design of the Plus is an echo of the larger-scale Ultra model (and smaller-scale S23 too), each handset featuring three distinctive protruding cameras and looking like part of the same range. I like that cohesion.
In other areas the Galaxy S23 Plus isn't quite a carbon copy of its predecessor, but it's subtle. There's around half a millimetre of size adjustment in the design, but I can't notice that whatsoever. The cameras are virtually identical, with the selfie camera seeing a bigger change in the sensor used for this generation.
Internally there's the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor on board, so a little more power, and the battery is now 4,700mAh (up from 4,500mAh of the previous model), but otherwise that's about your lot. These subtle changes are still positives though.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: Design & Display
Just because Samsung hasn't changed a whole lot isn't an instantly bad thing, though. I actually really enjoy using the S23 Plus because its screen size feels ideal in my hand and, better still, it's a flat screen. That latter feature makes it much easier to use with Android gesture controls in my opinion. I kind of prefer it to the S23 Ultra in that regard.
Just like its predecessor the OLED panel used in the Plus is a real shining star. It's really bright – Samsung claims up to 1750 nits, which is like top-tier TV levels of bright – while its 1080 x 2340 resolution across that 6.6-inch diagonal measure has never left me wanting for more. There's a 120Hz refresh rate too, so smooth animations are order of the day.
I've been using the Galaxy S23 Plus for a couple of weeks, including taking it away on holiday to South Africa where it's been put through the mill a bit. Despite Gorilla Glass Victus 2 featuring both front and rear, however, I've found the screen side can still get scratched. There's no screen protector included in the box, nor a case, so that's something to consider to keep your new Galaxy looking pristine.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: Performance
I didn't rush into this Galaxy S23 Plus review because, well, there's been gazillions of phones launching. What with Mobile World Congress 2023 and new handsets such as the excellent Xiaomi 13 Pro, I instead opted to take my time.
It makes sense to spend more time. As I've learned from reviewing countless Samsung phones over the years, they can take a bit of time to settle down when it comes to battery life. So if you buy an S23 Plus and think 'eek, the battery life!' then give it a few days and you'll find it improves. I've actually found the S23 Plus's 4,700mAh battery to outlast even the larger-capacity S23 Ultra in my typical kind of use-case, which has been a pleasant surprise.
In terms of raw power it's pretty clear that Samsung has gone straight to the top with the S23 Plus. Its inclusion of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor makes that obvious – and that's just as powerful as you'll find in the step-up S23 Ultra model. Interestingly Qualcomm is the processor that you'll get in all regions, as Samsung puts its Exynos options to rest and goes full Snapdragon.
It's a sturdy relationship to have, too, with this particular chipset further customised for Samsung's use (there's overclocking to give it even more power). In short that makes the Galaxy S23 Plus, just as I said of the S23 Ultra, among the most powerful phones on the market right now.
So how does all this perform in the real world? Everything loads fast. Games run at decent frame-rates. There's no overheating concerns. But, in the same breath, I don't really feel a major difference here compared to if I picked up an S22 Plus from last year (a phone I argued was best of the bunch then and, in that light, might be even better now).
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: Cameras
- Main (24mm): 50-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Zoom (70mm): 3x zoom with 10MP, f/2.4, OIS
- Wide-angle (13mm): 12MP, f/2.2
- Selfie (26mm): 12MP, f/2.2
There's been an increasing shift for phone-makers to ditch the ultra-zoom lenses on their flagships, something I've seen more and more in 2023. But that's not something the Galaxy S23 Plus needed to contemplate as Samsung had never squeezed in a zoom lens greater than 3x for this device (greater focal lengths are the reserve of the Ultra).
But it's that zoom which is my main complaint about the S23 Plus. It's the same 10-megapixel unit as per last year and, well, it's feeling a little limp compared to some of the competition now. The kind of detail you'll get from the zoom lacks when compared to the field, especially considering the same-priced Xiaomi 13 Pro as one example. And seeing as I found it the weak link lens in the earlier S22 Plus model, it feels like a missed opportunity here.
Otherwise, however, the Galaxy S23 Plus is an excellent camera phone. No, it doesn't get the 200-megapixel main camera of its S23 Ultra bigger brother, but the 50-megapixel main sensor on offer here is perfectly adept at delivering detail in all manner of conditions.
As I've experienced first-hand during my holiday while using this device, whether it's a dim-lit wine cellar, or a brightly lit mountain scene, the Galaxy S23 Plus just lets you point, shoot, and delivers great-looking results. That simplicity of use is one of its key plus points, no doubt, with dynamic range that pulls detail into a well-balanced exposure, and night modes that are easy to use and deliver great results.
All in all, then, the S23 Plus's camera setup remains impressive, but for the series to really push forward next generation the S24 Plus will need to do a little more work and rethink its sensor choices for the wide-angle and zoom lenses at a minimum.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review: Verdict
In many ways I really love the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus. Its flat screen is more practical to use than the curved one of the S23 Ultra. Its size is more sensible for me compared to the smaller S23, plus the battery life is really impressive for this generation. There's all the brightness, power and software ease-of-use you could wish for too.
But much as I love so much about the S23 Plus, it's hard to shake the sense that not quite enough has changed compared to its predecessor. The design is smarter, sure, but Samsung has missed the opportunity to really upgrade the cameras here (okay, so I took a bunch of great holiday pictures and that makes me happy), yet the asking price has shot up to a point where the competition arguably now offers more.
If you want a similar size handset that's the same kind of price, then the Xiaomi 13 Pro delivers a stronger camera setup. If you want to spend a little less, however, and don't mind a simpler (yet arguably better) camera arrangement then Google's Pixel 7 Pro is a great alternative that'll leave you with more cash in the bank.