The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is the middle child of the three phones of the Samsung Galaxy S23 series, offering a bigger screen and battery than the Samsung Galaxy S23, but lacking the S Pen stylus and premium camera system of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
That still makes it one of the best premium smartphones available in 2023 — it’s every bit as reliable as we’ve come to expect from the Samsung Galaxy line. But, as a $1,100+ flagship phone, it’s getting some stiff competition from other Android phones with more impressive quick charging features, such as the OnePlus 11, and the high-price Samsung phones demand is starting to look just a little bit less competitive as time goes on.
We’ll dig into why in our Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review, and discuss why this phone is still a top option in 2023, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to using Samsung’s phones and other devices.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Build
Like most premium phones, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is a big device. At 6.6″, it’s literally a handful, and the larger 4,700 mAh battery makes the phone noticeably thick. It’s a heavy device (although not as heavy as the Galaxy S23 Ultra), and you might notice it if you’re someone who needs to hold their phone for long periods of time — if you are, it’s not a bad idea to consider a smaller phone. But, most of the market seems to have accepted extra weight and size as a trade-off for more screen space and larger batteries, and I think it’s a good trade-off on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus has a premium aluminum build with slightly rounded edges that make it a little more comfortable to hold, although I don’t find it makes a huge difference at this size. Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 shields the display from drops, and an IP68 rating indicates the phone is waterproof and dustproof, cementing the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus as a tough phone for use in all conditions. A few drops aren’t going to be the death of it. Thanks to the next-gen Gorilla Glass, you probably won’t need to spring for any extra screen protectors for the Galaxy S23 Plus, but I guess it never hurts!
This year, the camera bump on the back is gone — instead, the individual lenses are raised up from the back surface. It’s a change! How much folks will notice will vary quite a bit, I’d imagine. With the lenses extruding from the device, it still doesn’t lay completely flat on a table, which is what most people will notice.
Looking at the left and right edges, it’s the same setup as usual — nothing on the left, with the power and volume buttons and SIM card tray on the right. You can still hold the power button down to activate the Bixby voice assistant by default. The USB C port is in the usual spot at the bottom edge.
Purchased through carriers, the phone comes in phantom black, cream, green, and lavender. But, Samsung has set aside two other colors, lime and graphite, as exclusives for folks who order directly through their site.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Display
Although there are other places where competitors are starting to shine, the display still feels like it’s where Samsung’s phones can’t be beat. The 6.6″ 1080p AMOLED 120 Hz adaptive refresh rate flat display is fantastic in and of itself, and you can definitely tell it’s HDR 10+ certified. Videos are crisp, and you really can pull out fine details in darker scenes that might be lost on lesser displays. It’s good enough to make it easy to appreciate the difference versus most other smartphone displays, and is one of the clearest reasons to pay a little extra to get the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus.
Display brightness is better than most, topping out at 1,750 nits — it’s rock solid in direct sunlight, but cranking the brightness while watching a movie also helps to take advantage of the HDR10+ certification and the AMOLED display. Display quality has been one of the main reasons to get a Samsung phone for a long time now, and it’s still true in 2023.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Cameras
While it’s true that the camera system on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is a step down from that of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, that’s no knock on the S23 Plus — this phone takes some incredible pictures. That’s thanks to a rear camera setup comprising a 50 MP f/1.8 camera, a 12 MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, and a 10 MP f/2.4 telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and up to 30x digital zoom. It lacks the next-gen optical image stabilization and improved main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra (still has regular OIS), but the results are hard to complain about.
Samsung has implemented some machine learning-based image processing features, which are better here than in many other phones. The artificial-looking background blurring and overly saturated colors we see in a lot of other flagships aren’t to be found here — pictures come out with sharp, true-to-life color accuracy, with impressive clarity even when using maximum zoom.
The machine learning image processing makes objects more distinct from the background or other objects, which really ramps up the amount of detail you can pick out. Unsurprisingly, digital zoom still doesn’t produce great results, with a noticeable drop in image quality and an increase in artifacts even at just 10x.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is one of the few phones that deliver on the promise of excellent point-and-shoot low-light performance. You can find flaws if you look hard enough, but at a glance, the colors and clarity in night mode shots using the main camera without flash are very impressive. It was almost too good, in some cases — looking back through some photos, I had to remind myself which ones were night shots, because in pictures where the sky wasn’t visible, I could’ve mistaken them for low-light daytime shots.
Video recording in 4k Super HDR at 60 fps is possible using the front or back cameras, and the machine learning processing kicks in again to improve object detection and autofocus. OIS helps to ensure video stabilization is top notch.
Point-and-shoot gets you terrific shots, but if you really want to dig in, the camera app does have a pro shooting mode that lets you shoot in RAW and adjust camera settings to your heart’s content.
Even the front selfie camera is impressive. The 12 MP sensor is paired with a f/2.2 26 mm equivalent wide angle lens, and the images it takes are also HDR10+ certified. Great for a selfie camera, but even better for ensuring high quality video calls.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Reception and audio
Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus has the full slate of 5G and ultra wideband connectivity — 6 GHz and mmWave. Whatever the fastest network connection available in your area is, you’ll have access to it with this phone. It’ll also have satellite connectivity, which should work with emergent satellite connectivity services we’re seeing pop up, guaranteeing reception in even the most remote of places.
Calls are nice and clear on the device’s speaker, if you’re not using headphones. The loudspeaker can get loud, but is a little muddy by default. Fortunately, Dolby Atmos processing spruces that up. Dolby Atmos isn’t enabled by default (perhaps because of battery draw?), but when turned on, audio from the stereo speakers becomes crystal clear, with voices distinct from background noise.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Gaming
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is solid for gaming — it doesn’t get better than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, especially when it’s paired with this crystal clear AMOLED display and solid loudspeakers (with Dolby Atmos processing turned on).
A 120 Hz adaptive refresh rate on the display rounds out the relevant specs, keeping gameplay without hitches. There are higher refresh rates on other phones’ displays, but I’m skeptical as to how much refresh rates past 120 Hz actually matter for mobile gaming — feels like something that matters more when you’ve got the processing power of a whole desktop behind you.
It’s probably worth mentioning the phone’s weight again — for longer gaming sessions, you do notice how heavy the phone is to hold after a while. Heat is also a concern when holding a phone for this long, but Samsung’s introduction of vapor cooling chambers helps to keep temperatures down, so that the phone never becomes uncomfortably warm to the touch, even when playing more graphics-intensive mobile games.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Battery life
Phone batteries have gotten bigger, and phones have gotten more efficient. So, even though the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus has a lot of premium, demanding features, battery life is still fantastic. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus has a battery capacity of 4,700 mAh, and more often than not, you’ll get over a full day out of it. If you forget to plug it in overnight, you won’t be in a worse spot — the phone hardly draws power when idle, only ticking off a few percent in battery life overnight. You can find a bigger battery in other devices, but I don’t think the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus suffers from not having a 5,000 mAh battery capacity or larger.
To put the battery to the test, I played some games and watched a movie at maximum brightness and Dolby Atmos turned on. A slightly over 2-hour movie took me down only 13%, and 30 minutes of playing PUBG Mobile took me down only 6%. Rough guess, you’d get maybe 12 or 13 hours of intensive use per charge. When I used the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus on a routine day, I had well over 50% left at bedtime. Battery life is definitely a strength here.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus can be used with up to a 45W charger. The Super Fast Charging feature gets you a little over half the battery charged in a half hour, which is probably good enough for most, but the bar has been raised much higher this year. The realme GT 3, which is getting a global release, can be used with a 240W charger that can charge the phone fully in nine minutes, with a safety chip inside to shut down charging if things get too hot.
Other manufacturers are making their phones compatible with faster charging adapters as well — Samsung lags behind noticeably, so if you’re hard on your phone and are frequently in situations where you need to get as much battery life as you can, ASAP, this might not be the Android phone to get, as there are lots of better options out there at the same price or less.
The Samsung Galaxy s23 Plus is compatible with wireless charging, which is great if you’ve already invested in a wireless charging mat. In fact, wireless charging is probably more valuable here because the Galaxy S23 Plus lacks the absurdly fast charging features of some other flagship Android phones, where wired charging can get you a full charge or close to it in less than a half hour, which takes a lot of the inconvenience out of wired charging.
Worth mentioning is 4.5W reverse wireless charging — you can use the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus as a wireless charger for other accessories that are also compatible with wireless charging. Cool extra feature, but it’s slow and inefficient charging. If you use it, it’ll probably just be in a pinch to give something like wireless earbuds a few more minutes of juice, and at least won’t result in much worse battery life on the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Software
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus has One UI 5.1 layered over Android 13. The current version of One UI is still a vast improvement over the heavy Android forks Samsung used to be guilty of creating. One UI makes for a smooth user experience, and given the battery life, is clearly tuned for efficiency.
Most of the unique One UI software features boil down to easy customization options for things like your lock screen or home screen, and you probably won’t use them more than once or twice after you first set up your phone.
But, there’s a lot of integration with Windows here to help you use the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus with your Windows PC to sync notifications and pictures, and respond to texts on your PC. I don’t think One UI is a selling point, but the ways in which it differs from stock Android are generally positive.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus Review: Sustainability
Always a tricky subject! The most sustainable thing you can do is use your phone for as long as possible before replacing it — only get a new phone if your older phone is really on death’s door. To that point, Samsung promises four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches, to give you two fewer reasons to upgrade early. But, this seems not far afield from standard (or what long should have been). The messaging seems to be a bigger change than the guarantees themselves.
There’s a lot of recycled materials in the build, including recycled aluminum, glass, and ocean-bound plastic. Not bad, but as use of recycled materials becomes more common, a scramble to secure recycled materials for production is no doubt in the offing. I’d expect Samsung to get more proactive about taking back their old phones soon, and that might result in better trade-in deals in the years to come. We’ll see!
What might be the most impactful sustainability move, which may sound trivial, is the elimination of plastics in the packaging of the phone. When we’re talking about the kind of scale Samsung is operating at, taking a little bit of plastic out of the trash for every phone sold will make a huge difference, especially if other smartphone makers follow suit.
Is the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus a good phone?
It’s a new Samsung phone in 2023! If you buy it, it’s hard to imagine you’ll be dissatisfied — the vivid display is hard to beat, the phone is powerful, and the cameras take exceptional photos. As usual, if you’re a longtime Apple iPhone user, there’s no major reason to switch, but if you’re in the Android camp, whether or not you should buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus depends on what you value.
If you need your phone to take the absolute best photos and videos (or really, really love the S Pen), you should spring for the more expensive Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. But, unless you’re a professional (or aspire to be one) and need your phone to take pro-level pictures, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is unnecessarily good for the price. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus will do just fine for almost everyone, and the night mode shots and color accuracy surpass what we’ve seen on most other Android phones. The camera systems on both Samsung phones compete comfortably with their counterparts in the Apple iPhone 14 series.
Is battery life the biggest concern for you? There are many other rival phones at the same price or less that have a bigger battery or are compatible with more powerful charging adapters. But, is that worth a noticeable hit to display quality? For a few hundred bucks less, it might be! Everyone will have a different answer, although it can’t be overstated how excellent this AMOLED display looks and performs. You won’t find one as good on another Android phone.
And, while it looks sleek, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is built to take punishment, even without screen protectors or cases. The IP68 rating and the next-gen Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 make the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus a tough phone, which dovetails with talk of sustainability — you shouldn’t need to replace the phone because of water damage or a busted screen anytime soon.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus pricing
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus is available in phantom black, cream, green, and lavender, in addition to lime and graphite options that are available only if you buy directly from Samsung. You can also get the Samsung Galaxy S23 through T-Mobile, AT&T, or Verizon, with special deals from each that are outlined here.
If you want to purchase the phone unlocked directly from Samsung, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus starts at $1,119, and can be configured with a base storage of 256 GB, or expanded storage at 512 GB.