After taking a year off to regroup on its mid-range offerings, Samsung is reinvigorating its Fan Edition line by announcing its plans to offer cheaper and somewhat pared-down versions of its mainline Galaxy S23 phone, Tab S9 tablet, and Galaxy earbuds.
If you thought there weren’t enough phone announcements in the past month, Samsung’s new slate includes a Galaxy S23 FE phone, as well as redesigned Tab S9 and S9 FE+ tablets. Bringing up the rear is the $199 Buds FE promising a cheaper alternative to listening with built-in wingtips to better stick between your oddly-shaped lobes.
The announcement comes just in time to compete with Google’s announcement of the upcoming release of its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Samsung has its own slate of slightly cheaper devices to grab a bit of attention away from Apple’s iPhone 15. The S23 FE phone in particular is trying to get away with a camera array that seems strong, at least on paper, though it will still be powered by a previous-generation CPU.
What’s New With the Galaxy S23 FE?
The last time Samsung had a Fan Edition ready was for the Galaxy S21 FE, which had the unfortunate timing of releasing shortly before Samsung unveiled its S22 lineup. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the S21 FE, but it came with the caveat that users had to expect a previous-generation CPU.
You can expect the same with the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE model, which contains a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU. It’s a step down from the mainline S23 which makes use of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. Other upper-mid-range phones from the past two years like the Nothing Phone (2) and OnePlus 10T have been making use of the 8+ Gen 1, a slightly superior chip compared to the earlier version. Samsung is also promising its CPU has been optimised for longer life on its 4,500mAh battery, the same as the S21 FE. Still, it’s a bit of a shame the new FE won’t get to use the more-capable 8+ chip.
Like the older FE models, this new phone has a triple camera array with a main 50-MP sensor alongside a 12MP ultrawide and an 8MP telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom. While the latter lens is a slight downgrade from Samsung’s mainline Galaxy, the FE’s main sensor has the same size and focal length as the S23’s main camera, and it’s a surprising addition for what’s touted as a decidedly mid-range device. Samsung’s cameras have not been able to match up with Google at its best, but depending on how the phone shakes out in the field it could be a great choice for somebody looking for quality pics without breaking the bank. Samsung is also touting the company’s Nightography high-ISO image capture for nighttime photos on the FE.
Unlike the unnecessary 32-MP selfie camera on the S21 FE, the new phone has a simple, standard 10-MP sensor for capturing your mug.
The Fan Edition houses a 6.4-inch AMOLED 2X screen with the same rounded corners you expect from a Samsung phone. It has Gorilla Glass 5 and a IP68 rating for dust protection and water resistance up to 3 feet of depth for up to 30 minutes.
But where the Galaxy S23 starts at $1,350, the S23 FE is going for $999. There’s a selection of standard colours available, plus a few standouts. The purple and mint colours are there for people who want a perky phone. There’s also an indigo and tangerine colour for those who order from Samsung.com.au. The S23 FE will be available October 12 through Samsung’s site and all the major carriers.
What About the Cheaper Tablet and Earbuds?
When it was released earlier this year, the Samsung Tab S9’s greatest claim to fame was its “ultra” edition featuring a massive 14.6-inch screen. You won’t find anything as big with the Fan Edition models, but the 10.9-inch Tab S9 FE and 12.4-inch S9+ FE are still trying to offer some bang for their buck starting at $749.
The tablet comes stock with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, with storage sitting at 128GB or 256GB, respectively. The screen has an adaptable refresh rate of 48 to 90Hz, which is a big step down from the 60Hz to 120Hz on the regular Tab S9. Still, both come stock with a magnetically attached S Pen for doodling and sketching with the Samsung tablet.
The new tablets run on the Samsung Exynos 1380 chip and ARM MAli-G68 GPU. Samsung claimed that the new FE tablets performed far better than the last Tab S7 FE, with 38% better CPU performance and 73% better scores on GPU performance. Of course, what we’d actually like to compare it to is the regular S9. Like the FE phone, both tablets come stock with an IP68 rating for survivability.
Lastly, the Buds
As far as the $199 Galaxy Buds FE, Samsung is promising active noise cancellation and ambient sound for folks who want their beats on a budget. The new buds are $US50 cheaper than the Galaxy Buds 2 were at launch, but now they sport a redesigned silicon wingtip design that the company promises will help stick in your ear. There’s no wireless charging, which should be expected on a device at this price, though it does come with SmartThings device location enabled.
The buds themselves should last for between six and nine hours, depending on if ANC is active. The case itself should go for about 21 to 30 hours depending on ANC use. The Buds FE are made to pair with other Samsung devices such as the company’s latest TVs and on Android through the Galaxy Wearable app (which is also available on PC), but it should still work on iOS through Bluetooth. The device also has a new Auto Switch feature to automatically pair with the device you’re actively using.
Having ANC means it has the chance to directly compete against 2021’s Pixel Buds A Series, earbuds that lacked any kind of active noise cancelling. Depending on how good the noise cancelling and sound quality are, it could hold an edge on recent cheap-to-mid-range offerings like the $US99 Nothing Ear (stick) or perhaps even the Beats Studio Buds +.
Both the tablet and buds will release on October 12 through Samsung’s website and through most of the regular retailers.
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia
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