itel S23+ Review: The King of Entry-level

The itel S23+ is already taking up the challenge of being a great budget phone in other markets; the question is, will it be well received by Filipino techies?

The extreme entry-level itel aims to provide value by providing great offerings under the 5K pesos mark…

The newly introduced S23+ has a lot of promising features and value for money we all expect for less than a fraction of the price. Given that along the line, we may notice some cost-cutting decisions itel has in store for us, but the S23+ genuinely surprised us in a way.

While this isn’t an S23+ from Samsung, this is still a bang-for-buck device.

For the unboxing article, click here. Moving on, let’s check out the phone’s design.

Design

Moving on to the itel S23+, we quickly noticed the gorgeous back design resembling an iPhone device. The Elemental Cyan colorway looks aesthetically pleasing even if it is made of a plastic material.

The camera has a slight bump that houses the two camera modules and it’s safe to say that we are deeply impressed by the looks of this device.

Typical button placement for a smartphone in this price range. When pressing the buttons, they feel sturdy and it seems that itel has ensured that the buttons will be made with good quality.

It really looks gorgeous when you get a hold of the smartphone, it seemed like it wasn’t even an entry-level phone.

The display is gorgeous

Beneath its pre-applied plastic screen protector, we are treated to a large 6.78” AMOLED display – the colors are rich and there isn’t any visible pixelation, and along with those stuff, it also has 1080P…at this price point, this might be the best display you’ll ever have.

The slim bezels add to the smartphone’s appearance, giving it a front design reminiscent of a high-end Samsung flagship. It features a spacious curved AMOLED display with a punch hole, and surprisingly, the quality remains uncompromised despite being an entry-level phone.

Talking about its user experience, watching videos via YouTube is just passable, with nothing to write home about. It maxes out at 1080p during our Costa Rica 4K test, and the colors are vibrant, and decent overall.

The phone has some heft to it, and its slippery plastic back isn’t helping that much because it is a smudge magnet. It is made from plastic all around the area, and for its price, we can’t ask for more. The screen is also made of Corning Gorilla 5 glass, making it tougher compared to other phones in its price range.

Outdoor usage is almost impossible as it isn’t bright enough even with max brightness and auto mode toggled on – it only has a max of 500 nits brightness.

Audio, battery life, and charging

Relying on its single down-firing speakers, the itel S23 plus’ audio output is alright. It may be tin-like and silent versus phones with a single speaker, but it does the job. No Dolby Atmos or something like that, and you may be better off using the provided earphones instead. 

The jack output is also so-so: weak mids, almost silent lows, and crashing highs. If you’re planning to transform this device into your own budget music player, remember that you should not expect Sony Walkman levels of greatness here. It gets the job done, with no ifs or but’s.

As for its battery, the 5,000mAh capacity is enough to get you through the day with moderate usage. But with intense multitasking, gaming, and video consumption, expect to charge in the afternoon because the Unisoc Tiger T616 chipset inside consumes a lot of power, with its outdated 12-nanometer process, even with the 2.0-1.8GHz clock speed– boy, it drank a lot of juice out of this device.

Charging the itel S23+ with an 18W charger(this charging brick is sold separately by the way) took us a little over 1.5 hours to fully charge it from 0% to 100%. We just wish they supported a faster charging speed because some of their counterparts are already offering a faster charger within the same price range. But hey, they need to cut corners somehow.

itel OS 13

The proprietary operating system for this device looks, feels, and functions similarly to Infinix’s XOS, and TECNO’s HiOS as they are in the same company after all. As with all Transsion software, we aren’t the biggest fans of their OS and we recommend you use Nova Launcher for a cleaner look, or Cherry’s Aurora Launcher which is more aesthetically pleasing. Niagara Launcher users may disagree with us, disagree.

The notification panel and quick functions are also borrowed from HiOS and XOS. The Peek Proof feature piqued our interest, eliminating the need to apply a Privacy glass on your phone to deter anyone from seeing your business, for example, in public transportation. We also like the fact there is minimal bloatware in our device, so that’s a plus.

The itel S23+ runs on a Unisoc Tiger T616 processor clocking in at 2×2.0 GHz Cortex-A75 & 6×1.8 GHz Cortex-A55. It has 8GB of RAM that can be expanded up to 16GB with its Virtual RAM function.

It may help with multitasking, but at the end of the day, it all depends on what SoC can handle. What’s surprising is the 256GB storage onboard which is a rarity for its price. More apps, more data, more fun.

It scored around 300,184 points on AnTuTu v10.0.9 which is more than enough to run most apps with minimal stutters and lag. Popular games such as CoDM, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Genshin Impact’s performance is decent, but do not expect too much from its chipset. We have a separate gaming review for this phone – click here.

Camera is…meh

Despite the camera island’s gorgeous looks, don’t expect Huawei-like quality with the S23+ (or even the other S23 from Sammy). Daylight photo quality is mediocre at best, with varied results, dark spots, and taking the right amount of patience to produce decent photos. It is still good for its price point though, the added computational power of the Unisoc T616 will enable to device to produce good photos, especially in daylight.

Portrait shots produce uneven blurring effects, which are barely usable. Due to pixel binning, the 50MP camera produces 12MP photos

The 32MP selfie camera produces better results in terms of daylight, night mode, and portrait mode. Both video qualities on the rear and front are kind of alright and are serviceable as best. We aren’t saying that we expect flagship quality for a budget device. If you want to get creative, those nostalgia-esque qualities can also be useful to your advantage.

The phone can only record 1080P videos at 30fps for its front and rear cameras so content creation isn’t really great on this phone. It is good enough for most video recording tasks such as recording someone’s funny moment or updating your loved one. The video stabilization is alright, but there’s nothing to write at home about.

Final verdict

What we like about the itel S23+

  • 256GB of internal storage inside
  • Trendy design
  • Unisoc Tiger T616 inside which is more than enough for this phone class
  • 1080p display better than most offerings under this class
  • Minimal bloatware
  • Earphones and hard case inside
  • Very affordable
  • The curved AMOLED display is gorgeous

What we dislike about the itel S23+

  • Mediocre camera performance
  • 18W charging brick is not included and the charging rate is slow
  • itelOS 13 is clunky
  • The display only has 60Hz refresh rate

Rating

For the phone’s specs page, click the link below

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