My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

It’s that time of year again – a time for reflection and a great opportunity to look back at another great year full of interesting devices. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the undisputable best part of my job is the opportunity to experience the latest and greatest tech all of the time. The list you are about to read is about phones that made a lasting impression on me over the past 12 months.

As such, these phones are not necessarily the best ones out there, nor do I claim to offer any actual buying advice. These devices just stuck with me for one reason or another.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has been my daily driver since its launch in February. It has been a faithful companion with no major complaints on my end. I keep claiming that I am actually not a Samsung fanboy, even if my device track record tells a different story. Still, the S23 Ultra, replaced by the S22 Ultra, which was a direct replacement for the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, which in turn replaced my beloved Galaxy Note9 once that finally died on me. The list goes on, but you get the point.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

The thing is that I have gotten really accustomed to the Samsung way and One UI over the years. Hopping from phone to phone for reviews, things can get very hectic, which is why I like to keep things very simple on the personal front. My app loadout, while very large and varied, is generally the same from phone to phone, and so are my shortcuts, including things like smart home automation within Samsung SmartThings. Heck, I haven’t even changed my wallpaper across four or even five personal phones. The point is that I like consistency, and the S23 Ultra delivers on that front.

I basically view it as a familiar tool that is always in my pocket, always dependable, and working as expected so I can get my tasks done quickly and efficiently. While calling a glorious piece of engineering such as the S23 Ultra a “tool” might sound demeaning, it really is the highest form of praise in my world. It has simply vanished away into the background for me, silently, reliably and consistently doing its job without hiccups. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I got.

Samsung Galaxy A34

While it’s easy to praise a cream-of-the-crop device like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the reality is that most people don’t need to and, frankly, shouldn’t spend so much on a phone. Flagships make headlines, but good midrangers move actual volumes. As such, I feel like the ever-solid Samsung Galaxy A series is often worth some praise.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

Just like last year, I feel like the real “value” of the Galaxy A line can be found in the “middle child” Galaxy A34. Some of its highlights include an IP67 ingress protection rating on a body with a Gorilla Glass 5 front glass. There is also a very good 6.6-inch 120Hz Super AMOLED display, a stereo speaker setup and a large 5,000 mAh battery with 25W charging, which we found to deliver excellent battery life.

Last year, I upgraded both of my parents to Galaxy A33 units, and it’s not quite time for an upgrade yet, but my reasoning for getting an A33 applies to the A34 in full force. I’ve found that from my experience, most things seem to just work out of the box with Samsung’s custom UX and hardware better than average. I can count on additional features like OTG and Android Auto being there and working as intended, which is not always the case with other manufacturers.

Asus Zenfone 10

Looking back at my previous top five phones, I almost feel like I am becoming a bit banal and predictable. But what can I say, I like what I like, and that is usually a phone with a clear purpose. That is very much true for the Zenfone family – a Zenfone is one of the few viable choices if you want a true flagship in a compact form factor.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

Also, I have personally come to love and admire Asus for its excellent products over the years. Though small in numbers, the Taiwanese giant’s phone lineup is exquisite, in my opinion. Every time a new ROG Phone comes in through the door, I am all over it for an in-depth review, and every single time, I immediately wonder whether to adopt it as a daily driver. And that’s not something that happens to me with many phones these days.

The latest Zenfone 10 is fully kitted out, as usual. You get a durable, small IP68-certified body with an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus on the front. The display has a modest 5.92-inch diagonal but also a 144Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support and plenty of brightness. The Zenfone 10 also has stereo speakers and other flagship niceties like 15W wireless charging. A full-fat Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset is beating inside this compact body, along with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Asus didn’t skimp on the camera setup either, with a gimbal OIS on the main 50MP snapper. The battery is a respectable 4,300 mAh unit with 30W charging support.

I’ve personally recommended the Zenfone 10 on at least three occasions this year. It really is my go-to for a compact flagship, and for that alone, it deserves a spot on the list.

Xiaomi Poco F5

I wanted to give this spot on my list to one of Xiaomi’s ever-popular budget to midrange devices and really debated between the Poco F5 and the Redmi Note 12. I landed on the Poco F5 in the end since I feel like its value proposition is very hard to beat or even match.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

I think the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 chipset is an amazing midrange chip and represents a small step down from flagship territory, as a proper midranger should. It has plenty of performance to throw around and does not skimp on connectivity or its ISP, with proper 4K video capture support, among other things.

The Poco F5 also delivers in the display department with a 12-bit 120Hz HDR10+ and Dolby Vision-certified panel with plenty of brightness. You can’t really do much better on a current midranger. You also get a good stereo speaker setup and a hefty 5,000 mAh battery with fast 67W charging. There is OIS on the main 64MP camera as well.

All around, the Poco F5 is a very well-rounded device with very little in the way of compromises. It is exactly the kind of device that pops into my head when most people ask me for a phone recommendation since it is such a good and universal fit for most.

Tecno Spark 10 Pro

I wanted to dedicate the final spot on my top five list to Transsion Holdings as a whole and its Infinix and Tecno brands. These have been doing insanely well lately and gaining a lot of traction, especially in the budget segment, where the biggest volumes of products get moved.

Again, I debated a lot about whether to highlight the Techno Spark 10 Pro or the Tecno Pova 5 Pro – since I personally bought two units of the latter for relatives in the past year. I landed on the Spark 10 Pro in the end since it is by far the more popular device. In fact, it is one of the most popular 2023 phones in our database, which is an achievement in its own right.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

It’s kind of impressive that as little as €150 nowadays can get you a 90Hz display, a decent MediaTek Helio G88 chipset and a pretty solid 50MP main and 32MP selfie camera setup. There is even 1440p video capture on both sides, whereas most other devices in this price range only offer 1080p. 128GB of onboard storage, expandable via a dedicated microSD slot, is also a pretty sweet deal at this price. The same goes for the 5,000 mAh battery, for which we got some excellent battery endurance numbers from our testing.

Honorable mentions – Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, Xiaomi Redmi Note 13 Pro+

I personally like what Samsung is doing with its FE models. In fact, I believe that for most people, a “FE-class” device or something like a “flagship killer” is about as premium as they need to go in their purchasing decisions. A full-fledged flagship is shiny and cool, but prices have become ludicrous nowadays, and it is no secret that you don’t get twice as great user experience for twice the price.

My top 5 phones of 2023 – Victor

The Galaxy S23 FE looks superb, rocking that current Samsung design language. It also feels great and offers stellar build quality with an aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back and an IP68 ingress protection rating. Its display is truly flagship-grade, with a 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ support and 1,450 nits of peak brightness. The S23 FE also shines in the camera department with a 50MP main snapper, a dedicated 3x telephoto, and OIS on both cameras, as well as a 12MP ultrawide. While both the Exynos 2200 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the international and US variants of the device are good chips, I personally prefer the Qualcomm one, for what it’s worth.

I also feel like I need to mention the Xiaomi Redmi Note 13 series in some fashion since I believe that once it makes its international debut on January 4, it is poised to walk in the steps of its predecessor and become incredibly popular with users. I am particularly looking forward to the Redmi Note 13 Pro+. It looks like an amazing “flagship killer” class device with specs such as an aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and iP68 ingress protection, stereo speakers, a gorgeous 6.67-inch, 120Hz, HDR display, a potent 200MP OIS-enabled primary camera and a 5,000 mAh battery with a whopping 120W fast charging.

That about wraps up my 2023 highlights. I hope you found my musings interesting, and if you want to discuss any of the points made, I’ll be lurking in the comments.

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