It’s the last Friday of the month which means one thing – a fresh instalment of What Hi-Fi?'s Pick of the Month, where our team of experts details the best-scoring products to pass through our listening and watching rooms over the past four weeks.
It has been a particularly hectic month, with the Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2023 finally making its return this week, but that didn’t stop our experts from trying out all the latest and greatest products in the world of TV and audio. In fact, a whopping six products impressed our testers enough to earn recommendations this month – two of which actually come from the same company.
Every product on this list has been thoroughly tested by our tech experts and scored at least 4/5 or above to be included on this list, so you know they’re worth your valuable time and attention.
Without further delay, here are our experts' top picks for February 2023.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung handsets have been a staple part of our best phones list for the best part of half a decade, and for good reason.
The company’s flagships have constantly delivered excellent viewing experiences with their AMOLED screens offering best-in-class black levels, wonderful vibrant colours and most recently, solid HDR performance. Because of this, we had very high hopes for its latest flagship handset, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, when we got it in for testing.
The 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen seriously impressed our reviewers. Watching a section of Le Mans 66 the punchy colours delivered a wonderful viewing experience and was indicative of generally brilliant HDR performance during our tests. This led our reviewers to conclude:
“With Samsung’s pedigree when it comes to TVs and history of providing excellent displays on its smartphones, it's no surprise that the picture performance on the S23 Ultra is mostly very good. Movies feel right at home on the expansive AMOLED display, leaning towards the vibrant and punchy colours that have become synonymous with Samsung up to this point.”
The Ultra’s Dolby Atmos speakers add to its allure, offering a surprisingly wide and well-organised audio presentation during our checks. This plus its solid camera, and powerful performance made it an easy recommendation, especially for Android users.
The only downside is that its main rival, the iPhone 14 Pro Max, performed better as a dedicated music player when we ran the two head-to-head. Its colours also proved to be a smidgen more accurate, offering more of an “as the director intended it” feel than the Ultra on titles like Rogue One during our tests.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
Samsung QN85B (QE55QN85B)
Is a Mini LED TV worth it? This month our team of testers once again got to find out when they reviewed the QE55QN85B – a Mini LED set from Samsung that carries a surprisingly affordable price tag.
Running it through our standard suite of tests, our reviewers were impressed upon finding it offers impressive brightness and contrast, sharp native 4K while also presenting excellent value for money for a set this size.
Picture quality is night and day better than what we experienced on its main Mini LED rival, the Hisense 65U8HQ. Watching key titles, like Blade Runner 2049 and Mad Max: Fury Road, the Samsung delivered one of the best viewing experiences we’ve had with a set this price. HDR performance in particular is impressive, being aided by some of the deepest blacks we’ve seen on a non-OLED set and wonderfully high max brightness levels.
This led our reviewers to conclude:
“No cheaper or similarly priced LCD TV we can think of is bright enough to get even halfway to the level of HDR experience the 55QN85B can achieve without compromising black levels much more than Samsung’s set does.”
Featuring four HDMI 2.1 inputs, the set is also fully stacked to let you connect both a PS5 and Xbox Series X, plus a dedicated sound system – which we’d recommend doing if you like listening to TV at high volumes, as one of our only quibbles with the QN85B is its sound system is a little on the quiet side.
Read our Samsung QN85B (QE55QN85B) review
Nothing Phone (1)
The Nothing Phone (1) is the first handset from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s new company. Having put the mid-range set through its paces, our team of expert reviewers can confirm it is a great value Android handset.
The main thing we immediately noticed was its atypical design, which features an LED light on the phone’s back. Some team members loved the feature, with it glowing or flashing for various incoming alerts, while others felt it was a little gaudy.
But for the money, it’s a top performer for most people, with its 120Hz OLED screen offering one of the best viewing experiences we’ve found on a handset this price.
Thor: Love And Thunder looked excellent, with the screen offering wonderful contrast levels creating a brilliant sense of depth. The image is also full of detail with skin and environmental textures all looking adequately resolved.
Watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story we were equally impressed, with distant stars punching through the deep black levels to create a suitably immersive viewing experience to keep most buyers happy. In fact, the only phone we’ve tested this price capable of doing a better job with difficult space scenes is the Sony Xperia 10 IV.
This led our reviewer to conclude:
“If you want a smartphone that will turn heads, alongside providing a pretty solid AV experience overall, the Nothing Phone (1) might be the rebellious new alternative for you.”
Read our Nothing Phone (1) review
Atacama Nexxus 600 Essential
Over our years testing them we’ve always been impressed by the modular versatility of Atacama’s Nexxus range of speaker stands. This trend continued with the Atacama Nexxus 600 Essential we tested this month.
Putting the stands through their paces in our listening rooms, our testers were impressed with the Nexxus 600’s sturdy build, wealth of top-plate size options and the sheer number of standmount speakers they work with.
During our checks we managed to connect them to everything from small sets, like the Elac Debut ConneX and KEF LS50 Meta all the way up to larger options, such as the deeper Q Acoustics Concept 30 and B&W 705 S3.
Playing locally-stored music and Tidal-streamed songs through our reference Naim/Burmester system, the Nexxus 600 performed admirably. Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill retained a good amount of solidity and punch. On We March from The Social Network soundtrack is packed with textural depth wonderfully precise.
This led our testers to conclude:
“The Nexxus 600 range’s modular and versatile design will no doubt appeal to many. Atacama has made a clever arrangement that will suit a broad variety of standmount speakers, and ensures a sturdy, stable and clean sound for your hi-fi system.”
The only slight downside is that we still preferred the performance of the Award-winning Atacama Moseco 6 speaker stands, which offered a more layered performance during our checks.
Read our Atacama Nexxus 600 Essential review
Tribit Stormbox Micro 2
If you’re after an affordable, rugged Bluetooth speaker for use outdoors or in the shower then the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 is one of the best we’ve tested.
Featuring a water-resistant woven finish, the Micro 2 proved near indestructible during our checks, easily surviving being chucked around in a satchel and used outdoors during one of Britain’s frequent downpours.
The Bluetooth 5.3-ready speaker also delivered surprisingly loud and solid audio, for a speaker this size and price.
Juice by Lizzo held the raw and playful nature of her vocals and was indicative of how well the Micro 2 generally handled vocals, which remained clear and detailed throughout our testing.
Playing Legend Has It by Run The Jewels, the speaker retained the track’s dynamism. It was also nicely precise with the stop and start of notes being suitably snappy. All-in-all you won’t find a speaker this size and price that performs better, based on our tests.
For people on the move, the 12 hours of listening we eaked out of the speaker during our tests also put it on a par with the pricier JBL Flip 6 and Flip 5, and just two hours shy of the UE Wonderboom 3 – which is impressive considering the Micro 2’s size.
This adds up to make it an easy recommendation for any buyer on the hunt for a compact, affordable Bluetooth speaker.
Read our Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 review
Rega Elex Mk4
The Rega Elex Mk4 is the latest amplifier to pass through our listening rooms. It’s the mid-range sibling of the Rega Elicit Mk5 we tested last year and a direct rival to the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Cambridge Audio CXA81, which gives it some stiff competition.
At its heart, the Mk4 retains the same Class A/B design as its siblings. The big change, however, is that it now comes with a DAC – a first in the Elex range.
During our listening tests, the amp performed brilliantly, offering our reviewers an assured, elegant sound. Playing The Chain by Fleetwood Mac through the analogue inputs, the Elex Mk4 delivers a wide and open sound with enough space for every part of the song to flourish.
We were particularly impressed by how well it handled the song’s famous bassline, which felt suitably taut, with there being no discernible flab to the low end.
This led our reviewers to conclude:
“The Rega Elex Mk4 is a stunning amplifier. Revealing and faithful, it’s capable in ways far beyond our expectations at this mid-tier price point. The addition of digital inputs and a headphone port is a great step in the right direction, giving customers more flexibility in how they listen to this terrific amp.”
Our only minor quibbles arose when we ran it head-to-head with the Cambridge Audio CXA81, which has slightly better connectivity and offered a more lively, full-bodied tone than the Rega, during our checks.
Read our Rega Elex Mk4 review