Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 5G Review
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is such a significant change for the smartphone that you would hardly have thought. This is the latest phone from Samsung in the high-end phone category. Galaxy S23 Ultra has a more durable frame, quicker storage and memory, a more effective battery, a specially tuned CPU, and a flagship 200 MP primary camera concealed beneath a familiar design. With this, you are getting one of the best phones in the world, unless you are put off by the high price tag of the S23 Ultra.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is almost identical in design to its predecessor, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. However, they are not at all similar to the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus. Although the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra look similar, there are differences. We've explored everything in detail in this article, so check out our in-depth review of the S23 Ultra.
A revamped display in S23 Ultra features a square design, with a larger flat surface area and a recognizable square shape operating area, giving the S Pen stylus more room to function. The front and back now have the most recent and durable Gorilla Glass Victus 2, while all the modern features from its predecessor, such as IP68 resistance to water and dust and 45W wired charging, are also there.
Additionally, Samsung has made an effort to include more recycled materials in the design of the phone. For instance, the speaker module and inner cover of the S Pen were constructed using recovered fishing nets.
Some components, such as the 5,000mAh battery and 6.8-inch 1Hz to 120Hz Adaptive Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (better color accuracy and 20% increased efficiency), have gone through major upgrades.
There are more significant modifications inside, such as the use of the newly created "Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy" which was made possible by the collaboration between Samsung and Qualcomm. According to Samsung, this platform has 51% higher NPU performance, 41% better GPU performance, and 33% more CPU performance than the finest platforms currently available on the market. Along with the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, the S23 Ultra is one of the first smartphones to include LPDDR5X RAM, which is quicker and more effective, aided with UFS 4.0 storage.
A new 200MP lead sensor with 16-to-1 pixel-binning is attached behind a recognizable rear four-camera rear array to enhance the S23 Ultra's "Nightography". It boosts capabilities across the board, from normal photos to portrait photography to night sky video using the new Astro Hyperlapse mode. While it's not flawless in practice, it's hard to imagine another phone with the same reliability, quality, and confidence across all of its sensor types.
Apart from photography, the S23 Ultra also lets users edit photos and videos to enhance the quality, meeting the requirements of color balance, saturation, and brightness as per their taste. The 12MP ultrawide and twin telephoto lenses with 3x and 10x (periscopic) zoom are still included with the S23 Ultra, giving it the same level of industry-leading camera versatility as the previous two generations of Ultra.
In addition, Samsung has confirmed its dedication to offering the Galaxy S23 series up to four years of OS updates and five years of security fixes. All three phones in the S23 series come equipped with One UI 5.1 on top of Android 13, which includes, among other things, an improved privacy dashboard and easier collaborative functions in Samsung Notes.
The entry-level storage capacity has been quadrupled by Samsung to 256GB, while the top-tier model comes with 12GB of RAM (up from 8GB in the basic variant) and an astonishing 1TB of storage. The starting price (at least in the US) is almost similar to that of the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
For a more in-depth look, keep reading the full in-depth review below, but keep in mind that if you're okay with the Ultra's hefty price tag, there's nothing else to be discouraged by.
Price and Availability
The Galaxy S23 Ultra and its siblings, the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus, were all released on February 1, 2023; pre-orders were open from that day until February 16. However, one can now buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra as part of a regular sale starting Friday, February 17.
The fact that the base storage has been increased to 256GB (or rather, there is no 128GB S23 Ultra) over the Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the nice basic improvements. This is especially beneficial for consumers in the US as they were forced to pay the same amount of $1,199.99 for the base 128GB S22 Ultra when it launched.
When compared to its predecessor, the 512GB model costs $20 less ($1,379.99), while the top-tier, Samsung-only 1TB storage model costs $20 more ($1,619.99).
Pricing for the S23 Ultra is usually worse for UK consumers compared to the S22 Ultra. The base model costs £1,249, the same as last year's 256GB model, while the 512GB and 1TB models cost £70 and £100 more, or £1,399 and £1,599 respectively.
Australian buyers paid almost AU$50 less for the 256GB S23 Ultra, which cost only AU$1,949. Unlike the price of its 2022 predecessor, the 512GB variant of S23 Ultra is AU$100 more expensive this year, and the top-tier 1TB S23 Ultra is AU$200 more expensive.
Regardless of the storage option you choose, the fact that Samsung's top variant of S23 Ultra is more expensive shouldn't come as a big surprise, as the market also includes the comparably priced iPhone 14 Pro Max and a growing number of foldable phones. Simply put, nowadays, many smartphones are coming in this price range.
There are three storage options available for the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, each with a different amount of RAM (8GB in the base model and 12GB in the two higher storage variants).
Except for the memory/ Storage, all three variations have the same specifications, such as:
The S22 Ultra was the first Samsung phone to truly blend the Word S and Universe Note series together, and while doing so, it eschewed the form-cutting, camera-driven vibe of its predecessor and its sentient sibling. All things considered, S22 Ultra leans towards a simpler and squarer design, especially to physically fit an integrated S Pen stylus and partly to differentiate it from the normal S22 and S22 Plus.
For the S23 series, the standard and additional models offset the timing used in the design of the previous S22 series. The S23 Ultra offers only minor design refinements that, for those familiar with the S22, will be extremely hard to detect.
In contrast to the S22 Ultra, the S23 Ultra has a similar pill-shaped top-down profile with curved front and rear glass feeding into a metal frame. However, the S23 Ultra has a lower radius of the curved edges of the display, giving you a larger flat surface area to use the integrated S Pen. Practically speaking, this is a simple but welcome change.
Although the effect is negligible, one could argue that this minor change makes it more difficult to pick up the phone from a flat surface. Its square outline will be more disruptive in any case, making it more difficult to hide than the Galaxy S21 Ultra with its rounded corners. However, it remains an attractive gadget due to its superior build and guaranteed performance.
The S23 colors launched this year are still present across the range, and the Ultra is offered in most locations in one of four finishes: phantom black, cream, green, or lavender. However, as in previous years, there are a few unique color variants to choose from Samsung.com websites exclusively. These colors include Sky Blue, Graphite, Lime, and Red.
While the S Pen's cap matches the body shade to suit your personal preference, the remainder of the pointer is dark, no matter what your preferred finish. The green-colored variant of S23 Ultra is believed to be somewhat subdued, especially when viewed in artificial light, just like the latest Hazel-colored Google Pixel 7 Pro or the latest Eternal Green OnePlus 11. However, user preferences vary and some will find it surprisingly enjoyable while others will find it distasteful. So, before spending any money, try to figure out what you want and get a specific color variant of the S23 Ultra.
The firm's excellent efforts at durability continue with IP68-certified dust and water protection, a sturdy Armor aluminum alloy frame, and Corning's latest Gorilla Glass Victus 2 for the first time on any phone.
Along with all the cutting-edge technology that Samsung has incorporated into the S23 series, it has also tried to raise the level of harmlessness for the ecosystem content, with the S23 Ultra being the real hero of this campaign. About 20% of the S Pen's inner cover is reportedly made from polyamide that is released into the seas, while 22% of the glass used for the phone's body and back is from recycled things.
Samsung claims that the S23 Ultra was pounded into a form using recyclable aluminum, PET bottles, fishing nets, and water barrels. Twelve complete components?double the number of the S22 Ultra?including the volume keys and SIM tray, speaker placement, 5G antenna configuration, and more, were built using these materials. Although Samsung is not the only firm attempting to raise the green credentials of its phones, this is undoubtedly the company's loudest statement yet on a specific model, and it signals a move that will hopefully spread to other phone manufacturers in the future.
Apart from the less curved edges on its sides and notable protection due to the new Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the S23 Ultra's display offers minimal changes in terms of design compared to its predecessor, the S22 Ultra.
The S23 Ultra includes the same Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen as the previous version, which has a resolution of 1440 x 3088 and a dynamic refresh rate that can scale between 1 Hz and 120 Hz, dynamically adjusting to prioritize battery economy or visual fluidity as necessary. We were able to see the screen switching between 24 Hz, 48 Hz, 60 Hz, and 120 Hz by having the display rate displayed on the screen using developer options.
The S23 Ultra's display continues to be among the best on mobile devices produced by Samsung. Colors and visibility are excellent, even in strong ambient light. Viewing angles reveal minimal brightness drop-off and manage to provide pleasant color consistency. It appears that Samsung has tuned the display this time with its Advanced Vision Booster to deliver more accurate colors in three additional ambient light scenarios, changing tone and contrast depending on the situation.
The S23 brightness level limits to only max out at 1,750 nits, so it still falls short of the iPhone 14 Pro's amazing 2,000 nits peak brightness, but in actual use, movies, games, and other graphics look great. Samsung isn't claiming the S Pen's latency has been further reduced this time around or that there's more air gesture functionality, but it's already remarkably responsive (the Wacom-backed technology allows for 2.8 ms latency). Additionally, the user experience has been improved in various ways that boost productivity.
The camera is one area where the S23 Ultra consistently stands out when looking at the best Samsung phones available. The multi-sensor arrangement that the company has been using for the past few years has reliably guaranteed that the quality of images and videos will be amazing, whether it is day or night.
Although the S23 Ultra's dual 3x and 10x 10MP telephoto sensors and 12MP ultrawide sensor are very recognizable, the primary 108MP resolution sensor found on earlier entries in the series (previous S series phones) is replaced with a whopping 200MP primary camera, which is the first time this has happened on a Samsung phone.
It's no surprise to see 200MP cameras in phones these days; many manufacturers are ready for this. However, they may experience a loss of quality as a result of such a change in hardware as their camera teams will need time to adjust their color science and algorithms to get the most out of the new components (something like which is what happened with OnePlus). However, this is not the case with S23 Ultra.
In a similar case, we've seen Google switching to a new 50MP main sensor on the Pixel 6 series, as well as Apple switching from 12MP to a 48MP main sensor on the Apple Pro series. Samsung's camera group guarantees that the S23 Ultra's new 200MP versatile pixel sensor will deliver the same stable and immersive experience as its competitors out of the box.
This year, the vapor chamber is 2.7 times larger on average across the entire S23 series, to improve thermal efficiency. The use of faster and more efficient LPDDR5X RAM and UFS 4.0 storage contributes to increased efficiency and quality of life.
In testing, fake benchmarks revealed that the S23 Ultra has slight performance advantages over the OnePlus 11, which has a similar but technically inferior chip. However, the gain effect of Ultra is so small that you won't notice any difference in the real world. Notably, the marketing campaign of the Samsung Galaxy S23 series showcases the benefits of higher prime-core clock speeds, which far outweigh the end-user experience for the customer. Undoubtedly, you get one of the most powerful phones on the market.
As you'd expect from a device of the S23 Ultra's prestige and price, the upgraded CPU, RAM, and storage deliver performance that feels rock-solid. Running the visually intensive game "Genshin Impact" at its highest settings was the Ultra's most challenging test of the entire evaluation. During 20 minutes of play, everything ran smoothly, but the phone did get pretty hot, so we recommend using the game's default settings. Overall, gaming performance and day-to-day tasks are quite satisfactory.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra is believed to have the longest battery life among Galaxy S smartphones, as Samsung promises a 20% increase in battery life as a result of increased hardware efficiency and tighter hardware-software integration. It houses a powerful 5,000mAh battery that supports wireless charging as well. In addition to wireless and reverse wireless charging, the S23 Ultra's 5,000mAh cell also enables 45W wired charging.
The S23 Ultra is a bit behind in the charging speed race due to the OnePlus 11's 100W and Motorola Edge 30 Ultra's 125W charging rates, but despite the phones having the same maximum battery capacity, real-life battery backup is much better on Samsung. Also, the S23 Ultra's battery life is longer.
Even if you want to play a game of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for an hour or stream Disney Plus with the brightness turned up, this phone can last you a whole day with moderate usage.
In testing, the sibling device Galaxy S23 also delivered the longest screen-on time per charge compared to any phone we've seen in the same price segment recently. It can deliver nearly eight hours of screen-on time, which is at least 30 minutes more than rivals with batteries of the same capacity.
When it comes to making the best Android phones for update support, Samsung leads the pack. The Galaxy S23 series promises OS updates for four years and security updates for five years, with every one of the three devices running on the most recent Android 13?utilizing the organization's own One UI 5.1?out of the package.
Overall, the user interface is quite smooth and similar to other smartphones. With the redesigned Privacy Dashboard, any ambiguity over how secure your device is should be resolved. The Samsung Notes application now allows multiple authors to collaborate on a single document. Plus, the routines and modes can be adjusted to suit different scenarios.
The S Pen still has Air commands and Air Gestures. By employing straightforward stylus-driven motions, they enable users to rapidly manage the camera, translate language, and cut and paste on-screen material. However, the camera controls in particular take some practice to get used to.
While the One UI won't appeal to everyone, it's refreshing, truly customizable, and shows a degree of cleanliness that's evident from initial setup to normal day-to-day use. There are many unique features added by Samsung on One UI, especially for the S23 Ultra.
The S23 Ultra is one of the best smartphones currently available in the market. It is indeed a power-packed and balanced phone for one's needs from casual tasks to professional photography to heavy gaming or multitasking. With this phone, everything can be dealt with easily. The only downside may be its high price for some users. However, the features offered by the S23 Ultra justify the price.