Traditionally, at the beginning of the year, Samsung announced a new flagship S-series, the peak of which was the Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone. This model had to absorb all the best that is in the manufacturer’s arsenal today, so the expectations from it are quite high. But, at first glance, the difference between the Galaxy S23 Ultra and its predecessor is not very significant, because we have a similar design and capabilities. However, looking ahead, I will note that Samsung has worked on almost every feature of the new smartphone. How much this helped the Galaxy S23 Ultra and whether the device is able to live up to the high expectations, I will tell you in this review.
Galaxy S23 Ultra specifications
|Dimensions and weight
163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm
|RAM and storage
|12/256 GB or 12/512 GB
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
|Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Resolution: 3088×1440 pixels
Refresh rate: 1-120 Hz
S Pen support
200 MP wide-angle, 1/1.3″, f/1.7, laser autofocus, optical stabilization;
10 MP periscopic telephoto, 1/3.52″, f/4.9, PDAF, optical stabilization, 10x zoom;
10 MP telephoto, 1/3.52″, f/2.4, PDAF, optical stabilization, 3x zoom;
12 MP ultra-wide, 1/2.55″, f/2.2, 120˚, PDAF, electronic stabilization.
|12 MP, ƒ/2.2
|Wired up to 45 W, wireless – up to 15 W, reversible – up to 4.5 W
|USB Type-C 3.2
|Android 13, One UI 5.1
|MSRP in Ukraine
|12/256 GB – 57 999 UAH; 12/512 GB – 61 999 UAH.
In the box
The smartphone arrived without official packaging, which is not uncommon for test models, but there will be no surprises for buyers of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. In the box with the smartphone, they will find only a USB Type-C charging cable and documentation.
Design and materials
Gone are the days when Samsung tried to find extravagant design solutions for its flagship smartphones year after year. Now the main focus of the manufacturer is on the one hand, on small changes, but on the other hand, they make the appearance of the models more complete. After adapting the Note20 Ultra design to the S22 Ultra last year, the company seems to have left little room for improvement. But as practice with the Galaxy S23 Ultra shows, even small changes can significantly affect ergonomics.
Therefore, although the shape of the case and the dimensions of the new model have almost not changed, in the hand it feels like a completely different smartphone. Not least due to the fact that the side edges of the S23 Ultra have become flatter, the device is simply more comfortable to hold in the hand.
Purely aesthetically, screens that are rounded on the sides make the frames almost invisible, it’s nice and easy to get used to. But no matter what, displays that have minimal rounding or are completely flat are more convenient to use and provide more usable space for working with the interface. In the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the screen has become less rounded on the sides, which I think has improved the overall ergonomics. But a completely flat display, in my opinion, would generally be an ideal option.
The smartphone feels better in the hands and it really became more convenient to work with it. Even the volume and power buttons on the side have become better because thanks to flatter edges they have become less sharp.
In general, the changes in the design of the Galaxy S23 Ultra are barely cosmetic, but they have a practical meaning that cannot but please. After all, changing the design for the sake of changing the design is not always good. I once liked the design of the Note20 Ultra, then it was nice to see it adapted in the S series, and it is still up-to-date in my opinion.
Especially with the minimalistic camera unit, which, while larger on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, still protrudes less from the body than some competitors. In branded Samsung covers, the protrusion of the cameras is generally smoothed out.
The smartphone’s materials have been slightly updated, Samsung was the first to get access to the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, which covers the display and the back of the case. It differs from its predecessor in better protection when falling on an uneven surface. According to the Corning company, this glass can withstand a drop from a height of 1 meter onto a surface that simulates concrete and asphalt. In real life, you don’t want to check this, so let’s take the manufacturer’s word for it.
The frame of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is made of aircraft aluminum, which has become slightly larger due to the addition of flatter side faces, but the weight of the smartphone has not changed much – 233 grams against 229 grams in the S22 Ultra.
There is also protection against water and dust according to the IP68 standard, so the smartphone should at least survive heavy rain or short-term immersion in water. The standard itself provides for hermeticity at a depth of up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes, but no manufacturer is ready to consider the ingress of water into the casing to be a warranty case.
The design of the Galaxy S23 Ultra compared to the S22 Ultra
Display and S Pen
This year, Samsung did not change the screen in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, so we have essentially the same 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X touch matrix with a resolution of 3088×1440 pixels, a maximum brightness of 1750 nits, HDR10+ support, and an expanded DCI-P3 color range. The screen refresh rate has also not changed and can automatically change from 1 to 120 Hz.
By default, the display resolution is set to FHD+ (2316×1080 pixels), it can be reduced to HD+ (1544×720) or, vice versa, increased to the maximum WQHD+ (3088×1440 pixels).
The smartphone warns that in the latter case, the image quality will increase, but the screen’s energy consumption will become maximum. It sounds quite dramatic, although in fact, the difference in battery life with the maximum resolution is not so great as to affect the comfortable use of the smartphone.
In the display settings, you can also change the color display mode, here the manufacturer offers two options: “natural” and “saturated” colors. The former provides 100% sRGB color space and the latter 100% PCI-P3. In general, the calibration of the Samsung flagship is traditionally at a high level.
As with the previous generation, the Galaxy S23 Ultra uses Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, which is built right under the screen. Even in the last version, its size, accuracy, and performance have grown significantly, so there have been no changes here. The scanner works instantly, and unlike optical sensors, it is almost unaffected by water drops or sweat on the fingers, as well as bright lighting.
Last year, the S Pen finally moved to the S series after the demise of the Galaxy Note line, and it was a huge move for Samsung. To emphasize the importance of the event and appease S Pen fans, the company has given it quite a bit of finishing touches.
Input lag has been reduced from 9ms to just 2.8ms and a new Wacom chip has been added for more accurate pen coordinates from 360 to 480 cycles per second.
Samsung even talked about a separate trained neural network that, thanks to learning on the arrays of handwritten input data, can predict where the pen will move next, and this increases its accuracy even more. The S Pen also supports 4096 degrees of pressure.
As you might guess, after such a big update last year, the Galaxy S23 Ultra decided not to touch the S Pen this time, but it still works great. The design of the pen has also not changed, the only thing is that its top button has become less rounded to match the flatter shape of the side facets.
Writing and drawing with the S Pen is very comfortable, besides this pen provides some additional functions, with it you can quickly create a note, take a screenshot and immediately mark something on it, highlight and recognize text, translate a word with a simple gesture, add a new entry to the calendar, etc. When you pull out the S Pen from the smartphone case, a small menu appears with quick actions that can be edited.
Platform and performance
All previous Galaxy S smartphones were sold in Europe with Exynos processors, while in the US Qualcomm chips were used. This year, Samsung decided to move away from such dualism and abandon Exynos in its flagship models. It is difficult to say whether it will always be like this now, but at least for now, Samsung and Qualcomm have signed an in-depth partnership, so the Galaxy S23 Ultra received an exclusive version of the flagship processor Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which differs from the basic version of the chip by an overclocked main core and graphics.
In general, the processor architecture in the Galaxy S23 Ultra is no different from the regular Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it uses one Cortex-X3 core, two Cortex-A715 cores, two Cortex-A710 cores, and three Cortex A510 cores. So Cortex-X3 in the version for Samsung has a frequency of 3.36 GHz instead of the standard 3.2 GHz. And the Adreno 740 graphics processor integrated into the chip has been increased from 680 to 716 MHz.
Such an approach does not greatly affect the everyday use of the smartphone, because even the basic Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a very fast processor. In fact, it is the best thing you can “buy” in Android smartphones right now. However, the more overclocked main core allows Samsung’s flagship to bypass competitors with the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in single-threaded synthetic tests, which is a small bonus for the company.
If we compare the performance of the Galaxy S23 Ultra with its predecessor S22 Ultra on the Exynos 2200 platform, the difference is generally huge.
In the Geekbench 6 test, last year’s model scores 1,572 points in single-threaded mode and 3,713 points in multi-threaded mode. At the same time, the S23 Ultra has similar indicators – 1869 and 5080 points.
In PCMark Work 3.0, the new flagship scored 16,046 points, while its predecessor, the S22 Ultra, scored 13,688.
It’s the same with the integrated graphics, the Adreno 740 in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is almost twice as fast as the Xclipse 920 in the Exynos 2200. This is confirmed by the 3DMark Wild Life test, in which the S22 Ultra scores 1905 points and the S23 Ultra scores 3792 points.
The amount of RAM in the new model is 12 GB LPDDR5X, but the built-in can be 256, 512 GB, and 1 TB. The last option is not yet delivered to Ukraine, but anything can happen. In Galaxy, S23 Ultra not only the volume is important, but also the speed of the built-in memory, and has become much higher.
The smartphone uses UFS 4.0 memory, which provides a reading speed of 4200 MB/s and a writing speed of 2800 MB/s. That’s nearly twice as fast as the previous UFS 3.1 storage standard used in the S22 Ultra.
What is more interesting, the UFS 4.0 memory is 46% more energy-efficient, which should also have a positive effect on the autonomy of the smartphone.
In general, the platform in the Galaxy S23 Ultra turned out to be very fast, and this is probably the biggest difference that can be felt when moving from the previous model. Any apps and games currently available on Android run and run on the smartphone without any problems.
Like the previous generation, the new flagship has a cooling system with an evaporation chamber, in which a special liquid turns into a gaseous state and back again to more effectively dissipate heat from the processor. In the Galaxy S23 Ultra, this camera was slightly enlarged, however, as in all smartphones without a separate active cooling system, the processor drops frequencies under high long-term load.
This is clearly visible in the 3DMark system stability test, in which the program simulates a 20-minute gaming session with a high load. In this mode, the chip heats up to 44 degrees Celsius and its performance drops. Out of 20 cycles of one test, the device scores 3827 points in the first, and 2140 points in the last.
However, this is still almost twice as much as the Galaxy S22 Ultra under the same load.
That is, even with throttling, the new model remains faster than its predecessor.
In the vast majority of games, it will be difficult to notice a drop in the frequency of the processor, because even under a very high load it remains fast, and the smartphone case stays warm, but not hot.
Other features of the Galaxy S23 Ultra platform include wireless modules – Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and NFC. For maps and navigation, the device can receive signals from GPS, GLONASS, BDS, and GALILEO satellite systems.
The smartphone works with the Android 13 operating system, which uses the proprietary Samsung OneUI 5.1 interface. In my opinion, this is one of the most convenient shells, in which new interesting features often appear earlier than in stock Android.
But the most important thing is that Samsung began to approach software updates more seriously, security patches and fixes now come to the company’s flagships every month, and support for the next versions of Android has increased. For example, the Galaxy S23 Ultra will receive 4 major releases of the Google operating system, that is, it will be possible to install Android 17 on it.
This allows you to significantly increase the life cycle of the model, especially since with inflation and the increase in the cost of smartphones, you definitely buy such devices, not for a year or two.
Like the previous generation, the Galaxy S23 Ultra received four main cameras. Three of them are essentially unchanged, but the use of the new 200-megapixel ISOCELL HP2 sensor turned out to be a very important innovation in the smartphone, which I will talk about below.
However, to begin with, let’s remember the specifications of the modules:
- 200-megapixel wide-angle camera with 1/1.3″ matrix, 24 mm focal length, f/1.7 aperture, laser autofocus, and optical stabilization;
- 10-megapixel periscope telephoto camera with 1/3.52″ matrix, 230mm focal length, f/4.9 aperture, phase detection autofocus, optical stabilization, and 10x zoom;
- 10-megapixel telephoto camera with 1/3.52″ matrix, 70mm focal length, f/2.4 aperture, phase detection autofocus, optical stabilization, and 3x zoom;
- 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, with a 1/2.55″ matrix, a focal length of 13 mm, an aperture of f/2.2, a viewing angle of 120˚, phase autofocus, and electronic stabilization.
Increasing the number of megapixels in the S23 Ultra’s main camera has a purpose, 200 megapixels is not just a “pretty” number. Samsung’s previous flagship module – the 108-megapixel ISOCELL HP1 worked in two modes, it could take pictures in full resolution, or 12-megapixel, combining 9 pixels into one large one. This technology, called Pixel Binning, allows you to use the information of a group of pixels to get more light and, accordingly, more information. This positively affects the quality of images during the day, and especially at night.
So, if the 108-megapixel camera in the S22 Ultra combined pixels into blocks of 9, then the 200-megapixel camera in the S23 Ultra combines them into blocks of 16, which allows it to receive almost twice as much light and information for 12 – megapixel pictures. At the same time, it is also able to combine 4 pixels into one, which allows you to take 50-megapixel pictures.
How much better did the main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra shoot? I had the opportunity to compare it with the predecessor S22 Ultra, and as in the case of processor performance, the difference is very noticeable. But more on that later, for now, I will give examples of pictures taken with a 200-megapixel smartphone camera.
During the day, the main module provides excellent detail, a wide dynamic range, and a correct white balance. (Here and below, to see the photo in higher quality, open the gallery).
At the link, you can compare pictures with a resolution of 200, 50, and 12 megapixels.
When the light level decreases, the level of detail naturally drops, but thanks to the fact that the S23 Ultra’s main camera receives more light, the smartphone does not have to use aggressive algorithms to increase sharpness, which often eats away small details.
At night, as well as during the day, you can take photos in full resolution, but this does not give any advantages. The detail of a 200-megapixel photo will be worse than a 12-megapixel one.
If you directly compare daytime photos on the Galaxy S23 Ultra with its predecessor, the S22 Ultra, it is clear that the new camera has a slightly “warmer” color rendering, while they come out more natural. The greater amount of light received by the 200-megapixel sensor allows the camera to capture more detail and handle shadows better. While the S22 Ultra camera tries to increase detail with algorithms, and because of this, the image looks more “flat”, because small details are cleaned together with noise.
In general, I will note that this year’s progress of the main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is probably one of the biggest among different generations of Samsung flagships in the last five years.
Moving on to other modules, I will note that although they have not changed, the use of a new platform with a new signal processor and other processing algorithms has affected image quality. I will immediately note that more natural color rendering and “warm” tones apply to all three modules. And this is very good because pictures taken with different cameras do not look like they were taken with different smartphones.
I’ll start with the 10-megapixel telephoto camera, which takes photos with 3x optical zoom. This module provides a good level of detail when there is enough light, and with its help, you can even take interesting pictures at night.
If we compare the daytime 3x pictures of the Galaxy S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra, then despite the same module specifications, the new smartphone provides better detail.
Interestingly, Samsung finally added a night shooting mode to this telephoto camera, and now it switches to a crop from the main sensor only if there is very little light.
Portrait mode on the 3x telephoto camera now better recognizes small details, including hair, while simulating background blur. The first photo is the S23 Ultra, the second is the S22 Ultra.
A 10-megapixel telephoto module with a periscopic lens allows you to take photos with 10x optical zoom. Daytime pictures here also provide a good level of detail, which is higher than those of the S22 Ultra camera.
And even with poor lighting, for example, at sunset, the 10x camera can help you take unusual photos.
But at night, the periscope camera is not used at all, the f/4.9 aperture lets in too little light, so instead, the S23 Ultra makes a crop of a 3x telephoto module and at the same time upscales the picture to 10 megapixels. In most cases, it turns out too blurry, but if there is an additional light source, for example from a street lamp, then you can get a more or less clear photo, although without a lot of details.
Interestingly, if you switch to full 200 megapixels or 50 megapixels, you can also crop them and simulate 2x, 4x, and 6x zooms, but at night this does not give many advantages, and during the day the individual modules provide better shooting opportunities.
The 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle module also hasn’t received a performance upgrade, but it’s also improved detail thanks to post-processing with the new processor.
The front camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra received a 12-megapixel module with an aperture of f/2.2 and autofocus.
Last year’s S22 Ultra had a 40-megapixel selfie camera, but despite the lower resolution, the new camera shoots even slightly better.
The 200-megapixel camera of the smartphone provides video recording of up to 8K at 30 fps. At the same time, you can choose Full HD 30/60 fps and 4K 30/60 fps. In the main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the angle at which the optical stabilization compensates for movement has been slightly increased, this has improved both taking photos, especially at night, and added smoothness to videos when moving.
Even in the normal shooting mode of 4K /60 fps, if you run with a smartphone in your hands, stabilization compensates for shaking.
Separately, there is a mode in which you can shoot with additional electronic stabilization, but it crops the frame, and the difference with ordinary shooting is not as great as it was before.
Video in 4K:
Video with 10x zoom:
The capabilities of the Galaxy S23 Ultra cameras are so wide that this section alone could take up a separate article. And this is a good illustration of how far modern flagships have gone in their attempt to replace cameras. The main thing is that progress does not stand still and even modules with the same specifications can really be improved. Samsung has really done a good job with the cameras in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and without exaggeration, it is one of the best options for users who plan to take a lot of photos.
However, I will also note that if a person is fond of mobile photography and video, then 256 GB of built-in memory may not be enough for shooting in RAW and recording videos in 4K or 8K.
Like the previous model, the Galaxy S23 Ultra received stereo speakers, this time Samsung engineers even managed to fit larger resonant cameras into the case, so the smartphone does not sound much louder than the S22 Ultra, but with a significantly larger volume.
Headphones can be connected to a smartphone via a wire if you use an adapter from USB Type-C to a standard 3.5 mm connector. It is not included in the package. However, most users will rather choose wireless options for which the device has Bluetooth 5.3.
Galaxy S23 Ultra battery life
The capacity of the battery built into the smartphone has not changed and is 5000 mAh, but the updated platform allowed Samsung to improve battery life. Even if you hardly take the smartphone out of your hands, it lasts more than a day, that’s about 8-9 hours of active screen time. In the PCMark battery life test, the device lasted 13 hours and 45 minutes, which also confirms a good level of battery life.
In general, depending on the model of use, you can count on a reliable 1-2 days of work on one charge.
Galaxy S23 Ultra supports fast charging up to 45 W (PowerDelivery 3.0), which allows you to charge the smartphone up to 65% in 30 minutes. Of course, the company could have created a faster charger, but I think it’s good that it sticks to generally accepted standards. I used the S23 Ultra in general with a 25 W Samsung power supply unit, and it did not cause me any discomfort, because I put the smartphone on charge either before going to bed or already in the morning before work and it had time to charge.
In addition to wired, the device also supports wireless charging according to the Qi standard up to 15 W, and reversible wireless charging up to 4.5 W, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra itself can be used to charge a watch or headphones.