In this review, I’ll be talking about my experience with the new Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. So it’s been about a month since I started using both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the smaller and more affordable S23 Plus. I will have my S23 Plus review up very soon, but let’s talk about the S23 Ultra today.
If you remember, I was a big fan of last year’s S22 Ultra. I think it was the best Android phone out there. But if I’m being honest, it still didn’t compare to my daily driver, the iPhone 14 Pro. There were a lot of areas where the iPhone just… outperformed the S22 Ultra. And it seems like I wasn’t the only one who felt that way because the S22 series didn’t sell as well as Samsung had hoped.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Specifications:
- Body: 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm, 233 grams, IP68 rated, Gorilla Glass Victus 2, Aluminum frame, S-pen support
- Display: 6.8-inches Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O, Gorilla Glass Victus 2, Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, Vision Booster
- Resolution: QHD+ (3088 x 1440 pixels), 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 501 PPI
- Chipset: Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (4nm Mobile platform)
- CPU: Octa-core (1x Cortex-X3 + 2x Cortex-A715 + 2x Cortex-1710 + 3x Cortex-A510)
- GPU: Adreno 740
- RAM: 8/12GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 256/512GB, up to 1TB UFS 4.0 internal storage
- Software & UI: One UI 5.1 on top of Android 13
- Rear Camera: Quad (with LED flash)
– 200MP primary lens, OIS, PDAF
– 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens, 120º FOV
– 10MP telephoto lens, 3x optical zoom
– 10MP telephoto lens, 10x optical zoom
- Security: Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
- Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphones, No 3.5mm jack
- Battery: 5000mAh with 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging
- Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano + eSIM), WiFi 6E (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax), Bluetooth 5.3, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, USB 3.2 Type-C, NFC, 4G LTE (VoLTE), 5G
- Colors: Green, Cream, Phantom Black, Lavender
- Price in Nepal: Rs. 191,999 (12/256GB) | Rs. 209,999 (12/512GB)
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review:
Samsung missed its sales goal of 30 million units, which is pretty significant. In contrast, the iPhone 14 Pro series hit that same goal just three months after its launch. But this year, with the S23 Ultra, I like what Samsung has done! They have kept the design almost identical to last year’s S22 Ultra, which in my opinion gives Samsung its own unique identity.
In the past, they used to switch up the design every other year, but this new approach allows them to concentrate on what really matters – which is improving the hardware and providing an even better software experience. And you know what? They absolutely nailed it with the S23 Ultra.
- 5000mAh battery
- 45W wired, 15W wireless charging
The first thing I have found they improved greatly here is the battery life. When it comes to flagships, iPhones always have the best backup. But with the S23 Ultra, I am getting even better results.
On heavy usage with mobile data turned on all the time, I am constantly getting 7 to 8 hours of screen time, which reflects to like a full day of use with around 10-15% charge left before I go to sleep. The overnight or idle battery drain is also very minimal here, so that’s fantastic.
Plus, a 45W charger can fill up the S23 Ultra faster than the iPhone or Pixel, reaching 70% in just 30 minutes and a full charge in an hour. So, I’m really satisfied with the battery life I’m getting from this phone, and there are likely several reasons for that.
Yes, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and better software optimization certainly help. But the main reason is that Samsung is using a more energy-efficient display panel this time around, which consumes less power at higher brightness levels.
- 6.8-inches WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
- 120Hz refresh rate LTPO 2.0, HDR 10+
- 1750nits brightness, Vision Booster
Likewise, the core quality of the display is another aspect I always love about Samsung’s flagships and the S23 Ultra continues to impress me. If you go by specs, it’s similar to what the S22 Ultra had – it still is an 8-bit panel with 1750 nits of peak brightness and a 240Hz touch sampling rate, which doesn’t sound very impressive considering what Chinese brands are offering these days.
But let me assure you, this is the best display you can find on a smartphone right now, even better than the iPhone 14 Pro. Maybe the iPhone 14 Pro gets slightly brighter when using the phone in direct sunlight, but when it comes to watching videos on Netflix or vertical videos on TikTok, I find the experience on the S23 Ultra to be better.
Similarly, I have been using it in the default “Vivid” picture mode, which is not the most color accurate but it does provide a lively and engaging visual experience, which you will surely fall in love with.
No Dolby Vision!
Talking about that, Samsung phones sadly continue to miss out on Dolby Vision playback in favor of the open-source HDR10+ standard. So, whenever I am watching Dolby vision videos on OTT platforms, I find that level of highlights and contrast levels missing here over phones that support Dolby vision.
Audio and Haptics
- Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
However, you do get Dolby Atmos audio support on the S23 Ultra. And the way Samsung has tuned its audio here is quite different from what you get on the iPhone. For example, the S23 Ultra has a spacious sound output and noticeably richer bass. Whereas the iPhone 14 Pro lets you enjoy the mids and high frequencies much better.
Another thing I got to mention is, I am having a very good time interacting with the phone – all thanks to its great haptics, fantastic touch responsiveness, and curves that almost look like they’re flat.
But I think Samsung could’ve done a better job with these buttons. They don’t feel that premium and the feedback is not the most satisfying either. Other than that, its build quality is rock solid with the latest Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on both the back and the front of the phone, alongside the armored aluminum frames.
- 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm, 233 grams
- Gorilla Glass Victus 2 front/back, Aluminum frames
- IP68 dust and water resistance
And although this is a pretty huge phone, the weight distribution here is right on point. This might seem like nothing but with smartphone makers opting for bigger and bigger camera sensors, it’s quite difficult to achieve this level of ergonomics.
I just started testing the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which has a big 1-inch camera sensor, and because of that, the weight is not distributed properly here. It just feels a little too heavy and unergonomic! Same thing with the OnePlus 11, which is a bit bottom-heavy.
Snapdragon for Galaxy
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy (4nm)
- 8/12GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128/256/512GB/1TB UFS 3.1 storage
- Android 13 with OneUI 5.1 on top
Let’s now get to the performance, which has traditionally been an area where iPhones dominantly excel over Android phones. On top of that, Samsung’s flagships have always faced criticism due to the use of different processors in different regions. And on last year’s S22 series, both the Exynos 2200 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 were big disappointments.
But things finally look promising for Samsung this year. That’s because the company has teamed up with Qualcomm to launch a slightly higher-binned version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which is exclusive to the S23 lineup.
If you are not aware, the new 8 Gen 2 is made by TSMC, the same semiconductor manufacturing company that makes Apple’s chipset. So, the “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy” as Samsung likes to call it, goes toe-to-toe with Apple’s A16 Bionic and even outperforms it in the graphics department.
Needless to say, I am very satisfied with the performance of the S23 Ultra overall. On top of that, you also get a large vapor cooling system this time, which offers much better thermals. Last year’s S22 Ultra had heating issues when charging the phone or when playing games for around 30 minutes or something. But that’s no longer a problem with the S23 Ultra.
Here, you get a slightly cooler temperature on the S23 Ultra compared to other Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones. The surface temperature never reaches beyond 40 degrees, even while playing fairly unoptimized and heavy games like Genshin Impact.
Samsung has also brought an interesting feature called “Bypass charging”, which gamers will definitely like. When enabled, it lets the phone power up directly from the charger without charging the battery. Doing this generates less heat, thereby leading to improved thermals, better-sustained performance, and eventually better battery health as well.
- Quad camera setup at the back
- (200MP primary, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto: 3x, 10MP telescope & periscope: 10x)
- 12MP selfie camera inside the Infinity-O cutout
What about the cameras? Here too, Samsung has done its homework and made improvements over the already-excellent S22 Ultra.
S22 Ultra vs S23 Ultra
I compared the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra’s images and found that both of them bring similar color science and dynamic range.
But with that higher-res 200MP sensor, the S23 Ultra manages slightly better details, lesser noise, and better sharpness – both during daytime as well as in low light conditions. The S23 Ultra also maintains better highlights in images with lots of whites, like in the flower image.
It also does slightly better with selfies, ultra-wide, 3X, and 10X shots. But don’t get me wrong, last year’s S22 Ultra is still a pretty capable camera phone in its own right and you won’t notice that many differences unless you’re nitpicking.
In fact, in most portraits I clicked, I actually like the way S22 Ultra maintains the subject’s skin tone. But I’m pretty sure that’s something Samsung will improve with future updates on the S23 Ultra.
The reason why I am confident about Samsung improving its cameras is that if you remember, the S22 Ultra went through the same phase, and after 4-5 updates, its cameras drastically improved—especially in terms of portraits. So far, I have only received one update on the S23 Ultra, and that has already improved the low-light portrait shots.
iPhone vs Samsung
Now, you might also be wondering how the S23 Ultra stacks up with the iPhone 14 Pro, right? And I am happy to report to you that this time, Samsung is neck-and-neck in most scenarios.
It’s like 50% of the time you might like iPhone’s images because of punchier contrast and that classic warm temperature, but the rest of the time you will like the overall pleasant and brighter shots from the S23 Ultra.
The S23 Ultra also seems more competent in low-light and indoor portraits. Just look at the images, Samsung is clearly doing a better job here. The photo of a stupa also looks much better from the S23 Ultra.
However, sometimes—especially with night mode on—Samsung has too much over-processing going on, which I hope gets fixed pretty soon.
Overall, the S23 Ultra’s cameras are just outstanding. Let’s not forget that 10X periscope lens which allows you to do up to 100X zoom, take a photo of the moon, and whatnot, which is simply not possible on an iPhone or any other Android phone right now.
However, the videography aspect is still one thing where Samsung is marginally behind the iPhone 14 Pro. Samsung says it has doubled the OIS offset area on the S23 Ultra, but for me, the iPhone still does stabilization, noise reduction, and exposure management better than Samsung. Plus, the S23 Ultra’s selfie video is a bit narrow and I always have to stretch a bit to get a good FOV while shooting a video.
So, video is one area I really hope Samsung engineers figure out a way to be more competitive and more reliable next year. Oh, and one more thing which is still not on iPhone’s level is the shutter lag. Samsung’s “Camera Assistant” app definitely improves things by quite a bit but I’d say there’s still room for improvement.
That being said, I have to applaud Samsung for bringing a true 8K 30 fps recording this time. Both the field of view and stabilization is much better here compared to the S22 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review: Conclusion
I guess it’s time to conclude this review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. As an iPhone user for the past 2-3 years, there are basically 4 reasons why my primary phone has always been an iPhone:
- Excellent battery life
- Great cameras – both for photos and videos
- Reliable experience
- Years of updates
But if you look at this phone, the S23 Ultra, it matches the iPhone 14 Pro Max in every aspect. Maybe not in terms of videos, but it outperforms in other things like photos, and zoom shots, and on top of all this, you also get some extras like this S-pen. And damn… it works really well!
Plus, Samsung’s One UI is also something that has grown over the years to become the best Android skin out there. Samsung has even set a standard with 4 years of OS and 5 years of security updates on its flagships and aims to bring software updates even faster in the future too.
So this time, I genuinely feel that the S23 Ultra is a great alternative to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. And I am really happy to see these two heavyweights competing again! In the past couple of years, iPhones have almost been close to a monopoly and that’s never good for the consumer. However, with the S23 Ultra, Samsung has made an excellent comeback!
- Check out our video review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review: Pros and Cons
- Unmatched camera experience
- Uncompromised performance
- First-class display
- Premium build quality
- Excellent battery life
- Videography is still not on par with iPhone 14 Pro Max
- Nighttime photos are occasionally overprocessed
- Speakers could be better