Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

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A year later was Note that it is not returns. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra predictably brings minor upgrades – camera tweaks here and new chipset there, mostly – but how much can you really improve on the S22 Ultra in just a year? We’ll try to answer that question and see if the new Ultra can spark excitement in ways the spec sheet couldn’t.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

And of course it’s a comprehensive spec sheet. At the heart of the Ultra is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and it’s one specially made for the galaxies – with higher clock frequencies than the competition gets. The latest Qualcomm top-end chip also comes with efficiency promises, and we’d never say no to some extra stamina.

The camera sees the introduction of a new 200MP sensor, up from the 108MP resolution of previous Ultras. The pair of telephotos remains a staple of the range and a standout feature in the market, where 10x optical zoom is nowhere to be found outside of Samsung’s offerings. The 2023 Ultra is still the only model in the range with an autofocus ultrawide – more of an ongoing rant we just had to include here about the lack of it on the smaller S23s than an actual noteworthy feature of the ultimate Galaxy.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra reviewThe Galaxy S22 Ultra (top) next to the Galaxy S23 Ultra

The otherwise long list of numbers and features below doesn’t really bring major changes from the previous generation. The battery capacity remains the same as the charge value; the ultrasonic fingerprint reader hasn’t gone optical all of a sudden, proprietary features like DeX and Samsung Pay are still here, and you can count on the screen to be the best in the business. One small win is 256GB of base storage – last year’s model started at an unreasonably low 128GB – so yay?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra specifications at a glance:

  • Body: 163.4×78.1×8.9mm, 234g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m 30 minutes).
  • Screen: 6.80″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1750 nits (peak), 1440x3088px resolution, 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 501ppi; Always on screen.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm): Octa-core (1×3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A715 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3×2.0 GHz Cortex-A510); Adreno 740.
  • Memory: 256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM, 1TB 12GB RAM; UFS 4.0.
  • OS/Software: Android 13, One UI 5.1.
  • Rear camera: wide (main): 200 MP, f/1.7, 24 mm, 1/1.3″, 0.6 µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/2.4, 70 mm, 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/4.9, 230 mm, 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Super Steady video.
  • Front camera: 12 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), Dual Pixel PDAF.
  • Video recording: Rear camera: [email protected]/30fps, [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected], HDR10+, stereo sound recording, gyro-EIS; Front camera: [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]
  • Battery: 5000mAh; 45W wired, PD3.0, 65% in 30 min (advertised), wireless (Qi/PMA), 4.5W reverse wireless.
  • Miscellaneous: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasound); Stylus (Bluetooth integration, accelerometer, gyro); NFC; stereo speakers; Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX, Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified), Ultra Wideband (UWB) support.

We called the S23 Ultra a Note from the start, and the S Pen really is here to stay – despite habitual pessimists around the office writing about its cancellation after the beloved Note moniker disappeared with the S22 Ultra. Sure, you can have an S Pen (another one) for your Fold, but no S Pen case beats the convenience of an in-body stylus like the one you get here.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra unboxing

You don’t get much else though. The Ultra appears in what has become the norm for Samsung’s high-end phone packages – a black cardboard box as thin as possible with a likeness of the handset printed on the lid in a matching color to the actual device inside.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

The size of the box guarantees that there’s no charger inside, but there’s still a USB-C cable – despite our continued drone on about how “this time might be the last time you get a cable”, Samsung actually continues to to include one – does it count as a winner? There’s also a SIM eject pin, which we wouldn’t normally mention, but the unboxing section could use the extra words.

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