Full Reviews of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra:
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the best Android phones you can buy right now – if you can stomach the sky-high price tag. Packing some serious upgrades over its popular predecessor, including a new 200MP camera and the latest Snapdragon performance, the S23 Ultra sets the bar for premium flagships in 2023.
But with a huge display spanning nearly seven inches diagonally, plus weighing in at over 230 grams, Samsung’s top-tier handset could be too much phone for many buyers. Read on for our full in-depth review of whether the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s advantages justify that ultra-premium cost.
- Stunning 6.8-inch QHD+ AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate
- The best-in-class rear quad camera system, especially the new 200MP main sensor
- Excellent battery life with super fast 45W wired and wireless charging
- Top-notch performance from Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset
- Built-in S Pen stylus with low latency
- IP68 water and dust resistance rating
- Four years of major Android OS updates
- Very expensive, starting at $1,249
- Large and heavy design may be unwieldy for some
- No microSD card slot for storage expansion
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Design and Display
Samsung plays it safe but classy with the S23 Ultra’s refined design. The contours are slightly rounder and smoother than the S22 Ultra, creating a more comfortable in-hand feel while retaining the same dimensions. Combined with a thinner display panel, the updates are minor yet still provide an improved look and ergonomics.
You’ll also find the newest Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front and back, adding more scratch resistance without noticeably increasing thickness or weight. Plus, Samsung constructs the S23 Ultra frame from more recycled materials than ever, benefitting environmental friendliness.
Regardless, make no mistake – the S23 Ultra remains a very hefty phone. Many buyers will likely find one-handed usage quite unwieldy, especially with the angular corners digging into palms. Thus, slender-fitting pants pockets get stretched to the limits too.
On the plus side, Samsung takes advantage of the gargantuan footprint to incorporate excellent stereo speakers. Sound projects loudly while retaining clarity and balance. Dolby Atmos support further enhances the audio quality.
Display & Audio
The S23 Ultra dazzles with its 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display spanning 1440p Quad HD+ resolution. Samsung’s panels continue leading the industry, proving themselves in outdoor visibility, vibrancy, accuracy and smoothness. You’ll have no issues viewing the screen in harsh daylight thanks to a peak 1,750 nits brightness rating.
While a notchless Infinity-O front allows for slim bezels all around, the circular hole-punch selfie cam gets tucked away in one upper corner, rarely distracting. The centered UD fingerprint sensor also doubles for unlocking your phone and gesture controls. And the 120Hz refresh rate guarantees perfectly fluid animations.
Samsung pulls out all the stops to furnish the Galaxy S23 Ultra with one of today’s most advanced mobile camera systems. The star of the show goes to an entirely new 200MP wide sensor, achieving the highest megapixel count on any smartphone so far. The largely unchanged 12MP ultrawide and dual 10MP telephoto lenses carried over from last year are augmenting it.
In favorable lighting, the S23 Ultra captures breathtakingly detailed and dynamic shots with punchy contrast and accurate color reproduction. The 200MP sensor utilizes pixel binding techniques to output sharp 12MP images by default. This allows the camera to combine data from multiple smaller pixels on the sensor into one large pixel in the final image, reducing noise significantly.
You’ll need to manually engage the full resolution mode to shoot enormous 200MP photos. Just beware of huge file sizes nearing 100MB that get saved to storage.
Low Light Performance
Where the S23 Ultra pulls ahead of virtually all rivals is night photography. Samsung’s processing does an outstanding job controlling noise while retaining fine details that turn fuzzy on comparable devices like the Google Pixel 7 Pro or iPhone 14 Pro.
Dynamic range could use some improvement, as bright light sources often get blown out. But overall, the S23 Ultra excels at low light shots.
The pair of 10MP tele lenses provide 3x and 10x optical magnification, letting you zoom in optically rather than digitally. This maintains sharpness better the farther you pinch into a scene. Samsung’s software then combines with the main camera to achieve up to 100x Space Zoom – though quality understandably diminishes at the max end. Still, the 10x optical telephoto itself beats out most competitors.
When shooting video, the Galaxy S23 Ultra impresses with stable optics and accurate focus tracking of moving subjects. You can capture clips at up to 8K 30fps or 4K 60fps, complete with HDR and night mode capabilities too. Just expect the phone to get warm with prolonged high-resolution recording.
Other Camera Features
An often overlooked 12MP front camera handles selfies and video calls perfectly fine. In terms of software, the S23 Ultra contains a huge suite of shooting modes like Single Take, Director’s View, Panorama, Pro Video, Super Slow-Mo and more. Samsung’s Expert RAW app lets photography buffs fine tune parameters like ISO, shutter speed and white balance. And new for the S23 series is Astro Hyperlapse for condensing night sky footage over time.
Performance & Battery Life
The Galaxy S23 Ultra marks Samsung’s return to Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets globally, instead of reserving them for certain regions. All models sold internationally now feature the cutting-edge Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Our S23 Ultra review unit benchmarks blazingly quick, keeping up with if not exceeding every Android alternative.
Real world usage stays snappy across interface navigation, graphic-intensive gaming and heavy multitasking. While not quite matching Apple’s efficiency, the S23 Ultra now positively blitzes last year’s Exynos-powered Galaxy devices. Heat buildup is moderate and throttling rarely kicks in to hamper sustained performance.
Mobile gamers that demand the best will feel right at home with the S23 Ultra. Graphically demanding titles like Genshin Impact or Call of Duty run smoothly at max settings. The phone does warm up noticeably during longer play sessions, but the metallic frame helps dissipate heat well enough. Just don’t expect active cooling features tailored specifically for gaming like on some niche gaming phones.
A huge 5,000 mAh battery capacity aids the S23 Ultra in accompanying you throughout lengthy days away from power outlets. With heavy use spanning gaming, Youtube and social media, screen time easily exceeds 6-7 hours over a couple days on one charge. More moderate usage sees 9+ hours, while light basic routines can stretch towards nearly 3 days.
Samsung also furnishes one of the fastest charging solutions available today. The 45W wired USB PD adapter (sold separately) juices back up in just over an hour. You also get fast 15W wireless charging that handily bests Apple and Google’s phones. Reverse PowerShare lets you wirelessly charge other devices too.
Software & S Pen
The Galaxy S23 Ultra ships with the newest One UI 5.1 skin running over Android 13. It’s a polished, feature-packed interface – albeit duplicating some Google services. Handy additions
like Bixby Routines automate device behavior based on contexts like time or location. And linkage with Windows PCs gives you continuity with calls, messages and photos across devices.
Power users will appreciate the Taskbar for easy app switching, and Labs to enable experimental features. But you’ll have to disable or hide quite a bit of bloatware during the initial setup. At least Samsung promises 4 years of major OS and 5 years of security updates.
S Pen Stylus
Like its predecessors, the S23 Ultra uniquely retains an integrated S Pen stylus stored within the chassis. Its 9ms ultra low latency now closely replicates a real pen on paper feel. Pressure sensitivity, tilt support and wireless Bluetooth controls bolster the utility too.
Artists, note takers and creators will find the S Pen’s precision and responsiveness a true productivity booster. But more casual users may need to remember the hidden stylus altogether. Just beware not misplacing the S Pen, as replacements cost a hefty $50.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra culminates as Samsung’s most advanced flagship phone ever. With upgrades focusing primarily on the camera and performance, it handily outpaces last year’s S22 Ultra enough to tempt buyers who skipped the S22 generation. Samsung knocks the larger elements like display quality, charging speeds and waterproofing out of the park too.
But that ultra-premium price remains obviously prohibitive for many shoppers unwilling to drop the minimum by $1,249. And the phone could still feel unwieldy for smaller hands.
So, in the end, we comfortably recommend the S23 Ultra to spec-hungry power users who are not scared off by the cost. Yet more prudent buyers will fare just fine with the cheaper Galaxy S23 or S23+ models and need not obsess over that 200MP camera.
How long will the S23 Ultra get Android OS updates?
Samsung promises 4 years of major Android OS updates and 5 years of security patches for the S23 Ultra. This matches Google’s own Pixel phone update policy.
Can I expand the S23 Ultra’s storage?
A: Unfortunately no the S23 Ultra omits a microSD card slot like its predecessors. You’ll have to choose from 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB internal storage options when purchasing.
Is the display really better than the S22 Ultra?
Yes, slightly so. The newer Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protects against scratches and cracks better. Samsung also uses a thinner, more power efficient OLED panel. And peak brightness gets a boost to 1,750 nits for superior outdoor visibility.