Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review: Meaningful upgrades streamlines experience

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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review summary

Editor’s rating: 4.2/5

Design

Display

Performance

Battery

Camera

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros

  • Brilliant display
  • Built-in S Pen
  • Great performance
  • Improved cameras
  • Long battery life
  • Use of eco-friendly materials

Cons

  • No Dolby Vision
  • Largely unchanged design
  • No new S Pen features
  • No improvements in fast charging
  • No charger in the box
  • Android Auto not working

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra debuted in India last week as a successor to Galaxy S22 Ultra – the phone which successfully carried forward the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S series legacy.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra improves a few fundamentals, while the aesthetics remain close to its predecessor. A new 200-megapixel primary camera and a custom version of Qualcomm’s greatest silicon solidify Samsung’s claim for the Smartphone of the Year in 2023.

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for more than a week to test its performance, battery life, and the much-talked 200-megapixel camera and have shared my experience below in this review.  

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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Unboxing: What comes in the box?

Samsung’s ecologically sensitive approach has extended to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Just like its predecessor, it ships in a 100% recycled box and is outfitted with more recycled parts. The Galaxy S23 Ultra box includes the handset, a few document leaflets, and a Type-C to Type-C charging cable. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Specs and Price in India

DeviceSamsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
OSAndroid 13 with OneUI 5.1
Display6.8-inch OLED
Resolution1440×3088
Max refresh rateUp to 120Hz
Dimensions78.1 x 163.4 x 8.9 mm
Weight234g
Battery capacity5,000mAh
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU optimized for Samsung
RAM8GB, 12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras200MP (f/1.7) wide, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f2.4 / f4.9) telephoto
Front cameras12MP (f/2.2)
BiometricsUltrasonic fingerprint sensor, facial recognition
Water and dust protectionIP68
UWBYes
Wireless chargingYes
Wireless5G mmWave / sub-6GHz, LTE, Wi-Fi 6E (6Ghz), Bluetooth 5.2
Starting price₹1,24,999 / ₹1,34,999 / ₹1,54,998

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Design

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s first look we shared back in September 2022 turned out accurate. Samsung hasn’t tried to do anything crazy or out of the box aesthetically. The S23 Ultra stays closer to its predecessor while a few refinements have been made around the edges for better ergonomics. The Galaxy S23 Ultra shares the same rectangular shape as its predecessor, but now, instead of curved edges, it settles for flatter edges for better grip – and a more Notesy feel.

It is more or less the same size as the last generation Ultra with hardly any changes in the height and width of the phone. The Galaxy S23 Ultra measures 163.4×78.1×8.9mm, so it’s just .1mm bigger and .72m wider than its predecessor, while the waistline remains the same.

The use of recycled material is where Samsung has walked an extra mile with the Galaxy S23 lineup. They claim to have used 80 percent recycled PET, 20 percent recycled ocean-bound plastic and 22 percent recycled glass in every Galaxy S23 series phone. Even the colors of these phones are made out of organic materials. You get the S23 Ultra in four colors –Phantom Black, Lavender, Cream, and Green. While all of them look beautiful, I personally lean towards the Green colors as my pick.

The phone has a familiar, polished Armour Aluminium frame in the middle sandwiched by two Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on front and back. Even this Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 is made out of recycled glass. On top of that, it gets an IP68X rating that gives assurance of dust and water resistance. As expected, the S23 Ultra’s feels solid and is built to last.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Display, Audio, and S-Pen

The Samsung S series has always delivered the finest displays, which remains a constant with the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, its successor also sports a 6.8-inch QHD+ panel with a resolution of 3088 X 1400 pixels. The display delivers a staggering 1750 nits of peak brightness and details. It’s a Dynamic AMOLED 2X LTPO display offering a 1Hz-120Hz variable refresh and 240 Hz touch sampling (in gaming mode).

The Galaxy S23 Ultra Display makes you fall in love with the phone. It just mesmerizes you with its extreme vividness and sharpness. While reading content or playing games, you will enjoy the text’s crispness and texture in gaming visuals. I enjoyed watching Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on my way from Banglore to Delhi. The contrast, dynamic range, and colors were all quite impressive.  

In natural mode, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is on point with color accuracy on most counts. If you prefer punchy visuals, a Vision Booster feature boosts the image’s color and contrasts as per the ambient conditions. There’s also an eye comfort option to help you see the screen better.

Thanks to the adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, the scrolling experience has been superfluid. The Adaptive mode adjusts the screen’s refresh rate between 1Hz to 120Hz based on the content. 

Like last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, you’ll also get an S-Pen stylus. The experience has been the same as before. As you pull the pen from the bottom of the phone, a pop-up menu featuring compatible apps like Samsung Notes and the sketching tool PenUp appears. S-Pen comes in handy for people like us who often have to share signed documents on the go. 

The audio on the S23 Ultra is much better than its predecessor. Samsung has created a stereo setup using the down-firing driver and the earpiece. This is not the first phone to do so, but what makes it outshine most phones is the tuning done by AKG. Audio delivered by the Galaxy S23 Ultra has much more precise detail, depth, and richness making it possibly the best-sounding flagship phone to date.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Performance and software

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy that drives Samsung’s 2023 flagship is slightly better than the regular Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that you find in OnePlus 11 5G. It is primarily an overclocked version of the SD 8 Gen 2 processor where the performance core clock frequency jumps to 3.36GHz from 3.2 GHz.

Every task on the Galaxy S23 Ultra absolutely flies through. From emails to social, web browsing to video streaming, and from video editing to high-end gaming. It is equally capable of more strenuous workloads like playing 60-fps games (Genshin Impact, Fortnite, Real Racing 3), 4K video editing, and operating with GPS navigation in the background.

Samsung has also improved heat management with a larger Copper Vapor Chamber, which is almost double in size compared to the one on Galaxy S22 Ultra. This resulted in better thermal efficiency, which ensured I could smoothly play games like Genshin Impact at maxed-out graphics settings without any throttling. 

As for the benchmark, the Galaxy S23 Ultra scores better than all existing Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones, including OnePlus 11. Here are the synthetic benchmark results:

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Benchmark Scores

Benchmark StandardsScores
Antutu V9.5.51228912
GeekBench 5 (Single and Multicore)1538, 4835
3D Mark Extreme Stress test3843
PC Mark Work 3.016430

The new One UI 5.1 software for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which runs on top of Android 13, provides a number of useful enhancements. Samsung has made tremendous improvements in its software in the last few years. It has steadily improved seamless connectivity with PCs or tablets, similar to what Apple has done with its ecosystem. 

Samsung has also pledged four generations of Android OS upgrades beyond Google’s three-year promise for the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. That implies the S23 Ultra will run the latest software for a while, as it ships with Android 13 and Samsung’s One UI 5.1 software.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Camera review

It’s not the first phone with a 200MP rear camera, but it’s the first phone on which we tested Samsung’s new HP2 sensor. In addition to taking incredibly detailed 200MP stills in good light, it employs 16-to-1 pixel binning for equally stunning low-light shots. The camera setup also includes a 12MP ultrawide and two 10MP telephotos. One has 3x optical zoom, while the other offers 10x. 

The new setup comes with dual-pixel autofocus ensuring exceptionally fast focus. You can snap photographs at 12-megapixel, 50-megapixel, or 200-megapixel resolutions with the S23 Ultra. You can also shoot 12MP or 50MP raw images using Exert RAW app which can be downloaded from within the camera app itself. You also get a new astrophotography mode, which allows you to capture better photos of the night sky, but that’d mean a lot more for people who don’t live in a polluted city like Delhi. 

During the day, the primary camera usually takes visually appealing photographs. Samsung retains its signature punchy colors as the blue skies were bluer, and greens appear greener. To be honest with you I personally prefer Samsung’s color science as it puts life into stills. It’s worth noting that the images have enough contrast to appear realistic, but they’re considerably different from the ones taken by Pixel smartphones.

The low-light performance of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is noticeably better than that of its predecessor. Its ability to extract information with pleasant color and texture from really dark settings is amazing.

In terms of zoom cameras, Samsung used the same IMX754 sensors in both 3x and 10x telephoto lenses. They’re just as amazing as last year, but you can’t expect extraordinary images while using the 10x f/4.9 periscope lens at night. The ultrawide sensor’s performance remains unchanged. It works well but there is no jump in low-light performance as we saw with the primary rear camera.

Finally, the 40MP front-facing camera from last year has been replaced with a 12MP sensor that supports Super HDR and 60FPS video. The selfies on the Galaxy S23 Ultra are as detailed as ever. I’m pleased with the results, therefore I don’t have any complaints.

Samsung also made significant upgrades to the video capabilities of the S23 Ultra. In proper lighting, captured films look amazing, crisp, and clear, and are on par with anything Apple currently offers, in my opinion.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Battery

The Galaxy S22 Ultra from last year may have had a big 5,000mAh battery, but it was not as impressive as the competition. However, I’m getting considerably better results on the Galaxy 23 Ultra with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. With the display set to FHD+, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra provided slightly more than 8 hours of screen-on time with moderate use. I managed to get almost 6 hrs of Screen on time with always on display enabled and display settings maxed out to QHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is as near to a perfect Android flagship as you can get in 2023. Aside from the fancy camera lingo, there’s not much it does to make you go crazy. Instead, it sticks to its strengths offering you a stunning display, a solid build, and more power than you’d need in your everyday life. 

It’s arguably the best phone among premium flagships. Here are the pros and cons based on my experience with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Reasons to buy Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra:

  • Brilliant display
  • Built-in S Pen
  • Great performance
  • Improved cameras
  • Long battery life
  • Use of eco-friendly materials 

Reasons to not buy Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra:

  • Largely unchanged design
  • No new S Pen features
  • No improvements in fast charging
Deepak RajawatDeepak Rajawat
Experienced technology journalist with over 7-years of experience. Before embracing online journalism, he has worked with several legacy publications including print editions at Hindustan Times and The Statesman. He also has a keen interest in Sports, which he used to cover with equal enthusiasm in his early career.

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