The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has truly earned its Ultra moniker this year. The phone has seen a serious photographic upgrade with a new 200MP sensor that shoots 8K video and an Expert RAW mode to shoot like a real camera. This comes on top of the phone’s incredibly long list of features, including a built-in stylus, multi-tasking, and a desktop mode, which lets you use your phone on any big screen TV or monitor simply by connecting it through USB-C.
There’s really no other Android phone that reaches for this level of functionality – or price. With a stratospheric $1,200 starting price, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is an unthinkable purchase for most people. But for those willing, it’s the ultimate Android phone and the most premium handset around.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Design and Features
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has gone through a minor facelift. The curved screen is a tiny bit flatter now, which Samsung tells me is so that users can write notes and draw to the very edge of the display using the phone’s stowable stylus. Additionally, the sides are a bit flatter, making the whole phone boxier, so it’s easier to hold with a firmer grip.
Despite the tweaks made to the screen, it’s still the same pocket-stretching 6.8 inches as last year. The display’s other specifications remain the same as last year too: 3,088 x 1,440 pixel resolution, 1750 nit brightness, and 120Hz refresh rate. The other slight tweak is the adaptive refresh rate can drop as low as 1Hz to help conserve battery life.
Beyond the screen specs, the S23 Ultra’s Super AMOLED display looks astounding with saturated colors and dark-as-night blacks. The phone has also been upgraded with a third level of vision booster to make the display easier to see in broad daylight. It features the same 1750 nit screen as its predecessor, but this little software feature allows it to shine closer to that peak brightness so you can see the display even in harsh sunlight.
Around the back, not much has changed for the Galaxy S23 at all. It features the same floating island camera design that has now trickled down to the regular Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23+. The only minuscule difference on the newest model is the camera lenses are a touch larger.
The phone is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance so it can survive a dip in water up to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) deep for 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Performance and Gaming
The Galaxy S23 Ultra features a special version of the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip that’s been tuned with a 150Hz higher clock speed specifically for Samsung Galaxy devices. But honestly, without being told that specifically or running benchmarks, you wouldn’t really notice the performance difference between this and another device running the regular version of the same APU, like the OnePlus 11.
Extra clock speed aside, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has plenty of muscle to make switching apps fast and snappy. More impressively, it allows the phone to take and process 200MP photos in seconds, record 8K video, and display feeds from four different cameras simultaneously in the Director video mode.
Of course, this makes the Samsung Galaxy S23 equally capable of hard-hitting games like Genshin Impact and Apex Legends. The phone easily runs both games at max settings with zero frame drops or hitches.
If you want a pocket computer for work, the Galaxy S23 delivers in spades here too. It can easily run three apps simultaneously, and thanks to the huge screen you can display them all at the same time with some window splitting. It also has a built-in feature called “DeX” that lets you connect to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse via USB-C hub and use it like an Android OS desktop PC.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Image Samples
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Camera
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s other headlining feature is its ludicrous 200MP camera – a significant resolution bump over the S22 Ultra’s 108MP snapper. Shooting photos at this massive resolution allows you to capture some stunning detail, but it also introduces a fair bit of noise, especially in low-light situations.
Additionally, colors tend to get washed out while shooting at max resolution, and you lose Samsung’s smart imaging features like object detection and optimizer. You’ll need to do a bit of post-processing in the Google Photos app or even photoshop to really get the most out of that full 200MP.
If you really like editing your photos to be perfect, you’ll definitely want to shoot in Samsung’s Expert RAW camera mode, which is now built into the basic camera app. This mode shoots images at a 50MP resolution while opening up every setting you’d expect on a mirrorless camera, including shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity, and more.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Image Comparisons
Of course, the biggest benefit of the Expert RAW mode is you’re shooting in the RAW uncompressed image format, which gives you a lot more headroom to recover shadows, lower highlights, and do other serious image tweaking in programs like Photoshop and Lightroom.
While you can shoot full-resolution photos and RAW, the camera defaults to pixel-binning 16 pixels into one, so you usually capture 12MP images with higher dynamic range and detail. Year over year, photos from the Galaxy S23 Ultra look crisper with higher contrast and detail than those taken with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung’s latest flagship also boasts improved optical image stabilization (OIS) that really helps with reducing vibrations while taking photos and recording video.
As for the other cameras, the phone has a 12-megapixel Ultrawide, a 10-megapixel 3x optical telephoto, and a 10MP 10x optical telephoto lens. The difference in photos from these cameras in the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra is less pronounced as the main sensor.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Zoom Camera Comparisons
However, the improvements Samsung has made to Space Zoom are far more impressive. Samsung not only made super zoomed-in photos on the Galaxy S23 Ultra look sharper than its predecessor, but it also takes the crown back from the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
The selfie camera perhaps has seen the biggest upgrade. Despite dropping in resolution from 40MP to just 12MP, it now features autofocus, 60fps for videos, and a Super HDR capture mode. The new selfie camera is overall more capable, and the photos look sharper and more vibrant compared to those I took on the previous-gen Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – Battery Life
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra didn’t see any battery size change this year, still sitting at a fairly large 5,000mAh capacity. That’s plenty of power for this gargantuan phone to last throughout the day with about 30% to 40% of its battery intact. And that’s a day full of watching videos, listening to music and podcasts, scrolling on social media, and playing some mobile games.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,199 and it comes with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Meanwhile, there’s an upgraded 12GB RAM and 512GB model available for $1,379, and the lastly the highest end model doubles storage to 1TB for $1,619.