Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review (2024)


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A year later, the Note that isn't returns. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra brings predictably 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 attempt to answer that question and see if the new Ultra can spark excitement in ways the specsheet couldn't.

And it's an expansive specsheet, of course. At the Ultra's heart is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and it's one specifically made for the Galaxies - with higher clock rates than competitors get. The latest Qualcomm top-end chip also comes with efficiency promises, and we would never say no to some extra endurance.

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

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review (7)Galaxy S22 Ultra (top) next to Galaxy S23 Ultra

The otherwise lengthy list of numbers and features below doesn't really bring major changes from the previous generation. Battery capacity remains the same as does the charging rating; the ultrasonic fingerprint reader hasn't gotten optical all of a sudden, proprietary features like DeX and Samsung Pay are still here, and you can count on the display being the best in the business. A small victory is the 256GB base storage - last year's model started at an unreasonably low 128GB - so yay?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra specs at a glance:

  • Body: 163.4x78.1x8.9mm, 234g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins).
  • Display: 6.80" Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1750 nits (peak), 1440x3088px resolution, 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 501ppi; Always-on display.
  • Chipset: Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm): Octa-core (1x3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2x2.8 GHz Cortex-A715 & 2x2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3x2.0 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, 24mm, 1/1.3", 0.6µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm, 1/3.52", 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/4.9, 230mm, 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 capture: Rear camera: 8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
  • Battery: 5000mAh; 45W wired, PD3.0, 65% in 30 min (advertised), Wireless (Qi/PMA), 4.5W reverse wireless.
  • Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); 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 did call the S23 Ultra a Note from the get-go, and the S Pen is indeed here to stay - despite habitual pessimists around the office writing if off after the beloved Note moniker disappeared with the S22 Ultra. Sure, you can have an S Pen (a different 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 a lot else, though. The Ultra shows up in what has become the norm for Samsung high-end phone packages - a thin as possible black cardboard box with a likeness of the handset printed on the lid in a corresponding color to the actual unit inside.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review (8)

The size of the box guarantees there's no charger inside, but there's still a USB-C cable - despite our continued droning how 'this time may be the last time you're getting a cable', Samsung actually persists in including one - does that count as winning? There's also a SIM eject pin, which we normally wouldn't mention, but the unboxing section could use the extra words.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review (2024)
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