❤ Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 5G
Table of Contents
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.
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 :
|NETWORK||Technology||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE / 5G|
|2G bands||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2 (Dual SIM model only)|
|CDMA 800 / 1900 & TD-SCDMA|
|3G bands||HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100|
|4G bands||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66 – International|
|1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 48, 66, 71 – USA|
|5G bands||1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 20, 25, 28, 38, 40, 41, 66, 75, 77, 78 SA/NSA/Sub6 – International|
|1, 7, 28, 41, 66, 71, 78, 258, 260, 261 SA/NSA/Sub6/mmWave – USA|
|Speed||HSPA, LTE-A (up to 7CA), 5G|
|LAUNCH||Announced||2023, February 01|
|Status||Available. Released 2023, February 17|
|BODY||Dimensions||163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm (6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 in)|
|Weight||234 g (8.25 oz)|
|Build||Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), aluminum frame|
|SIM||Nano-SIM and eSIM or Dual SIM (2 Nano-SIMs and eSIM, dual stand-by)|
|IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 min)
Armor aluminum frame with tougher drop and scratch resistance (advertised)
Stylus (Bluetooth integration, accelerometer, gyro)
|DISPLAY||Type||Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1200 nits (HBM), 1750 nits (peak)|
|Size||6.8 inches, 114.7 cm2 (~89.9% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1440 x 3088 pixels (~500 ppi density)|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2|
|PLATFORM||OS||Android 13, One UI 5.1|
|Chipset||Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm)|
|CPU||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)|
|Internal||256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM, 1TB 12GB RAM|
|MAIN CAMERA||Quad||200 MP, f/1.7, 24mm (wide), 1/1.3″, 0.6µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS
10 MP, f/4.9, 230mm (periscope telephoto), 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto), 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚ (ultrawide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
|Features||LED flash, auto-HDR, panorama|
|Video||8K@24/30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 1080p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS|
|SELFIE CAMERA||Single||12 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), Dual Pixel PDAF|
|Features||Dual video call, Auto-HDR, HDR10+|
|SOUND||Loudspeaker||Yes, with stereo speakers|
Tuned by AKG
|COMMS||WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6e, tri-band, Wi-Fi Direct|
|Bluetooth||5.3, A2DP, LE|
|Positioning||GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO|
|USB||USB Type-C 3.2, OTG|
|FEATURES||Sensors||Fingerprint (under display, ultrasonic), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer|
|Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support)
Bixby natural language commands and dictation
Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified)
Ultra Wideband (UWB) support
|BATTERY||Type||Li-Ion 5000 mAh, non-removable|
|Charging||45W wired, PD3.0, 65% in 30 min (advertised)
15W wireless (Qi/PMA)
4.5W reverse wireless
|MISC||Colors||Phantom Black, Green, Cream, Lavender, Graphite, Sky Blue, Lime, Red, BMW M Edition|
|Models||SM-S918B, SM-S918B/DS, SM-S918U, SM-S918U1, SM-S918W, SM-S918N, SM-S9180, SM-S918E, SM-S918E/DS|
|SAR||1.12 W/kg (head) 0.92 W/kg (body)|
|SAR EU||0.96 W/kg (head) 1.40 W/kg (body)|
|Price||$ 1,055.00 / € 1,149.00 / £ 1,149.00 / ₹ 124,999 / C$ 1,649.99|
|TESTS||Performance||AnTuTu: 1241531 (v9)
GeekBench: 4927 (v5.1)
GFXBench: 67fps (ES 3.1 onscreen)
|Display||Contrast ratio: Infinite (nominal)|
|Camera||Photo / Video|
|Loudspeaker||-25.6 LUFS (Very good)|
Disclaimer. We can not guarantee that the information on this page is 100% correct.
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.
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.
In the rarefied atmosphere the Galaxy S23 Ultra calls its home market segment, purchasing decisions are likely not necessarily driven by value for money, at least not as top priority. Perhaps more important here are factors like having the absolute best camera, or getting all the productivity, or less reasonable but still entirely understandable motivators like brand loyalty or having the latest and greatest there is.
With those last couple of thoughts in mind, the S23 Ultra‘s standing is challenged by the Z Fold4 – isn’t a cutting-edge foldable more modern and awesome than a bar that’s, in principle, the same as any other? And the fact that it’s a Galaxy foldable helps too. The Fold can also win a productivity battle with the Ultra – easily, thanks to a way larger display and, yes, S Pen support too, even if the stylus is not quite as convenient to store as the Ultra’s. But the bendy Galaxy is merely an okay cameraphone, and that’s where the Ultra’s victory isn’t up for debate.
Cameraphones from Xiaomi are among our favorites, but it’s hard to name a Galaxy rival at this point in time. The Mi 12s Ultra is a remarkable picture-taking device, but it’s limited to the Chinese market. The Mi 11 Ultra may be international, but can’t really be found in stores, plus it’s now a full two years old. We’ll go with the 13 Pro for its specsheet – promising in many ways, but it’s zoom-challenged, not to mention we haven’t seen it in person yet.
How about a Google Pixel 7 Pro then. Once an undisputed photo taking champ, if a relatively niche one, the Pixel is no longer one-of-a-kind in its capabilities. But the 7 Pro does capture great photos, and its 5x zoom might be just what you’re missing on the Galaxy. There’s also the tiny detail that the Pixel is way less expensive than the S23 Ultra (call it a $500/€500 difference), and you may be giving a second thought to that ‘money is no object’ preamble.
Finally, a rather obvious alternative presents itself in the shape of an iPhone 14 Pro Max. The iPhone stands out as the best option for video capture, and it’s got a compelling camera system altogether, even if it can’t compete with the Galaxy for reach. Then come arguments of the non-quantifiable kind like status, brand preference, and bubble color.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 • Xiaomi 13 Pro • Google Pixel 7 Pro • Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
The ultimate Galaxy smartphone for 2023 (that doesn’t bend in the middle) doesn’t bring anything ground-breakingly new and exciting – how’s that for a single con?
Indeed, the Galaxy S23 Ultra‘s one flaw is perhaps entirely not its own – the S22 Ultra was just too good. Following up on that was always going to be little more than polishing touches that inevitably lack the wow factor. But if you can switch into managing expectations mode, rather than moan about the lack of innovation or originality, you’ll appreciate this year’s Ultra for its maturity.
A increase in battery life, faster charging (only slightly, but still quicker than Apple or Google will give you), one of the best displays in the business – that’s a strong start on the fundamentals. The camera, too, is improved, beyond just the 200MP number on the posters, cementing the Ultra as one of the top cameraphones on the market. And then there’s the S Pen – a proposition as unique in its utility in 2023 as it was last year. None of this is novel or thrilling stuff, but it all adds up.
With all of that in mind, the Galaxy S23 Ultra‘s only verdict can be ‘Highly recommended’.
- Traditional Note form factor, improved handling, still premium as ever.
- S Pen has wide-ranging functionality for work and play, is virtually without competition.
- Wonderful display.
- Excellent battery life, faster charging than big-name competitors.
- Ultra-grade camera system is one of the best on the market; primary module is a genuine improvement, zooming capability is hard to rival.
- Nothing is, in principle, really new or different.