Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra marked a new beginning of sorts for the Samsung flagship – the merging of the Note Series and the top-of-the-line Galaxy S series into one power packed device. The Ultra has now become Samsung’s unrivalled ‘non-foldable’ device and also its most premium camera smartphone.
One of the challenges for all flagship smartphones over the past couple of years is differentiation, not just from competitors but creating enough innovations to convince customers to upgrade from last year’s device. It’s the same challenge for this year’s Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Is this the best Android flagship you can buy and does this do enough to justify an upgrade over last year’s S22 Ultra? Read on to find out in our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Design & Build Quality
We’ll tackle the first question first. Unless you’re considering the foldable route, the S23 Ultra is the best Android flagship out there, with the Google Pixel 7 Pro a close 2nd. It all starts with the form factor. We’ve said this before, we don’t think any other brand creates a better large sized yet refined phone. You could say that Samsung pioneered the push towards big screens with the first Samsung Galaxy Note more than a decade ago.
While it might look similar to the S22 Ultra from a distance, take a closer look and you will notice a slight deviation with a boxier form. It’s a happy medium between Samsung’s trademark curved screen design and a flat-edge form factor. It makes it easier to grip and less prone to drops. We’ve gone ‘case-less’ with this phone thus far. It’s probably because we don’t want the gorgeous new shade of green – this year’s hero colour for the S23 ultra, to hide under a case. It’s a big phone though (and weighs 234 gm), not for those who like tidier, more manageable devices.
The display might be unchanged from the S22 Ultra but it’s still one of the best out there. You get the same gamer-friendly and binge-proof 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (1440 x 3088 pixels / 501 PPI) with a 120Hz refresh rate that peaks at 1750 nits. It also supports and an adaptive vision booster for better display optimisation and we had no issues whatsoever when using this phone in different lighting conditions, including direct sunlight.
We weren’t worried that Samsung was going to drop the ball when it came to the S23 Ultra’s display quality but this really is one of the best mobile displays available on any smartphone today.
Software & Performance
Samsung has worked closely with Qualcomm to customise the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that will power all S23 Ultra devices across the globe. We checked out the 12GB/256GB variant, the device also comes in 12GB/512GB and 12GB/1TB versions. The device blazed through our Geekbench tests topping the 4900 mark (multi-core). The chipset boasts up to 3.36Hz peak speeds from the Kryo CPU and can handle extreme gaming with titles like MARVEL Future Revolution firing on all cylinders.
The device incorporates cool features like ray tracing (for better lighting effects in games) so gamers are future proofed wen it comes to AAA mobile gaming.
If there’s one area Samsung’s flagship cams generally ace, it’s lowlight photography. The S23 Ultra gets a massive bump up over its predecessor with a 200MP sensor on the rear cam, an adaptive pixel sensor with Super Quad Pixel and 1.5x faster auto focus. Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) is even more robust this year; according to Samsung it corrects for 3 degrees of shake versus 1.5.
The selfie camera has been rejigged too. The difference is most obvious in lowlight selfies and videos where the device holds its own against the other formidable Android sharpshooter – the Google Pixel 7 Pro.
The quad rear cam also features a 12MP ultra-wide cam, a 3X and a 10x telephoto lens. It’s still the best zoom lens on any smartphone cam you can buy in Ireland right now. Shooting on RAW mode is easy – you just have to tweak the Pro cam settings if you need more control on edits.
The macro capabilities are also equally as impressive with very high levels of detail as close at a couple of centimetres away. The below shot of a flower really showcases this.
Finally, when testing out the much touted ‘nightography’ capabilities of the S23 Ultra, Samsung really has upped their game with the handset’s main 200mp sensor capable of capturing much better handled lighting conditions in low light environments whilst also keeping noise levels to a minimum.
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements on this year’s S23 Ultra is in battery life. Samsung has packed in the same 5,000mAh battery from the S22 Ultra and counted on the new custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip’s efficiency to handle the rest. The gains are appreciable and, being honest, extremely impressive. With the display set to full-HD+ resolution, we regularly saw nearly 8 hours of screen-on time with moderate use, and a little over 6 hours in heavy use with gaming and plenty of shooting with the camera.
Bump it up to the QHD+ resolution, and you should see only about an hour reduced on either count. This is easily a one-day phone, even if you push the phone. Unfortunately, even with all these improvements, charging speeds are still the same, at an only okay 45W speed that tops off the battery in an hour – this is not a phone you can charge in the time it takes you to get ready in the morning.
Samsung’s top flagship for 2023 certainly deserved a boost in this department. Wireless charging is supported at 15W and you can reverse wireless charge at 4.5W.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a great step-up from the S22 Ultra but it’s not a cheap handset if you’re buying one off contract, coming in at €1459 as a starting price point for the 256GB model. If you already own an S22 Ultra, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade aside from the camera. The S-Pen features and the display (minus a few incremental software updates) are identical but the battery performance (there’s a 5000mAh battery under the hood and no, there’s no charging brick in the box) is better than last year.
But if you’re moving from a previous gen Samsung device or any other Android device, then the S23 Ultra is a compelling option. We also approve of Samsung’s green push – This Ultra is made up 12 external and internal components with recycled materials (the S22 Ultra had 6 components with recycled materials). The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is the Android flagship to beat in 2023.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Pricing & Availability
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is widely available on all Irish operators, retailers and on samsung.com. It has an starting RRP of €1459 for the 256GB/8GB model and going up to €1879 for the 1TB model.
REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
- Design & Build Quality
- Software & Performance
The Samsung S23 Ultra is now 2023’s flagship Android handset to beat.