The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is very similar to its predecessor in many aspects, for example, the appearance and some components such as some of the cameras. That’s okay. With those components it was also good with the S22 Ultra. We see the parts that have been renewed or improved as welcome improvements, such as the 200-megapixel camera and especially the very powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. This processor also ensures that the cameras take better photos, although these, at the 200-megapixel copy, are the same.
Very good cameras
Powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 soc
Good and bright screen
Long battery life
Never change a winning horse, Samsung must have thought when they started working with the Galaxy S23 Ultra. When the rumor mill started and the first images of the device leaked, it looked more like an S22 Ultra with a different wallpaper. Now that we have received the device, we see that there are some differences, although they are small. In fact, they are so small that you probably won’t notice them if you don’t have both smartphones in your hands or if you have them lying next to each other on the table.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra may resemble its predecessor in many ways, but the parts that have been renewed on paper are a major improvement compared to the previous generation of Galaxy S smartphones. Samsung has not equipped the devices with its Exynos soc this time, but with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The Qualcomm chips have always been more powerful than Samsung’s Exynos counterparts. On the other side of the ocean, older models were already equipped with Qualcomm’s chip. It’s nice to see that Samsung has now straightened that out.
Another change is the price: the S23 Ultra has become 100 euros more expensive than the S22 Ultra cost when it was introduced. You now have to pay 1399 euros for this flagship. For that money, you get a smartphone with a 6.8″ screen, 8GB ram, 256GB storage space and the well-known integrated stylus.
Another big difference with the S22 Ultra is the main camera. The S23 Ultra features a 200-megapixel one and can film in 8k at 30fps, the highest number you’ll find in today’s smartphone landscape. The other cameras have remained the same, but the photos you take with this smartphone should be better in practice than those of last year, because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 takes care of the image processing.
Despite the small differences, does the S23 Ultra still have a big impact and, thanks to the 200-megapixel camera and the powerful Snapdragon, raise the bar a bit? You read it in this review.
We already wrote it in the introduction: the S23 Ultra is very similar to the S22 Ultra. At first glance, you would almost say that the devices look alike like two drops of water. Both devices have a rounded body and a curved screen, the camera layout is the same and the buttons have the same look as the S22. Only when you put the smartphones next to each other or hold them in your hands do you notice the minor differences.
The first thing that stands out is that the casing has a slightly different shape: it is slightly more flattened and therefore slightly more angular. You can also feel that when you hold the smartphone in your hand. The edges feel a bit sharper and that’s because the screen and the back are slightly more recessed in the frame. This makes the device a bit easier to grip, but more force than average must still be applied to prevent it from slipping out of your fingers. In addition, the S23 Ultra is slightly wider and heavier. We are talking about numbers after the decimal point and you will not notice the difference in practice.
The cameras on the S23 Ultra are slightly larger and protrude a little further than on the S22 Ultra, and the red spot used for the laser is no longer red, making it less noticeable. The S23 Ultra has the same matte finish back as its predecessor. Both the front and back have Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The manufacturer of the glass says you can drop them from up to two meters high on asphalt and concrete without breaking. In addition, the device is again equipped with the IP68 certification, which means that the smartphone is dust and waterproof. The device can withstand half an hour at a depth of one and a half meters.
The smartphone does not give when it is twisted and is just as insensitive to fingerprints as the S22 Ultra. The layout of the buttons is also the same as on the S22 Ultra so we’ll go through that briefly. On the right are the power and volume buttons, at the top a hole for the microphone, the left side of the smartphone is empty and at the bottom is a hole for the S-pen, a grille for one of the two stereo speakers, a USB-C port, the card tray and two microphone holes. On the front of the screen, there is a small cut-out in the center at the top edge for the ear speaker that serves as the second speaker for the stereo sound. And just below that is the camera hole for the selfie camera.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has the same screen specifications as the S22 Ultra. It is an ltpo-oled with a wqhd + resolution, so 3088×1440 pixels. Due to that high resolution, it is a lot sharper than the screens of the Galaxy S23 and S23 +, even though it is the largest with its 6.8 “diagonal. The screen has a dynamic refresh rate between 1 and 120 Hz and support for HDR10 +.
Samsung states in its press release that the screen has an improved adjustment for different lighting conditions. The manufacturer calls it Vision Booster. Gray tones are displayed brighter in incident light so that you can still see the image clearly. Three different light levels are now taken into account instead of two, as with the S22 series. There is no option to manually turn Vision Booster on or off. You also don’t have much control over the further color reproduction of the screen. In ‘Natural’ mode, colors are displayed with the correct saturation, but the hue of the screen cannot be adjusted.
We measured the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s screen using our SpectraCal C6 colorimeter and Portrait Displays Calman Ultimate analysis software. As of this year, we are not only measuring the rendering of grayscale and saturated colors, but also the rendering of some common color tones on the ColorChecker test chart. For this review, we also performed the new test procedure on the Galaxy S22 and S21 series to have some comparison material.
The screen of the S23 Ultra has become even brighter compared to the S22 Ultra. It is therefore the clearest of all Android smartphones that we have tested so far, but the superlative of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max is not achieved. The screen of the S23 Ultra can maintain its high peak brightness for longer than that of the iPhone 14 Pro (Max). With the Apple device, the brightness drops further after a few minutes than with the Samsung screen, which remains constant until the battery is less than 5 percent charged. If the entire screen is white, the iPhone and Galaxy Ultra are close together.
If we look at the color fastness, not much has changed and that is not a bad thing. The S23 Ultra scores very well, but has to beat the S21, S22, iPhone 14, Xiaomi 12 and OPPO Find X5 Pro. However, the color and gray deviations are so small that you will not notice them with the naked eye; that is only the case if they achieve an ΔE score of 3 or higher and the screen on the S23 Ultra is well below that.
Camera: 200 megapixels
Samsung is participating in the 200-megapixel race and has also equipped the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a copy that can shoot 200-megapixel photos. It is striking that the sensor resolution of the front camera has dropped considerably, from 40 megapixels to ‘only’ 12 megapixels. It is the same module as in the S23 and S23+, about which few details are known.
The 200-megapixel sensor that Samsung uses for the S23 Ultra is one of its own: the Isocell HP2. With its 1/1.3″ sensor size, it’s nearly the same size as the 108-megapixel sensor in the S20 Ultra through S22 Ultra, making it a good replacement. At just 0.6μm, the pixels are smaller than many other camera sensors on the market. smartphones, and also smaller than the Isocell HP1 sensor used in some previous 200-megapixel phones, such as the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra and Xiaomi 12T Pro. While you can take 200-megapixel photos with the S23 Ultra, you won’t usually use it for that. By default, sixteen sensor pixels are bundled into one pixel in the final photo, which therefore has a 12.5MP resolution. The Bayer filter of the sensor is also adapted to this. The Isocell HP2 also supports a 50MP binning mode for a different balance between clarity and detail. It is also used in 8k video recording. As with the S23 and S23+, the frame rate when filming at this resolution has increased from 24fps to 30fps.
Also striking about the new camera sensor in the S23 Ultra is the improved autofocus compared to the 108-megapixel sensor that was used previously. It did not have a focus point for every pixel, as the Isocell HP2 and most other camera sensors in high-end smartphones now have. Slow focusing was certainly still a problem with the S20 and S21 generations of Samsung’s top model, so it is good that Samsung has further improved it this year.
Cameras S23 Ultra
Ultra wide angle
200 mega pixels
Focal length in 35mm equivalent
The other cameras of the S23 Ultra have not changed and those specifications are therefore the same as those of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. We have put the specifications of the cameras and sensors in the table above.
Because the S23 Ultra is marketed as a flagship camera phone, we compared the device with other camera bangers: the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, the iPhone 14 Pro and the Google Pixel 7 Pro. The latter two don’t have that many telephoto cameras, so in the comparisons where the two Samsungs use the optical zoom, the other two devices use digital zoom.
The S23 Ultra shows just a little more detail, but that is also accompanied by a little more noise. The colors are also slightly less saturated than with the predecessor, which makes the photos look more realistic. In some cases, the S22 Ultra manages to capture a little more detail. This is especially visible in the photo of the apartment complexes on the water. The branches of the trees in front of the building are a bit sharper than with the S23 Ultra. The smoothing algorithm of the S23 Ultra seems to be slightly less strict than with the previous Samsung smartphones. If we look at the contrast ratio, we see that the S23 Ultra brings out the dark parts a little more and that results in more detail in the shadowy parts.
The front camera of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra takes slightly tighter photos than the S22 Ultra. The images are slightly less grainy and the shaded areas are brought out a little better.
When we go out with the devices at night, it can be seen that the S23 Ultra captures contrast-rich differences better than the S22 Ultra. In some cases, last year’s device manages to capture a little more detail than the S23 Ultra; the smoothing algorithm of the S22 Ultra seems to be slightly less strict at night than that of the S23 Ultra, but those differences are often minor. If there is really little light available, the S22 Ultra does slightly better than the S23 Ultra. Last year’s device knows how to capture just a little more detail and does so with fewer compression artifacts. Here too, the differences are not so great to judge the S23 Ultra on, but it is something to take into account if you attach great importance to night photography.
The wide-angle camera of the S23 Ultra captures more detail at night than the S22 Ultra. The photos of the S23 Ultra are slightly yellower, but sharper. For the rest, the weather is irrelevant and that’s okay; the S22 Ultra already did this well, so the small improvements only make the good photos better.
Camera: ultra wide angle, macro and telephoto lens
The wide-angle camera of the S23 Ultra does a bit better than the one on the S22 Ultra. Fewer details are lost, even in the corners. You do get a little more noise in return, but that is not disturbing. In fact, we’re happy with it. With the S22 Ultra, it regularly happened that (small) objects with a coarse surface were unjustly smoothed out, resulting in loss of detail. The S23 does not or hardly do this. We take for granted the moments when it is about noise instead of a coarse texture.
For these photos, we have zoomed in 2x with the main camera. Digital zooming seems to go a bit better on the S22 Ultra. That is probably due to the stricter smoothing algorithm of last year’s device, which makes it all look a bit tighter. The less strict version of the S23 Ultra shows some jagged edges on the diagonals.
If we use the optical 3x telephoto camera, it is clear to see that the S23 Ultra manages to find a better balance between capturing enough detail and the amount of noise that comes with it. At first glance, the S22 Ultra seems to shoot slightly tighter images, but that is more because the image is smoothed out. In the end, just a little more detail is captured compared to the S22 Ultra.
And then there’s also the optical 10x telephoto camera. This camera with 10x optical zoom already managed to take impressive photos on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, and the S23 Ultra takes it a step further: more detail is captured again compared to the cameras in the other smartphones. The photos have a little more noise, but you get a better contrast ratio, more realistic colors, and more details in return. This is particularly evident in the photo of the flats on the water.
The portrait mode of the S23 Ultra is a bit better than that of the S22 Ultra. Here too you can see that the smoothing of photos is less rigorous and that less detail is therefore lost than with the photos taken with the S22 Ultra. The 23 Ultra also has less trouble with hair.
The 23 Ultra’s 200-megapixel mode captures a bit more detail than the 108-megapixel mode, but the differences aren’t that great. Switching to the 50-megapixel mode, the photos look a lot sharper and capture more detail compared to those shot with the S22 Ultra.
Hardware and Software
Samsung has always released two versions of their S flagships in previous years. One with a Qualcomm Snapdragon soc and one with its own Exynos chip. The Snapdragon version was sold in most of the world, including the US and even its home country of South Korea. Here in Europe, the inferior Exynos version was always on the shelf. Comparisons often showed that Exynos devices achieved less high system performance and poorer efficiency, or shorter battery life, than the Snapdragon counterpart.
Samsung is still working on a successor to the Exynos 2200, the chip found in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It is not yet known in which devices that chip will be used. All Samsung Galaxy S23 devices that are released worldwide now have a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It is a special ‘for Galaxy’ edition with a slightly higher maximum clock speed for the fastest calculation core and for the GPU. Even without a higher maximum clock speed, the fast Cortex X3 “prime” core in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 would be 25 percent faster than the Cortex X2 core in the 8 Gen 1, according to Qualcomm.
The rest of the CPU part of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 consists of differently designed cores. In order of processing power, after the ‘prime’ core, there are two Cortex A715 cores on the chip, with the promise of 20 percent higher performance than the Cortex A710, two of which are also present on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Finally, three efficient Cortex A510 cores are present. This means that the new soc has an extra ‘medium fast’ core instead of an economical core, as with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 with 1 + 3 + 4 structure.
Qualcomm claims that the built-in Adreno 740 GPU, with support for real-time ray tracing and the new Vulkan 1.3 API, is no less than 25 percent faster than its predecessor and 40 percent more efficient. What exactly has changed architecturally remains vague. It is striking that the maximum clock speed is much lower than with the Adreno 730 in the Snapdragon 8(+) Gen 1, even in the special Galaxy version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. In turn, the Adreno 730 was already tens of percent faster than the Xclipse GPU in the Exynos 2200, despite the advanced architecture in some areas.
So, in theory, the Snapdragon-based S23 series promises to be much faster than the S22 series. That turns out to be true when we look at the result of benchmark apps that we have run on the devices, such as Geekbench, GFXBench and 3DMark Wild Life. Given Geekbench, which attempts to quantify CPU performance, the S23 devices score about the same as the Apple iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, about 10 percent better than the average Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 phone and 30 to 40 percent higher than the S22 series. In gaming benchmark 3DMark Wild Life, the S23 series leads the ranking, with even higher scores than Apple’s top model, the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which, unlike the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, also features Apple’s latest soc. Compared to the S22 series, the score of the S23 devices is almost twice as high in this test.
With benchmark scores of this kind, we must immediately place the reservation that manufacturers, including Samsung, have been caught limiting performance in real-world scenarios, while a device suddenly worked fully when a benchmark was run. Cheating aside, you won’t notice much of the extra power during day-to-day tasks, which don’t require much from the phone. Apps also run very smoothly on the Galaxy S22 devices during normal use, without slowdowns or stutters, and multitasking or playing games is no problem either. It will probably be years before the average Android game is so heavy that a Galaxy S22 Ultra can no longer run it smoothly, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra can. The only thing you’ll notice it these days is when you start rendering videos or doing other CPU intensive tasks. The rendering work is then finished sooner.
Samsung also boasts about the larger vaporchamber that is included in the entire S23 series. It has long been known that modern smartphone chips can become quite hot under prolonged use. Performance is then scaled back to keep the temperature in check. We tested this with the 3DMark Wild Life stress test and the CPU throttle test. The S23 Ultra does not start to throttle as fast as the S22 Ultra, but the clock speed is not constant.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra has faster working memory in the form of UFS 4.0. UFS 4.0 chips are smaller, more energy efficient and also offer significantly faster read and write speeds than UFS 3.1, which was used in the Galaxy S22 series. In practice, this can provide speed benefits when opening large apps, such as games. The working memory has been upgraded to lpddr5x. The cheapest model of the Galaxy S23 Ultra still only has 8GB built-in, the other editions have a spacious 12GB. You can expect that for a top model.
On paper, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 supports Wi-Fi 7, but Samsung’s spec sheet only mentions Wi-Fi 6E. Perhaps the S23 Ultra does not have the necessary antennas. Support for 2.4GHz networks is still present. Previously, there was some ambiguity about whether the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 would still support that band, as Qualcomm only mentioned 5GHz and 6GHz bands in its press release. Furthermore, the S23 Ultra can handle two SIM cards and SIM. The new X70 modem of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 can connect to 5G networks.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra features Bluetooth 5.3, with codec support for aptX, LDAC, AAC and Samsung’s SSC. The aptX Adaptive codec, which enables lossless audio transmission when paired with a suitable Bluetooth headset and is supported on some recent Snapdragon phones, is not found in the developer menu of the S23 devices.
As in previous years, only the Plus and Ultra devices in the S23 series have UWB functionality, which you can use if you have a Bluetooth tracker, for example . The S23 Ultra can then show you exactly where the tracker is when you are near it.
Haptics and sound
The S23 Ultra has stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support. One sits on the bottom, next to the USB-C port, the other in a narrow gap between the glass and the frame at the top. This speaker is also the speaker for the ear during calls. Despite the small opening, the sound that comes out is practically as loud as with the bottom speaker. The sound produced by the speakers is somewhat better and fuller than the sound produced by the S22 Ultra, with slightly more bass. So for telephone speakers they sound pretty good.
The vibration motor of the S23 Ultra goes a notch faster than that of the S22 Ultra. It is still a very luxurious copy, which can give the accurate and fierce taps that you can expect from a high-end device. This model also has the ability to vibrate at different frequencies. Samsung has added a lot of funny ‘vibration patterns’ that make use of this, for example a siren where the phone vibrates high and low alternately. The vibrator motor can also vibrate along with the music of your ringtone. As on the S22 series, a number of standard bell sounds come from the k-pop group BTS.
The S23 Ultra is equipped with a sonic fingerprint scanner under the screen. This is not very common and competing devices usually have an optical one. The advantage of a sonic scanner is that you can also unlock the device with wet fingers. You also don’t see the screen light up every time you scan your finger. The speed of unlocking is still fine with the Galaxy S23 series. As with the smaller devices, the scanner is about a quarter of the height of the screen.
We can be very brief about the software. This is almost the same as the software on the S23 and S23+. Since we have described in detail how this software works, we refer you to the Samsung Galaxy S23 and 23+ review.
Battery life and charging
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a battery with the same capacity as that of the S22 Ultra, of 5000 mAh. Still, the S23 Ultra lasts a lot longer on a charge than the S22 Ultra. That’s because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 uses energy a lot more efficiently.
The Ultra lasts a long time on a charge and outperforms almost all Android smartphones we’ve tested. That is already the case when we run the browsing tests on the phone. If you’re going to use the device to consume media, you’re all right. The device will then last a lot longer. We are running the video test again just to be sure and it will be added to the charts in due course.
When we put the S23 Ultra on the charger, we still notice that the devices do not charge as fast as the Chinese competitors. It takes about an hour and a half for the phones to be fully charged, while many other devices can do it within half an hour. That is because those manufacturers work with their own fast charging technologies and can therefore charge with 60, 80, 100, 120 and soon even 200W. Samsung devices usually do not exceed 25 or 45W, but they do use a more universal standard. The S23 Ultra also has the option of charging at 45W. However, the added value of this seems limited, and you may have to buy a new block for it; After all, Galaxy devices from the past never came with such a fast charger. For a few years, there is even no charger at all in the box, but only a cable. As was the case with the Galaxy S22 series, we also failed to actually charge the S23 Ultra at 45W with the right charger. We used a charger from Samsung, ran several tests and disabled all options in the software that could limit the charging speed. After that effort, our meter peaked at 30.66W.
Like other top models and their predecessors, the S23 Ultra can charge wirelessly with up to 15W. The S23 devices can still provide 4.5W of power wirelessly to earplugs, for example. Smartphones from the mentioned competitors from China can sometimes charge wirelessly much faster. For that you have to buy a special wireless charging station, because the Qi standard still has 15W as a maximum. A fast wireless charger is almost never included with these types of devices.
Brand and version
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
12GB ram, 256GB storage Purple
Price and rating
Series operating system
Mobile operating system
Google Android 13.0
Relative screen size
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen2
Number of cores
Memory and storage
Random access memory
Number of rear cameras
Number of front cameras
Wide Angle, Tele, Ultra Wide Angle
Camera resolution (front)
12MP Ultra-Wide Camera • F2.2, FOV 120˚ 200MP Wide Camera • F1.7, FOV 85˚ 10MP Telephoto Camera • 3x Optical Zoom, F2.4, FOV 36˚ 10MP Telephoto Camera • 10x Optical Zoom, F4. 9, FOV 11˚ 12MP Front Camera • F2.2, FOV 80˚
Motion sensor (g-sensor), Gyro sensor, Handsfree, Compass, Fast charging, Vibration
Battery and charger
Battery capacity (mAh)
Fast charging technology
Adaptive Fast Charge, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Quick Charge 2.0
Maximum power fast charging wired
Scope of supply
incl. accessories (phone/tablet)
Data cable, Stylus
IP68 dust (full) and waterproof
Splashproof, Dustproof, Moistureproof, Waterproof
Dimensions and weight
Color and origin
Product information from the manufacturer
No price yet
We’ve said it many times recently and it may sound a bit cliché, but it’s true: the differences between the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra are small. In many ways it is more of the same. Is that bad? Certainly not. The S23 Ultra reminds us of last year’s iPhone 13 Pro Max. That was a smartphone without major, noteworthy new features, but a phone that makes you happy as an end user, with improvements in exactly those areas that make a lot of difference in daily practice.
Samsung already did a lot right with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The changes with the S23 Ultra are all positive. The Exynos 2200 of the S22 Ultra has been replaced by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the S23 Ultra. This has made the device faster, more energy efficient and cooler. This new chip is a lot more powerful than last year’s 8 Gen 1, especially in the GPU area. If we compare its performance with the GPU of the Galaxy S22 devices, it theoretically even performs twice as well. In practice you hardly notice this; the S23 devices respond quickly and smoothly, but the S22 series already did. With OneUI 5.1 software based on Android 13, the S23 series is also completely up to date in that respect. In addition, Samsung has the best ‘update promise’ in the industry, after Apple.
This brings us right to the cameras. The 200-megapixel main camera is a nice improvement and shoots better pictures than the camera of the S22 Ultra. We noticed that the differences are smaller than we expected. But they’re good enough, even if you dial back the pixel inside to take 50-megapixel photos. The other cameras on the device are the same as on last year’s model, but you still shoot better photos with them than with the S22, thanks to Qualcomm’s image processing.
The fact that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is more energy efficient can also be seen in the battery life of the device. The device lasts a lot longer than its predecessor, while they have the same battery on board. Add to that the fact that the screen is also a bit brighter and you can guess that the S23 Ultra can show off an Ultimate Award.
Would we run straight to the store to get the device? Not that again. Samsung has significantly increased the prices of its devices. A new Galaxy S23 Ultra will cost you a hundred euros more than the equivalent model from last year. If you don’t need a new smartphone right away, it pays to wait before purchasing. With the exception of Apple and Google, the competition has yet to release its phones. Only by then will it become clear how the Samsung phones stand in terms of price and performance. At that time, the S23 Ultra may have already dropped in price. Although Samsung phones are no longer falling in price as quickly as they used to, you can save hundreds of euros after six months.