The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is the range topping variant of the latest Galaxy S23 series of smartphones. The 2023 flagship builds on what made the S22 Ultra great, and further improves on the hardware and overall user experience.
Starting at RM5,699, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is pricier than most of its competition, but does the performance and user experience justify the price tag? Read on to find out.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Specifications
|Model||Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra|
|Dimensions||163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 For Galaxy|
|Storage||256GB / 512GB / 1TB UFS 4.0|
|Display||6.8″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X|
1750 nits (peak brightness)
|Camera (Front)||12 MP, f/2.2|
|Camera (Rear)||Main Camera: 200MP, f/1.7, 1/1.3″, Multi-Directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS|
Ultrawide Camera: 12 MP, f/2.2, 1/2.55″, Dual Pixel PDAF, Super Steady video
Telephoto Camera: 10 MP, f/2.4, , 1/3.52″, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom
Periscope Telephoto: 10 MP, f/4.9, 1/3.52″, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom
|Operating System||One UI 5.1, Android 13|
|Battery and Charging||5,000 mAh|
45W fast charging, PD 3.0
15W wireless charging
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.1 a/b/g/n/ac/ax/be, 2.4G/5G, Wi-Fi 6e|
|Biometrics||On-screen fingerprint reader|
What’s In The Box?
- Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
- USB Type-C Cable
- SIM Tray Remover
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra comes in four colours: Green, Phantom Black, Violet and Cream. You can also get the phone in exclusive colours on the official website: Graphite, Sky Blue, Lime and Red. Our review sample came in green, which is apparently one of the best selling colourways, as it is currently out of stock on the web store.
At the front, you will find a hole punch selfie camera and ear piece / speaker along the top edge. The screen has narrow bezels on all sides as well. The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right side, while the left side of the phone is completely bare.
At the back, you will find the familiar quad camera array with an LED flash and an autofocus sensor. The S Pen, SIM tray, USB Type-C port, and a speaker grille is located at the bottom of the device.
Aesthetics wise, the Galaxy S23 Ultra looks almost identical as its predecessor, with only a few minor tweaks — a slightly more pronounced camera bump, and a narrower curved along the edges of the screen. This narrows the screen space slightly, but it makes the phone much easier to grip onto and to use.
Samsung’s AMOLED display has always been known to have punchy and vivid colours, and this phone is no exception. Colours really pop especially the reds and yellows. If you love to consume video content on your phone, then you are in for a treat.
However, some may complain that the colour reproduction is too saturated, myself included. Luckily, you can adjust the colour reproduction to the “Natural” setting for more true to life colour tones.
To get the best of the screen however, you have to dig into the menu to change the screen resolution to WQHD+. To reduce the battery consumption, the screen is set to FHD+ by default. While battery life will be impacted slightly, but to me it is worth it as the screen looks sharp and detailed.
The bright display also allows for great sunlight legibility too. With 1,750 nits peak brightness, I could easily read the contents on my screen under direct sunlight. The adaptive brightness works great too, being able to instantly adjust brightness levels to match the surrounding lighting conditions.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is pre-loaded with One UI 5.1, Samsung’s latest Android-based UI. Navigation is easy and intuitive, and you have access to a variety of customisation options to have your phone act the way you like it.
At initial boot, I was baffled by the amount of software in the smartphone, on top of Google’s own software suite, which resulted in multiple apps for essentially the same functionality. Fortunately, I could uninstall them to free up more space and make my phone less cluttered.
If you want to make the phone uniquely yours, you can download the Good Lock app on the Galaxy Store, which unlocks a slew of customisation options, such as making your own themes, changing the Always On Display settings, navigation panels and much more.
Modes & Routines
You can further fine tune how the Galaxy S23 Ultra works using Modes and Routines. Modes are basically preset states for your Galaxy S23 series smartphones, where you can set-up “Do Not Disturb”, screen settings, sound mode and even your wallpaper during certain modes. For example, if I want to set a mode for sleep, I can turn on Do Not Disturb, turn on Eye Comfort Shield and switch to Dark Mode. Or if I am watching a movie, I can just preset silent mode, and dark wallpapers.
Routines on the other hand, is Modes on steroids. You can set specific situations, such as time, WiFi strength and location, to trigger certain routines. For example, I can trigger certain settings every time I enter office.
Granted, this feature is not for everyone, but it could make your life easier once you set up the more common ones, such as for sleep, movie theatres, and meetings.
Improved S Pen Experience
When the Samsung Note series were discontinued, the Ultra models became the de-facto successor with the inclusion of the S Pen. Just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s S Pen worked flawlessly as a complement to One UI 5.1.
Pulling out the S Pen will automatically open the Air Command menu, allowing you to open S Pen specific apps. The most important of which, is Samsung Notes, which now works with Google Meets in conjunction with S Pen. Users can co-edit document, perfect for editorial meetings where we need to review work in real time.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s main camera has received a major resolution bump to 200 megapixels, up from 108 megapixels found in the preceding model. By default, it bins 16 pixels into 1 to create a 12.5 megapixel image. You also get to choose between 50 megapixel and 200 megapixel modes. Turning them on will result in more detailed shots, but you will have to deal with the extra noise especially in low light.
Serious photographers will be delighted by the ExpertRaw mode, where you can capture RAW photos for use with photo editing suites. To access this mode, you will need to download the ExpertRaw app on the Galaxy Store. The ExpertRaw app also gives you access to long exposure and astrophotography features.
Overall, the main camera takes great pictures. Colour tones are accurate, images are sharp, and autofocus feels almost instantaneous. Taking 200 megapixel pictures will result in a 1-2 second delay after each shot, however.
Now onto the other cameras. The ultrawide camera on the Galaxy S23 Ultra is not as sharp as the main camera, resulting in softer images. However, in a pinch, it is more than sufficient. The portrait camera has a 3x zoom, which is equivalent to a 70mm focal length. Background blur is pleasant, with soft and pleasing bokeh effect.
The periscope camera feels like a clutch / novelty feature to me. Yes, it has a 10X zoom with great stabilization, but image quality is not great. Samsung does have software optimisations to sharpen images taken from far away, but it is susceptible to colour fringing.
Capturing video feels great too. With the default OIS on, it manages to correct most shakes except for the most extreme of movements. With Super Steady on however, the combined EIS and OIS took stabilisation to DSLR like levels. Do note that you have to deal with a significant crop, and 8K video will be unavailable.
I only have one gripe with Super Steady mode, which is that the camera will always default to the ultrawide camera every time it is turned on. I had to manually set to the main camera for the best video quality.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is equipped with a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which clocks higher at 3.36Ghz over 3.2Ghz from the standard chipset. On Geekbench 5, the smartphone managed to obtain a Multi-Core score of 4,938, and a Single-Core score of 1,527, placing it ahead of the OnePlus 11 5G.
Translated to real world use, the S23 Ultra feels peppy, and I’ve never faced any lag even with multiple apps open. Gaming performance is no slouch either, as Genshin Impact at maximum settings yieled a consistent 50+ fps even in the busiest maps of Sumeru.
When it comes to heat dissipation, the Galaxy S23 Ultra performed well. Even under heavy gaming use, it only felt warm to the touch after 15 minutes.
The audio from the dual speakers sound great even at maximum volume. There is little distortion, and comes with thumpy mid-bass as well. Soundstage is surprisingly wide for a smartphone, and it will serve your daily needs well.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with a 5,000mAh battery, which is on par with other competing flagship smartphones. Battery life is excellent, easily managing two days of use with about 10-13% remaining.
Charging however leaves a bit to be desired. As competitors like Xiaomi and OnePlus have adopted SuperVOOC chargers capable of 100W fast-charging or more, the S23 Ultra’s 45W charging feels sluggish in comparison. Going from 0 to full charge took me about 2 hours, and much longer if I am charging wirelessly.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has pulled all stops to make it the best flagship smartphone from the company to date. However, we have to address the elephant in the room: The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Putting them side by side, the Galaxy S23 Ultra feels like an incremental upgrade rather than a brand new offering, as it retains most of the same feature-set. Granted, most users would not care about benchmark scores, and as long as the phone feels fast and instantaneous, that is all that matters. Existing owners of the S22 Ultra might not feel the need to spend RM5,699 and above for a better camera and a slight performance bump.
On the flip side, most people do not get new phones every year anyways, so if you are coming from a older generation of Android smartphones looking for the latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra should be in your consideration.
For more information of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, please visit the official website here.