SAMSUNG GALAXY S23 ULTRA REVIEW. The new Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is on a mission to establish itself as the new benchmark among high-end phones at Android. Deal ? The answer in our test.
Samsung has a lot to do this year for its Galaxy S23. While the previous generation was able to establish itself on the market with excellent devices, the S22 range suffered from comparison with the competition. In question: the house Exynos processor which suffered from several shortcomings, and was only offered on the European versions of the S22.
For its Samsung Galaxy S23, farewell to the Exynos and make way for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the most powerful chip on the market today on the Android side. We were able to test the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in preview before its release on Friday February 17, and we were not disappointed.
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra hardly changes this year. This is not bad news since the design of its predecessor (largely inspired by the Galaxy Note range) was already excellent. The phone therefore sports well-drawn lines in a rectangular format that contrasts with the majority of smartphones today. The buttons on the side are well placed and fall well under the thumb. The compartment for the stylus is always placed at the bottom of the phone and remains easy to use on a daily basis.
This very “premium” format still gives the phone a certain size. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra may not be suitable for smaller hands who will prefer to look to another device in the S23 range. During our daily tests, several people around us had particular difficulty slipping the phone completely into their pocket.
The other small negative side of the design of the S23 Ultra lies in its photo sensors. The lenses, quite protruding, prevent the phone from resting well on a flat surface. A rather anecdotal defect, but which can be frustrating when you want to use the stylus on the S23 Ultra placed on a table. We therefore recommend that you have a case to solve this problem, and protect the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel. Widely appreciated on the previous generation, the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S23 seems to inherit all the good sides of its elder. We are very clearly facing one of the best screens on the market, especially for its brightness. It's simple: even in direct sunlight, you should have no trouble viewing content on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's screen.
The S23 Ultra's default display mode is calibrated to "vivid". We recommend switching to the “natural” display instead to have colors and renderings that are more faithful to reality. Samsung has a habit of over-saturated colors on its screens and photos, which we will also see later in this test.
Note that this year, all smartphones in the Samsung Galaxy S23 range benefit from an adaptive refresh rate ranging from 1 to 120 Hz depending on the content displayed. This allows the S23 Ultra to have a fluid display, especially during games and applications. A very pleasant rendering, especially for our sessions on games like Call of Duty, Diablo Immortal or Genshin Impact at 60 FPS.
If there is one change to note this year on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, it is that of its processor. In-house Exynos production point in Europe, as has been the case for years at Samsung, but a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip.
An important and certainly difficult decision for Samsung. The previous Exynos 2200 processor that fitted the Samsung S22 Ultra had long been decried by the community for its relevance to Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm. Let's be clear: if the Exynos processors remain of good quality, they suffered from the comparison with the Snapdragon chips.
We were able to try the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for several weeks, and the phone did not disappoint us with its power. Navigating between different web pages and applications is fluid, the animations follow one another without any slowdown or freeze on the screen.
On Genshin Impact, our benchmark title, the game was completely smooth with a constant 60 FPS and the graphics set to “very high”. We note all the same a small heating of the processor, but nothing very significant compared in particular to the S22 and its Exynos 2200 which really made fear the worst for the autonomy of the components.
The icing on the cake: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra also seems very good at managing the energy of the phone and guaranteeing excellent autonomy. A point to which we will return in a few lines.
If there is one point on which high-end smartphones stand out, it is the photo. The Samsung Galaxy S23 has four sensors (like the S22) including a new 200MP main lens. The latter is particularly at the heart of Samsung's communication for its new smartphone. Here are all the photo sensors present on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra:
By day, the photos taken with the 200 Mpx sensor of the S23 Ultra are of very good quality. The details are provided and it is often possible to zoom into the image without losing too much in quality. However, the S23 Ultra's algorithm tends to push the saturation a little too much. You will therefore regularly obtain very colorful shots, but not very faithful to reality. A detail that can please as well as annoy.
If the 200 Mpx has an impact on the overall quality of your shots, it also has an impact on the weight of your images. A photograph taken with the 12 Mpx mode (by default) will weigh in at 5 MB, while the same shot taken with the 200 Mpx sensor will go up to 40-50 MB! Note also a much longer trigger time for the 200 Mpx sensor with about a second (which can be decisive when your subject is moving) to trigger the device.
The Ultra Wide Angle sensor also allows you to produce nice shots when the light is at the rendezvous. The quality remains excellent overall, even if we feel a certain lack of detail on certain elements that are more difficult to capture from a distance, such as grass or hair.
The zooms with the x3 or x10 telephoto lens on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra allow you to take fairly good shots at long distances. However, there is a new gain in color saturation, with gray walls becoming almost white in some of our test photos.
Note the presence of a 100x digital zoom which, while it is very fun to use to impress friends at parties or photograph the moon, is more of a gadget than anything else. The shots taken with the x100 zoom are simply unusable in the majority of cases. However, we will be delighted with the software processing which manages to smooth the texts to make them readable even from so far away.
At night, the photo sensors of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra do well, and are likely to establish themselves as among the best students in this category. The “night” mode of the S23 Ultra makes it possible in particular to better deal with bright objects such as street lamps, neon lights and other light sources. The colors are also more faithfully transcribed with lights that tend more towards realism rather than overexposure.
Among the different modes available on the S23 Ultra's camera, we find the now very popular "portrait" mode. The latter allows you to isolate your subject (a person for example) and to process the background of the image independently to apply a blur, a background or even a color. If the results mainly depend on your subject, the results of the "portrait" mode with the S23 Ultra remain generally very good with good clipping around difficult to isolate areas such as hair.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra runs Android 13 with the One UI 5.1 software overlay. We must particularly salute the latter in terms of animations and navigation which are extremely fluid. Switching between different applications has never been so quick and pleasant on a Samsung smartphone until now. An excellent point that deserves some attention.
Note also Samsung's investment in planned updates for the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The latter should benefit from no less than 4 years of Android updates and 5 years of security patches. Enough to guarantee a long life for your high-end device.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is available in three versions depending on the storage space: 256 GB, 512 GB and 1 TB. Unfortunately, One UI 5.1 seems to take up a lot of space on the phone, as evidenced by the articles of our various colleagues. Our review unit already sees almost 40 GB of its storage taken up by system files alone. The fault in particular of many applications pre-installed on the device.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 5000 mAh battery as was already the case with the previous generation. However, we observe a clear gain in autonomy during our various tests. These improvements certainly come from the presence of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor which was already known to effectively manage energy expenditure on other competing smartphones.
Unplugged at 9 a.m., our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra still showed nearly 60% battery in the evening around 6 p.m. An excellent score which corrects one of the major flaws of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra which struggled to last more than a day. In particular, we spent the day sending a few texts, going through social networks, watching a few videos on YouTube and listening to music on Spotify. The autonomy of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra impresses and is on a par with its main competitor, the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
If the autonomy of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is much better compared to its predecessor, this is unfortunately not the case for recharging. The latter, still confined to 45 W, does not evolve compared to that of the S22 Ultra. Count about 1h05 to fully charge the phone. Also note that Samsung hasn't included a charger in its boxes for several years now.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is compatible with 5G communication bands and Wi-Fi 6e. During our various tests, we did not find any problem with receiving messages or notifications. Browsing the web is also fluid and does not suffer from any latency compared to the network we had. You can take full advantage of a 5G connection as long as your plan is compatible.
We also tested the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with different wireless headphones and smartwatches from different brands. If the fitting was not always instantaneous, their daily use presented no problem, and the S23 Ultra pairs very well with various connected objects.
What a pleasure to handle the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on a daily basis! The formula is simple: take the S22 Ultra, fix its major flaws, and you get the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The phone is a real surprise and repositions Samsung as a serious competitor in the high-end phone sector. The addition of the 200 Mpx sensor also makes it possible to take sumptuous shots despite a more pronounced image weight. Note also the addition of the RAW format which will allow budding photographers to enjoy better quality for retouching their photos on the computer.
If the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra stands out as an excellent smartphone, it is not free from flaws. Its format will clearly not appeal to everyone as one-handed use remains difficult. Let's also mention its recharging which, blocked at only 45 W (with charger not included!) will take almost an hour to restore the phone to 100% of its battery. Finally, sold at a high price of €1,419 at launch, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra still represents a hell of a cost.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is available from Friday, February 17, 2023. Pre-orders on the phone allowed you to double the storage space at no additional cost, as well as benefit from a €150 bonus on the trade-in of your old device.
Promotions on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra could well appear quite quickly. High-end smartphones from Samsung are used to being quickly affected by price cuts. We will not fail to communicate on these in our article dedicated to pre-orders and promotions available on Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones.