Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review: It’s a Lot — in a Good Way

    This story is a part of Samsung Event, CNET’s assortment of reports, ideas and recommendation round Samsung’s hottest merchandise.

    Samsung desires the Galaxy S23 Ultra to be the go-to digicam for cinematographers and photographers. I’m actually not knowledgeable filmmaker, nor do I think about myself to be a shutterbug. But after utilizing the Galaxy S23 Ultra for a number of days, it is clear the brand new digicam upholds the areas by which Samsung already excels — like low-light pictures — and pushes these strengths a bit additional.  The $1,200 (£1,249, AU$1,949) Galaxy S23 Ultra will likely be accessible on Feb. 17 alongside the remainder of Samsung’s new cellphone lineup, which incorporates the $800 Galaxy S23 and $1,000 Galaxy S23 Plus. Like final yr’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, the S23 Ultra’s big display, excessive value and souped-up digicam could also be an excessive amount of for the typical individual.  The identify “Ultra” says all of it; this cellphone is for individuals who desire a cellphone that is excessive. Compared to the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus, the Ultra gives a more in-depth zoom magnification than most individuals will in all probability want, a stylus that shops contained in the cellphone and a large 6.8-inch display that is bigger than each these of the iPhone 14 Pro Max and Google Pixel 7 Pro. You won’t want all that extra, however after utilizing this cellphone for a number of days, I would not blame you for wanting them. 

    LikeQuick performanceExcellent predominant digicam, particularly in low lightBright displayIncluded stylusDouble the storage within the base modelFour years of Android OS updates

    Don’t LikeExcessive valuePhotos do not at all times look pure, particularly selfiesNo enhancements to quick charging

    Samsung largely achieves its purpose of offering a deluxe cellphone with a wonderful digicam and big show. But it is not good. That excessive value is tough to disregard, and pictures taken on the Galaxy S23 Ultra do not at all times look as pure as these captured on the iPhone 14 Pro or Pixel 7 Pro.  Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra digicam is a step up If you watched Samsung’s Unpacked presentation, you already know the S23 Ultra’s predominant digicam is its prized attribute. Samsung added a 200-megapixel sensor for the primary time, marking a technical improve from the S22 Ultra’s 108-megapixel predominant shooter.  With the S23 Ultra, you will have the choice to shoot pictures at a 12-megapixel, 50-megapixel or 200-megapixel decision, which you’ll modify within the settings menu alongside the digicam’s viewfinder. Samsung’s Expert Raw app is now built-in into the native digicam app after you obtain it for the primary time. Although I do not sometimes edit uncooked pictures myself, the use case actually appears applicable for a cellphone like this. Shooting in uncooked permits photographers to edit the complete, uncompressed model of a picture, giving them extra flexibility and knowledge to work with by way of colours and publicity.  The cameras stage up on Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.
    James Martin/CNET
    Under-the-hood enhancements to paint, dynamic vary, autofocus and low-light efficiency appear extra significant than the decision bump. Samsung stated when asserting the S23 Ultra that its new picture sensor is healthier at minimizing noise, and that its algorithms have gotten higher at enhancing colour tones and particulars. Samsung largely positioned these enhancements within the context of video recording and low-light pictures, however they appear evident throughout normal nonetheless pictures, too. These adjustments are extra noticeable to the bare eye than the elevated decision.  Unless in any other case specified, the pictures on this article had been taken on the default 12-megapixel decision as a result of the 200-megapixel recordsdata are simply too massive to show right here. You can nonetheless see adjustments in how the digicam processes colour, pores and skin tone and dynamic vary even at this decrease decision. However, I did seize a number of 200-megapixel pictures all through the course of my testing.  The greatest variations I observed in these 200-megapixel pictures in comparison with the 108-megapixel pictures taken on the Galaxy S22 Ultra needed to do with colour. Flowers had been extra vibrant shades of orange and timber appeared extra lush. The distinction in decision is simply noticeable whenever you zoom all the way in which in to view the precise dimension of the pixels.  The pictures beneath, nevertheless, present how the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s digicam has modified in comparison with the S22 Ultra’s. Take a take a look at the pictures of timber and shrubbery taken at a park. Although you won’t discover it within the smaller embedded model beneath, the leaves within the S23 Ultra’s photograph have a bit extra separation and crispness in comparison with the S22 Ultra’s, and there is additionally higher distinction within the tree bark. In the pictures of sweets organized in a baker’s show case beneath, the S23 Ultra captured extra element on the strawberries within the high row.  Those who’ve taken pictures with Samsung telephones earlier than might need observed that colours generally look exaggerated. Samsung has improved this lately, however the Pixel 7 Pro and that iPhone 14 Pro nonetheless take pictures that look extra pure total. But, pure would not at all times imply higher. There are instances when Samsung’s overstated colour works effectively, and others when it would not. For pictures of individuals and pets, for instance, Samsung’s emphasis on colour may end up in extra flattering pictures. In the images beneath, my husband most popular the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s photograph over the extra natural-looking picture from the Pixel 7 Pro as a result of it made his beard and eyes look extra vibrant. But he preferred the iPhone 14 Pro’s photograph greatest as a result of it struck the precise stability of accuracy and daring colour. The iPhone 14 Pro additionally captured much more element within the cookie-shaped bench he is sitting on. However, Samsung’s telephones do not at all times deal with difficult lighting situations very effectively. When snapping a photograph of my husband in entrance of a window at a bakery, each the S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra’s pictures appeared washed out and overexposed, though the S23 Ultra’s did have extra colour than the S22 Ultra’s. The iPhone 14 Pro’s was the very best of the bunch on this case, however the Pixel 7 Pro’s was spectacular, too.  Colors in panorama pictures taken on the Galaxy S23 Ultra can look brighter and exaggerated in comparison with these from the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro. Take a take a look at how that photograph of the park from earlier compares to related pictures taken on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro, and you may discover the shades of inexperienced look extra pure. The proper aspect of the iPhone 14 Pro’s photograph appears to be like blown out, however in any other case would have been a greater shot because the colours are extra correct. Still, Samsung did a fantastic job with dynamic vary; you possibly can see the shadows extra clearly in its photograph in comparison with the others. But Samsung continues to be the king of low-light pictures in my guide. In my testing, the Galaxy S23 Ultra captured higher element and colour. The Galaxy S23 Ultra was in a position to focus extra sharply than each the Pixel 7 Pro and that iPhone 14 Pro. It was additionally barely higher than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though it was generally an in depth name. My favourite instance of that is on this photograph of my cat, Buddy, proven beneath. Even although the iPhone 14 Pro’s photograph is brighter, I just like the S23 Ultra’s higher as a result of it has extra distinction and element. When these pictures side-by-side on a big monitor, you possibly can see the stripes in his fur extra clearly. The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photograph is simply too comfortable, whereas the Pixel 7 Pro’s appeared prefer it had a bluish filter over it once I seen it on a big display. It’s additionally one other instance of how the S23 Ultra’s emphasis on colour makes for a extra flattering photograph. Video recording on the Galaxy S23 Ultra was upgraded to 8K at 30 frames per second (fps), whereas it beforehand topped out at 24fps when taking pictures at that decision. Samsung additionally elevated the sector of view when recording 8K video, which could be very noticeable in comparison with the Galaxy S22 Ultra.  Even although Google gives extra pure colour in nonetheless pictures, I skilled the alternative on the subject of recording video. The Galaxy S23 Ultra usually captured extra reasonable colour and sharpness in comparison with the Pixel 7 Pro throughout my testing. The iPhone 14 Pro was an in depth competitor, however Samsung’s footage had a bit extra element. When testing the video capabilities of every cellphone, I recorded clips on the highest supported decision and body fee. That’s 8K at 30fps for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, 8K at 24fps for the Galaxy S22 Ultra and 4K at 60fps for the iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro.  Samsung additionally highlighted the S23 Ultra’s new 12-megapixel selfie digicam when asserting the cellphone, which it stated separates the topic from the background higher for extra readability. Selfies had been sharp and colourful total, and I most popular pictures taken with the S23 Ultra’s selfie digicam over the Pixel 7 Pro’s in each check. The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s had been akin to the S23 Ultra’s, however the iPhone 14 Pro’s selfies had the very best total mixture of element and correct colour. Samsung’s selfies generally appeared unnatural because the colour in my hair appeared exaggerated.  The solely exception was in very dim lighting, an space the place Samsung reigns supreme. Take a take a look at the selfie I took in a really darkish theater with purple lighting. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s photograph has far more element than the others.  When it involves the remainder of the cameras, you possibly can count on the identical association because the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In addition to the primary digicam, there’s additionally a 12-megapixel ultrawide digicam and two 10-megapixel telephoto lenses that permit for a 3x or 10x optical zoom and as much as 100x digital zoom. Photos from the ultrawide digicam packed loads of colour and brightness, as proven within the pictures beneath. You’ll additionally get extra zoom than you in all probability want on the S23 Ultra, however that is perhaps helpful for individuals who steadily take pictures at concert events and sporting occasions. The 100x digital zoom can really feel unwieldy, however Samsung does present a better optical zoom than its rivals. Like the S22 Ultra, the S23 Ultra can zoom optically as much as 10x, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro is at 3x and the Pixel 7 Pro is at 5x. Check out the photograph samples beneath to see the distinction in optical zoom ranges. Overall, I used to be impressed with the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s cameras. They stay the very best for zoomed-in photographs and low-light pictures. The enhancements to paint and dynamic vary are noticeable as effectively, and Samsung followers upgrading from a cellphone that is a minimum of two years previous will probably see a serious distinction. Still, the iPhone 14 Pro’s digicam was higher in most conditions, save for a number of exceptions.  Check out the gallery beneath for a more in-depth take a look at some pictures I captured with the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra efficiency The Galaxy S23 Ultra runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, which is not shocking contemplating Samsung sometimes makes use of the newest Qualcomm chip for its new telephones. What is shocking, nevertheless, is that Samsung determined to customise this chip greater than typical for the S23 sequence. Samsung calls it the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, and it is basically a particular model of the processor that is been optimized for higher efficiency and energy effectivity. A regular model of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is being included in rival telephones just like the OnePlus 11 5G.  The S23 Ultra feels quick and snappy, whether or not I’m simply swiping across the working system, taking part in video games whereas on a video name or working Samsung’s Dex program to make use of my cellphone as a PC. I plugged my S23 Ultra into an exterior monitor, hooked up a keyboard and mouse by way of Bluetooth and had 5 apps working, together with Google Docs, to take notes for this overview. I by no means skilled any lag or overheating throughout any of those duties. The S23 Ultra also can export movies rapidly, which is perhaps useful for many who shoot and edit video tasks on their cellphone steadily. In my testing, it exported a 30-second 4K video clip to 1080p three seconds quicker than the S22 Ultra and a full 10 seconds quicker than the Pixel 7 Pro on common. The iPhone 14 Pro, nevertheless, completed the job about three seconds quicker than the S23 Ultra on common. You’ll additionally get double the storage that is within the base mannequin of the Galaxy S23 Ultra (256GB versus 128GB), which provides you extra space to retailer these video tasks.  Samsung’s new cellphone additionally scored increased than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Pixel 7 Pro and OnePlus 11 5G on benchmarks meant to check computing energy in on a regular basis duties and in apps that require brief bursts of excessive efficiency, like cellular video games. The iPhone 14 Pro, nevertheless, scored increased than the S23 Ultra on the overall computing benchmark (Geekbench 5) however decrease on the one which measures temporary durations of excessive depth (3DMark Wild Life Extreme). 


    Galaxy S23 Ultra
    OnePlus 11 5G
    Galaxy S22 Ultra
    iPhone 14 Pro Max
    Pixel 7 Pro

    Higher scores are higher

    Frames per second

    Galaxy S23 Ultra
    OnePlus 11 5G
    Galaxy S22 Ultra
    iPhone 14 Pro Max
    Pixel 7 Pro

    Higher scores are higher

    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra battery life and charging The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 5,000-mAh battery, identical to the Galaxy S22 Ultra, nevertheless it ought to supply higher energy effectivity, due to its new processor. I must spend extra time with the cellphone to check it to the S22 Ultra, however the outcomes are promising up to now. After 12 hours of use, which equates to a full workday after which some, the battery was all the way down to 66%.  I had adaptive movement and adaptive brightness settings turned on, which modify the display’s refresh fee and brightness primarily based on the state of affairs. The always-on show function was additionally turned on, however I had “tap to show” enabled, which means it would not show the time and date except I touched the display. Battery life will at all times differ relying on how you utilize your machine. In this state of affairs, I used the cellphone to take pictures, file a number of movies, examine electronic mail, browse social media and stream music for about 15 minutes.  The Galaxy S23 Ultra has 45-watt quick charging.
    James Martin/CNET
    I additionally ran a 45-minute check by which I performed video games, made a 10-minute video name, checked social media and streamed video; over that span the S23 Ultra dropped from 100% to 94%. The Galaxy S22 Ultra dipped to 91% throughout that very same check. The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s outcomes are much like the Pixel 7’s, which additionally hit 94% after that 45-minute problem. (During this check, I stored the brightness at 50%, left the excessive refresh fee setting turned on and switched off the always-on show.)Like final yr’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a high wired charging velocity of 45 watts. You want to make use of the right adapter, which you will should buy individually in case you do not already personal one since Samsung would not bundle one within the field. So far, that 45-watt charging velocity has enabled my S23 Ultra to go from 46% to 91% in simply 30 minutes of charging. That’s not unhealthy, however it could be nice to see Samsung push issues additional now that corporations like OnePlus and Xiaomi are providing upwards of 100-watt quick charging. The Xiaomi 12T Pro, for instance, helps 120-watt quick charging and went from zero to 100% in 19 minutes, in keeping with my colleague Sareena Dayaram’s Xiaomi 12T Pro overview. 
    Galaxy S23 Ultra: Take a Closer Look at Samsung’s Giant New Phone

    See all pictures

    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra design, show and different options The Galaxy S23 Ultra appears to be like virtually similar to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It has the identical boxy edges that give it a sharper look in comparison with the common Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus. But this yr, the S23 Ultra is accessible in cream, inexperienced, black and lavender colour selections. Like final yr’s machine, it is rated for IP68 water resistance, which means it may be submerged in as much as 1.5 meters of contemporary water for 30 minutes.  There’s no mistake about it; the Galaxy S23 Ultra is a big cellphone, identical to its predecessor. It has a 6.8-inch display, making it barely greater than the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max and Google Pixel 7 Pro. It’s the kind of cellphone your folks would possibly gawk on the minute you’re taking it out of your pocket. That’s not an insult; there are many individuals on the market who love massive telephones. It’s simply one other reminder that this cellphone is not for everybody. But in case you do a variety of studying, gaming, photograph enhancing and TV watching in your cellphone and do not thoughts stretching your fingers for one-handed use, you will probably recognize the additional display house.  Like final yr, the S23 Ultra comes with an S Pen stylus.
    James Martin/CNET
    I’m additionally sure you will by no means battle to see the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s display in direct daylight. It’s tremendous vivid, reaching 1,750 nits, which is brighter than the Pixel 7 Pro’s 1,500-nit peak brightness however not fairly as luminous because the iPhone 14 Pro’s 2,000-nit peak outside brightness. Still, it is vivid sufficient to suit most individuals’s wants and circumstances. You’ll additionally get an S Pen stylus, identical to final yr’s Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung’s Ultra lineup has successfully changed the Galaxy Note sequence, which was beforehand recognized for its massive screens and embedded stylus. Expect the identical acquainted S Pen expertise on this machine; as quickly as you pop the pen out from the underside of the cellphone, you will see a pop-up menu with appropriate apps like Samsung Notes and the drawing app PenUp. I do not normally use the S Pen steadily, however I discovered myself jotting down notes in the course of the course of this overview greater than I had anticipated.  Samsung additionally as soon as once more commits to 4 generations of Android OS upgrades, which is on par with the OnePlus 11 and surpasses Google’s three-year promise for the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. Samsung, OnePlus and Google all present 5 years of safety updates for his or her newest units. That means you will not have to fret in regards to the S23 Ultra’s software program feeling outdated anytime quickly because it launches with Android 13 and Samsung’s One UI 5.1 software program. One additional function you get by going for the Ultra or Plus as an alternative of the common mannequin is ultrawideband assist, which makes it simpler to connect with close by units extra exactly than Bluetooth. UWB is not a necessity, however it might make sharing recordsdata or utilizing your cellphone as a digital automotive key quicker and simpler. We might see extra companies and equipment that require it sooner or later. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Buy or skip? The Galaxy S23 Ultra is so much, however in a great way. Its massive display, 200-megapixel digicam, 100x zoom and S Pen is perhaps greater than most individuals want in a cellphone. But that is precisely who Samsung is focusing on, and it is finally iterating on a system that is labored previously.  This is a cellphone for individuals actively looking for options like massive screens and versatile cameras which might be prepared to pay high greenback for them. If you simply desire a dependable new Android cellphone with a fantastic digicam, the cheaper Pixel 7 Pro, Galaxy S23 or Galaxy S23 Plus will probably do the trick. (However, we’ve not examined these different new Galaxy telephones, so we will not suggest them simply but).  The Galaxy S23 Ultra has an enormous 6.8-inch display.
    James Martin/CNET
    The barrier to entry for the Galaxy S23 Ultra is increased than that of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro. But you additionally get sure extras just like the S Pen, extra storage on the base stage, a barely bigger display and a greater zoom lens. Those aren’t must-haves for everybody, however this can be a cellphone for individuals who need extras like these.  The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s new digicam is essentially the most important change in comparison with final yr’s S22 Ultra. But in my expertise, the behind-the-scenes upgrades Samsung made to the way in which the digicam captures colour, pores and skin tones and dynamic vary are a extra welcome enchancment than elevated sharpness alone. Samsung might do extra to push the Galaxy Ultra line ahead in methods past the digicam. I’d have liked to see quicker charging, for instance. And despite the fact that the digicam is spectacular, the iPhone 14 Pro usually outpaced it in my testing. If you desire a big display, a fantastic digicam and are upgrading from a cellphone that is greater than two years previous, you will not be upset with the S23 Ultra. Just attempt to snag it at a reduction by means of a trade-in deal to make that $1,200 value simpler to swallow. How we check telephones We pit the Galaxy S23 Ultra (high) towards the iPhone 14 and extra.
    James Martin/CNET
    Every cellphone examined by CNET’s critiques workforce was really utilized in the actual world. We check a cellphone’s options, play video games and take pictures. We look at the show to see if it is vivid, sharp and vibrant. We analyze the design and construct to see how it’s to carry and whether or not it has an IP-rating for water resistance. We push the processor’s efficiency to the extremes utilizing each standardized benchmark instruments like GeekBench and 3DMark, together with our personal anecdotal observations navigating the interface, recording high-resolution movies and taking part in graphically intense video games at excessive refresh charges. All the cameras are examined in a wide range of situations from vivid daylight to darkish indoor scenes. We check out particular options like evening mode and portrait mode and evaluate our findings towards equally priced competing telephones. We additionally try the battery life through the use of it every day in addition to working a sequence of battery drain assessments. We have in mind further options like assist for 5G, satellite tv for pc connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus assist, quick charging speeds, foldable shows amongst others that may be helpful. And we in fact stability all of this towards the worth to provide the verdict on whether or not that cellphone, no matter value it’s, really represents good worth. 

    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra specs vs. Google Pixel 7 Pro, Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

    Galaxy S23 Ultra

    Google Pixel 7 Pro

    iPhone 14 Pro Max

    Display dimension, tech, decision, refresh fee

    6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,088×1,440 pixels; 120Hz

    6.7-inch OLED LTPO show; 3,120×1,440 pixels; 120Hz

    6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED show; 2,796×1,290 pixels; 120Hz

    Pixel density

    500 ppi


    460 ppi

    Dimensions (inches)

    6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 in

    6.14 x 3.02 x 0.35 in

    6.33 x 3.05 x 0.31 in.

    Dimensions (millimeters)

    163.3 x 78 x 8.9 mm

    162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9 mm

    160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm

    Weight (ounces, grams)

    234 g (8.25 oz)

    212 g (7.5 oz)

    240 g (8.47 oz)

    Mobile software program

    Android 13

    Android 13

    iOS 16


    200-megapixel (predominant), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 10-megapixel (telephoto) 10-megapixel (telephoto)

    50-megapixel (predominant), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 48-megapixel (telephoto)

    48-megapixel (large), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)

    Front-facing digicam




    Video seize





    Galaxy-optimized Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

    Google Tensor G2

    Apple A16 Bionic


    12GB + 256GB; 12GB + 512GB; 12GB + 1TB

    12GB + 128 GB, 12GB + 256GB, 12GB + 512GB

    RAM NA; 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

    Expandable storage




    Battery/charging speeds

    5,000 mAh (45W wired charging)

    5,000 mAh (20W wired charging)

    Undisclosed; Apple claims 29 hours of video playback (20W wired charging)

    Fingerprint sensor



    None (Face ID)





    Headphone jack




    Special options

    5G (mmw/Sub6), IP68 ranking, quicker wired charging, wi-fi PowerShare to cost different units, built-in S-Pen, 200x Space Zoom, 10x Optical Zoom, UWB for locating different units

    5G, IP68 ranking, Face Unblur

    Dynamic Island; Always-On show; 5G enabled; MagSafe; water-proof (IP68); wi-fi charging; dual-SIM capabilities (e-SIM)

    US value off-contract

    $1,200 (12GB/256GB)

    $899 (£849, AU$1,299)

    $1,099 (128GB), $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB), $1,599 (1TB)

    UK value

    £1,249 (12GB/256GB)


    £1,199 (128GB)

    Australia value

    AU$1,949 (12GB/256GB)


    AU$1,899 (128GB)

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