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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Just impressive

The new premium phone from Samsung delivers smooth performance, longer battery life and excels exceptionally in terms of photography experience
Last Updated : 10 February 2023, 04:44 IST

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Last week, during the first edition of the 'Galaxy Unpacked 2023' event, Samsung unveiled the company's first new premium phones Galaxy S23 Ultra, S23 Plus and S23 along with the Galaxy Book2 Pro series.

The new phones come in multiple configurations with prices ranging from Rs 74,999 to Rs 1,54,999. They are slated to hit stores later this month on February 18. Is the new flagship Galaxy S23 series worth buying? Check out the review to make an informed decision.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Design, build quality and display
Samsung's new Galaxy S23 Ultra retains the original design language of its predecessor. The individual camera sensors and companion LED flash are fused to the back panel, greatly reducing the thickness of the phone. It does two things-- with no big camera bump, the phone slips into the pocket with ease and also, the phone remains unique among the premium.

Any prospective phone buyer will be intrigued by the design and some who are tech-savvy will instantly know the device is from Samsung.

Also, the Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with an S Pen and holster built-in, which comes in handy in protecting the sensitive tip of the stylus and doesn't get misplaced easily.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As for the build material is concerned, Samsung has doubled down on reducing the carbon print in terms of manufacturing the device. Compared to the S22 series, the successor has double the recycled materials used for power buttons, volume rockers, and internal components, which are said to be repurposed from discarded plastics and fish nets found in the ocean. Even the armoured aluminium that encases the device is also recycled.

Having said that, there is no compromise on premium quality. It is sturdier than any previous iterations and when you feel how superior the grade of the glass on the back and the frame around the edge are. The frosted finish on the green-hued review unit, to an extent, repels the fingerprint smudges and dust. But, when looked from near, at certain angles they are visible.

The company has incorporated Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the sturdiest shield available on Android premium phones. This ensures the device can sustain daily and tear and remain scratch free when kept in a pocket or a backpack with other articles such as keys, pens and coins.

Samsung offers official accessories for the Galaxy S23 series. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung offers official accessories for the Galaxy S23 series. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Also, with the IP68 rating, the device is capable of surviving the drop in the swimming pool for up to 1.5 metre (around five feet) for close to 30 minutes. The company is also offering around 13 cover case options, but have to be bought separately.

On the front, the Galaxy S23 Ultra features a big 6.8-inch QHD+ Edge (1440 x 3088p) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display with support for variable refresh rate (1Hz-120Hz), 240Hz Touch Sampling Rate (during Game Mode).

Also, it boasts the adaptive Vision Booster, an improvement over its predecessor. This display panel now can automatically adjust the brightness to ensure, the content is rich with colour, and remain uniform, be it you are outdoors with direct sunlight or in shade or indoors at home or office.

It should be noted that the Galaxy S23 Ultra supports up to 1,750 nits peak brightness and is an absolute delight to consume content on the phone. Even under direct sunlight in the morning, I was able to view messages and read news on the screen without having to squint my eyes. The display quality is just top-notch on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Last but not the least, the in-screen optical fingerprint sensors work fine and it worked with fewer false rejections. Ensure, the fingers are dry when unlocking the phone.

Performance
As promised during the launch, the custom Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (also S23 Plus and S23) truly has an impact on performance. It is can clock CPU speed up to 3.36GHz, faster than other premium phones with standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (3.2GHz).

Working the Galaxy S23 Ultra is a smooth affair, the apps load quicker and ensure the apps in the background keep working and resume at the same point when left.
Also, Samsung offers RAM Plus, which enables users to expand the pre-set RAM capacity of 12GB to expand up to 8GB more, provided there is enough storage in the phone. This means, you can have up to 20GB RAM and this ensures the device works silky smooth.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra comes in three variants-- 12GB RAM + 256GB storage, 12GB RAM + 512GB storage and 12GB RAM + 1TB. The device runs Android 13-based OneUI 5.1. The user interface is clean but the phone comes with a lot of apps pre-installed. In our review model, the system software occupies a little over 49GB of the 256GB and the rest 206GB is available for the user.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Another notable improvement we see in the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the Ray Tracing feature. With this, the phone's display will be able to support top-end graphics-heavy games. It will be able realistically to simulate the lighting of a scene and objects by rendering physically accurate reflections, refractions, shadows, and indirect lighting. These will offer an advantage for people to react faster while playing a car game or see the enemy even in the shadow and shoot it down faster than ever before. However, there are very limited games that support Ray Tracing and with more games scheduled to arrive in the coming games, Samsung has ensured Galaxy S23 Ultra is a future-ready gaming phone.

The most noticeable aspect of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is its thermal performance. With a bigger vapour chamber and efficient silicon in place, I had to really push the phone to the limits to generate heat on the phone. To be precise, I played videos outdoors for more than 40 minutes to get the device warm. Even while gaming too, the phone does not easily heat up at all. You have to play long sessions before it starts to warm up. Two thumbs up for the improvement over the predecessor.

The S Pen, which comes built-in with the Galaxy S23 Ultra a valuable productivity tool for artists, students and corporates to take notes or create presentations. With deeper integration with the Microsoft suite of apps and also Windows-powered laptops, the updated work gets synced automatically and resumes at the exact point on the PC, you left on the phone or vice versa.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with S Pen. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with S Pen. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As far as the battery life, the phone with 5,000mAh capacity excels with flying colours. During the testing, it barely lost three per cent when streaming videos for more than half an hour. It should be noted that the device was connected to Wi-Fi and if it is on mobile cellular data, the battery draining is faster but better than other premium phones I have reviewed in a couple of months.

It should be noted that battery life is very subjective and depends on media consumption behaviour. If you commute for a long distance between the home and the office and watch vlogs or stream content on OTT apps, then it is good practice to download them the previous night and watch them offline. This way, you can save battery for other activities such as social media browsing or taking notes on S Pen.

Like its predecessors, Samsung is not offering any charging adaptor. The phone comes with a Type-C-to-Type-C cable for charging and data transfer. It supports 45W wired charging, 15W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse charging. You can charge another phone with the reverse wireless charging capability --'power share' feature. Just place the device with the back facing on the Galaxy S23 Ultra's back to charge it.

It supports the 5G cellular service offered by both Airtel and Reliance Jio in India.

Photography
The new Galaxy S23 Ultra boasts a quad-camera module— 200MP (f/1.7, Super Quad Pixel. /1.7, 24mm wide sensor, 1/1.3-inch, 0.6µm, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS: Optical Image Stabilisation) main wide-angle camera backed by 12MP 120-degree ultra-wide (f/2.2, dual-pixel, 1/2.55-inch sensor, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, Super Steady video) sensor, 10MP 230mm periscope telephoto (f/4.9, 1/3.52-inch sensor, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom) lens and 70mm 10MP (1/3.52-inch, 1.12µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom) with LED flash on the back.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

As advertised, the new top-end phone manages to get the best quality photos in all lighting conditions. Some have claimed that the shutter speed of the camera is a bit slow, but as you continue to explore the features and take pictures, you forget petty little things and savour the moments captured well on the phone's camera.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with night mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With the Super Quad Pixel AutoFocus and adaptive lighting technology, a first for Galaxy phone, it was able to put full focus on the subject in the frame. The colour and details even in the shade are captured really well.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with ultra-wide angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with ultra-wide angle mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With the ultra-wide angle, you can cover a wide area of landmark buildings or hills with great colour accuracy and also, you won't find bending of objects issues at the left and right side of the frame.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The portrait mode works great in edge detection and differentiating the background and foreground. It also offers four fun filters to adjust the blur effect to make it more dramatic.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The close-up shots too, come off really well. The colours and minute details are captured well.

Macro photo sample of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Macro photo sample of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The long wait for astrophotography on Galaxy devices is finally ending with the Galaxy S23 series. I tried them in Bengaluru and unfortunately, the light-polluted skies don't do justice to the phone's camera capability. You have to travel outskirts to get the best pictures of the night sky. It should be noted that Astrophoto mode is available on Samsung's Exper RAW app and it is not available on the native Samsung camera app.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with 3X Optical Zoom. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with 3X Optical Zoom. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On a positive note, I was able to get a great photo of the moon. The phone was able to capture a sharp and visually great shot of the crater-riddled lunar surface.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with normal night mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with normal night mode. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Another first is the Hyperlapse mode. It works like magic. You just have to tap more in the camera app to find the feature and ensure, a frame rate of 300 fps, video recording to UHD and attach the phone to a tripod on a stable surface and press the shutter. And, keep it for at least 20-30 minutes to see the magic unfold. Unfortunately, the media file is too big to upload on social media platforms and but have to say, it is of very good quality, very hard to imagine, it is a phone, not a professional camera. Again, go for the outskirts of the city or if you happen to reside in a high-rise apartment, you can get the best hyper-lapse photo.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with 100X SpaceZoom mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample with 100X SpaceZoom mode on. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Galaxy S23 Ultra boasts dual-pixel autofocus, 2X wider OIS during video recording, and ensures sharp video quality with less noise. They can even capture up to 8K at 30fps (frames per second). The video quality and most importantly, the stability is noticeably improved over the predecessor and is deniably the best in the Android premium phone segment.

On the front, it houses a feature-rich 12MP( f/2.2, 26mm wide, Dual Pixel PDAF) camera. It can take up to 50MP quality photos, support AI Stereo Depth, and Super HDR. It takes really good selfies in all light conditions. Even in portrait mode too, it takes brilliant photos with a natural blur effect in the background.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The device can capture selfie 4K videos at 60/30 fps and support 16-bit RAW selfies. The videos recorded on the phone are great and on par with any premium phones in the market.

With value-added features such as photo remaster, object eraser and fun editing tools available on the native photos app, making the photography experience is better than before.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera sample. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Final thoughts
Though the Galaxy S23 Ultra looks exactly like its predecessor, everything else has undergone change for the better.

The custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 silicon for the Galaxy S23 series has made a real impact with noticeable improvement in terms of smooth operations, and battery life. With a bigger and enhanced vapour cooling chamber, the thermal performance is fantastic and you have to really push the device to the extreme to make the back panel and the frame turn warm. If the device happens to have a cover case on it, you may not feel the heat at all for a long time.

Already, Galaxy S series phones have an impressive photo remaster, object eraser and fun editing tools available on native photos app and now, with the addition of Astrophotography and hyper lapse, Samsung is getting really close to delivering Google Pixel phone-like camera capabilities.

And, with the S Pen support, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offer value-added features such as taking notes in a jiffy and the sound effect of writing on a note paper, making the experience even more real and enjoyable for most of us, who have lost touch with writing thanks to mechanical computer keyboards. It's just not that, S Pen can help you create artwork or practice to get better at it too. You can even do more work.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The display is top-notch, one of the best available on the phone in the industry. People will love binging on OTT apps or playing long gaming sessions on the Galaxy S23 Utra.

Another notable aspect of the new Galaxy S23 series is that Samsung has ensured the owner need not have to think of replacing it for several years, by promising to offer four years of Android updates and an additional year of security software support. Also, there is the increased use of recycled materials, It has a definite good impact on the environment, as companies don't have to mine more for precious minerals and save them for future generations.

The interesting thing to note is that all the Galaxy S23 series models sold in India are assembled at Samsung's world's largest phone manufacturing factory unit in Noida.
Considering the key aspects such as thermal performance, battery life and camera, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has set the bar high for others to follow in 2023.

Samsung is offering the device in three configurations—12GB RAM + 256GB storage, 12GB RAM + 512GB storage and 12GB RAM + 1TB—for Rs 1,24,999, Rs 1,34,999 and Rs 1,54,999, respectively. At authorised retail stores, the device will be available in three colours—phantom black, cream and green. And, on the official Samsung online store, the company is offering more vibrant colours—red, graphite, lime and sky blue.

Customers who pre-order the S23 Ultra are entitled to get Galaxy Watch4 Classic LTE and Galaxy Buds2, together for the special price of Rs 4,999.

The Galaxy S23 Plus comes in two variants—8GB RAM + 256GB storage and 8GB RAM + 512GB storage—for Rs 94,999 and 1,04,999, respectively, and in two colours—phantom black and cream. Customers who pre-order the S23 Plus are entitled to get Galaxy Watch4 (Bluetooth only) for just Rs 4,999.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps, cybersecurity, and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.

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Published 09 February 2023, 14:50 IST

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