The Galaxy S23 Ultra—the hero of Samsung’s latest line of flagship phones—is more of an incremental upgrade than a technological leap from last year’s S22 Ultra. Put them side by side and you can hardly tell the difference.
But under the skin, this phone comes with a new 200MP main snapper that promises even higher quality shots than its predecessor. Plus, it gets the top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Note that all S23 Ultras in all regions are equipped with this as Samsung puts its Exynos options to rest.
At launch, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is priced at P81,990 for the 256GB variant; P89,990 for the 512GB; and an eye-watering P103,990 for the 1TB variant. Those aren’t exactly cheap, but you do get a lot for the price—a master-of-all Android phone, dare we say.
So, is this phone’s steep asking price worth it? Here’s what we found out after several weeks with our review unit:
Design & display
Like the S22 Ultra, the latest Ultra variant has a boxy design and a matte-like finish that feels good to the touch. Both the screen and back are protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and Corning claims this can withstand a 1-meter drop onto concrete and a 2-meter drop onto asphalt. It’s also IP68-rated, meaning it’s dust- and water-resistant to 1.5 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes.
Samsung reduced the curve of the edges of the display. This not only makes the phone easier to grip but also gives you a flatter surface to use the S Pen on. Writing notes even on the edges of the display is easier on the S23 Ultra than last year’s flagship.
And speaking of the display, the 6.8-inch panel is a delight to look at. It has a 1440 x 3088 resolution, is bright and punchy (a little too vivid, if we may add, but not too far from real life), plus its Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology ensures you get beautiful blacks and contrast levels. Using your phone outdoors? No problem! The panel is readable under direct sunlight.
The adaptive 120Hz refresh rate means scrolling is a smooth experience, while its 240Hz touch sampling rate gives an almost pen-on-paper feel when using the S Pen.
Needless to say, watching videos is a delightful experience on the massive display. The down-firing stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support produce clear, loud sounds that should be enough for solo viewing.
Overall, the S23 Ultra is a massive phone with a premium feel and stunning multimedia features.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a new main camera with a 200MP f/1.7 ISOCELL HP2 sensor with autofocus. This is complemented by a 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera, a 10MP 10x f/4.9 periscope camera, a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto unit (3x optical zoom), and a 10MP f/4.9 telephoto with 10x optical zoom capable of up to 100x space zoom. There’s also a 12MP f/2.2 front shooter for selfies and video calls.
Unsurprisingly, the phone’s main camera performed excellently when it comes to daytime outdoor photography. Indoor photos also came out great even when the lighting isn’t optimal.
Low-light photography is also good. Colors, white balance, and shadows are preserved and there’s minimal noise. With Night mode on, subjects in poorly lit environments come out brighter while still retaining a lot of detail.
Check out some of the photos we took:
In terms of raw power, Samsung has gone straight to the top with the use of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. This is paired with 12GB of RAM and you can choose from three storage options: 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. There’s no microSD card slot here, but the onboard storage should be plenty of capacity for most users.
Unsurprisingly, the S23 Ultra can easily run all the apps that you need. We used it as our daily driver for several weeks and performance was consistently zippy. It was responsive to taps and swipes, and multitasking was no problem.
Given the improved power efficiency of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 5000mAh battery lasted us from breakfast ’til bedtime with moderate use. It even had more than enough power left (about 20%) to set off our morning alarm.
If you do need to charge, this phone supports 45W fast charging, which will get you from 0 to 100% in about an hour. Do note, however, that there’s no included charger in the box.
So, going back to our question above: is this phone’s steep asking price worth it? Well, there are two answers to that.
If you’re coming from the S22 Ultra, you might want to hold off upgrading to this year’s flagship and wait for the next one instead. Save your precious pesos and enjoy and maximize your S22 Ultra’s outstanding features first.
However, if you’re a power user who needs a flagship Android phone that can handle any task well—and money is no object—then yes, you should definitely consider the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.