All right, I know what you might be thinking “Wait, the S23 Ultra is no different from last year’s S22 Ultra”! Well, this S22 Ultra was my daily Android smartphone for the whole year last year, and after using this S23 UItra for a week, I can safely say that you, my friend, are wrong!
Build Quality & Design
Now, remember Samsung’s Note series lineup? Yeap, rest in peace, my old friend. Well, this new S23 Ultra is much more Note-like with its more squared-off design.
And this slightly boxier refresh feels excellent to hold as a daily smartphone and gives you that sort of nostalgic feeling of using the Note series where you can feel the similarities between the last Note, which is the Note 20 Ultra which tells you that Samsung is serious about making the phone better designed for using with the S Pen.
Now, this classy matte Green finish along with the boxier design gives a nice grip when I was holding the phone naked. And yes I have been using the phone daily without a case no worries. However, I do miss the White color option which is no longer available but this Green over here is definitely a refreshing take.
But a slight downside for this beauty is that since I’m not using a case when I use the phone on the table, it does tend to wobble from the middle to the bottom right of the screen. Definitely nothing major but worth pointing out if you prefer using this naked, so you probably need to put some clothes on, err… I mean a case on.
And what’s major is Samsung’s focus on being sustainable with their products and it’s great to know that the Samsung S23 Ultra is now using up to 12 recycled materials compared to the 6 in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Now just because it is using a recycled product, that does not mean that it will impact the solidity of the phone because it’s one of the most solid phones that I’ve held so far.
Now as usual, Samsung is known for its display technology and once again this S23 Ultra features one of the best screens out there and the 6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is definitely huge where the edge just slightly tapers off the screen to the size of the phone making the phone look flatter than how it looks during my first impressions and that is certainly a great thing.
And with that, the screen has a very accurate DCI-P3 color gamut which means gorgeous colors with the best-in-class contrast and black levels.
And there’s even an option in the display settings to switch to Natural if you don’t enjoy the vivid colors and adjusting the white balance down to its RGB settings which were nice but I left it at default on the Vivid settings. So it’s like having Samsung’s best QLED TV scale down to the palm of your hands when it comes to the size, which is something that I just can’t stop looking at the phone screen.
Now since it is an LTPO screen so the screen will automatically change between 1Hz to 120Hz depending on what you have on your screen, giving a buttery smooth scrolling and gaming while saving battery life… Or does it really save battery life? Well, more on my battery life later on.
Then it also has a peak brightness of 1750 nits which is more than enough usage under direct sunlight and it also comes with the advanced Vision Booster where the phone will automatically change the screen color tone or quality for improved clarity, whether or not you are outdoors or indoors as well.
And I’ve said it before in my first impressions video and I’ll say it again that the screen on this phone is the best at getting the right amount of automatic screen brightness, where there’s never a point in time where the screen was too bright under low light or too dim under bright daylight, making the experience extremely seamless and with that, making this one of the most compelling reasons to get the phone.
But then again, it is the same screen as the S22 Ultra right? Well you are right but with a simple tweak of the edges as mentioned earlier in the build quality, was indeed that something that made the experience when using the phone even better.
Okay, how about the cameras then? Well, a recap of the specs:
- There is a 200MP F1.7 wide camera, which is a massive jump compared to the previous 108MP lens
- Then the rest is a 12MP F2.2 Ultrawide camera
- a 10MP F4.9 10x Periscope Telephoto lens
- and a 10MP F2.4, all for the rear
And the front is a 12MP F2.2 aperture lens compared to a massive 40MP lens from last year. And while it does seem like a downgrade, but here is where you’re wrong. Say what? Yes, believe it or not and I’ll show you some image comparison in a moment but let’s first start with the rear cameras.
Now starting from the 200MP mode, with this high resolution, it would be great if you’re someone who likes to re-compose your shots.
Now personally for me, I don’t come into situations where I really need to use this High MP mode, but there is someone who definitely does. However I do appreciate the pixel binning images where it did look very great since it does make the image look extra sharp with details and dynamic range, which overall surpasses my expectations when I decided to pinch and pixel peep into my pictures.
Then the Ultrawide images were sharp from edge to edge as always, with no barrel distortion.
Then as for the Portrait mode, the autofocus was very much improved compared to the previous version and super easy to nail the focus. Definitely effortless to get a great shot.
Now at night, Samsung takes it a step above compared to last year’s model, not that I found that anything was wrong in the first place for the S22 Ultra, but it has heavily improved because the picture quality on the Ultrawide was consistent throughout with the right amount of dynamic range with balanced highlights and shadows.
And the same can be said for the Main lens, which can be a touch brighter due to its slightly lower aperture value in the lens, which is great stuff overall for the rear cameras but the definite bigger surprise is the front camera.
Because as mentioned, the megapixel count dropped this year from 40MP to 12MP but is even sharper than before, as the skin tones were natural, and the details on my hair were very well pronounced and doesn’t look over-processed or even over-sharpened. And if you prefer a warmer tone of your skin, there’s a new toggle that you can turn that on as well. And yes, as you can see in this comparison photo compared to last year’s S22 Ultra. So I guess this is definitely the case where bigger does not mean better.
[Sample videos are on my YouTube video]
How about video then? Well it records up to 8K 30 frames per second which I have already said before it’s the correct frame rate to use when it comes to recording any sort of video resolution, compared to using 24 frames per second on 8K on last year’s model.
And what I was truly amazed was how the video stabilization was because finally there is a smartphone that is capable of recording perfectly usable 8K video.
Now of course, not everyone will use this 8K recording, which is perfectly fine since most screens do not support that resolution just yet and the sizes are ultra-massive. So I do use the 4K feature most of the time, which is very nice and sharp and expected due to its bigger megapixel count.
Now if you’re a fan of a blurry background or that shallow depth of field look, both the front and the rear camera can record portrait video up to 4K and it does it very well even with two people in the frame.
Now the video recording is more than just a well-lit situation, which happens to be the case for most smartphones because even at night, the low light environment on the video was superb where there was a massive improvement, especially on the image stabilization taking videos at night, thanks to the 2x wider OIS for the S23 Ultra.
Now we all know that the hardware is good, but how is the software experience like? Well, it’s very Samsung-like which I absolutely love because it is as good as it functions.
So the current One UI 5.1 is shipped based on Android 13. Now it is still my favorite Android skin since it’s super clean and straightforward. Now if you have used MIUI or even ColorOS, you would know how complicated those can be which I’m really not a fan of and this is not the case.
Now, one of the most useful widgets recently on the One UI 5.1 skin is the new Battery widget and here’s where you can see all the battery status for all of the devices connected to the devices easily, like the S Pen, Galaxy Buds and also the Galaxy Watch as well.
Then there’s ton of more One UI customization like showing the different types of style, font or color of the Clock widgets on your lock screen, where you can even customize the notification dot while adjusting its transparency or just using icons.
Then below, you can either put your contact information or an inspiration quote or emojis as well. Then another favorite feature of mine is that not only you can change the wallpaper colors but after choosing which color you want, you can even adjust the colors further to get that customized look for your phone.
Now, to be honest, there are tons more features like this that make One UI the best Android skin in my opinion and I’m sure you will agree too.
Then if you want to go even crazier with customizing the phone even more, you can always use GoodLock since it is available officially in the Malaysian region too, where you can get the GoodLock official app from the Galaxy Store and get it installed.
Next, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset is not your typical chipset as this one is called “For Galaxy” where the chip is slightly overclocked specifically for Samsung to get a little extra boost of performance, compared to other phones using the same chip, something like the OnePlus 11 that I’ve tested as well.
So naturally, everything feels nice and snappy from the get go, even when it comes to gaming which I’ll get into in a moment. Heat management is also really good too except when it’s connected through Android Auto where it does make the phone pretty hot and that could be the case of Android Auto being updated because it does look pretty outdated when it comes to the UI anyway.
Then it Knox fingerprint sensor is quick to set up, runs flawlessly for me and it is the fastest compared to any other smartphone that I have tried.
Now Samsung is also upped its software and security game by pledging to provide 4 years of major OS updates, 5 years of security patches compared to the previous 3 years of OS and 4 years of security patches, which is a huge win for consumers and the environment in general.
Now, during my entire weeks of use, I decided to use Genshin Impact for my game testing. And this my friend, had the best gaming experience that I had on any Android so far, even beating the OnePlus 11, so much so that it can even rival the flagship iPhone’s performance.
Now, gameplay is silky smooth with no lag or micro stutter, even when motion blur is set to Extreme. The whole mobile gaming experience is awesome with excellent detail and also nice color reproduction.
The stereo speakers were also clear and loud, and the boxier design gave a more ergonomic and comfortable handheld experience.
Now the phone only became quite warm after the 24th-minute mark and the battery drain also was quite fast at Max settings, so I would recommend to bumping it down to Medium settings for a much longer battery life in gaming session. But yes, compared to last year’s S22 Ultra, there is a huge improvement when it comes to gaming on the S23 Ultra.
So, every great product comes with an Achilles heel, and for this phone, it has to be the battery life on my first week of testing, because while the battery capacity is at 5000mAh but with its power-hungry hardware like the flagship processor and the screen, typically the phone fell into 10% after 3.5 hours of screen-on time and sometimes just 4 on WQHD+ resolution and dark mode turned on at 10% battery. And this does increase to about 5 hours plus when I lowered down the resolution of FHD+ which is more than enough for me to get by my day, with a quick top-up in the middle of the day during my workout sessions.
But yes, I do understand that this may be a deal breaker for some of you out there, so do let me know what you guys think. And by the way, I’m not sure how Marques is getting 8 hours on the phone, so I will revisit this after a full software update.
So the S Pen on the S22 Ultra and also the S23 Ultra is the same, so you can expect a same experience for features like turning the handwriting to text, and the most underrated feature for me personally is the Bluetooth control for the camera app, so do expect a dedicated video for me to do a best tips and tricks on the S Pen.
Who is this for?
So who is the S23 Ultra for? Well, it is a flagship device with a premium flagship price, it starts from RM5,699 for 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM…
…and going all the way up to RM7,199 but of course with higher storage of 1TB.
But the excellent news is that if you pre-order before the 23rd of February, you can get the 1TB version for RM6,699 and there are some trade-in deals from Samsung too which include a broken screen of your old device and more.
So who is this phone once again for? The power user and the one who wouldn’t settle for less but the best! And of course, that is if you don’t mind topping up your battery after a long single day’s use and if you have an old smartphone that you feel you’re ready to trade in to get a better buy-in value, so if all of that sounds like you, then this is a no-brainer.