When it comes to the best Android phones, Samsung's Galaxy S series is always high up people's want list. Sat at the top of the series is the Ultra model, which is the largest and most advanced of the lot. And in 2023 Samsung has given us the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a few new bells and whistles.
Naturally, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the top-tier flagship, being an upgrade over the 2022-released Galaxy S22 Ultra. And after rumours trickling out about the S23 Ultra's points of difference, with people wondering 'what's new?', everything is now official following the Galaxy Unpacked launch event on 1 February.
But is the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra actually that different to the S22 Ultra and worth an upgrade? The summary answer to the former part of that question is 'no, not really'. As for the latter? Well, that's up to you! So here's a section-by-section breakdown to help you make that decision and understand what the main differences are and whether the S23 Ultra is your ideal Android partner.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: What's new?
Rather than get too wordy right here, I'll point out a list of things new in the Galaxy S23 Ultra that S22 Ultra owners/fans/enthusiasts will immediately see as a point of difference.
Following that I'll go into more detail about how the S23 Ultra differs, including my commentary from having already seen and handled the new handset, to give greater context in each area.
- Main camera is 200-megapixels – Samsung's first in any of its phones
- 6.8-inch display has steeper side curves for larger flat front surface
- 8K video at 30fps recording – and at wider-angle (57-80 degrees)
- Night Vision improves upon Nightography for low-light shooting
- Co-edit Samsung Notes during Google Meet video calls
- Features Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front
- Colours: Phantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender
- Improved optical image stabilisation (OIS)
- Greater use of recycled parts
- One UI 5.1 software
S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Price
But first up: just how much will these devices cost you? As you can see in the live shopping widget below, the older S22 Ultra model is now well discounted from its original £1,149/$1,299/AU$1,849 price. Note that these prices are for the 'entry' model in the Ultra series.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn't retain the same price in the UK generation to generation, raising it by £100, or 9%, to £1,249. It's a similar story in Australia, where the Galaxy S23 Ultra has also received a AU$100 price increase, now starting at AU$1,949. And seeing as the older device is so heavily discounted right now, that may make your purchase decision all the easier, especially if you're looking to save around £/$500+.
S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Design & Display
When it comes to design, both the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra have the same screen size and therefore the same approximate dimensions.
However, there are two key new difference in the S23 Ultra's display. Firstly its left/right curved edges are steeper, creating a larger flat front surface area. I think that's a great step forwards, especially for a device that comes with a built-in S Pen stylus, for which a flat surface is the most logical.
Secondly it features Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the first device I've ever seen with this new finish, which is better at resisting drops from a metre. Always good to have the best possible glass protection on a device.
Otherwise the two panels feature the same specification: that means a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel with 120Hz refresh rate and 1440 x 3088 resolution. Still top notch, frankly, and I see no need for additional resolution here, because at 500ppi it's plenty sharp enough anyway.
The design is otherwise very similar between both flagship handsets. Even two of the colours (Phantom Black and Green) remain the same. However, the S23 Ultra (like the rest of the series) introduces Cream and Lavender as its two new options for the year. Nothing too outlandish.
S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Cameras
As you can see from the image up top, the camera layout of the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra doesn't change: there are three main rear optics projecting independently from the rear. The finish is a little different in the S23 Ultra, with more pronounced edging.
The big change in the S23 Ultra is, but of course, its new 200-megapixel main camera, upping the resolution from 108-megapixels on the S22 Ultra's main. That's used in a number of ways, but it's the 16-in-one processing that's key to it, delivering 12.5-megapixel results as standard.
Samsung is making its biggest shouts about the low-light capabilities of this sensor, with Nightography improvements touted, plus improvements in focusing accuracy and speed thanks to more reference points owed to that resolution.
On the video front the S23 Ultra can now capture 8K at 30fps, up from the S22 Ultra's 24fps, and it features a wider-angle view and improved optical stabilisation thanks to the new sensor's implementation and all that additional (and, in this scenario, unused) resolution.
S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Hardware & Software
While the standard Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus both gain some battery capacity (and additional 200mAh each) the S23 Ultra maintains the same 5,000mAh battery as its S22 Ultra predecessor.
However, there could be improvements to how long that battery lasts thanks to a) the inclusion of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform and b) updated software, now running Samsung's One UI 5.1 over Android 13.
Just like its predecessor the S23 Ultra also features a built-in S Pen stylus, which is a crucial difference between it and the other models in the S23 range.
There are some new advantages in the software, too, including the ability to use Google Meet paired with Samsung Notes and S Pen so you can collaboratively edit in real-time during video calls. One UI 5.1 also introduces Modes and Routines to trigger sequences of actions based on activities (such as sleep versus workout versus driving, and so forth).
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Conclusion
So there we have it: the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is... a lot like the Galaxy S22 Ultra! Okay, so they're not identical, the newer model comes in new colours, has a marginally different screen curve, features a 200-megapixel camera with promise of better night shooting, a more powerful processor, and some software additions.
The way I see this is fairly clear cut: as an upgrade, S22 Ultra users needn't dash out to grab an S23 Ultra. However, given that the Ultra is among my favourite Android phones (it's a close call against the Google Pixel 7 Pro), if you're new to Samsung's Galaxy range, or upgrading an older Android device then the S23 Ultra will, no doubt, be among the very best you can buy. It just seems expensive on release day is all.