What new features does the Galaxy S23 Ultra bring and should owners of last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra upgrade?
The new S23 Ultra isn’t official yet, but with lots of leaks and rumours, we know a lot about the upcoming flagship. Highlights include a rumored switch to a new Snapdragon chip for all models, ending years of a painful split that saw consumers outside the US receive a lower-end Exynos processor. On the camera front, a new 200-megapixel main camera then takes over, and you get other improvements to the camera system.
Read on as we dive deeper into all of these interesting details, examining the differences and all the key changes in the S23 Ultra.
- Extremely similar design and size
- More powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip on all S23 models
- Same RAM and storage combinations
- New 200 MP main camera
- Improved night photos and videos
- Same battery size, same charging speeds
Table of Contents:
Design and display quality
Why change what works?
The Galaxy S23 Ultra looks so similar to its predecessor that if you’re confused and can’t tell the two apart, we’d absolutely forgive you.
There are some freebies, but they’re subtle. The biggest hit has to be the new model’s flatter sides, which mimic the look of recent iPhones and make it easier to pick up the phone from a table.
Both phones get IP68 certification, which means they have the highest water and dust resistance rating available in a shared flagship. And on the underside, you’ll find a USB-C port on both, but no 3.5mm headphone jack.
You get a large 6.8-inch screen on both phones, and it has slightly wider dimensions than a typical smartphone, giving you even more screen real estate to work with.
Both phones are Dynamic AMOLED with a resolution of 1440p and an automatic refresh rate of 1-120 Hz.
The only change we expect to see on the S23 Ultra screen is the brightness, which would be higher than the S22 Ultra’s current 1,750 nit max brightness.
We do not expect any major changes in biometrics. Both phones rely on an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, which has a reputation for being reliable and fast enough (though not the fastest). Both will also support image-based facial recognition, which is nice to have, but don’t forget that such a system can be spoofed without too much effort and just isn’t as secure as a 3D face unlock system.
performance and software
The biggest leap in performance for a Galaxy flagship in recent years!
The big change in the S23 Ultra has to be the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Not only that, Samsung is slated to equip all Galaxy S23 Ultra models with this chip, regardless of the country in which it is sold. That’s a first change from the past few years, where Samsung has been selling a Snapdragon version of the Ultra in the US and a few other markets, while the rest of the world got the smaller Exynos processor instead.
So what is the difference between Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on the S23 Ultra and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 on the S22 Ultra? Both are based on 4nm technology, but the Gen 2 has better power efficiency AND offers higher performance.
Performance Benchmark Results:
*S23 Ultra results are preliminary.
As you can see in the preliminary benchmark results above, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip delivers a massive speed increase of almost 30% in both single and multi-core performance. Those are the kind of gains we haven’t seen in recent years that would finally bring the Galaxy S23 Ultra that much closer to the industry-leading performance of Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max.
According to current leaks and rumours, the S23 Ultra will be offered in the same configurations as the S22 Ultra which are as follows:
- 8 GB RAM + 128 GB storage (base model)
- 12GB RAM + 256GB storage
- 12GB RAM + 512GB storage
Samsung rocked the Android world with its promise of 4 years of major software updates and 5 years of security updates, which we’ll deliver on both the S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra. Compare that to just 3 years or even 2 years of software updates on many phones and you’ll appreciate the added value.
The S23 Ultra is expected to launch with Android 13 beefed up with Samsung’s One UI 5 interface, and we don’t expect any software differences between the new S23 Ultra and the older model.
The new 200-megapixel main camera promises a big improvement
A great camera makes or breaks a flagship and so far Samsung has had great success with the Ultra series’ quad camera system and the whole space zoom concept.
Excellent detail is expected with a new 200-megapixel image sensor, and leakers are also promising big improvements in low-light photos and videos. The other cameras are expected to benefit from software improvements, but will largely retain the familiar hardware.
Leaker Ice Universe claims that the S23 Ultra’s new 200-megapixel camera will be a 1/1.3-inch sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. This is a slightly larger physical size than the S22 Ultra’s 1/1.33-inch sensor, plus you’ll get faster apertures on the newer Ultra.
Galaxy S23 Ultra leaked camera sample (left) vs. S22 Ultra (right)
Said to be from the S23 Ultra, this leaked camera sample shows a huge improvement in detail, so we’re excited.
We haven’t heard much about new video capabilities, but we expect Samsung to address some of the features that rivals have added. The iPhone 14 Pro added a new action mode for steady video footage, so we may see Samsung’s answer to that, and Google has an object removal tool that’s also very useful.
Audio quality and haptics
So far it seems that the Galaxy S23 Ultra will offer the same as its predecessor in terms of audio quality. That means A. no 3.5mm headphone jack and B. a dual stereo speaker setup with a main speaker on the bottom and a secondary auxiliary speaker in the earcup at the top of the phone.
We’ve complained about the S22 Ultra’s sub-par audio quality, with our main gripe being the lack of sound depth, and we’re hoping Samsung improves on that in the refresh.
In terms of haptic feedback, we were quite happy with the S22 Ultra, and we don’t expect big changes in haptics from the S23 Ultra.
Battery life and charging
Same battery size, but can actual battery life be improved?
Both the newer S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra are said to have the same 5,000mAh battery inside.
That size has become the norm for Android flagships these days, and anything less than that sounds downright disappointing. However, this year the S23 Ultra brings with it a more efficient processor and that could actually give it better battery life, but we don’t expect a huge difference.
For most intents and purposes, these two phones are a 1-day, nightly charge affair.
We’ll update this section with our independent battery tests once we get the phones, so you’ll have all the details on actual battery life.
We also don’t expect any changes to the loading front. True to the new industry trend, none of these phones come with a charger in the box.
Maximum wired charging speed is 45W on both, and to get that you need not only a fast charger but also a special 5A cable (Samsung sells both). Expect charge times of just over 1 hour on both phones.
Summary and Final Verdict
At the end of the day, the Galaxy S23 Ultra might look like its predecessor, but the massive processor upgrade and an exciting new camera system make us really excited.
It’s too early to tell if S22 Ultra users should upgrade, but given the speed gains and the possibility of a much better camera, this could be one of the rare occasions when we’d recommend upgrading.
What do you expect from the Galaxy S23 Ultra?