What new features does the Galaxy S23 Ultra bring and should owners of last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra upgrade?
The new S23 Ultra is not official yet, but with many 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 where consumers outside the US got a lesser quality Exynos processor. Then, on the camera front, a new 200MP main camera takes over, and you get other improvements to the camera system.
Read on as we delve into all those interesting details, exploring the differences and all the major changes to the S23 Ultra.
- Extremely similar design and size.
- More powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip in all S23 models
- Same combinations of RAM and storage
- New 200MP 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 much like its predecessor that we’d absolutely forgive you if you’re confused and can’t tell them apart.
There are some giveaways, but they are subtle. The biggest one has to be those flatter sides on the new model that mimic the look of recent iPhones and make it easier to pick the phone up off a table.
Both phones get IP68 certification, which means they have the highest water and dust rating available in a common flagship. And at the bottom, 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’s slightly wider than your typical smartphone, so you get 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 to 120 Hz.
The only change we expect to see on the S23 Ultra’s display is a brightness that would exceed the S22 Ultra’s current 1750-nit maximum brightness.
We do not expect to see any significant change in biometrics. Both phones rely on an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner and have a reputation for being reliable enough and fast enough (although 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 isn’t as secure as a 3D face unlock system.
Performance and software
The biggest jump 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, though, Samsung is said to equip all Galaxy S23 Ultra models with this chip, regardless of the country it’s sold in. That’s an initial change from recent years when Samsung sold a Snapdragon version of the Ultra in the US and some other markets, while the rest of the world got the lesser 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 built on 4nm technology, but Gen 2 has better power efficiency AND offers higher performance.
Performance benchmark results:
*S23 Ultra results are preliminary.
As you can see from the preliminary benchmark results above, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip offers a massive speed improvement of almost 30% in both single and multi-core performance. That’s the kind of gain we haven’t seen in recent years and would ultimately put the Galaxy S23 Ultra 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 of RAM + 128 GB of 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 expect both the S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra to deliver on. Compare this to just 3 years or even 2 years of software updates on many phones and you can see the added value.
The S23 Ultra is expected to launch with Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI 5 interface, and we don’t expect to see any difference in software between the new S23 Ultra and the previous model.
The new 200MP main camera promises a big improvement
A great camera is what makes or breaks a flagship, and so far Samsung has had great success with the quad camera system on the Ultra series and the whole space zoom concept.
With a new 200MP image sensor, expect excellent detail, and leaks also promise big improvements in low-light photos and videos. The other cameras are expected to benefit from software improvements, but are largely expected to keep the familiar hardware.
Leaker Ice Universe claims that the new 200MP camera on the S23 Ultra will be a 1/1.3″ sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. This is a slightly larger physical size than the 1/1 sensor, 33″ used on the S22 Ultra, plus it gets faster aperture on the newer Ultra.
Galaxy S23 Ultra (left) vs S22 Ultra (right) leaked camera sample
This leaked camera sample purportedly from the S23 Ultra shows a huge improvement in the amount of detail, so color us excited.
We haven’t heard much about the new video features, but we expect Samsung to address some of the capabilities rivals have added. The iPhone 14 Pro has added a new action mode for constant video footage, so we could see Samsung’s response to that, and Google has an object removal tool that’s pretty handy too.
Audio and haptic quality
So far, it looks like the Galaxy S23 Ultra will offer the same in terms of audio quality as its predecessor. That means A. no 3.5mm headset jack, and B. a dual stereo speaker setup with a primary bottom-firing speaker and a secondary auxiliary speaker in the earpiece at the top of the phone.
We complained about sub-optimal audio quality on the S22 Ultra, with our main complaint being a lack of depth in sound, and we hope Samsung improves on that in the new edition.
In terms of haptic feedback, we’re very happy with the S22 Ultra and don’t expect to see much haptic change from the S23 Ultra.
Battery life and charge
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.
This size has become the norm on Android flagships these days, and anything less than that sounds downright underwhelming. This year, however, the S23 Ultra brings a more efficient processor and this could allow you to get better battery life, but we don’t expect the difference to be huge.
For most intents and purposes, both phones will be a 1-day affair with overnight charging.
We’ll update this section with our independent battery tests as soon as we get the phones, so you know all the details about actual battery life.
We also don’t expect to see changes on the loading front. True to the new industry trend, none of these phones include a charger in the box.
Top wired charging speeds on both are 45W, and to reach that you’d need not only a fast charger, but also a special 5A cable (Samsung sells both). Expect to see charge times of just over 1 hour on both phones.
Summary and final verdict
At the end of the day, the Galaxy S23 Ultra may look like its predecessor, but the massive processor upgrade and an exciting new camera system really have us looking forward to it.
It’s too early to tell if S22 Ultra users should upgrade, but considering the speed gains and the possibility of a much better camera, this might be one of those rare cases where we recommend an upgrade.
What do you expect from the Galaxy S23 Ultra?