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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

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The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has received the BTTR Hall of Fame Award.

10Expert Score
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Thoroughly impressive

Its size, weight and price means it won’t be for everyone, but this feature-filled phone is fantastic.

Design
10
Performance
10
Pros
  • Stunning photos in all types of conditions
  • Powerful processor makes it great for gaming
  • Battery life lasts more than a day
  • A gorgeous screen
Cons
  • It's very large and heavy
  • It is quite expensive, but you get what you pay for

2023’s family of Samsung Galaxy phones had a lot to live up to. The S22 Ultra was widely reviewed as the best phone of 2022, so this year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra had big shoes to fill.

The good news is that Samsung has managed to deliver an incredible smartphone. The Galaxy S23 Ultra combines a stunning screen, an impressive camera and battery life that just keeps on going.

Like its predecessor, it is physically huge, which will certainly turn some people away. It’s also expensive, which won’t suit everyone.

But if you like your phones big and have plenty of money to spare, there’s a reason this is currently being celebrated as one of the best phones in Australia.

Design

The Samsung Galaxy S23 on a fence viewing a photo of the Opera House

The S23 Ultra is a big device. Measuring in at 163.4 × 78.1 × 8.9 mm, you need deep pockets to carry it around, and even then, it will offer a recognisable bulge.

But the beauty of that large size is that Samsung has absolutely made the most out of every millimetre. 

The screen, which measures 6.8 inches on the diagonal, stretches to within a few millimetres of the edges of the device. When it’s powered on, it looks like the entire phone is a stunning AMOLED screen, with vibrant colours and impossibly deep blacks.

The back of the phone, meanwhile, houses the four camera lenses plus a laser autofocus module. Those cameras are largely the same as last year’s S22 Ultra, with the exception that the main snapper has been bumped up to a 200MP f/1.7 lens.

The Galaxy S23 on a fence, looking at its cameras

The selfie camera remains a tiny pinhole in the front screen, but the S22 Ultra’s 48MP lens has been replaced with a 12MP f/2.2 system

From the bottom of the phone you will see the USB-C charging port, the SIM card slot and the S-Pen stylus, which turns the phone into a digital notebook in seconds.

All of that bulk makes the S23 Ultra not just a physically large phone, but a heavy one too. It weighs in at 233 grams, which you can absolutely notice. 

That solid heft feels like quality, though. Both the front and the back of the device use Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus 2, which feels like it’s hard to damage. Despite keeping the phone in the same pocket as my keys for a short walk to the bus stop, the phone came away completely unscratched by the encounter.

Holding the Galaxy S23 Ultra in the hand

Under the hood

While the outside of the phone is big, bold, and beautiful, there’s also plenty under the hood to get excited about. 

The S23 Ultra is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform, which delivers plenty of power and performance. 

There’s a huge 5,000mAh battery inside, which seems to last much longer than you might expect it to. When it does run low, you can take advantage of 45-Watt SuperFast Charging (if you have the right charger – it doesn’t come in the box), which promises to give you 65% of the battery’s life in just 30 minutes.

The phone comes in 256GB, 512GB and 1TB variants and you can get it in four different colour options to suit your personal style.

From a security perspective, an under-screen fingerprint sensor and face recognition help protect your device from others.

Taking a photo of the sky with the S23 Ultra

Performance

When buying a new phone, some people are looking for little more than a screen to watch Netflix. Others are after a powerful portable gaming machine. Some want a fantastic camera to document their life. 

The Galaxy S23 Ultra does a phenomenal job at all of those things. It impressed at everything we threw at it over a two-week review period.

If you like to look at benchmarks, then the S23 Ultra has plenty to show you.

Single-core:

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
1967
Google Pixel 7
1038
Google Pixel 6a
1063
Apple iPhone 14
1738

Multi-core:

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
5088
Google Pixel 7
3172
Google Pixel 6a
2968
Apple iPhone 14
4741

Vulkan Compute:

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
3568
Google Pixel 7
4528
Google Pixel 6a
7550
Apple iPhone 14
12507

As you can see, the single and multi-core scores far outperform the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 6a

The Vulkan test failed the face detection component on multiple attempts, which ultimately impacted its final score. But even with that handicap, it was as capable as the Pixel 7.

It’s in real-world use where the S23 Ultra really shows you what it’s made of. While I typically prefer to watch it on a great TV, streaming episodes of The Mandalorian from Disney Plus looks magnificent on the 6.8-inch screen, with no performance issues. 

Similarly, the S23 Ultra is great for playing games. The large screen makes games like Marvel Strike Force look fantastic, or more social puzzlers like Monopoly Go are easy to play thanks to the abundance of screen to play with.

And don’t think that all that power means you’re sacrificing battery life, either. Somehow, through the combination of a large capacity and some intelligent software improvements, I was comfortably able to get through more than a day between charges. 

Viewing BTTR on the phone for the review

Cameras

While the phone is fast and responsive for streaming and gaming, by far the most impressive aspect of using the S23 Ultra is the camera system and its new 200MP lens.

The quality of the handheld images you can get shooting up close or at night is remarkable.

Samsung is marketing the astro-photography abilities of the phone, and it’s easy to see why they are. If you had told me I could aim my phone at the sky and press a button to get high-quality pictures of the stars barehanded, I would never have believed you.

Of course, a tripod is definitely going to give a better result. But I was consistently blown away by the quality of handheld shots at night.

Of course, daytime photography is just as impressive as you might expect. In auto mode, the camera is fast and responsive.

You can dive into manual shooting if you like that sort of thing too, with granular control over ISO, exposure time and white balance.

For those who shoot a lot of video, 4K 60fps is a revelation. You get incredible detail and smooth panning, without any judder or jumping between frames. 

The image stabilisation for handheld video is remarkable. Most people can happily shoot handheld and enjoy high-quality footage to watch back later.

If I were to complain about anything, it’s how much real estate the controls take over the screen. 

Also noteworthy is the 100x digital zoom. It’s probably not practical for any real purpose, but when you can make out the people on the Opera House steps in Sydney from the other side of Circular Quay, you have to acknowledge the technology is impressive.

Galaxy S23 Ultra in hand with the S-Pen stylus poking out

Verdict

Since it was announced back in February, it has become clear that the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is potentially the best phone ever made.

But it’s not for everyone.

It’s big and bulky. It’s really heavy for a phone. It costs a lot.

But it does a lot, too. In the two weeks I’ve had to play around with this phone, I feel like I’ve only just begun to understand its capabilities.

While the camera system gets lauded for its exceptional image quality, particularly at night, the fact you can pull out the stylus and take notes anywhere you are without any effort at all is perfect for professionals.

The way the battery life just seems to keep going and going is remarkable, too. 

Fundamentally, prospective Galaxy S23 Ultra owners need to ask themselves if they are willing to spend the money on the device. If so, they will walk away with not just one of the best Android phones in Australia right now, but probably the best phone on the market.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra online

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AU $2,198.00
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4 new from AU $2,198.00
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Amazon.com.au
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AU $1,666.99
AU $1,947.99
+ Delivery *
Mydeal.com.au
AU $1,757.10
AU $2,052.15
+ Delivery *
Mydeal.com.au
* Delivery cost shown at checkout.
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $1,449.00
Free delivery
AU $2,585.00
+ Delivery *
2 new from AU $2,585.00
as of 26 May 2024 6:06 pm
Amazon.com.au
* Delivery cost shown at checkout.
Product disclosure

Samsung provided the Galaxy S23 Ultra for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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