Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in review

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s best camera phone yet, packed with impressive upgrades, quality and new features that make it compelling.

The phone is packed with features, from the 200MP sensor to the S Pen, Galaxy Super HDR selfie camera, UI updates and extended battery life.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is realistically one of the more expensive Android phones, but it’s also unbeatable for photographers, videographers and savvy social media professionals.

Prices in Canada start at $1,649.99 for the 256GB model, $1,889.99 for the 512GB model and $2,209.99 for the 1TB model from Samsung. Samsung is also offering special color options to include the phone in Lime, Graphite, Red and Sky Blue alongside the standard Green, Phantom Black, Lavender and Cream colors.

Galaxy S23 Ultra camera, photos and videos

Samsung once again delivers the best cameras with an impressive range of options from the 200MP main lens, the 12MP ultra wide angle lens, the 10MP 3x telephoto lens and the 10MP 10x telephoto lens.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra portrait photo

The trio of main cameras work very well together for a variety of uses and no other phone competes with the quality of Samsung’s 10x zoom. The phone also wins in low light for quality, depth and contrast.

Speaking of low light, the Galaxy S23 also adds improved nightography, including for video, and reduces noise thanks to AI. Colors are vibrant even in the dark and I liked the detail the phone captures compared to other phones.

Selfies, autofocus and HDR quality with the S23 Ultra were overall impressive, but I will say that Samsung tends to over-saturate photos. I’ve been fairly happy with portraits captured with the phone, but landscapes can be intense in normal lighting.

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One way around this is to use Samsung’s Expert RAW app, which I enjoy trying to get the best shots. Exporting a RAW image from the camera and processing it in Adobe’s Lightroom app always produces the best results.

For astrophotography, I didn’t get a chance to snap anything worth bragging about due to the conditions when I had the phone to review, but you can get some really impressive results with the astrophoto features.

Overall I’m very impressed with the photos and videos I’ve taken and while the 100x zoom is a fun feature at times, what really sets the phone apart is the quality and sharpness of the 10x zoom, portraits, 8K videos (now offers 30 fps compared to the previous 24) and all the tools that are used more often.

For content creators like me, the whole package here makes it very enticing over other phones.

processor and performance

The Galaxy S23 Ultra runs on Samsung’s One UI 5.1 and with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor plus 8GB of RAM, the phone is lightning fast with performance that’s among the best out there. For even more performance, the 512GB model comes with 12GB of RAM.

Video editing is one of the big, CPU-intensive things I do a lot, and while this puts a heavy load on most phones, the Galaxy S23 Ultra handled it well, didn’t overheat, and didn’t take a long time.

Photo editing, gaming, and switching between multiple tasks was smooth and effortless, and it’s particularly impressive when you take a RAW image and switch to Lightroom to edit the photo. Some of my other favorite phones take a little longer to complete tasks like this.

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The best compliment I can give the phone is that it was so fast I didn’t have to think about the performance. As apps get more demanding, many phones slow down, but the S23 Ultra is a powerhouse.

Display, battery and design

With the S23 Ultra, Samsung delivers the best display currently on the market. The phone offers a vivid and sharp 6.8-inch screen with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz thanks to the QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display.

The phone also supports real-time ray tracing and that’s a big deal for gamers and more realistic graphics coming to phones.

Samsung uses Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the phone to improve durability and it has an Armor aluminum frame with an IP68 rating for dust and water. It’s an excellent overall design, with the same layout as last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The S23 Ultra also has a 5000mAh battery and is very reliable for a full day of energy. Along with all the other phones I’ve reviewed recently, the S23 Ultra has great battery life, and the only complaint I have is that I wish it charged faster. It takes just under an hour to get a full charge from 0% with a 45W fast charger.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra meets my core needs for a great camera phone, and content creators will appreciate the extra RAM and storage with the 512GB model. You can’t beat the phone’s crisp 10x zoom photos, Samsung’s stunning 8K video quality, and full feature set, including RAW photo mode, either.

The performance is excellent, the display looks incredible and the battery life makes a huge difference in your day when you don’t have to think about charging.

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If you don’t mind spending a little more and you want the performance and quality, this is the best phone you can find right now, especially for Android but even against Apple.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra example photos

All photos by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.