Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone. We have already compared it with a number of smartphones, including the predecessor Galaxy S22 Ultra. What if you’re still using the Galaxy S21 Ultra and thinking of upgrading? Well, that’s what we’re here for. In this article we compare the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Two of Samsung’s giants will be going head-to-head in a number of categories, but first we’ll list their specs. We then compare their designs, displays, performance, battery life, cameras, and audio performance. There is a lot to talk about here as the difference between them is significant. Let’s begin.

Specifications Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Refresh rate, 1,500 nits peak brightness) Screen resolution 3080 x 1440 3200 x 1440 SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 / Samsung Exynos 2100 RAM 8GB/12GB (LPDDR5X) 12GB/ 16GB (LPDDR5) Storage 256GB/512GB/1TB , non-expandable (UFS 4.0) 128GB/256GB, non-expandable (expandable in some countries) Rear cameras 200MP (aperture f/1.7, 24mm lens , 0.6um pixel size, multi-directional PDAF, laser AF, OIS)
12 MP (Ultrawide, Dual Pixel AF, 120 degree FoV, f/2.2 aperture, 1.4 µm pixel size)
10 MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/2.4 aperture, 1.12 µm pixel size, 70 mm lens, 3x optical zoom)
10 MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 1.22 µm pixel size, 230 mm lens, 10x optical zoom, 100x space zoom) 108 MP (f/1.8 aperture, OIS, 0.8 µm pixel size. Generates 12 MP images with 2.4 µm pixel size)
12 MP (Ultrawide, Dual Pixel AF, 120 degree FoV, f/2.2 aperture, 1.4 µm pixel size)
10 MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/2.4 aperture, 72mm lens, 1.22um pixel size, 3x optical zoom)
10 MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 1.22 µm pixel size, 240 mm lens, 10x optical zoom, 100x space zoom) Front cameras 12 MP (f/2.2 aperture, 26 mm lens, Dual Pixel PDAF ) 40 MP (f/2.2 aperture, 80 degrees FoV, 0.7 µm pixel size, PDAF) Battery 5,000 mAh, non-removable, 45 W wired charging, 15 W Qi wireless charging, 4.5 W wireless PowerShare
Charger not included 5,000 mAh non-removable Battery Fast Charge (USB PD 3.0), Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare
Charger not included Dimensions 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm 165 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm Weight 234 grams 227/229 grams Connectivity 5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C 5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C Security In-display fingerprint scanner (ultrasonic) In-display fingerprint scanner (ultrasonic) Operating system Android 13
One UI 5.1 Android 11 (upgradable)
One UI 3.0 Price $1199.99/$1299/$1399/TBA (1TB) $424 (Refurbished) Buy Samsung Amazon Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Design

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You’ll instantly know the difference between the two phones as soon as you see them. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has sharper corners and flat top and bottom. This is not the case with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Both phones have thin bezels, curved displays and a centered display camera hole. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a bit shorter, but also noticeably wider.

The two phones are exactly the same thickness, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra is slightly heavier. Both phones are made of metal and glass, and both are IP68 rated for water and dust resistance. If you flip them, you’ll see a different camera design. The sensors are in roughly the same places, but those on the Galaxy S23 Ultra stick right out of the backplate. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, has a camera island on the back.

Now both phones support an S Pen, but only the S23 Ultra comes with the Samsung stylus. This phone also has an S Pen silo that can be accessed from below. The same does not apply to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. They feel premium in the hand, but if you don’t like hefty and large phones, you might want to think twice before buying either one. Using a sleeve is recommended due to how slippery they are.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: ad

The Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 6.8-inch QHD+ (3088 x 1440) Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. This panel is curved, but only slightly, and it supports an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz. HDR10+ content is supported here, while the display can get quite bright with 1,750 nits of peak brightness. This display is also well protected thanks to a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 2.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, also has a 6.8-inch panel. This display also has a QHD+ resolution, but a different aspect ratio. It has an aspect ratio of 20:9 and a resolution of 3200 x 1440. This is also a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with a 120Hz refresh rate and also supports HDR10+ content. Note that this panel achieves up to 1,500 nits of peak brightness, which is slightly less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This panel is also curved, significantly more so than the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s device.

Both phones have excellent displays. To be honest, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s panel is newer and more technically advanced, but you’ll be more than happy with either. Both get bright enough, even outdoors, and both offer vibrant colors, deep blacks, and great viewing angles. Touch response is also good on both displays. If you’re considering an upgrade just for the display then it might not be the best idea, both are great.

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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Performance

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC powers the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The phone also comes with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 4.0 flash storage. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is powered by the Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US and China, but it was launched with the Exynos 2100 processor in many markets. Up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM is included in the phone along with UFS 3.1 flash storage.

Now the Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely the more powerful phone in this comparison. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a much better chip with great power efficiency. It’s also included in every Galaxy S23 Ultra device, so you don’t have to worry about inferior performance. It also offers faster and more efficient RAM and flash storage. Does this reflect actual performance in real life? Well yes it does.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t exactly sluggish at this point, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, particularly the Exynos model. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the snappiest phones, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra does really well but skips frames here and there. The difference is noticeable when you try both phones, that’s for sure, which isn’t exactly surprising.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battery

Both smartphones have a 5,000 mAh battery. However, the battery life differs significantly. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a more efficient SoC and some other components, so that’s not surprising. We were able to get up to 10 hours of screen time on the Galaxy S23 Ultra and this was no exception. The Galaxy S21 Ultra lasted around 6.5 to 7.5 hours when we reviewed it.

Note that we didn’t actually play games on either phone, others for testing purposes. They’ve been through a lot during our use, starting with browsing, messaging, image editing, photo editing, streaming and more. Of course, your mileage may vary. They use different apps, have different usage habits and different signal strengths. Additionally, it’s been a while since we’ve rocked the Galaxy S21 Ultra as a daily driver, things may have changed.

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The Galaxy S23 Ultra supports faster charging than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It comes with 45W wired, 15W wireless and 4.5 wireless reverse charging. The Galaxy S21 Ultra supports 25W wired charging, while wireless and reverse wireless charging are the same as its sibling. Note, however, that neither of these two phones comes with a charging brick in the box.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Cameras

Both phones have four cameras on the back. The Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 200-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, a 10-megapixel telephoto, and a 10-megapixel periscope telephoto. The Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 108-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, a 10-megapixel telephoto, and a 10-megapixel periscope telephoto.

Galaxy S23 Ultra

Now that we’ve got the hardware out of the way, let’s talk about its real-world performance. We’re talking two generations of phones here, so expect the Galaxy S23 Ultra to be better in the camera department. It is, and the difference is quite large. Samsung has improved the cameras across the board, although some tweaks are still needed. In extreme HDR conditions, the phone sometimes leaves dark areas without much detail. However, it performs admirably in most HDR conditions.

It’s better than the Galaxy S21 Ultra in every way. Images are better in color, you get more detail, they’re better balanced and there’s a big improvement even in low light. The ultrawide and telephoto shots are also noticeably better, although not on the same level as the main camera images. You’ll even see some improvements in periscope telephotos beyond the 3x level. If you need better camera performance, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is certainly an improvement. Video recording is also worth mentioning as the Galaxy S23 Ultra footage is extra stable and looks better in pretty much every way thanks to the changes Samsung has made.


Both phones have a good set of stereo speakers. The speakers on both phones have been tuned by AKG, and both sound really good and are quite loud. However, if we’re picky, the Galaxy S23 Ultra sounded a little louder and delivered a little more bass.

Neither phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll have to use the Type-C ports if you want to connect your headphones via a cable. If you prefer a wireless connection, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers Bluetooth 5.3, while its brother supports Bluetooth 5.2.

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March 17, 2023