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Samsung S23 Ultra Is The Best Smartphone in The Market Right Now

Ignore all the pre-conceived notions of similarities between the latest Samsung S23 Ultra to its predecessor S22 Ultra. Because S23 Ultra is like the Destroy Mode on the “base” RX-0 Unicorn Gundam – more refined, powerful and an all-round better performing specimen.

The S23 Ultra is the result of Samsung engineers identifying issues, solving them without drastically changing an already solid platform resulting in a familiar yet novel experience. Those keen on the major differences between generations are in luck as we recently released a quick feature detailing the differences between the S23 Ultra and the model it is replacing.

Actually, a quick, easy AND lazy way to describe the S23 Ultra is to read up on our review of the S22 Ultra released last year, and treat the S23 Ultra as being an incrementally improved device. But we don’t do easy. Where’s the fun in that? Also, watering the S23 Ultra to just ‘a better S22 Ultra’ would be criminal and an injustice for a spectacular device.

Left, S22 Ultra. Right, S23 Ultra

More than just an Update

Looks-wise, it is hard to distinguish the S23 Ultra from the device it is replacing. The discerning folks or techies would be able to discern one from the other through the exclusive colours the respective models get. Another method is to look at the S-Pen port; the S23 Ultra has a more square-ish look compared to the more rounded S22 Ultra.

Both sport identical-sized, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+ screens which measures at 6.8 inches. The S23 Ultra sports a tougher and more damage-resistant screen with the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 to complement the armour-aluminium frame. Out of the box, the IP68-rated S23 Ultra feels like a tank. You’d be forgiven to rock this bad boy sans protection however, we’d still recommend slapping on a proper case and screen protector on. You would have spent a ton for these top-of-the-line devices so please don’t skimp on protection.

As expected of any flagship released in a new calendar year, the S23 Ultra comes equipped with a brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip which has been custom-tuned for Samsung devices. At a time when modern mobile phones are already pretty snappy and buttery smooth, we are constantly astounded by how the next flagship devices are able to top an already impressive feat. And in the S23 Ultra, Samsung managed to release a device that outperforms last year’s best-performing device on all discernible metrics; save for weight in which the newer phone weighs about 7g heavier.

An improved chip also means more efficient power management where, despite still having a similar battery capacity to the S22 Ultra at 5000mAh, the battery performance in the S23 Ultra leaves its older brother trailing.

Samsung bumped up the specs for the ‘base’ version of the S23 Ultra as well, from 8GBs-worth of RAM and 128GB non-expendable memory to 12GB of RAM and 256GB which means, theoretically, brings more bang for the buck on release.

Design-wise, Samsung didn’t divert much from the original design language they chose with the S22 Ultra. However, if you look closely, they’ve done a thorough refinement of the device head-to-toe, all for the better.

The rounded edges where the curved screen on the S22 Ultra meets the back is now more angular. It is quite hard to describe in words, but due to this design change, the S23 Ultra now feels much more secure in-hand. Also, the less-rounded edges on the S23 Ultra allows more room  to write on instead of scribbling past the edges when on the older model. The thicker rings around the camera module mean that the S23 Ultra rocks more when laid flat on its back but this can be easily remedied with a good phone case.

‘U’ for ‘Unparalleled Camera’

Apart from the upgraded CPU setup, another main spiel from Samsung for the S23 Ultra is none other than the cameras the devices come equipped with. The star of the show, obviously, is the 200MP main camera which is a significant bump from last year’s already ridiculous 108MP main shooter. This enables more detail to be captured in shots, allowing even zoomed-in and cropped shots to exhibit crazy amounts of detail. The other three cameras to complete the quad-camera setup are identical as last year’s; two 10MP cameras each with 3X and 10X optical zoom and a 12MP ultra-wide camera.

This translates to clear and crisp photos for moments you require to point-and-shoot in all lighting conditions and spectacular results for wide, scenic shots when you take advantage of the 200MP camera. The photos taken are consistent with the typical more saturated colours associated with Samsung’s image processing. Users tend to complain about the shutter lag when trying to capture photos on Samsung devices and to remedy this, Samsung has included the ‘Quick Tap Shutter’ option which can be accessed via the Camera Assistant app. This app is downloadable via the Samsung Galaxy App Store.

The 100x zoom feature returns for those brilliant full moon shots you are able to capture with this device. Closer to the ground, check out the result of us zooming into a billboard which is about 2 kilometres away.

Not an ad for Oppo Reno 8, of course

On the video front, the S23 Ultra now shoots 30FPS on 8K compared to ‘just’ 24FPS on the S22 Ultra. And boy what difference do these six additional frames make! Couple that with a larger OIS range on the S23 Ultra and you get a much smoother video even when you’re on the move.

It is worth noting that there is a reduction in megapixel count for the front-facing camera – down to 12MP from last year’s 40MP – but thanks to the new processor and computational improvements, actually produces more colour-accurate selfie photos than the S23 Ultra. You’ll have a hard time identifying photos taken on the S23 Ultra from the S22 Ultra despite the 28-megapixels difference on paper.

Photography aficionados would be glad to know that the Expert Raw app which is a Samsung official camera app has also been embedded into the camera layout. You’ll still need to download this separately from the Samsung Galaxy App Store but once it is installed, can be accessed directly from the camera app. This opens so much room for experimentation and maximizing the power and hardware in hand.

As a daily driver, the S23 Ultra feels like it should – the best smartphone money can buy, period. Battery life has improved tremendously with the S23 Ultra, going past the 24-hour mark easily even with Battery Saving mode turned off. This can be attributed to improved efficiency and power management thanks to the new SnapDragon chip.

Still, on the new chip, we compared the performance of the S23 Ultra with another behemoth in the smartphone market, the Asus ROG Phone 6D and it passed with flying colours. We ran one of the most demanding mobile games in the market right now, Call of Duty Mobile on the S23 Ultra and it gobbled it up like T-Rex and that goat in the first Jurassic Park movie. The S23 Ultra also launched the game faster than the ROG Phone 6D; which is definitely impressive.

Then there’s the S-Pen. A Note all but in name, the ‘Ultra’ series combines every top-tier offerings from Samsung into one device. The S23 Ultra carries over all the bells and whistles that came with last year’s model – which is a good thing. The writing experience on the S23 Ultra is sublime and only until we checked back on our Samsung Notes did we realize the amount of hand-written notes, doodles and scribbles we’ve accumulated.

The S-Pen can also be turned into a remote camera shutter button to fully utilize the gargantuan 200MP rear camera when snapping group photos and when not in use, serves well as a clicking/ fidgeting tool. The S23 Ultra is shipped with the latest Samsung One U.I 5.1 allowing the best customization available to date. The GoodLock app is also now officially available in most Asian markets making it a must-download for those who cannot get enough of personalizing their gadgets.

Is #23 The GOAT?

Alas, no devices is perfect and without flaws but to be brutally honest, it is hard to find faults in the S23 Ultra. Complaints listed below are purely us being nitpicky and based on what we would love to see improved in future S-line, flaghip-tier devices. For one, the device looks too similar to the S22 Ultra making the decision to upgrade from it a hard one save for the fully dedicated, ‘I want the best device in the market’ consumers. In spite of the marked battery performance, we still wished that the phone carries a larger battery – even a 10% bump would have suffice. You can’t have too much power, right?

And lastly, expandable memory. Of course, one can back up their data to the cloud, freeing some space in the device.  But some also prefer the freedom to expand the physical storage capacity by adding on a micro-SD card.  While not a deal breaker, is definitely a feature that will get many more new converts to pick up on the ‘Ultra’ line of devices.

Some may call the S23 Ultra the most ‘extra’ smartphone in the market and they are not wrong. Then again, ‘extra’ shouldn’t carry a negative connotation as the S23 Ultra is by far, one of the most impressive pieces of tech in the market and easily, the best Android smartphone money can buy. Better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max? Highly likely too depending on your set of priorities for smartphones.

In short, the S23 Ultra is the result of a company realizing that to remain ahead, improvements in all areas is a must and it paid off. And just like THE OTHER guy who sports the number 23, the S23 Ultra is firmly in the discussion for the GOATs when it comes to mobile devices.

Pros:

  • The most powerful and responsive smartphone in the market bar none
  • Brilliant camera setup made better by software improvements by Samsung
  • Great battery performance
  • Overall higher base specs at the similar starting price to its predecessor
  • Literally a ‘Note’ with awesome camera

Cons:

  • No expandable memory

SCORE: 90/100


Vital Statistics

Platform: Android 12, One UI 5.1
Body: 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9 mm (6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 in), ~233g
Frame: Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus 2), aluminum frame with IP68 dust/water resistance
Chipset: Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (4 nm)
CPU: Octa-core (1×3.36 GHz Cortex-X3 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A715 & 2×2.8 GHz Cortex-A710 & 3×2.0 GHz Cortex-A510)
GPU: Adreno 740
Display: Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1200 nits (HBM), 1750 nits (peak); 6.8 inches, 114.7 cm2
Memory (Internal): 256GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM, 1TB 12GB RAM, UFS 4.0
Main Camera: 200 MP, f/1.7, 24mm (wide); 10 MP, f/4.9, 230mm (periscope telephoto) x10 zoom; 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm (telephoto) x3 zoom; 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120? (ultrawide)
Video: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 1080p@960fps
Sound: Stereo speakers, no jacks given
Battery: Li-Ion 5000 mAh, non-removable
Price: Starts from RM 5,699 (256GB, 12GB RAM)

The S23 Ultra hits Malaysian markets on the 17th February 2023. Review unit of the Samsung S23 Ultra provided by Samsung Malaysia. You can purchase your own unit of the S23 Ultra from their official website here.

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Comment(9)

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    May 2, 2023 at 12:40 am

    […] compare it with the market-leading S23 Ultra for example would be unfair. It is akin to comparing MMA fighting’s Islam Makhachev to Jon […]

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    June 9, 2023 at 12:31 pm

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