Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review
I try not to miss the flagship smartphones of major manufacturers because it is in the flagship devices that they showcase all their latest developments. At Samsung, the top models are smartphones labeled Ultra. I studied Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. In general, I liked him, but I considered the price for it too high: this smartphone did not have any serious improvements compared to the then flagship Huawei P30 Pro, and it cost almost twice as much.
And here is the new Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has just appeared on the market: I pre-ordered it and received this smartphone on the first day of sales. I started testing it right away, carried out all the necessary tests, and in this review I am ready to share my impressions. (By the way, Samsung is finally then he began to install only Qualcomm Snapdragon in his top smartphones, regardless of the market.)
Appearance and Features
Aluminum alloy metal frame, flat side edges. The display is covered with the latest generation of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The side edges of the glass are slightly rounded, and this does not create any problems: on the contrary, it is easier to call out the Edge panel, Samsung's trademark. Ergonomics:
- Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2. The back cover is made of matte Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and also has slightly rounded side edges.
- 1.5 mm. Camera block on the back cover. Lenses protrude from the back cover by about 1.5 mm.
- S Pen. Bottom side: a stylus recessed in the corresponding slot, which, when pressed, slides out of the slot, slots above the stereo speaker, microphone, Type-C port, slot for inserting SIM cards.
- Volume. Power button and volume button on the side.
- Top edge. On the top edge is a microphone for noise reduction.
The smartphone is quite weighty and large – for lovers of “shovels”. However, compared to my Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, it's not much larger and heavier: the S23 Ultra fits normally in the corresponding pockets of any waist and shoulder bags in which I usually carry the Mi 11 Ultra. In the hands of the smartphone lies well, however, it’s always scary to drop it and break €1,400 at the same time, so for peace of mind, of course, it’s better to use a protective case: with it, it is both more protected and lies much more drippy in the hand. The print worked with glass, but the screen sensitivity was clearly insufficient (even when the sensitivity was increased in the settings). The percentage of fingerprint and face recognition errors was clearly higher, eventually, I removed the film, but left the camera protection.
Excellent quality Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with support for 120Hz refresh rate. The maximum brightness in manual mode is 1200 nits, in automatic mode – as much as 1750 nits. In direct sunlight, the image is very well distinguishable.
On the DXOMark site, the display of this smartphone is in the top five. There are many things in display settings. Dark and light themes, you can change the font size and scale of objects. Setting the refresh rate (you cannot set it directly to 120 Hz, you can set the standard 60 Hz or adaptive frequency so that the smartphone itself sets a higher frequency when it sees fit).
- You can hide the cutout of the cameras, adjust the comfort mode for the eyes.
- There is a screen setting.
- Always-on display mode.
But, however, this only means that if you are sensitive to flicker (about 5% of such users), you notice it, and it causes fatigue and annoyance in you – it means that this smartphone is not for you. Approximately 95% of users do not notice this flicker (like me, for example), and it does not cause any negative reactions in them. Apparently, that's why Samsung does not strain on this topic. Although, in my opinion, making flicker suppression optional is not so difficult, and other top manufacturers provide such a setting.
Controls and Gestures
As usual with Samsung, which I really like, in this case there are not two, and three control options: regular on-screen buttons (customizable), regular on-screen gestures (Android) and special Samsung gestures, which are made only from the bottom edge of the screen (I use them). Well, there are additional gestures. Furthermore, as usual, Edge sidebars are available, which are highly customizable. I like this feature, I use it – it's convenient: I expose applications, people, reminders.
Android 13, One UI 5.1 skin. This operating system occupies 45 gigabytes out of the box, we recommend buying Samsung smartphone configurations from 256 GB. Main desktop and quick switcher area.
Incoming call. There are no recorded conversations. (It depends on the region, in some other regions the entry may be.) The call quality is excellent, noise reduction for talking in a noisy environment works quite effectively.
The sound of the built-in stereo speakers is exceptional, as far as it is possible for a smartphone. If necessary, this smartphone can replace a small wireless speaker. The volume margin is exceptional. There is support for Dolby Atmos effects, And this really noticeably affects the sound – positively. To check the wireless sound, I connected Samsung Galaxy Buds Live headphones, since they are also “native” for Samsung smartphones.
The smartphone immediately detected and connected them. And there, all the parameters, including the noise reduction mode and “transparency”, are configured via a smartphone without installing additional applications.
This is the most powerful platform on the market, as expected, there are no problems with 3D games, everything works fine at maximum quality settings. Asphalt 9 worked very smoothly at maximum settings, it's a pleasure to play on this smartphone. (By the way, I recorded a demo video, but Samsung's built-in screen recorder made this video in vertical mode for some reason, so I didn't upload it.)
Even a cold start is almost instantaneous, navigation works fine, I went on a couple of trips with this smartphone, checked it.
Samsung branded service: linking multiple devices – smartphone, tablet, Windows PC – into a single space. It is connected easily and simply (you need to install the appropriate application on the PC), it is convenient to use.
The S Pen can be used for a wide variety of applications: draw, write text that your smartphone converts from handwriting to normal, with it, you can cut out images, do translation. When you take out the pen, a special button appears on the screen, when pressed, a menu of applications appears with which you can use the stylus. And there you can add other applications.
Camera interface. Top quick switches and settings, bottom – switching between four cameras: ultra-wide, main camera, 3x zoom, 10x zoom. When you click on any camera, a scale from 0.6 to 100 (from ultra-wide to 100x hybrid zoom) appears from below, if you click on the camera and hold, then a smooth scale for selecting the zoom level appears above the camera switches. Quality:
- Portrait. In Portrait mode, you can switch between the main camera and 3x zoom (portrait), and you can also select various shooting effects.
- More. In the “More” section – other shooting modes (they are edited, they can be added to the main list), you can also switch to the Bixby camera. Which will try to identify the object in the frame and search for its match on the Web, you can also call the AR Zone with various artistic effects.
- RAW. There is a professional mode with manual settings and the ability to shoot in RAW, there is a separate Expert RAW application for professional shooting and shooting in 50 MP enhanced detail mode. There are also special modes for shooting the night sky with slow shutter speeds up to 10 minutes.
- 200-megapixel. What can I say about the photographic capabilities of the cameras of this smartphone? The main 200-megapixel camera module itself is excellent, very high quality. There are 12 MP and 50 MP shooting modes available.
- Super-wide. Super-wide is good, but not great, 3x zoom is good and can be used as a portrait lens, 10x zoom is good, and even 30x hybrid zoom (framing from 10x optical) gives very decent results. Well, Of course, being able to carry in your pocket a camera with a very decent telephoto lens of 230 mm equivalent is worth a lot: modern technology, of course, just works wonders.
- Automatic mode. However, in software processing of photos taken in automatic mode, you can see the standard “pop” approach of Samsung to the pictures: they turn up the color to the point of unnaturalness, they also noticeably increase the sharpness by software, and this is clearly seen in the above pictures. Why are they doing that? Obviously, this approach appeals to most users.
- Expert RAW. Is there any way to get around this? Of course, you can. If we shoot in “Pro” mode in a regular application (or in Expert RAW) and save the pictures in RAW (or in RAW and JPG at the same time – in case the picture needs to be sent somewhere urgently). Then we get what got on the matrix, and without any aggressive processing. And then we do whatever we want with this picture.
- JPG. Here, for example, shooting in RAW, which is simply overtaken in JPG by Lightroom without any processing. Completely natural (even slightly muted) colors, no over sharpening – everything is fine!
- Pro. Yes, of course, I would like it to be possible to disable aggressive processing in the camera settings, but this is not there. But since you can get the source image in RAW, then, in general, I do not see any special problems with this. Moreover, when shooting in RAW in the “Pro” mode, there are no delays, the camera's rate of fire is on top.
What to say about the video? In my opinion, it shoots quite decently: the color slightly tightens, but not as aggressive as when taking a photo. It shoots very well at night: it is clear that the image is “noisy”, but in general, everything looks very decent, given the lighting. The important thing is that while shooting video up to 4K/30fps, you can switch between cameras, sometimes it is important. (In Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, you can switch to ultra-wide, and smoothly, but the zoom is only digital.)
But, however, shooting video 4K/60fps and 8K/30fps – only on the main camera. The stabilizer, in general, does a good job, but does not show any miracles. Compared to Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, it stabilizes approximately the same. (I'll add a comparison video later.) As a result, if we compare the cameras with my Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. Then here the only pluses are 3x and 10x zoom (Mi 11 Ultra has only one 5x), well, there is a special mode shooting the night sky, which to me personally, let's be honest, not much needed.
The fingerprint scanner, located under the screen, it works fine: it works quickly and clearly. Face recognition works well, and there is a mode for detecting a face by triggering a smartphone motion sensor, that is, you just take your smartphone from the table and recognition works. It works well with tinted glasses, it also works fine in destitute lighting, in complete darkness it can think for a couple of seconds, but, as a rule, it works. I initially had serious complaints about face and fingerprint recognition, but it turned out that this was all because of behind the protective film: as soon as the film was removed, everything began to work normally.
Trotting tests. It is quite tolerable, performance under heavy load drops by an average of 10-12 percent – this is normal. Well, the maximum level of GIPS is already 348, that is, the processor works at full capacity, performance is not underestimated. The heating in this test was observed insignificant – also about 40–41 degrees.
The battery here is 5000 mAh, but also the most powerful platform on the market. I tested at 60Hz refresh rate and FHD+ resolution. Hours of operation:
- Internet. The brightness is set to a comfortable 40% (I remind you that the brightness margin here is giant), wireless networks are turned on, the page is updated in the browser every 30 seconds. It turned out a little more than 20 hours – it's excellent.
- Video. Wireless communications disabled, the brightness of the player is set to a comfortable 50%, a Full-HD movie is spinning in the MX Player. It turned out as much as 26.5 hours – exceptional!
- PC Mark. The Synthetic PC Mark is an important indicator. Almost 15.5 hours – this means that the smartphone, even with a serious and varied load, will normally last a day.
- Everyday use. With my standard load, the smartphone lived for two full days. At the end of the first day, he had about 60% of the charge left. And this is with a powerful platform and a large display of exceptional quality.
- Power consumption. So, we can say that Samsung did a fantastic job with the power consumption of this smartphone.
- Comparison. By the way, a friend of mine used to have a Samsung S22 Ultra, and now he uses the S23 Ultra. So, he says that sometimes the S22 Ultra didn’t even live normally until the evening of the first day (but he has a rather large load on the smartphone). And the S23 Ultra usually does not show less than 50% of the charge at the end of the day.
About charging. The maximum power of wired charging is 45 watts, the adapter is not included.
- 25% – 10 minutes;
- 50% – 20 minutes;
- 68% – 30 minutes;
- 90% – 45 minutes;
- 96% – 55 minutes;
- 98% – 60 minutes;
- 99% – 62 minutes;
- 100% – 65 minutes.
It was, of course, very interesting to get acquainted with this super-flagship. On the one hand, I didn’t find anything so fantastic here, but, on the other hand, this is really a very cool device: the most powerful platform on the market, an excellent display, an excellent camera, although it offers certain features, excellent autonomy, S Pen in the case, all sorts of branded services. The large size was not a problem for me, on the contrary, it was a plus for me.
Let's just say that the size of this smartphone for me is almost the limit, but I could definitely use it all the time. How much is it even worth the money – €1400? Well, the price is high, yes, but the same iPhone 14 Pro Max costs exactly that much, and the S23 Ultra, in my opinion, is not inferior to it at all, and even surpasses it in some parameters.