Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Hands on and first impressions

It is February 2023 and Samsung has unveiled the next generation of their flagship Galaxy S series smartphones during their Galaxy Unpacked event. The Galaxy S23 series comes in three models – the Galaxy S23, the Galaxy S23+ and the flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra. With us today we have the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which features a number of upgrades to the camera, design and performance. Here are our first impressions about the device. 

With the Galaxy S22 Ultra from last year, Samsung brought the functionality of the Galaxy Note series into the Ultra smartphone. And the design of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is quite similar to the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The main changes that I noticed were the slightly flatter frame on the two sides. This makes the S23 Ultra slightly easier to hold and the curvature of the front and back glass is less visible now. Otherwise, the position of ports, buttons, speaker grill and the S-Pen are identical. 

The display on the S23 Ultra has been upgraded slightly. It uses a 6.8-inch QHD+ Infinity-O-Edge Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with a refresh rate of 1-120Hz refresh rate and peak brightness of 1750 nits. Samsung also improved to their Vision Booster technology, which is now adaptive with 3 levels. The phone is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on both the front and back this time around.

Powering the S23 Ultra is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, except it is a custom higher-clocked version of the processor exclusively made for Samsung. This should result in better performance in highly demanding tasks when compared to other smartphones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. With this extra power, cooling the chipset is also important and Samsung is well aware of that. The S23 Ultra has a 2.7x larger vapour chamber cooling system that should help keep the chip cooler. We will test the capabilities of the chipset in more detail in our full review. 

One of the biggest upgrades to the S23 Ultra is its camera system. It features Samsung’s newest ISOCELL HP2 sensor which has a mind-boggling 200 million pixels. Samsung is claiming 1.5x faster autofocus, support for 8K 30fps, better night videos, wider OIS, better noise control and support for astrophotography via the Expert RAW app. The 12MP selfie camera has been improved too, with support for HDR and dual pixel autofocus. It can also take better low-light portraits now and can even output 16-bit RAW images.

The rest of the camera system has largely remained unchanged. It continues to have a 10MP 3x telephoto sensor along with a 10MP 10x telephoto sensor and a 12MP ultra-wide sensor. I was already impressed with the S22 Ultra’s camera system and I’m excited to see how the Galaxy S23 Ultra has improved. 

The rest, such as the battery capacity, charging speeds, 5G and WiFi 6E support, S-Pen features, are identical to the S22 Ultra. The S23 Ultra does come in new colours this time around – Phantom Black, Green, Cream and  Lavender. 

So that’s all we have for our hands-on experience of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Stay tuned for the full review of the device where we will test out the camera and performance in more detail.