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What new features does the Galaxy S23 Ultra bring and should owners of last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra upgrade?

The new S23 Ultra is not official just yet, but with plenty of leaks and rumors, we know a lot about the upcoming flagship. The highlights include a rumored switch to a new Snapdragon chip for all models, ending years of a painful split where consumers outside the US got a lesser Exynos processor. Then, on the camera front, a new 200MP main camera takes over, and you get other improvements to the camera system.

And just like its predecessor, the S23 Ultra comes with an S Pen built inside for your convenience.

We dive deeper in all those interesting details, exploring the differences and all the important changes in the S23 Ultra.

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S22 Ultra in a nutshell:

  • Extremely similar design and size
  • More powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip on all S23 models
  • Same RAM and storage combos
  • New 200MP main camera
  • Improved night photos and videos
  • Same battery size, same charging speeds

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Why change what works?

The Galaxy S23 Ultra looks so similar to its predecessor that we would absolutely forgive you if you are confused and cannot tell the two apart.

There are some giveaways, but they are subtle. The biggest one has got to be those flatter sides on the new model that mimic the look of recent iPhones and make it easier to pick up the phone from a table.

The squared edge design and the overall construction are mostly the same on the two. You have glass on the front and the back, with an aluminum frame in the middle, and all buttons are on the right hand side.

Both phones get IP68 certification, meaning they have the highest water and dust rating available in a common flagship. And on the bottom, you will find a USB-C port on both, but no 3.5mm headphone jack.

You get a large, 6.8-inch screen on both phones and it has slightly wider dimensions than your typical smartphone, so you get even more screen real estate to work with.

Both phones are Dynamic AMOLED, with a 1440p resolution and 1-120Hz automatic refresh rate.

The one change we expect to see on the S23 Ultra screen is brightness that would go higher than the current 1,750-nit max brightness of the S22 Ultra.

We don’t expect to see any significant changes in biometrics. Both phone rely on an ultra-sonic fingerprint scanner built inside the screen and it has a reputation for being reliable and fast enough (even if not the fastest). Both will also support image-based face recognition, which is nice to have, but don’t forget that such a system can be spoofed without too much effort and is just not as secure as a 3D face unlock system.

Performance and Software

The biggest leap in performance for a Galaxy flagship in recent years!

The big change in the S23 Ultra has got to be the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. Not just that, though, Samsung is said to equip all Galaxy S23 Ultra models with this chip, regardless of the country it’s sold in. That’s a start change from the last few years of Samsung selling a Snapdragon version of the Ultra in the US and a few other markets, while the rest of the world got the lesser Exynos processor instead.

The S23 Ultra changes that, and that change alone will give users in Europe and other parts of the world, a serious reason to upgrade.

So, what is the difference between the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on the S23 Ultra and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 on the S22 Ultra? Both are made on 4nm technology, but the Gen 2 has better power efficiency AND packs higher performance.

Performance Benchmark Results:

*Results for the S23 Ultra are preliminary.

As you can see in the preliminary benchmark results above, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip delivers a massive improvement in speeds of nearly 30% in both single and multi-core performance. Those are the kind of gains we haven’t seen in recent years and finally would put the Galaxy S23 Ultra much closer to the industry-leading performance of Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max.

As per current leaks and rumors, the S23 Ultra will be offered in the same configurations as the S22 Ultra, which are the following:

  • 8GB RAM + 128GB storage (base model)
  • 12GB RAM + 256GB storage
  • 12GB RAM + 512GB storage

Samsung shook the Android world with its promise for 4 years of major software updates and 5 years of security updates, which we expect both the S23 Ultra and S22 Ultra to adhere to. Compare this to just 3 years or even 2 years of software updates on many phones, and you can appreciate the added value. 

The S23 Ultra is expected to launch with Android 13 spiced up with Samsung’s One UI 5 interface, and we don’t expect to see any differences in the software of the new S23 Ultra and the older model.


New 200MP main camera promises a big improvement

A great camera is what makes or breaks a flagship, and so far, Samsung has had great success with the quadruple camera system on the Ultra series and the whole space zoom concept.

The new S23 Ultra, however, takes that to the next level. It retains the same quad rear camera with a main + ultra-wide + 3X zoom + 10X zoom system, but upgrades probably the most important one of these four: the main camera.

With a new 200MP image sensor, expectations are for superb detail, and leakers also promise big improvements in low-light photos and videos. The other cameras are expected to benefit from software improvements, but are largely projected to keep the familiar hardware.

Leaker Ice Universe claims the new 200MP camera on the S23 Ultra will be 1/1.3″ sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. This is a slightly larger physical size than the 1/1.33″ sensor used on the S22 Ultra, plus you get faster aperture on the newer Ultra.

This leaked camera sample that allegedly comes from the S23 Ultra shows a huge improvement in the amount of detail, so color us excited.

We haven’t heard much about new video features, but we expect Samsung to address some of the capabilities that rivals have added. The iPhone 14 Pro has added a new Action Mode for steady video footage, so we might see Samsung’s answer to that, and Google has an object removal tool that is also quite useful.

We will be updating this section with more information and photos, as soon as those come out.

Audio Quality and Haptics

So far, it seems that the Galaxy S23 Ultra will offer the same in terms of audio quality as its predecessor. That means A. no 3.5mm headphone jack, and B. a dual stereo speaker setup with a main bottom firing loudspeaker and a secondary, helper speaker in the earpiece at the top of the phone.

We complained about sub-optimal audio quality on the S22 Ultra, with our main gripe being the lack of any depth to the sound and we hope Samsung improves upon that in the new edition.

In terms of haptic feedback, we were quite happy with the S22 Ultra, and we don’t expect to see much of a change in haptics on the S23 Ultra.

Battery Life and Charging

Same battery size, but can actual battery life be improved?

Both the newer S23 Ultra and the S22 Ultra are said to have the same, 5,000mAh battery inside.

This size has become the norm on Android flagships these days, and anything less than that sounds downright disappointing. This year, however, the S23 Ultra brings a more efficient processor and this could allow it to score actually better battery life, but we don’t expect the difference to be huge.

For most intents and purposes, both these phones will be a 1-day affair with nightly charging.

We will be updating this section with our independent battery tests as soon as we get the phones, so you know all the details about the actual battery life.

We also don’t expect to see changes on the charging front. True to the new industry trend, there is no charger included in the box with either of these phones.

Max wired charging speeds on both are 45W, and to reach that you would need not only a fast charger, but also a special 5A cable (Samsung sells both of those). Expect to see charging times of just a bit more than 1 hour on both phones.

They also both support wireless charging that goes up to 15W in terms of speeds

Specs Comparison

Summary and Final Verdict

At the end of the day, the Galaxy S23 Ultra might look like its predecessor, but the massive processor upgrade and an exciting new camera system really make us look forward to it.

It’s too early to tell whether S22 Ultra users should upgrade, but considering the gains in speed and the possibility of a much better camera, this might be one of those rare cases where we do recommend an upgrade.

What do you expect out of the Galaxy S23 Ultra?

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