Samsung S23 Ultra: Premium design and performance at a premium price Samsung’s Galaxy S series has been among the forefront of Android flagships for over a decade now. It brings the Korean giant’s latest and greatest technology offering to compete against the like of Apple. I have been using the S23 Ultra for a while now (the model that’s priced at Rs. 1,24,999), and here’s what I think about it.
Design: The S23 Ultra follows premium aesthetics of the S22 Ultra with some little tweaks and additions. The front has slightly flattened display on the sides now while the device itself appears boxier than before. It is a big and heavy phone with a 6.8-inch display and weighing a little over 230grams, but it isn’t slippery and doesn’t get a lot of smudges around its back and front with a frosted matte-like(Gorilla Glass Victus 2) finish on the back that houses the crowded and protruding camera setup, on the Green colour model. The bezels around the display are thin and the bottom (chin) one is slightly thicker than others. It wouldn’t be surprising if Samsung does away with curved displays on its flagships in a while. The right side houses the volume buttons and the Power/lock key near the middle, both keys feel tactile to press, requiring just enough pressure. The bottom houses the S Pen, primary mic, one set of loudspeakers and the dual SIM card tray slot. The top just has the secondary mic. While the sides are slightly curved inwards, the top and bottom are flushed flat. As mentioned, this is a big phone that weighs more than an average phone but it feels really nice in the hand, never slipped and holds its own when it comes to dust and day to day scratches without much to worry, plus it’s IP68 water and dust resistant, as expected.
Display: The phone features a 6.8-inch WQHD+ (3088x1440) AMOLED display with support for up to 120Hz refresh rates. This is a really sharp and bright display Samsung has used that you can use under direct sunlight, too, without any trouble. It really is a top quality display for watching videos, viewing high resolution images or reading text. Only the Apple iPhone 14 Pro competes well against it in terms of colour calibration and HDR content, which seems slightly better in output than the S22 series. It’s just that both still have 8-bit displays and not 10-bit.
Camera: If you watched Samsung’s launch even for the S23 series, you would have an idea how much time they spent on their cameras. The device features four cameras on the back -- 200MP (f/1.7) main camera, dual 10MP (f/2.4 & f/4.9) telephoto cameras, and a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide camera along with a laser autofocus. By default, the device takes shots in 12MP resolution. The 200MP count is more than enough for pretty much every user, but it’s there for zooming and editing purpose later. One thing the camera has it a bit of shutter lag, which gets addressed to some extent using the Camera Assistant add-on from Galaxy Store, especially useful if you have kids and pets around your place. The phone can take detailed, well-lit shots with improved white balance compared to the S22 Ultra. The video performance seems to be a little better too with better handling of colours and detailing when your subject is moving. You can now also take 8k videos at 30FPS. The 12MP (f/2.2) front-facing camera tends to take a little more realistic and less toned up shots including in low-light scenes.
Performance and software experience: The device runs on One UI 5.1 based Android 13 with the January security patch. It’s powered by a slightly customized Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset /( up to 3.36GHz processor, Adreno 740 GPU and x70 modem) coupled with 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage. I found the phone to handle daily tasks and even graphic intensive gamming really well, without showing many hiccups. Playing a game like Apex Legends, the phone delivers smooth frames and responsive gameplay throughout. Moving from one app to another, using dual apps and two apps at once with the floating window work nicely. Thanks to the chipset, the phone rarely ever heats up included during charging. Even when it heats up, it’s nothing alarming and significantly less than S22 series. Regarding the OS, things like Smart Switch, DeX mode and Link to Windows make it a good package for your travel needs and keeping your data with you after switching from another device whether Android or iOS. The whole look and feel of the OS can be changed using themes and palette, one thing that could be tweaked is not giving all the icons in the dropdown shortcuts pane same colour after choosing a colour palette. Apps like Good Lock and its add-on really allow you to tweak and customize things as per your own liking, and something definitely worth giving a try if you have a Samsung Galaxy device. S Pen is pretty much same as before. I mainly used it for taking quick notes on the black screen as soon as you pick it from the bottom. It’s also handy for taking screenshots, writing to text mode as well as taking photos using the embedded button on it. I also liked how it handles adaptive refresh rates with frames per second not taking a big hit when switching to different apps. One thing I would suggest is to opt out of any recommendations and app suggestions during the initial setup and starting Samsung apps for the first time.
Battery life: With a 5,000 mAh battery unit that supports up to 45watt charging speeds, the device lasted me a day quite regularly with adaptive refresh rate, brightness at around 35%, WiFi almost always on, 2 Email Accounts, highest resolution set. It charges from 1% to full in about 100-110 minutes, which isn’t quick by any means, and remember there’s no bundled charger in the box. The device supports wireless induction charging with speeds of up to 15watts, though I couldn’t try that one.
Other titbits: Call quality and network reception on the phone didn’t show any glitches. The phon supports WiFi 6GHz standard, Bluetooth 5.3 and NFC. It showed decent 5G performance with latching to the network while on the move, though I did have to switch between 4G LTE and 5G manually once in a few days to get back to 5G in the same location. Loudspeakers on the device are sufficiently loud and clear for watching videos or even gaming sitting alone with rarely any distortion at maximum levels.
Verdict: As you can see, there’s very little the Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn’t do well. It could improve on charging time and maybe it’s a heavy device, but other than that there’s not something major to pinpoint that isn’t good enough. It has an excellent display, a great set of cameras and good battery life. The whole One UI gels in well and doesn’t look weirdly placed anywhere out of the box. It’s a high-end device that is into the iPhone 14 Pro territory, but Samsung has already been giving decent deals on its own website and there’s some offers on Amazon, too, so would suggest you check around for those since if you’re looking for a high-end Android device that is cutting edge on most fronts.