Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

March 6, 2023
4 mins read


Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Smartphone REVIEW

Samsung’s shiny new Galaxy S23 is a champ in every conceivable department, writes PAT PILCHER in his enthusiastic assessment.



Last year, Samsung’s highly regarded Galaxy Note morphed into the Galaxy S22 range. Twelve months later, Samsung launches the S23 Ultra device. It isn’t a revolutionary phone, but it’s one hell of a good reinforcement of an already great idea. When the loan phone arrived at Witchdoctor Towers, I eagerly unboxed it and never looked back.

Put simply, the S23 Ultra has it all. It’s fast and smooth in use, its display is a stunner, and its cameras are the business. It’s feature-packed and packs plenty under its hood. It isn’t cheap, but it’s probably one of the best Android devices in New Zealand in 2023.


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Looks-wise, you could mistake the S23 Ultra for the S22 Ultra. This time around, Samsung has focused its design efforts on sustainability. There are a lot more recycled materials being used. A lot of the plastic is sourced from bottles and fishing nets. The aluminium and glass are recycled too. Pleasingly, Samsung has moved heaven and earth to make sure the packaging is 100 per cent recyclable. As with the S22 range, you no longer get a power adapter. Samsung instead includes a USB cable and SIM tray removal doodah.

As you’d expect with Samsung’s top-tier smartphone, it has an IP68 rating, which means that the S23 Ultra is dust tight and can take a dunking of up to 1.5 meters deep for up to 30 minutes. Its aluminium body and glass back feel great in hand. There’s a reassuring amount of heft, and the feel is one of quality. This is helped out by soft curves on its edges and a large, mostly flat screen. It is a big phone, and driving it one-handed can sometimes be a tad awkward. However, this issue is wider than just Samsung, as other similarly sized smartphones also suffer from this issue.

Both its base and top are flat, and the S Pen docks into its base. On the rear of the phone sits five camera lenses and a flash. There is no camera island this time, which helps with the S23 Ultra’s pocketability.

Samsung has opted for a stereo setup on the speaker front, with discrete speaker grills on the S23 Ultra’s top and bottom. In use, it can deliver stereo audio with a surprising amount of volume – unless you’re gaming, which usually sees the phone rotated and your hands muffling audio from both speakers. That said, Samsung is one of the few phone makers putting effort into delivering decent audio. If you’re a headphone user you can fire up the Adapt Hearing feature, which tunes audio to your specific hearing, vastly improving earphone audio.

The S23 Ultra’s 6.8-inch AMOLED display sports the same QHD+ resolution and adaptive refresh rate (up to 120 Hz), delivering 1750 nits of peak brightness. In short, it’s the best display you’ll see on a phone this year. There’s oodles of contrast and everything is super vibrant. Adaptive brightness also means that even under sunny skies, it remains viewable.

Under the hood, the S23 Ultra is powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 tweaked for Samsung. This sees it clocked slightly faster, and the GPU has been given a major shot in the arm, so ray tracing is now supported to make phone games that support it look super stunning. Everything ran smoothly, and the phone never broke a sweat. This is likely because of the inclusion of a vapour chamber for better cooling. After extended gaming sessions, the S23 Ultra never lost its cool.

While the S23 Ultra doesn’t have microSD card support, the review unit has 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Samsung also has a version with 12GB of RAM and a stonking 1TB of storage, which is ample for anyone with a large media collection. It’s powered by a generous 5000mAh battery that supports 45W wired fast charging and 15W wireless charging. With vendors supporting 100W to 145W, the S23 won’t win any fast-recharging races. Considering its beefy specs, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s battery life is a pleasant surprise. In use, I was averaging a day and a half with steady use and even longer with light use.

The rear camera setup can only be described as excellent. Samsung has crammed a 200-megapixel sensor into the phone, a stunner. While you can shoot 200MP photos, they’ll gobble up storage at around 30MB per snap. Samsung gets around this using pixel binning to give you a more sensible 12-megapixel photo resolution. There’s also a 3x and 10x telephoto, which delivers superb photo clarity and detail.

There are several metric tonnes of shooting modes available. Samsung’s Expert RAW mode lets you tinker with the settings, allowing you to save snaps as 50MP RAW files.

Samsung is making a big deal out of the S23’s night mode (their marketing types call it nightography). Perhaps the best thing about night shooting is that it’s seamless. Point, click, and go. If it’s dark, it’ll take a little longer to click and take the photo, but the results are impressive and easily on par with my previous night shooter, Huawei’s P30 Pro.

The video works really well too. Video can be recorded in 8K at 30 fps. The video footage is rock steady, thanks to the work put into image stabilisation. After putting its camera through its paces, I can easily say that the S23 Ultra has one of the best smartphone cameras you’ll likely see in 2023.

The One UI 5.1 Android skin on the S23 Ultra is slick. It’s intuitive to use, even if it consumes 60GB of storage. It comes with a bit of bloat, but most of it can be removed to free up space.

I also found the S Pen super handy. Having long been a Note fan, I liked being able to knock out handwritten notes and highlight text.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra substantially boosts the Galaxy range’s camera performance. It sports an excellent design, a crazy good display, and rock-solid performance. All told, the S23 Ultra is the phone to beat.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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