Picture the scene: After watching the Galaxy Unpacked event live from the comfort of my seat at the Vue cinema in Westfield, I was handed a bag – a bag with a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra inside.
I rushed home as excited as Charlie was when he found his golden ticket, ready to experience a new the flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra. Within half an hour, my data was transferred, my SIM was installed, and I was ready to go.
Of course, it’s still too early to give a final verdict on the new flagship, but here’s what I’ve noticed so far after about 12 hours of use.
It’s certainly a big phone
First, I forgot how big the recent Ultra models are. You see a 6.8-inch screen and think, “Oh, it’s not much bigger than that iPhone 14 Pro MaxBut reader, let me tell you that it really is. In fact, the bare Galaxy S23 Ultra is both taller and wider than the iPhone 14 Pro Max with a case.
It’s about the aspect ratio: The Ultra opts for a wider display than most large smartphones to make the most of the S Pen. It makes sense from a performance standpoint, and I’ve enjoyed the extra screen it offers so far, but geez, it’s hard to use with one hand — and this is coming from someone who has no complaints about using most large-screen phones.
Moving on from the huge size of the phone, the first thing I noticed was the flatter display compared to the S22 Ultra. Again, this was done in an attempt to maximize performance while giving users a slightly more comfortable screen and less subtle display curvature around the edges.
The latter is a plus for me personally, as I’m not a huge fan of sharply curved displays, especially when it’s (usually) combined with sub-par palm deflection technology. This should not be as much of a problem as it has been in the past.
Battery life can be an issue
It’s also stunningly detailed at its full WQHD+ resolution, although you’ll need to manually enable it in your phone’s settings menu — it’ll run in Full HD+ straight away. As I found out, there’s a good reason for this: the full resolution completely drains the 5000mAh battery.
I haven’t actually drained it yet after draining it to 100% at 11pm last night, although I did notice the battery meter counting down quite quickly when scrolling through the likes of TikTok with WQHD+ enabled compared to using it in Full HD+.
This leads me to believe that while it’s nice to have the extra resolution, it’s really only worth turning on if you’re watching 4K content via YouTube and Netflix. For most things, including games, the Full HD+ resolution is more than enough.
So far, performance has been good, but that’s not surprising given that it’s running an exclusive chipset called Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy which boasts a faster processor and a more powerful and energy-efficient GPU than even the regular top-of-the-line 8 Gen 2. Everything feels almost instantaneous, from navigating various app menus to playing casual games like Survivor.io on the train, and I’m sure it will give some of the best test results for the phone once I put it through its paces in the coming days.
The camera is the main thing
Of course, it’s all about the camera setup in the Ultra models, and the new 200MP S23 Ultra really doesn’t disappoint. I’ve only had limited opportunities to take pictures – there’s not much of interest during my daily subway commute – but what I’ve taken so far has really impressed me.
The 200MP camera does capture a lot of detail and, unlike the S22 Ultra, doesn’t look over-processed.
There’s also phenomenal low-light performance, as seen in the following shots taken on my backlit road late last night. Not only is there an impressive level of brightness, but the colors are accurate and there’s plenty of detail, even when zoomed in.
It gets me very happy to test the camera. I’ll be interested to see how it performs in more complex scenarios, but so far it looks like it could be a real winner.
I’m also enjoying Samsung’s OneUI more than I thought I would because I prefer something as close to stock Android as possible. There are certainly UI features I’m not too fond of, such as the blocky form of notifications in the notification bar, but overall Samsung is doing a good job of improving the Android experience it already offers.
This includes a number of shortcuts available on the notification panel that most competitors don’t, a Settings app that actually makes sense (I’m looking at you, Xiaomi), and small tweaks that make the overall experience a little smoother.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra does very the high-end price starts at £1,249 with 256GB of storage, but based on what I’ve seen so far, it could justify the price.
I’ll be working on my full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review in the coming days, so stay tuned for my latest thoughts soon.