The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra arrived at the February Galaxy Unpacked event and it ticks all the rumored boxes with that ludicrous 200MP camera and the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. It should be a beast, but how does it stack up against last year's Galaxy S22 Ultra?
Whether you are considering an upgrade from the S22 Ultra already or are upgrading from something else and undedicated between the two we are going to help you pick the right model for you.
Now there is certainly a lot more alike than different when looking at the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra, so we'll be mainly focusing on those differences in this face-off.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: price and value
The starting price for both models was the same $1,199. The only difference is that the Galaxy S23 Ultra's base storage is 256GB, while the S22 Ultra started at 128GB. The latter can now be had cheaper of course after a year on the market, you should be able to find the base S22 Ultra for $999 or less.
During the pre-order period for the Galaxy S23 Ultra (through February 16) you get a free upgrade to the next storage tier, making the 512GB model just $1,199, which also gives you a bump up to 12GB of RAM.
During this pre-order period I would call this a draw as the jump to 512GB and 12GB of RAM is significant, but this category is going to tip to the Galaxy S22 Ultra when those deals run out as getting in for under $1,000 is a solid value for that hardware.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: design
Samsung made only a few minor tweaks to the Galaxy S23 Ultra design this year with the most critical to me being the move from a waterfall edge display to a flatter display with a subtle curve. Otherwise, you are getting the same industrial design with the exposed camera lenses that we saw on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
While it begs for a case to protect those lenses and allow it to lay flat on a table, it's so tempting to go case-free as it feels fantastic to hold. At 3.1 x 6.4 x 0.35 inches and 8.25 ounces, the S23 Ultra is 0.17 ounces heavier than its predecessor, but the dimensions are nearly identical.
I give the slight lead to the Galaxy S23 Ultra due to my preference for a flatter display, but there is virtually nothing to distinguish the two.
Winner: Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: display
Samsung made some software tweaks for the Galaxy S23 Ultra display and we'll need to get it in our labs to thoroughly test what difference any of those made, but from a hardware standpoint these two remain the same.
Both Ultras boast a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a WQHD+ (3200 x 1440) resolution and an adaptive refresh rate that scales from 1Hz to 120Hz depending on what's on the screen.
Samsung still has inarguably the best mobile displays on the market, so there's no loser here, but we'll update this section with the lab results when we have them to see if Samsung has actually upped its game more than we thought.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: performance
Finally, something that is decidedly different. The Galaxy S23 Ultra gets the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset inside. Again, we are just getting started with our testing, but we have high hopes for this upgrade with performance, efficiency, and AI enhancements that could make for a more significant generational jump. Qualcomm claims it offers a 35% performance boost over the 8 Gen 1 in the Galaxy S22 Ultra and 40% more power efficiency.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 also is the debut of ray tracing support on mobile, but we'll need to see developers adopt it, which may take time as more flagships launch with it this year.
We'll see exactly how much of an impact the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has once we've conducted our testing, but it's safe to assume that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is going to take this category. Stay tuned for that update.
Winner: Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: battery life and charging
Once again no changes for this year. The Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra both feature 5,000 mAh batteries and 45W wired fast charging.
This category is going to remain a draw until we have our Laptop Mag Battery Test complete as the improved efficiency of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 may have a significant impact despite the matching batteries, but we just don't know that yet.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: cameras
The Galaxy S23 Ultra largely sticks to its predecessor's array, with the exception of that incredible new 200MP at f/1.8 camera sensor that I can't wait to test. The rest are the same 12MP ultra-wide sensor at f/2.2, a 10MP 3x telephoto at f/2.4, and a 10MP telephoto at f/4.9 camera. Turning to the front, you have the now 12MP front-facing camera at f/2.2. We'll need to see if the switch from 40MP to 12MP on the front makes an appreciable difference.
That main camera promises absolutely outstanding low-light and astrophotography performance, but the rest of the lineup should remain roughly on par with last year. The big unknown is how much of an impact the improved computational photography capabilities of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will have.
The leaks and rumors suggest that the main sensor on the Galaxy S23 Ultra makes a transformative difference for low-light and night photos, but again we'll have to see it in practice. I'll call this category for the S23 Ultra, but come back when we've got some photo samples and we'll see whether the upgrade is worth it.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: software
Needless to say the software for the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Galaxy S22 Ultra is identical. Both phones use Samsung’s One UI 5.1 overlay on Android 13, which gets you some handy extras on top of Android including S Pen support and Samsung’s DeX mode which essentially turns your phone into a laptop replacement.
Software support is the same as well with four major Android updates and five years of security updates. That's the best software support of any Android manufacturer.
While all of that remains the same, the category goes to the Galaxy S23 Ultra as it launches a year later, so it's support extends farther out from today.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra: Outlook
As I'm sure you noticed, there are very few changes this year for the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Now some are potentially significant like the 200MP primary camera and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but we'll have to see how they perform in our testing before we decide just how massive they are.
If you currently own a Galaxy S22 Ultra you are safe skipping the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Even if the camera and performance upgrades prove more significant than we are currently projecting, there simply isn't enough more there to warrant the upgrade. Wait for the Galaxy S24 Ultra to see what Samsung has in store.
If you are coming from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or any of the previous Galaxy S series devices, this is a great entry point and likely one of the best phones of 2023. Check back with us soon and we'll update this face-off with our lab and real-world testing to give you our final decision.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.