Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: An Android flagship worthy of the title

    Samsung has always been at the forefront of smartphone innovation, and its latest flagship, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, is no exception. This device boasts some of the most impressive features and specifications ever seen on a phone, making it a worthy contender for the best smartphone of 2023.

    In this review, we will take a closer look at what makes the Galaxy S23 Ultra stand out from the crowd, and whether it lives up to its premium price tag that extends to as much as $2,649 for the 1TB model.


    Let’s be honest, it is really hard to make a phone design stand in 2023, with the industry settling on a fairly standard configuration of a large slate of glass. The bulk of the design happens around the edges (curved or flat) with the biggest difference now left to the camera array configuration.

    We’ll get to the display itself in a minute, but something Samsung offer that other flagships don’t is the embedded stylus. Found at the bottom of the phone, the stylus has a legacy from its time in the Note devices but is now integrated really well into the flagship S line.

    Personally, I’ve never felt the need to use a stylus on a phone, but after using it on the S23 Ultra, I certainly understand how some can enjoy it. When you pop out the stylus, the phone knows that and immediately displays a special stylus bubble on the interface, offering you new capabilities.

    With the S-pen, you can control the interface by swiping and tapping, but your finger could do that. The real advantage is the ability to annotate pictures, your calendar and more. There are some party tricks like annotating over the camera feed and drawing in augmented reality, however, the tracking is better in Pokemon Go than in this mode.

    What is actually useful, is the ability to use the pen as a shutter for the camera, great for those times when you’re on your own, and would typically setup a tripod, tap the 3,5 or 10-second countdown, then race into position in front of the camera. Instead, you simply press the button on the S-pen and the photo gets taken. What I really appreciated is that Samsung didn’t stop there, you can double-tap this button to flip between the front and rear cameras and if you want to switch between camera and video modes, you can do that by pressing and holding the button while gesturing left or right.

    Samsung didn’t have to go to this level of functionality, but I’m glad they did, it helps justify the use of precious space in the phone’s body for the S-pen and even if you never use it for handwriting notes, this is functionality you are likely to use.

    The Galaxy S23 Ultra has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, meaning it can withstand up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. It also has an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display for fast and secure unlocking. Personally, I prefer to leverage facial recognition so the phone unlocks just by looking at it and then a simple swipe up on the lock screen.


    The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a sleek and premium design that exudes elegance and sophistication. The phone comes in four stunning colours: Green, Phantom Black, Lavender and Cream (reviewed). There are also four online exclusive colours available only on Lime, Sky Blue, Graphite and Red with 1 colour exclusive to those with deepest pockets, aka the 1TB model.

    The phone features a generous 6.8″ Edge QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O Display. This runs at a maximum resolution of 3088 x 1440 pixels and a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. As with most modern displays, it’s possible to reduce this either to enable the content to appear larger (scaling can do this), or to extend the battery life.

    The display is HDR10+ certified and supports Vision Booster technology that adapts to the sun’s natural light for an optimal viewing experience.


    The Galaxy S23 Ultra is powered by an octa-core processor that consists of:

    • A Cortex-X2 core clocked at 3.36GHz
    • Three Cortex-A78 cores clocked at 2.8GHz
    • Four Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 2GHz

    The phone comes with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM depending on the storage option you choose, either 256GB or 512GB or 1TB. The amount of storage each individual needs locally on the phone will vary, but with many of us using cloud storage for our photos and videos, it’s unlikely most need much more than the 256GB, even if the OS does consume a surprising amount.

    The phone runs the latest Android operating system, layered with Samsung’s One UI skin on top, which adds elements like support for the S-pen not found in Android by default. Outside that, there’s not too much to complain about regarding One UI, it’s certainly been toned down over the years.

    Thankfully Samsung’s customisations don’t degrade the performance, with the phone incredibly snappy and responsive through application launches, video conversions, gaming and more. With a phone at this price point, expectations are high and I left my time with the S23 Ultra impressed.

    One simple measure of this compared to another competitor, the Pixel 7 Pro, is that the S23 Ultra launches the same game, Pokemon Go, multiple seconds faster, despite launching just a few months after the 7 Pro.

    Cameras and Photography

    The Galaxy S23 Ultra has one of the most advanced camera systems on any smartphone. It features a quad rear camera setup consisting of:

    • A 200MP wide-angle camera with f/1.7 aperture and adaptive pixel sensor
    • A 10MP telephoto camera with f/4.9 aperture and 10x optical zoom
    • A 12MP ultra-wide camera with f/2.2 aperture
    • A 10MP telephoto camera with f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom

    The rear cameras support up to 100x digital zoom, optical image stabilization (OIS), phase detection autofocus (PDAF), laser autofocus (LAF) and LED flash.

    The rear cameras also support Nightography mode that lets you capture stunning photos and videos in low-light conditions. You can choose from different modes such as Night Portrait, Night Video and Astro Hyperlapse to create epic shots that reflect the beauty in the dark.

    The front camera is a 12MP selfie shooter with f/2.2 aperture and autofocus. It supports dual video call, live focus video, AR Emoji and more.

    The Galaxy S23 Ultra can record videos in up to UHD 8K resolution at 30fps. While almost none of us have 8K displays yet, this additional quality is important if you edit videos and want to zoom in on content, without the visuals degrading.


    One of the biggest new features this year with the S23 Ultra is something called Astrophotography, which has also been one of the most controversial.

    This feature is available when you open the camera, go to More, and download the Expert RAW extension. This gives you a crazy level of control over taking photos, and approaching what’s on offer on DSLRs (minus the interchangeable lenses).

    One of the options in that mode is ‘Astrophoto’ where you can select long exposures of 4 minutes, 7 minutes or 10 minutes. This feature works like a long exposure on traditional cameras, leaving the lens (or sensor) open to accumulate light and at when the timer ends, your camera roll will be left with an amazing photo of the stars in the night sky, simply not possible with other phones.

    Your phone does have to be still during this process, so you’ll definitely need a tripod to achieve this and you’ll definitely get better results if you get away from light pollution in the city, (one of the benefits of living in a regional location.

    While this took a bit of trial and error, once I saw the result of the successful capture, I was blown away. From the raw photo, you can layer over a couple of filters, or fine-tune the levels in the photo, then share to your social media and wait for the amazed replies to come in.

    This feature appears to have had its origins back in 2020 with the S20 Ultra, but 3 years on, they made it an incredibly accessible feature that anyone can use.

    There is a mode in Astrophoto that allows to you use AR and overlay the astronomy collections over the camera feed, allowing you to confirm your phone is pointed in the right direction.

    Battery Life

    The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a massive battery capacity of 5000mAh that supports fast charging, wireless charging, and reverse wireless charging. According to Samsung, the battery can provide up to 25 hours of internet usage time on LTE network, 25 hours of internet usage time on Wi-Fi network,
    26 hours of video playback time wirelessly, 17 hours of talk time.

    In reality, I found the found easily getting you through a full day.


    There’s really not a lot wrong to complain about with the S23 Ultra, aside from the instability when placed on a flat surface. I’m not sure how many people try to input content on their phone while it’s laying down rather than in their hand, but if you do, you’ll notice the arrangement of cameras to the left of the back of the phone, means tapping on the right side of the display tips the phone.

    As well executed as the S-pen is in the S23 Ultra, I can’t help but think if Samsung offered a version without this, they’d be able to extend the battery to fill that space and potentially increase it from 5000mAh to 6,000mAh battery that’d deliver hours of more battery life to users each day.

    Price and Availability

    The Samsung Galaxy S23 range is available now online from Samsung directly, or from telcos like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone as well as main retail phone outlets.

    There’s no way around it, this phone is expensive, but that shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. This is the best of the best, Samsungs most powerful smartphone with the best camera array to date.

    If you are budget conscious, you should look across the entire S23 lineup as the non-Ultra models offer many of the same features, at a discounted price.

    If you are after the best, the S23 Ultra starts at A$1,949 for the 256GB | 8GB RAM model. If you step up to 512GB, you get 12GB of RAM and that’ll cost you A$2,249.00.

    For those who need the most local storage available, the 1TB | 12GB model is for you, just be prepared to part with a mega $2,649.00.

    While these prices were unthinkable just a few years ago, the smartphone industry has done a great job of walking us well past the A$1,000 mark and is now well on its way to A$3,000. For some, a smartphone will provide more function than a laptop, so in that context, it may make sense, but it’d make a lot more sense if you can convince the boss to pay.

    For context, the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max costs more A$2,769, so the S23 Ultra is actually a bargain.


    The Galaxy S23 Ultra is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones. My basis for comparison was my previous daily driver, a Google Pixel 7 Pro. Both the Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra are great phones with their own unique features.

    It really depends on what you’re looking for in a phone. If you’re looking for a phone with a great camera, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra might be the better choice. If you’re looking for a phone with a great display and pure Android, enabling you to get access to future OS upgrades earlier, then the Google Pixel 7 Pro might be the better choice.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


    1. Doesn’t the Samsung front-facing camera let you snap a selfie by holding up your hand? The stylus might be more convenient, but it’s not like there isn’t already a hands-free method for photos.

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