The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is here, and with it comes upgrades to the performance, camera and... well that's about it. The S23 Ultra may be more of an iterative upgrade over the S22 Ultra rather than a revolution, but even still, the S23 Ultra is set to offer up new features and a more powerful chip. So, is Samsung's new flagship worth it?
We've put both devices through our thorough review process, with an obvious emphasis on these phones' AV performance, and can safely recommend both devices if you're after a device to take your favourite movies, shows and music on the go. However, what actually differentiates these two Android phones?
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: price
The S22 Ultra retails for £1149 / $1199 / AU$1849 (128GB), £1249 / AU$1999 (256GB), £1329 / AU$2149 (512GB) or AU$2449 (1TB), putting it squarely in the flagship price bracket. The all-new S23 Ultra will run you £1249 / $1199 / AU$1949 (256GB), £1399 / $1379 / AU$2249 (512GB), £1599 / $1619 / AU$2649 (1TB).
There's no beating around the bush, the S23 Ultra is even more expensive than its predecessor unless you live in the USA. The bump may not be huge, but nonetheless, Samsung's most expensive phone is set to become even more expensive, depending on where you live.
Samsung is keeping the S22 Ultra on sale alongside its successor, however, it hasn't lowered the older phone's price as of yet in its official store. But, if you look at third-party retailers, the likelihood is that you'll be able to snag an S22 Ultra for cheaper on account of it being a year into its life cycle now.
When you add in the fact that the S23 Ultra isn't shipping with a 128GB model like the S22 Ultra, you'll definitely be spending more for the pleasure, so if money is your primary concern, the S22 Ultra is going to be your top pick.
However, the S23 Ultra is bringing upgrades to the table over the S22 Ultra that may be worth the cash...
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: design
If you liked the design of the S22 Ultra, we've got good news: the S23 Ultra is going to look and feel just about the same as its predecessor.
You're still getting those sharper corners on the Ultra vs the rounded angles of the standard Galaxy, but outside of the Ultra being the bigger device, thanks to Samsung removing the camera lip on the standard S23 Galaxy, the S23 Ultra has a lot in common with last year's model and the rest of the S23 line.
While there aren't any major changes to speak of, that's not necessarily a bad thing. We appreciated the design of the S22 Ultra in our five-star review, and that sentiment carried into our review of the S23 Ultra, in which we complimented the solid and high-quality build.
However, if you were looking for a big shake-up in terms of design with the S23 Ultra, you'll be better off waiting for the next generation.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: display
The S23 Ultra comes with the same display as the S22 Ultra. However, you will be getting the next generation of Corning Glass Victus that Samsung promises is more durable, which is a nice little bonus.
Even if that may not sound too exciting, the S22 Ultra already comes packed with a 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED display that runs at 1440 x 3088 with HDR10+ support and 1750 nits of peak brightness. Put simply, this is a modern display with just about all of the bells and whistles you could want from a smartphone.
In our review of the S22 Ultra, as far as the display goes, we said that we found "the picture quality impossible to beat at this point in time". Suffice it to say that if the S23 Ultra is coming with that very same display then whether you're watching movies or playing games you won't be held back by your display.
While the S22 Ultra display is brilliant, we wanted something more from the S23 Ultra as it costs more. However, we found that little had changed, and that next to some refreshed rivals such as the Sony Xperia 1 IV and Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, the S23 Ultra couldn't quite level these two when it came to motion and subtlety.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: power
Samsung's latest S23 Ultra Galaxy is coming with an all-new chip vs last year's Galaxy, theoretically bringing more power to the table.
For the 2023 line-up of Galaxy phones, Samsung is pushing Qualcomm's Snapdragon Gen 2 chip, the second generation of the chip powering the S22 Galaxy line, but there's a twist, too. The chip inside the Galaxy S23 Ultra isn't running at the standard clock speeds of the Snapdragon 8 - it's been overclocked.
The S23 Ultra chip has got a 3.36GHz CPU clock (vs 3.2GHz base) and a 719MHz GPU clock (vs 680MHz base), increasing CPU speed by .16GHz and GPU speed by 39MHz. Navigating through these arbitrary terms and stats, we can confirm that the S23 Ultra is a very solid performer. We didn't encounter any bugs or glitches, and overall experienced a very smooth Android experience on the S23 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: camera
Like the processor, the camera in the S23 Ultra is also getting some key upgrades over the S22 Ultra.
First up, you're getting a bump up to a 200MP camera vs the 108MP camera on the S22,. The selfie camera is also getting upgraded from 10MP on the S22 to 12MP and can shoot in Super HDR 60FPS. On top of that, you're getting improved optical image stabilisation; better noise reduction via AI tech; and a new Astrophoto mode for taking pictures of the night sky.
Samsung's S22 Ultra was already known for its excellent camera, with What Hi-Fi?'s reviewers appreciating the S22 Ultra's clarity and detail, especially when zooming in, and the S23 Ultra expands upon this even more. If you are an avid smartphone photographer, the S23 Ultra is an excellent choice, as it produces crisp shots and retains granular detail even when you're utilising the maximum digital zoom.
It's not surprising to see the camera performance jump on the S23 Ultra, as it's the star feature of practically all the marketing material for this phone.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: battery
In our review of the S22 Ultra, we found that it did manage a full day of heavy usage, which will likely be enough for most folks, but nonetheless, one of our problems with the S22 Ultra was its overall beatable battery life.
Unfortunately, that hasn't changed on the S23 Ultra, as, unlike its smaller S23 and S23+ siblings, it hasn't received a boost in the battery department. The 5000mAh battery on the S23 Ultra is also now competing with a more power-hungry processor, so that too throws a spanner in the works.
In practice, the S23 Ultra battery comfortably got us through a full day of usage, however, it was by no means exceptional. Throughout a fairly full-on day of use, we did cautiously drop display brightness and drop down to 1080p as the day went on.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: sound
The audio set-up of the Galaxy S23 Ultra looks to be, on paper, just about the same as the S22 Ultra, but that may actually be a good thing.
With the S22 Ultra's Dolby Atmos stereo loudspeakers, we found that the phone managed to offer up a meatier, more spacious soundstage than the competition, even if those speakers lacked dynamic haptic vibration the likes of which you can find in Sony's Xperia line of smartphones.
In terms of listening to audio with headphones on the S22 Ultra, we found its performance to be competitive in our review, though it didn't manage to compete with the best of the best in terms of headphone audio quality.
Onto the S23 Ultra, we also found the audio performance to be mostly the same as last year's model. The Dolby Atmos speakers are once again a highlight, with a spacious and dynamic feel that is often absent from smartphones, and headphone performance is still good but outdone by its rivals due to its lack of warmth and naturalness.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: verdict
As you'll see, on paper, the S23 Ultra is an iterative upgrade over the S22 Ultra, but it is an upgrade nonetheless. With improvements to its chip and camera headlining the changes in Samsung's new flagship, depending on who you are, you may find the price bump worth it for what's on offer.
However, the changes are a little too iterative for our liking, hence the four-star review for the S23 Ultra, despite the S22 Ultra taking home a five-star review last year. It's not to say that the S23 Ultra is a bad phone by any means, and if you want the ultimate Android experience it's one of the best phones to go for right now. However, it features no meaningful upgrades in the areas that we look for, and it is outperformed by its Sony and Apple rivals in many instances, and the higher barrier to entry is just icing on the cake.
So which should you get? Both devices are very similar, so if you just care about the screen and audio, then we'd recommend scouting out a good deal on the S22 Ultra. However, if you want a phone with an impressive camera system that's also capable of top-notch performance for gaming and heavier-duty tasks, then the S23 Ultra is the one to go for.
Check out our review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
And our S22 Ultra review
Want a Galaxy rival? Read our Sony Xperia 1 IV review
Or the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max review
And our list of the best smartphones