Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Puts 200MP Camera And S Pen Into A Refined Flagship

Faster, sleeker, and more practical, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra aims to kick off 2023's smartphone flagships with a high bar for Google, Apple, and everyone else. Even more important since it absorbed the Galaxy Note series in 2021, the pinnacle of the Galaxy S range arrives with a new 200-megapixel camera, Qualcomm's latest and greatest chipset, and a welcome focus on usable features rather than gimmicks. Samsung clearly isn't messing with a recipe that works: the S22 Ultra was the most popular of 2022's Galaxy S22 series. 

Samsung's aesthetic has been massaged, not remade, for 2023. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a sandwich of Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and Armor Aluminum, a slender 0.35 inches thick and 8.25 ounces in weight. For the first time, Samsung is using recycled ocean-bound plastics for external components as well as internal, along with recycled metal. The S Pen continues to have a built-in silo, and an update to Google Meet live sharing allows co-editing of shared Samsung Notes documents by call participants.

From the rear, you'd be forgiven for assuming nothing had changed, a clean expanse with only the multiple camera lenses and accompanying sensors poking through. IP68 water and dust-proofing are standard, as is Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 (and Super Fast Charging 2.0) for the 5,000 mAh battery. There's reverse wireless charging support for accessories, too.

Big display gets a welcome curve change

On the front, there's a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O screen running at QHD+ resolution. As before, there's dynamic refresh rate support, from 1 Hz through to 120 Hz to balance smoothness with power consumption. Peak brightness can hit 1,750 nits, Samsung claims, and the company says its AMOLED panel uses more efficient organic materials than last year's phone. 

What's new beyond the raw specs might make the difference, however. For a start, Samsung has reshaped the curved sides of the screen, leaving the front of the Galaxy S23 Ultra flatter than its predecessor. That should make it easier to write to the very edges with the S Pen.

Advanced Vision Booster has been upgraded, too, and now adjusts across a broader range of color and contrast levels to better match the environment. Enhanced Comfort has also been updated, helping reduce eye strain in dark conditions.

200 megapixels on tap

It's photography where Samsung's greatest efforts typically show, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra puts its best foot forward with a 200-megapixel primary sensor. Four times the resolution of the Galaxy S23 and S23+, it allows for Nona-binning of 16 pixels into one in the final frame, up from 9-pixel clusters on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. That should pay dividends in detail in the resulting 12-megapixel images, as will the improvements to optical image stabilization (OIS), which now doubles the correction angle of last year's phone.

The ultra-wide camera clocks in at 12 megapixels (f/2.2), while there are two telephoto cameras. These deliver 3x and 10x optical zoom — both with 10-megapixel sensors and OIS — while there's up to 100x Space Zoom using computational trickery. For video, there's 8K/30 fps and 4K/60 fps support, along with 1080p/120 fps and 960 fps super-slow-mo.

For selfies, a 12-megapixel camera with autofocus pokes through the AMOLED's hole punch; it can shoot up to 4K/60 fps video. On the editing side, recent updates to Samsung's Expert RAW app support multiple exposures and astrophotography.

The power and connectivity you'd expect

Galaxy S23 Ultra buyers will get four generations of Android OS update, and five years of security updates. The smartphone will run One UI 5.1 out of the box with support for features like video lock screens, Bixby Text Call — which uses text-to-speech so you can answer calls by typing — and Smart Suggestions to recommend apps and settings based on your typical daily activities. Modes and Routines give Galaxy Phones a similar system to iOS' Focus, making it easy to switch between different configurations for things like notification settings.

Running all that is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy, the flagship chipset announced at the end of 2022. There'll be three configurations: a Galaxy S23 Ultra with 8 GB of memory and 256 GB of storage, or one with 12 GB of memory and either 512 GB or 1 TB of storage.

Regardless, you get 5G in both Sub-6 and mmWave flavors, Wi-Fi 6E, Ultra Wideband support, and both an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor and face recognition. On the green front, Samsung is removing all plastics from its packaging, though as in previous years, you'll have to supply your own charger. For 2023, nobody gets left out when it comes to colors: the Galaxy S23 Ultra is available in the same Phantom Black, Cream, Green, and Lavender finishes as its S23 and S23+ siblings. Preorders kick off today, February 1, 2023, priced from $1,199.99. The model will begin shipping on February 17, 2023.