I am in a crossroads. Just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy A14 5G and called it a phenomenal phone for just $200, proving that you really don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great smartphone. Right now, I’m reviewing Samsung’s top-of-the-line $1,200 Galaxy S23 Ultra and $800 Galaxy S23 — heck, sometimes it’s nice to splurge, you know?
Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series (which also includes the S23+, a model I haven’t tested) isn’t a game-changing device in the least, and most people don’t need all those high-end cameras and power. But I have to remind myself that sometimes it’s okay to pay for the best things. It’s nice not having to squint at a dimly lit screen on a sunny day and being able to play demanding games at maximum fidelity.
If you’ve used the Galaxy S22 or S21 or any other flagship device released in the past two years, these new Samsung phones don’t really give you a reason to upgrade. But if you have some old stuff in your pocket, or you think a more wallet-friendly device offers a compromised experience, you should definitely take a look.
I’m not going to bore you with detailed specs on these phones. Instead, you can read my explainer to learn how the Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra are different and how they’re similar. (Heck, you can read last year’s S22 series review for the gist of most of these new devices.) You can’t quite get a feel for these phones by reading the specs—the 6.1-inch S23 is my personal favorite because it fits my hand, and most of the screen is still easily accessible when I want to use it one-handed. The S23 Ultra’s 6.8-inch display isn’t terribly bulky, but while using it, I found my thumb stretched more and more until my other hand had to join in — and I have large hands.
The best change is the S23 Ultra’s edges, which are flatter than last year’s curved S22 Ultra. The edges aren’t as flat as the iPhone 14’s, but the Ultra still feels better in the hand than its predecessor, and my grip almost never interrupted the screen.Beyond this, color me overwhelmed A look at the Galaxy S23 series. I still think Samsung’s S21 series offers a clearer design language, with an accent color contour cut camera module. These new phones, with their low-profile and featureless camera arrays, look like the textbook definition of a “smartphone” — they’re certainly elegant, but there’s not much flair to them.
All three phones share many of the same characteristics, like how the 120 Hz AMOLED screen now hits a peak brightness of 1,750 nits. It’s an often-overlooked feature; the high brightness makes it easier to read the screen when you’re out and about on a sunny day. My fiancée constantly has to squint to look at her Pixel phone, which has never been an issue here. (It also gets pretty dim for those who prefer low brightness before bed.)
They’re both powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 “for Galaxy” chipset, which is slightly faster than the base-level Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 you’ll find on other flagship Android phones like the OnePlus 11. My benchmarks bear this out, but it’s not a huge leap. There are two special things about this chip. Year after year, it’s really hard to notice meaningful performance gains these days, but I’ve noticed that phones with this processor feel more responsive and snappy than ever.
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