I am at one crossroads. Just a few weeks ago I reviewed Samsung’s Galaxy A14 5G, calling it a phenomenal phone that only costs $200, proving that you really don’t have to pay tons of dough to get a great smartphone. Now I’m reviewing Samsung’s high-end $1,200 Galaxy S23 Ultra and $800 Galaxy S23 — and damn it, sometimes it’s nice to splurge, you know?
Samsung’s Galaxy S23 range (which also includes the S23+, a model I haven’t tested yet) isn’t a game-changing device at all – and most people don’t need all of them. these top-of-the-line cameras with enormous power. But I have to remember that sometimes it’s OK to pay for the best of the best. It’s nice not having to squint at a dim screen on a sunny day and having the ability to play a demanding game at its highest fidelity.
If you’re coming from a Galaxy S22 or S21 or any other flagship device released in the last couple of years, these new Samsung handsets don’t really give you reason to upgrade. But if you have something older in your pocket or a more user-friendly device that you think offers a compromised experience, you should definitely check it out.
I won’t bore you with the detailed specs of these phones. Instead, you can read my explanation of how the Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra are all different and how they’re similar. (Heck, you can read last year’s S22 series review to get the gist of most of these new devices.) What you can’t really tell from reading the specs is how it feels to these phones – the 6.1 inch S23 is my personal favorite as it fits in my hands and most of the screen is still quite accessible when I want to use it with one hand. The S23 Ultra’s 6.8-inch screen isn’t terribly bulky, but as I use it I find my thumbs stretching out more and more until my other hand has to join – and I I have big hands.
The best change is to the edges of the S23 Ultra, which are much flatter than last year’s curvy S22 Ultra. The edges aren’t quite as flat as the edges of an iPhone 14, but the Ultra is still more comfortable to hold than its predecessor, and my grip almost never interrupts the screen. Other than that, color me upset with what the Galaxy S23 line looks like. I still think Samsung’s S21 series offered a cleaner design language with the Contour Cut camera module in an accent color. These new phones with their understated, accentless camera array look like the classic definition of a ‘smartphone’ – they’re undoubtedly sleek, but there’s not a whole lot of character.
All three handsets share many of the same features, like how the 120Hz AMOLED displays can each reach 1,750 nits of peak brightness. This is a feature that is often overlooked; high brightness makes the screen much easier to read when you are outside on a sunny day. Too often my fiancée has to squint at her Pixel phone, and that’s never an issue here. (It also gets extra dark for anyone who appreciates low light at bedtime.)
They’re all powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 “for Galaxy” chipset, which is slightly faster than the base Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 you’ll find in other flagship Android phones like the OnePlus 11. My benchmark tests have confirmed it. , but it’s not a massive leap. This chip is special in two ways. Year after year, it’s really hard to see significant performance gains these days, but I’ve noticed that phones with this processor feel more responsive and faster than ever.