scorecardFirst Impressions: Samsung Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra bet big on photography and gaming
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First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra bet big on photography and gaming

First Impressions: Samsung Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra bet big on photography and gaming
Tech6 min read
  • Samsung's new Galaxy S23 series looks similar to its predecessors, but there's a lot new in the cameras.
  • The new phones feature a new custom Snapdragon Gen 2 chipset.
  • The Ultra gets a big bump in the cameras.
Samsung has kicked off the new year with the launch of its most awaited S23 series of smartphones at the Galaxy Unpacked event today. As expected, the three smartphones launched are the S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra. In addition, the company also launched four new laptops in its Galaxy Book3 range - The Galaxy Book3 360, Galaxy Book3 Pro, Galaxy Book3 360 Pro, and Galaxy Book3 Ultra.

But we'll save the laptops for later and take a closer look at what the new phones offer this year. Samsung allowed us a brief time with the latest phones and also took us through what's new this time around. From the initial looks of it, the three phones come with incremental upgrades on the design front - they now use sustainable materials like recycled aluminum, recycled glass, and natural dye. All these materials are said to be recyclable, and even the Gorilla Glass Victus used for display protection can be recycled.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The S23 Series follow a familiar design language from last year
The S23 Series follow a familiar design language from last year

They look more or less the same, but we're not complaining

The line-up looks identical to the S22 series, but that's okay as they still look sleek, solid, and premium. However, there has been a slight change in the edges, and it now grips better. The phones come in the same soft-touch aluminum finish.

You can have a better grip with the new edges
You can have a better grip with the new edges

Galaxy S23 is the smallest of the lot with a 6.1-inch display
Galaxy S23 is the smallest of the lot with a 6.1-inch display

The S23 and S23 Plus have rounded corners and flat front and back, whereas the S23 Ultra has edgy corners and curved sides on both front and back. This differentiates the in-hand feel among the three, but they're all easy to use overall. The most obvious differentiator is the screen size - the S23 has a 6.1-inch display, S23 Plus has a 6.6-inch display, and the Ultra has the biggest 6.8-inch display. Apart from the size and resolution, there needs to be a distinction in display specifications on paper.

For those unaware, the S23 Ultra is the most spec-heavy and high-end variant, while the S23 and S23 Plus are slightly toned down like their predecessors. The Ultra also comes with a stylus at the bottom, which adds the Samsung Note utility to it and lets you make the most of that large-screen real estate. The S-Pen experience is as smooth as it has been in the last two generations.

Samsung impresses with the display, again
The smartphones feature 2X AMOLED Infinity-O display
The smartphones feature 2X AMOLED Infinity-O display
After the design, the only thing that you can make opinions on in a brief time is the display. I have always loved Samsung's display tech on its flagship phones; unsurprisingly, it's the same on this one. They feature the same AMOLED 120Hz panel with 1750 Nits of brightness across. In addition, the Ultra has a QHD+, and the other two have an FHD+ resolution.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra's display stretches at most parts of the front and has thin bezels. I do not have the exact measure of the bezels, but you can take a look at the pictures to get an idea of how immersive it is. It's crisp, very responsive, and ample bright. We had no complaints about the S22 Ultra's display; this is even better.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra gets a major camera boost
The S23 Ultra has received a significant upgrade in the camera department
The S23 Ultra has received a significant upgrade in the camera department

Of the three variants, the S23 Ultra receives a significant bump in the camera department. Although I did not get to test the cameras in detail, we were allowed to use them for an hour inside a closed hall. So details on camera will follow up in our full review.

The S23 Ulra now has a 200MP ISOCELL HP2 sensor for the primary camera. That explains that it can capture a huge amount of data and allow long-range hybrid zoom capability (optical + digital). In addition, Samsung emphasizes a new Super Quad Pixel tech that is said to make the autofocus speed 1.5X faster. While I couldn't test it next to the S22 Ultra, it did seem quite snappy during my hands-on experience.

The major overhaul comes to the front camera. It now has HDR, dual-pixel autofocus, selfie videos FHD at 60fps, 16-bit RAW selfies, and 2X wider OIS for better stability and noise reduction.

There are also some new modes - Astrophotography, Astro-Hyperlapse, and Multi-Exposure. You can now click photos of the stars and galaxies, but again, we couldn't get a chance to use this for now. Strangely, the astrophotography mode wasn't available in the camera app during my experience.

The Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus cameras

The S23 & S23 Plus features a similar camera set-up
The S23 & S23 Plus features a similar camera set-up

The primary camera on non-Ultra phones is 50MP with OIS. The ultrawide camera on all three variants is a 12MP sensor with an f2.2 aperture. The third lens is a 10MP telephoto with OIS and f2.4 aperture in non-Ultra phones, and Ultra has that too, but not just one but two with the second one with f4.9 aperture.

Battery and performance get a boost
The smartphones are powered by a customised Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC
The smartphones are powered by a customised Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC

The S23 series features a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. You get 8GB RAM options on the non-Ultra models and 8GB and 12GB RAM on the Ultra. The Ultra is said to do real-time ray tracing for mobile games and has a 2.7x larger vapor chamber. It is expected to perform better at gaming, but that's something we'll find out when we get the phone for a long-term review.

Battery capacity varies as per the size - S23 has a 3900mAh, S23 Plus has 4700mAh, and the Ultra has a 5000mAh battery.

Initial impressions
As mentioned, there are few cosmetic changes in the S23 series, meaning nothing is fascinating about the design. However, I like the look and materials used, and if you liked last year's models, you'd like these as well. Looking at what Samsung told us, there is a serious upgrade in the camera department, especially in the S23 Ultra. And it dwarfs the other two models when you keep them side by side. A fair assessment is when the S23 and S23 Plus are used and tested away from Ultra's shadow.

All three phones have impressive display panels and all the basic features like IP68 certification, snappy fingerprint reader, wireless charging, and more. The key areas where I want these to excel are performance, battery efficiency, and multitasking. With the custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, these changes are expected to arrive, but it's too early to pass a verdict.

Stay tuned for our detailed review to find more answers.


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