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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Unboxing & Hands-on: Improving a Winning Formula
February 13, 2023 Andrew Cheng

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the surface, doesn’t seem all that different from the S22 Ultra. But under the hood, there are some notable upgrades that make it a better flagship smartphone overall, including an improved camera system, longer battery life, and of course, faster performance.

Of course, these improvements do not come cheap. Starting at RM5,699, even the most affordable Galaxy S23 Ultra costs RM200 more than its predecessor, though early birds can enjoy a rather sizeable discount until 23 February 2023. Nonetheless, let’s get to the unboxing (and hands-on) of the S23 Ultra!

As is the case with Samsung’s flagship phones in recent times, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s packaging is nice and slim. That’s mainly because no charging brick is provided with the phone, though a USB-C to USB-C charging cable is still found in the box.

Curiously, Samsung slightly changed up the unboxing experience of the S23 Ultra. The first thing you see when you open up the box is the back of the phone instead of the front, and it’s protected by a sheet of paper. The display is also covered with a black plastic sheet, which is actually quite satisfying to peel off.

And that’s the Galaxy S23 Ultra in all its glory. Compared to the S22 Ultra, the new flagship has flatter sides, giving it more of the signature “squared-off” design aesthetic found in previous Galaxy Note phones. Personally, I like this change: it makes the phone easier to grip, improving its ergonomics.

Speaking of design, The S23 Ultra you see here is the Green colourway. It’s a nice, muted shade of green that can even look grey in certain lightings. There are also three other main colours: Phantom Black, Lavender, and Cream. If you want something more unique, there are online exclusive colours only available at Samsung.com, including Sky Blue, Lime, and a striking Red.

One of the biggest improvements to the Galaxy S23 Ultra is its camera system. It’s now sporting a quad camera system made up of a whopping 200MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, a 10MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, and another 10MP telephoto camera with 10x optical zoom.

Yes, it is largely the same camera system except for the new 200MP main camera that delivers better detail preservation and improved low light capability by binning 16 pixels into one to output 12MP images. Based on some quick shots I took with the phone, it does feel very capable.

After all, its predecessor had one of the best camera systems with a far-reaching zoom, so it’s no surprise that the S23 Ultra continues to deliver the same (and potentially even better) camera performance.

Next, there’s the improved performance of the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Now powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset – no more Exynos variant folks – the phone feels very fast and zippy. I fired up Genshin Impact to see how it would fare, and not surprisingly, it can run the game at a consistent 60 frames per second in my brief testing.

Another benefit of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip is better power efficiency, which translates to longer battery life. While the S23 Ultra continues to feature the same 5,000mAh battery as its predecessor (the fast charging also remains at only 45W, unfortunately), the battery does seem to last quite a bit longer now. I’ll be sure to test this thoroughly in the full review.

In the display department, the S23 Ultra has a stunning 6.8-inch QHD+ 3088 x 1440 Dynamic AMOLED 2X dual-curve display with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The high refresh rate lends to very smooth, fluid animations, and the image quality is undeniably one of the best (if not the best) in the business with high brightness and vibrant colours.

Last but not least is the signature hardware of the Galaxy S23 Ultra: the S Pen. As far as I can tell, there are no major changes here. The writing experience remains as fluid than ever, so it feels pretty natural to write using the S Pen. The slightly rubberised finish on the stylus is still present as well.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is not remarkably different than its predecessor, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Last year’s S22 Ultra was considered by many to be one of the best phones released then, so Samsung is improving upon a winning formula here – that’s just sound business decision.

Naturally, I’ll be putting the Galaxy S23 Ultra through its paces leading up to the full review. I’m certainly excited to use it as my daily driver, and I’m curious to see if it can justify the RM5,699 starting price for the base 256GB model with 12GB of RAM.

That being said, those who pre-order the S23 Ultra by 23 February can get a storage upgrade to 512GB for the same price as the 256GB model, which normally goes for RM6,199. If you want even more storage, you can opt for the 1TB configuration for RM6,699 (discounted from RM7,199).

There’s no denying that the Galaxy S23 Ultra carries a steep price tag, but it also offers a feature set that other high-end flagship phones do not have, including the much loved S Pen. Nonetheless, stay tuned for our full review of the S23 Ultra!

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