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One weekend in, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is already a strong contender for 2023’s best Android phone

This past week Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S23 series, and in the days since, I’ve had a chance to spend some time with the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While our full review is still on the way, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is leaving an excellent first impression.

In 2022, the Galaxy S22 Ultra proved a hit, and it was a device I rather enjoyed overall. A solid camera, good battery life, and a big useful display. What’s not to enjoy?

The Galaxy S23 Ultra should be, on paper, virtually an identical experience. It has the same display size. The same S Pen. The same battery size. A new, but equally overkill camera suite. And essentially the same software, too. But over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking again and again that something just feels different this time around.

That starts with the performance, which is simply phenomenal.

Benchmarks and such only tell so much of the story, but the combination of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy and the faster storage just results in a speedy experience across the board. I encountered bits of lag here and there in the time following initial setup, but after settling into the phone it’s continued to feel faster than any other Galaxy device I’ve tried in recent memory. And it’s been feeling that fast with minimal heat issues. That’s to be taken with a grain of salt, given this weekend’s cold snap on the East coast of the US, but things are still looking good.

Beyond that, I’ve also been moderately impressed with Samsung’s new 200MP camera.

I say “moderately” because, well, this camera still suffers from many of the same problems Samsung phones have faced for years. Shutter lag means that shots with motion are easily ruined, but when you do get a shot just right, the raw detail is excellent, and Samsung’s color tuning especially on the telephoto lenses keeps getting better. Samsung has been leaning heavy on low-light shooting, which I’ve not yet tried, but impressions are certainly good.

I also think Samsung is leaning way too hard on HDR this time around. Never before using the Galaxy S23 Ultra have I ever seen an HDR “ring” around my subject in an indoor setting, but overall I’ve been quite pleased.

I think I still prefer Google’s software-centric approach to the camera, as Pixels are just more reliable and consistent for stills – as mentioned, it’s still way too easy for motion to ruin a Galaxy shot – but Samsung’s hardware just enables shots I couldn’t get elsewhere. When my wife pointed out a squirrel up in a tree while we were out, I snapped the crisp shot below with the S23 Ultra which I know my Pixel wouldn’t have been able to get, at least in the same quality.

But the real kicker throughout this experience so far for me has been battery life.

Where the Galaxy S22 Ultra had totally acceptable battery life, the Galaxy S23 Ultra feels like the phone I can’t easily kill. I’ve yet to get this phone to 30% or less in a single day. 15~ hours with around 4-4.5 hours of screen time leaves me with a device that’s around 40-50% full at bedtime. It’s stunning, and really only reinforces that Samsung made the right call opting for Qualcomm’s TSMC-made chips globally.

While there’s obviously a lot more to look at, these three core components are among the most important thing to look at when buying a smartphone. And, really, Samsung seems to have absolutely nailed it, and to a much greater extent than it already had last time around.

Stay tuned for 9to5Google’s full review of the Galaxy S23 Ultra in the near future, and if you have any unanswered questions about the device, sound off in the comments! I’ll answer as many questions as I can.

Pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S23 series are open now. Buyers get a $100 credit with their pre-order, and an additional $50 by clicking our special link here. Samsung is offering trade-in values up to $750. We’ve also broken down carrier deals here so you can get the best value.

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