Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: What should you buy?

comp image of galaxy s23 ultra and galaxy s23 plus
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus comparison will break down all of the differences between the two big-screen Galaxy S23 handsets. Now that Samsung’s latest flagship series is available, you might be wondering which one to buy. 

Frankly, there’s a very large gap between the two phones. The Galaxy S23 Ultra bears most of Samsung’s attention this year, from the 200MP camera to the S Pen. The Galaxy S23 Plus is left with scraps, such as a new 12MP front-facing camera and an updated design.

With a $200 difference between the two, paying attention to the key features is important. The Ultra is the best phone you can buy right now, but the Plus does just about everything else right that we don’t think you’re missing out if you decide to go with it.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Specs

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Galaxy S23 PlusGalaxy S23 Ultra
Starting priceUS $999 / UK £1,049US $1,199 / UK £1,249
Display size and resolution6.6-inch Super AMOLED (2340 x 1080)6.8-inch Super AMOLED (3088 x 1440)
Display brightness, refresh rate1,750nit, 48-120Hz1,750nit, 1-120Hz
ProcessorSnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxySnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
RAM8GB8GB, 12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom, 30x Space zoom)200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom), 10MP telephoto (10x optical zoom, 100x Space zoom)
Video8K at 30fps, 4K at 60fps and Full HD at 120fps8K at 30fps, 4K at 60fps and Full HD at 120fps
Front camera12MP, 4K video at 60 fps12MP, 4K video at 60 fps
Battery size4,700 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging speed45W45W
Size3 x 6.21 x 0.3 inches3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 inches
Weight6.91 ounces8.25 ounces
ColorsPhantom Black, Cream, Green, LavenderPhantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Price and availability

Both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus launched on February 17. They are available at most carriers and electronics stores, including Samsung.com. You can check out our best Galaxy S23 deals page to make sure you save the most money possible — most of these deals center around trade-ins.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,199 with 256GB of storage, going up to 512GB and 1TB. The Galaxy S23 Plus kicks off at $999 with 256GB of storage. There’s also a 512GB option. 

That’s a $200 delta for the same base storage level, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers a multitude of features, like the 200MP main camera, a second telephoto lens (with 10x optical zoom), a larger screen and battery, and the S Pen. Both phones, however, share the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, so there’s essentially little to no performance difference between the two.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Design

For 2023, Samsung unified the design language across the Galaxy S23 series. All three phones look similar enough, though the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus sport flat displays while the Galaxy S23 Ultra gets a curved glass screen.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra back in green showing cameras

(Image credit: Future)

On the back, the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus have their camera lenses separate from each other, vertically stacked in the latter’s case and in a P-shape for the Ultra. We think it’s a clean aesthetic that’s a nice break from the camera module clusters we typically see nowadays.

Although they’re both large devices, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is considerably larger with its 6.8-inch display, compared to the Galaxy S23 Plus’ 6.6-inch one. The Ultra is taller, wider, and thicker, plus its screen is curved versus the Plus’ flat glass front.

galaxy s23 back in green

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is overall a blockier look, while the Galaxy S23 Plus might feel more familiar to long-time Samsung fans. Both phones feature IP68 ratings, Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and Armor Aluminum frames for added durability.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Display

The Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus differ in display size, resolution, and refresh rate. The Ultra sports a 6.8-inch Super AMOLED panel with a 3088 x 1440 resolution. It can range from 1-120Hz to offer a silky smooth user experience.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra display showing The Mandalorian 3 trailer

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S23 Plus has a 6.6-inch Super AMOLED (2340 x 1080) screen with a 48-120Hz refresh rate. So the Galaxy S23 Ultra has the superior display, but both phones are rated for 1,750 nits of brightness. In our testing, the Ultra maxed out at 1,444 nits while the Plus managed 1,345 nits. 

galaxy s23 plus screen showing blade runner 2049 trailer

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

For color reproduction, they’re both fairly equal. That said, if you want the best screen, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the phone you’ll want to look at. That doesn’t mean that the Galaxy S23 Plus is bad in this regard, it’s just not as good. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Cameras

Here is where the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus diverge. Samsung has really upped its camera game in the last few years and it shows. In fact, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has earned the crown for best camera phone based on our testing.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera close up

(Image credit: Future)

That’s mostly due to the phone’s massive 200MP primary sensor, which can take incredibly rich photos in almost any situation. Of course, there’s the 12MP ultrawide camera, plus the dual 10MP telephoto sensors (one 3x and the other 10x).

The Galaxy S23 Plus matches the Ultra with the front camera, where it has the same 12MP sensor for selfies. It uses the same 50MP main camera as the Galaxy S22 Plus, plus the 12MP ultrawide and 10MP 3x telephoto.

galaxy s23 plus camera module

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Although a quarter of the resolution, the Galaxy S23 Plus can take some great pictures, even outdoing the iPhone 14 Pro. Like with displays, however, if you want the best camera phone that you can buy right now, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is it. The Galaxy S23 Plus still has very good cameras, though.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Performance

Both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus share the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset. This is a special overclocked version of the already-good Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (like you’ll find in the OnePlus 11).

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra playing racing game

(Image credit: Future)

The overclock may not seem like much — 0.16GHz or 160MHz — but it adds up in every benchmark we ran. Geekbench 5, for example, showed nearly identical single-core scores, although the Galaxy S23 Ultra enjoyed a large lead in multicore performance. They had the exact same time of 39 seconds in our Adobe Premiere Rush video transcode test.

So the good news here is that whichever phone you opt for, you’ll get top-tier performance, including the most powerful GPU available. (Yes, more powerful than the iPhone 14 Pro’s A16 Bionic.) Either the Galaxy S23 Ultra or Galaxy S23 Plus have proven to be excellent gaming devices, showing up in 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited with 88 and 87 frames per second, respectively.

galaxy s23 plus showing s23 ultra review on tom's guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One part where they differ is in RAM, with the Galaxy S23 Ultra rocking a 12GB option whereas the Galaxy S23 Plus has 8GB. The latter is plenty for most tasks and most people, but the Ultra can hold more apps in memory. That simply speeds up loading times for recently used items.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Battery life and charging

Another difference between the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus comes down to battery capacity and life. The former has a huge 5,000 mAh power pack, while the latter gets a 4,700 mAh one. That’s a small delta, but it adds up in our battery life test.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra back in green

(Image credit: Future)

Here, we task a phone to reload web pages endlessly over a cellular connection until it dies. In its adaptive refresh rate mode, the Galaxy S23 Ultra lasted for an impressive 12 hours and 22 minutes — knocking the refresh rate down to a locked 60Hz raises that result to 13 hours and 9 minutes.

The Galaxy S23 Plus wasn’t too far behind with 11 hours and 24 minutes in adaptive mode and 11 hours, 47 minutes in 60Hz. While an hour less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the S23 Plus still beat the 10-hour average we typically see from smartphones.

galaxy s23 plus charging port

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In another tidbit of good news, both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus support 45W fast charging. (The Galaxy S23 only goes up to 25W.) In our testing, the Ultra recharged 57% of its battery in 30 minutes, while the S23 Plus did 71% in the same time. The disparity likely has to do with the difference in battery capacity.

Neither device includes a charger, so you’ll need to have your own to get those speeds. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Software

In even more good news, the basic software experience on the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus line up basically identically. Both run One UI 5.1 based on Android 13, which is Samsung’s latest software. It contains all of the goodies in One UI 5, plus some extras.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra using S Pen taking notes

(Image credit: Future)

One of those is Bixby Text Call, where the Bixby virtual assistant will answer your phone calls and read out your text responses to the caller. It’s neat and the closest anyone has come to the Pixel’s Call Assist suite (which includes Call Screen).

Both phones will enjoy four years of platform updates and five years of security patches, the current best update policy in the Android world. That means that the Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Plus will see Android upgrades into 2027.

galaxy s23 plus software info screen

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Where the Galaxy S23 Ultra differs from the S23 Plus is the S Pen support. This super stylus can do all sorts of things, including document markup, artistic stuff, note taking, and so on. One UI 5.1 is the best S Pen experience yet. Since the Plus lacks the S Pen outright, it misses out on these extra features.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Plus: Bottom line

As you might have guessed from the $200 price difference, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the better phone. In fact, it’s the best phone you can buy right now. The Galaxy S23 Plus is a great device in its own right with a beautiful display, great battery life, and powerful performance. But the Ultra is simply the ultimate phone.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra display showing home screen

(Image credit: Future)

So if you can afford the extra $200, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the phone for you. It has all of the bells and whistles you could want, including killer cameras. The S Pen is of dubious utility for most people, but it’s a neat trick to have handy. The big display is the best on the market.

galaxy s23 plus screen on

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Of course, if you can‘t swing the $200, the Galaxy S23 Plus is still an awesome device. Some may like it better since it’s a tad smaller and has a flat display. That’s for you to say. 

The Galaxy S23 Ultra knocks it out of the park, but the Galaxy S23 Plus isn’t far behind.