Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Which laptop could win?

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra features powerful components to justify its “Ultra” branding. With the latest Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU options, not to mention a large 16-inch AMOLED display, Samsung’s new laptop appears to be a direct competitor to the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023).

We’ve yet to review Samsung’s machine or the MacBook Pro 16-inch. However, with our MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023) review and Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra hands-on review now live, we feel we have enough information to gauge the two devices.

Without further ado, here’s how the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra compares to the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023).

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Specs 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Book3 UltraMacBook Pro 16-inch (2023)
CPU13th Gen Intel Core i7/i9Apple M2 Pro 12-Core CPU
GPUNvidia RTX 4050/4070 GPUApple M2 Pro/M2 Max 19-38 Core GPU
RAM16GB - 32GB16GB - 96GB
Storage512GB - 1TB SSD512GB - 8TB SSD
Display16-inch 3K Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 x 2244)
Dimensions13.9 x 9.8 x 0.64 inches14 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
Weight3.9 pounds4.7 pounds (M2 Pro) - 4.8 pounds (M2 Max)

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Price and configuration

The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra will be available for order starting February 14 via Samsung’s website (opens in new tab) for a starting price of $2,199. This configuration has a 13th gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage and an Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU. The kitted-out model packs an Core i9 CPU, an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. It will begin shipping out on February 22.

You can order the new 16-inch MacBook Pro right now from the Apple store (opens in new tab) for a starting price of $2,499. This configuration packs an M2 Pro chip, 16GB of RAM and 516GB of storage. For $3,499, you can get the most decked-out model with an M2 Max chip, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Whether you opt for either laptop's entry-level or most high-end models, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is the more affordable option.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Design

Samsung’s Galaxy Book 3 Ultra might have the chops to go toe-to-toe with some of the best gaming laptops, but it doesn’t look the part. Where most gaming laptops are matte black monstrosities with overly edgy lighting and decals, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is a plain, unassuming slab of aluminum.

It comes in any color you want, so long as it’s gray – or Graphite, as Samsung brands the metallic paint job that is your only option on the Ultra. The laptop itself measures roughly 13.9 x 9.8 x 0.64 inches and weighs about 3.9 pounds, sporting a 16-inch display and an aluminum frame with parts built from recycled plastics.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra laptop

The Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra (pictured above) is a relatively light laptop for its size. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The new MacBook Pros feature the Apple M2 Pro or Apple M2 Max chips but remain virtually the same in terms of their overall design. It has a 16-inch mini-LED display,  plenty of ports and MagSafe charging.

Samsung and Apple’s new laptops are both elegant machines that will look good wherever you’re using them. Each features large displays and equally large keyboards. The main difference is weight. While the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is a relatively light 3.9 pounds, the MacBook Pro 16-inch with the M2 Max chip tops out at 4.8 pounds. If you prefer a lighter laptop, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra could suit you better.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Display

The screen on the Galaxy Book3 Ultra measures 16 inches diagonally, which is positively spacious as laptops go. More notably, it’s a 16-inch AMOLED display with a 3K resolution (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) and a 120Hz refresh rate.

That’s a great display for a laptop, given that OLED screens typically deliver brighter brights, inkier blacks and more striking contrasts than LCD displays. With the 120Hz refresh rate it should be able to play nice with games that run higher than 60 frames per second, which is good news for folks who want a laptop to play games at high framerates.

Samsung says the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra can reach 400 nits of brightness and 120% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. The Apple laptop comes up with 447 nits and 83.7% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, based on our review.

MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 sitting on a patio table

The new MacBook Pro 16-inch has the same 16-inch mini-LED display as its predecessor (pictured above).

The MacBook Pro 16-inch mini-LED display is one of the best you'll find in any laptop, as was the case with its predecessor’s screen. It's bright, colorful and offers a smooth 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate. It has the dreaded notch in its display, but you could argue that it’s not as noticeable on the 16-inch screen when compared to the 14-inch model.

The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra’s screen impressed us during our hands-on review, but we’ll need to benchmark it to see if Samsung’s claims about its brightness and color accuracy hold up. In the interest of fairness, each laptop’s display should be great for both work and play.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Ports

Unfortunately, the focus on making the Ultra portable means you don’t get much in the way of ports. You do at least get one USB-A port along with two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, which together give you decent options for plugging in peripherals old and new. You also get an HDMI 2.0 port, a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy Book 3 has less Thunderbolt 4 ports than the MacBook Pro 16-inch but it does have a USB-A port. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The MacBook Pro 14-inch remains the portable MacBook to get if you want more than just Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. Yes, there's three Thunderbolt 4 ports, but you also get an SD card slot that photographers and videographers demand, as well as an HDMI port.

The HDMI port now supports up to 8K resolution on an external display at 60Hz, as the MacBook Pro 16-inch supports the HDMI 2.1 standard. Or you can plug in a 4K display at up to 240Hz. Note that the M2 Pro chip supports up to two external displays overall and the M2 Max chip can drive up to four displays.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch narrowly wins when it comes to port selection. This is because it has an HDMI 2.1 port, one more Thunderbolt 4 port than the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra, and an SD card slot. The only thing Samsung’s machine has over Apple’s is a USB-A port, which is useful for connecting older devices.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Performance

The reason the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra bears the “Ultra”  moniker isn’t just due to its size. It’s because of its powerful specs. Though it may not look like it, this machine should be quite a capable gaming laptop.

Different configurations come with the latest Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs. To be specific, 13th gen Intel Core i7 and i9 processors and Nvidia RTX 4050 and RTX 4070 laptop GPUs. Combine with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage for the high-end model. That’s power comparable to a proper gaming laptop.

The main draw of the new MacBook Pro 16-inch is that it comes with your choice of an M2 Pro or M2 Max chip. You can see our MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro and M2 Max benchmarks piece for more, but suffice it to say that Apple has once again produced some of the fastest processors in the industry.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Webcam

The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra comes with a Full HD (1080p) webcam. We tested the camera out at a Samsung event and found it delivered a sharp image quality with balanced colors. In all fairness, the event’s location featured exceptional lighting which no doubt contributed to the webcam’s clear image quality. But if you’re somewhere with halfway decent lighting, we suspect you’ll look good during video calls.

Samsung says that the built-in Studio Mode will offer improved visuals and lighting correction. Features include auto-framing, eye contact correction and smooth backgrounds. This is a feature I’m looking forward to testing first-hand, especially eye contact correction.

MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 photo of Mark Spoonauer and on right photo of him with MacBook Pro M2 Max

The MacBook Pro M2 Max's webcam (right) delivers richer colors and has a bit less noise in the shot compared to the MacBook Pro M1 Pro (left).  (Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Pro 14-inch 2023 features the same 1080p webcam as the 16-inch model. Both are similar to their predecessors, only with an improved image signal processor that makes modest improvements to image quality, especially in low light.

We took the two above photos in the same conditions, and the MacBook Pro M2 Max model's shot is on the right. The newer MacBook Pro captures a deeper blue as well as a richer red, and there's a bit less noise in the shot. It's not a dramatic difference, but it's notably better.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Battery life

On the Tom's Guide Battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the 14-inch MacBook Pro lasted an epic 14 hours and 2 minutes. The MacBook Pro M2 Max didn't last quite as long, but 12 hours and 51 minutes is nothing to sneeze at when you have that kind of power under the hood.

These results are for the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so we’ll need to test the 16-inch model to see how long its battery lasts. With that said, we suspect the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra won’t last anywhere near this long. Most of the gaming laptops we’ve tested have short battery life — which is especially true if you’re playing games at max settings.

Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra vs MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023): Bottom line

It's still too early to declare a winner between the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra and MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023). We'll have a clearer picture once we get Samsung's laptop in for review. With that said, we can make some recommendations, depending on different use cases.

If you're a Windows 11 user who wants a laptop that can play the best PC games, then the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is the clear winner. However, if you want a powerful laptop with epic battery life, or if you're simply an Apple fan, then the new MacBook Pro 16-inch is for you.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.