Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra — all the differences

Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup
(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S23 series made its debut during February's Samsung Unpacked launch event, with the phones set to arrive later this month. As expected, there are three new phones — the Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra — with last year's Galaxy S22 sticking around as a lower-cost alternative.

Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup

* Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra specs — what you get for $1,199
*Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus specs — not just a bigger screen
*Samsung Galaxy S23 specs — everything you need to know

So now that we have the official word on what each of these phones has under the hood, we need to see how they stack up against each other. How far ahead of the S23 and S23 Plus is the S23 Ultra? Is the S23 Plus worth the upgrade or does the S23 give you enough bang for your buck? 

You can find out the answers to some of these questions by reading our Galaxy S23 hands-on, which shares some initial impressions of both the standard S23 and the S23 Plus. Meanwhile, our Galaxy S23 Ultra review contains our final rating based on tests and comparisons involving Samsung's top-of-the-line model.

As for a rundown of the different models, here's a look at all the differences between the trio of Samsung Galaxy S23 phones.

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra specs

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Galaxy S23Galaxy S23 PlusGalaxy S23 Ultra
Screen size6.1-inch AMOLED (2,340x1.080)6.6-inch AMOLED (2,340x1,080)6.8-inch AMOLED (3,088×1,440)
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 2Snapdragon 8 Gen 2Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto (3x zoom)50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto (3x zoom)200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto (3x zoom), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom)
Front cameras12MP12MP12MP
Battery size3,900 mAh4,700 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging speed25W wired45W wired45W wired
Size5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 3 x 0.3 inches6.4 x 3.1 x 0.35 inches
Weight6 ounces7.3 ounches8.2 ounces
ColorsPhantom Black, Green, Lavender, CreamPhantom Black, Green, Lavender, CreamPhantom Black, Green, Lavender, Cream

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra price and availability

All three Galaxy S23 phones are available now to preorder from a variety of retailers — make sure to check out our best Samsung Galaxy S23 deals guide to ensure you get the best price. The phones hit stores on February 17.

In terms of price, the cheapest of the trio of new phones is the 6.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S23, starting at $799 / £849 / AU$1,349 for the 8GB RAM/128GB storage model. The 6.6-inch Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus then starts at $999.99 / £1,049 / AU$1,649 for double the storage as the S23 (8GB RAM/256GB storage), and the 6.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 / £1,249 / AU$1,999 for an 8GB RAM/256GB storage variant of Samsung's top-tier smartphone.

As part of a Galaxy S23 preorder deal, you can get a free upgrade in storage, plus a credit from Samsung if you order one of the S23 models by February 16. Under this offer, you could pick up a 256GB Galaxy S23 for the same price as the 128GB model.

Galaxy S23: $100 credit + storage upgrade @ Samsung

Galaxy S23: <a href="" data-link-merchant=""">$100 credit + storage upgrade @ Samsung Samsung is one of the best sites for Galaxy S23 deals. Preorder your Galaxy S23 at Samsung and you'll get a free memory/storage upgrade and $100 Samsung credit. Additionally, Samsung is offering exclusive access to the phones in Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue, or Red colors. Samsung will even let you purchase your phone on any carrier direct from the Samsung website.

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra design and display

The new Galaxy S23 models did not deviate too much from what the Galaxy S22 has offered in terms of design and display size. The three display options — 6.1 inches on the base model, 6.6 inches for the Plus and 6.8 inches on the Ultra — remained the same in the Galaxy S23 lineup. All three phones will offer a 120Hz refresh rate, with only the S23 Ultra able to scale down to 1Hz when the screen activity is static; the S23 and S23 Plus retained their 48Hz to 120Hz range.

Last year, the Galaxy S22 offered a peak brightness of 1,300 nits and the other two models peaked at 1,750 nits. This year, Samsung gave the S23 a boost over its predecessor, with all three models rated for 1,750 nits peak brightness. When we tested the Galaxy S23 Ultra, we got a top rating of 1,225 nits from its 6.8-inch display, which is certainly bright enough to see in direct sunlight.

Galaxy S23 hands-on s23 and s23 plus displays compared

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In terms of design changes, the most noticeable one is that the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus adopt the look of the Ultra models, with the rear camera lenses stacked vertically and individually rather than grouped in an array that blends into the side of the phone.

Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S22

Galaxy S23 (left) and Galaxy S22 (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Unlike in previous years, the three models will feature the same four color options of Phantom Black, Lavender, Green and Cream. There are four additional options if you order your Galaxy S23 Ultra model from Samsung — Graphite, Lime, Sky Blue and Red. (As of this writing, Graphite and Lime are the only Samsung-exclusive color options for the S23 and S23 Plus.) Make sure to check out our breakdown of all the official Samsung Galaxy S23 colors.

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra cameras

There weren't many changes for the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus cameras, with both phones once again sharing the same camera setup — a 50MP main lens aided by 12MP ultrawide and 10MP telephoto shooters.

Instead, the big camera upgrade was on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The S22 Ultra's 108MP main camera has been replaced by a massive 200MP shooter. You'll even be able to switch between 200MP, 50MP and 12.5MP shots depending on how much detail or brightness you want in a given photo. We've got a rundown of the Galaxy S23 Ultra camera features, including this improved front lens.

Aside from the main camera, the Galaxy S23 Ultra kept the same 12MP ultrawide shooter and dual 10MP telephoto lenses as before, though features such as the AI camera, the Expert RAW app and others could have those lenses producing better quality photos. 

Galaxy Unpacked 2023

(Image credit: Samsung via YouTube)

While the S23 Ultra got something of a downgrade to its front camera on paper, Samsung is still touting the new 12MP selfie camera as an upgrade. Unlike the 40MP front shooter on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the new 12MP sensor offers other enhancements via AI-powered software, improving overall selfie quality despite the downgrade in megapixels. 

Coincidentally, this new selfie camera is also the same 12MP sensor on the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus, so those phones are getting a serious upgrade over the 10MP front camera on their predecessors.

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra performance

Past Galaxy S series models have featured Qualcomm's top-of-the-line silicon in the U.S. and many other markets, while European countries see phones powered by Samsung's own Exynos chipsets. That left European consumers getting the raw end of the deal, as Exynos doesn't usually perform as well as the best Qualcomm Snapdragon chips.

So it was a welcome sight to see all three models get custom versions of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset from Qualcomm — in every market. We've only had a chance to run Galaxy S23 Ultra benchmarks as of this writing, but they're very impressive, with Samsung's phone actually beating the iPhone 14 Pro Max on the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test for graphics.

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PhoneProcessorGeekbench 5 single/multicore score3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)Adobe Premiere Rush transcoding (mins:secs)
Samsung Galaxy S23 UltraSnapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy1,396/4,88279.30:40
Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraSnapdragon 8 Gen 11,240/3,392570:47
Apple iPhone 14 Pro MaxA16 Bionic1,882/5,333740:30
Apple iPhone 14A15 Bionic1,727/4,553690:28

In terms of RAM, only the Galaxy S23 Ultra features multiple RAM options — either 8GB or 12GB — while the S23 and S23 Plus simply offer an 8GB version. For storage, the base-level S23 comes with the option for 128GB or 256GB, while 256GB is standard for the other two models. The S23 Plus tops out at 512GB, while the S23 Ultra can be upgraded all the way up to 1TB if you get the 12GB RAM variant.

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra battery and charging

As expected, the Galaxy S23 Ultra continues to have the biggest battery of all three S23 models. It comes with the same 5,000 mAh power pack that the Galaxy S22 Ultra featured. 

Thanks to the power efficiencies of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the S23 Ultra lasts much longer on a charge than its predecessor — 12 hours and 22 minutes to be exact. The S22 Ultra held out for just over 10 hours, but that was with the display's dynamic refresh rate turned off. The improved battery life of the Galaxy S23 Ultra has landed that phone on our best phone battery life list.

The Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus both have bigger batteries than their predecessors. The S23 and S23 Plus received 200 mAh upgrades to 3,900 mAh and 4,700 mAh, respectively. We have yet to test those two new models.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy S22 Ultra back

(Image credit: Future)

Unfortunately, none of the models got charging speed upgrades over their predecessors. The Galaxy S23 Ultra and S23 Plus keep their faster 45W charging speeds while plugged in, while the Galaxy S23 has to make do with just 25W. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra software and special features

As always, the one big difference between the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the other two models in this lineup is the S Pen. Otherwise, there don't appear to be many differences between the software and special features in the Galaxy S23 lineup. All three phones will ship with Android 13 in the form of Samsung's One UI 5 interface. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 vs. Galaxy S23 Plus vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: Outlook

galaxy s23 ultra official press image

(Image credit: Samsung)

With its powerful 200MP camera, upgradable RAM and storage and built-in S Pen, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra remains the clear top dog of the S23 lineup. It also seems to justify its price tag, as we've named it the best phone you can buy right now.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus have a lot in common with each other, though there are still reasons to consider the Plus. The S23 Plus gets a boost in screen size, battery and storage over the base-model S23, all of which are appealing reasons to consider the upgrade. Still, the Galaxy S23 remains the phone for the widest audience, and its telephoto lens really helps it stand out from similarly priced rivals. Stay tuned for our final rating of those two phones.

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.