The Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone. We’ve already compared it with a number of smartphones, including its predecessor, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. What if you’re still using the Galaxy S21 Ultra, though, and you’re thinking of upgrading? Well, that’s what we’re here for. In this article, we’ll compare the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Two of Samsung’s behemoths will go head-to-head across a number of categories, but first, we’ll list their specs. Following that, we’ll compare their designs, displays, performance, battery life, cameras, and audio performance. There’s a lot to talk about here, as the difference between them is substantial. Let’s get started.
|Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Screen size||6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (curved, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, LTPO, down to 1Hz, 1,750 nits peak brightness)||6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X curved display (120Hz adaptive refresh rate, 1,500 nits peak brightness)|
|Screen resolution||3080 x 1440||3200 x 1440|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 / Samsung Exynos 2100|
|RAM||8GB/12GB (LPDDR5X)||12GB/16GB (LPDDR5)|
|Storage||256GB/512GB/1TB, non-expandable (UFS 4.0)||128GB/256GB, non-expandable (expandable in some countries)|
|Rear cameras||200MP (f/1.7 aperture, 24mm lens, 0.6um pixel size, multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS)|
12MP (ultrawide, Dual Pixel AF, 120-degree FoV, f/2.2 aperture, 1.4um pixel size)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/2.4 aperture, 1.12um pixel size, 70mm lens, optical zoom 3x)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 1.22um pixel size, 230mm lens, 10x optical zoom, 100x Space Zoom)
|108MP (f/1.8 aperture, OIS, 0.8um pixel size. Produces 12MP images with 2.4um pixel size)|
12MP (ultrawide, Dual Pixel AF, 120-degree FoV, f/2.2 aperture, 1.4um pixel size)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/2.4 aperture, 72 mm lens, 1.22um pixel size, optical zoom 3x)
10MP (telephoto, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 1.22um pixel size, 240mm lens, 10x optical zoom, 100x Space Zoom)
|Front cameras||12MP (f/2.2 aperture, 26mm lens, Dual Pixel PDAF)||40MP (f/2.2 aperture, 80-degree FoV, 0.7um pixel size, PDAF)|
|Battery||5,000mAh, non-removable, 45W wired charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, 4.5W Wireless PowerShare|
Charger not included
|5,000mAh, non-removable, fast battery charging (USB PD 3.0), Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless PowerShare|
Charger not included
|Dimensions||163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm||165 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm|
|Weight||234 grams||227/229 grams|
|Connectivity||5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C||5G, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi, USB Type-C|
|Security||In-display fingerprint scanner (ultrasonic)||In-display fingerprint scanner (ultrasonic)|
One UI 5.1
|Android 11 (upgradable)|
One UI 3.0
|Price||$1,199.99/$1,299/$1,399/TBA (1TB)||$424 (refurbished)|
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Design
You’ll immediately be able to spot the difference between the two phones, the moment you lay your eyes on them. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has sharper corners, and flat top and bottom sides. That’s not the case with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Both phones do have thin bezels, curved displays, and a centered display camera hole. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is slightly shorter, but also noticeably wider.
The two phones have the same exact thickness, while the Galaxy S23 Ultra is slightly heavier. Both phones are made out of metal and glass, and both are IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. When you flip them around, you’ll see a different camera design. The sensors are roughly in the same spots, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s protrudes directly from the backplate. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, has a camera island on the back.
Now, both of these phones do have support for an S Pen, but only the S23 Ultra comes with Samsung’s stylus. That phone also has an S Pen silo, which can be accessed from the bottom. The same cannot be said for the Galaxy S21 Ultra. They do feel premium in the hand, but if you don’t like hefty and large phones, you should think twice before getting either of them. Using a case is recommended due to the fact how slippery they are.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Display
The Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 6.8-inch QHD+ (3088 x 1440) Dynamic AMOLED 2X display. That panel is curved, but only slightly, and it supports an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz. HDR10+ content is supported here, while the display can get quite bright at 1,750 nits of peak brightness. This display is also well-protected thanks to a layer of the Corning Gorilla Glass 2.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, has a 6.8-inch panel as well. This display has a QHD+ resolution too, but a different aspect ratio. It has a 20:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3200 x 1440. This is also a Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel with a refresh rate of 120Hz, and it also supports HDR10+ content. Do note that this panel gets up to 1,500 nits of peak brightness, so, slightly less than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This panel is also curved, considerably more than the unit on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Both of these phones have outstanding displays. Truth be said, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s panel is newer and technically better, but you’ll be more than happy with either one. Both get bright enough, even outdoors, and both offer vivid colors, deep blacks, and great viewing angles. The touch response is also good on both of these displays. If you’re considering upgrading just because of the display, that may not be the best idea, both are great.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Performance
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy SoC fuels the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The phone also packs in 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 4.0 flash storage. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is fueled by the Snapdragon 888 SoC in the US and China, but in many markets, it launched with the Exynos 2100 processor. Up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM is included on the phone, along with UFS 3.1 flash storage.
Now, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely the more powerful phone in this comparison. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a much better chip with great power efficiency. It also comes inside every Galaxy S23 Ultra unit, so you don’t have to worry about inferior performance. It offers faster and more efficient RAM and flash storage too. Does this reflect on the actual real-life performance? Well, yes, it does.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is not exactly laggy at this point, but it’s nowhere near as fluid as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, especially the Exynos model. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the snappiest phones around, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra performs really well, but it does skip frames here and there. The difference is noticeable once you try both phones, that’s for sure, which is not exactly surprising.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Battery
There is a 5,000mAh battery in both of these smartphones. The battery life is considerably different, though. The Galaxy S23 Ultra does have a more efficient SoC, and some other components, so that’s not surprising. We were able to go all the way to 10 hours of screen-on-time with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and that was not an exception. The Galaxy S21 Ultra lingered around 6.5-7.5 hours when we reviewed it.
Do note that we didn’t really play games on either phone, other for testing purposes. They did go through a lot during our usage, ranging from browsing, messaging, image editing, photo editing, streaming, and so much more. Your mileage may vary, though, of course. You’ll be using different apps, have different usage habits, and different signal strengths. On top of that, it has been a while since we’ve rocked the Galaxy S21 Ultra as a daily driver, things may have changed.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra does support faster charging than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It comes with 45W wired, 15W wireless, and 4.5 reverse wireless charging. The Galaxy S21 Ultra supports 25W wired charging, while the wireless and reverse wireless charging is identical as on its sibling. Do note that neither of these two phones comes with a charging brick in the box, though.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Cameras
Both of these phones have four cameras on the back. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a 200-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide unit, a 10-megapixel telephoto camera, and a 10-megapixel periscope telephoto unit. The Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 108-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide unit, a 10-megapixel telephoto camera, and a 10-megapixel periscope telephoto unit.
Now that we got the hardware out of the way, let’s talk about their real-life performance. We are talking about two generations of phones here, so it is to be expected that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is better in the camera department. That is the case, and the difference is quite substantial. Samsung improved the cameras across the board, though some optimizations are still needed. In extreme HDR conditions, the phone does, at times, leave dark areas without much detail. In most HDR conditions it performs admirably, however.
It is better than the Galaxy S21 Ultra in every way. The pictures are better in terms of colors, you’re getting more details, they’re better balanced, and low light is also a major improvement. The ultrawide and telephoto shots are also noticeably better, though not to the level of the main camera images. You’ll even see some improvements in the periscope telephoto shots that go over the 3x level. If you’re in need of better camera performance, the Galaxy S23 Ultra certainly is an improvement. Video recording is also worth mentioning, as the Galaxy S23 Ultra footage is extra stable thanks to the changes Samsung made, and it looks better in pretty much every way.
Both of these phones include a good set of stereo speakers. The speakers on both phones have been tuned by AKG, and they both sound really good, and are quite loud. If we’re nitpicking, however, the Galaxy S23 Ultra did sound a bit louder, and provided a bit more bass.
Neither phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll have to use their Type-C ports if you’d like to connect your headphones via a wire. If you prefer a wireless connection, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers Bluetooth 5.3, while its sibling supports Bluetooth 5.2.