Samsung launched two new sets of devices in the Galaxy S23 smartphones and Galaxy Book3 laptops at its Unpacked event. The three phones follow the same naming conventions: Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23. The laptops include the Galaxy Book3 Pro, Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 and an entirely new entry in the Galaxy Book3 Ultra.
These devices take incremental approaches to improving performance, though Samsung set aside the Ultra models for both as the standouts. They’re the ones with features or compatibility others don’t have, though the laptops are more varied from one another than the phones are. I got to see all of them live in advance, so look for reviews to come to the blog soon.
About the Galaxy S23 Ultra
The Galaxy S23 Ultra remains the premium option for Samsung’s latest phones. It’s still the only one that comes with the S Pen, including a holster for it inside. I didn’t notice it feeling all that different when writing on the screen, and the same apps and functions apply when using the button to access them.
The 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X is the same, except it’s flatter than before, continuing Samsung’s slow push to flatten out the curved edges that once dominated the S series screens. It retains the screen’s Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ from before, only this time gains tougher protection with Gorilla Glass Victus 2. It’s a similar situation in the back, where the camera lenses have protective rings, which are the only things sticking out of an otherwise flat surface.
Samsung is also positioning the phone as a premium mobile gaming device. Not just because of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor but also due to the improved graphics and cooling that keeps the phone from getting too hot. I tried a demo playing Asphalt 9 and it ran really smoothly the whole time, not unlike playing on a console. While I would’ve preferred to play it with a controller, I’ll get that chance when I review the phone.
Storage starts out at 256GB, with a 512GB variant. There is no way to expand on that, as Samsung has all but abandoned memory card slots. You can go with 8GB of RAM for the base model, or go with 12GB for all the others.
The 200-megapixel image sensor is the main story here. While I’ll reserve any judgment until I review the phone, I did try taking a few shots at full resolution and was impressed at the smaller details I captured within the frame. I suspect these full-resolution shots will come out looking better in brighter conditions, but there is another advantage to this new sensor. It allows you to also shoot at 50-megapixels in multiple modes, or at 12-megapixels as the default and in night mode.
Samsung spent time talking about its “Nightography” capabilities, where all night and low-light shots should see improvement over previous phones. That will also extend to nighttime portraits and the Night mode itself. I didn’t really have a good opportunity to test that yet, but am curious to see how much better the results will actually be.
Expert RAW is now part of the camera app, and that’s where you’ll find the Astrophotography mode to literally shoot for the stars, plus Multiple Exposure to shoot up to nine photos and merge them together into one image. Expert RAW also gives more professional shooters the chance to shoot in RAW at 50-megapixels. That’s a big deal, considering it maxed at 12-megapixels in the Galaxy S22. There are nuances to how all these features work, which I’ll cover in my review.
For video, the Galaxy S23 Ultra will record 8K footage at 30fps, complete with improved stabilization, reduced noise, extra sharpness and better dynamic range. Samsung says the phone can produce better nighttime video thanks to the new sensor. Like the Astrophotography mode for photos, there is an Astro Hyperlapse mode to capture footage of the cosmos as the Earth rotates. There’s even a way to record 360-degree audio when pairing the phone with the Galaxy Buds2 Pro earbuds.
About the Galaxy S23+ and S23
Not as much changed for these two devices. They follow the same iterative path from their S22 counterparts, with some upgrades but mostly incremental changes. The Galaxy S23+ has the same 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display, while the Galaxy S23 also keeps the same 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X as well. Neither of these devices will work with the S Pen, but they do get slightly larger batteries with a 200mAh increase for both.
They also share key features with the S23 Ultra, namely the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and graphics power. Samsung says both these phones can work as effective gaming devices, thanks to more efficient graphics performance and the 120Hz screen refresh rate, among other reasons. There were some demos showing this, but it’s hard to tell until I get to play games on them myself.
For the first time I can remember, all three S23 models will share the same colour options: phantom black, cream, green and lavender. Usually, there are some differences between them, but it’s all uniform this time around.
On the camera side, things diverge a little except for the front camera, which is a 12-megapixel shooter with larger pixels to help capture clearer and brighter selfies at night. The rear camera array is identical for the S23+ and S23: a 50-megapixel primary lens, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 10-megapixel telephoto and 10-megapixel periscope telephoto lens. Samsung claims they will take better photos than before, so we’ll see how much better once I get the chance to test them.
Galaxy Book3 laptops
Samsung is also coming out with three new laptops in the Galaxy Book3 series. The most high-end would be the all-new Galaxy Book3 Ultra, Samsung’s “first top-of-the-line” PC laptop. It has a 16-inch screen with a pretty lightweight (just under 4 lbs.) and thin body (16.5mm), yet doesn’t skimp out on ports and connections. There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one HDMI, one USB-A 3.2, microSD card slot and one headphone jack.
The 16-inch 3K Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (2880 x 1800) has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 500 nits peak brightness with 120Hz refresh rate. The 1080 webcam sports a “studio quality” dual mic with active noise cancellation (ANC), and when you want to listen, the AKG-tuned speakers are also compatible with Dolby Atmos.
Under the hood, the Book3 Ultra runs on the latest 13th-gen Intel Core processor with Nvidia RTX 4050 or 4070 GPU. You can also upgrade the RAM up to 32GB. Samsung is clearly aiming this toward content creators who need power and sharper visuals to render high-resolution video and audio.
The Galaxy Book3 Pro 360 follows previous models in that it flips backward completely, making it a 2-in-1 convertible. The 16-inch screen is touch-sensitive, and with the S Pen in the box, it maintains the dual focus for both productivity and consumption. You can just as easily use it to watch your favourite shows as you would in editing a photo or drawing a pretty picture.
The Galaxy Book3 Pro will come in 14-inch and 16-inch variants. Super thin and light, the two share the same features, including some with the Book 360, like the Intel Iris Xe graphics. They won’t match the Ultra for overall power, though they do run on the same Intel CPU.
New laptop features
Samsung introduced other ways to use the Galaxy Book3 Pro laptops, including in tandem with other Samsung products, like the S series smartphones. You can drag and drop files and images from a phone to the laptop, as well as copy and paste text. This will even work across different brands and operating systems, meaning it works with Windows PC and Mac. Turn a Samsung tablet into a second screen for a dual-monitor experience.
Instant Hotspot will connect any of the Galaxy Book3 Pro laptops to a Galaxy phone with one click. No need to even turn on mobile hotspot on the phone first. If you were browsing the web on one device and wanted to take over on another, Recent Websites makes the transition smoother.
If you shoot in Expert RAW on a Galaxy S23 phone, Auto Share will sync the images over to a Galaxy Book3 Pro laptop wirelessly. Samsung says you can set this up so that it works automatically right after you take a shot. I’m curious to test this functionality out in the field, as wireless tethering is always a cool thing to do for photography. Samsung is also offering a two-month free trial for Adobe Lightroom with any Galaxy Book3 Pro purchase.
Everything Samsung announced will be coming soon. If you’re looking for one of the phones, pre-orders are open for the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23. The Galaxy Book3 Pro laptops are also ready to pre-order.