Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: Apple better watch out


Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event was jam-packed with a ton of new hardware, including the brand-new Galaxy S23 series. This lineup includes the S23, S23 Plus, and the mega-powerful Galaxy S23 Ultra. Despite there being three phones, the most exciting one is definitely the S23 Ultra, which now has a massive 200MP main camera and is powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy.

But how does Samsung’s latest top-of-the-line flagship Android phone compare to Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max? Let’s take a look at the two side-by-side.

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: specs

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Size 3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 inches 3.05 x 6.33 x 0.31 inches
Weight 8.25 ounces 8.47 ounces
Display 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED

120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate

500ppi

1,750 nit outdoor peak brightness

6.7-inch Super Retina XDR OLED

ProMotion up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rate

460ppi

2,000 nit outdoor peak brightness

RAM/Storage 8GB/256GB

12GB 512GB/1TB

6GB RAM

128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB

Processor Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy A16 Bionic
Biometrics Ultrasonic FP & Face Recognition Face ID
Rear Camera 200MP main (OIS) with Laser Auto Focus

12MP ultra-wide

10MP (OIS) telephoto and periscope telephoto

48MP main (OIS)

12MP ultra wide

12MP 2X/3X telephoto

Selfie Camera 12MP 12MP
Video

8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 fps

FHD at 120 fps and 960 fps (Super Slow- Mo)

4K at 4 fps/25 fps/30 fps/60 fps

1080p at 25 fps/30 fps/60 fps

720p at 30 fps

Cinematic 4KHDR at 30 fps

Dolby Vision 4Kat 60 fps

ProRes 4K at 30 fps or 1080p at 30 fps for 128GB model

Zoom 3X/10X Optical

100X Space Zoom

3X optical zoom in

2x optical zoom out

6x optical zoom range

Digital zoom up to 15X

Battery 5,000mAh 4,323mAh
Charging Super Fast Charging 2.0 up to 45W with USB-C

Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 up to 15W

Wireless PowerShare

Fast charging up to 20W with Lightning

Wireless charging up to 7.5W

MagSafe wireless charging up to 15W

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: design

The back of the green Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s design has not changed from the previous iteration. It’s still massive in size with a 6.8-inch display, and the side edges of the frame are curved (though not as intensely), with the top and bottom having flat edges.

The back of the phone is matte, so it’s not a fingerprint magnet, and the quad-camera system continues to be in the floating lens design since the S22 Ultra did not use the camera island like the regular S22 and S22 Plus. The bottom is where you’ll find the S Pen stowed away, along with the USB-C charging port, and the side has the volume buttons.

iPhone 14 Pro Max standing against a tree.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max pretty much has the same design as the iPhone 12 that came out a few years ago. It’s a tried and true design, with completely flat edges along the frame, with slightly rounded corners. You get a large 6.7-inch display, and the back of the device is also a frosty matte glass finish.

The triple camera array is arranged in a triangular formation and is rather large and unwieldy in terms of the camera bump. The bottom is where you’ll find the Lightning port for charging, and the left side has the volume buttons and mute toggle, while the right side has the sleep/wake button.

The designs for both phones are different, but it all really comes down to which style you prefer.

Winner: Draw

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: display

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

On the Galaxy S23 Ultra, you get a giant 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O QHD+ always-on display with 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The resolution is 1440 x 3088 pixels, which is about 500 pixels per inch (ppi). And when you’re outdoors, the outdoor peak brightness can go up to 1,750 nits, which is very respectable and makes it easier to use the phone outside in direct sunlight. The bezels are relatively thin, giving you more screen estate to work with, and the selfie camera and face recognition sensor is housed in a small and simple hole-punch cutout.

With the iPhone 14 Pro Max, you have a 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display at 2796 x 1290 pixels, which is 460ppi. This is also the first always-on display for an iPhone (along with the iPhone 14 Pro), and it features ProMotion with up to 120Hz adaptive refresh rates.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max next to a green pepper.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

It can reach up to 1,600 nits peak HDR brightness but can go all the way up to 2,000 nits peak brightness when outdoors. The front-facing selfie camera and Face ID sensors are housed in the new Dynamic Island, which integrates with iOS 16 software to vary in size and adapt to whatever you’re doing on the device.

Though the iPhone 14 Pro Max can go even brighter outdoors than the S23 Ultra, the latter is more impressive with the AMOLED display and higher resolution.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: performance and battery

Screen resolution options on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Samsung ships Android 13 with One UI 5.1 out-of-the-box for the S23 series, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Everything is powered by the brand new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip from Qualcomm, which is an optimized version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that is specifically made for Galaxy devices. Not only is this one optimized for Samsung, but it also has a faster clock speed at 3.3GHz. If you choose the 256GB version, you’ll have 8GB RAM, but the 512GB and 1TB versions have 12GB RAM. With that in mind, the Galaxy S23 Ultra should be able to handle anything you throw at it.

You’ll find Apple’s own in-house A16 Bionic chip in the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which has a 6-core CPU with two performance and four efficiency cores. There’s also a 5-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine, as well as 6GB RAM. Though this all sounds like technical mumbo jumbo for the average person, it basically means that the iPhone 14 Pro Max has blazing-fast performance. With iOS 16, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is responsive, fluid, snappy, and just a joy to use — even though it has less RAM than the S23 Ultra.

Battery stats on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

On the battery side, the S23 Ultra has a 5,000mAh battery, which hasn’t changed from the previous S22 Ultra. However, because it has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy that is optimized for the device, the battery should last longer than the previous iteration, despite no change in capacity. With these improvements, the Galaxy S23 Ultra should last as long as the iPhone 14 Pro Max at around 23 hours, if not longer. The S23 Ultra also supports Super Fast Charging 2.0 at 45W maximum charging speed with USB-C, has Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 support up to 15W, and Wireless PowerShare (reverse wireless charging) at about 4.5W.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has a battery capacity of around 4,323mAh, but it should last around 23 hours, according to Apple’s specifications and testing. However, it still uses Lightning to charge, and it has a maximum fast charge speed of 20W, wireless charging speed of 7.5W, and certified MagSafe charging at 15W. There is no reverse wireless charging, so you can’t use your iPhone 14 Pro Max to charge up other devices like your earbuds.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: cameras

Joe Maring holding a black Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Though the S22 Ultra was pretty impressive with a 108MP camera, the Galaxy S23 Ultra takes it a step further with a massive jump to 200MP on the main camera. On top of that, the main camera has laser autofocus and optical image stabilization (OIS) for incredibly sharp photos. The quad-camera system also has a 12MP ultra-wide camera, 10MP telephoto, and 10MP periscope telephoto, which gives you 3x/10x optical zoom and 100x Space Zoom capabilities.

In our hands-on with the S23 Ultra, Samsung’s upgraded software makes the 100x Space Zoom photos actually look good, similar to how 30x mode was a year ago. The only odd bit about the S23 Ultra is that Samsung decided to downgrade the selfie camera from 40MP on the S22 Ultra to 12MP on the S23 Ultra.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is a little less impressive in terms of raw numbers, despite getting a big upgrade last year. You have a triple-lens camera system with 48MP main camera with OIS, 12MP ultra-wide, and 12MP 2x/3x telephoto. The front-facing selfie camera is 12MP. However, on the iPhone 14 Pro Max, you can only get 3x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, so about 6x optical zoom range (and digital zoom up to 15x). You won’t get anything near the S23 Ultra’s 100x Space Zoom, unfortunately, at least not until Apple incorporates a periscope lens on future generations of iPhone.

We still need to put the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera through its paces but based solely on the technical attributes of each camera system, Samsung has a clear edge here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: software and updates

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23's screens.
The Galaxy S23 (left), Galaxy S23 Plus (center) and Galaxy S23 Ultra (right) Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

We mentioned it earlier, but the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra ships with Android 13 and One UI 5.1 out of the box. Samsung is also pretty good about keeping support for its flagship devices — the S23 Ultra should get four years of Android OS updates, and there will be five years of security patch updates as well.

However, it’s hard to beat Apple when it comes to the longevity of most of its devices. For example, iOS 16 can be installed on devices as far back as the iPhone 8, which came out six years ago in 2017. Typically, we should expect at least five years of software upgrades for an iPhone device, though it may vary depending on the actual hardware. With the iPhone 14 Pro Max, though, we should still see support for it well past five years. The iPhone 14 Pro Max comes equipped with iOS 16, so it’ll likely get updated through at least iOS 21, if not more. And while there’s no specified timeline for security updates, Apple is pretty good with providing security patches for older devices.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro Max

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max: price and availability

All four colors of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The S23 Ultra is available for pre-order right now directly from Samsung, as well as carriers and big box retailers like Best Buy. Though the Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,200 for the 256GB model, there are plenty of deals right now to help you get more storage for the starting price or just save some dough. You can get the Galaxy S23 Ultra in all of the standard colors: Phantom Black, Cream, Green, and Lavender. If you order directly from Samsung, there are four additional exclusive colors to pick from: Lime, Graphite, Sky Blue, and Red.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is currently available directly from Apple, carriers, and big box retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Amazon. Though Apple typically does not have deals on its smartphones, sometimes you may find specials from your specific carriers, and retailers may run sales from time to time. The starting price for the iPhone 14 Pro Max is $1,099 for 128GB, and it goes up to $1,599 for 1TB. If you want to compare the 256GB price with the S23 Ultra (as that is what it starts at), then that will run $1,199. Available colors are Deep Purple, Space Black, Gold, and Silver.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Though both the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro Max are very powerful smartphones, we’re going with the S23 Ultra as the better device between the two. The reasoning for this is that the S23 Ultra has a better display (AMOLED vs OLED, higher ppi, and resolution), a fast and powerful chipset with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, along with a 5,000mAh battery, 45W fast charging with USB-C, 15W wireless charging, and reverse charging capabilities. Not to mention that the S23 Ultra has a powerful 200MP main camera and 100x Space Zoom capabilities that actually look good through software.

And while Samsung may have fewer years of software support than Apple, four years of OS upgrades is nothing to sneeze at. Samsung does a pretty good job of keeping support for its flagship devices, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra. And on top of all that, you start at 256GB of storage, it can go up to 12GB RAM, and you have a whopping eight colors to choose from.

Let’s see if Apple can up the ante this year with the iPhone 15 lineup.

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