Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

7comments
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase from the links on this page.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
There is no rivalry in the US phone world more visible than that between the flagship phones of the Apple-Samsung duopoly as these two brands hold the lion's share of handsets sold by US carriers and are the ones whose high-end phones are looked forward to the most. This is why we pit the pinnacle of Samsung's Galaxy S23 line - the S23 Ultra - against Apple's finest until the fall season, the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Samsung's 2023 flagship trio comes powered by a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor that can give the Apple A16 a run for its money, especially in its heretofore bastion of performance advantage, the graphics subsystem as Samsung's phone can stay cooler while gaming, yet with very comparable frames per watt performance.

The flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra has a boxy stylus-wielding design and a new 200MP camera, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max that is proving to be the most popular handset of Apple's latest crop since Apple threw the kitchen sink of specs it is capable of at it, widening the gap with the smaller Pro and non-Pro iPhones to record length. 


As you will see from our Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max comparison below, it leans heavily in favor of Samsung's finest, at least when it comes to hardware bang for the buck when all the S23 series deals are stacked up.

Galaxy S23 Ultra (256GB) is 12% off at Amazon

The 256GB Galaxy S23 Ultra in Lavender sells for 12% off its MSRP. The deal is live on Amazon and there are very limited quantities left. Don't miss out.

Get the 512GB Galaxy S23 Ultra for $880 off at Best Buy!

Best Buy has a great Galaxy S23 Ultra preorder deal running until 2/16 with up to an $880 discount. You get up to $600 with a trade, a $100 Best Buy gift card, and a free 512GB storage upgrade worth a Benjamin!
$419 99
$1299 99
Expired

Get the unlocked Galaxy S23+ with up to $600 off with trade-in at Best Buy!

Get up to $600 off with trade-in for the unlocked Galaxy S23 Plus at Best Buy. Of course, the phone is available also for the three main carriers Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The carriers are also offering discounts if you purchase your phone from Best Buy. Check all the conditions on Best Buy's website!
$399 99
$999 99
Expired

Galaxy S23 up to $600 off with trade-in for unlocked model

Get the Galaxy S23 unlocked for up to $600 off. Just like the offer above, the Galaxy S23 is available also for the three main carriers Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The carriers are also offering their own discounts if you purchase your phone from Best Buy and activate it with one of the main carriers. Don't miss out!
$199 99
$799 99
Expired

Main Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max differences:

  • 200MP vs 48MP main camera sensors
  • 10x vs 3x optical zoom
  • 8K@30FPS video
  • S Pen stylus support
  • 45W vs 27W charging speeds

Jump to section:
  • Displays
  • Camera
  • Price
  • Specs
  • Performance
  • Battery life and charging
    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
    6.9

    Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra


    The Good

    • Battery life is great, big improvement from predecessor
    • New Snapdragon chip is the best one in years
    • Design is improved, feels more ergonomic
    • Screen is less curved and gets very dim (perfect for night time use)
    • Camera improvements are there, but not quite huge
    • Loudspeakers sound much better now
    • You get double the storage (256GB) at base model

    The Bad

    • Base model still only has 8GB RAM
    • Charging speeds have not improved
    • Haptics are still not as good as rivals
    • Camera system hasn't improved as much as hoped for
    • Expensive if you buy at full price

    Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
    7.3

    Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max


    The Good

    • Exceptional, industry-leading performance
    • Dynamic Island is a fun and useful twist on the punch hole
    • Very good battery life
    • Superb video-recording quality
    • Very bright and beautiful display with Always-On functionality
    • Premium, posh design

    The Bad

    • Relatively slow charging speed
    • Small evolutionary improvements
    • Lack of physical SIM feels like an inconvenience


Design and display


There are changes in the S23 series design, with the Ultra taking a boxier shape, while the regular S23 and the Plus sibling drop the camera island plateau on the back, and adopt the individual protruding lenses from the Ultra. The iPhone 14 Pro Max body stayed the same with only a few new colors thrown in for a good measure. It’s an edgy, heavy phone to deal with, especially with one hand, while the Ultra’s curved screen will probably bring it an ergonomics advantage.

The steeper curvature radius of the side frame would make it fairly comfortable to hold and operate with one hand, compared to the blocky iPhone, and the S23 Ultra also has an S Pen stylus silo for doodling that Apple can’t or won’t replicate.

At the rear, we still have three lens rings protruding from the back independently, rather than being a part of an elevated camera island "plateau" as on most every other major phone out there, including the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

]

S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max display


Apple equipped the iPhone 14 Pro Max with a bright OLED panel of the latest generation that is the technology employed on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, too. The Ultra sports a 6.8" 1440p panel of Samsung's 12th-gen OLED display generation, like the one that boosted the peak brightness of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 significantly compared to the Z Fold 3, or brought the record peak brightness of 2000 nits on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

The S22 Ultra already sports top brightness levels in the isolated scenarios that Samsung tests at, so the S23 Ultra panel is a sight to behold as it one-ups its predecessor in that respect in our benchmark display tests. 

Even if it doesn’t hit 2000 peak nits like the 14 Pro Max in isolated scenarios, Samsung has proven it can make well-calibrated panels with excellent color presentation, just as Apple, as you can see from our CalMAN charts done with the X-Rite color calibration checker tool. 

On the other hand, Apple melted the dynamic refresh rate advantage that the Galaxies had by introducing 1Hz-120Hz range for its iPhone 14 Pro models which previously only dipped to 10Hz, so we can call it a draw in the display quality department.


As usual, Corning announced that its newest generation of reinforced glass - the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 - to be the tough display cover and body glass that the S22 Ultra uses. Whether or not it is tougher than Apple's proprietary Ceramic Shield remains to be tested.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max price




While the starting price of the iPhone 14 Pro Max is $100 cheaper than that of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, that's because it's te 128GB model. Once you get into the 512GB and 1TB tiers, the prices equalize as Apple charges an arm and a leg for extra storage, while Samsung produces its own, and starts off with 256GB storage.

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max specs


The Galaxy S23 Ultra hardware surpasses every imaginable iPhone 14 Pro Max specification, save for the display characteristics and processing power.

 

Camera


One area where the Galaxy S23 Ultra will again be leaps and bounds ahead of its main competitor in Apple’s roster is the camera hardware. The biggest upgrade that arrives with the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the new custom 200MP ISOCELL HP2 main camera sensor with 0.6 micron pixels that Samsung prepared exclusively for its 2023 flagship.

While Apple finally ditched its 12MP cameras and equipped the iPhone 14 Pro Max with a 48MP sensor, it’s no match for the kind of detail and resolution that the S23 Ultra will be able to produce.

In a low-light environment, the pixel size goes to 1.12 microns allowing the user to take 50MP photos with increased light sensitivity, while at night the S23 Ultra introduces an even larger, 2.4 micron binned virtual pixel by combining 16 pixels into one so that a picture can be snapped at 12.5MP. This system will allow users to take sharp photos no matter how much light is available.

Galaxy S23 Ultra vs iPhone 14 Pro Max camera samples


Our low-light camera samples from the S23 Ultra seem to confirm its superior light-catching abilities. Zoom photos and night time ones are where the iPhone should be easily beat by the S23 Ultra, so have a look how they stack up compared to the iPhone 14 Pro Max camera set.

Main Camera - Good Light




The main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra captures more of the fine details in a scene than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The samples also exhibit colder colors and toned down contrast that stay truer to what's in front of the lens than the jollier but overly warm and yellow overcast of Apple's iPhones. The iPhone 14 Pro Max's camera algorithms almost always decide to shoot one exposure step above what Samsung deems appropriate for the scene, making the S23 Ultra photos look a tad darker in the process but with less of a highlight burn around brighter objects in the scene. 

Recommended Stories
The Galaxy S23 Ultra also softens the background around the main object in the frame a bit more without resorting to a portrait mode switch, while photos from the iPhone 14 Pro Max look sharper and flatter. Zoom into the iPhone samples, however, and detail and sharpness immediately get lost compared to the S23 Ultra photos, indicating that the 200MP sensor offers much more photographic data to play with and enhance if needed.

Main Camera - Indoor low light




When the lights start to dim down, the advantage of the huge virtual pixels on the Galaxy S23 Ultra and their quad autofocus technology become glaringly obvious. Indoor low-light and night scenes from Samsung's phone come out with better dynamic range, illuminating both the dark coat of our subject in the sample here, and the lamp on the wall more evenly than what the iPhone 14 Pro Max is able to muster. 

The iPhone simply went for its usual step higher exposure here, plunging the shadows in darkness and creating a halo in the place of the lamp's light source compared to the wider dynamic range that the S23 Ultra was able to capture.

Ultra-wide




In the samples with the ultrawide cameras, Apple has again boosted the contrast and color temperature over what Samsung's algorithms chose on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, creating a more visually striking scene than it needs to be compared to reality. Samsung's phone managed to create a more airy and less dramatic ambiance while maintaining good dynamic range with more evened-out illumination, and colors that still pop.

In lower light scenarios, however, the higher exposure that the iPhone 14 Pro Max goes with makes more objects of the ultrawide scene visible, while the boosted contrast and warmer colors create a crowd-pleaser of a sample even when the S23 Ultra doesn't struggle to focus like on the first sample below.


The Ultra's sensor and image processor also support smoother 8K video at 30 frames per second, as well as seamless dual HDR shooting in 4K and FHD modes. The staggered HDR mode combines all three exposures to deliver great-looking HDR photos and videos, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max is unsurpassed when it comes to video capture, so we'd wager to guess that the S23 Ultra will only beat it in video definition.

Samsung also has an answer to Apple's Action Mode video recording with all-axis stabilization that is exclusive to the top end Galaxy S23 Ultra model as an extension to Samsung's resident Super Steady mode.

Video Thumbnail

Performance and software



According to benchmarks, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip seems to be on par with the iPhone 14's Apple A15 processor, at least in the multi-core results, despite being clocked lower, and it only gives way to the new Apple A16 in the 14 Pro Max in the multi-core count, but not in gaming performance where it meets and even beats the A16 as it stays cooler under gaming pressure.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra, however, gets a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 called Mobile Platform for Galaxy, which is clocked higher than the stock 3.2 GHz version that Qualcomm announced, at the long-rumored 3.36 GHz, giving Apple a run for its money. Also, the iPhone 14 Pro Max's 5G modem is a generation behind the Galaxy S23 Ultra connectivity, thanks to the new Qualcomm X70 5G modem supporting every commercial 5G band from 600 MHz to 41 GHz.

Geekbench 5 SingleHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1583
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max1884
Geekbench 5 MultiHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra4937
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max5491
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra3828
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max3382
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra1951
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max2327

As for the software, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is running on Android 13 with Samsung's One UI 5 slapped on top, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max runs on iOS 16 and the two systems are very different from one another, so it's a matter of habit and personal preference.

Battery life and charging speeds


The iPhone 14 Pro Max has an excellent battery endurance, but the battery life of the Galaxy S23 series is also getting a 20% bump from the utilization of a new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor made on a second-gen 4nm technology, as well as the newer LTPO OLED panel generation that it brings to the table. 

While in our battery benchmark tests the iPhone 14 Pro Max managed to outrun the Galaxy S22 Ultra by a significant margin in certain scenarios, its successor the Galaxy S23 Ultra runs on par in the browsing test now with its 5000mAh battery, only giving way in the 3D gaming and video streaming endurance competition. We test the battery with unified runs at one and the same screen brightness to even the playing field.

hoursHigher is better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
18h 57 min
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
19h 5 min
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
13h 17 min

Where the Galaxy S23 Ultra shines in comparison with the top iPhone, however, is charging speed. While not on the OnePlus 11 level of 23 minutes charging for a 5,000 mAh battery, Samsung's rapid charging speeds are pretty decent as it takes it about an hour (66 minutes) to fill up a 5,000 mAh battery pack with Samsung's 45W charger.


 
Compare that to the iPhone 14 Pro Max which takes almost two hours to top up a smaller unit at a maximum of 27W, and Samsung again comes out ahead of its Apple rival as far as charging times are concerned.

Summary


Even those heavily invested in the Apple ecosphere may be tempted to snatch the Galaxy S23 Ultra off the shelves. Samsung's 2023 flagship offers a more ergonomic design with integrated S Pen stylus, and its under-the-hood upgrades such as a new 4nm processor would match the iPhone spec for spec, even the Pro model with Apple A16 chip.

Samsung brought its A-game to counter the new iPhone 14 Pro Max camera and bright display and it was able to, as the Galaxy S23 Ultra sports the largest camera sensor on an S-line phone so far, and a more capable 5G modem by Qualcomm that the iPhone lacks.

Don't even get us started about the Galaxy S23 Ultra's advantage in the optical zoom department before the tired 3x telephoto of the iPhone 14 Pro Max that has been Apple's modus operandi for years on end now, or its much faster charging abilities with a battery life that is now on par. 

Still, once you get in Apple's ecosystem grip, it's hard to break with the company and its product, so it remains to be seen if the slightly more expensive Galaxy S23 Ultra will manage to put a dent in the iPhone 14 Pro Max's market share.

Galaxy S23 Ultra (256GB) is 12% off at Amazon

The 256GB Galaxy S23 Ultra in Lavender sells for 12% off its MSRP. The deal is live on Amazon and there are very limited quantities left. Don't miss out.

Galaxy S23+ is available at Amazon

The Galaxy S23+ with 256GB of built-in storage arrives at its standard price, but you can trade-in an eligible device for up to $240 off. Limited quantities are available.

Galaxy S23 is now available at Amazon

The vanilla Galaxy S23 sells at its standard price on Amazon. Limited color options are available. You can trade in a suitable device to unlock up to $240 in savings. Limited quantities available.

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless