Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which should you buy?

Samsung has not one but two lavishly expensive 2023 flagship smartphones: the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 5. If you can stomach the sky-high prices, these devices offer stellar build quality and long software support, but they offer very different experiences. So, which one should you get? Let’s see how Samsung’s best phones stack up.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: At a glance

The Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the most expensive Samsung smartphone, but that’s because it’s a foldable. There’s a tall, narrow display on the outside and a larger foldable one inside. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is cheaper (though still expensive) and shaped like a traditional smartphone — a big one.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 5: At a glance

  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a built-in S Pen, but that’s a separate accessory for the Z Fold 5, and it doesn’t stow inside the phone.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 have the same overclocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a more versatile camera system
  • The Galaxy Z Fold 5’s large foldable OLED is better for multitasking.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 are both very heavy phones, at 234g and 253g, respectively.
  • The Galaxy Z Fold 5 costs $600 more than the S23 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Specs

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Displays

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Exterior:
– 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
– 120Hz refresh rate
– 2,316 x 904 resolution
– 23.1:9 aspect ratio
– Gorilla Glass Victus 2

Interior:
– 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED
– 120Hz refresh rate (LTPO)
– 2,176 x 1,812 resolution
– Ultra Thin Glass

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Edge display (curved)
QHD+ resolution (3,088 x 1,440)
19.3:9 aspect ratio
120Hz adaptive refresh rate (1Hz to 120Hz)
LTPO 3.0
Gorilla Glass Victus 2

Processor

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy

RAM

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

12GB

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

8GB or 12GB

Storage

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
No expandable storage

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
No microSD card

Power

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

4,400mAh dual-battery
25W wired charging
Fast Wireless Charging 2.0
Wireless PowerShare
No charger in box

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

5,000mAh battery
45W wired charging
15W wireless charging
No charger in box

Cameras

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Exterior rear:
– 50MP wide, 1.0μm, OIS, Dual Pixel AF, ƒ/1.8
– 12MP ultra-wide, 1.12μm, ƒ/2.2
– 10MP telephoto, 1.0μm, OIS, 3x zoom (30x digital), ƒ/2.4

Exterior front:
– 10MP ƒ/2.2, 1.22μm

Internal UDC:
– 4MP, 2.0μm, ƒ/1.8

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Rear:
– 200MP primary
1/1.3-inch sensor
OIS

– 12MP ultrawide
1/2.55-inch sensor

– 10MP 3x telephoto
1/3.52-inch sensor

– 10MP 10x telephoto
1/3.52-inch sensor

Front:
– 12MP wide

Audio

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

No headphone jack
Stereo speakers

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

No headphone jack
Stereo speakers

S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Not included

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Yes, embedded with storage slot

Software

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

One UI 5.1 based on Android 13
4 Android updates
5 years of security updates

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

One UI 5.1 based on Android 13
4 Android updates
5 years of security updates

Dimensions and weight

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Folded dimensions:
– 154.94 x 67 x 13.4mm

Unfolded dimensions:
– 154.94 x 129.8 x 6mm

Weight:
– 253g

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm
233g

Colors

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Global: Cream, Icy Blue, Phantom Black

Samsung Exclusive: Gray, Blue

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Phantom Black, Green, Lavender, Cream, Graphite, Sky Blue, Red, Lime

On the inside, these physically different devices have a lot in common. They have the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, which has been tweaked by Qualcomm for Samsung. It’s got a higher clock speed than you’ll see in other 2023 Snapdragon phones, but thermal performance matters more than a small clock bump. In our testing, the Z Fold 5 throttles more heavily under sustained load than the S23 Ultra, losing almost half its initial speed. The S23 Ultra only drops about 20%, which is more in line with other phones.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is shaped like a traditional smartphone, with a 6.8-inch 1,440 x 3,088 AMOLED screen, but the Z Fold 5 has two AMOLEDs, a 6.2-inch (904 x 2,316) on the front and a 7.6-inch (1,812 x 2,176) folding display inside. All these panels support 120Hz refresh and have enough brightness to be fully readable outdoors; both Android phones can boost to 1,750 nits in direct sunlight.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and S23 Ultra multitasking

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Since the S23 Ultra doesn’t fold, there’s no hinge about which to worry. We wouldn’t worry too much about the Z Fold 5’s hinge, though. Samsung has been refining its hinge design for five generations, and the new “Flex Hinge” is the best one yet. It folds up flat, and the mechanism feels very solid. When unfolded, the Z Fold 5 feels every bit as stable as a big phone like the S23 Ultra, but it offers even more screen real estate.

Both phones have Samsung’s multi-window features for floating apps and split-screening, but the larger display on the Fold 5 lets you split three apps at once instead of just two.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 5 both support Samsung’s S Pen, but the S23 Ultra comes with a pen — that’s an add-on purchase for the Z Fold 5. There’s enough space in the S23 Ultra for the pen to stow inside, making it easy to carry around. You’ll need a Z Fold 5 case with a garage to keep the S Pen handy. You’re also limited to the main foldable screen for doodling as the cover display does not have S Pen functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and S23 Ultra S Pens

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

The Galaxy S23 Ultra has 8GB of RAM in the base model, which is sufficient, but you can get 12GB in upgraded versions. That’s what you get in the base model Z Fold 5, but it needs that additional RAM for multitasking. Both phones have Samsung’s multi-window features for floating apps and split-screening, but the larger display on the Fold 5 lets you split three apps at once instead of just two. Both phones have the same 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options with no SD card slot.

Aside from the multitasking optimizations on the foldable, both these devices have essentially the same software experience, even if some large-screen apps suit the Z Fold 5 a little better. They run Android 13 with Samsung’s One UI 4.1 interface. There are handy shortcuts to stylus-friendly apps, multitasking favorites, and you get full Material You theming.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Size comparison

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and S23 Ultra thickness

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Both the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 5 are very large phones, but the Fold 5 will stretch even spacious pockets. The S23 Ultra has the kind of heft you’d expect from a high-end smartphone, measuring 78mm wide and 163mm tall. The edges curve to make it a bit easier to hold, and it’s a reasonable 8.9mm thick. The Z Fold 5 is slimmer than past foldables, but it’s still in a different league than the S23 Ultra.

The Z Fold 5 clocks in at 67mm wide and 154mm tall when folded, but the real issue is the 13.4mm thickness. It’ll be folded in this brick-like conformation when you drop it in a pocket or bag. Naturally, the footprint gets a lot bigger when you open the Z Fold 5. The device is 6.1mm thick when open, and the width goes to 129mm.

These phones will create unsightly lines in your nice, crisp trousers and ratty jeans alike. That said, the Fold 5 is much more uncomfortable to haul around, and it’s more ungainly when you fish it out of your pocket, which makes it easier to drop. And woe is you who drops an $1,800 glass sandwich. The Fold is also heavy enough that you might be instantly put off. It tips the scales at 253g, but the S23 Ultra is only modestly lighter at 234g.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Camera

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs S23 Ultra camera modules

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

Left: S23 Ultra, Right; Z Fold 5

Looking past the form factors, the camera array is the biggest hardware difference between these phones. Space is at a premium in foldables, so it’s a camera phone with some compromises. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 sports a triple camera system with a 50MP primary, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto (3x). This setup is virtually identical to what you get on the Galaxy S23 and S23 Plus.

In addition to the Galaxy Z Fold 5 samples below, there’s a full set on Google Drive.

Despite costing so much less, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has a much more capable camera system. There are four sensors on the back, including a 200MP primary, a 12MP ultrawide, a 10MP telephoto (3x), and another 10MP telephoto (10x). Even where the megapixel counts line up (e.g. the ultrawide), the S23 Ultra has larger, brighter sensors.

We have some Galaxy S23 Ultra samples below, plus a full set right here.

The primary cameras output at similar 12MP resolutions because the default shooting mode uses pixel binning. Essentially, this approach to mobile photography merges blocks of physical pixels into larger virtual pixels. This allows the sensor to collect more light for brighter images and faster captures. The photos we’ve gotten from the Z Fold 5 are not bad — Samsung’s photo processing is almost as good as Google’s these days. However, the S23 Ultra’s hardware advantage shows, particularly in dimly lit environments.

There’s one other notable camera difference. While the S23 Ultra only has one 12MP selfie camera, the Z Fold 5 has two. There’s a 10MP sensor in a cut-out in the cover display and a 4MP shooter under the internal folding OLED. That 4MP module is passable for video calls but doesn’t take good photos. The reason; it’s an under-display camera — a matrix of pixels covers it when not in use. That part of the screen looks a bit fuzzy, but it’s not something you notice after a while.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Battery and charging

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and S23 Ultra

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

The space constraints of foldables also affect the battery life of the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Even with the S Pen inside, Samsung found more room for the battery inside the S23 Ultra. This phone has a 5,000mAh cell, which should last you over a day, even with heavy use. The Z Fold 5 only has 4,400mAh of juice, and the large foldable screen burns through that. You can get a day of use out of the Z Fold 5, but you have to be more mindful of your usage.

You can get a day of use out of the Z Fold 5, but you have to be more mindful of your usage.

Samsung’s phones are not known for having the best charging speeds, but this is another place where foldables fall behind. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a respectable 45W max speed (65% in 30 minutes), although it’s difficult to find chargers that can actually hit that number. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 starts from a maximum of just 25W 9about 50% in 30 minutes). Both phones support the same 15W maximum wireless charging speed and 4.5W reverse power share.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Price

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (256/8GB): $1,199.99

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (512/12GB): $1,379.99

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (1TB/12GB): $1,619.99

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (256/12GB): $1,799.99

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (512/12GB): $1,919.99

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (1TB/12GB): $2,159.99

There’s no way around it — these are extremely expensive phones. Even if you pick one up on a carrier installment plan, the S23 Ultra could add as much as $50 per month to your bill. And the Galaxy Z Fold 5? Plan on up to $75 more each billing cycle. The Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 with 356GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is $1,799.99, with 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM.

Luckily, Samsung does offer generous trade-in values when you purchase one of its high-end smartphones. Even a phone from several years ago can drop hundreds of dollars from the final price.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra front

Ryan Whitwam / Android Authority

If you’re looking seriously at purchasing either of these phones, you’re already committed to dropping a lot of money. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is one of the most expensive smartphones in the world, with a starting price of $1,200. And then the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is another $600 on top of that. If your eyes bulged at that split, the $1,800 Z Fold 5 is probably not for you.

Would you pick the Galaxy S23 Ultra or Galaxy Z Fold 5?

1 votes

The extra six-hundred smackers for the Z Fold 5 gets you an unparalleled multitasking experience — it’s really a small Android tablet that fits in your pocket. For basic smartphone tasks like browsing the web, playing games, and sending messages, the S23 Ultra is more than enough. It doesn’t throttle as much as the Z Fold 5 under load, and the camera system is better. So, it’s the best choice for most Samsung fans. If you’re like me and can’t resist the foldable future, the Z Fold 5 is the best in that category.

See price at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

3%off

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

New 200MP main camera
Beautiful display
S Pen functionality

See price at Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

1%off

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

New hinge finally folds flat
Bright, vibrant displays
Powerful multitasking features

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: FAQs

Yes, both phones have IPX8 water-resistance (30 minutes at 1.5m), but the S23 Ultra is also IP68 rated for water and dust.

The S23 Ultra comes with an S Pen, but it’s a separate accessory for the Z Fold 5.

No, neither the Fold 5 nor S23 Ultra have a microSD card slot.

The S23 Ultra doesn’t come with a screen protector. The Z Fold 5 has one (non-removable) on the folding OLED.

Both phones have dual-SIM support; two nano-SIMs or eSIM for the Fold, and one nano-SIM and one eSIM for the S23 Ultra (some markets have variants with two nano-SIMs).

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