Ahead of going away for a few days, I decided to swap from the phone I’d just finished reviewing to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, ensuring I had a great camera with me while on my break. Nothing odd about that, right? Usually, no, except I was coming from the diminutive Asus Zenfone 10, and picking up the S23 Ultra afterward felt like I’d chosen to take a 12.9-inch iPad Pro as my replacement device.
For a short while, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s enormous dimensions bordered on the laughably unmanageable. But then, it redeemed itself in the best way possible.
Until you pick the two phones up together, it’s difficult to truly understand just how much difference in size there is between the two, but the on-paper specs do help illustrate it. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is 163mm tall and 78mm wide, while the Zenfone 10 is 146mm tall and 68mm wide. There’s a whopping 60-gram difference in weight, and the S23 Ultra’s 6.9-inch screen is very nearly an entire inch bigger than the Zenfone 10’s 5.9-inch screen.
The two may be sized differently, but internally there are some surprising similarities. Both have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and high refresh rate AMOLED screens. The Zenfone 10 wins over the S23 Ultra in some ways, too, as it can boost its screen refresh rate to 144Hz over the S23 Ultra’s 120Hz for gaming. The top version of the Zenfone 10 comes with a massive 16GB of RAM, and there’s even a 3.5mm headphone jack too. The Zenfone 10 is a flagship phone, just not a very big one.
I can’t stretch my hand across the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s screen, but it’s easy to do with the Zenfone 10, which genuinely is a phone you can use with one hand. The S23 Ultra almost always needs two hands unless you’re happy to risk watching it tumble expensively to the ground. The change in weight is very noticeable too. The Zenfone 10 is barely there in my pocket, but the S23 Ultra is always there — and even manages not to properly fit in some less capacious pockets.
I didn’t think about the difference in size until I retrieved the Galaxy S23 Ultra from its box, and it actually made me chuckle when I took it out. The S23 Ultra borders on the comically large when you’ve become used to a phone of the Zenfone 10’s size, and I thought at the time, “Do I really want to take this phone with me?” The wonderful, compact, and so easy to carry around Zenfone 10 was, at that moment, so close to ruining the S23 Ultra for me.
The reason I was thinking of swapping over to the Galaxy S23 Ultra was that I wanted to take good photos when I was away, and the versatility of the multicamera system on the Samsung phone was too enticing to resist. I’d just have to get used to a massive phone again. The Zenfone 10’s camera isn’t awful, but it’s not its strong point. So my SIM left the Asus phone, and I took the S23 Ultra away for the weekend.
It was the right decision, and I’m so pleased that I did, as getting past the sheer size of the phone allowed me to take photos that I’m proud of and that captured my break in a way that I’ll be happy to look back on in the future. The camera’s versatility made taking photos fun, as I experimented a lot with the 3x optical zoom mode in a museum. It allowed me to capture details of the exhibits in a way that I wouldn’t have done if I had taken the Zenfone 10 or any phone without optical zoom.
The weather conditions were changeable, so it had to work hard in difficult lighting, but I rarely got it wrong — giving me such confidence to just point the phone and take a photo. Even taking a photo directly into the setting evening sun didn’t phase it that much, and the resulting photo looked far better than I expected.
While I like the standard Samsung editing suite, I really liked spending time editing some of the photos in the Lightroom for Samsung app, which is incredibly powerful and very easy to use. It helped make the photos I wanted to take in reality, with a simple crop and a few tweaks that are impossible outside of a specialized app. The gallery below shows four images edited with Lightroom on the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
That I could do it all on my phone was impressive enough, but it was at this point I also accepted the size of the screen, as trying to carefully edit a photo in Lightroom on a smaller screen would have been far more fiddly. The huge Galaxy S23 Ultra totally redeemed itself when I took photos — and when I edited them too.
I enjoyed using the Asus Zenfone 10 during my review. The small size was refreshing, and I obviously never found it cumbersome or irritating because of that. Thought about this way, it’s actually the ideal holiday phone. It doesn’t take up space, it slips into any pocket or bag, and from a security point of view, it’s never obvious you’re carrying a phone around.
However, I’m so pleased I swapped the Zenfone 10’s convenience for the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera. These two very different phones cater to very different audiences, and putting up with the Samsung phone bothering the seams of my pockets was worth it. It’s coming up to six months since the S23 Ultra was released, and it remains the most enjoyable, most versatile, and most powerful camera on any current smartphone.
It’s just slightly unfortunate it also remains one of the biggest too.