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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Which one should you buy?

Samsung's premium flagships go head-to-head in this comparison.
By

Published onDecember 14, 2023

Almost like clockwork, Samsung took the wraps off its Galaxy S23 trio of smartphones in the very first few weeks of 2023. As we’ve come to expect from previous generations, the Galaxy S23 Ultra sits at the top of the stack. But despite its impressive spec sheet, it’s not the South Korean giant’s highest-end smartphone on the market. That crown technically goes to Samsung’s foldable line, which includes the Galaxy Z Fold 4. So which phone is the best for you? Let’s compare the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4 and help you decide.

Editor’s note: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 has replaced the Z Fold 4 on store shelves as of August 2023. We have maintained this comparison article as you may still find the older foldable on sale.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: At a glance

Need a quick rundown? Here’s an express summary of the differences between the Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4:

  • When unfolded, the Z Fold 4 offers 60% more display area than the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra houses a new 200MP primary camera sensor that offers better detail than the Z Fold 4’s 50MP camera.
  • The Galaxy Z Fold 4 relies on a smaller battery and slower wired charging compared to the S23 Ultra.
  • The Galaxy S23 Ultra features dust and water resistance, but the Z Fold 4 lacks the former due to its exposed hinge.
  • Both smartphones support Samsung’s S Pen, but only the Galaxy S23 Ultra houses a slot for it. You’ll also need to buy a Fold Edition S Pen for the Z Fold 4.
  • The S23 Ultra starts at a lower price point than the Z Fold 4.

Keep reading to know more about the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4 and how they differ from each other.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Specs

Galaxy Z Fold 4Galaxy S23 Ultra
Display(s)
Galaxy Z Fold 4
Exterior:
- 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,316 x 904 resolution
- Gorilla Glass Victus Plus

Interior:
- 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 2,176 x 1,812 resolution
- Foldable display covering
Galaxy S23 Ultra
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
Edge display (curved)
19.3:9 aspect ratio
QHD+ resolution (3,088 x 1,440)
120Hz adaptive refresh rate (1Hz to 120Hz)
Processor
Galaxy Z Fold 4
Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1
Galaxy S23 Ultra
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
RAM
Galaxy Z Fold 4
12GB
Galaxy S23 Ultra
8GB or 12GB
Storage
Galaxy Z Fold 4
256, 512GB, or 1TB
UFS 3.1
No microSD card support
Galaxy S23 Ultra
256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
No microSD card support
Power
Galaxy Z Fold 4
4,400mAh dual-battery
25W wired charging
10W wireless charging
No charger in box
Galaxy S23 Ultra
5,000mAh battery
45W wired charging
15W wireless charging
No charger in box
Cameras
Galaxy Z Fold 4
REAR:
- 50MP wide
- 12MP ultrawide
- 10MP telephoto

FRONT:
- 10MP wide
- 4MP under-display
Galaxy S23 Ultra
REAR:
- 200MP wide
- 12MP ultrawide
- 10MP 3x telephoto
- 10MP 10x telephoto

FRONT:
- 12MP wide
Software
Galaxy Z Fold 4
Android 12
Upgradable to Android 13
Galaxy S23 Ultra
Android 13
One UI 5.1
S Pen support
Galaxy Z Fold 4
Yes, sold separately
Galaxy S23 Ultra
Yes, embedded with storage slot
IP rating
Galaxy Z Fold 4
IPX8 certified
Galaxy S23 Ultra
IP68 certified
Dimensions
Galaxy Z Fold 4
Folded dimensions:
- 155.1 x 67.1 x 15.8mm (measured at hinge)

Unfolded dimensions:
- 155.1 x 130.1 x 6.3mm
Galaxy S23 Ultra
163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm
Weight
Galaxy Z Fold 4
263g
Galaxy S23 Ultra
229g

Samsung hasn’t rocked the boat with either of its flagships this generation; the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and S23 Ultra both offer incremental improvements over their respective predecessors. When compared to each other, however, you’ll find plenty of differences between what are undoubtedly two of the best Android phones money can buy.

Let’s start with the most obvious difference: the display (or displays, in the case of the Galaxy Z Fold 4). The Galaxy S23 Ultra packs perhaps the best AMOLED display on the market, which comes in at 6.8 inches along the diagonal and refreshes at a fast 120Hz. The company also sprung for the newest AMOLED tech from Samsung Display this generation. That means it’s slightly more efficient than other smartphones on the market and the massive display will sip battery instead of guzzling it.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra doesn't fold in half, but it still packs some impressive display specs.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 takes on a more maximalist approach with its dual-screen, foldable form factor. If you ever find the outer 6.2-inch display too cramped for your liking, simply unfold the smartphone to reveal a large 7.6-inch canvas. Both AMOLED displays feature 120Hz refresh rates, so you won’t compromise on visual fidelity or smoothness when moving between them. They don’t get as bright as the S23 Ultra’s display, but it’s not a groundbreaking difference in the real world.

That said, it’s worth noting that the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s cover display is significantly narrower than most smartphones. It’s plenty usable, but you might find the keyboard a little cramped if you have larger hands. Similarly, you might notice significant black bars while watching content. Luckily, unfolding the Z Fold 4 will keep your position in the app and give you approximately 60% more display area vs the S23 Ultra.

Moving on to processing power, the Galaxy S23 Ultra enjoys the benefit of a later release and packs Qualcomm’s newer Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. As the flagship Android SoC for 2023, it offers a marginal step up in peak CPU performance and a significantly better GPU compared to last year. It’s also much more efficient than last year’s best, making for improved thermals and battery life. More on that later.

That said, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is no slouch either, especially since it benefitted from Qualcomm’s mid-cycle chip refresh. The foldable’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip featured some of the best thermals and efficiency figures of any smartphone chip at the time. Put simply, it’s a capable chip and will likely hold up in day-to-day usage just as well as the newer chip.

One advantage that goes to the foldable is the extra 4GB of RAM you get in the base 256GB storage tier. You’d have to upgrade to the 512GB variant of the S23 Ultra to get the same amount of memory.

As a side note, this is the first time we’re seeing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips across the board. Up until this year, the Galaxy S series has always used Samsung’s own Exynos chips in select markets. Luckily, you can expect global parity this time around. Consequently, we get the same suite of connectivity options, including fast 5G speeds, Wi-Fi 6E, and ultra-wideband (UWB), on both smartphones.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 comes with a few durability compromises vs the S23 Ultra.

With the objective differences out of the way, it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room: long-term durability. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 suffers slightly in this department due to its reliance on moving parts. While the hinge will likely survive the lifetime of the device (and then some), you’ll have to keep it away from sandy and dusty environments. Unlike the S23 Ultra, Samsung’s foldable flagship doesn’t feature any dust resistance whatsoever.

And while foldable durability has improved with each passing generation, the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s Ultra-Thin Glass on the inner display is still susceptible to damage. From accidental fingernail pressure to total display failure along the crease, there’s a lot that could go wrong. So if you pick up the foldable, consider paying for Samsung Care Plus as well. On the plus side, both phones are rated for immersion in water for up to 30 minutes at approximately 1.5 meters (4.9 feet).

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Size comparison

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and S23 Ultra are both large phones, but they sport completely different form factors. The folding design of the former makes it twice as thick as a typical smartphone when folded. That said, it’s much narrower in this state. The S23 Ultra might as well be the opposite. It features a relatively slim profile but is one of the widest phones on the market, making one-handed use somewhat challenging.

The Z Fold 4 is thicker and heavier, but it unfolds to reveal a 60% larger display than the S23 Ultra.

You’ll notice a similar stark divide in terms of weight between the two Samsung flagships. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is already pretty substantial at 233g, but it’s still 30g or 12% lighter than the Z Fold 4. That might not sound like much, but it’s a noticeable difference in the hand.

What’s more, the Galaxy S23 Ultra also houses an entire S Pen within that weight budget. If you want stylus functionality on the foldable, you’ll have to lug it around separately. That said, it’s a much larger unit, which you may find more comfortable to use for drawing and note-taking.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Camera

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Green Rear Cameras Angled View Close Up
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is the more premium smartphone of the two, so you’d expect it to have a better camera system. However, the foldable launched six months prior to the S23 Ultra, allowing the latter to take the crown as the best camera phone in the business. Its improved primary camera this generation, in particular, help it eke out a win.

The S23 Ultra is Samsung's first phone to feature a 200MP camera sensor.

The S23 Ultra’s star of the show is the new 200MP wide-angle camera, which uses pixel binning to improve low-light performance and fine detail. You’ll find that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 uses the same technology on its 50MP shooter, but of course, doesn’t go quite as far. In our S23 Ultra review, we found that the new 200MP sensor managed to capture fine details exceptionally well, especially in areas where prior generations would occasionally struggle.

However, Samsung hasn’t improved the ultrawide or telephoto sensors on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, so expect identical performance in these areas on the Z Fold 4. Then again, if you care about optical zoom beyond 3x, the S23 Ultra takes the lead once again. With its 10x periscope lens, you can extract a surprising amount of detail from far-away objects. The foldable can reach this zoom level too, but it has to rely on inferior digital zoom. And only the periscope hardware can reach 100x Space Zoom if that’s something you care about. Check out some camera samples from both phones below.

As for the video recording mode, both phones can record in 8K resolution. However, the newer Galaxy S23 Ultra can go up to 8K at 30fps. The foldable, meanwhile, peaks at a slightly lower 24fps.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 features two front-facing cameras, one for each display. Practically speaking, the outer 10MP selfie shooter isn’t too far off from the S23 Ultra’s 12MP camera. And the secondary selfie camera isn’t really a selling point for the foldable as image quality suffers from its position under the display.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Battery and charging

Best Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra chargers
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Both phones feature decent-sized batteries and should comfortably last through the end of the day for most people. Our testing suggests you can expect around five and a half hours of screen-on time from the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Meanwhile, the S23 Ultra delivers up to eight hours of screen-on time. In fact, our review found that it’s good enough to last an average user nearly two full days of use.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra features a 600mAh larger battery than the Z Fold 4. So not only does the foldable get a smaller cell, but it also has to juggle it with a much larger display. Adding to that, the Z Fold 4’s secondary display will also draw more power due to its sheer size. Don’t expect it to be an endurance champ if you use it unfolded a lot.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra comfortably pulls ahead in the battery life department.

As for fast charging, the Galaxy S23 Ultra again has the upper hand with Samsung’s 45W Super Fast Charging technology. But even though that sounds a lot better than the Z Fold 4’s 25W spec, it won’t translate to a massive difference in charging times. We tested Samsung’s 25W vs 45W charging and found that the latter shaves a few minutes off a full charge, but it’s not a massive difference. It’s also worth noting that neither phone ships with a charger in the box, but luckily you can buy any USB PD PPS charger and get top recharge times.

Yes, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 charges slower than the S23 Ultra. This is likely Samsung’s way of combating excess heat buildup in the foldable’s sandwiched form factor.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Price

  • Galaxy Z Fold 4: Starts at $1,799
  • Galaxy S23 Ultra: Starts at $1,199

The Z Fold 4 and S23 Ultra comfortably breach the premium $1,000 price point, but does the foldable offer enough to justify the $600 upcharge? If you’re someone that already carries around a smartphone and tablet, it’s easy to see the value proposition of combining them into a single package.

Barring any sales on the slightly older Galaxy Z Fold 4, though, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the value of the S23 Ultra. And that’s before you even consider potential add-ons like the S Pen, which is an optional extra purchase on the foldable. That said, you may see the foldable on a deep sale thanks to the Galaxy Z Fold 5 hitting store shelves since August 2023. The latest foldable brings only minor upgrades so it might still be worth getting a brand new Galaxy Z Fold 4 on a deep discount.

Likewise, the S23 Ultra will soon be replaced by Samsung’s Galaxy S24 series in a few weeks. We expect it to pack some notable changes like a less curvy screen design and Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 power.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 4: Which one should you buy?

Both Samsung flagship smartphones boast unique strengths that set them apart from not just each other, but also the broader smartphone market. The S23 Ultra’s cutting-edge camera hardware and premium build make it one of the best phones on the market. And while the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is undoubtedly expensive, its foldable form factor puts it in a league of its own. However, it does come with a pretty big downside in the form of battery life.

Would you rather buy the Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy S23 Ultra?

1177 votes

Ultimately, if you care about living on the bleeding edge of smartphone technology above everything else, consider the Galaxy Z Fold 4, especially if you can find one on sale. But if you’re a pragmatic shopper, you’ll be better served by the cheaper Galaxy S23 Ultra with its included S Pen and proven long-term durability. Which Samsung flagship smartphone will you pick?

See price at Amazon
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
34%off
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Marvelous multitasking
Large internal display
Long-term software support
See price at Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
New 200MP main camera
Beautiful display
S Pen functionality

FAQs

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and S23 Ultra are both flagship smartphones. If you need a larger display, get the Z Fold 4. But if you want the best camera and performance, the S23 Ultra is the better pick.

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