The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra is a creative powerhouse with an incredible display but isn’t as good for gaming as you might imagine
- Competitively priced
- Spare SSD slot
- Glorious display
- RTX 4070 runs at a low 60W
- Underwhelming keyboard
Most people who spend more than £2,000 on a laptop do so for one of two reasons: they want a MacBook Pro for heavy-duty creative work such as video editing, or they’re seeking a portable gaming powerhouse.
The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra hopes to offer customers a third way: a laptop with the power, portability and screen quality to offer creatives a genuine MacBook Pro alternative, yet with the ability to play all the latest PC games.
Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra review: What you to need to know
And, on paper at least, that’s precisely what the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra delivers. It comes with a large 16in, 120Hz, 2,880 x 1,800 AMOLED display that’s pre-calibrated at the factory and colour accurate across the sRGB, DCI-P3 and AdobeRGB colour gamuts.
It comes with the latest 13th gen Intel Core i7 or Core i9 CPUs and it’s equipped with the very latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series mobile GPUs, all wrapped up in a slim, well-made chassis that should make even die-hard MacBook Pro devotees sit up and notice.
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: 14-core Intel Core i9-13900H CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD
There are two core variants of the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra available in the UK at the time of writing, with prices starting at £2,449. The base model comes with a 14-core 13th gen Intel Core i7 with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 and 512GB of storage (you can increase the storage on this model to 1TB for an extra £200). The premium model, which I was sent for this review, costs £3,049.
- Intel Core i7-13700H, RTX 4050, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD | £2,449
- Intel Core i7-13700H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, RTX 4050 | £2,649
- Intel Core i9-13900H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, RTX 4070 | £3,049
Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra review: Design and key features
The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra is certainly a handsome laptop. It’s clad in dark grey aluminium with a smooth, semi-matte finish, has a wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the old MacBook Air and the build quality is as you’d expect it to be from a budding MacBook Pro rival. There’s barely any give in the lid or the base, and the hinge has a smooth, unforgiving feel to it that suggests it will put up with a fair amount of abuse.
I can see the sharp edges on the lid and keyboard deck getting chips in them over time but, otherwise, the finishing is first-rate, with neat seams and no unsightly gaps anywhere to be seen. Despite its slim lines – it’s a mere 19.5mm thin when closed – this is not a particularly light machine. Stick it on the scales and it registers a fairly hefty 1.79kg.
Around the edges of the machine are ports aplenty, with one HDMI 2.0 and a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt 4 (USB 4) connectors on the left edge, plus a single USB-A port on the right, accompanied by a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD card slot. That sounds quite generous, but there’s no dedicated power input so you’ll be losing one of those Thunderbolt 4 ports to the 100W USB PD power supply provided in the box.
If you prise off the Book3 Ultra’s rubber feet from its base, unscrew the four small Philips-head screws underneath them and – carefully – lever out the bottom panel you can also get fairly easy entry to the interior. Here, you have access to a spare M.2 socket so you can add another SSD or replace the existing one; the fans for cleaning when they get clogged up with dust; and the 75.8Wh battery for replacement if necessary.
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Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra review: Keyboard, touchpad, webcam and speakers
This is a 16in laptop and so there’s plenty of space for the keyboard and touchpad to spread out. In some ways that’s a good thing. There’s room for a compact number pad to the right of the keyboard, which is always welcome. There’s a fingerprint reader in the very top right corner, and the palm rest plays host to what is possibly the biggest touchpad I’ve ever seen on a laptop, measuring a huge 150mm x 106mm.
This ensemble isn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever come across, however. The keys on the keyboard have a rather shallow and thin feel to them (although the base is nice and solid) and the cursor keys are half-height efforts, which is a shame when there appears to be plenty of space for full-sized keys. And that touchpad, huge though it is, isn’t the easiest to use. It had trouble recognising my two-fingered scrolling swipes unless I splayed my fingers quite wide apart. A little firmware upgrade is clearly in order.
The 1080p webcam is decent, however, and deals with low and tricky light well without creating a soft, murky mush – and the accompanying Samsung Studio software lets you take control of various effects, such as auto framing, which keeps your face centred and zoomed in during video calls, and background blur.
There’s also a feature called eye contact, which is supposed to make it look as though your eyes are always staring into the camera, but I couldn’t make this work reliably. If you’d like to see how it should work, you’ll need to download the Nvidia Broadcast software (which it’s based on) instead.
As for audio, the accompanying “studio” microphones picked up my voice nice and clearly. The Book3 Ultra isn’t quite on the same level as the MacBook Pro in this area, however, as it lacks a touch of richness and body.
The same goes for the quad-channel speaker system. This goes nice and loud and delivers sound clearly but lacks the upper bass and mid-frequency body that the best MacBooks have. Turning on Dolby Atmos processing in the Samsung settings app does add a remarkable sense of space to gaming and music audio, spreading the soundstage well beyond the confines of the laptop’s chassis, but it doesn’t add any mid-range presence.
Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra review: Display
The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra’s best feature is, hands down, its Dynamic OLED 2X screen. This isn’t a touchscreen, despite its glossy finish, but that’s its only drawback. It’s otherwise incredibly sharp, full of rich, vivid colour and absolutely the best display I’ve ever encountered on any laptop – except, of course, the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro, which has the exact same panel.
It has a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 pixels for a pixel density of 212ppi and fully covers both the DCI-P3 and AdobeRGB colour gamuts. Not only that, if you go to the Display section in the Samsung settings panel, you’ll be able to deploy the panel’s factory-calibrated presets for the sRGB, DCI-P3 and AdobeRGB colour spaces.
I measured each of these and they were all remarkably accurate, returning average colour accuracy scores across a number of colour patches of 0.74, 0.54 and 0.74 for each respectively. Those are hugely impressive results.
Naturally, the display also delivers effectively perfect contrast thanks to the OLED panel’s self-lit pixels, and it looks glorious when playing HDR content via YouTube. The only thing to be aware of is that peak brightness can’t match that of the best LED or mini-LED panels. For context, I measured the 16in M2 Pro MacBook Pro peak at around 1,300cd/m², while the mini-LED panel on the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 managed 968cd/m².
Still, peaks can rise to 547cd/m² when playing back HDR material, which is fine for most types of content and environments.
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Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra review: Performance
On the surface, the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra’s performance looks top-notch. A combination of the 14-core 13th gen Intel Core i9-13900H and one of Nvidia’s latest 40-series mobile GPUs should represent the pinnacle of laptop performance. And, yes, it certainly is quick, as its results in both our in-house 4K benchmark test and the Geekbench 5 CPU show. It’s only a touch behind the M2 Pro 16in MacBook Pro, which is more expensive.
It’s worth noting, however, that Samsung has capped the RTX 4070 GPU at a TGP (Total Graphics Power) of 60W in order to keep internal temperatures manageable. In the right chassis, it can be pushed all the way up to 115W.
The much cheaper MSI Katana, for instance, has the lower-spec RTX 4050 running at 105W and a cheaper Intel Core i7-1360H, and matches the Book3 Ultra across the board in performance terms.
All of which suggests that there isn’t really much point in investing the extra cash in the Book3 Ultra with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070. If it isn’t delivering true RTX 4070-level performance, why on earth would anyone pay an extra £400 for it?
Still, there is some good news. The fans aren’t too loud even when running at full whack, and storage performance is up to scratch for a laptop at this level, too, returning sequential read and write speeds of 5,080MB/sec and 3,669MB/sec respectively.
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And battery life, surprisingly, isn’t all that bad. In our battery rundown benchmark test, the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra lasted 8hrs 57mins, which is actually very impressive for a Windows laptop packing this much power. If you want a workstation with serious battery life, however, you’re still better off with a MacBook Pro. The M2 Pro model we tested in 2022 lasted an enormous 17hrs 21mins in the same test.
Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra review: Verdict
The low TGP of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 makes it difficult to recommend the top-spec model of the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra, then, but the less costly models do make plenty of sense.
If you’re looking for a Windows laptop for video-editing or heavy creative purposes, this is a seriously tempting machine. It’s fast, the display is wonderful and the chassis is both well constructed and relatively compact. Pick up the cheapest model and you can upgrade the SSD quickly yourself, using the spare internal M.2 port, so you have significant storage for relatively little cash compared with a MacBook Pro.
The only thing to be aware of is that, just because the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra has an RTX 40-series GPU inside, doesn’t mean it’s a fully fledged gaming portable.