The Ultra is a significant change for the Galaxy S22 series, since it has a small S Pen stylus, making it reminiscent of the Note that never was. Although many aspects are similar to the outgoing S21 Ultra, this handset is all about elegance, from the punchy curved edge display to the unique back camera setup, and there’s no questioning the quality of the cameras on offer.
- Bright and punchy screen with adaptive refresh rate
- Distinctive camera design is eye-catching – and it’s very capable too
- Integrated S Pen stylus is great (but not everyone will use it)
- Battery life is questionable
- Software not entirely bug-free
- Not everyone will want the built-in S Pen stylus – this is S series not a Note after all
- No microSD card expansion
For those who are disappointed that Samsung’s Note series will not be available in 2021, there is a new Galaxy to satisfy your hunger: the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. With just one glance, you’ll probably be seeing double, as this top-tier phone resembles the Note that never was.
The S22 Ultra is distinct from the Galaxy S22 and S22+ versions in the lineup since it features a S Pen stylus as its centerpiece. That’s right: not only is this larger-scale flagship compatible with the pen, but it also comes with one built-in.
Is the Galaxy S22 Ultra, then, the ultimate redesign of Samsung’s series, or does it simply feel out of place in this line-up? We’ve been using an S22 Ultra as our daily device for almost a week to determine if it’s the best Android device out there.
- IP68 dust/weather resistance
- Under display fingerprint scanner
- Integrated S Pen stylus (2.8ms latency)
- Colours: Phantom Black, White, Burgundy, Green
- Dimensions: 77.9 x 163.3 x 8.9mm / Weight: 229g
The Ultra has a completely different appearance from the Galaxy S22 and S22+. First and foremost, it is the largest of the three models, giving it substantially more clout. Its screen edges are likewise curved, which sets it apart from the other models in the line.
It resembles the older Galaxy Note 20 Ultra front-on in many ways. When you turn the S22 Ultra over, the back design and camera configuration are a complete departure for Samsung. The multiple lenses positioned towards the top corner area of the handset are located deeper into the body than before, allowing them to exist more freely without any form of enclosure design.
All of this keeps the lenses from protruding excessively – a long-standing gripe of older handsets – but they’re still not flush with the body, so expect some ‘desk wobble’ when the Ultra is laid flat on a desk. Dust collects around them quickly as well, but that’s to be expected.
Still, we think it’s a nice-looking setup that lets your preferred color finish show through between the lenses’ placements. Our photos show the Phantom Black, which is the most subdued of the four colors offered, but you can also get it in white, green, or burgundy. However, unlike the S22 and S22+, there is no pink gold option (not that we believe it will be missed all that much).
- 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel
- QHD+ resolution (1440 x 3080)
- 120Hz refresh rate (adaptive)
- 1750 nits peak brightness
- Edge curved design
Because the displays on the Galaxy S22 and S22+ models are flat, with rounded corners that cut into the screen real estate a little, the S22 Ultra’s usage of a truly curved-edge panel helps it stand out even more.
However, whether you prefer the notion of a curved panel is a different story, as many manufacturers are now choosing for flat (or at least flatter) panels. There are several reasons for this: curved panels cause contrast and color to fade; they are more susceptible to inadvertent touch; and when using a pen, there will always be a smaller useable area at the edge.
Having said that, we’ve had the S22 Ultra long enough to know that its curved-edge display doesn’t cause any problems. Samsung’s software is quite good at preventing accidental touches. Edge Panels, an almost hidden tucked-away tab that you may slide in from the outer edge to swiftly see your most used or a customized selection of top apps, are among the advancements made by the curve. Furthermore, because this is a 6.8-inch display, the gentler curved edges are more comfortable to grasp.
The display as a whole has some additional standout attributes, such as a maximum brightness of 1750 nits. That’s about as high as you’ll find in any flagship phone, providing vibrant colors, dazzling whites, and deep, rich blacks from the AMOLED panel. There’s plenty of resolution, however, with QHD+ delivering a pixel density of roughly 500ppi – extremely high by any standard, but a power hog.
Samsung hasn’t gone overboard with the refresh rate, opting for a dynamic 120Hz panel that allows the device to automatically adjust whether the content on the screen is refreshed once every second or 120 times every second, depending on whether the content requires the extra cycling to appear visually smoother. We believe that if the Korean manufacturer had introduced a 144Hz or 165Hz refresh rate, the gain would be insignificant and the impact on battery life would be negative.
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- Samsung Exynos 2200 (UK, Europe, Asia) / Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (USA)
- 8GB RAM & 128GB storage or 12GB RAM 256/512GB/1TB storage options
- 5000mAh battery capacity, 45W fast-charging, 15W wireless charging
- Speaking of battery, there’s a 5,000mAh cell on board, which is the kind of capacity you’d expect for a flagship of this scale. There’s also 45W fast-charging and less fast wireless charging (at 15W).
What you might not expect, though, is what else is hidden beneath the hood: In the S22 Ultra, Samsung has used its own Exynos 2200 processor in more regions than usual (including the United Kingdom and Europe; the United States receives Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 instead).
The power on offer here is undeniable, but the impact on battery life isn’t tremendous. It’s one of the reasons we didn’t write a complete evaluation of this phone right away. The battery life was terrible on our first day of usage, not even giving a full day of use. Samsung’s software, on the other hand, learns to put apps to sleep, and you can set permissions per app to help alleviate the battery drain (keep an eye on Facebook, for example – we don’t use it anyhow, and it’s a power hog for the sake of useless background running).
However, after a few days of use, we’ve discovered that, while the S22 Ultra’s battery life isn’t the finest, it’ll easily get you through a full day of use – and that’s with some gaming, an hour of live Zwift monitoring, an hour or more of Bluetooth connectivity, and all of our typical activities. Thanks to the built-in and configurable software details saving the day – but only just – a little patience and perseverance will get you there.
As a result, the fact that the fast-charging here is just 45W wired and 15W wireless is a bit disappointing. There are a slew of competitors with charging speeds that are nearly three times faster in wired terms, and even faster in wireless terms. Samsung is known for being conservative when it comes to battery and fast-charging technology (the Galaxy Note 7 experienced troubles in 2016/17), but it’s now merely a step behind the competition in this area.
However, not every feature of the software – Samsung’s One UI 4.1 running on top of Google’s Android 12 operating system – is flawless. The Google News feed, which can be accessed by swiping left to right on the homescreen, frequently blacks out and causes the phone to stop, requiring many unlocks to restart. We’ve also seen unexpected crashes while using Chrome to browse several websites. Because there isn’t a single site that is creating this kind of contact, I have no idea what’s causing it.
Aside from that, Samsung’s One UI performs admirably. It still has its own Samsung Store front, via which its integrated programs – like as the browser – will receive automatic updates, but you’ll almost never have to worry about it. The app drawer works a little differently than other competitors, but it doesn’t have the same difficulties as, example, a Xiaomi or Oppo launcher in terms of producing notification or app restriction issues.
The S22 Ultra’s S Pen integration is a key element of the package. As a result, you might be surprised to learn that the stylus has spent the majority of our review time in its stowage. Yikes. This is a matter of personal preference, but we don’t utilize it very often. While it is the one feature that distinguishes the Ultra from the other two S22 models, and as we mentioned earlier in relation to the now-defunct Note series, we aren’t convinced that it is a basic S series characteristic (yes, we know the S21 Ultra also had compatibility).
However, if you’re a Note user who is clinging to an older handset and really needs to upgrade, the S22 Ultra will undoubtedly be the gadget to step in and take over that you’ve been waiting for. The S Pen’s numerous choices, such as Notes, Smart Select, Screen Write, Pen Up, and Translate, provide a slew of functions that will be quite valuable to such users. Plus, the newer stylus has a far more fluid feel when interacting with the screen, launching into action with the software almost as soon as it is unwrapped from its storage.
- Quad rear cameras
- Main: 108-megapixels, f/1.8 aperture, dual pixel autofocus (PDAF), optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Wide (120 degrees): 12MP, f/2.2
- Zoom (3x): 10MP, f/2.4, PDAF, OIS
- Zoom (10x): 10MP, f/4.9, PDAF, OIS
- Front-facing camera: 40MP, f/2.2
From a layout and cosmetic standpoint, we’ve already covered the rear camera design, but what about the lenses? If you’ve already used an S21 Ultra, the first read may come as a disappointment, as all four camera sensors give the same resolution.
What’s the key distinction? The primary sensor in the S22 Ultra is 23% larger than the previous generation, with 108 megapixels. Larger pixels suggest stronger light gathering properties, hence the main sensor should be of higher grade. A new ‘Super Clear Glass Lens’ that reduces glare is also available. Otherwise, the S22 Ultra’s camera’s primary design remains same, with no additional resolution for the zoom lenses.
In numerous modes, Samsung is eager to demonstrate the S22 series’ advancements. To increase software-generated background blur, there’s a feature called Stereo Depth Map. There’s 16-bit raw capture and a separate Expert Raw camera app for post-production (DNG, which can be opened in various other software outfits). In video capture, Auto Framing will detect faces and zoom in, adjusting as more enter the picture. There’s also a new Pet Portrait mode with improved background blur.
All of this sounds ‘fun,’ but we don’t believe those are true core elements that consumers will use on a regular basis. But that’s okay, because the cameras on the S22 Ultra are all-around excellent in regular use, whether in daytime or darkness.
The fact that everything is simple and well-integrated is a significant plus. Sure, there are numerous Pro modes and options to experiment with, but if you don’t want to, you can simply go into the app, pinch to zoom with ease, and get fantastic pictures. There’s optical stabilisation where it’s needed, good autofocus, and a night mode that kicks in automatically when needed without you having to think about it. When the shutter clicks, you can physically feel it as well, giving this phone a ‘real camera’ sensation.
But it’s in zoom that the S22 Ultra really shines. The lens selection includes an ultra-wide 0.5x lens, the main lens, up to a 3x zoom, and finally a 10x zoom. Because they are all optical, not digital, the outcomes are dependent on the lens, sensor, and processing used. Which, to Samsung’s credit, is all really good. You can see how effectively that zoom translates by looking at our little ultra-wide through to 10x zoom steps above (on our trusty cow butter dish, of course).
Even better, the zoom is really good at focusing in close quarters. Normally, a 10x optical zoom would struggle to focus near to the subject, but not here. That offers a lot of useful extra functionality. Even the main lens performs admirably when it comes to close-up photography, obviating the need for a macro lens (which many competitors slap on their devices without thought) and giving impressive images.
Low-light situations are also no problem. When shooting longer exposures handheld, the optical stabiliser does an excellent job of keeping everything in place. Then comes the processing, which is where a little extra’magic’ is added to images – you’ll be able to witness night sceneries on the phone’s screen suddenly spring out of their shadows in real-time, giving the scene a far larger dynamic range and colorful pop. Night Mode is a master at what it does.
Sure, the results are basically comparable to the older S21 Ultra, but given how well that camera setup was regarded, it’s easy to see why it’s largely reproduced in the S22 Ultra – albeit in a much cleaner design arrangement.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra stands out from the rest of the S22 lineup as a completely unique device. Indeed, its inclusion of a S Pen stylus, as well as its overall design, resembles the Galaxy Note that never was.
Many may consider this as a benefit, especially if you’re all about the stylus, but others may like the larger screen real estate and curved edge visual appeal and will never use the S Pen’s abilities (the latter being the camp we fall into). The S Pen has the advantage of allowing you to embrace or ignore it as you see fit.
We think the S22 Ultra’s design is a terrific visual progression, especially around the back cameras, while its other important features – which are basically an echo of the preceding S21 Ultra – suggest that this isn’t a complete reinvention for the series, but rather a well-considered refinement.
It is, however, unquestionably a masterclass in refinement. Putting aside the dubious battery life and behind-the-curve charging speeds, this flagship’s design and extremely adept cameras are what will sell it. Sure, you’ll have to pay a lot of money for the pleasure, but it’ll be money well spent.