Samsung moves the Galaxy into the Note territory with a large, expensive, and usually great Android phone.
If we were to rate the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra just on its cameras, particularly its optical and digitally-enhanced zoom capabilities, we could declare it the finest smartphone ever.
Of course, it isn’t – every handset is the sum of its design, features, components, utility, and value – but taken as a whole, this Samsung Galaxy Series-Galaxy Note hybrid is an excellent, albeit massive, Android handset that not only ticks all the important boxes, but also delivers more features than you may ever want or use.
The design is reminiscent of, but yet more forward-thinking than, Samsung’s previous Note handset. It is, indeed, a hybrid. There will be no complaints about the ultra-high-resolution, 6.8-inch screen, which produces vivid colours and fluid action at 120Hz but is clever enough to stop down all the way to 1Hz to preserve battery life.
The camera array is powerful. It isn’t a major redesign of the Galaxy S21’s camera technology, but it was already rather decent. This is perhaps superior — the Optical and Space Zooms are modern-day technological wonders.
We also adore the tiny and light S Pen. We’re very happy that it’s finally – literally – incorporated into the Galaxy series. It does so many things so well, and it might be a lifesaver for productivity-focused smartphone users.
Samsung’s One UI 4.1 software is mainly decent, despite the fact that it duplicates browsers, pictures, and messaging apps. Other apps, such as Expert Raw, a free Samsung app that gives you full access to all camera controls and allows you to capture and save RAW format photos, and the video-conferencing app Google Duo, which both do an excellent job of demonstrating the phone’s power and versatility, are the real highlights here.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU performs admirably (albeit it does not outperform Apple’s A15 Bionic). The point is, we couldn’t identify a single app on the mobile monolith that was slow or unsatisfactory.
The battery life was a bit of a mixed bag. We did got a full day’s worth of use (18 hours or so), but we expected more from the big 5,000 mAh battery and high-performance, energy-efficient CPU.
But, in the end, this is the type of item that may make you forget what came before it. If you’re used to a smaller-screen gadget. You’ll feel claustrophobic if you return to it. Ever tried to shoot shots of the moon, you’ll wonder why Apple hasn’t worked it out yet. If you’ve ever wished your gadget had a bit more power to do those raw image-editing jobs. Your desire has been realised.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is part of Samsung’s new S22 family, yet it looks nothing like its brothers. To the untrained eye, it seems like a Galaxy Note in a shiny new coat. It does sport a considerably larger and bolder camera array (borrowed almost entirely from the S21 Ultra), but it’s otherwise a deft reworking of the Note aesthetic, or, as Samsung would name it, the “Note Experience.”
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra release date and price
A device that combines the best of Samsung’s S Series and the Note’s more industrial design and capabilities doesn’t come cheap. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM.
There are naturally bigger storage options (that also include more RAM), which can take you all the way to a 1TB model ($1,599.99 / £1,499 / AU$2,449 ). 256GB will run you $1,299,99 / £1,249 / AU$1,999, and 512GB is $1,399.99 / £1,329 / AU$2,149.
Choose your storage options wisely, because none of the S22 phones come with a microSD card slot for upgrading your storage space.
Pre-orders kicked off in early February, and the phone shipped on February 25 in the US and UK. That launch date is a little later in Australia, at March 3.
Design and display
The 6.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is an undeniably attractive handset that, due to its Note heritage, does not resemble the Galaxy S22 Plus. It builds on the original Galaxy Note 10 design by using even more premium materials.
The frame is made of solid Armor Aluminum. Which is resistant to bends. The metal, which has been polished to a near-chrome sheen on the outside. Sandwiched between two Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+ plates. The front glass is high-gloss, while the rear has a warm satin finish; both repel fingerprints well. The phone’s IP68-rated shell likewise easily withstood the water we poured on it.
The aforementioned finishes are available in seven different colours: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green, Graphite, Sky Blue, and Red. The dark green is appealing, but we’ve fallen in love with our test device’s inky Phantom Black.
Did we mention the size of this phone? It measures 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm, making it taller than a 6.7-inch Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max but lighter at 229g. For individuals with tiny hands, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra will be tough to use. The curved sides of the Galaxy S22 Ultra make it simple to hold. But the lack of corners makes it seem as slippery as a fish – albeit a fish made of hard glass and metal.
The gadget has two flat surfaces, one on top and one on the bottom. The top plane is a nearly unbroken sheet of metal with one tiny drill-through hole for a microphone. The bottom surface holds the SIM card, USB-C charging connector (the phone comes with a USB-C cable but no charging brick- BYOB is a thing now), speaker grille, and S Pen.
If you have any doubts that this is a S Series Note. Simply touch the tiny bump on the base to bring out the familiar and light S Pen. It’s all a Samsung S Pen should be, with nothing sacrificed for its new Galaxy S22 Ultra home. I’ll go into more detail on the stylus later.
Another feature is the 6.8-inch AMOLED screen. It has a resolution of up to 3088 x 1440 pixels (WQHD+), which works out to 500 pixels per inch. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, on the other hand, features a 458ppi screen with a 6.7-inch 2778 x 1284 resolution. It’s worth mentioning that the S22 Ultra’s default resolution is 2316 x 1080 (FHD+). Which Samsung claims consumes somewhat less battery life. However we switched to WQHD+ halfway through our testing and didn’t detect much, if any, battery performance loss.
Everything from games and films to applications looks excellent on the display. Which can now fluidly transition from a 1Hz refresh rate to a buttery-smooth 120Hz. Such adaptive technology might be difficult to detect since, for example, 1Hz may be utilised for the home screen or a word processor. Whereas 120Hz may be used for gaming.
The key is that when the imagery should be clear and fluid, it is. Lower refresh rates assist to preserve battery power. Because there is no need to update the screen more than a hundred times per second if nothing is moving.
The screen performs a good job of retaining visibility even in full sunshine. Thanks to a peak brightness of 1750 nits and Samsung’s latest Vision Booster technology. Naturally, this implies that the brightness is increased to 100%. Which will have an influence on your daily battery life.
The effective ultrasonic fingerprint reader is hidden behind the screen. Around a third of the way up from the bottom border. It was simple for us to register a finger and use it to unlock the phone. Face recognition is the other biometric security option. Although Samsung advises that it isn’t as safe as other alternatives, such as a PIN or fingerprint.
“So, it’s basically a new Samsung Galaxy Note, right?” We had to flip the phone over to show them the camera array. Which is identical to the one on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
But don’t worry, this isn’t some Frankenstein’s monster of smartphone design. Because Samsung has removed the contour box that raised the entire thing a millimetre or two above the rear of the S21. The S22 Ultra’s array of five lenses appears right at home.
The cameras aren’t simply similar in appearance; they’re nearly identical. There are two 10MP telephoto lenses. One with an f/2.4 aperture and a 36-degree field of view (FOV), and the other with an f/4.9 aperture and an 11-degree FOV. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide with a 120-degree FOV and a 108MP primary wide camera with an 85-degree FOV (f/1.8).
However, the technology that powers these lenses has been improved. While the picture sensors haven’t changed since the S21 Ultra. Samsung has improved optical image stabilisation, digital image stabilisation (for a more stable Super Steady system), and image processing. As a result, all lenses perform better, but zoom lenses perform exceptionally well.
The zoom capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra easily outperform anything we’ve ever seen from a mobile phone camera. The 3x and 10x optical zooms are obviously solid. But they also provide crisp shots of distant objects with enough clarity that you can cut in on features without seeing any pixelation.
The 30x and, notably, the 100x Space Zoom are where you’ll notice substantial imperfections in your images. At least in prior incarnations of Samsung’s technology.
These photos are now, however, astonishingly excellent, at least at first sight. Sure, you can’t crop in too much without the photos devolving into a Picasso-esque shambles. But left alone, these may be wonderfully shareable photographs.
Part of this is due to the stabilisation, which, at 100x, effectively takes control of the lens and keeps a subject (such as the moon) in the frame. It may feel as if you’ve lost control of the lens. But it does a superb job of compensating for your unsteady hands.
Wide and ultrawide photos benefit from new pixel magic as well. Samsung debuted Adaptive Pixel with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. This combines the entire resolution of the 108MP wide-angle original with nona-binning (originally introduced with the S21 Ultra). Which takes nine pixels of information and combines them for enhanced colour and contrast. That lens also receives auto-focus assistance from what appears to be a fifth lens on the phone’s rear. It’s really a Laser Auto Focus sensor. A little red laser light may be seen poking out from behind the glass if you look attentively.
Virtually every image we shot looked great, even if we did detect a hint of over-saturation (it wouldn’t be Samsung if they didn’t over-saturate the image).
The front-facing camera, meanwhile, uses tetra-binning to combine four pixels into one for a high-quality 10MP image.
Samsung’s optics, stabilisation, picture sensors, and algorithms enable what the firm refers to as ‘Nightography.’ While we dislike the marketing phrase, the phone’s nighttime and low-light photographic abilities are undeniable. It has the ability to brighten a night sky to near noon, catch the moon or your face in low-light situations, and has some long-exposure capabilities.
The front and rear cameras do a fantastic job with portrait shooting. Thanks to a Portrait mode that can distinguish stray hairs from a bokeh backdrop. This is due, in part, to Samsung’s new depth map technology, according to the company. The presets, which include the option to build a virtual backdrop (a chromakey colour is utilised. So that you may simply swap a different background later), are also quite impressive.
You can also shoot some high-quality 4K video at 60fps, and up to 8K at 24fps. We were pleased with the results.
We were less thrilled by the phone’s Portrait Video capabilities, which pale in comparison to Apple’s iPhone 13 line’s Cinematic mode video (it needs a face in frame to work). The auto-framing feature. Which physically zooms the camera in and out to keep individuals in frame. Doesn’t appear to be that useful — we feel it may be improved.
One thing we enjoy about Samsung’s video capabilities is that, unlike the iPhone, it allows you to capture video, pause, and resume filming while maintaining the entire shoot in a single video file. Apple should include this function as soon as possible.
Aside from the fantastic cameras, the integrated S Pen is the major reason you’d pay the additional money for a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. The lightweight and adaptable pen is concealed within the phone’s body; it’s small, thin, and so easy to misplace that you’ll wish there were magnets in the S Pen and on the body of the S22 Ultra to keep these companions together when you don’t slip the stylus inside the phone.
With the S Pen, you may write notes on the lock screen (white ink on a black backdrop) or unlock the phone to get an eight-option slide-in menu.
Take notes, examine them, make smart choices of anything on the screen, draw on a screen capture, live messaging, doodling in augmented reality, translations, and PenUp, a community environment where you can learn to draw with the S Pen and share your creations with others.
All of these tools operate as claimed, and they provide quick methods to collect information, mark it up, and share it with colleagues and coworkers.
The S Pen is a hugely helpful tool in our opinion. Despite its small size (little for this reviewer’s hands, certainly), it’s an effective drawing tool. We opened Sketchbook and enjoyed drawing, especially since the pen and screen understand pressure and angle.
The S Pen is an excellent productivity tool as well. We scribbled some notes in Samsung Notes and then let the machine convert them to text. It didn’t omit a single word.
Overall, there’s a lot you can do with the S Pen, but it also adheres to the 80/20 rule. Which states that most of us will utilise 20% of the capabilities, 80% of the time.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra runs Android 12 and One UI 4.1. The most recent version of Samsung’s Android interface software. This overlay, like most Android overlays, isn’t there to impose a bespoke design aesthetic on top of pure Android; rather, it duplicates some utilities, such as the web browser and photos apps, and adds tonnes of smart software touches and useful tools. Such as Samsung’s new Wallet, that should improve the Android experience.
Samsung’s internal picture and video editing tools, for example, are impressive. We really enjoy the ability to magically remove an object from a photo. Which worked well on a shot of a dozen doughnuts – instead of eating them. We just chose them one by one and erased them from the original image. The programme did leave a few noticeable traces. But you’d be hard pressed to determine what was there before we digitally eliminated a doughnut.
There’s also a free Expert Raw app that gives you access to all of the pro shooting options (ISO, white balance, focus, shutter speed) and allows you to capture raw shots. Which we then altered on the phone in Adobe’s Lightroom software.
However, the fact that there is a Messages app as well as a Samsung Messages app is not ideal. The symbols appear to be the same, yet they are not. This type of stupidity will always keep Android’s texting system a step behind iOS’s iMessage. We want a single system — the new RCS (Rich Communication Services) is good – with full cross-app interoperability.
Samsung has made much of Google’s revamped Google Duo video conferencing application, which debuts on the S22 Ultra, and it works as stated. We made a Duo call to a buddy, which looked and sounded fantastic on both ends, and then shared views of our screens, applications like Twitter, and a YouTube movie that we could both watch.
Samsung is also increasing its relationship with Microsoft, and we had no issue linking our Microsoft account, which includes OneDrive and the Office Suite, to the device. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was likewise simple to connect to our Windows 11 PC.
We began the procedure on the phone. Then we had to go to a URL on the PC (which was meant to open up automatically, but didn’t) to find a QR code. After that we directed the S22 Ultra camera at the code, and the phone walked us through the rest of the setup.
We were able to manage our phone through the desktop. Using our mouse after the connection was established. Than, we even launched Asphalt 9 for a split second before the connection broke.
While it wasn’t immediately evident how having various platforms mixed in this way benefited the user in our tests. We believe the ability to swiftly access on-phone data, texts, and calls is part of the appeal.
Specs and performance
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra never let us down throughout nearly a week of rigorous testing. It’s a strong and quick phone. The 4nm processor (in our test phone, it’s the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset; in the UK and Australia, it’ll be Samsung’s own Exynos 2200 chipset). In Geekbench benchmarks, it does not exceed Apple’s A15 Bionic, but raw statistics seldom tell the whole picture.
For what it’s worth, here are the specifications for our gadget, which came with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Although Apple’s stats are superior, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra did not seem any slower across any tasks. Perhaps the only time we noticed a minor slowdown was while watching 8K footage. It was shot with the same phone.
This is also a beautiful and fairly powerful gaming phone, and it handled my Asphalt 9 race across Barcelona well.
The whole call quality was superb. We could plainly hear our caller, and they said we were coming through as well. The 5G performance (we were on T-Mobile in the US) was variable. It seemed to rely on how near we were to a good 5G tower.
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The S22 Ultra, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, has a large 5,000mAh battery and wireless charging. In our tests, the battery lasted a full day of varying activity (approximately from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.), but not much longer (this was the same for mid-range and high-resolution screen settings).
We were astonished that such a massive battery didn’t give enough power for a day and a half. Perhaps Samsung’s new 4nm chip isn’t as efficient as they thought.
The phone has a vapour champer and heat-sync material. Nonetheless, we felt some warmth on the rear of the phone when conducting a variety of tasks for lengthy periods of time, including online surfing, photography, and gaming. We’re curious if Samsung can enhance battery performance with some software modifications.
As previously stated, the phone does not come with a charger, only a USB-C cable to connect to one — which may come as a surprise to anyone upgrading from the previous Note. Also, the in-box packaging no longer includes a set of earphones, which makes sense given that the phone no longer has a 3.5mm headphone socket. It’s as if Samsung is asking for more money while giving you less.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is unlikely to appeal to everyone. It’s massive, pricey, and may be overkill for individuals who just want a great screen, acceptable images, and a solid on-screen social networking experience. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is worth every penny for people who want more, such as a phone that can run Raw picture editing programmes, write up screens and photographs, create elaborate works of art, and capture zoom shots that will make you the envy of all your iPhone-owning pals.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra?
Buy it if…
You’re a productivity junkie
You will be hard-pressed to find a more capable mobile device than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
You’re a compulsive note-taker or artist
If you love to take notes by hand, or you’re an artist who has brilliant ideas on the go, the S Pen is now always with you, and versatile enough to support scribble-to-text conversions, fine art creation, simple doodles, and markup.
You love photography
The camera array here is excellent, and the zoom capabilities will finally let you capture what your eyes can see.
Don’t buy if…
You thought you’d get two days of battery life
The phone’s 5,000 mAh battery is huge, but so is the phone. That screen and the powerful mobile CPU might be a little more power-hungry than expected. You will, though, get a very full day (sunrise to well-past sunset) of activities
You have tiny hands
This is a big phone. Even the curved edges don’t completely cut down on the size. Also, yes, it’s a slippery device.
You’re a fan of wired headphones
If you still rely on 3.5mm, wired headphones, this isn’t the phone for you. Samsung removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the device (and does not ship with a wired set of headphones). Naturally, the handset works like a charm with wireless, Bluetooth earbuds.