Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: back and how!
Samsung redefined the perception around big-screen phones with the original Galaxy Note which, at the time, offered a “big” 5.3-inch display. Coupled with its handy stylus, the smartphone was a productivity fiend and the device immediately resonated with power users. Well, a decade in and Samsung’s Galaxy Note phones have only gotten bigger and more powerful. What’s more, the S-pen has seen a host of improvements too and is quite possibly, the best accessory to ever debut with a phone.
Regardless, the company’s Galaxy S series of phones often overlapped with the brand’s Note series, be it in terms of features, or specs. Furthermore, possibly due to the onset of foldable flagships, Samsung decided to forego the Note lineup. That’s not to say that the company turned its back on Note loyalists, mind you. Case in point, the all-new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which isn’t just loaded to the brim with industry-leading specs, but it also brings the goodness of S Pen and is the first non-Note device to house a silo for the iconic stylus. Can then, the smartphone appease both power-users and photography enthusiasts? Let’s find out in this review.
Table of Contents
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the most loaded flagship from the company’s stables yet, scoring high on most aspects like performance, cameras and usage experience. The included S Pen acts as the cherry on top, and is a highly useful accessory to have. Provided you can stomach its price, the device will not disappoint you.
From a distance, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the Galaxy S22 Ultra from the Galaxy Note20 Ultra (review) launched over a year ago. In fact, save for their camera modules (or lack thereof, in the S22 Ultra’s case), the duo looks resoundingly similar and both the phones offer a boxy design with sharp, edgy cutouts bordering the display. For what it’s worth, I quite like the design of the phone, even though it’s not inherently unique or new. In fact, if you’re a sucker for minimalistic phones, then you’ll find the Galaxy S22 Ultra right up your alley too – the handset exudes elegance and is void of any gaudy patterns or decals. In contrast, the phone offers a glass-metal sandwich enveloped in a single hue which, in the case of my review unit, is Burgundy. That said, you can pick up the phone in Phantom Black and White colours too.
But, coming back to the design of the phone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra looks decidedly different from the standard Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus models, which in turn take their design cues from the company’s year-old S21 lineup. In fact, when put side by side, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s regal appearance casts a tall shadow on the Galaxy S21 Ultra (review), as well as its S22 brethren’s otherwise utilitarian looks. What’s more, the S22 Ultra ships with a matte finish on the back that feels velvety to the touch. It also helps that the finish helps stave off smudges and stains. On the flip side, the rings around the phone’s camera sensors attract a lot of dust and it can be a chore to clean them on a daily basis.
Be that as it may, keeping the phone in pristine condition should be the least of your worries, especially if you’re migrating to the Galaxy S22 Ultra from a compact phone. To wit, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a ginormous device that weighs 228 grams and correspondingly, necessitates two-handed usage. Now, to the brand’s credit, Samsung has furnished the phone with a curvy screen that imparts a comfortable in-hand grip. Furthermore, the handset is IP68 rated and features a layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus+ on the front, as well as the back. Despite that, the smartphone’s chassis feels – for the lack of a better word – delicate and unwieldy, and I thought it best not to resort to any finger gymnastics whilst daily driving the phone.
For the longest time, the Galaxy Note range of phones offered everything but the kitchen sink to power users. Of course, that changed with the Galaxy Note 10 series, which shipped without a headphone jack. Fast forward to 2022 and the scenery remains unchanged, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra omitting the 3.5mm connector, as well as a microSD card slot. To the phone’s credit, the device features a pair of speakers that get quite loud for consuming media on the fly. As for the rest of the I/O, the phone sports a clicky volume rocker and power button, positioned on its right-hand spine. The handset also comes equipped with an in-display fingerprint sensor, which isn’t as quick as the one on the iQOO 9 Pro I reviewed recently, but it gets the job done. The same goes for the unit’s facial recognition software too, which works well during the day albeit falters in a darker setting.
More importantly, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the first Galaxy S-series phone to ship with a built-in S Pen. The stylus has been positioned towards the bottom left of the phone and the unit communicates with the device over BLE or Bluetooth Low-Energy. Ipso facto, the accessory isn’t just a means to doodle/scribble on the phone’s screen – in fact, the S Pen can also be used as a shutter button to click photos, with the S22 Ultra propped on the other end of a room, among other things. I’ll talk more about the stylus and its features in the software section of the review, so for now, let’s talk about the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s display.
I won’t beat around the bush at all – the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ships with the best screen I’ve seen on a phone to date. Spec-wise, the 6.8-inch display ships with WQHD+ resolution and is backed by Super AMOLED technology. What’s more, the panel offers an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz, meaning the screen can smartly variate its refresh rate to better suit the content you’re consuming on the phone. For instance, if you’re scrolling through IG reels, then the display will say, drop down the refresh rate to 30Hz or 60Hz. However, if you then start reading an article on Chrome, then you will be presented with smooth 120Hz scrolling. In doing so, the Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t just offer the most optimum viewing experience at all times, but the device also conserves battery life.
And, this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s gorgeous screen. To wit, the panel offers excellent viewing angles and gets audaciously bright – in fact, at 1,750 nits, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ships with the brightest screen on any phone. Unsurprisingly, the panel offers remarkable sunlight legibility and you can comfortably use the phone even when it’s extremely bright outdoors. That’s not all, as the screen can relay movies and TV shows from OTT services like Netflix in HDR too. Add to that the phone’s tiny punch hole notch and the Galaxy S22 Ultra makes for one heck of a phone to consume media on the fly.
Unfortunately, as good as the phone’s screen is, there is still some room for improvement here. For one, I wish the company would allow users to lock the display refresh rate at 120Hz. You see, time and again, I experienced on-screen jitters whilst browsing through apps like BookMyShow and Twitter. Clearly, the handset’s display isn’t optimised to gel well with some apps on the Play Store and you might stumble across similar issues whilst using other apps as well. Furthermore, the smartphone’s curved screen, albeit stunning, offers poor palm rejection too. On the bright side, the panel offers a snappy touch sampling rate of 240Hz. Coupled with the phone’s accommodating screen, you’ll revel playing your favourite games on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Part of the charm of owning a Galaxy S-series flagship is its otherworldly cameras that can click stunning photos come night or day. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra carries the legacy forward by offering a quad-camera setup at the back comprising a 108MP main sensor that works alongside two telephoto lenses that can optically zoom at 3x and 10x respectively. The smartphone also packs in a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 120-degree FoV and for selfies, the S22 Ultra ships with a 40MP selfie camera up front.
Understandably, the handset’s camera specs are identical to the Galaxy S21 Ultra which launched almost a year ago. However, Samsung has employed newer sensors this time around which, when coupled with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s beefier ISP, output notably better photos. The differences are immediately apparent in optically zoomed snaps wherein, the S22 Ultra outputted a sharper snap at both, 3x as well as 10x focal range.
Furthermore, while you will be hard-pressed to find the differences in daylight HDR photos, the S22 Ultra edges in front of its year-old predecessor in lowlight too, netting lesser noise whilst retaining better sharpness around the elements in the frame. As an example, if you look at the 10x zoomed shot of my apartment complex then here, the shot from the S22 Ultra appears a lot sharper.
In a similar fashion, the 3x snap of the gym behind my apartment complex offers a better definition in the S22 Ultra’s photo too. The text scribbled on the street lights, for instance, is more legible at a closer crop. Furthermore, the edges of the building appear more structured too. Suffice it to say, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra offers minor, albeit noticeable improvements over its predecessor in the camera department.
And, for those curious, I did test the cameras on the S22 Ultra with the iPhone 13 Pro as well. You can read more about the same by clicking here, but, to cut a long story short, the S22 Ultra is neck and neck with Apple’s grandest, with both the devices clicking social-media worthy photos during the day. That said, while the S22 Ultra yielded a better output when snapping objects positioned afar, the iPhone 13 Pro edged out in front in dimmer environments. On the whole, though, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is – at least in my books – the most versatile camera phone on the market. The handset can click high-quality snaps with its main sensor that are flush with details and peppy colours. The photos offer excellent dynamic range too, and the smartphone does a good job of keeping a lid on instances like highlight clipping as well.
Now, I’ve already raved about the unit’s telephoto sensors but, at the expense of sounding like a broken record, the S22 Ultra has the best zoom capabilities in the biz. Be it clicking close-ups of products that come in for review, or experimenting with different shots/angles when I’m out and about, the smartphone’s telephoto sensors let my imagination run wild. It also helps that the output from the sensors is extremely sharp and the photos are in line with the aesthetic offered by the main sensor. Correspondingly, you will find minimal colour temperature disparity between the 108MP shooter and the assisting telephoto sensors. Rest assured, once you get a taste for the phone’s zoom lenses, you’ll find it hard to use any other Android on the market – they’re that good.
The ultrawide angle sensor clicks reasonably detailed photos too. In fact, I noticed that the images snapped by the 12MP shooter were on par with the iPhone 13 Pro as well. Be that as it may, the quality of the snaps takes a steep hit in lowlight scenarios. On the bright side, the smartphone’s front camera will put a smile on any selfie enthusiast’s face (no pun intended). The 40MP sensor clicks fantastic selfies that are replete with details. What’s more, the sensor can reciprocate colours authentically too and you won’t find the photos too doctored or beautified either.
Lastly, let’s talk about the lowlight images snapped from the phone. Now, to the handset’s credit, the S22 Ultra can squeeze out a considerable amount of information from a dimly lit scene. On the flip side, in a bid to counter the noise in the frame, the S22 Ultra softens the subject quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the photos are more than serviceable, however, you’d be better off with the iPhone 13 Pro / Pro Max if you tend to click a lot of photos at night.
Software and S Pen
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra boots One UI v4.0 on top of Android 12. The custom skin has come a long way and is among the more likeable Android interfaces out there. Unfortunately, the platform still ships with some bloatware and you’ll spend a good chunk of your time disabling/uninstalling preloaded Samsung apps when you first set up the phone. What’s more, while I like the new styling options, including the ability to revamp the interface’s colour palette in accordance with your wallpapers, I would’ve liked to see support for third-party icon packs as well. I’d also appreciate lesser notifications from the Galaxy Store, prompting me to “check out” some new apps.
On the bright side, One UI offers a minimalistic UI that’s easy on the eyes. Furthermore, the interface comes bundled with a bunch of nifty tricks too, including a built-in screen and call recorder, a private vault of sorts to keep your personal files safe and away from prying eyes and much more.
Needless to say, there is a lot of hype around the Galaxy S22 Ultra which can be accredited – at least in parts – to the unit’s built-in S Pen. Interestingly, Samsung has reduced the latency of the stylus this time around so doodling and sketching on the S22 Ultra feels even more life-like. That said, the company hasn’t added any new software features for the stylus, meaning buyers migrating from say, the Note20 Ultra (review) will find similar S Pen features across the two models. Be that as it may, the S Pen is still plenty useful and you can use it to extract the text from any image by using the Smart Select utility. That’s not all, as the stylus can be used to click photos or navigate through Samsung-specific apps like Gallery by means of Air Actions too. And, as always, you can use the S Pen to sign PDFs and more. Rest assured, the S Pen continues to be a useful tool in any college/office-goers arsenal, and for those involved in any kind of creative work.
Performance and Battery Life
Samsung usually launches the Exynos variant of its flagship smartphones in India. However, this time around, the company is launching the Galaxy S22 Ultra with Qualcomm’s brand-new, 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC. Now, I am sure you don’t need me to read the brochure but the handset’s specs are as good as it gets. In fact, the 4nm chipset works alongside speedy LPDDR5 memory and UFS 3.1 storage. Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S22 Ultra breezed through anything I had to throw at it – be it multitasking between a slew of apps, or running demanding games – the smartphone could do it all. To give you a better picture, I ran a slew of benchmarks on the phone, the results for which can be accessed by swiping through the slider below.
Clearly, the handset performs admirably in synthetic benchmarks, however, don’t get swept off your feet just yet. I say this, because the smartphone’s gaming experience leaves something to be desired. To wit, I noticed frame drops when running graphically intensive titles like BGMI on the set wherein, the game would become choppy when I was panning left or right, or contesting in heated gun battles. Similarly, in GrimValor, the handset would drop a frame or two when I was hacking my way through a swarm of enemies. Understandably, while the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra can run most games in your library at the highest graphics and FPS settings, the device is not the best gaming phone in the market – that title is still reserved for the iQOO 9 Pro (review), which, by the way, also makes use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC.
In fact, I rarely ran into performance hiccups whilst using the iQOO 9 Pro. Notably, the smartphone’s 3D Mark Stress test and CPU throttling test scores are significantly better, with the device offering 77.9 percent stability in the former, and throttling to just 70 percent of its peak throughput in the latter. On the other hand, the S22 Ultra secured stability and throttling scores of 60.8 and 68 percent respectively. Suffice it to say, the Galaxy S22 Ultra could do with some software tweaks to ensure it can sustain its max performance even under strenuous loads.
As for the battery backup, the S22 Ultra’s 5,000mAh cell can last buyers a full day on moderate usage. In fact, I was averaging around five and a half hours of screen on time with the phone and that’s with the display operating at QHD+ resolution and the refresh rate set to the adaptive preset. That said, you can squeeze more juice out of the phone by dropping the display resolution to FHD+, or lowering the refresh rate to 60Hz as well. In terms of charging, the device supports 45W wired and 15W wireless charging. While not the quickest, the handset charged in about an hour and a half with a 65W Realme brick I had lying around.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra retails for Rs 1,09,999 for the 256GB storage variant, with the 512GB modelling costing Rs 1,18,999. It goes without saying that the smartphone is an expensive proposition, however, the device more than makes up for its high pricing with a gorgeous screen, capable performance, a versatile array of cameras and a note-worthy design. Furthermore, the handset ships with the S Pen that paves new ways to be productive on the fly, and even offers four years of Android upgrades too. Now, the phone’s gaming performance can be better, and the company could’ve outfitted the phone with faster wired charging speeds as well. Regardless, the S22 Ultra is greater than the sum of its parts and correspondingly, gets a vote of approval from me.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Stunning display
- Stylish, weatherproof design
- Excellent cameras
- Built-in S Pen
- Gaming performance could’ve been better
- Sub-par battery backup