Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Product Name: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Product Description: For all intents and purposes, the S22 Ultra is a new Galaxy Note. It has the same rectangular design, integrated S Pen, and a long list of high-end specifications. Samsung is bringing the S Pen, which has long been a trademark of the Note series, to a wider audience with the S22 Ultra. Samsung is consolidating its top-tier products by integrating the two lines, bringing together the most popular features from throughout its range. That's not to say the S22 Ultra isn't updated; Samsung enhanced the camera, display, and software features this year as well.
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If you want a premium Android flagship but don’t require accessories like the S Pen or a second telephoto lens, the S22+ would most likely suffice. The only serious criticism we have of the S22 Ultra is that Samsung’s display and camera enhancements this year are lacklustre. Aside from a few minor flaws, the S22 Ultra is still a fantastic phone and the best premium Android flagship available.
- Brilliant S Pen experience
- Incredible low-light photography
- Much better and improved processor
- Sleek design
- Battery size and life are not great
- Some features are still unispiring
- Less RAM than previous models
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review
For all intents and purposes, the S22 Ultra is a new Galaxy Note. It has the same rectangular design, integrated S Pen, and a long list of high-end specifications. Samsung is bringing the S Pen, which has long been a trademark of the Note series, to a wider audience with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung is consolidating its top-tier products by integrating the two lines, bringing together the most popular features from throughout its range. That’s not to say the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra isn’t updated; Samsung enhanced the camera, display, and software features this year as well.
It’s strange to review a phone that claims to be fresh but feels so old. If you’ve been missing the Note series, you’ll appreciate the familiarity. The S Pen, however, will not be enough of an upgrade for people simply looking for a new Galaxy S flagship. Thankfully, Samsung promises enhancements to the display and camera that could make the S22 Ultra even better than its predecessor.
The design of the S22 Ultra differs from that of the previous year’s model. The S22 UltraSamsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is essentially a Note 20 Ultra clone, which differs from the S21 Ultra’s rounder profile. The two handsets are nearly identical in appearance and feel, with the same rectangular shape, curved edges, and matte brushed metal surface. The S Pen slot is even in the same spot on the bottom edge, on the left side. You probably wouldn’t notice the S22 Ultra is slightly broader, shorter, and thicker than the Note if I didn’t tell you the exact proportions. The S22 Ultra, on the other hand, is around 21 grams (or 0.74 ounces) heavier.
The phone is also heavier than the Pixel 6 Pro, albeit the iPhone 13 Pro Max weighs 240 grams less. Apart from its colorful two-tone design and camera bar, Google’s premium flagship already reminded me of the Note 20 Ultra. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra‘s cameras are neatly laid out in two columns on the rear, with no limits enclosing them, rather than a rectangular module in the top left corner housing the array of sensors. In comparison to the Note 20 and S21 Ultra’s models, we appreciate this simplified, less cluttered look.
The Gorilla Glass Victus+ coating of the S22 Ultra was also a plus, especially after it was dropped from the top of a cabinet and remained unscathed. We were a little disappointed that the review unit we got was the dull black version, rather than one of the other three color possibilities. If we were buying one for ourselves, we’d go with either the green or the burgundy.
Audio and visuals
The screen on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is lavish, as is typical of Samsung products. Because of its peak brightness of 1,750 nits, the 6.8-inch Super AMOLED panel is vivid, bright, and easy to see in the sun. The S22 Ultra, like past Galaxy flagships, refreshes at 120Hz, resulting in a smooth scrolling experience. Samsung introduced “Vision Booster” this year to ensure that people can see what’s on their phones regardless of lighting conditions. When the feature recognizes that you’re in direct sunshine or in extremely dim conditions, it adjusts not only the display brightness but also its color and contrast. It won’t function until you have adaptive brightness turned on.
When we were playing Two Dots in bed one night, we didn’t notice much of a difference, even when we compared the scenario on my Pixel 6 Pro. Although Samsung claims that the impact is more evident in the sunshine, we didn’t feel a big difference when the sun shone on the S22 Ultra’s screen when outdoors. Perhaps it’s because the effect is so small that it’s difficult to see, but we never had any trouble reading on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, regardless of the illumination. We don’t usually listen to music on my phone, but when my WIFI went out and we couldn’t use any speakers, we had little choice but to stream Spotify on the S22 Ultra, which had good audio quality. It was loud enough to provide the background noise we needed, but it performed better with mid-heavy noises.
The onboard S Pen is another feature of the S22 Ultra that bears a strong resemblance to the Note. The biggest difference between the S Pens on the S22 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra this year is the 2.8-millisecond improvement in latency (down from 9ms). This means you’ll get a somewhat improved version of Samsung’s already responsive writing experience, as well as the Notes app’s handy handwriting recognition tech. You can use the S Pen to scribble text into search fields and URL boxes throughout the system if you utilize Samsung’s keyboard instead of switching to Gboard. When you take the S Pen out of its slot, Samsung shows you a list of suggested functions so you can quickly do things like creating a note or selecting an area of your screen to screenshot and draw on.
There isn’t much more we can say about the S Pen that hasn’t already been said in other reviews. For those hoping to produce finer works of art, Samsung’s stylus is adequate, if a bit of a blunt tool. The S Pen, on the other hand, is more than suitable as a pencil for scribbling down a fast list, signing documents on the go, or as a cursor for the big screen. In fact, it’s fully capable of performing more common tasks like functioning as a remote control for your camera or playing music. The only question is whether you’re the ok with using a stylus to interact with your phone rather than simply using your hands. In any case, the S Pen is a useful tool when you need it and remains out of the way when you don’t.
There’s also a new Handwriting to Text tool with a better recognition rate that can turn your scribble into neatly typed notes, and it now supports up to 88 languages, which is 12 more than before. Overall, it’s a joy to write with – and, while it may appear gimmicky, the S Pen’s inclusion here is far from it, opening a slew of doors to make using your phone more productive and enjoyable.
With a 108-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel ultrawide option, and a pair of 10-megapixel telephoto lenses, the S22 Ultra has the same camera arrangement as the S21 Ultra. Auto-framing and increased video stabilization in films, greater stereo depth mapping for more realistic portrait blur, and something Samsung calls Adaptive Pixel is among the new features this year.
In fact, understanding Adaptive Pixel is difficult, and the benefits may not be worth the effort. You must first set the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra to shoot at the greatest quality, and then the system will stitch the images in the background when it detects that you are shooting in low light. There’s no way to tell if Adaptive Pixel is on because there are no visible indicators. I took a couple of shots of the New York City nightscape using the S22 Ultra at both the default 12-MP and 108-MP resolutions, and they were nearly indistinguishable. Buildings appeared equally muddy as I zoomed in to see more detail, owing to flares from the numerous lights in the shot.
In low light, I took several photos with the camera set to default resolution and 108-MP, and the results were surprisingly subtle. The high-resolution images were sometimes, but not always, better exposed. And any improvement in clarity was so minor that you wouldn’t see it unless you were zoomed in very close. In any case, Samsung’s images were comparable to those taken by the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro.
With its Night Sight function, Google continues to outperform Apple and Samsung in low-light photography, although Apple and Samsung are closing the gap. The S22 Ultra produced somewhat more saturated images in the daytime than the Pixel 6 Pro, which has a more neutral tone. Which camera is best for you ultimately comes down to personal preference: Do you like photographs that have a richer appearance, even if they aren’t the most realistic? On the other hand, the iPhone 13 series includes Photographic Styles, which allow you to choose a default color temperature and contrast level for all of your photos, ensuring that they are all tailored to your preferences.
The 40-megapixel camera on the front of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is similar to that of the S21 Ultra. Samsung claims to have upgraded its stereo depth mapping algorithm for more realistic bokeh effects in portraits, and it appears to work in my experience. In comparison to selfies taken with the iPhone 13 Pro and the Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung’s flagship was just as good at separating my hair from my background, blurring out the same places as the other two. The S22 Ultra provides more natural-looking bokeh than previous Samsung cameras, which produced unnatural and awkward-looking images. It now boasts a “giant” 108MP sensor with 1.23 times the brightness of the S21 Ultra’s pixels. This larger, higher-resolution sensor, when paired with Samsung’s Multi-Frame Processing technology, mixes multiple exposure frames for significantly levelled-up night photography, processing four times more data to enhance your photographs.
Other changes to the S22 Ultra concern video recording. Samsung has incorporated an auto-framing feature that detects faces in the image and keeps up to 10 subjects in the scene centred. You can also choose which persons you wish to prioritize, and the system will track their movements. In our testing, this worked well, and even though we held the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra steady from a single place, the camera tracked our video producer the person as he walked around. However, when he approached the far end of the camera’s field of view, the scene began to exhibit severe fisheye distortion, deforming a bit his face.
There is a huge range of other features that Samsung has carried over from prior flagships, but listing them all would take an eternity. To summarize, most of the features seen on the S21 Ultra or earlier models, such as capable image stabilization and Director’s View for recording with both the front and rear cameras, are included. If you liked the 100x Space Zoom feature on the S22 before, you can still use it on the S22 Ultra to get incredibly close to faraway objects. Though I found this feature to be slightly scary in general, the results were in some cases actually readable. However, at up to 30x zoom, I found Space Zoom to be the most beneficial. Anything more than that was usually murky and useless.
Exclusive Samsung software
The S22 series includes a unique version of the Google Duo video calling program that only allows for new screen sharing and auto framing features, thanks to a collaboration with Google. A small icon shows on the left side of the screen to remind you that you are still sharing your screen while you launch other apps while on the call.
This connection isn’t as advanced as Apple’s SharePlay, which has significant restrictions on which alerts may be viewed while sharing your screen. Meanwhile, the message warnings that flashed up during our conversation were visible to another Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra reviewer we contacted. Samsung and Google’s Live Sharing feature also doesn’t support streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu natively, which means you won’t be able to watch shows with your pals (unless they’re on YouTube). Samsung has also integrated the auto-framing feature from its camera app to Duo, allowing you to keep your face centred while on a call. When we turned on this option, the app shifted to a wider angle photo through the front camera, zooming in to keep us in view as we moved around. It’s useful if you want to leave your phone propped up while you talk, but it’s useless if you’re just going to hold your phone up or stay stationary, which is how we do most of our video conversations.
Samsung also has a “collaboration view” option that lets you utilize your S22 as a second screen for your Tab S8. You can use your S22 as a secondary menu or control panel for painting choices if you open Samsung Notes on the tablet and click the phone symbol on the top right (once both devices are connected to the same WiFi). Because we hadn’t received a Tab S8 for review yet, we were unable to test this feature. You can also rapidly share material with other nearby Galaxy smartphones and connect to your laptop using Link To Windows, like with previous Samsung flagships. One UI 4.0 also has new color palettes and themes that are applied across the entire system, similar to Material You on Android 12, which allows you to change your interface whenever you want.
Battery life and performance
The S22 series is one of the first flagships to employ Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processors, and you can expect the premium CPUs to deliver fast performance in general. When we were reading Reddit and playing a spot-the-difference game while using it as a hotspot for other devices and the internet was down, our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra didn’t break a sweat. We were amazed we didn’t notice the phone becoming hot throughout our time with it, and we have to give Samsung credit for its enhanced thermal system. It’s really good.
We were also surprised to see the S22 Ultra’s battery life plummet from 75% when we first got it out of the package at lunchtime to only 20% by evening. We initially attributed this to the amount of power needed during setup, but in fact, the S22 Ultra never lasted a complete 24 hours. The S22 Ultra’s performance of 17 hours and 16 minutes topped the Pixel 6 Pro by only three minutes in our video rundown battery test, but it was hours behind the S21 Ultra, which lasted 21 hours and 42 minutes. It’s possible that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 isn’t as power-efficient as its predecessor, and Samsung told us that the S Pen takes power from the S22 Ultra while it’s in its slot, which could explain why the S21 Ultra has longer battery life.
The primary improvements for those upgrading from a Note 20 Ultra will be in the cameras and software, and given that the Note 20 Ultra is nearly two years old, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the newer features. If you’ve never held a Galaxy Note on your hands before, the upgrade will definitely be pleased. The S22 Ultra is now, more than ever, the phone for the most demanding power users, thanks to the addition of the S Pen.
If you want a premium Android flagship but don’t require accessories like the S Pen or a second telephoto lens, the S22+ would most likely suffice. The only serious criticism we have of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is that Samsung’s display and camera enhancements this year are lacklustre. Aside from a few minor flaws, the S22 Ultra is still a fantastic phone and the best premium Android flagship available.