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The Galaxy S22 Ultra is excellent at everything. That could be a sway factor for no-compromise users

Highs

  • Beautiful design with integrated S-Pen
  • Excellent camera performance
  • World-class display
  • Excellent performance
  • Very good battery life

Lows

  • Less RAM than the S21 Ultra
  • Shorter battery life than iPhone 13 Pro Max

Rating + Price

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Available on Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra isn’t just the 2022 update of the best Galaxy S. It is also the assimilation of the late Galaxy Note. The public was anxiously waiting for this update, especially the Galaxy Note fans, representing a multi-billion dollar opportunity for Samsung.

Did Samsung reach its objectives, and how good is the new Galaxy S22 Ultra? Let’s find out by going over the critical aspects of this Android smartphone.

Note that we have both the Samsung unlocked Galaxy S22 Ultraand the AT&T Galaxy S22 Ultra units. The primary difference between the two is that the AT&T unit only functions on the AT&T network, and it also comes with AT&T-specific apps for security, anti-spam, or customer support (AT&T has many Android apps btw).

Industrial Design

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s design reflects its Galaxy Note legacy with a more rectangular design, making it possible to garage the S-Pen in the chassis. The chassis is extremely rigid and made of aluminum and glass (Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+ in the front and back). This new glass is 12.5% stronger than last year’s.

The back cover’s surface is resistant to fingerprint smudges, which helps the phone keep its “clean look” if you’re not using a case. At the same time, it does not feel (too) slippery, and I’m tempted to use it without a protective case.

Samsung has an excellent lineup of cases, but this time I also looked at the Incipio Duo case (red, below) because it offers excellent protection for the extra cautious user. Thin Carbon cases could be a good option, but I haven’t found one that I like.

The width of the phone makes it agreeable to hold in hand (I wear M-size gloves), something that is not always true for large phones, like the iPhone 13 Max and others that I find to be “too wide” (for me). Having a thin or no case makes the phone a bit more comfortable to carry in pants pockets. It is a large phone.

In the back, the cameras modules integration is superb. While many OEMs are now copying Samsung’s S21 camera module, the Galaxy S22 Ultra introduces this new design that takes away a lot of the “camera bump” volume. It’s quite an industrial design feat.

The only downside of this camera design is the potential accumulation of dust around the lenses if you look closely. We’ll get back to the camera’s hardware and performance later.

The S-Pen integration into the chassis is impressive. “Internal volume” is the most precious commodity in the smartphone world. Carving that much internal space inside the phone is phenomenal and a stiff barrier of entry for would-be competitors, especially since the phone is waterproof (IP68 rating).

Samsung’s One UI 4.0 user interface also introduces nice design features, such as “color palettes” that will match the interface to your wallpaper color tones in a tasteful way. Many people prefer Samsung’s One UI over Android’s original interface, but that’s a matter of preferences.

Display

The 6.8-inch 3200×1440 Dynamic AMOLED 2X display offers excellent performance, including an insane peak brightness of 1750 NITs and outstanding color accuracy. Even in broad daylight, the display’s image quality remains stunning, and at night, it shows perfect blacks and accurate colors.

"A GREAT DEMONSTRATION OF SAMSUNG'S OLED MASTERY"

The 1-120Hz variable refresh brings extreme smoothness during scrolling operations and gaming sessions while affecting battery life only when it’s absolutely needed. That is probably the best mobile display money can buy and a great demonstration of Samsung’s OLED mastery.

Under the display, you’ll find an Ultrasonic fingerprint reader that’s very fast and feels very similar to our S21 Ultra.

Sound Quality

The sound quality is excellent and one of the best you’ll get on a smartphone. It’s great for movies, podcasts, or music. I like leaving the phone on the kitchen counter with the speakers blasting away as I cook or prep something.

Pen Experience

Of course, the display works with the integrated S-Pen, and I found the pen experience to be stellar. The responsiveness is excellent (2.8ms latency vs. 9ms before), and the pen feels very accurate. Typically that’s done by reducing the thickness of the layers between the screen’s glass and the sensing surface.

More importantly, the S-Pen is supported by a robust array of applications that genuinely magnify its usefulness. Out of the box, Samsung supports the most common use cases, including making annotations on screenshots (Smart Select), photos, and quick note-taking (on a locked screen) on an almost-infinitely long page.

The Galaxy Note was a multi-billion dollar product line, and I can confirm that Galaxy Note fans can safely switch over to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. If anything, the pen experience is so good that it might push some users to try a Galaxy Tab S8 or Galaxy Book2.

Like before, it is also possible to use the Pen’s button to trigger the camera’s shutter or go to the next presentation slide.

Camera Performance

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera hardware setup is very similar to the S21 Ultra’s, especially when the Primary and Ultrawide cameras are concerned.

Some internal components were swapped out, like the Sony IMX754 sensor taking over the Samsung S5K3J1 for both zoom cameras, but the optical performance is maintained without huge noticeable visual differences.

Our Camera HW benchmark shows a negligible electro-optics difference between the S21 Ultra and S22 Ultra camera hardware. That is confirmed by photos we’ve taken and objective photo quality metrics. Yet, this level still makes the S22 Ultra a noticeably better photo-shooter than the iPhone 13 Pro in challenging night or zoom situations.

I find it disappointing that the iPhone 13 Pro still has to rely on an automatic 3-second exposure in some low-light conditions. High-end competitors have taken these shots in 0.4 seconds or less for years. That is a classic sign of inferior optics and ISO range.

From a more subjective point of view, Samsung has made some image filtering changes to slightly affect the likeability of the shots. To show “improvements” or at least “differences,” OEMs often increase software sharpness, color saturation, and perceived brightness for night shots. These changes primarily affect the photo “style” and not the intrinsic “objective quality.”

With this strategy, “some” visual differences between two near-equal (rear) camera hardware generations can be demonstrated. I expect the changes to appear “more agreeable” to most users as this is equivalent to adding a bit more sugar to a sweet. I also appreciate that choosing between “natural” and “bright” image tuning with the Selfie camera is possible.

The S22 Ultra performs very well in extreme low-light when the iPhone 13 pro needs a long exposure

Image subjective tuning is best illustrated with the 30X and 100X digital zoom in which the upscaling software is everything. Samsung tuned its upsampling algorithm to make some edges more visually agreeable, and users will perceive the difference in many photos.That said, details or texture are comparable to the S21U.

Photo taken with the Primary camera. We’ll zoom on this building in the red square
This is the 100X digital zoom

With Samsung’s AI Stereo Depth mapping, users get a more accurate “bokeh” blur with fewer contour errors in Portrait mode. That is one area where continuous software progress is made independent of the camera’s input quality.

Some changes come from better computational processing capabilities enabled by the 2022 Snapdragon platform, like high bitrate HDR 10+ video formats or better stabilization. Video recording is a big beneficiary of the rise in image processing speed as some processing previously applied only to still photos can now be used in videos.

"YOU CAN'T GO WRONG WITH THIS CAMERA"

Samsung has put plenty of effort into its Camera software, and I would encourage you to explore all the features, especially the Single-take function. The “Pro” options and controls over audio recording, manual mode, and subject tracking will be most interesting for more advanced users.

Overall, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera perfects the experience that Samsung power-users are accustomed to, with a fuller, better user experience. In short, you can’t go wrong with this camera in any context.

System Performance

Our Galaxy S22 Ultra is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen1 processor platform, which we explained and benchmarked profusely. The real-world performance matches our expectations with excellent peak graphics performance.

Keep in mind that you might get better “sustained performance” with a bulkier “gaming device” that has a larger cooling system for very long gaming sessions. That said, Samsung’s cooling system is one of the best you can get in such a thin phone.

Also, there are 8GB (the model we have) and 16GB options for RAM. How much you need depends on what you’re doing with the phone, 8GB is a bit disappointing since the S21U had 12GB, but most people can get by with 8GB. If you like having a lot of apps installed and potentially running in the background, the 16GB model would be preferred.

Both the WIFI 6E and 5G connectivity show excellent performance, and we’ve measured peak speeds of 413/612 Mbps to the Internet using our 1Gbps office connectivity + Netgear AX12 router. With 5G, it depends on your local network quality, but some people are lucky enough to experience 150-200 MBps in real-world situations, which is impressive. With mmWave 5G (primarily Verizon), you could even reach much higher speeds, but the coverage isn’t as widespread.

Battery Life

With a battery capacity of 5000 mAh, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra fares pretty well in the large, high-end, Android smartphones. It has a comparable battery life to the S21 Ultra, and can easily keep the Google Pixel 6 Pro and Xiaomi 12 Pro at bay.

I agree with many independent battery life tests that show you can get 8-9 hours of actual screen time with a mix of browsing, streaming video and playing games. Most people can go by their day without worrying about running out of juice.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra can charge at a peak speed of 45W (wired), but keep in mind that no such charger is included in the box. Instead, it is a $49.99 accessory. Optionally, you can use non-Samsung high-power compatible with the USB PD (Power Delivery) standard. I like using the small 45/65W power supplies from the latest Lenovo laptops.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra carries on the legacy of the much-loved Galaxy Note series. For Galaxy Note 20 Ultra owners, this is a sensible upgrade. They’ll find everything they loved about their phone, including a familiar form-factor (and more!), updated with Samsung’s best camera offering and today’s best chip and wireless technologies.

"EXCELLENT AT EVERYTHING"

Galaxy S21 Ultra owners can mostly stay put for now, unless they want the S-Pen experience or a faster computing platform for improved gaming or video recording. Much of the improvements are incremental, and it would be understandable to wait for the next upgrade cycle if you already own last year’s best from Samsung.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is a fantastic and well-rounded high-end smartphone that many already claim is America’s best 2022 Android smartphone. That could be true, but it’s too early to reach that conclusion. Many competitors at this price level might have one extra strength here and there, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra is excellent at everything, and that could be a sway factor for no-compromise users.

I highly recommend this handset if you can afford it, especially since Samsung is committing to 4 years of Android OS updates.

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