I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for the past six months and from day one this has been the Android flagship to beat in 2022.
It is the closest-to-perfect Android smartphone even without the inclusion of the built-in S Pen stylus that sets it apart from every other flagship Android device – apart from the firm’s now discontinued Galaxy Note line.
If you were a Note user, then the S22 Ultra is the ideal step up for you. The S Pen experience is better than ever.
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The improved way of writing on your handset’s screen is more responsive than ever, like writing with real ink on physical paper. The reduced 2.8ms low latency performance is outstanding.
It’s one of the best stylus experiences, as satisfying as Apple Pencil and Microsoft’s Surface Pen.
As well as its use for notetaking and drawing, the stylus can make smart selections of anything on screen, annotate screenshots and doodle in AR.
The phone can also translate your handwritten S Pen scrawls into legible typed text.
The button on the side of the stylus can be used as a remote trigger, allowing you to trigger photos and video captures.
And just as it was on the old Note phones, once you’ve finished with the light and powerful S Pen, you stick it back inside the body of the phone to keep it safe and ready for use again whenever you need it.
It’s one of the best features on the device and one you miss when you switch back to a traditional handset.
But even if you are one of those people who may not use the stylus that much, you are still getting the best Android handset on the planet right now if you buy S22 Ultra. Read on…
Design and build
The stylish fusion of metal and glass could be described as minimal and the squared off corners remind me of the Note 20 Ultra.
Unlike Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max, the S22 Ultra includes slightly curved edges so the phone sits more comfortably in your palm.
There is no housing or mount surrounding the lenses on the rear camera system as one would traditionally find.
But the polished metal finish around each lens demonstrates the level of attention to detail given to the device’s design and build.
This is a big phone. At 229g it weighs almost as much as iPhone 13 Pro Max. And it is 8.9mm thick.
I rarely stick my phones in jeans or trouser pockets, but this does still slot in neatly if required.
I’ve been using it with a Samsung flip cover which levels off the lenses on the rear and means the phone never wobbles on a table when typing/texting or using the stylus.
If you choose to go without a case, the device is protected on the front and rear by the toughest Gorilla Glass Victus.
It’s got the best display that delivers a vivid and detailed experience every time you pick up the phone and use it.
The large and dazzling 6.8in AMOLED screen sports 3088x1440 (WQHD+) resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate for silky smooth scrolling.
The 120Hz display also includes improved LTPO tech that aids battery life thanks to the ability to shift from 1Hz to 120Hz intelligently without affecting performance.
It is also one of the brightest smartphone displays I have ever used.
In standard use it can reach up to 1250 nits of brightness. There is also a brightness boosted mode that is ideal for use in direct sunlight. It raises the bar to an incredible 1750 nits.
And you get Vision Booster tech which automatically adjusts the brightness and colour depending on your ambient lighting conditions.
From my testing, S22 Ultra lives up to its billing as one of the best phones ever for photos and videos, with an outstanding 108MP wide angle sensor and super sharp 10x optical zoom among the four rear cameras.
You also get a 12MP 120-degree ultrawide and 3x telephoto lens.
On the main 108MP shooter, the impressive 2.4μm pixel size combined with the f/1.8 aperture translates to superb low-light photography.
There are enhanced AI capabilities and improvements to the OIS (optical image stabilisation) and portrait mode.
Overall, Samsung has enhanced the software greatly and its post-processing, aka computational photography, is now on a par with both Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and Google Pixel 6 Pro, the most consistently reliable smartphone cameras.
S22 Ultra shots deliver plenty of detail, contrast and dynamic range with vibrant – if occasionally over-saturated – colours.
Samsung’s pixel-binning tech on the 108MP lens is called Adaptive Pixel and it takes a pixel-binned shot (that combines nine pixels into one for superior image light, contrast and detail) and then blends that with a full 108MP resolution image so you get the best of both worlds – in an instant.
Much is often made of Samsung’s 100x space zoom, or digital zoom, but it’s not something I have ever used apart from when I first tested the device for its initial review.
But shots captured at both 3x and 10x are outstanding. (Lest we forget, this dual zoom approach was first introduced by Huawei, a company whose innovations the smartphone market is missing.)
S22 Ultra’s 40MP punch-hole selfie camera is in the top centre of the screen and is barely noticeable. But it captures some of the best quality selfies you can get on a smartphone.
Video capture is the smoothest and sharpest yet from Samsung. The 8K footage captured on the rear camera at 24 frames per second (fps) with OIS is fantastic.
It’s great being able to switch lenses easily and pause your recordings as you film.
You can also shoot video at 4K 60fps on the selfie camera.
The Exynos 2200 4nm processor can take anything you can throw at it with ease, even intensive gaming.
Apps load instantly, there’s almost no lag or stutter and games run fluidly, even higher-end titles with demanding graphics such as Genshin Impact.
My review unit had 12GB of the latest LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of storage. (You can also buy an S22 Ultra with 128GB storage and 8GB RAM but I’d recommend going for a higher spec model.)
Benchmarks show that the Exynos chip is not as fast as the Snapdragon Gen 1 found in competitors’ flagships such as OPPO Find X5 Pro and Xiaomi 12 Pro.
That Snapdragon chip, incidentally, is also used in the S22 Ultra devices sold outside of Europe in markets such as the U.S.
In real world use, it is hard for even a smartphone reviewer like me to tell the difference in power and speed between the two chips.
And the benchmarks also show the Exynos chip is more battery efficient, adding an hour of screen-on time.
So there’s no need to feel cheated if you buy a European S22 Ultra but it is baffling that Samsung still employs different processors for different parts of the world when year in, year out it’s such an easy stick for reviewers to beat the company with.
The S22 Ultra runs Android 12 with Samsung’s excellent One UI 4.1 skin over the top.
The photo and video editing functions are brilliant.
The firm loses points for the frustrating attempt to force you into using many of its own apps (such as Messages and Calendar) which offer the same services as Google apps also installed. This is a downside to all Samsung mobile devices.
It also loses some points for Bixby, the digital voice assistant that I and many others never use.
But these are minor quibbles and overall the S22 Ultra performance is as fast, fluid and premium as you could wish for.
Galaxy S22 Ultra sports a massive battery which regularly lasts me from 8am to midnight with some juice remaining in the tank.
It still goes to sleep well before the current battery king, iPhone 13 Pro.
Like all phones you can drain the power pack quickly enough when engaged in some activities such as prolonged gaming sessions or GPS use.
The Ultra has a 5000mAh battery that supports up to 45w wired charging which means you can refuel at a rapid rate if not as quickly as with some competitors’ devices.
There is 15w wireless charging support too, far behind the 50W wireless charging available with OPPO and OnePlus flagships.
But there is no wired charger in the box.
The slim device has IP68 water resistance rating and 5G support.
It comes with the latest 5G connectivity, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, ultra-wide-band (UWB) tech and NFC for digital payments.
There is a fast and reliable ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the screen, and face unlock too.
My review model was 256GB. I’d recommend buying the 512GB if you plan to shoot lots of photos and video.
There is up to 1TB of storage available too, but it does not seem to be currently on sale in the Samsung store in Ireland.
The firm promises to ‘up to four generations’ of Android OS updates and security updates, which should see the Galaxy S22 Ultra supported up to Android 16.
Galaxy S22 Ultra is available in a range of colours including Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green and Burgundy.
Since it arrived in February, Samsung Galaxy Ultra 22 has been the phone every other Android device has to beat in 2022.
And six months later, none of them have.
OPPO Find X5 Pro comes agonisingly close - which is great from a relative newcomer - and there have been excellent flagships released by OnePlus and Xiaomi too but none of these competitors' devices ticks as many boxes as the S22 Ultra which is the most complete smartphone of 2022.
You get a breath-taking display, premium build, blazing fast performance, impressive battery life, cameras that are among the best on a smartphone – and the unique and incredible S Pen.
S22 Ultra is not perfect. No smartphone ever is. I’d like to see much faster wired and wireless charging, for example. But it sure is close to perfect.
All of this tech goodness comes at a high price, but you'll not be disappointed.
Pricing and availability
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costs €1399 for the reviewed 256GB/12GB model. You can also buy a 128GB/8GB model for €1299; 512GB/12GB model for €1499.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra key specs (model reviewed)
Dimensions: 77.9mm x 163.3mm x 8.9mm
Display: 6.8in AMOLED, WQHD+ resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
Chip: Exynos 2200
OS: Android 12 with One UI 4.1
Charging : 45W wired, 15W wireless
Rear cameras: 108MP, f/1.8, OIS wide angle; 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide; 10MP, f/2.4, OIS 3x zoom telephoto; 10MP, f/4.9, OIS 10x zoom telephoto
Front camera: 40MP, f/2.2
Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, UWB, NFC
Water and dust resistance: IP68 rated
Gorilla Glass: Victus+
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