This year’s Galaxy S flagships are here, and this time around there’s a notable difference between the devices. That’s because the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has inbuilt S-Pen support, with a place to stow the stylus inside its body.
It’s a Galaxy Note in all but name, replacing Samsung’s other flagship while bringing the best of the Galaxy S along. Starting from $1,199.99, the Galaxy S22 Ultra keeps the same price as last year’s S21 Ultra.
Is keeping the price static going to be enough, in an era of economic uncertainty? Will the Note faithful flock to the new device under another name? What will the latest processor do to battery life?
We’ve been scouring the internet to see what reviewers are saying, so keep reading if you’ve been on the fence about snagging the new Samsung phone.
Galaxy S22 Ultra camera
Smartphone cameras are ridiculously good now, so any flagship device should create great shots. The four sensors on the back of the S22 Ultra bring a 108MP main sensor, 12MP ultra-wide, and two 10MP telephoto lenses to the party.
With most smartphones using the same sensors, the software is the key so let us see what Samsung managed this year.
Android Central says Samsung “further improved its software,” which led to a tie with the Google Pixel 6 Pro over six photo testing categories. The tiebreaker was won by the S22 Ultra, as it has “superior video capture.”
The image quality is helped by Samsung doing Nona-binning on the 108MP sensor. That essentially uses 9 pixels to average into one, creating 12MP images. Photos are still slightly behind the Pixel 6 Pro, proving that Google is still ahead of everyone in computational photography.
The Verge says the software-based improvements are great, except for night photography which is “fine, just not as impressive.” Again, Google is probably still the best choice for night dwellers.
CNET takes time to call out Samsung’s zoom prowess as the main camera advantage they have. That said, do you really need to zoom 100 times on your photographs? The feature is cool, but I bet most users won’t use it consistently.
Take some Notes, it’s S-Pen time
The biggest change to the S22 Ultra this year isn’t the design, it’s the stowed S-Pen. Stylus fans will find loads to love here, with the S22 Ultra designed around notetaking in all forms.
Mashable notes that unlocking the S-Pen when the display is turned off opens the Samsung Notes app instantly. That’s pretty useful.
Inc. spent most of their time waxing lyrical about the S-Pen, even though it’s “controversial.” Maybe that’s the point, as the S22 Ultra has one feature that no other smartphone on the market has. That’s a big thing, in a crowded market all using the same processors, screens, and camera modules.
If you’re a Note fan and were sad when Samsung killed off the name, The Washington Post says “this is the phone for you.” It’s only really a big deal if you already like using a stylus though, as Samsung has woven it into every aspect of the phone’s software.
And the rest…
Flagship devices get flagship processors, and Samsung went with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor for the US, and the Samsung/AMD produced Exynos 2200 everywhere else. Most of the reviews are for the Snapdragon-powered device, as US outlets always get more coverage options.
Yes, you get 5G on both options, with mmWave and all the other bands. Powering that is 8GB of RAM on the 128GB storage option, or 12GB on the 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB options.
The Washington Post says “speed won’t be an issue.” I mean, you’d expect that from any flagship device but it’s nice to say it out loud. The only thing they note is that the Ultra gets “surprisingly warm” when you’re doing multiple things.
Big processors need big batteries so you’re not lugging around a similarly big charging brick all day. The 5,000 mAh battery in the S22 Ultra is the same size as last year, but the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 isn’t as efficient as last year’s flagship processor.
Last year’s S21 Ultra was “a two-day phone” for anyone that’s not a tech reviewer, according to The Verge. This year, their testing of the S22 Ultra drained the battery to 50-percent on “days of lighter use” and down to 20-percent on days that resemble “power user” usage. Ouch, but we all tend to charge our devices at the end of the day, right?
The design definitely leans towards its Note roots
The S22 Ultra looks more like a Galaxy Note, and that’s a good thing. Squared-off edges and rounded sides give it enough space to fit the S-Pen inside the body.
The WQHD+ resolution AMOLED screen with 120 Hz adaptive refresh is gorgeous, as you’d expect when Samsung supplies most of the other smartphone manufacturers as well. Android Central notes that Vision Booster, which pumps out 1750 nits of brightness, means you’ll never have trouble seeing your screen.
Oh, it’s worth picking up a protective case to go with your S22 Ultra, as Mashable calls it “quite slippery.”
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is not perfect
With all of its technical prowess, the Galaxy S22 Ultra does have a couple of major issues out of the gate. First up is a display bug that only seems to affect those handsets using the Exynos processor with AMD graphics. That’s the processor that everyone but the US gets, FYI.
When the bug shows up it puts a glitched-out band across the display, as you can see in this Reddit post or the YouTube video below. It only seems to happen when the screen is in 1440p resolution mode, coupled with the natural color setting.
If you’ve got a Galaxy S22 Ultra and are noticing the issue; Samsung says to use Vivid color mode and FHD for resolution until they can issue a software patch. At least it’s not a hardware fault like it was for the Galaxy S20.
The other issue is more of a disappointment. GSMArena tested out the 45W charging of the S22 Ultra, and it seems like something is wrong here. They tested the handset with a trio of chargers; Samsung’s older 25W, the included 45W, and a 65W PD. The charging time to full was within minutes for all three chargers.
Samsung has again been in this situation before. It misrepresented 45W charging back when the Galaxy Note 10 Plus was launched.
The mentions of 45W charging disappeared at that time. Will Samsung quietly remove it from marketing materials this time around? The silver lining here is that any 25W and higher charger will suffice.
Some final words
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the Galaxy Note that we always wanted. It’s the best of both of Samsung’s best lines, even if it has a couple of minor issues at launch.
CNET – “Only worth upgrading if you have a phone that’s at least two years old”
The Verge – “If you’re someone who would get the most out of the Ultra, you probably already know it.”
Android Authority – “It’s not quite the perfect phone I had expected going in, but it might just be the perfect phone for you this year.”
The Washington Post – “Thoughtful, not thrilling”
Inc. – “This device is as not-iPhone as it gets.”
Mashable – “Proof every phone should have a ‘pen’”
Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.
Just a heads up, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale. It’s one of the ways we keep the lights on here. Click here for more.