The Note that isn’t a Note, yet it may very well end up being the last Note – Samsung‘s Galaxy S22 Ultra has some big shoes to fill. Attempting to appeal to both productivity-focused stylus lovers and photography enthusiasts, the latest Ultra will either be the ultimate phone, period, or fall short for either group in some way. We’re here to find out which one is it.
The S Pen fans will have little to complain about on the face of it. The S22 Ultra has the same stylus as the Note20 Ultra and, like a true Note, it has a silo for keeping the thing inside the phone – none of that carry-it-separately-until-you-inevitably-lose-it nonsense with the S21 Ultra. The significant improvements in latency also sound promising, not that the old one was bad.
The camera crowd shouldn’t be disappointed either. You’re getting the same quad setup as the S21 Ultra (in principle, at least) and includes a couple of telephotos reaching all the way to 10x zoom, as well as an autofocusing ultrawide (that Samsung insists on keeping exclusive to the Ultra). That’s in addition to the big-sensor nona-binning 108MP main camera, of course.
The lengthy specsheet (summarized below) includes what appears to be the brightest display on a smartphone to date, latest chipsets from Qualcomm or Samsung (depending on locale, as usual), a 1TB storage option (next to a 128GB base tier not befitting the UItra’s stature), and a bump in battery capacity and rated charging power (we’ll see about that).
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G specs at a glance:
- Body: 163.3×77.9×8.9mm, 228g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus+), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus+), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins), Armour aluminum frame with tougher drop and scratch resistance (advertised).
- Display: 6.80″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1750 nits (peak), 1440x3088px resolution, 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 500ppi; Always-on display.
- Chipset: Exynos 2200 (4 nm) – Europe, Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4 nm) – Rest of the world.
- Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM, 512GB 12GB RAM, 1TB 12GB RAM; UFS 3.1 .
- OS/Software: Android 12, One UI 4.1.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 108 MP, f/1.8, 23mm, 1/1.33″, 0.8µm, PDAF, Laser AF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120˚, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm, 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/4.9, 230mm, 1/3.52″, 1.12µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom.
- Front camera: 40 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/2.82″, 0.7µm, PDAF.
- Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
- Battery: 5000mAh; Fast charging 45W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); NFC; Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified), Ultra Wideband (UWB) support; Stylus, 2.8ms latency (Bluetooth integration, accelerometer, gyro).
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra unboxing
The S22 Ultra ships in a black cardboard box that’s now even smaller than before (the environment appreciates it) with a stylized number ’22’ on the lid and a sparkly ‘S’ in a color to match the actual paintjob of the phone inside.
High-end Galaxy unboxings have become simple tasks over the past couple of years since bundled chargers became a thing of the past – the flipside of the slimline box. Inside it, you’ll find the bare minimum – a USB-C cable and a SIM eject tool, and the phone itself. But what a phone it is.
If you’re eyeing up the Galaxy S22 Ultra, consider yourself lucky – obvious alternatives don’t exist and if the latest ultimate Samsung does it for you, no other phone will. Because the S22 Ultra is both the Note that didn’t happen last year, and the S Ultra that was always coming this Spring. As such, it is, indeed, everything to everyone – or, at least, most things to most people. But just telling you to pick up the Ultra without giving it much thought would be lazy reviewing and we only do that in the peak of summer, so let’s see what your options are.
The last Note by name, the 20 Ultra (rumor has it that there was also a non-Ultra Note in 2020, but nobody has seen it), is dated. It has a two-year-old chipset inside, and even when it came out, it wasn’t cutting-edge in terms of camera hardware. Sure, it does have what is essentially the same S Pen as this year’s model, but we’re not ones to condone buying a 2020 smartphone in 2022, flagship as it may have been at the time.
At 12-months-old, the S21 Ultra just barely passes the relevance test, so we might allow it. Its camera hardware may be superior in some obscure minor ways, but its output, in general, is not, so if the most capable Samsung cameraphone is needed, the S21 Ultra doesn’t cut it. Plus, it’s just a pretend-Note – it supports an S Pen, but has nowhere to store it, so what are the odds that you carry it on your person every time you need it.
You could say the same thing about the Galaxy Z Fold3 and its accessory S Pen. But if productivity is truly why the S22 Ultra is on top of your list, then maybe allowances could be made for the foldable that has 57% more screen area on just one of its screens (consider the other as a bonus), all the while being a mere 19% heavier. The Fold can’t quite compete with the Ultra for camera prowess though, so it’s looking like a classic case of ‘win some, lose some’.
You’d be winning in image quality if you go for another Ultra, the Mi 11 Ultra, even if that one isn’t exactly brand new either. Close to a year after its release, it remains our favorite cameraphone, and if that’s higher on your list than a stylus, it may be well worth tracking a Mi down (they’re not too widely available). There’s also the Mi 12 bunch that should be arriving soon, but we don’t know much about a possible next-gen Mi Ultra.
Last on this list is the iPhone 13 Pro Max, simply because the latest and best Galaxy is always going to be compared to the latest and best that Apple has put out. The Pro Max has neither the camera versatility, nor the stylus of the S22 Ultra, so that makes it somewhat of a tough sell if camera versatility and a stylus are what you’re after the Galaxy for, but iPhones can tickle people in odd and not exactly quantifiable ways.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is in such a market segment that the concept of value doesn’t necessarily apply to it and affect purchasing decisions. So the €1250/$1200 price is little more than just a number.
But the Ultra does, in fact, provide a lot of value. An upmarket phone with a stylus is essentially a Samsung-exclusive offering – competing efforts from Apple, Google, Xiaomi, Oppo, or Huawei simply do not exist. This is the latest and most powerful one and it can carry that S Pen inside it unlike the Fold or last year’s Ultra, so it’s unique even in Samsung‘s present realm too.
It’s not as clear cut when it comes to the camera, where we could come up with potential alternatives – as good, or maybe a touch superior in this or that. But there’s no denying that the S22 Ultra is a superbly capable all-rounded cameraphone, easily Samsung’s best yet.
It’s properly good when it comes to the fundamentals too, unsurprisingly. The brightest smartphone display we’ve seen excels in all other areas as well, battery life is about as solid as you can expect from a modern-day flagship, the software is refined and feature-rich, the design is understated, yet recognizable and stylish.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra may not have ‘Note’ in its name, but deep inside we know it is one, probably the last of its kind. From our Note-loving hearts and level reviewer heads alike, it’s an easy recommendation.
- Traditional Note design with modern premium touches – big display, boxy shape, curved edges, unique camera styling.
- S Pen has wide-ranging functionality for work and play, is virtually without competition.
- Display is simply spectacular.
- Battery life is pretty great, all things considered.
- Ultra-grade camera system is one of the best on the market, zooming capability is hard to rival.
- S Pen eats up internal volume and adds weight, which isn’t ideal if you’re in for the S Ultra and not the Note Ultra.
- Poorly communicated fast charging capability (actually quite speedy in the Apple-Google-Samsung universe, but others are way faster).
- Isn’t called a Note and that makes us sad.