Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review: The S-erious successor to Note20

The S22 Ultra 5G is the flagship model of Samsung’s latest Galaxy S22 series smartphones. While the other S22 models offer incremental upgrades, the S22 Ultra is the one that stand out due to its close resemblance to the Galaxy Note20 phablet model released in 2020.

SPECS
PRICE: S$1,718 (128GB exclusive on Samsung Store), S$1,858 (256GB), S$1,998 (512GB); available in Lazada and Shopee
PROCESSOR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
DISPLAY: 6.8-inch Super AMOLED, 3,088 x 1,440 pixels
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 12
REAR CAMERAS: 12MP ultra-wide-angle, 108MP wide-angle, 10MP telephoto (3x optical zoom), 10MP telephoto (10x optical zoom)
FRONT CAMERA: 40MP
MEMORY: 128GB/256GB/512GB; 8GB/12GB RAM
BATTERY: Non-removable 5,000mAh
WEIGHT: 229g

In fact, the S22 Ultra does not look like any S series smartphones that came before. It is essentially a doppelgänger of the Note 20 Ultra. Not to mention, the S22 Ultra comes with a built-in S Pen stylus like the Note series. And it is the first S series smartphone to have one.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in black, white and burgundy. (Photo: Samsung)

The S22 Ultra comes in four colours of burgundy (version reviewed), green, black and white. Samsung Online Store will have additional exclusive colours of graphite, sky blue and red. The review unit comes in 128GB storage with 8GB of RAM, while the 256GB and 512GB models come with 12GB of RAM.

DESIGN
If I have the Note20 with me and put it beside the S22 Ultra, I think I would thought they are the same phone. But it is actually a good thing, as the S22 Ultra is such is a fantastic-looking phone.

When you hold it in your hand, it feels a thin sleek slab of display with super-thin bezels, curved sides and a tiny hole-punch front-facing camera.

The S22 Ultra feels great in your hand. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The Ultra’s display has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and to prevent screen tearing when playing games. You can set the display mode between adaptive – which changes the refresh rate automatically to 120Hz depending on content – and standard (60Hz). I think Samsung should have included the 120Hz option. Many, like myself, will prefer being able to set the refresh rate at 120Hz all the time, even if battery life takes a hit.

Regardless, the display looks absolutely gorgeous. Its viewing angles are wide with vivid colours and sharp details. Any content will just look better on it. I really can marvel at the display all day. Not to mention, the S22 Ultra’s rear has a nice matte finish that makes it less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

There is no ugly protruding camera module found in other smartphones in S22 Ultra. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

And unlike the big protruding rear camera module found in Note20 Ultra, the S22 Ultra has none. You can only see tiny lenses protruding out of its rear. This is probably the thinnest camera module you ever see on a flagship smartphone.

CAMERA
The S22 Ultra features almost the same front and rear camera systems as S21 Ultra. In other words, it has the same front-facing hole-punch 40MP camera and the rear quad-camera system of a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, 108MP main wide-angle camera, 10MP telephoto camera (3x optical zoom) and 10MP telephoto camera (10x optical zoom). This offers a very convenient range of focal lengths for you to capture photos near and far.

However, S22 Ultra’s main 108MP camera has a bigger pixel sensor that allows more light to be captured. Thus, it should offer better details and clearer pictures, especially for night photography. By default, the 108MP camera uses pixel-binning technology, which combines nine pixels into one, to produce 12MP photos. The 108MP high-resolution mode must be activated to get 108MP images.

Comparing 108MP and 12MP shots of a scene photographed on the same day, the former looks sharper and more detailed. But the high-resolution photos take up nearly six times more storage space than the normal ones.

Regardless, the ultra-wide-angle and wide-angle photos shot are superb with vivid colours and great dynamic range. Skies will look so much better even if you shot in a cloudy day.

The S22 Ultra cameras produce fantastic-looking photos like this. Shot using S22 Ultra’s main 108MP camera. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

The 3x and 10x optical zoom cameras also produces sharp images in bright sunlight. But you probably do not want to use them in night mode.

Compared to the ultra-wide-angle and wide-angle cameras, the night photos shot by zoom cameras tend to exhibit more noise and discolouration. However, the main camera’s night shots offer fantastic results with light sources in correct exposure and details in shadow areas.

The night shots, like this one, taken with S22 Ultra wide-angle cameras are superb. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Similar to the S22 and S22+, the S22 Ultra has the ability to shoot photos in RAW format. This RAW format allows you to have more latitude and control when editing the photos to get them how you like your images to look.

To do so, you have to download and use Expert RAW app. It is like a camera app but with more controls in photographic parameters like ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

PERFORMANCE
One of the good news with the S22 Ultra is its processor being Qualcomm’s latest flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, instead of Samsung’s less powerful Exynos processor that was usually in most previous S series models in Singapore. As such, you should expect swift and smooth performance from the S22 Ultra.

FOR
+ Great all-round performance
+ Sleek design
+ No rear camera bulge
+ Gorgeous display
+ Convenient 10x optical zoom camera
+ Superb camera performance

AGAINST
– Not cheap
– No option to set display at 120Hz refresh rate
– Lacking 1TB model in Singapore

In the GeekBench 5 benchmarking test, the S22 Ultra scored 1,197 (single-core) and 3,183 (multi-core). While great, I expected the performance to be better. By comparison, Oppo Find X3 Pro scored 934 (single-core) and 3,411 (multi-core) while the Xiaomi 11T Pro has scored 810 (single-core) and 3,331 (multi-core). Both have the same Snapdragon 888 chip.

The review unit does come with only 8GB of RAM, which probably explains the less-than-spectacular performance. Still, none can beat Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max’s scores of 1,737 (single-core) and 4,757 (multi-core).

All apps and games play responsively on the S22 Ultra. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Nonetheless, apps launch quickly and there is no lag in any of the operations I try. Not to mention, the fantastic display makes everything feel butter smooth. For example, playing Pokemon Go on the S22 Ultra has an “accelerated” feel when throwing Pokeball at the virtual critters.

This is equally true when using S22 Ultra’s built-in S Pen stylus. It is said to have a lower latency of 2.6 milliseconds, compared to 9 milliseconds previously. I think the difference is probably too minute for you or me to feel.

All I know is everything works seamlessly from the moment you pull out the S Pen from the phone’s bottom. You can create notes, jotting down your ideas on its unlocked screen and quickly translate text by highlighting them. The S Pen feels really responsive and there are very brush types to choose from.

The S Pen is super smooth to use. (Photo: Trevor Tan)

Unlike the S21 Ultra and Z Fold3, you do not need to get a case to store the S Pen since there is a built-in slot in S22 Ultra to store it. This is just so much more convenient.

My only issue is the lack of a microSD card slot. In other words, there is no expandable storage. In Singapore, there is also no 1TB option unlike in some markets. So if you have plenty of photos and videos like I do, you will find storage to be limited in no time. Especially so if you decide to shoot in RAW format.

BATTERY LIFE
Battery life is pretty good. With its display set at the adaptive refresh rate, the S22 Ultra clocked 14 hours and 16 minutes in our usual video-loop battery test.

While this result might lag behind vivo X70 Pro and Xiaomi 11T Pro (their tests were done in 120Hz refresh rate), it is on par with the likes of Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max and Huawei P50 Pro.

However, battery mileage will depend on your usage habits. For my typical 12-hour work day with regular checking of e-mails, looking through various social media feeds, I find there is usually still around 50 per cent battery power left by the time I go to bed.

VERDICT
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G is probably the most all-rounded Android smartphone in the market right now. It builds on last year’s excellent Galaxy S21 Ultra and fuses it with the now-defunct Note features like the S Pen stylus.

Combined with its sleek design, fast performance, great image quality and convenient 10x optical zoom camera, it is an Ultra winning formula.

RATINGS
FEATURES: 10/10
DESIGN: 10/10
PERFORMANCE: 9/10
BATTERY LIFE: 8/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 9/10
OVERALL: 9.5/10 [SGEEK Editor’s Choice]