Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: The best of two Galaxies

For all goals and purposes, the S22 Ultra is a new Galaxy Note. It has the same rectangular shape, the same onboard S Pen, and the same long list of top-tier specifications. With the S22 Ultra, Samsung introduces the S Pen, which has long been a hallmark of the Note series, to a broader audience.

Samsung is consolidating its top-tier products by merging the two lines, bringing together the most popular features from across its portfolio. That’s not to say the S22 Ultra isn’t updated; Samsung updated the camera, display, and software features this year as well.

It’s strange to be reviewing a phone that’s supposed to be new but feels so old. If you’ve been missing the Note series, this will be a welcome return. However, if you’re just looking for a new Galaxy S flagship, the S Pen won’t be enough of an upgrade. Fortunately, Samsung promises display and camera upgrades that could make the S22 Ultra even better than its predecessor.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Pros

  • Bright and colorful display
  • Helpful S Pen with onboard slot
  • Solid cameras
  • Exclusive screen sharing feature on Google Duo (for now)

Cons

  • Some new features are underwhelming
  • Relatively short battery life

Design

The design of the S22 Ultra differs from that of the previous year’s model. The S22 Ultra is essentially a Note 20 Ultra clone, which differs from the S21 Ultra’s rounder silhouette. The two handsets are nearly identical in appearance and feel, with the same rectangular shape, curved edges, and matte brushed metal finish.

The S Pen slot is also located on the left side of the bottom edge. You wouldn’t be able to tell that the S22 Ultra is slightly wider, shorter, and thicker than the Note if I didn’t tell you the exact dimensions. The S22 Ultra, on the other hand, is about 21 grams (or 0.74 ounces) heavier.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Display and audio

The screen on the S22 Ultra is luxurious, as is typical of Samsung devices. Because of its peak brightness of 1,750 nits, its 6.8-inch Super AMOLED panel is colorful, bright, and easy to read in the sun. The S22 Ultra, like previous Galaxy flagships, refreshes at 120Hz, resulting in a smooth scrolling experience.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung introduced “Vision Booster” this year to ensure users can see what’s on their phones regardless of lighting conditions. The feature is supposed to activate when it detects you are in direct sunlight or in extremely dark environments, adjusting not only the display brightness but also its color and contrast. For it to work, you must enable adaptive brightness.

S Pen

The onboard S Pen is another feature of the S22 Ultra that is reminiscent of the Note. The main distinction between the S Pens on the S22 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra this year is the improved latency of 2.8 milliseconds (down from 9ms). This means you’ll get an improved version of an already responsive writing experience, as well as Samsung’s handy handwriting recognition software in the Notes app.


When you remove the S Pen from its slot, Samsung displays a list of suggested functions, allowing you to quickly do things like creating a note or selecting a portion of your screen to screenshot and draw on.

Three screenshots showing some handwriting on the Samsung Note app with an orange outline around some of the writing and a box at the bottom showing the words the system recognized.

Cameras

The S22 Ultra has the same camera configuration as the S21 Ultra, with a 108-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel ultrawide option, and a pair of 10-megapixel telephoto lenses.

This year’s additions include auto-framing and improved video stabilization in videos, improved stereo depth mapping for more accurate portrait blur, and something Samsung calls Adaptive Pixel.

This combines high-resolution images from the 108-MP sensor with a photo taken with nona-binning for larger pixels to capture more light, resulting in brighter images with crisp detail.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

In reality, Adaptive Pixel is difficult to identify, and the results may not be worth the effort. To begin, set the S22 Ultra to shoot at the highest resolution possible, and then, when the system detects that you are shooting in low light, it performs background stitching. There is no way to tell if Adaptive Pixel is active; there are no user-facing indicators.

The S22 Ultra’s 40-MP front-facing camera is also similar to the S21 Ultra’s. However, Samsung claims to have improved its stereo depth mapping system for more accurate bokeh effects in portraits, and from my experience, it appears to be effective.

When compared to selfies taken with the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung’s flagship was just as good at distinguishing. . Previous Samsung cameras produced somewhat artificial and awkward-looking portraits, but the S22 Ultra produces more natural-looking bokeh this time around.

Samsung software exclusives

The S22 series receives a customized version of the Duo video calling app, which exclusively enables new screen sharing and auto framing features, thanks to a collaboration with Google.
Samsung also added the auto-framing feature from its camera app to Duo, so you can keep your face centered while on the phone.

In addition, Samsung provides a “collaboration view” feature that enables you to use your S22 handset as a second screen for a Tab S8. For example, once you open Samsung Notes on the tablet and click the phone icon in the top right (both devices must be connected to the same WiFi), feel free to use your S22 as a secondary menu or control panel for control.

As with previous Samsung flagships, you can quickly share content to other nearby Galaxy devices and connect to your laptop via Link To Windows. One UI 4.0 also includes new color palettes and themes that permeate the entire system, similar to Material You on Android 12, allowing you to refresh your interface whenever you want.

Performance and battery life

The S22 series is one of the first flagships to use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processors, and you can expect the premium processors to perform quickly. The battery life of the S22 Ultra dropped from 75 percent when it was taken out of its box at noon to just 20 percent by the evening.

The S22 Ultra’s time of 17 hours and 16 minutes beat the Pixel 6 Pro by three minutes, but it was hours behind the S21 Ultra’s time of 21 hours and 42 minutes. It’s possible that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 uses less power than its predecessor.

Wrap-up

Those of you who are Note fans will enjoy this reunion. The main improvements for those coming from a Note 20 Ultra will be in the cameras and software, and given that phone is nearly two years old, you’ll be grateful for the updated specs.

However, if you’ve never held a Galaxy Note before, the update may be a welcome refresh. The S22 Ultra is now, more than ever, the phone for the most demanding power users, thanks to the addition of the S Pen.

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