Even if not by name, the Galaxy Note is returning in a big way. With a large frame, powerful technology, long battery life, and, of course, a built-in S Pen stylus, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra (beginning at $1,199.99) has all the trademark attributes of the Note family. The new model outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra from last year, as well as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (although marginally), and is a good pick for anyone looking for the most phone imaginable. However, of the three Galaxy S22 versions, we prefer the S22+ since it offers much of the same capabilities as the Ultra at a lesser price and in a more manageable size.
SAMSUNG GALAXY S22 ULTRA SPECS
|Operating System||Android 12|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
|Dimensions||6.43 by 3.07 by 0.35 inches|
|Screen Size||6.8 inches|
|Screen Resolution||3,088 by 1,440 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||108MP, 12MP, 10MP, 10MP; 40MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||12 hours, 14 minutes|
The Curves of a Big Body
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is available in a variety of configurations, including 8GB RAM with 128GB storage ($1,199.99) and 12GB RAM with 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB storage ($1,599.99). It’s worth noting that the 1TB model looks to be limited to Best Buy. Matte black, burgundy, green, or white are the available colors for the phone.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra, despite its moniker, is inspired by the Galaxy Note series. Galaxy Note models often have squared-off top and bottom edges with curved, waterfall sides, whereas Galaxy S smartphones have softer curves. The S22 Ultra is broader than the 2.98-inch S21 Ultra (to accommodate the S pen) and weights the same at 6.43 by 3.07 by 0.35 inches (HWD) and 8.08 ounces.
On the back of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra are camera bumps that hold all of the lenses. On the other hand, the Galaxy S22 Ultra uses a slew of sharp-edged lenses. This modification bothers me because they appear to be primed to catch on or scratch objects.
While the phone is dust and water resistant, you should get a case for it—after putting the S22 Ultra in my pocket with a few other phones for many days, the matte black finish is already scratched. My Galaxy S20+ was similarly easily scratched, however the Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra have fared significantly better. Samsung claims to be employing a new, super-tough Gorilla Glass Victus+ here, so this damage surprises me.
The 6.8-inch screen on the S22 Ultra boasts a resolution of 3,088 by 1,440 pixels, which you may lower to 2,316 by 1,080 or even 1,544 by 720 to save battery life. The panel is especially appropriate for outdoor use, with a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits and an algorithm that varies not only brightness but also screen contrast under sunlight.
To save battery life, the screen offers a variable frame rate that runs from 1Hz to 120Hz. You can manually set it to 60Hz, but adaptive mode should reduce the refresh rate as much as possible. The Galaxy S22 and S22+ versions, by comparison, feature 48Hz to 120Hz screens. That disparity in minimum refresh rates likely provides the Ultra an advantage, as I detail in the battery section below.
The S22 Ultra, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, sports an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. The Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 was used in the S21 Ultra, and it is a bit uneven in daily use. Although the S22 appears to have the same technology as the S20, the sensor is more reliable. With the S21 Ultra, I had roughly a 50% success rate unlocking the phone with 10 fingertip and side-of-finger touches, however the S22 Ultra accurately identified every attempt. Face recognition is also supported for unlocking the phone.
The S22 is the first phone in the United States to include Qualcomm’s X65 modem, which will also be found in the OnePlus 10 Pro and Apple’s iPhone 14 lineups. We put the X65 through its paces in low-signal environments and discovered that it outperforms last year’s models in terms of weak-signal reception.
Samsung treats the official list of frequency bands that the S22 Ultra supports like a top-secret government document. When you install a SIM card, the phone reconfigures itself and only displays the bands that each carrier wishes to support.
The phone does, however, support all current 4G and 5G bands from US carriers. Samsung also confirmed to Cnet that this will be the first phone to handle AT&T’s new 3.45GHz band, which the carrier plans to employ later this year to offer faster, C-band-like speeds and coverage to more of the US.
There are at least six Galaxy S22 Ultra models available worldwide:
- The one in the United States ends in a “U” (sold by carriers) or “U1” (unlocked). This model includes millimeter-wave 5G as well as all existing US carrier technologies.
- A “W” model is shown on Samsung’s Canadian website. This version has been quite comparable to the US model in past years, although lacking millimeter-wave 5G. In this scenario, I am unable to confirm that distinction.
- According to a firmware dump on cacombos.com, the “B” variant, which is sold in Europe, has the Samsung Exynos processor and Shannon modem (Opens in a new window). This model appears to have significantly less 5G bands than the others, however this could be a cacombos error.
- The Qualcomm chipset is used in an Asian “E” variant (Opens in a new window) that supports a far greater variety of 5G bands, but not millimeter-wave.
- For South Korea, Geekbench displays a “N” model(Opens in a new window).
As is customary, we recommend purchasing the model that is appropriate for your region, as different models may support different frequency bands and features. (For example, AT&T may not support Wi-Fi calling on non-“U” devices.) If you’re buying from Amazon or B&H, double-check the model number because those vendors frequently mix up gray-market phones with US models.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra‘s Wi-Fi performance is comparable. The Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 Wi-Fi chipset is used in both devices, and it supports Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. In some situations, the Galaxy S22 Ultra outperformed the S21 Ultra, while in others, the converse was true.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 offers exceptional performance, battery life, and call quality.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU from Qualcomm doesn’t offer a significant performance boost over the Snapdragon 888 processor from last year. In comparison to last year’s model, our benchmarks reveal a 9 percent to 13 percent increase in CPU performance and a 20% increase in GPU performance. That’s a noticeable improvement, but aside from improved S Pen performance (which I detail further below), the phone doesn’t feel much more alive than the S21 or the Note 20 Ultra. In a handful of benchmark tests, it also trails the iPhone 13 series.
Performance may be hampered by thermal concerns. Under heavy use, the S22 Ultra throttled faster and harder than the S21 Ultra, which helps to explain the minor difference between the two. However, in demanding games like Genshin Impact, I didn’t notice any frame drops, and the phone is noticeably more powerful than a Galaxy S9 or S10 model.
The large 5,000mAh cell provides excellent battery life. With the screen at 100% brightness, I achieved 12 hours and 14 minutes on a video rundown test. The phone lasted 13 hours and 35 minutes at 75 percent brightness, which is an hour longer than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy Note S20 Ultra. The Galaxy S22+ is likewise an hour and a half ahead of it. I believe the screen refresh rate is at least somewhat to blame for this advantage.
However, no contemporary Android phone compares to any of the iPhone 13 models—the iPhone 13 Pro Max, for example, lasted 18 hours. Now, I’m not convinced that the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 50% longer battery life than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Instead, I believe the difference is due to the fact that we employ separate testing programs for Android and iOS; the Android one may utilize more power. As a result, the battery table below only includes other Samsung phones.
With Samsung’s promised substantially increased charging pace, I didn’t detect much of a difference. A Samsung 45W charger took 75 minutes to fully charge the phone, whereas a Samsung 22W charger took 84 minutes. That’s a tad speedier, but nowhere near as fast as the OnePlus 9 Pro, which can charge completely in under an hour. Samsung appears to be cautious about not overcharging the phone, which could explain why the phone charges to 24 percent in the first 15 minutes but takes another 15 minutes to reach 100 percent. It also offers 15W wireless charging and reverse charging in addition to wired charging.
When it comes to conversing on the phone, premium devices like the S22 Ultra have had the same call quality for years. For the finest call quality, all top-of-the-line smartphones support the EVS codec and have loud enough speakers.
However, there are various settings on the phone that can benefit persons with minor hearing loss. The S22 Ultra, like previous Samsung phones, has a Personal Audio Test mode that works with wired or Bluetooth headphones to increase frequencies you can’t hear, as well as an Ambient Sound Amplification mode that records sound through the phone’s mic and sends it to your headphones.
Compatibility with hearing aids may take some time. The Android 12 software is still causing problems for major hearing aid makers, and they need more time to test and certify their equipment. If compatibility is vital to you, don’t upgrade right away.
Features of the Galaxy S22 Ultra Software
The phone comes with Android 12 with Samsung’s One UI overlay, with Android 16 (Opens in a new window) promised as an upgrade (with security updates through the Android 17 cycle). That’s a good advantage, but keep in mind that because Samsung works with telecom carriers, upgrades can take a long time to arrive.
One new feature I like is that the phone now defaults to Google Messages rather than Samsung Messages, and RCS conversation functions are enabled by default on my test phone. If the carriers don’t muck it up, Samsung owners will be able to enjoy the read receipts and typing indicators that iMessage users have had for years.
Aside from that, Samsung’s integration with Microsoft’s Your Phone app on Windows PCs is worth mentioning; I’ve been using it for months and love it. It allows you to respond to text messages, drag and drop files, and mirror your PC’s programs. It’s the Windows equivalent of Apple’s Continuity function.
It’s all about the S Pen.
The S Pen is a one-of-a-kind feature. Artists, for example, adore it. While add-on styli are available for other devices, the S Pen is built right into the body of the S22 Ultra, making it more harder to misplace and always ready to use. However, the integrated stylus is a major reason why the S22 Ultra is larger than the S21 Ultra. If you don’t utilize it, the added bulk can be tough to ignore.
The new S Pen is the same size and form as the S Pen that came with the Note 20. It has a pointed, flexible tip and is flat on the sides with a single button in the middle. However, the body material is different—the S Pen on the Note 20 Ultra was firm and polished, whereas this one is matte and squishy.
The latency of the S Pen has been lowered from 9ms on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to 2.8ms on this model, according to Samsung. I was doubtful at first that I would notice a change, but the stylus on the S22 Ultra feels more responsive. Samsung claims to utilize an AI algorithm to forecast where you’ll write before you do, so instead of following your pen like the Note 20, the S22 Ultra‘s ink nearly before it.
Capabilities of the Galaxy S22’s Ultra Camera
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the same imaging capabilities as its predecessor. That’s a 12MP ultra-wide camera on the front, a 108MP main camera that usually produces 12MP photographs with nine-pixel binning on the rear, a 10MP 3x zoom, and a 10MP 10x zoom on the front. There’s also a 40MP front-facing camera with four-pixel binning that typically captures 10MP photographs. The phone’s primary camera can take up to 8K video while the front camera can shoot 4K video.
Samsung claims that its low-light imaging skills have improved so substantially that the experience is now known as “nightography.” That, in my opinion, vastly overstates the case. In low light, the S22 outperforms the S21, but not by much.
The S22 has a higher depth of field, more vivid colors, and less lens flare than the S21 Ultra in low-light images. However, the night mode doesn’t operate any faster—capturing an image still takes two to three seconds—and the 10x zoom lens still provides incredibly dark results at night. After all, it uses an f/4.9 lens, which lets in far less light than the f/1.8 main lens or the f/2.4 3x lens.
In daylight, Samsung’s proclivity for boosting hues is even more apparent than with the S21 series. Although you may prefer this style, iPhone 13 devices create photographs with more realistic hues. However, the S22 handles shadows better than the S21.
To my non-photographer eyes, all of these upgrades are minor, and they don’t advance image capabilities as much as previous phone generations have. Upgrading from the S10 to the S20 Ultra gave you a real night mode that was perceptible, while moving from the S20 Ultra to the S21 Ultra gave you substantial increases in focus quality and a useable 10x zoom lens. This time, I’m just not seeing as much improvement. If you upgrade from a Note 20 Ultra, which just offers a single 5x zoom, you’ll gain a significant zoom boost.
See our full camera testing of the Galaxy S22 series for additional information.
Should You Get the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra?
For the past year, I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as my primary phone. If you already own a Galaxy S21 Ultra or a Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, I don’t understand why you should spend $1,200 or more on the S22 Ultra right now. Yes, the new model offers many incremental improvements, but there are no game-changing additions.
The S22 Ultra can be purchased with greater confidence by previous Galaxy Note users who have been hanging around for a long, or anyone else searching for the S Pen or the 10x zoom camera. The S Pen is as fun as ever, and the 10x camera performs at least as well as the S21 Ultra‘s.
In terms of size and pricing, the $799 Galaxy S22 is on the opposite extreme of the Galaxy S range, but I believe most people will choose the $999 Galaxy S22+. The S22+ has many of the same features as the S22 Ultra, such as improved connection, long battery life, and a super-bright screen, but it lacks the S Pen and 10x zoom. In the end, it’s probably more suitable for a wider range of people than the little S22 or the maximalist S22 Ultra.