The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has been on the market for some time, boasting an ultra-premium experience for users.
But how does the S22 Ultra stand up in everyday usage? Do its performance and capabilities last?
No ad to show here.
We spent several months with the device, using it as a daily driver, and here’s what we can tell you…
If you’re a fan of the Note series, you’ll enjoy the design of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. In a way, it feels separate from the rest of the S22 range and looks like a Note device in everything but name.
Personally, I prefer the look of the S22+, but the Ultra does offer a professional look with a large display. For those who miss the retired Note range, it will be a welcome aesthetic.
The curved edges of the screen also add to the premium appearance, without being so curved that you accidentally trigger accidental touch input when just holding the device. Since the other S22 devices feature flat displays, it’s a welcome addition to the design, making it look more elegant.
However, this large design also comes with its own problems. The wider display, which helps accommodate the embedded S Pen, can be difficult to use one-handed. Occasionally, when typing with one hand, I’ve struggled to reach the other side of the display to select the emoji or numerals button. Using the device with one-handed mode switched on doesn’t solve this much, so you have to be prepared to use the device with two hands at times.
Generally, I prefer the design of the S22 and S22+ more for their pleasing contrast between the camera housing and back cover design.
However, if you prefer a device with a more understated design, you will likely prefer the S22 Ultra’s minimalism.
During everyday tasks, video editing, and gaming, the S22 Ultra performs exceptionally well. The software is responsive, only lagging when switching between intensive apps and games that are running simultaneously.
Closing background apps that are eating up too much RAM usually solves this quickly.
Running the device through the PCMark for Android benchmark resulted in a score of 13 411 for the Work 3.0 test.
The top score for the test is 16 411, putting the S22 Ultra among some of the best-performing devices. Its score puts it among the likes of the Xiaomi 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.
But you can feel the performance of the device past a benchmark score. When playing games that require quick reactions and a display with minimal response lag, the Ultra delivers this performance.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera: Does it match the hype?
While the S22 Ultra has so much going for it, its camera really is a major standout feature.
It stands above the rest of the series and competitors due to its snappy software and ability to take great photos in a variety of modes.
As a worker in media, the zoom capabilities of the device have been a major asset for me.
While the majority of people won’t really use the 100x zoom, the 10x and even 30x zoom make for great pictures.
Some more examples of how the zoom on the @SamsungMobileSA Galaxy S22 Ultra lets you capture images you otherwise would be unable to. I can finally take pictures of birds in my garden, even while sitting far away (last pic shows 1x zoom of tree) #withGalaxy pic.twitter.com/n7cqN7uTHd
— Megan Ellis, Tech Harpy
(@Megg_Ellis) June 17, 2022
Whether you’re trying to capture a photo where the subject is just a little too far away, or you want to zoom in to capture a bird in a tree, the zoom capabilities help you take images you would be unable to on another device. Even at 30x zoom, where there is some digital amplification, the pixelation is minimal. And since the 10x zoom is optical, you’re looking at clear images with no pixelation.
But what about other camera features?
The phone has its 108MP lens for when you want to take high res pictures. But even in auto mode, photos come out clear and crisp with great colour balance.
Here is a photo taken in High Res mode on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Hopefully Twitter doesn't compress it too much
I like that the 108MP lens is able to retain a lot more colour and contrast than previous iterations. pic.twitter.com/4SembF33v1
— Megan Ellis, Tech Harpy
(@Megg_Ellis) July 31, 2022
The 108MP high res mode has improved since its introduction in the S20 Ultra too. The lens is able to retain more colour and contrast, so that the photo doesn’t look washed out. You can also zoom a bit in this mode, adding a bit more flexibility to your shots.
This delivers pictures that you’ll be happy to print out for larger formats, taking full advantage of the higher resolution.
But for daily snaps, you’ll find the standard lenses deliver a seamless experience that performs well in different lighting and with moving subjects.
A few unedited shots from the @SamsungMobileSA Galaxy S22 Ultra. I love how it can really bring out the colour and detail in a scene, making even ordinary moments feel special. #withGalaxy pic.twitter.com/xZC6XuUhyz
— Megan Ellis, Tech Harpy
(@Megg_Ellis) May 23, 2022
The only drawback is that when focusing on a close-up subject, the camera software sometimes switches back and forth between two lenses. While this doesn’t impact photo quality, it does mean it can take a bit longer to focus on the subject.
The camera’s nighttime photography is also exceptional, delivering bright vibrant pictures even in darkness.
Some low light shots from last night at Kloof Street House, taken with the @SamsungMobileSA Galaxy S22 Ultra.
— Megan Ellis, Tech Harpy
(@Megg_Ellis) April 21, 2022
The camera also performs admirably at night when it comes to taking video – so long as you don’t move around too much. If you move, noise and distortion become more apparent. But if you stay still, the picture quality is markedly better, even if the subject is moving.
The S22 Ultra excels in other video recording settings too. Recording 60FPS UHD videos is easy and the device handles the load well. You’ll also be surprised at how well it records when zooming.
For videos in ideal lighting settings, you can expect a great balance of colour, contrast, and detail, as well as quick focusing. Sound is usually good too, but you need to take care not to block the microphone when filming.
The slow motion mode also makes for fun videos, with Samsung improving its performance in different lighting settings. However, the Super Slow Mo mode still requires the utmost ideal lighting, so most users won’t find themselves using it daily.
With all this hardware, you may expect the S22 Ultra to gobble up battery power unforgivingly. However, it lasts well even under heavy workloads and you won’t struggle to get through the day.
Even when I’ve used the device from the early morning to late evening on business trips that require Uber rides, broadcasting audio, connecting to a portable modem, messaging, and even typing up a few documents, the battery lasted.
In our benchmark test with PCMark for Android, the phone lasted over 13 hours. The test takes the phone from 100% charge to 20%. So this means that with battery saving or when using up the last 20%, you still have a bit more time until the battery drains completely.
The phone also supports 45W charging, but you need to buy a separate charging adaptor for this since it doesn’t come in the box. This faster charging is welcome, but only accessible if you’re willing to dish out some extra money or have a compatible charger already.
Since many brands lock their charging to their own devices, don’t expect another manufacturer’s 45W charger to necessarily deliver the same charging speed.
S Pen integration
So what about the S Pen? Does it bring the Note-like experience it promises?
Having the stylus embedded is definitely more convenient than the S21’s separate compatible stylus. This way, you don’t need to keep track of where you put it or purchase a bulky cover.
Since it’s a smart stylus too, if you do misplace it, your phone can help you find it again.
The S Pen works well with the ample display, and the screen tracks your pen movements accurately and precisely.
The addition of the S Pen opens up features such as note-taking, remotely controlling your device (such as resuming music playback), AR Doodles, and my personal favourite: the PENUP app that allows you to use the device as a small drawing tablet.
Unless you enjoy making digital drawings, you’ll mostly find yourself using the pen for note-taking. But I also enjoyed using it for photo editing brush modes and when editing videos. Switching to a stylus rather than using your fingers when navigating a video edit timeline is extremely handy. And using the stylus for picture edits is also a lot more accurate than using the tip of your finger.
Are there drawbacks to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra?
While there are so many positives to this device, there are also a few key drawbacks.
Firstly, there’s the price. While Samsung has hovered around a similar price point for its S20, S21 and S22 series, the Ultra is still one of the most expensive phones on the market.
If you just want a phone with a great camera and don’t make much use of the S Pen, forking out this much money on the device may be something you’re not willing to do. The gap between the camera capabilities of the S22+ and the S22 Ultra also makes it more difficult to just downgrade to a slightly cheaper version, since there’s a significant gap in their performance.
Samsung was able to make its Galaxy Flip 3 a more affordable foldable phone, so it would be great to see Samsung do this with its Ultra device too.
In addition, while some people enjoy the design of the Note series, the device is large — to the point that it can sometimes become unwieldy when handled with one hand. Mobile gimbals struggle with the weight of the device.
Samsung has also removed its chargers and covers from its flagship products for the last two generations. But this goes further with the S22 range — the Ultra doesn’t even come with the usual pre-applied screen protector.
While it has Gorilla Glass on the display, the lack of a screen protector means it will attract scratches. Even though I kept the device away from keys and used a separate compartment in my bag, a number of noticeable scratches show up on the display over time.
Considering how much the device costs, a simple screen protector is a basic quality of life product that really should be included.
Review verdict: Is the Galaxy S22 Ultra worth it?
The S22 Ultra is definitely the flagship to beat for 2022. Its camera capabilities and performance make it one of the best (if not the best) smartphones to come out in South Africa this year.
However, the price keeps it inaccessible to loyal Samsung fans who would love to experience the camera capabilities. And with basic perks like a screen protector removed from the box, it’s frustrating to face an ultra-premium price with the need to purchase additional basic items separately.
But if you’re looking for a powerhouse of a device, this is it.
Feature image: Megan Ellis