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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review: The Total Package

Rating:
9/10
?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price:
Starting At $1,000
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's rear-facing cameras
Justin Duino / Review Geek

Smartphones are an incredibly personal thing. We carry them everywhere, interact with them hundreds of times a day, and our choice in ecosystems instantly says a lot about us. If you want to boast to the world, “I have the phone with everything,” then the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is for you.

Take a quick look at the Galaxy S22 Ultra and it immediately stands out from the rest of the S22 lineup. Gone are the rounded corners in favor of sharp right angles, and at the bottom of the phone, you’ll find the most significant unique feature to the Ultra—the hallowed S Pen. Sure, the S21 Ultra worked with the S Pen, but it had no place to store it. In many ways, the S22 feels like a successor to the Note as much as it does a sequel to the S21 Ultra.

But overall, that’s a good change. Any phone with “Ultra” in the name should live up to the moniker. And without a doubt, this one does. It goes Ultra on specs, Ultra on display, Ultra on Cameras, and, of course, Ultra on price. At $1,200, this is the smartphone for people who want an Android device that does it all. And the Galaxy S22 delivers.

Here's What We Like

  • Built-in S Pen
  • Super Responsive
  • Great cameras

And What We Don't

  • Expensive
  • Curved Screen
  • Ads

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Specs

  • Display: 6.8-inch AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate, slightly curved
  • Processor: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
  • Operating System: Android 12 (One UI 4.1)
  • Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
  • RAM: 8GB or 12GB
  • Rear Cameras: 108MP (wide), 12MP (ultrawide) 10MP (3x telephoto), 10MP (10x telephoto)
  • Selfie Camera: 40MP
  • Battery: 5000mAh
  • Charging Speed: 45w wired, 15w wireless, 4.5w reverse wireless
  • Fingerprint Sensor: Ultrasonic in-display
  • Networking: mmWave 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, GPS
  • Headphone Jack: Nope
  • Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+, Armor Aluminum frame
  • Starting Price: $1,200

Hardware And Display

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen on the back of the phone
Justin Duino / Review Geek

The S22 Ultra doesn’t look like the previous S21 Ultra. Instead, it takes design notes straight from the Galaxy Note20 Ultra. The corners are the first glaring difference, and whether you like that or not comes down to preference. I prefer more rounded corners, as the S22 Ultra digs into my hand slightly. It’s not the sharpest phone I’ve handled (that crown still goes to the Lumia 1520), but it’s noticeable.

Flip over the back, and you’ll find the other drastic step away from the rest of the S22 design language—the camera lens module. Or rather, a complete lack of a camera module. Strikingly, the lenses individually peak out from the back, though the arrangement is identical to the S21 Ultra otherwise. It looked strange to me at first, but the more I’ve stared at the phone, the more I grew used to it. Just be prepared to see dust collect between the lenses.

The bottom of the phone houses the SIM card slot, USB-C port, and the S Pen. I’ve been continually impressed that somehow Samsung managed to fit the entire pen inside this phone yet maintain similar dimensions to the Pixel 6 Pro. It’s barely taller than the 6 Pro and is actually a touch thinner. Just truly impressive.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's app drawer
Justin Duino / Review Geek

Samsung also got the placement of the volume and power keys right, something I complained about on the 6 Pro. I still press the wrong buttons on Google’s phone all the time, but I always get the button I want with the S22 Ultra. And speaking of getting it right, if we have to settle for in-display fingerprint sensors, then Ultrasonic is the way to go. Far from the frustrating experience you get with Google and OnePlus phones, Samsung’s take on in-display fingerprint sensors unlocks your phone near instantaneously.

The S22 Ultra is also a future-forward phone, supporting 5G and Wi-Fi 6E. 5G should pretty much be a given these days, but Wi-Fi 6E is a lot rarer. I’m fortunate enough to have a Wi-Fi 6E mesh system in my home with speedy internet to back it up, and it makes a huge difference. Speed tests on my S22 Ultra phones average two to three times as fast as the same test on phones with just Wi-Fi 5 available to them. You probably shouldn’t buy a phone just for features like Wi-Fi 6E, but if you’re going to pay a premium for a smartphone, it’s good to be future-proof.

I was fortunate enough to get a review unit in green, and I have to say it’s beautiful. It shimmers and shifts in color just slightly as you move the phone around, and I rather like that the S Pen’s tip matches the color. Depending on how you hold it, it shifts from a shade so dark you might think it’s a “light black” to something between a light blue and green. The iridescent quality is attractive. Unfortunately, you probably won’t get to enjoy it.

Between the glass black and the curved screen, the S22 Ultra is about as slippery as a greased frog. The entire time I’ve had this phone, I’ve lived in terror that I would drop it. And I have dropped it several times. Thankfully, it survived each fall, but you’ll want to put a case on this phone as soon as possible. I wouldn’t even buy it without also buying a case for it.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display and front-facing camera
Justin Duino / Review Geek

As for the display, yes, it is curved. I wish it weren’t because curved screens are worse screens. It only adds to the tendency to drop the device, makes cases hard to fit correctly, and makes repairs more difficult. Whatever benefit you can make for a curved screen is far outweighed by the drawbacks. Samsung is hardly the only company to push curved screens, though, and at least here, it gives the phone’s design a cohesive look.

But past that, the display is a marvel to behold. Samsung tends to prefer vibrant colors, and that’s the case here, so if you switch from something more subdued, the S22 Ultra will probably stand out all the more. Samsung says the display is capable of 1,750 nits of brightness which is pretty dang bright. I believe it easily. I found myself defaulting to around 60 to 70% brightness with most phones, but with the Ultra, I stay at 30%. The phone is perfectly readable and useable even in the harshest outdoor light. Having dealt with too many phones I couldn’t see outside, Samsung deserves high praise for creating a phone you can use anywhere.

If your sole desire is to own the Android phone with the best display around, then the S22 Ultra wins hands down.

Software and Battery Life

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's default navigation buttons
Justin Duino / Review Geek

Credit where credit’s due, Samsung has toned back its “Android 12 with One UI 4.0 interface.” It’s still not pure Android, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, but if you’re jumping from a pure Android experience, it won’t be an uncomfortable move.

And thankfully, it seems like Samsung tried to scale back its ads as well. Ads all over Galaxy devices have long been a complaint, and while it IS better, it’s not perfect yet. You’ll still get a Samsung Pay ad when you open Hulu, for instance. Any ads are too many, especially on a premium phone, but I’ll acknowledge the move in the right direction.

And while I’m at it, a hearty thanks also for switching the default texting app to Google Messages. I hope more phone manufacturers jump on board this trend. Sure, you can change your messenger app to whatever you prefer, but let’s at least start with the good stuff. Samsung also threw in its version of Android 12’s “Material You” wallpaper matching UX customizations, though it doesn’t go quite as far as the Pixel 6 Pro. It’s good enough, though.

The review unit Samsung sent me has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, paired with the Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor. That’s the lower end for RAM, but I’m pleased to say it’s more than enough. I never saw a slow down, hiccup, or even the slightest sense of hesitation. The phone screams through everything I put at it. It gets a little warm with intense gaming, but it easily keeps up with those gaming sessions.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen on the back of the phone
Justin Duino / Review Geek

As for the S Pen, it’s everything we’ve come to know and expect with Samsung’s fabled pen. The software works well, and I like the ability to take out the pen and immediately write a note without unlocking the phone. Samsung says it reduced the latency of the S Pen by 70% versus previous generations. We’re talking times too small to measure at this point, but that’s the impressive part in many ways. “Never hesitates” could be the unofficial motto of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and that includes writing with the pen. It’s not quite pencil and paper, but it’s pretty dang close.

And as for the battery life? I have no complaints. Most evenings, I set my phone down to charge with 50% or more battery life left—some days as much as 70%. That 5,000 mAh battery can go a long way. On a rough day when I’ve thrown everything at the phone, including gaming, I’ll still put it down to charge with 30% left in the tank. Most people charge their phones every night, so that’s more than enough to satisfy that habit. And if you forget, you’ll probably get through enough of the day to get charged up at the office or in your car.

Cameras

I won’t spend too long on the cameras for good reason. Suffice it to say, they’re just as good as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. That shouldn’t be surprising; Samsung went with nearly identical lenses this time around. The telephoto lenses are a tiny bit wider, for instance, but we’re talking a “squint and play spot-the-difference” level of changes.

That means, as usual, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra takes some pretty stellar photos. And the zoom function continues to be an impressive and useful feature. In the gallery above, you’ll see a full shot view of a sports car well away from where I was sitting when I took the photo. I could see a sign on the windshield, but I couldn’t make out the text. With the zoomed-in shot, not only could I read the text, but the car didn’t look half bad.

Some of that is post-processing; I literally watched the photo get a cleanup job from the camera preview to the final product. But that’s fine, I think. The truth is, most people don’t want to mess with editing photos. They want to take a picture and move on, confident that when they look at it later (if they ever do), it’ll look great. Samsung delivers on that. The iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 Pro can take better photos than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, but this is a case where third best is still really darn good.

Night portrait mode could use some more work (see my attempt above). But it’s serviceable, especially considering how little light the phone had available. It boosted that some by shining a white circle at my face, but I imagine that led to the “blow out” look I have in the final result. Darkness is the enemy of good photography, and that remains the case here.

It’s the Total Package For the “Total” Price

Writing on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra using an S Pen
Justin Duino / Review Geek

So let’s get down to brass tacks: should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? Maybe. Look, at $1,200 this phone is too expensive to recommend to everyone. The S22 Ultra is a premium phone, and as such, it commands a premium price. If you love Android and Google Pixel 6’s many issues have thrown you off of buying one of those phones, then you should get a Galaxy S22 phone. But most people should probably get the Galaxy S22+ variant. That’s basically the perfect phone for any Android fan.

However, some people want it all. And that’s where the Galaxy S22 Ultra comes into play. If you want the best Android phone with all the features, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivers in spades. It has the best display, a great processor, future-proof features, and a spot for the S Pen. The cameras are excellent, and so is the software. Maybe you don’t need Wi-Fi 6 or the S Pen or a display as bright as the sun, but no matter which features you care about, chances are the Galaxy S22 Ultra nails it.

It’s not the phone for everyone—it’s too expensive for that. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the phone for the person who wants it all with no compromises. It’s about as close as you can get to that goal.

Rating:
9/10
Price:
Starting At $1,000

Here’s What We Like

  • Built-in S Pen
  • Super Responsive
  • Great cameras

And What We Don't

  • Expensive
  • Curved Screen
  • Ads

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »