SAMSUNG has officially killed off the Galaxy Note Series and designated the Galaxy Ultra as its successor, beginning with the SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra. We can’t say that we didn’t see this coming: The writing was on the wall when the Samsung failed to launch a Galaxy Note 21 last year.
With that out of the way, we are excited for the Galaxy S22 Ultra and what it can bring: A 6.8-inch flagship with a built-in pen? Sign me up (literally)!
Design and display
Looks-wise, this is probably our favorite Galaxy phone yet, primarily because of the new camera module: SAMSUNG has somehow managed to get rid of the big, blocky camera, leaving only five “holes” for the sensors. Feelings of typophobia aside, it leaves the impression that the phone is sleeker, even though it’s a hair thicker (8.9mm) compared to its spiritual predecessor, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (8.1mm).
This leaves a lot of white space for the rear panel, which is made out of brushed aluminum. The matte finish on our Phantom Black colored unit gives it an elegant, chic, yet classic look that challenges our notion that black is boring.
It is anything but boring, and looking at it we found ourselves wondering why flagships chose to stick to this material through the years while budget phones keep changing looks year after year.
SAMSUNG calls it Armor Aluminum Frame, which is supposed to be more durable and scratch resistant. We subjected the phone to some very rough use and even dropped it a couple of times, yet the back looks as pristine as the day we took it out of the box.
Weight is up by at least 20 grams this year for some reason, and we wish we knew where all that additional bulk was coming from: at 229 grams with the pen it is really hefty, not to mention the added weight makes it more prone to shattering when dropped and boy, have we dropped this phone.
Regardless of what SAMSUNG says, we get a mini heart attack every time we do since we use the phone naked.
Perhaps it has something to do with that 6.8-inch curved display: while undeniably gorgeous, the exposed edges give us anxiety from years of dropping and shattering phones. It is the first phone to be fitted with Gorilla Glass Victus+. According to the official product page, not only does it offer tougher scratch resistance, it also allows the phone to survive drops.
True enough, our review unit hasn’t suffered anything apart from minor dings and scratches despite falling from over five feet high. The worst of it happened when I was carrying my daughter while she was playing Minecraft. We were at the parking lot of S&R walking to the entrance when it slipped and hit the rough pavement.
I picked it up face-down expecting to find a broken digitzer and to my surprise, the screen was intact – not even a hairline scratch.
The corner that hit the pavement looked pretty rough though – the finish was no longer as smooth as before: no phone would have come out of that drop unscathed, but the screen held up surprisingly well. A protective case – even a thin, frameless hard case – would have completely protected the phone.
In addition to this, the phone comes with IP68 dust and waster proofing. I take the phone to the pool with me all the time, and I have numerous underwater shots to show for it.
So the marketing page is true: The Galaxy S22 Ultra is without a doubt the toughest Galaxy phone so far. Coming from someone who has broken and water-damaged SAMSUNG Galaxy phones in the past from less extreme conditions, I am more than impressed.
Underneath the display is an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor for biometric security which we found incredibly accurate despite only enrolling our unlock finger a single time.
Two physical buttons adorn the left edge: a volume rocker and a side key (power button) that wakes SAMSUNG Bixby by default, but a system-level configuration setting lets us remap it to call up the power off menu.
A USB-C 3.2 port can be found at the bottom right beside the SIM tray. We don’t get any expansion slots, but at least the Philippine version comes with dual SIM support.
There’s also a vent for the bottom-firing speakers, although there is another one near the top edge, the sound from that speaker seems to be coming from underneath the display.
Since there’s no 3.5mm audio jack, the bottom left edge houses the built-in S-Pen. It is significantly smaller and lighter than the regular S-Pen at only 3 grams. We love how the exposed part of the stopper (button) has the same smooth, glossy painted finish like the aluminum edge of the device.
Performance and benchmarks
True flagships like the SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra can only run on the best mobile chipset, and the Philippine version that we tested had Qualcomm’s 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 under the hood. It’s the best that one can ever wish for from a mobile phone: Our own internal benchmark places it at the top of our list, scoring a whopping 14186 points in PassMark and 784k in AnTuTu.
One of the trends that we have observed from benchmarking flagship SAMSUNG devices is the disk performance, which has consistently been high. It comes as no surprise considering the fact that SAMSUNG is one of the top manufacturers of high performance storage devices, and for the dough that you’ll be paying for the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it better damn well be the best.
SAMSUNG’s very own One UI has really matured through the years, and One UI 4.1 running on top of Android 12 with 8GB of memory can only be described as the true flagship experience. App switching is smooth as silk, and we never observed any slowdowns or stuttering.
One could argue that it may be possible to get similar performance output from another phone running on similar hardware, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the only one with a built-in stylus. SAMSUNG could have easily sttopped there and still profit from this niche market, but like the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy S22 Ultra takes things one step further by baking softtware features that maximize the stylus into the system.
So unlike other manufacturers, SAMSUNG has had years of experience and customer feedback to perfect the phablet-with-a-stylus in both hardware design and user experience.
For example: taking the stylus off while the phone is locked automatically opens a writing app so you can take notes or make a sketch, like you what you would do with a pen and paper in real life. Taking the pen out with the phone unlocked triggers the on-screen app that lets you do a ton of things with the S-Pen, and we’re not just talking about taking notes or sketches anymore.
Aside from being able to scribble on your photos and screenshots, our favorite includes the ability to launch and control the stock camera through a combination of button presses and “air gestures”.
Depending on the app that you are using, you can actually do more advanced stuff, granted you are willing to take the time learning how to use it.
This right here is key to why SAMSUNG’s phablet-stylus product the only game left in town when everyone else has given up or disappeared.
Entertainment and mobile gaming
Having a 6.8-inch screen is not too bad at all for watching content, and while there are phones out there with 7-inch screens, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is unmatched.
First off, it is the only one with a Super AMOLED 2X display panel with HDR10+ support running at 120Hz. That’s not all: it runs at a really high resolution of 1440×3088 pixels. SAMSUNG really does well in maximizing the front surface: curved left and right edges, ultra-thin top and bottom bezels, a tiny, and that miniature, almost un-noticeable pinhole for the selfie camera are not something that you would find on anything oother than the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Remember those dual stereo speakers we mentioned earlier? It complements the phone really well, and while it may not be the best sounding dual speakers out there, it is the best that you can get for the ultra-thin form factor that it comes in.
So what you actually have is the complete package in one compact device that you can take with you anywhere you go.
This package is something that only SAMSUNG can do, and that’s a huge part of the premium that you are paying for when you get the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Mobile gaming comes naturally to this phone, despite not being designed specifically for it. So we found ourselves wondering: in what scenario would you pick the Galaxy S22 Ultra over a mobile gaming phone like the ROG Phone 5s Pro?
We think that the Galaxy S22 Ultra has better utility overall, and that display is really not something you can get anywhere else. It is also more compact and lighter, not to mention that it is IP68 water and dust proof and has better cameras.
Camera and content creation
For photography and content creation, the SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra is equipped five usable cameras total. The wide, periscope, and telephoto lenses on the rear all come with OIS, which is key to taking those sharp photos.
True enough our shots were rarely out of focus, even those that were shot with a very limited amount of light up to 3x zoomed in.
We would like to note however, that there are times where the switching between cameras become visible. It becomes more obvious in situations where the white balance changes from one temperature to another. This is the same artifact that we’ve noticed on other SAMSUNG phones with multiple camera configurations.
Other than breaking the immersion, we do not think it really takes anything away from the phone, and we doubt most non-techy Galaxy S22 Ultra users would even notice this abrupt change in color temperature.
Notice the sudden change in focus several times in the sample video below:
Selfies also stand out thanks to that powerful 40MP front-facing sensor. Beyond this, IP68 dust and water proofing opens up a new world of creativity near – or under – the water. It is nerve-racking the first time you do it, and that nervousness may never go away, but the results are way better than what you can get from say, wrapping a phone in a waterproof pouch.
We would also argue that it looks way better than what you can get from a GoPro, and that it is probably the best image quality that you can get without spending six digits for a DSLR camera with an underwater cage or housing.
Once again, SAMSUNG gives us more than just great hardware here: the stock camera software has evolved through the years into something robust and designed to maximize content creation on a smartphone. In addition to the default photo and video modes, the system comes with separate Pro Photo and Pro Video settings, which exposes advanced controls to fine tune your shots in order to create more consistent results.
The phone even comes witth thre dedicated modes just to videos in varying speeds: Super Slow-Mo, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse. We had a lot of fun with these modes, shooting vidoes that we would not have been able to take otherwise in other smartphones.
SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra sample video (rear camera) 4k30
SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra sample video (selfie camera) 1080p60
Then there’s the Director’s View, which allows us to capture stills and videos using both the rear and front facing cameras at the same time, easily switching between various cameras with a single tap.
Surprisingly, our favorite camera feature is actually an advanced feature called “Video call effects”. You can get to it by going through the System settings, which allows you blur or hide your background during a video call. For the latter, you can set a background color or image, resulting in feature similar to what you on Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Currently, it only supports specific applications – Duo, Messenger, Teams, and Zoom are the ones that we have discovered so far. The Galaxy store application page does not have a list, so there could be more that we are not aware of.
Unlike the in-app background blur or replacement feature in these apps, the effect gets applied onto the feed before it get passed onto the application. As a result, not only do you get a more consistent look, it minimizes the risk of your audience getting a glimpse of your real background since the filter gets applied before you even join the call.
With most of our meetings and calls happening virtually since the pandemic, it is one of the features that we really got to maximize.
Battery life and charging
Out of the Galaxy S22 Series, the Galaxy S22 Ultra packs the highest battery capacity at 5,000 mAh. However, it also has the biggest screen size at 6.8 inches and the highest native resolution at 1440×3088 pixels.
Despite this, the Snapdragon version that we used in this review held up very well, yielding 7.5 hours of screen time and a whopping 14.5 hours of combined use. These are impressive numbers considering we had always on display (AOD) activated.
We used it normally as our daily driver, primarilly for communication and content creation with a bit of entertainment, social media, and navigation mixed in. It supports both wired and wireless reverse charging, but we refrained from using it in this review in order to get a more realistic representation of the phone’s actual battery life.
Which takes us to the next point: In addition to 45W fast charging, another factor that really contributes to the longevity and premium experience of the Galaxy S22 Ultra is wireless charging. We love how we can just drop it on a wireless dock through the day and it will just take care of itself and take back even a little bit of power without us having to think about it.
Wireless also makes charging possible while the phone is wet, which is not just impressive but also a necessity. Built-in moisture detectors automatically disable the charging port when it’s wet, which would not be possible without wireless charging.
This is kind of convenience that sets the Galaxy S22 apart from the rest, although it is worth nothing that the package does not come with free chargers, so you will have to purchases them separately. The message is that it is being done in the name of environmentalism, but the underlying cost-cutting benefits are surely driving this decision as well.
SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best Android phablet that you can get in 2022 for reasons beyond just superior hardware: It offers a robust, mature Android user experience that leverages the S-Pen as a secondary input device.
Despite its fragile appearance, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is surprisingly though, and that adds to the phone’s versatility. In addition to this, IP68 certification opens up creative possibilities under water.
Its photo and video capabilities are the best in its class, and the software options really showcase what it can do.
Superior hardware combined with mature software comes at a premium that forces us to think twice about our priorities. For the price of P68,990 the Galaxy S22 Ultra remains an aspiration, but it is one worth investing in, especially if your usage pattern takes advantage of the premium features that it brings to the table.
SAMSUNG Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G technical specifications (Philippines)
- Display: 6.8 inches; 1440 x 3088 pixels; 120Hz Super AMOLED 2X; HDR10+
- SIM: Dual SIM (nano-SIM, dedicated slot)
- OS Android 12, One UI 4.1
- Chipset (SoC): Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4nm)
- CPU: Octa-core (1×3.00 GHz Cortex-X2 & 3×2.50 GHz Cortex-A710 & 4×1.80 GHz Cortex-A510)
- GPU: Adreno 730
- Memory (RAM) + storage (ROM): 8GB+256GB
- Expansion: None
- Main camera (rear): 108MP f/1.8 OIS (wide), 10MP f/4.9 OIS (periscope telephoto), 10MP f/2.4 OIS (telephoto), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
- Selfie camera (front): 40MP f/2.2 (wide)
- Connectivity: 2.4/5/6 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac/6e; Bluetooth 5.2 A2DP, LE
- I/O: USB Type-C 3.2, magnetic connector
- Biometrics: Under-display fingerprint sensor
- Features: Stereo speakers, Samsung Wireless DeX, IP68 dust/water resistance
- Battery: 5,000 mAh; 45W fast charging (USB PD 3.0); 15W wireless charging (Fast Qi, PMA)
- Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green
- Price (Philippines): Php68,990 (8+128GB); Php72,990 (12+256GB); Php80,990 (12+512GB)