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The premium Samsung smartphone comes with a built-in S Pen stylus and many high-end specs, but is it worth the price? Here's our verdict.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the best Android phones you can buy today. With pretty much every aspect of the handset feeling premium (as you would expect for £1,000+) it's got everything you could want from a modern flagship. From the cameras to the high-resolution display to the software performance, the phone easily stands up to rivals such as the Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone Pro Max. A key part of its appeal is the inclusion of the S Pen stylus – which transforms the device from phone to phablet – and really helps it to stand out from the crowd. The S22 Ultra is pricey, and not for everyone, but emerges as a worthy spiritual successor to the Note series.
Samsung’s Note series of stylus-equipped smartphones may be gone, but its spirit lives on through its new 2022 flagship, the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
With an S Pen that slips into the bottom of the frame with a satisfying click and a 6.8-inch Quad HD+ (3088x1440) display, the handset is undoubtedly premium. The pricing – starting from £1,149 in the UK – only reinforces that status.
From the side buttons to the haptic feedback to the matte aluminium frame, every aspect of the S22 Ultra feels pleasingly high-end. Ultimately, that’s probably what you want to know most from a review of a device that costs so much money.
There are some downsides, of course. The handset is possibly too big for anyone used to a smaller device, while the amount of power that’s under the hood may be overkill for anyone who uses their smartphone for more simple tasks. There’s also the fact that the brilliant Google Pixel 6 Pro is around £300 more affordable.
So does the S22 Ultra earn a place on our list of best smartphones to buy in 2022, and what can you expect if you decide to pick one up? Read on for our review of this hot new handset, including standout features, specs and how to buy one.
We have been hands-on with all of the new S-series handsets, so if you are still unsure which one is best for you, be sure to also read our Samsung Galaxy S22+ review and the Samsung Galaxy S22 preview to compare features, specs and pricing.
If you are not sure which S22-series smartphone is best for you, be sure to read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra comparison guide.
If you can afford it, the S22 Ultra is one of the best Android phones you can buy in 2022 and the handset effortlessly stands against rivals such as the Google Pixel 6 Pro or, on the Apple iOS side of the fence, the recent iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Samsung has brought in some aspects once found in the now-defunct Note series – including the bundled S Pen that transforms the device from phone to phablet – and a more squared-off design that not only stands out from the rest of the new line-up, but manages to somehow be both imposing and elegant at the same time.
The quad camera setup is snappy and versatile, and the planned software update support means the S22 Ultra is well future-proofed. The battery will comfortably last you for a full day, and there are a solid variety of storage options.
The Exynos 2200 chip found in the UK versions is powerful, and the 120Hz display is great for watching videos and scribbling notes. This is a big, weighty and pricey phone – and that may actually be one of the downsides for some users who may find themselves better suited to a smaller Galaxy S22 or Galaxy S22 Plus.
Price: The S22 Ultra is priced from £1,149 with 128GB storage. The cost goes up in correlation with storage: 256GB (£1,249), 512GB (£1,329) and 1TB (£1,499). That’s expensive – but contract options are also available if you can’t buy outright.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is Samsung’s flagship smartphone for 2022, and was released on 25th February after being unveiled alongside the Galaxy S22 and S22+. It is the spiritual successor to the discontinued Note series, which was scrapped in favour of the company going all-in with foldables, including the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is priced from £1,149 with 128GB storage. The cost goes up in correlation with storage: 256GB (£1,249), 512GB (£1,329) and 1TB (£1,499).
It’s clearly an expensive handset, but the pricing is roughly in line with some of its biggest rivals. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max flagship starts at £1,049, although we should note the Google Pixel 6 Pro is another top Android phone that’s a fair bit more affordable compared to the S22 Ultra, starting from £849 in the UK.
Let’s start with what ultimately sets this flagship apart from its competition: the S Pen stylus that’s housed inside the frame. It pops out with a satisfying click, and doing so will automatically open a side menu that lets you select a range of things to actually do with this 11cm pencil, including quickly create notes, write live messages, make augmented reality (AR) doodles and annotate the screen.
There are options for when the screen is off. Taking the S Pen out while the phone is locked instantly brings up an area for you to take memos. The same can be done by pressing a button on the stylus and tapping the screen twice. And writing itself is accompanied by a pleasant scribbling sound and subtle haptic feedback.
Let's be clear: It won’t replace a physical notebook and any claims that it feels like real paper are probably an exaggeration. You aren’t going to be writing a novel using it, but it’s a great tool for making some quick memos while on-the-go.
It’s highly responsive, and while we ultimately turned off the audio as a personal preference the stylus is one of our favourite aspects. It turns the phone into a mini tablet and will be great for creatives, doodlers and quick note-takers. We did not think we would use it much day-to-day, but that wasn’t true. It’s a nice user experience and we even found ourselves navigating a lot of apps using the S Pen, too.
Like the Note series before it – and more recently the Galaxy Z Fold series – the support for a stylus takes the device to the next level, turning what could have been a standard, if still very high-end, phone into something more special.
We found ourselves reaching for the S Pen to browse websites or type WhatsApp messages more than we ever thought we would, and it will be a huge advantage for anyone with bigger fingers who finds it difficult to type with precision.
The display you write on is another big feature. As expected for such a high-end handset, it’s exceptional quality with a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel with an impressive peak brightness of 1,750 nits. The screen is sharp and crisp, and you have the option of turning on adaptive brightness and motion smoothness – the latter of which will either lock refresh rate to 60Hz to let it go up to 120Hz.
While there is no way to expand your storage via a microSD card, the S22 Ultra’s storage options are a solid mix, going from 128GB all the way to 1TB.
Software is also excellent, with the UK model powered by the Exynos 2200 chipset (the US variant comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1). We like this skin from Samsung, One UI 4.1 on top of Android 12. All of the apps open quickly and we didn’t experience any issues with lag or stuttering during our testing.
There’s little bloatware but it is not always ideal that you will encounter apps from Samsung and Google that do exactly the same thing. There’s a Messages app and a Samsung Messages app. There’s the Google Photos app and a Samsung Gallery. Why? It’s far from the end of the world, but could definitely be refined.
Face unlocking is fast, and the Android settings contain an almost overwhelming amount of customisation options – letting you change the icons or themes, deep dive into permissions and privacy, set up SOS alerts, update the home screen layout and so much more. We found it best to switch the navigation bar to have the back button on the right side – helping with using this large handset one-handed.
Another appealing aspect of the software is that Samsung has promised a full four terms of OS updates (five years of update support in total) – so you can be assured that the handset won’t be abandoned even as new models emerge next year.
The S22 Ultra contains a 5,000mAh battery that will last a little more than a day of moderate-to-heavy use. It supports 45W wired charging and up to 15W wireless. Unfortunately, there’s no wall adapter in the box, only a USB-C cable so you may also need to fork out for that extra accessory if you don’t already have one.
It’s tricky to get a proper gauge on how long the battery will last day-to-day as it is extremely dependent on how much the phone is being used. Samsung doesn’t put an exact number on the overall longevity, only assuring that it lasts “over a day".
That is accurate, though, and we found it will easily last for a day of heavier use – videos, checking emails, messaging on Slack, setting reminders, listening to Spotify on an hour-plus commute and doom-scrolling through Twitter and Reddit before bed – but that can indeed stretch to closer to two if used more sporadically.
Charging up the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was fast, thankfully, and it will go from dead to full in under an hour when plugged into a wall adapter.
In the settings menu, there are a few handy options, including setting up adaptive battery to limit usage for apps that aren’t often in use, alongside a toggle to limit the maximum charge to 85% to extend the overall lifespan of the battery.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a quad camera set-up, featuring a 12MP ultra wide lens, a 108MP wide-angle lens and two 10MP telephoto lenses, one with a 10x optical zoom and the second with a x3 optical zoom. In total, the phone has a digital “space” zoom that goes up to a whopping 100x. The front-facing selfie camera is 40MP.
When popped into the dedicated video mode, the Galaxy S22 Ultra records 8K footage at 24 frames per second (fps) or 4K resolution at up to 60 fps.
There’s a variety of different modes that let you take advantage of the high-end set-up, including portrait, slow motion, time lapse, pro, pro video and night.
Here are examples of results using the main lens without any editing:
Showing item 1 of 5
It’s the night mode Samsung dubbed “nightography” – and it’s essentially how the camera set-up combines with the computational magic that’s going on behind the scenes of the smartphone to help take better photos and video in low light.
While the word nightography definitely falls into the realm of tech jargon, the results can actually be pretty spectacular. We tested the night mode in a darkened room with sub-optimal lighting and it clearly brightened up the image, showing details that many cameras could have only shown with significantly more levels of noise.
When combined with the 100x space zoom, you can obtain some great shots of the faraway moon during a dark, but fairly clear, evening. Here's one example:
And here's an example of how the zoom performs in brighter conditions. Yes, that little dot visible on the platform in the first image is the person in the second. Impressive.
Overall, it's an extremely capable camera set-up that's unlikely to disappoint the majority of users. There's a lot of variety to the modes and results are crisp and clear – especially when taken in bright conditions. The lenses on its predecessor were great. The S22 Ultra improves it further – marking another win for Samsung.
The S22 Ultra stands out from the rest of the most recent S22 line-up thanks to its squared off frame with a curved and essentially bezel-less display and, of course, the slot at the bottom left of the device housing the S Pen stylus. It comes in four colour tones: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green and Burgundy.
We tested the Phantom Black model, and found it to be a great balance of sturdy design and a sleek, minimalistic, aesthetic. The matte black metallic back provides grip, and the cameras pop without the need for a large module. It’s not a look that will offend anyone, and Samsung branding could easily be missed at a glance.
With a 6.8-inch display and weighing in at 229g (the Google Pixel 6 Pro is 210g and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is 238 grams for comparison) this is certainly not a small or lightweight handset – and fans of smaller smartphones should definitely be aware of that. We could use the Galaxy S22 Ultra with one hand, but only just.
The front has Gorilla Glass Victus+ and the phone is rated IP68 for dust and water resistance. While we have not tested it (and don’t recommend you do, either) it should be able to handle submersion up to a maximum depth of 1.5m underwater for up to 30 minutes. We brought the smartphone to the gym, and it was fine.
We used the S22 Ultra without a case, although it’s advised that you do pick one up at some point for some extra protection from drops or scratches. The phone is sturdy - but the display is still large so it's liable to break or crack if dropped.
The S22 Ultra packaging is 56% smaller by volume than that of the Galaxy S20 and was made with 100% recycled paper, according to Samsung.
Samsung said the new Galaxy smartphones and tablets use select components containing “20% recycled ocean-bound plastic from discarded fishing nets.”
It said in a blog: “The S22 series incorporates post-consumer recycled material in its speaker module, as well as inner parts of the power and volume keys.”
It continues: “In addition to ocean-bound plastics, we use 100% recycled paper for the Galaxy S22’s packaging and include a protective film made from recycled plastic. Every smartphone case is also designed with UL-certified, eco-conscious materials — such as recycled post-consumer plastics or bio-based substances.”
The S22 Ultra costs more than most phones, and that is partly because it is more than a phone. The result of having a stylus at your fingertips can’t be understated. It transforms what would be a typical premium handset into a sleek and powerful phablet, one that’s great for quick memos, app browsing and even typing.
There are a few downsides – the size isn’t for everyone, there’s no charger and the battery is good, not great – but no handset is perfect and we view the S22 Ultra as one of the best Android alternatives to the Apple iPhone Pro Max.
The sticking point in terms of competition may be the Pixel 6 Pro, which is around £300 more affordable and offers a similar user experience (minus the stylus). But if you are a Samsung fan or already in that device ecosystem, here’s the verdict put simply: the Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the best Android phones you can buy.