Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review: Did iPhone 13 Pro just go GREEN with envy?
When Samsung calls its phone “the Ultra”, you know it is going to be a whole lot special, considering Samsung's regular S22 is itself loaded to the teeth. With the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung has taken things to a level where there's no competition. Armed with an S Pen and much improved cameras over last year's Galaxy S21 Ultra, the S22 Ultra obliterates the iPhone 13 Pro on paper. And, for its starting price of Rs. 1,09,999, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra seems like a bargain for what it offers.
In India, the biggest change for Samsung fans comes in the form of its choice of chipset. Samsung ditches the unpopular Exynos branded chipset in favour of the more desirable Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip – the one that powers the most elite Android phones at the moment. Along with its promised four years of OS updates, the Galaxy S22 Ultra seems tempting as a viable alternative to the iPhone 13 Pro series.
But what happens off-paper? Is the Galaxy S22 Ultra the more desirable one in reality? Time to find out.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Design
“This Galaxy Note, errr, Galaxy S22 Ultra is…”, “I am impressed by the cameras on this Galaxy Note, errr, Galaxy Ultra” – these are some of my statements about the phone while discussing it with someone -- you get the point, right? Because from every angle, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is reminiscent of the long-dead Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The same squared off edges, the massive phablet-like form factor, and the S Pen silo sitting where nothing used to be there on the S21 Ultra.
In this Burgundy shade that I have, the Galaxy S22 Ultra looks luxurious. That camera design element has sparked controversy among people, and I am not going to fan it. Personally, I like it for its distinct identity in an era where the iPhone 13 Pro's camera hump just looks ungainly and too blingy. It doesn't command attention as nicely as the iPhone, though. The front does it, however, with its slightly curved edges on the display, and the very slim bezels. This is one handsome phone.
It is well built too. Armor Aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass Victus Plus on the front and rear make the S22 Ultra highly durable as well as a scratch resistant phone. In the two weeks of use, my Burgundy S22 Ultra is void of any scratches, despite witnessing the dusty outdoors of Noida. It is IP68 certified for water and dust resistance, if you wondered.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Display
The S21 Ultra had the nicest display of any phone last year and it seems history repeats again this year! Measuring 6.8-inches this time and with more angular edges, this Dynamic AMOLED panel is a treat for the eyes. At QHD+ resolution, everything looks sharp while being vibrant and bright. Brightness levels go up to 1750 nits, which means the S22 Ultra's display looked normally like most phones do under indoor lighting.
The Vision Booster tech keeps the colour contrast and all other technical bits balanced so that you watch everything the way it was supposed to. And thanks to the LTPO 2.0 tech, the variable refresh rate between 1Hz to 120Hz keeps everything smooth, and spares the battery life generously as well. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is fast although the detection area is narrow.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Performance
With a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip at the helm, things are looking good for the S22 Ultra so far. Along with Samsung's One UI 4.1 experience, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers the most complete Android smartphone experience. And despite being loaded to the teeth, with all the features and the S Pen software trickeries, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is as fluid as any regular Stock Android device.
Like all phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the Galaxy S22 Ultra handles multitasking and most generic performance with absolute ease. It certainly heats up when gaming, or dealing with a handful of apps in the background, but never enough to cause discomfort. Even while playing games such as Call of Duty: Mobile and Shadow Fight 4: Legends, the S22 Ultra keeps running everything smooth and zippy, without noticeable frame drops.
Samsung's One UI 4.1 in its latest avatar is easily the second-best Android experience, right after Motorola's iteration of stock Android 12. It is definitely cluttered with loads of extras, including Samsung apps and alternatives to pre-installed Google and Microsoft apps. But everything is practically laid out and once you get used to One UI's leisurely pace, it all seems comfortable. The software is so loaded that it makes the iPhone 13 Pro's iOS 15 seem like a spartan cave in comparison. Utility seekers will find the One UI experience comparable with a Windows PC. This is high praise for a phone.
Part of that “PC-like” experience has to do with the S Pen stylus. Like the Galaxy Note, it is always available at a click away. Whether you are doodling or jotting down quick notes on the lockscreen, the S Pen's arrival on the S22 Ultra as a native feature makes sense. While using spreadsheets or word documents, having the S Pen helps with precision cursor placement, or adjusting table sizes. The Smart Select feature is a gem of a feature, making free selection on your phone's screen an easy thing; just like on a Windows PC. You can even use the stylus for taking photos handsfree. And once you are done, simply tuck it in inside the phone.
Samsung tries to emulate Apple by pairing up with Google Duo for its “Centerstage-like” feature that adjusts framing while in a video call. It works fine but needs to be adopted by more video calling apps.
Audio quality out of the S22 Ultra's stereo speakers is great. There is a solid depth to the audio signature, with nuanced bass and low end. And they get fairly loud. Connectivity performance has been great so far, with the phone latching onto the 4G networks easily in tricky areas.
On to the cameras now…
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Cameras
The Galaxy S22 Ultra currently has the most versatile set of rear cameras on any smartphone. The setup seems identical to the S21 Ultra but there are meaningful updates underneath. And the star here is still Samsung's 100X Space Zoom features, which works brilliantly until 40X.
In daylight, photos out of the main 108MP camera appear vibrant with great dynamic range, good contrasts, and are noise-free. Samsung tends to boost the saturation of the photos by default but the end result still looks highly appealing to most eyes. The same colour profile applies to the 12MP ultra-wide photos but there's some loss in sharpness. The 3X zoom camera is best suited for human portraits but it is the 10X zoom camera that wins me over. The post processing has improved compared to the S21 Ultra and hence, 10X zoomed photos hold more details and appear sharper. Digitally magnifying further works great until 40X, beyond which it goes smudgy. But you can still go plane spotting with the S22 Ultra's zoom camera, which can't be said for any other high-end phone at the moment. This is easily the best zoom camera system on any phone we have seen so far.
And this zoom camera takes Moon shots too at night! That too at 40-50X zoom, figuring out the Moon's craters and colours! All while I hold it in my hands, not on a tripod! I am sold, Samsung. Take my money.
At night, the performance level varies by the sensors. The main camera does a brilliant job with colours, sharpness, detailing, and noise suppression. The other three cameras suffer from detailing loss and smoothening but you can still get usable photos, provided you have stable hands.
Video recording performance has been great, with the S22 Ultra doing a great job with 4K at 30 fps mode and 1080p at 30 fps mode. Video stability is among the best in business. However, it still loses out to the iPhone 13 Pro in terms of the overall treatment and sharpness. Getting the ExpertRAW app allows you to have more detailed photos in natural colours for editing in Adobe Lightroom.
The 40MP front camera is also tuned well. It handles bright exposures well while keeping the subject in emphasis. The colour treatment is lively while edge detection in portrait mode is among the best in the business. The same goes for the rear camera portrait modes, where the edge detection around the tricky hair strands and flowing clothing is handled well.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Battery Life
I had reservations about the regular 5000mAh battery handling a QHD+ display and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip. However, with regular office workloads, the Galaxy S22 Ultra was easily lasting me over a day and them some. In fact, after a full charge in the morning, I usually had to charge the S22 Ultra the next afternoon – all this while I did 3-4 hours talktime, photography sessions, usual social 2 hours of social media browsing, and streaming music in the background. With an hour of gaming involved, the stamina drops down to a single day.
I did not have the 45W charger at my disposal but Motorola's 68W fast charger supports 45W output, which enabled the “Super Fast Charging 2.0”. This meant the S22 Ultra regularly did a 5-100 percent charge in just over an hour. Not as fast as the 120W charging on the iQOO 9 Pro but it does the job. Wireless charging speeds remain substantially slow at 15W.
There's no doubt about the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra being one of the best all-rounder phones money can buy today. With its solid package of a reliable and supreme user experience, tremendously good cameras, a stunning display, and a good battery life, the S22 Ultra doesn't disappoint with the basics. The S Pen is certainly a value addition feature this year and if you need a stylus on your phone daily, this is the phone for you. The luxurious design and build quality easily makes the Galaxy S22 Ultra the winner for us. There simply is nothing like it!
But is it right for you? The closest competition the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra gets is from the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The iPhone is costlier but has a more reliable set of video cameras; not to forget the unmatched longevity in terms of software support. However, for someone being neutral to both the iOS and Android ecosystems, the iPhone 13 Pro feels barebones in comparison the S22 Ultra, especially when you need to get work done quickly without the shenanigans.
You also have the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 as another alternative but practicality and durability are factors that you need to consider before spending more.
Hence, at this point, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra earns our top recommendation for a luxurious flagship, beating the iPhone 13 Pro by a mega margin. Phone of the year? Let's wait for Apple's reaction in September when the iPhone 14 Pro arrives.
- Looks splendid
- Superb display
- Great cameras
- Good battery life
- Video recording can be better
Display6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz
ChipsetSnapdragon 8 Gen 1
Rear Cameras108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Charging45W wired, 15W wireless
Water, Dust ResistanceIP68 certified
OSOne UI 4.1 on Android 12