The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a landmark device from Samsung, for a variety of reasons. Most notably of course is the return of the Galaxy Note series—in spirit that is. The Galaxy S22 Ultra might be in the same lineup as the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+, but when you take a look at the three, the Galaxy S22 Ultra really does stand out for pretty much being a Galaxy Note device in disguise.
On top of that, it also arrived in Malaysia with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 rather than an equivalent Exynos chip, further fueling local excitement over the Galaxy S22 Ultra. But was all of the hype worth it?
It’s big, bold and beautiful
If, like Moto Moto from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, you like ’em big and you like ’em chunky, then you’re in for a great time with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It has a design that, if you used the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra from 2020, will be quite familiar to you and still has a unique sleek look to it. Perhaps its the lack of a huge camera island, but compared to the last official Galaxy Note device, the Galaxy S22 Ultra just looks a lot cleaner in my eyes, even if it is similar.
That being said, the Galaxy S22 Ultra suffers from the same little niggle that I had with the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. Not taking into account their Galaxy Z Fold lineup, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of their heaviest smartphones ever, at 229g. It’s technically lighter than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it’s still a really hefty boy that again, just becomes a little too heavy in the hand when you want to lay down and watch a movie on your smartphone. Its larger form factor also means that it might not be suited to those of you with tiny hands, but it’s just about alright for one handed use though the upper corners do get a little tricky.
In any case though, make no mistake, this is the flagship looking device in their range of smartphones. The biggest complaint I had with the Galaxy S21 FE was the pathetic plastic—sorry I meant, glasstic—back, but with the S22 Ultra, that’s all gone. Instead, there’s now a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+ that just feels much more appropriate both in my eyes and my hand. The slight matte finish also means that it’s not as much of a fingerprint as before. There’s a tiny bump on the bottom of the device where the stylus sits but honestly it’s not noticeable at all.
For the most part, the Galaxy S22 Ultra looks great and feels great. That being said, all of that beauty and sleek looks wouldn’t mean much if the device isn’t as great where it matters most: performance.
I think I expected too much from it
Look, I was just as surprised as everyone else when I heard that Samsung Malaysia was bringing in Galaxy S22 Ultra units with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 system-on-chip powering it underneath. After years of the much-maligned in-house Exynos silicon under the hood of previous generation Samsung Galaxy S series flagships here, many Malaysians perhaps had the idea that the Snapdragon models would knock these Exynos versions out of the park, especially considering that the ‘Ultra’ models should be knocking everything else out of the park.
In reality though, I probably expected too much from the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Let me be clear, it works absolutely fine, fantastic even if you’re moving up from a mid-range device. However, there were just a couple of things that really didn’t sit well with what I thought was the absolute best Android has to offer. For starters, the Galaxy S22 Ultra runs pretty warm. I could be scrolling away mindlessly on TikTok for about 15 to 20 minutes, and the back of the phone will feel noticeably warm to touch. You probably won’t really notice it if you had a case on it, but it’s still something worth noting.
But it was performance in games especially that really felt under par. I noted in my review of the Galaxy S21 FE that the device seemed to be unnecessarily throttling my games, and the same was happening here again. My typical games such as Magic: the Gathering Arena just didn’t play as smooth as I would’ve liked. When I have the display on its maximum 1440p resolution especially, playing Arena was a struggle too, with choppy animations and occasional freezes too. Now I know the iPhone 13 Pro Max is technically slightly lower resolution at 458ppi compared to the S22 Ultra’s 500ppi, but I never had issues with Arena on the iPhone.
I ended up having to purposely head over to the display settings, turning it back down to FHD+ just so that I could play Arena with playable frame rates. And regardless of resolution, the rear of the Galaxy S22 Ultra again lit up like midday in the Malaysian heat. I do want to point out though that your mileage may vary here, as I noticed all of this just before and throughout the massive scandal Samsung had earlier this year, when they were caught throttling performance in apps that weren’t benchmarking tools. It could also just be that Arena is more optimised for iOS than Android.
Nevertheless, these performance issues only really cropped up in these heavier tasks like gaming, and to a large extent my day-to-day use didn’t feel compromised as much. If you’re a regular user without much of a penchant for mobile gaming, you’ll likely find that the performance of the Galaxy S22 Ultra just fine, with the occasional warmth to the touch if you aren’t using a case. It’s just a bit of a shame because I did expect a lot more from the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in particular. Maybe once I have some time with other Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 devices I’ll be able to better gauge the performance of the chip.
As for battery life, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery will certainly last you the day, but it’s not always going to get you more than that. I mostly have the screen at 60-70% brightness without the always-on display turned on, with roughly six hours of screen time and the Galaxy S22 Ultra would typically have about 30% of battery life left by the time I head for bed. It’s fine for the most part, but I would’ve liked to see at least a day and a half before hitting the 30% mark. I will say though I am quite the power user, with plenty of things running in the background too so you may be able to get a day and a half or more especially at a lower brightness. Sadly, there’s no charging brick bundled in the box with the device, and in any case the 45W fast charging won’t knock your socks off anytime soon.
But what about the stylus I hear you ask? I’ve never used a Galaxy Note device before prior to this, so to be frank I doubted the overall usefulness of having a stylus with my smartphone. However, I actually did find the stylus to be great for doodling here and there, helping to get the creative juices flowing when I’m in a writer’s block. The stylus itself is nice and grippy in your hand, while the default note taking tool makes doodling with it fun. That being said though, note taking with it felt more like a chore for the most part and I genuinely just preferred to type it out instead.
It’s a cool tool, if you’re willing to learn to use it that is. There’s also some improved features from the previous Galaxy Note 20 series, such as a much more responsive 2.8ms over its predecessor’s 9ms latency. Previous Galaxy Note users will also likely appreciate things like improved handwriting and Samsung Notes, but as this is the smartphone that’s popping my stylus cherry, I a little ambivalent on the whole.
The cameras are where it shines
The Galaxy S22 Ultra features a quadruple camera setup on the rear, with a further laser auto focus module too. You get a main 108MP, f/1.8 shooter with a 12MP, f/2.2 ultra wide lens as well as a 10MP, f/2.4 3x telephoto shooter and another 10MP, f/4.9 10x optical zoom. Selfies meanwhile get taken care of with a 40MP, f/2.2 front-facing camera.
The TL:DR section here is that the Galaxy S22 Ultra has some phenomenal photography capabilities. If all you want is a point-and-shoot solution, it does it extremely well, while if you wanna your hands dirty the zoom functionality is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen in a smartphone, period. The 3x and 10x optical zoom is great, and while the 100x Space Zoom can come off like a gimmick, it certainly works well enough to get you somewhat usable images. Again, it’s an impressive party trick, but I doubt you’ll be making headlines as an Instagram photography account with all 100x Space Zoom pictures; once you go past 10x zoom, you’re facing an uphill battle against image noise and blurriness.
Low light shots though are a little bit more of a mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time they are great, but shots do sometimes end up getting overblown and overexposed. The scene could be fairly dark with hints of light, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s night mode occasionally ends up making the whole image lit up. It’s certainly your preference as to whether you prefer that or images with more true-to-life lighting at night though.
Portrait mode meanwhile is pretty solid, with a rather natural bokeh to it, while the additional pet portrait mode means that it’s a clear winner if you’re into taking pictures of your furry friends. The front facing camera is also good and perfectly great for social media. There’s also the Focus Enhancer feature that, just like Macro Mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, gets you really nice close up shots.
Overall, I think the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a very solid camera system here, with its point-and-shoot functionality really only challenged by the Apple iPhone 13 lineup. Its the extra features though that could make or break which device you’d prefer. However, as my colleague Dzamira pointed out in her review of the Galaxy S22, Android devices don’t seem to play well with uploading images and video to social media, and I did sometimes notice a depreciation in quality too once posted to Instagram for example. If that’s as much of a dealbreaker as it was to Dzamira then well you know where to go I guess.
Samsung again shows how to do mobile displays
During my time with the Galaxy S21 FE, one of the redeeming factors it had was the great display, and with the Galaxy S22 Ultra Samsung is merely bringing it up a notch. The 6.8-inch, QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X curved edge display with the 120Hz refresh rate is simply stunning, with its peak brightness of 1750nits and 3,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
Watching movies and YouTube on the go almost always promises a good time visually (assuming I’m not tired of holding the phone), while just scrolling through social media is also great. You’d be hard pressed to find a higher resolution smartphone display, with the Sony Xperia 1 series the only ones off the top of my head with a higher 4K display. You’ll want to ensure you get the display settings right though; the default display setting has it on Vivid, which was fine with me but you could tweak it if you’d prefer.
Audio is also great, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra offering a bit more of the full body sound I crave from its stereo speakers. I think it falls ever so slightly short of the iPhone 13 Pro Max in this regard, but it’s certainly useable for most people. It also gets really nice and loud, enough to cover the room with your tunes. No 3.5mm audio jack which is as expected though these days.
One other thing I’m genuinely pleased to hear is that Samsung is promising four years of Android OS upgrades with five years of security patches. That means that if you plan to switch to the Galaxy S22 Ultra yourself, you should be good for up to four years or perhaps more too. It’s one of the best in the Android scene right now, and I think every other manufacturer should aim to do what Samsung are doing in this regard.
It’s the best Android has to offer, with a price to match
If you’re looking at the Galaxy S22 Ultra, you’ll want to prepare your wallet because it’s not a cheap smartphone by any measure. Here’s how much they’ll cost you:
Is it a good smartphone? Honestly yeah, it’s a solid choice for almost anyone barring some performance issues which I’m sure Samsung can patch out with some OTA updates. It has arguably the best camera system I’ve seen on an Android yet, and you’ll get a respectable all-day battery life out of it. The display meanwhile is classic Samsung perfection, and you could ostensibly use it till 2026 comes around.
Do I think it’s worth it though? For me personally, at almost six grand for the top end model, it’s a little tough to recommend. Since the Galaxy S22 Ultra debuted in Malaysia, there’s been a plethora of other Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered Android flagships available, with everything from the RM4,999Oppo Find X5 Pro and the RM4,199 OnePlus 10 Pro to much more value-oriented options such as the Realme GT 2 Pro at RM2,999, the Xiaomi 12 at RM2,899 or the Poco F4 GT at just RM2,299. If you simply want pure performance and don’t necessarily need all the extra stuff like great cameras and a stylus, these lower priced options may be worth a look.
With all that being said, for many Malaysians who don’t want to make the switch to an Apple iPhone, Samsung’s flagships are almost always worth it—even if it means paying a little bit of a ‘Samsung tax’ for it over rival Chinese Android smartphones. That little extra goes a long way too, with Samsung for example guaranteeing at least four Android OS upgrades, more than any other in the Android scene. Its rivals also can’t get you its One UI interface, which many users prefer over other Android skins.
In that case, the only real alternatives the Galaxy S22 Ultra has is its own stablemates, the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+. And yet, neither really have what it offers such as the large display, stylus support and camera setup. In this regard, the Galaxy S22 Ultra does kind of stand out a bit as being one of, if not the best Android has to offer.
As such, while not necessarily my go to recommendation due to the price, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is undoubtedly a good all-rounder flagship that most people, Samsung fans in particular, will probably enjoy using.