Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review: Take Note

Much has been said about the Galaxy Note series and its S Pen. It is the device that pretty much kicked off the phablet craze a little over a decade ago and now most smartphones are north of 6″ in size. With the Note seemingly placed on the back burner by Samsung, it is up to the Galaxy S22 Ultra to step up and fill the void.

Our past experiences with Ultra branded Galaxy phones has been mixed, with it feeling a little bit like overkill and cramming several powerful albeit unnecessary features into a large phone.

So what then of the S22 Ultra. Does it bridge the gap between Galaxy S and Galaxy Note, or it it just another expensive flagship phone?

We spent the past few weeks with the Galaxy S22 Ultra to find out. This is what we learned.

A bone to pick

First though, in the interest of transparency, we should note that the S22 Ultra in question here is a marketing sample that appeared at the local Unpacked event for the S22 series last month. For all intents and purposes it is the same as the devices that those who pre-ordered will receive come 11th March in SA, with the only real difference being the box that it comes in.

Speaking of which, we need to get something else out of the way – chargers.

In keeping with its recent sustainability messaging, the Galaxy S22 series will ship sans charger, and the chances of that changing anytime soon are slim to none at this stage.

While we understand Samsung’s position, given that the S22 Ultra starts at R28 999 (RRP), the least a consumer would expect is a charger to be in the box. The same goes for some kind of cover, as none is included either.

This means that two additional purchases will be needed, and sure, some customers may already have a compatible 45W charger at home, but if you don’t using something with the incorrect wattage could present battery problems down the line.

It quite simply is something that needs to be addressed and we will be mentioning it in every Galaxy S review we do where no charger is present in the box.

A welcome addition

Okay now that the little rant is over, let’s get back to the S22 Ultra. Starting with design and Samsung has done things a little bit different here.

Yes, it is still large, with a sumptuous 6.8″ Edge QHD+ (3088×1440) display present, but you will notice the curved sides of the device, which is meant to harken to the previous generation of Note device, according to Samsung.

It also helps distinguish the Ultra from the other models in the lineup, although to be fair it would be difficult to confuse them given the dimensions of this unit.

In terms of how it feels in hand, the mate finish to the phone’s rear is a nice touch, but it does not make it less prone to smudging compared to its glass alternative. As for the S Pen, it is easily accessible while recessed into the lower portion of the phone’s frame, although inserting it again without launching some of the smart modes can sometimes be unavoidable.

Shifting to the actual performance of this stylus, on the larger 6.8″ display of the Ultra it just makes sense. It is why we hope more Galaxy S and even A phones add it in future, especially if they sport a larger than average screen.

The ability to jot down notes, scribe and annotate images is great, and while it may not necessarily be better than standard typing, there is something to be said of the tactlessness that writing with an S Pen gives. We could certainly see this stylus being used in certain social media apps, where the ability to edit content on-device is a must.

Does the S Pen make you more productive? The short answer is no, but having used the S22 Ultra both with and without the embedded stylus, the experience is vastly improved with it.

All day and then some

Now let’s shift to the performance. Internally the Galaxy S22 Ultra is sporting some of the best mobile silicon we have encountered to date. It is also the first device we are reviewing with the 4nm octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

While we would have been effusive in our praise of the chipset, the recent issues surrounding throttling and GeekBench even choosing to remove benchmarks for the S22 series and other Samsung flagship phones, does mare things a little.

We are always of the opinion that benchmarking while helpful, does not tell the full story of performance.

That said, when we ran the S22 Ultra through GeekBench last month, it outperformed any phone we have reviewed to date. Garnering a single-core and multi-core score of 1 155 and 3 524, the only thing that comes close is the Galaxy Z Fold3.

You can take those numbers with a pinch of salt, but in our real world experience of the device, it performed expertly. It was rapid and handled multitasking with a breeze and all apps responded quickly when we tried to throw as much as possible at the S22 Ultra.

Any way you slice it, this is a well specced (8GB RAM, 128GB storage) and powerful smartphone, befitting of its price tag.

The same goes for the battery performance. These days a 5 000mAh unit is large, but not uncommon, even among mid-range phones. On the S22 Ultra though, the noteworthy element is that it sips battery power when not in use. It means that you can go two full days before a recharge is needed, which is something we achieved on several occasions during the review period.

We must note, however, that we steered clear of any wireless charging, as our experiences with the Galaxy S8 left us less than convinced by the technology, so wired is our preferred method.

Particular mention must also be paid to the camera system onboard the S22 Ultra. The primary lens is a 108MP wide-angle option, which again is not uncommon in this space, but Samsung has been able to eke out as performance of it as possible.

Shooting outdoors is fantastic with images looking richly detailed and the Nightography mode is also impressive, but does need some time to get use to. The same goes for video, with Samsung squarely aiming this device at content creators. Whether it can supplant a regular vlogging camera will depend on preference, but it can certainly be a great compliment to an existing creator setup.

You can read more about our camera experience of the S22 Ultra here.

Final verdict

Outside of the recent foldable phones, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra features the top of the line elements that the South Korean manufacturer can integrate into a phone. It is a device that does not settle for second best performance, and rightly so, given the fact that pricing for this flagship offering starts at R28 999.

The addition of the S Pen is superb and elevates the experience from what would normally be an expensive large phone.

Where past Ultra devices felt like a combination of impressive but superfluous features, the S22 Ultra has nailed its identity by delivering the most premium experience that Samsung can muster.

While we are going to miss the standalone Galaxy Note devices, if this is the successor, is is definitely a worthy one. It is always going to be difficult to justify R29k for a phone, but if your mobile device is your primary screen, the S22 Ultra is one of the best options out there.


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