Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra long-term review

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra showed in the long-term review that it is a real flagship. However, it needed a crucial update.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Just over a year ago, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra set the standard by which all Samsung phones and most of the smartphone market are judged. Traditionally, the Ultra is the smartphone with the best display, the best cameras and the fastest Samsung chipset. The Galaxy S23 series is now available and the Galaxy Z Fold4 clearly surpasses the S22 Ultra in terms of dimensions. So, is last year’s flagship still worth buying? Our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra long-term review is here to find out.

Design

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra took over the S Pen from the now discontinued Galaxy Note series for the first time in the series. In addition, there is no longer a real camera module. Instead, the lenses and sensors are located individually on the back. The display is slightly curved on the sides and merges into the completely round frame. The shape creates additional space in the case, so the battery could keep its size of 5,000 mAh despite of the S Pen slot.

Like the front, the back is made of Gorilla Glass Victus+, which has a matte surface on the back like its predecessor. As a result, the Ultra looks very high quality and feels silky soft at the same time. The surface also repels fingerprints and dirt and can be wiped off easily. The haptics of the Galaxy S22 Ultra are also excellent. It handles well despite its large frame and isn’t as top-heavy as last year’s Ultra. The fingerprint sensor area is right where the thumb would expect it to be, just like the buttons on the right.

The built-in S Pen, on the other hand, shines in its case on the right side. In a year of use, it was primarily used as a remote trigger for the camera app, what he did an excellent job with. Nevertheless, you would probably swap the space for 20% more battery capacity without thinking twice, because you benefit from it every day.

The display has a razor-thin top bezel, a slightly thicker bottom bezel, and noticeable side bezels. The latter allow for a secure hold without accidentally touching the panel. Unlocking via the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor was also favored by this. The ultrasonic sensor itself still works like it did on day one – extremely fast and reliable.

Display

The display of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was the best Samsung had to offer when it was released. Not much has changed with the successor Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Like in the S23 Ultra, the 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x panel has a resolution of 1,440 x 3,088 pixels and a maximum brightness of 1,750 nits.

In the S23 Ultra, however, a more intelligent Vision Booster has been added, which can adjust the hue and contrast for three different lighting conditions. In addition, Samsung now uses Gorilla Glass Victus 2 instead of Gorilla Glass Victus+. From our point of view you can do pretty much anything with 6.8 inches. Be it Netflix, movies, YouTube or just longer surfing the internet – the S22 Ultra is just plain fun. The large display is also ideal as a navigation system in the car.

Refresh rate handling is also excellent on the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s LTPO 2.0 display. The panel can adjust the refresh rate of any video content, whether SDR or HDR, 24, 30 or 60 fps, thereby extending battery life. If you don’t touch the screen, the Samsung smartphone switches back to 24 Hz. When you touch it, it instantly jumps to 120Hz for silky smooth animations and transitions. The GPU is also completely switched off when idling to save battery. Exactly the same happens with the always-on display.

The excellent display also goes well with the high-quality speakers. In addition to the more than sufficient volume, the sound was also convincing with clear highs and decent bass.

CPU / Benchmarks

As usual, the Samsung Galaxy S22 generation still had two chipset configurations. In some regions, like the US, the phones launched with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipsets and Adreno 730 GPUs. Here in Europe, the in-house Exynos 2200 processor with Xclipse 920 graphics took over the drive instead. In the successor Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, you get a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip worldwide, as Samsung was rumored to be dissatisfied with the performance of the Exynos 2300.

Both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and the Exynos 2200 are manufactured using a 4nm process and feature octa-core CPUs with the same base configuration of 1+3+4 cores. In both cases, you get a Cortex-X2 prime-core, three Cortex-A710 cores, and four Cortex-A510 cores with slight differences in clock speeds. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, has a 1+2+2+3 configuration and an Adreno 740 GPU.

Considering the Exynos 2200 took some criticism when it launched, it’s still holding up surprisingly well a year later. In the single-core test, the SD 8 Gen 1 and SD 8+ Gen 1 smartphones are still halfway in sight, while the Google Pixel 7 Pro with the Tensor G2 chip and the Asus ROG Phone 6D Ultimate with a MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ even have to give way to the S22 Ultra. In the multi-core test, on the other hand, the differences are significantly larger.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra also finishes in the second half of the table in the AnTuTu benchmark, but also beats the Galaxy Z Fold4. That’s because AnTuTu gives more weight to graphics performance in the results. And that’s where the Galaxy Z Fold4 with its two displays simply has the much tougher job to do.

Samsung OneUI 5.1

Our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra long-term review has been pushed back a bit to include Android 13 and One UI 5.1. The One UI 5 update made the Galaxy S22 Ultra a very different smartphone. When it launched with Android 12, it was the least responsive flagship phone out there. Apps often ran slowly or got stuck completely, even if they didn’t normally crash. The competition at the time, namely the Xiaomi 12 series, the Google Pixel 6 Pro or the iPhone 13 series, on the other hand, worked completely smoothly.

Then, in October, the One UI 5 update came and the picture was completely reversed. The Galaxy S22 Ultra became one of the smoothest phones out there. In addition, all the new One UI 5 features came, such as split screens (multi window). Multi Window can be enabled from the Recent Apps window and by tapping the app icon. Alternatively, you can activate the Samsung Edge Panels via Swype from the right edge, a customizable overview of apps and shortcuts.

Besides apps, you can also store your favorite multi-window combinations there – Chrome and YouTube, Instagram and YouTube, Chrome and a calculator or something similar. One UI 5 also offers a gesture to quickly open split-screen mode from any app by swiping two fingers from the bottom. The whole thing is activated under Settings – Advanced Features – Labs – Enable Multi Window for all apps.

Good Lock is also highly recommended. These are various mini apps that can be downloaded from the Samsung Galaxy App Store. For example, One Hand Operation+ is an app that lets you customize gestures for different functions – swipe from bottom right to go back or bottom left for recently used apps. Edge Touch, on the other hand, can disable the touch sensitivity of the screen edges. You can even select the exact width in pixels.

Sound Assistant lets you control the volume individually per app and set the volume buttons to control media volume instead of ringtone volume. You can also customize the volume panel that appears when you press the volume buttons. Nice Catch provides an overview of which apps make the smartphone vibrate, ring, show a toast notification or wake up the display to identify fraudulent apps.

The camera wizard lets you enable and disable Auto HDR, or turn off the camera’s default sharpening algorithm if you prefer softer images. You can also get the camera to stop automatically selecting a different lens if, for example, it thinks the current one is too dark.

Battery

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 5,000 mAh battery lasts for around 15.5 hours of intensive use. As with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, you can enable or disable fast charging and fast wireless charging. This is useful, for example, if you prefer to charge the S22 Ultra at night to keep the battery healthy.

On heavier usage days, such as heavy Google Maps navigation, the 15% warning came after about 4 hours with the display on and 14.5 hours of total usage. If the cameras are also used intensively, there is no way around an external battery. Otherwise you have to go to the next socket by the evening at the latest.

Once connected, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra goes from 0 to 100% in about 1:04 hours. After 30 minutes about 61% capacity is available. The Ultra never feels hot. As expected, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is even more economical with its 5,000 mAh. The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max also lasts a bit longer, but apart from that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is probably the most enduring flagship phone on the market.

Camera: photos

The cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra are still excellent. The range of focal lengths is among the best on the market and all the main cameras are autofocus equipped. The long-term test has shown that the ultra wide camera is needed less often than with other smartphones, since the 23 mm main camera is perfect for most shots. It also provides some naturally blurred backgrounds that are impossible with the combination of the small ultrawide sensor and the narrower lens. In contrast to the ultra-wide, the 3x and 10x zoom cameras were used almost every day.

The main camera of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is extremely capable. Highlights are always under control, even when shooting literally into the sun, while shadows benefit from authentic post-processing. Despite the wide range of shades, the camera retains many micro-contrasts in details and textures. The colors are vibrant and powerful.

The 3x telephoto camera has a focal length of 70mm and is perfect for isolating subjects at a medium distance. The excellent dynamic range is inherited from the main camera, as is the high-contrast and vibrant image quality. The level of detail isn’t as good as with the main camera, but it’s more than okay overall. There is minimal noise in some areas of the photos, but nothing dramatic. The stabilization is very good with the 3x telephoto and almost catches objects in the viewfinder.

The 10x periscope zoom is the sniper camera. The shots feel almost gimballed and you can see that the periscope almost holds on subjects in the viewfinder. While image quality is very good during the day, the 10x telephoto is largely useless at night. Unless you use a straight surface or a tripod and the self-timer. Which brings us back to the unique selling point – the S Pen.

Macro shots

Manufacturers repeatedly recommend ultra-wide cameras for macro shots, especially if they have autofocus, as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. This is because the ultrawide allows you to get extremely close to the subject thanks to the short focusing distance. On the other hand, with a 10x telephoto you can get much closer to the details despite the greater distance and the S22 Ultra is no exception.

The images look pretty good in daylight, although the fine detail in the subject separation doesn’t suggest a poster-size print. However, the dynamic range remains very good and, in addition, great colors meet great contrast.

Night shots

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra also takes great photos at night. In addition, the cameras in night mode also take pictures very quickly, usually within 2 seconds for the main and ultrawide cameras and 3-4 seconds for the telephoto cameras. Most of the time, the 108-megapixel camera doesn’t even need night mode unless it’s really dark.

A night mode shot always offered better highlight information and slightly lighter shadows with more detail. The images are sorted by zoom factor as above.

Selfie camera

The selfie camera also delivers excellent results in all lighting conditions. With 26 mm there are certain limits in terms of image detail. Group photos with four people were not a problem. There’s excellent detail and micro-contrast, and the camera app applies tone-mapping to emphasize subjects, and faces in particular.

Samsung Expert RAW

If you want to go one step further, you can try Samsung’s Expert RAW app. It allows full manual control of all camera parameters and saves both multi-frame processing from the built-in camera app and the raw image data for later post-processing. Expert RAW can capture images with all five cameras and outputs both JPEG and DNG files. These DNG files can be edited in Lightroom Mobile. Samsung’s full image data is embedded in the built-in lens profile.

Camera: videos

Videos from the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra also show an excellent dynamic range, good contrast, great sharpness and the excellent detail of the photos. Jumping between cameras might result in slight color shifts. Apart from that, there’s nothing to complain about.

We recorded all videos in 4K at 60 fps. This is the maximum that all cameras can manage, while the main camera scales up to 8K at 24 fps.

Finally, we ran our usual action video test against a GoPro Hero 9 Black, the video stabilization benchmark. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with the optically stabilized main camera does a decent job here, but no more. If the picture stays reasonably still, there is nothing to complain about. But as soon as pans or curves have to be stabilized, the GoPro easily shows the mobile phone its limits.

If we could change the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera in any way, we’d put larger sensors behind the two zoom lenses. For a 2022 smartphone, however, we complain at an extremely high level.

Verdict

9.1Expert Score
Verdict Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

In our long-term review, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra scored with an excellent display and one of the best camera setups on the market.

Design
9
Display
9.5
CPU / Benchmarks
8.5
Battery
8.5
Camera photos
9.5
Camera videos
9.5
Pros
  • great display, very bright
  • fast chipset
  • one of the best camera systems on the market
  • long-lasting battery
  • multifunctional S Pen is a unique selling point
  • excellent ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
  • loud stereo speakers with good sound
Cons
  • Charging speed far behind the competition

In 2023 it’s the same like last year – Samsung’s 2022 flagship can be recommended without reservation. Perhaps even more so this year as Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra prices are now at bargain levels. Apple’s iPhones may be ahead in synthetic benchmarks and have slightly better battery life. But they can’t sign a PDF file or display any two apps side by side. There are other great Android phones that perform even better in individual disciplines. But there is no smartphone that offers such a sophisticated overall package as the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

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