Do you ever notice how some people are just built differently? Like athletes for example. Running 100m under 10 second – breaking records, jumping higher and further than us average joe's could ever achieve in a lifetime? Well the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra feels like it shares those same sentiments. Existing in a league of its own, just minding its own business, for the time being that is.
From the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, to astounding cameras and a beautiful design to match, I could just end the review here and call it a day but there's clearly more to the Ultra name. So let's take a deep dive as to why this phone is just ridiculous to even exist in the realm of other smartphones and the smart ingenuity from Samsung that makes the S22 Ultra, well.. an Ultra phone.
Taking away most of the original design from the previous Galaxy S21 Ultra, there's only a slight difference in its form factor which now has the more squared off corners than before. It still retains the relatively large construction (163.3mm x 77.9mm), a very large 6.8 inch over-the-edge curved display, a punch hole camera cutout at the top, a matte finish on the back but now with a newly designed camera rings (which I'll get to in a bit), an armour aluminium frame (as Samsung calls it), your usual USB-C connector, dual speakers, and also a whole column for the new S-pen. All packaged nicely together that sits in your palm quite comfortably weighing 228g.
From most of my experience, I'm always being extra careful with it as it's definitely one of those phones where it'd be a slippery slope if you wouldn't want to consider slapping on a cover. Even the new camera layout loses its original design, losing the aluminium block that houses the cameras before, to now just the camera rings alone. Which in my opinion looks way better, but it sure tends to collect dust around it and it might have less of a drop protection knowing each camera lens is left exposed. Sorta the variant copy of how the iPhone 13 Pro's have done, with each lens protruding out from the body.
Without a doubt, Samsung really makes the best displays and went full throttle with the one on this S22 Ultra. With resolutions up to 1440 x 3088 and an Extra Brightness function, which allows the 6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display to have a peak brightness of 1750nits. Which in layman terms means, "you won't ever have any reading issues under direct sunlight", as well as Corning Gorilla Glass Victus Plus to improve drop resistance, and an adaptive refresh rate from 120Hz to all the way down to 1Hz when it's not moving.
There's also dual speakers to match any form of media consumption whether it'd be on Spotify, Netflix or YouTube, it sure has an excellent range of mids and highs, which gets really loud I might add, provided that Dolby Atmos is turned on.
The Ultrasonic fingerprint reader also makes a comeback from the S21 Ultra that is considerably fast and accurate – very rarely misreading any of the attempts.
The newly implemented Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and Adreno 730 GPU scored very high readings on our Geekbench tests scoring 1214 for Single-core and 3245 for Mutli-core. While our 3D Mark Wild Life test scored an overall 6456 which performed 90% better than the rest. Real-world results translate into smoother gaming experience and clean graphics and computational photography taken to an ultra level.
So clearly, the priority in this phone, much like almost every phone manufacturer nowadays - are its cameras.
So cameras, cameras, cameras… cameras. 4 of them to be exact which is brought over from the previous S21 Ultra and retains the same layout. There's still the 108MP Main camera, the 10MP periscope camera, a 10MP telephoto, a 12MP Ultra-wide, and also the Laser Autofocus sensor. Transitioning from each focal length is ultra consistent, never really showing major differences in image quality from each lens.
And I'd pretty much like to give it the crown for the best cameras in a phone I've been able to test thus far. With honourable mentions to the Huawei P50 Pro which comes very close to the performance of this S22 Ultra that produces very sharp and clean images, even at 10x zoom. Oddly, I rarely put enough faith into zoom lenses in any phone, but this telephoto and periscope camera is just excellent in every measure that I can think of and I couldn't help myself in capturing images I would never have been able to with a phone. Even at 100x zoom, the built-in stabilisation to help you frame your shot helps very much, but it takes a second for the NPU and GPU to work together before showing the final image, which makes all the computational photography magic in real time to process the most amount of detail required.
There is still some noticeable shutter lag and not exactly allowing me to capture fast moving subjects as intended unless you start using the Pro feature which lets you set shutter speed settings. Then again, average users aren't keen to use the Pro app as much so we did get official words from Samsung that they will be providing software updates to improve the shutter lag.
Video performance as well is one the best of its class topping at 8K24fps.
Now 8K resolution isn't anything new in smartphones. In fact, some of the mid-range phones have adopted 8K but have always run into heat management issues. So we had the chance to ask the experts at Samsung on how they have managed around this to which they replied :
" The lighter loads capping frame rates up to 24fps and an image crop prevents overheating issues, as the full 108MP sensor is provided with enough head room within each pixel size. ”
In other words, the 2X-like crop you get from shooting in 8K is to prevent it from overheating. So a decent compromise to say the least, and while 4K resolution itself is highly reliable anyways, to which tops at 60fps. A very pleasing natural depth of field, excellent colours and exposure compensations, there's really not much left to say than to admire some of these footage results for themselves.
As for battery life, I never managed to kill it within a day. Even with extensive gaming, media consumption, 4K recording, the 5000mAh battery just sips through power and barely makes a dent even if you tried. But if you're really determined, then a full day use is most likely the outcome you'd be looking at.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with Android 12 and OneUI 4.1 as standard, with 8GB or 12GB RAM and options of internal storage up to 512GB which has a starting price of RM5,099 or S$1,718
Sometime in October last year, the iPhone 13's and 13 Pro's were released, and I couldn't imagine anything else could top its camera performance. But here I am a few months later, stunned by yet another flagship with excellent camera performance and the build quality to match.
Then again, the competition between flagships is always a never ending rat race. Topping one performance spec above the other with notable impressions it leaves behind. For the S22 Ultra, while very small tweaks were made from the one last year, adding the new S-pen slot, toning down the aesthetics to suit the minimal trend, perfecting itself to the smallest detail, there's no denial as to how "ultra" this phone really is and how Samsung might just continue the incremental progress it's made with their flagships. Whether we find the S22 Ultra an excellent phone or whether you decide to buy one yourself or not, it really doesn't matter as flagships like these will always continue to wow us and do the unimaginable while we sit along the stands to cheer them on.
Written by Fitri Aiyub