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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: triumphant return of the Note superphone | Samsung

OWith the Galaxy S22 Ultra superphone, Samsung has brought back its popular Note line in all its names, equipping it with a built-in stylus and the competition-beating camera with 3x and 10x optical zoom from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. ‘last year.

Costing £1,149 ($1,200 / A$1,849), it’s one of the most expensive non-folding phones you can buy, but it offers features you just can’t get on others. phones and will receive at least five years of software updates – longer than any other Android.

The S22 Ultra is nothing like the S22+ or the other “S-line” models. Instead, the new superphone updates the design of the Note 20 Ultra from 2020 with an “S Pen” stylus that slots neatly into the bottom for storage and charging.

the back of the galaxy s22 ultra
The smooth matte glass back and aluminum frame come in a range of colors but look particularly monolithic in black. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The top and bottom are flat metal, while the glass back and front curve at the sides to meet an aluminum band. It’s a really big and imposing phone, but relatively easy to hold and use. I can pretty much wield it one-handed with no attachments, but I’d probably resort to a Popsocket or similar on the back in the long run.

The 6.8-inch screen is stunning: crisp, smooth with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz and with an extremely high maximum brightness of 1,750 nits (a standard measure of screen brightness), making it easier to read in direct sunlight compared to its competitors.

Characteristics

  • Main screen: 6.8-inch QHD+ dynamic AMOLED 2X (500ppi) 120Hz

  • Processor: Samsung Exynos 2200 (EU) or Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US)

  • RAM: 8 or 12 GB of RAM

  • Storage room: 128, 256, 512 GB or 1 TB

  • Operating system: A 4.1 UI based on Android 12

  • Camera: Quad rear camera: 108MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x and 10x telephoto; 40MP front-facing

  • Connectivity: 5G, USB-C, Wi-Fi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, UWB and GNSS

  • Water resistance: IP68 (1.5m for 30 minutes)

  • Dimensions: 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm

  • Weight: 228g

Long battery life

the bottom of the S22 Ultra showing the USB-C port and docked S Pen
The phone fully charges in 63 minutes, reaching 50% in 22 minutes using a 45W USB-C PPS charger (AC adapter not included). Fast wireless charging (15W) and reverse wireless charging are available. The S Pen slots into the bottom right of the phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

In the US, the S22 Ultra has Qualcomm’s best standard Android chip for 2022, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1while in the EU it has a Samsung Exynos 2200. Overall performance was excellent – it handled multiple apps on screen at once without lag, although it wasn’t noticeably faster than last year’s already speedy models. The Exynos 2200’s gaming performance was more variable than its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-equipped rivals.

Battery life is excellent. The S22 Ultra lasts over 40 hours between charges, including three hours on 5G, with the screen set to FHD+ resolution and in active use for over 6.5 hours with a variety of apps chap, camera , Chrome, Spotify, 2.5 hours of Netflix and a bit of gaming. Increasing the screen resolution to its maximum QHD+ cut screen time by about an hour. The phone should easily make it through the heaviest days, or two if used more sparingly, which is longer than most rivals except the 48+ hour iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Durability

the fingerprint sensor icon displayed on the S22 Ultra screen
The fingerprint sensor under the display is quick and responsive, making it easy to unlock the device or authenticate payments. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Samsung does not provide an expected battery life. Those from similar devices typically retain at least 80% of their original capacity for at least 500 full charge cycles.

The phone is generally repairable. Screen repairs cost £229, while the battery is replaceable by authorized service centres. But the phone only gets a three out of 10 on iFixit Repairability Ranking.

Many internal components are made from 20% nylon or recycled plastic. Samsung offers trade-in and recycling programs for older devices. The company publishes annual sustainability reports but not impact assessments for individual products.

OneUI 4.1

a tutorial pop-up showing how to use the S Pen on the S22 Ultra
OneUI offers various additional features on top of standard Android to support the S Pen, including helpful tips on using its more advanced features. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The S22 Ultra comes with OneUI 4.1, which is based on the latest version of Android 12 and receives rapid updates unlike some competitors. The Ultra has several software customizations to accommodate the S Pen stylus.

These include handwriting recognition, various screenwriting and screen capture tools, translation and gesture support, including using the S Pen as a remote or wand. magic to perform actions. For quick note-taking, annotating documents or screenshots or scribbles, the S Pen is second to none.

The S22 Ultra will receive at least five years of software updates of release, including four major Android version updates and monthly security patchesmaking it one of the longest-lasting Android devices available and second only to Apple’s six-plus-year support for its iPhones.

Camera

the camera app on a galaxy s22 ultra
The camera app offers point and shoot simplicity with various automatic modes, but also has full manual control and the ability to save RAW files as well as Jpegs. The S Pen can also be used as a remote shutter. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The S22 Ultra has the same quad-camera setup as 2021’s S21 Ultra with not one but two optical zoom cameras producing equally impressive results.

The 108MP main camera produces 12MP images by default and is one of the best available, taking very detailed and well-balanced images, with improved low-light performance over last year’s model, although at times faces may be too bright at night. The 12MP ultrawide is also good, with better low-light performance and generally improved image clarity.

The 3x and 10x 12MP cameras are still the stars of the show. They’re both better in terms of detail, producing clearer, sharper images with less obvious image processing than last year. The 3x zoom is great for photographing nearby people or objects, while the 10x zoom provides significant magnification to close the distance on things you can’t physically walk to. Airplanes in the sky, ships at sea or distant landmarks are now at your fingertips.

camera lenses pictured protrude slightly from the glass back of the S22 Ultra
Unlike most smartphones, the five camera system modules simply pop out of the frosted glass back with no surrounding bump or bulge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can continue with digital zoom in addition to 10x optical zoom. Shots up to 30x are very good with less grain and better colors than last year, while zooming up to 100x has improved detail and sharper outlines of objects. It still looks like an oil painting, but you might make out a car license plate at maximum zoom during the day if you’re steady enough.

The macro mode for close-up photography works well, while the selfie camera is one of the best around, producing excellent shots in a range of light levels.

Some rival cameras are better for individual things, but as a package there’s no other phone that can beat the adaptability and killer zoom of the S22 Ultra’s camera system.

Price

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costs from £1,149 ($1,199.99/A$1,849) with 128 GB of storage.

For comparison, the Galaxy S22 costs £769the S22+ costs £949the Z Flip 3 costs £949the Z Fold 3 costs £1,599the Google Pixel 6 Pro costs £849 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max costs £1,049

Verdict

The S22 Ultra really should be called a Galaxy Note. It’s a giant phone for power users, offering unrivaled features, from the fantastic camera with more optical zoom than any other to the long battery life, stunning display and powerful built-in S Pen. .

However, it’s the stylus that can make the phone a niche product. Samsung’s most dedicated fans were Note buyers who will be very happy, as the S22 Ultra offers a top-notch writing and drawing experience. But many people will probably never remove the stylus from its base.

It’s really good to see Samsung using recycled materials in a phone for the first time and delivering at least five years of software updates from release, making it the most sustainable Android available.

It’s not as exciting as some of the newer foldable phones. But the S22 Ultra is the best Android superphone money can buy and it will be beaten this year.

Benefits: large 120Hz display, fantastic and flexible camera with 3x and 10x optical zoom, One UI, S Pen, good performance, long battery life, five years of software support, contains recycled materials.

The inconvenients: huge, heavy, very expensive, the S Pen may be a superfluous feature for many, variable gaming performance for the European model.

the S22 Ultra laid flat on a table showing its frosted glass back
The S22 Ultra stands out from the crowd with a design like no other and on a scale not attempted. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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