Over the past few weeks I’ve been giving the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra a spin, and while it’s a fantastic phone, it’s failed to quite capture my attention in the way I thought it would.
That’s because I’m somewhat enamored with the iPhone 13 Pro, having swapped from Android to iOS, not least because it offers such a consistent experience. And my main Android phone is slowly transitioning from the Google Pixel 6 Pro to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, thanks to its folding display really shaking up how I think about using a smartphone.
So while the Galaxy S22 Ultra is very much the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note I always wanted it to be, it’s not found a place in my techie heart or a spot in my pocket. But it has an ace up its sleeve.
And that’s in gaming.
Now I’ve never been a huge mobile/smartphone gamer, preferring to use a dedicated handheld console, like the Nintendo Switch or even the old Nintendo 3DS that still has some life in it yet. But I reckon the Galaxy S22 Ultra might just be the best gaming phone you can get today, even though it’s not attempting to win that accolade.
Plenty of flagship phones are great at mobile gaming, as a good few of them sport Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, which very little can bring to its knees. And many have big, bright displays with 120Hz refresh rates.
But the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a handful of traits that make it just that bit better for gaming than the myriad of high-end Android phones I’ve used over the past few years.
Let’s start with the obvious: the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a powerhouse. The model I have uses Samsung’s Exynos 2200 chip, which may not beat the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 silicon in U.S. and Chinese models, but I’ve not found a game that really slows it down. The phone can get warm over extended periods of gaming, but it doesn't become unbearable.
As such, I was treated to some super-smooth gaming in Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9. But then again the Oppo Find X5 Pro I recently tested was no slouch either so fast performance is a given.
Where the Galaxy S22 Ultra has the edge is in its design and display. The latter is simply lovely. Like many Samsung Galaxy phone displays, it’s flush with vivid colors and contrast, though Samsung has done a good job at not going too far with saturation. But its advantage is that it has a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, which I find is noticeably brighter than any other phone display I’ve gawked at, and that really helps with gaming.
In Asphalt 9 every spark from my clumsy steering is searingly bright, while the more stylised and muted hues of Deus Ex Go have an added level of depth to them.
Add in 120Hz and a touch sampling rate of up to 240Hz, and the screen feels gloriously smooth and responsive; LTPO panel tech is also on hand to dynamically scales the refresh rate up or down depending in what refresh rates games support.
Yes a 120Hz refresh rate is nothing new in flagship phones. So that is where the Note-like design comes into play here.
I’ve enjoyed using a lot of big-screen phones over the past couple of years, but nothing has quite felt as good to play games or watch videos on as the boxy but gently curved rectangular screen of the Note phones. I think that’s why my interest in mobile gaming waned when I moved from a Galaxy Note 10 Plus to the Oppo Find X2 Pro, as the latter had a 120Hz display when the former was stuck with 60Hz — yes I know the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a 120Hz panel but I never got a chance to use that.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s big 6.8-inch AMOLED display has the Note’s design and feel, but with all the upgrades a 2022 flagship should have.
And I think it’s the best phone display around, not least because it's boxy rectangular shape looks a lot like a Samsung TV, which aids with immersion when it comes to gaming; comparatively some other phones can feel like slippery oblongs.
Speaking of slippery, the smooth matte back panel of the Galaxy S22 Ultra feels soft to the touch, but never as slippery as some more glossy phones. I also reckon the Note-like shape means it's nicer to hold in a landscape mode, with the flat top and bottom slides feeling less likely to escape one’s grasp when deep in some first-person shooter action. (Though, one of the best Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra cases would undoubtedly improve your grip.)
And speaking of FPS games, the size and shape of the display makes it great for shooters when using touch screen controls. There’s enough space to move your fingers around when deftly tracking an enemy’s head when peering down the iron sights of a CoD Mobile assault rifle, all without obscuring what’s going on in the game; that’s not so easily done with smaller phones.
The screen is also very handy for strategy games like Homeworld Mobile, where lots of space and a sharp QHD+ resolution is very useful for games that don’t scrimp on text and icons.
The same is true for the mobile reworking of Company of Heroes, one of the best real-time WWII strategy games around, where the bigger the screen, the better; one could argue the Galaxy Z Fold 3 would come into its own here, but the game isn’t yet optimized for foldables.
So that’s where the Galaxy S22 Ultra is taking key flagship phones features and just making then feel that bit better than rival phones. But the surprising feature that’s the cherry on top of my smartphone gaming experience comes in the form of the S Pen.
Not every game will play nice with Samsung’s take on a stylus, but those that do make it a joy to use. Navigating through the pixel-art world of Stardew Valley, and clearing a shrub-and-rock filled patch of land is just more precise with tap of an S Pen’s nib than my clumsy digits.
And using a combination of the S Pen and my fingers makes the potentially complex controls of Company of Heroes feel somewhat intuitive. Samsung may have touted the S Pen as a note taking and digital art making tool, but I feel it’s an under-appreciated smartphone gaming accessory.
I feel I've only scratched the tip of the iceberg here in this return to gaming on Android. But the Galaxy S22 Ultra has been the catalyst to get me interested in playing games on smartphones rather than flopping down on sofa and firing up the Xbox Series X or PS5 or get caught up in the game of doom-scrolling on Twitter.
So if you’re on the fence about which of the best phones you want to opt for, consider this another feather in the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s cap. And if you have any Android games you can recommend, feel free to get in touch.