Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra — 6 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip

Galaxy S22 Ultra reasons to buy and skip
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra looks to be one of the best phones yet, at least based on our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review, which is still in progress. But if you were thinking about upgrading to the new phone, there might be something holding you back from making the final decision to buy or skip the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

An $1,199 starting price can do that to people.

Yes, Samsung's latest flagship phone is a pricey device, but it certainly doesn't skimp on features. From a fast-refreshing display an a built-in S Pen to a powerful chipset and lots of camera improvements, the Galaxy S22 Ultra contains all the features you'd expect from a top-tier phone, plus a few extras specific to the this particular model.

Here's a closer look at why you may want to make the Galaxy S22 Ultra your next phone, along with some reasons on why you should hold off on making the upgrade. 

Interested in one of the cheaper models instead? We also look at reasons to buy and skip the Galaxy S22. And see our Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra comparison to see if the new flagship is worth the upgrade. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: Reasons to buy

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's brighter display

Samsung must have gotten fed up with having the iPhone win all the plaudits for its displays (especially since Samsung is reportedly Apple's chief supplier for that part). The entire Galaxy S22 lineup boasts some serious display improvements, highlighted by an attempt to make the brightest screens on any smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display vs iPhone 13 Pro Max in direct sunlight

Galaxy S22 Ultra (top) and iPhone 13 Pro Max (bottom) (Image credit: Future)

In the case of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, that means a screen that promises a peak brightness of 1,7500 nits and typical brightness of 1,200. Samsung's new phone comes pretty close to matching those claims, with our testing finding a maximum brightness of 1,359 nits when we tested the Galaxy S22 Ultra's display. That certainly outshines the 1,038-nit result of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

All those nits mean that you're never going to struggle to make out what's on your Galaxy S22 Ultra screen in bright sunlight. The S22 Ultra also registered more of both the sRGB color gamut and DCI-P3 color space in our lab test. And with Samsung's Vision Booster feature adjusting the display and balancing colors based on the ambient lighting, you shouldn't have to dive into your phone's settings to get a clear view of the screen.

The S Pen is now included with the Galaxy S22 Ultra

Speaking of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it was the first phone outside of the Galaxy Note series to offer support for Samsung's S Pen. That was a welcome, if incomplete step. Because the S Pen was an optional accessory to the S21 Ultra, it never felt like an integrated part of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

That's not a problem with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which includes a slot for the S Pen. That means you don't have to hunt down a case for carrying your stylus. Instead, you just pop it out of the phone and get right to jotting down notes right on the Galaxy S22 Ultra's screen.

The S Pen included with the Galaxy S22 Ultra also happens to be faster than before, with a 70% speed improvement and less latency. Throw in more accurate handwriting-to-text conversion and stylus-specific features incorporated into Microsoft Outlook, and this is a welcome addition to the Galaxy S's Ultra model, particularly if you view your phone as a productivity tool.

An improved refresh rate for the Galaxy S22 Ultra

Dynamic refresh rates are an increasingly common feature on top smartphones — well, maybe not so much on the iPhone 13 — with the devices ramping up the refresh rate when the on-screen activity gets frenetic and scaling back down when things are more static. It's a way of giving you the best of both worlds — an immersive experience when you're gaming or scrolling through web sites and less battery consumption when you don't need the refresh rate boost.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display

(Image credit: Future)

Last year's Galaxy S21 Ultra was able to range between 10Hz and 120Hz, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra takes that adjustment even further. The new phone can still hit 120Hz when needed, but when at other times, the refresh rate can drop as low as 1Hz. 

We're hoping that translates to improved battery life for the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The S21 Ultra turned in a better-than-average time on our battery test, though the phone lasted more than an hour long when we turned off its adaptive refresh rate. The Galaxy S22 Ultra, with its improved refresh rate, could wind up managing power consumption a little more deftly.

Faster charging on the Galaxy S22 Ultra

After offering 45W charging in 2020's Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung reverted to 25W charging in the following year's model. The Galaxy S22 Ultra reverses that decision, and 45W charging speeds are once again restored to Samsung's premium phone.

At that speed, you should be able to a drained Galaxy S22 Ultra to a 50% charge after just 20 minutes. That's 10 minutes faster than what it took the S21 Ultra to reach that mark, and it's also twice the top charging speed of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

You'll still have to supply your own charger — Samsung doesn't include one of those with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. But the higher ceiling on wired charging speeds is still welcome.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra takes better photos in low light

Looking only at the megapixel ratings for the Galaxy S22 Ultra's cameras, it would seem like not much has changed from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But that's simply not true. The 108MP main camera on the new phone now uses a larger 2.4um sensor that captures more light and data. Samsung has also introduced a Super Clear Glass lens for taking photos with less glare and lens flare at night.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera sample indoors low light of bar cart

A photo captured by the Galaxy S22 Ultra in an unlit room (Image credit: Future)

Samsung is billing the entire package as "Nightography," but don't hold that against them. Instead, just be happy with the end result that should mean more detailed, clearer images in low-light. And that applies to video as well as still photos.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra should survive a tumble

Samsung pulled out all the stops for the materials it used to build the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The new phone uses Gorilla Glass Victus Plus for the glass on its front and back. The phone offers an armor aluminum frame as well.

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

We won't know what that means in terms of durability until the drop test results come back after the Galaxy S22 Ultra's February 25 ship date. But Samsung seems very confident that its Galaxy S22 Ultra will hold up to everything that life can throw at it.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: Reasons to skip

The Galaxy S22 Ultra still costs a lot

First, the good news — the Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn't cost any more than the S21 Ultra did when it debuted a year ago. And the bad news? Well, $1,199 is a lot of money to pay for a phone.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra's price tag looks especially swollen when compared to what its closest rivals cost. The iPhone 13 Pro Max's starting price is $100 cheaper, and for the same $1,199 cost of the 128GB Galaxy S22 Ultra, you can buy a 256GB iPhone 13 Pro Max. (One of the best Samsung S22 deals includes a preorder promotion at Samsung where you can upgrade storage for free.) The Pixel 6 Pro — which is the best camera phone for Android users, pending the results of our S22 Ultra testing — is more affordable too, costing $899.

We're not saying you don't get a lot of bang for your buck with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. But equally impressive phones are out there for less than what Samsung wants to charge you.

An Ultra phone should have more RAM and storage

Not to dwell on the Galaxy S22 Ultra's price, but if we're going to pay four figures for a phone, we'd expect to see all its specs tricked out. And the 8GB of RAM in the base model simply don't cut it.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra featured 12GB in its entry-level configuration, but Samsung scaled back to 8GB for the new model. That may be a reflection of the rising cost of memory, but it's still a bummer to have to pay the same price for a phone with less RAM. And more storage than the 128GB included on the base model would have been welcome, too.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra three colors

(Image credit: Future)

You can get a Galaxy S22 Ultra with 12GB of RAM, but to do that, you've got to upgrade to the next model above the entry-level version. That will cost you $1,299 instead of the usual $1,199 starting price.

Galaxy S22 Ultra performance still lags behind the iPhone

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset that powers U.S. versions of the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a lot going for it, such as a faster AI engine and support for broader camera capabilities, but it does not appear to be a great leap forward in terms of performance. Early benchmarks show a marked improvements in some tests vs the Galaxy S21 Ultra, such as 3DMark for graphics and our real-world video editing test. Bu Samsung still trails the iPhone. 

While benchmarks can overstate performance gaps, there's no denying that the Apple's A15 Bionic is currently the fastest mobile silicon available for smartphones. That was true when we ran our iPhone 13 benchmarks late last year, and that doesn't change with the Galaxy S22 Ultra's arrival. It also means that the gap is only likely to further widen once the A16 chip in next fall's iPhone 14 models arrives on the scene.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.