Starting price: $1,199
Android version: 12, One UI 4.1
Display: 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3088 x 1440)
Refresh rate: 1-120Hz
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US), Exynos 2200 (UK)
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No
Rear cameras: 108MP (f/2.2) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 10x telephoto, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto
Front camera: 40MP (f/2.2)
Battery: 5,000 mAh
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:50 (adaptive), 10:18 (60Hz)
Size: 6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 inches
Weight: 8 ounces
Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green
This Galaxy S22 Ultra review proves that Samsung knows what power users want. This new beast adds the Galaxy Note's best feature while also offering a ton of other upgrades. Yup, there's an S Pen built in, but there's a lot more going on with this flagship as Samsung tries to top our best phone list.
For starters, the S Pen is more responsive, as Samsung made it 70% faster with less latency. The display is also brighter and more colorful than anything we've tested, and you get faster 45W charging.
You can also read our S Pen face-off between the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra's biggest upgrades come with its cameras, as Samsung is shooting to overtake the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Google Pixel 6 Pro as the best camera phone with the help of a raft of upgrades. These include a bigger main sensor for better low-light photos, an AI-boosted portrait mode and a new Super Clear lens.
On the other hand, Samsung is asking a lot of money — $1,199 — for a phone that now comes with less RAM than before, and the S22 Ultra costs $100 to $300 more than its top competitors. That's one of the factors that makes the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. OnePlus 10 Pro decision a tough one.
Based on my testing, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best Android phone money can buy if not quite the best phone overall.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review cheat sheet
- Best phone display yet: The Galaxy S22 Ultra's AMOLED panel is not only brighter than the competition, making it ideal for outdoor viewing, it delivers better color saturation.
- The S Pen is better: By reducing the latency by 70%, writing and drawing on the Galaxy S22 Ultra feels as smooth as pen and paper. And there's a holster built in.
- Better photos (especially in low light): Thanks to a bigger main sensor, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivers brighter pictures than the S21 Ultra, and the Night Mode works even better than the iPhone 13 Pro Max in certain scenarios.
- Longer support: Samsung is promising five years of update support and four years of major OS updates, so this flagship should be able to last you a long time.
- Battery life could be better: We saw a little over 10 hours of endurance in our web surfing battery test. That's good but behind the iPhone 13 Pro Max's over 12 hours.
- Sleek and durable design: The Galaxy S22 Ultra is protected by an armor aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus+ back, and yet it's lighter than the iPhone 13 Pro Max without a lame notch. Some may not dig the curved display, though.
- 45W charging is fast (but not that fast): The phone got to 67% in 30 minutes, which is not that much faster than 25W (58%).
Samsung Galaxy S22 review: Release date and price
Starting at $1,199 for the Galaxy S22 Ultra in its 8GB/128GB configuration. It costs $1,299 to go up to 256GB, $1,399 for 512GB and $1,599 for 1TB.
Available to buy now, the Galaxy S22 Ultra comes in black, white, green, but also has a burgundy option. Online you can get the larger phone in Graphite, Sky Blue and red.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Design
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is simple but stunning at the same time. I appreciate the sharp, squared-off angles, and I also like that the cameras aren't housed in a honking bump. They are more flush with the back of the handset. The overall look is minimalist and sleek.
Another plus: The 6.8-inch display is gently curved, so it adds some aesthetic appeal without leading to accidental screen presses. My only complaint is that sometimes typing words or moving the cursor on the extreme left or right side of the screen can be a challenge. Despite having a slightly larger display than the 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, the S22 Ultra is lighter at 8.07 ounces vs. 8.5 ounces for Apple's handset.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra feels solid and durable, and it should, as it's fortified with an armor aluminum frame and a Gorilla Glass Victus+ back. We'll have to see how well this phone holds up in drop tests, though.
The color options for the Galaxy S22 Ultra include Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green and Burgundy. I tend not to use a case, so I would probably opt for the very eye-popping white model.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Display
Samsung just upped the ante for display quality with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. As before, you get a dynamic 120Hz refresh rate, which made for smooth scrolling during our hands-on time. And there's a 240Hz touch sampling rate that gamers should appreciate.
But there are two notable display upgrades here. The first is that the screen has a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, which could be the brightest we've ever seen. (The standard brightness level is 1,250 nits, which is still quite high.)
The other display perk is a new Vision Booster feature, which can adjust the screen's brightness on the fly throughout the day. This means that you should have no problems using the S22 Ultra outdoors even in very strong sunlight.
I took the Galaxy S22 Ultra to Bryant Park with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Google Pixel 6 Pro, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra's display was noticeably brighter than the two competing phones when I fired up the trailer for Reacher.
When watching a trailer for Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, this Galaxy S22 Ultra's panel delivered rich colors and wide viewing angles, along with smooth motion during action scenes.
|Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra||iPhone 13 Pro Max||Google Pixel 6 Pro|
|Max brightness||1,359 nits||1,038 nits||842 nits|
|sRGB color gamut||137.5%||109.3%||104.2%|
|DCI-P3 color gamut||97.4%||77.4%||73.8|
|Delta-E color accuracy (lower is better)||0.25||0.21||0.3|
The Galaxy S22 Ultra's panel also impressed in our lab tests, as it reached a very high max brightness of 1,359 nits, compared to 1,038 nits for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and 842 nits for the Google Pixel 6 Pro.
In addition, the Galaxy S22 Ultra beat the competition on color reproduction, as it notched scores of 137.5% and 97.4% on the sRGB and DCI-P3 tests, compared to 109.3%/77.4% and 104.2%/73.8% for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pixel 6 Pro, respectively.
The only are where the S22 Ultra fell behind the iPhone was color accuracy, as it turned in a Delta-E score of 0.25 (where 0 is perfect). The iPhone 13 Pro Max hit 0.21.
One potential issue with the S22 Ultra's display has been noted by several users (though not us) who got their devices early. These units produce strange static-like bands across the display, but the issue is limited to Exynos-powered devices and Samsung promises a fix.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: S Pen
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the smoothest S Pen I've ever experienced, and that's because Samsung has dialed down the latency from 9 milliseconds to just 2.8 ms. So you're getting a 70% improvement here.
The best part is that you don't have to use a dumb case to store the S Pen as you had to with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. There's an S Pen holder built right in to the phone.
In addition, the Galaxy S22 Ultra uses AI to predict your hand movements and deliver that pen-and-paper feel. When taking notes the writing not only feels smooth, there's a neat sound that makes it sound like you're writing on paper.
I compared the S22 Ultra and S21 Ultra, and there is a noticeable difference in responsiveness when writing on the display. For example, when jotting down "This is the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra," I felt like the words were appearing in real time on the S22 Ultra as I scribbled, while it felt like the S21 Ultra was a half step behind and was trying to keep up with the S Pen.
Samsung has made a few other notable S Pen improvements, including more accurate handwriting-to-text conversions, as well as the ability to quickly save your notes in Microsoft Office docs and emails.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Cameras
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra looks determined to top our best camera phone list and unseat Apple and Google. Our testing shows that the S22 Ultra is a very good camera phone, but it's quite the champ.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra boasts a larger 2.4um pixel sensor for capturing more light and data, as well as a Super Clear Glass lens for capturing nighttime videos without flares. You also get a 12MP ultrawide lens, plus dual 10MP telephoto cameras that combine to offer 10x optical zoom and 100x space zoom. For more comparisons, check out our Samsung Galaxy S22 vs iPhone 13 Pro Max low-light photography comparison.
Samsung is also doubling down on computational photography with its camera system. There's adaptive pixel technology that combines 9 pixels into one for better images in the dark, enhanced AI high-res processing and 4x faster multi-frame processing. These software features are already getting a boost from Samsung, which began a camera update rollout in June 2022. Among the key improvements are a performance upgrade to portrait mode and a bug fix for Single Take.
While the S22 Ultra's Night Mode is improved, I'm more impressed with how the camera performs in low light without engaging Night Mode. Take this shot of a couple of Star Wars figurines with very little ambient light. With the S21 Ultra you ban barely make out the left side the Darth Vader's helmet or Han Solo's boots or hair. Both become visible and more clear in the S22 Ultra's shot.
In addition, the pot for the artificial plant and the green leaves pop more in the S22 Ultra photo, as does the painting in the background.
The 10x zoom on the Galaxy S22 Ultra is among the best I've tested, as evidenced by this shot of a goose I captured in a nearby park. The 30x zoom loses some detail and looks more like a watercolor painting, but it's still cool that you can get that close.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra generally impressed with this photo of chrysanthemum flowers taken indoors. Samsung's phone delivers rich tones of purple, maroon and yellow. However, the iPhone 13 Pro Max delivers a brighter shot and much better details in the petals. The Pixel 6 Pro also outperforms the S22 Ultra, as there's simply more definition in its shot.
Samsung's S22 Ultra pulled ahead in this shot of trees. It delivers a brighter image with more vibrant greens than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. And because of those highlights the image looks clearer, especially when you look at the bark. There's better contrast, too.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra leverages AI Stereo Depth Maps for its improved portraits. In the above portrait my shirt and jeans look crisp and the background artfully blurred. Just as important, my skin tone looks natural in the late afternoon sunlight; previous Samsung phones had a tendency to wash out faces when outdoors in the sun.
Still, I give the edge to the iPhone 13 Pro Max here, as it delivers a brighter and more vibrant shot. The blue, turquoise, orange and white in my shirt all pop more. But the S22 Ultra's portrait is better than the Pixel 6 Pro, which looks grainy by comparison.
I then took a selfie with the S22 Ultra's 40MP front camera, and it produced an evenly lit shot with a good amount of detail, especially in my hair. The iPhone 13 Pro Max's photo was once again a bit brighter and more realistically captured the sunlight and shadows. You can also make out more of the stitching in my jacket. But I wouldn't say one phone is clearly better here.
I'd give a narrow edge the Pixel 6 Pro over the S22 Ultra in our selfie comparison, as the glow from the sun looks a bit more pleasant. But it's close.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra excelled with its Night Mode in this shot of a bench taken outside in close to complete darkness. Everything from the gray bench and green bushes to the surrounding mulch and bricks are more visible and brighter in the S22 Ultra's shot compared to the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
The Pixel 6 Pro does a better job illuminating the bushes in the foreground, the curtains and light coming from the window are closer to what I saw with the naked eye. But I still slightly prefer the S22 Ultra's shot here.
With Night mode turned on I shot these Star Wars figures once more, and I give the nod to the S22 Ultra here. The iPhone 13 Pro Max's shot is brighter but fuzzier. There's more crispness in the leaves and in Darth Vader on the S22 Ultra.
The Pixel 6 Pro produces a fairly bright image but it looks like there's a film over the whole photo and there's much less contrast.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra's Night mode fared quite well in this bar cart image taken in near darkness. In this photo the S22 Ultra does a better job exposing the decorations in the glass container on the right side of the frame than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, the glasses and bottle of Kettle One on the left look a bit clearer in the iPhone's shot.
The Pixel 6 Pro's image is even brighter, but some of the details look a bit fuzzier. This one is tough to call.
Samsung cameras sometimes have a tendency to oversaturate colors, and that's the case here with this S22 Ultra photo of produce in a grocery store. The pears look more yellowish than green, and the iPhone 13 Pro Max captures more realistic looking hues while also picking up more texture in the oranges. The Pixel 6 Pro also goes for a more realistic look but its image winds up looking a bit washed out.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra struggled a bit in this photo of Times Square on a sunny day. The sky is more washed out, as are the buildings being hit by the sun. The exposure just seems a little off, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max delivers a deeper blue in the sky without losing the clouds, and the billboard and The Counter signs are both easier to make out. The Pixel 6 Pro offers similar advantages from its shot, but the image looks flatter overall.
Other camera highlights include an Auto Framing feature that can recognize up to 10 subjects and once and a dedicated Expert RAW app that can capture 16-bit RAW files for those who want to take more creative control of their pics.
It's also worth remembering that the Scene Optimizer mode is turned on by default in the Galaxy S22 Ultra's camera settings. This mode aims to smartly enhance photos by tweaking white balance, colors, brightness and more. Usually, it would be best to switch this feature off, as it can overcook photos, but Scene Optimizer is now so good in the Galaxy S22 Ultra that you can keep it on.
One interesting thing to note about the Galaxy S22Ultra 's photography is that it differs slightly between countries due to the different chipsets Samsung uses. You can read more about that in our report on some recent Galaxy S22 Ultra camera testing.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Video
The Galaxy S22 Ultra takes crisp-looking video up to 8K at 24 fps and can keep your footage looking super stable with its improved Super Steady mode. And there's plenty of extra features you can play with, such as Portrait Video mode.
To test the S22 Ultra's video quality I recorded this video of a fountain at Bryant Park, and the phone does a stellar job capturing the detail in the water and fountain as a I zoom in — even if the zooming action itself is a bit jumpy.
As I pan up, you'll see that the S22 Ultra captures a crisp blue sky and wisps of white clouds, and the glass building in the background has plenty of detail. The zoom mic feature also works well, as you'll notice that the sound of the fountain gets louder as I zoom in.
The Super Steady mode, which maxes out at full HD and 60 fps, delivered smooth footage even as I walked briskly up a hiking trail to the Manasquan river. However, the video itself wasn't as colorful and rich as I'd hoped when filming the surrounding woods.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Performance
@tomsguide (opens in new tab) ♬ Sunroof - Nicky Youre & dazy (opens in new tab)
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the first phones powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, a 4nm chip that promises better CPU and graphics performance while delivering better efficiency. Samsung will offer its own 4nm Exynos 2200 chip in international markets.
Despite having only 8GB of RAM, the Galaxy S22 Ultra feels super smooth when opening and closing apps. In fact, the S22 Ultra felt faster than the iPhone 13 Pro Max when switching or closing apps, as you can see in the TikTok video above.
The S22 Ultra also delivered immersive gameplay while tearing around the track in the Drive Club game. Same thing goes with Call of Duty Mobile; I didn't notice a hiccup as I mowed down multiple enemies.
In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is so good at gaming, it's got Roland Moore-Colyer interested in smartphone gaming all over again.
|Galaxy S22 Ultra||Pixel 6 Pro||iPhone 13 Pro Max|
|Geekbench 5 (single / multicore)||1240/3392||1027 / 2760||1720 / 4549|
|Geekbench ML TensorFlow Lite (CPU / GPU / NPU)||434/ 2039 / 3132||300 / 1376 / 1745||915 / 1587 / 2663|
|Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs)||0:47||0:48||0:25|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (Score / FPS)||9984 / 59.8 fps||6682 / 40 fps||11,418 / 68 fps|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme (Score / FPS)||2346 / 14||1832 / 11||3075 / 18|
- UPDATE: Geekbench has delisted the Galaxy S22 Ultra, as well as other Galaxy devices, due to Samsung's underhanded background throttling and cheating
On Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the Galaxy S22 Ultra turned in a single-core score of 1,240 and a multi-core score of 3,392. The Galaxy S21 Ultra had a lower single-core mark of 1,123 but strangely a higher mulit-core score of 3,440.
Geekbench told us that there could be an issue with the S22 Ultra's processor and throttling with the test, so we will report back once this is resolved.
By comparison, the iPhone 13 Pro Max hit 1.720 and 4,549 on Geekbench and the Google Pixel 6 Pro reached 1,027/2,760.
Things improved dramatically on the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited graphics test. The Galaxy S22 Ultra reached a score of 9,984 and a frame rate of 59.84 fps. Compare that to 5,739/34.4 fps on the S21 Ultra. Still, the iPhone 13 Pro Max scored a higher 11,418/68.4 fps. The Pixel 6 Pro got only 6682 / 40 fps.
Last but not least, we did a video encoding test using the Adobe Premiere Rush app, taking a 4K video file and transcoding it to 1080p. The Galaxy S22 Ultra took a fairly brisk 47 seconds to complete the task, which is markedly better than the S21 Ultra's 1:02. The iPhone 13 Pro Max needed only 25 seconds, while the Pixel 6 Pro was comparable to the Galaxy S22 Ultra with a time of 48 seconds.
For more, see our Galaxy S22 Ultra benchmark (opens in new tab) review, which also includes machine learning benchmark results.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra starts with 128GB of RAM, but I'd like to see 256GB as the base storage for a $1,199 starting price. You can upgrade that to 256GB, 512GB or 1TB when you buy, but there's no expandable storage via a microSD slot.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Battery and charging
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is powered by a large 5,000 mAH battery, which Samsung says will last over a day in typical usage. We've run the Tom's Guide battery test a few times, which involves continuous web surfing over 5G at 150 nits of screen brightness.
The best battery life result for the S22 Ultra thus far is 10 hours and 18 minutes over T-Mobile's network with the 60Hz mode turned on. That's good and well ahead of the 7:55 from the Google Pixel 6 Pro, but this runtime is behind the 11 hours and 25 minutes we saw from the S21 Ultra and the iPhone 13 Pro Max lasted an even longer 12:16.
With adaptive mode turned on for the display (which scales up to 120Hz), the S22 Ultra lasted 8:50, which is lower than we expected. We'll report back with further results.
When it's time to juice back up, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers 45W charging, which is an upgrade over the 25W charging in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung promises you'll get to 50% in 20 minutes, which would be about 10 minutes faster than the S21 Ultra.
We tested a 45W charger, and it juiced our Galaxy S22 Ultra to 36% in 15 minutes and 67% in 30 minutes. That's faster than a 25W charger with the same phone (29%/58%), but it's not a dramatic difference.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Software
The Galaxy S22 Ultra is powered by Samsung's OneUI 4.1 software, which runs on top of Android 12. Samsung says this interface is more intuitive and useful than previous versions, and there's a new privacy dashboard for peace of mind.
Samsung is also touting Samsung Wallet, which can combine your digital payment info, ID, and more into one tool. The new Google Duo app lets you share videos and documents during video calls, similar to SharePlay in Apple's iOS 15 software.
Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Pixel 6 Pro
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra has some strong competition out there, and we've pitted it against two of the best phones around. Check out our Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max face-off to see how Samsung's flagship stacks up against the top-end Apple flagship. Samsung's display is definitely better, but its cameras are a step behind in some cases.
If you're in the market for an Android phone, see our Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Pixel 6 Pro comparison. The Pixel 6 Pro wins on value because it's $300 less, but Samsung wins a number of rounds.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is easily the most powerful and versatile Android phone this side of a foldable. This is the best display we've tested in a phone, and Samsung's cameras are much improved, especially in low light. Plus, the powerful zoom continues to be hard to beat.
Is the Galaxy S22 Ultra worth $300 more than the Google Pixel 6 Pro? That's not an easy call. The S22's Ultra delivers a brighter screen, longer battery life and a faster chip, but while the S Pen is faster and smoother than before, not everyone appreciates that perk. And the Pixel 6 Pro's camera quality is better in some instances.
Then there's the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which is faster than the S22 Ultra, lasts longer on a charge and delivers better photo quality (with the exception of low light shots). Still, I prefer the sleeker design of the Galaxy S22 Ultra and more powerful zoom.
Overall, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best premium Android phone, and it's very close to being the best phone period.