I came to the conclusion in my Galaxy S22+ review that Samsung has finally made a great default phone. One that has most everything you’d expect from a smartphone and not much else. They haven’t left people in search of the ridiculous high end in the dark though – if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want the standard, who wants every feature but the kitchen sink in your phone, the S22 Ultra is here for you.
When you first pick up the phone, the size of the screen and the device itself is immediately apparent. This is one chunky slab of phone. With a screen measuring 6.8 inches corner to corner, 1440 x 3088 pixels of resolution, 120Hz refresh rate and with HDR10 capability – this screen has about every spec you could feasibly want out of a phone. And it looks as great as the specs would lead you to believe. It’s bright, punchy and scrolling is smooth as hell. HDR video in particular looks damn incredible.
Given how fantastic this screen is though, it’s a real shame it’s shaped the way it is. Similar to Samsung’s displays dating back to the S6 Edge, the screen cascades off the sides in a way that looks awesome in photos but in use does nothing but make the experience of using the phone worse. Text and images warp as they wrap around the edge, light catches the curve in a way that can obscure what you’re looking at on screen, and compared to the standard S22 the curved edge makes the phone way harder to actually hold on to. With a phone this big you want every bit of help you can get, and this curved screen just made me worried I was gonna drop the phone every time I used it. I really hope Samsung moves past this Note style shape for the next Ultra – it really adds a whole bunch of problems to what otherwise is one of the best screens you can get on a phone.
I try not to get too hyperbolic in my reviews, but far out – the 10x zoom lens on this camera system is something I will miss in every phone that doesn’t have it from now on. Most phones with ‘telephoto’ lens options go somewhere between 2x and 3x, which is nice but often you can get similar shots by just taking a few steps closer to your subject. The 10x lens though? It let me get shots that I just literally could not have got otherwise. Sitting on one edge of a football oval and getting perfectly clear shots of the scoreboard over a hundred metres away blew me away. To be fair, the shots from the telephoto often don’t hold up quite as well as ones from the standard ‘wide’ camera – but it’s just so nice to have an entirely new tool in the kit for getting new and interesting photos from a phone.
The other cameras in the set take fantastic photos as well – like the standard S22 the wide camera uses Samsung’s Adaptive Pixel tech to take photos with the massive high-resolution sensor (108MP in this case) and then bin them down to 12MP to get more detail and better lighting in your shots. Even the selfie camera is overkill at an absurd 40MP, but this kind of phone is where the absurd lives. Your selfies will be more detailed than they’ve ever been.
While it’s not technically a Galaxy Note, the Ultra has clearly been passed the Note torch. It’s a Note in shape, a Note in size, and carries along with it the most Note-defining accessory – the S Pen. It’s an accessory I’ve always been curious to try but never figured I would find much use for. Samsung has given it some near useless gimmick features – does anyone really want to wave a stylus like a magic wand to turn up the phone’s volume? – but alongside this is some genuine utility you won’t find anywhere else. Tap the screen with the Pen while the phone is asleep, and you’ll start taking a quick note that will be saved to your Notes app. You can use the pen to select portions of the screen to screenshot and easily mark up screenshots or documents. It surprised me by being useful as a mouse cursor for remoting into a desktop computer at home – having a hover state and a click makes it a pretty great way to interface with non-mobile optimised interfaces like a home server, something I would never have predicted to be as useful as it is.
While I could pretty universally recommend the S22+, the Ultra needs a bit more nuance. It’s way more expensive, and you get an array features for the extra cash that run from outright gimmick to genuinely useful – but it’s not a home-run of a phone. The physical form of the phone to me is worse in most ways that matter compared to the S22. From the curved screen obscuring content and making the phone harder to hold to the camera package just kind of jutting out of the phone – the physical design choices made with this phone feels clumsy compared to the other phones in the S22 lineup.
If you can get past the awkward form of the phone, you'll get a feature rich, blazingly fast Android device with a surprisingly useful stylus and the most versatile camera system I've ever encountered on a phone. It comes with a hefty price tag but if you know what you're getting in to - it might be a price worth paying for the useful features you'll get in return.