The “Ultra” moniker in Samsung’s Galaxy lineup no longer means you’re just getting the biggest phone; now, it means you’re getting the biggest phone and everything but the kitchen sink. The S22 Ultra offers no less than five cameras, a huge, bright 6.8-inch OLED with up to 120Hz refresh rate, and, oh yeah, a built-in stylus too. It’s more or less the successor to the stylus-centric Note series, but more than that, it feels like the endgame of slab-style smartphone development. Related: it costs a steep $1200.
At the heart of the S22 Ultra is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset paired with 8 or 12GB of RAM. Performance is, not surprisingly, excellent; you’ll rarely see the phone stutter or hesitate, even while running graphics-intensive games. Samsung is also promising up to four generations of OS version upgrades, so the Ultra should remain a very good phone for years to come.
The included S Pen stylus pops out of a dedicated silo on the bottom of the phone, and Samsung says it’s been improved with lower latency than previous years’ S Pens. It’s hard to judge a few milliseconds of improvement, but it’s certainly responsive and easy to use. You can go deep into the stylus features with handwriting-to-text recognition options and slightly gimmicky “Air Actions” that turn the stylus into a magic wand / remote control combo. Or, you can just scribble notes to your heart’s content. The choice is yours.
The cameras are largely the same as the S21 Ultra’s, plus a couple of software-based improvements. Portrait mode photos look better, with more realistic subject isolation, and you can use night mode with high-res mode or portrait mode now. But the bottom line is that the solid camera system the S21 Ultra offered is still just as good here, including a 10x telephoto that’s about the best you’ll find on any smartphone, anywhere.
With so many power-hungry features piled on the S22 Ultra’s battery life is a bit lackluster. It will last a day of moderate use with a little in the tank, but power users may need to keep an eye on battery percentage and top off the 5,000mAh cell toward the end of the day. Fast 45W wired charging makes this a quick job, though.
If you know the stylus life is for you, and you’d use a 10x zoom regularly, rather than a handful of times as a curiosity, then look no further than the S22 Ultra. Its specialty features are somewhat niche, if powerful, which is why it’s not our overall pick for the best mainstream Android phone. But if you’re looking for a phone that can do just about anything, this is the right choice.