Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra And S22+ Review: Ultimate Android Flagships


Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra And S22+: Refining A Winning Android Flagship Formula

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Another year, another triplet of Samsung Galaxy S flagships. Last week, Samsung launched the Galaxy S22 ($799), S22+ ($999), and S22 Ultra ($1,199), three premium phones with high-end specs that are targeted at dominating the Android landscape in the US, and battling the Android competition abroad. Needless to say, these are important handsets for the company, the carriers, the industry, and consumers alike.

But things are different this year. Samsung has a lot more riding on the S22 series, especially after last year’s lackluster flagship sales. Regardless, by all accounts, the S21 series checked all the right boxes, and the S21 Ultra in particular delivered superb imaging performance. So, besides upgrading to the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Exynos 2200 4nm SoCs, how do you improve on an already solid lineup? 

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Turns out that Samsung chose a two-pronged strategy. For the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the company merged the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s design and functionality with the S21 Ultra’s camera system. Don’t let the name fool you though: the Galaxy S22 Ultra is essentially the new Galaxy Note, complete with a stowable S-Pen. But for the Galaxy S22 and S22+, Samsung took a more iterative approach by simply upgrading the shooters and making a few cosmetic tweaks.

We just spent a week or so with the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S22+, and this is our deep-dive review. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and S22+ Hardware And Design

Let’s start with the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s design. If you take the Note 20 Ultra from 2020, remove the camera pod and replace it with four individually raised lenses, a matching circular laser autofocus module, and a flush-mounted LED flash, you get the new Galaxy S22 Ultra. Dimensions are identical within fractions of a millimeter, and the overall shape and layout (controls, ports, openings) are the same as well.

As such, the S22 Ultra is a large phone – bigger even than the Galaxy S21Ultra, the Pixel 6 Pro, or the iPhone 13 Pro Max. But at 6.8 inches across, the screen is 0.1-inches smaller than the Note 20 Ultra’s. And while the frame is aluminum instead of stainless steel, Gorilla Glass Victus+ now covers both the display and the matte back. In all, we really like this rectangular look. Despite its size, the S22 Ultra feels comfortable and familiar.

The top and bottom edges are perfectly flat, and are home to the nano SIM tray, primary mic, USB Type-C port, speaker grille, and S-Pen silo (bottom left) – and to the secondary mic (top). Along the curved sides, you’ll find a volume rocker, power / lock key, and mmWave antenna window (right), but not much else (left).

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (L) and S22+ (R)

At first glance, the Galaxy S22+ looks almost exactly like its predecessor, right down to the signature camera pod. Ditto the S22. The differences are subtle, and mostly change how these new phones feel in hand. Instead of the back panel curving into the aluminum frame, it’s now perfectly flat, and made of glass on both handsets (the S21 was plastic). Strangely, the frame no longer seamlessly blends into the camera bump.

With frame edges that are less curved and screen corners that are more rounded, this design feels slightly more iPhone 13-like. Interestingly, the displays are 0.1-inches smaller on both devices this year – 6.6 inches for the S22+ and 6.1 inches for the S22. Yet somehow, the bezels are even slimmer and more uniform. The result certainly looks more premium, but overall we’re less enamored with this updated design.

The layout is pretty standard around the edges, with a volume rocker, power / lock key, and mmWave antenna window on the right side, plus a speaker cover, USB Type-C port, primary mic, and nano-SIM tray along the bottom. There’s a secondary mic on top, and nothing but antenna bands on the left side.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (L) and S22+ (R)

Our S22 Ultra review unit came in Phantom Black, but other hues include Phantom White, Green, and Burgundy. Unlike before, the S-Pen is now mostly black, with only the clickable end matching the colorway of the phone. The S22 and S22+ are both available in Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green, and – like our review unit – Pink Gold. And this shade of pink definitely seems even more pink than before, so it may or may not be to your liking.

All three Galaxy S22 models are IP68 water and dust resistant, and have a center punch hole for the front shooter plus an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Like previous Samsung flagships, materials and build quality are top notch.

Watch our Samsung Galaxy S22 series hands-on video before we dig in deeper...
 

Samsung Galaxy S22+ Specs And Features

Processing and 5G Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 + integrated Snapdragon X65 5G Modem 
Display 6.6" FHD+ LTPS AMOLED, 2340x1080 resolution, 48-120Hz, HDR10+
Memory 8GB LPDDR5
Storage 128/256GB UFS 3.1
Rear-Facing Cameras 50MP f/1.8 Main OIS, dual-pixel PDAF - 12MP f/2.2 120º Ultra-Wide - 10MP f/2.4 3x Telephoto OIS, PDAF
Front-Facing Cameras 10MP f/2.2 dual-pixel PDAF
Video Recording Up to 8k @ 24fps, 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @ 120fps, 1080p slow-mo
Battery 4500 mAh, 45W wired charging, 15W wireless charging
OS Android 12 With One UI 4
Dimensions 157.4 x 75.8 x 7.6mm
Weight 196 grams
Connectivity 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2+LE, NFC, UWB, USB-C, LTE, 5G
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom White, Pink Gold, Green
Pricing Find Samsung's Galaxy S22+ @ Amazon, Starting at $999

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Specs And Features

Processing and 5G Platform Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 + integrated Snapdragon X65 5G Modem
Display 6.8" QHD+ LTPO AMOLED, 3088x1440 resolution, 1-120Hz, HDR10+
Memory 8/12GB LPDDR5
Storage 128/256/512/1024GB UFS 3.1
Rear-Facing Cameras 108MP f/1.8 Main OIS, PDAF, Laser AF - 12MP f/2.2 120º Ultra-Wide dual-pixel PDAF - 10MP f/2.4 3x Telephoto OIS, dual-pixel PDAF - 10MP f/4.9 10x Telephoto OIS, dual-pixel PDAF
Front-Facing Cameras 40MP f/2.2 PDAF
Video Recording Up to 8k @ 24fps, 4K @ 60fps, 1080p @ 120fps, 1080p slow-mo
Battery 5000 mAh, 45W wired charging, 15W wireless charging
OS Android 12 With One UI 4
Dimensions 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm
Weight 229 grams
Connectivity 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2+LE, NFC, UWB, USB-C, LTE, 5G
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green
Pricing Find Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra @ Amazon, Starting at $1,199

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and S22+ Display Quality

Samsung flagships have always delivered the best displays, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra and S22+ are no exception. The S22+ features a 6.6-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080 pixels, 393 ppi) LTPS AMOLED panel with a 48-120Hz variable refresh rate. Cranking things up a notch, the S22 Ultra packs a 6.8-inch Quad HD+ (3088 x 1440 pixels, 500 ppi) second-generation LTPO AMOLED screen with a 1-120Hz variable refresh rate.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ display

Both displays boast a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, HDR10+ support, and a whopping 1750 nits peak brightness. The S22+’s panel is perfectly flat, but the S22 Ultra’s screen is curved along the sides. We’re generally not big fans of “waterfall” displays like these, but at least the effect isn’t very pronounced here, and it makes that big S22 Ultra slightly easier to grip. Obviously, both panels are absolutely gorgeous.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display

Colors pop, blacks are inky deep, and viewing angles are excellent. Put them side-by-side, though, and the S22 Ultra’s screen exhibits more natural colors in direct sunlight than the S22+. Regardless, Samsung’s new Vision Booster does a much better job adjusting both displays for current lighting conditions than standard adaptive brightness.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and S22+ Camera Performance And Image Quality

Imaging has always been one of Samsung’s strengths. Last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra is widely considered to be one of the best and most versatile phone cameras for 2021. And while the S21 is still an extremely competent shooter today, its 12MP main camera and simulated 3x telephoto (which pairs a cropped 64MP sensor with a 1.1x lens) are no longer competitive. In fact, this odd setup dates back to the Galaxy S20.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ Camera Pod

The Galaxy S22 Ultra inherits its predecessor’s specs with only minor changes. It features a 108MP f/1.8 0.8-micron main shooter with PDAF and OIS, a 12MP f/2.2 1.4-micron 120-degree ultrawide with dual-pixel PDAF, a 10MP f/2.4 1.12-micron 3x telephoto with dual-pixel PDAF and OIS, a 10MP f/4.9 1.12-micron 10x periscope telephoto with dual-pixel PDAF and OIS, and a 40MP f/2.2 0.7-micron selfie camera with PDAF.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ main camera

With the Galaxy S22 and S22+, Samsung is introducing significantly upgraded shooters. These consist of a 50MP f/1.8 1.0-micron main camera with dual-pixel PDAF and OIS, a 12MP f/2.2 1.4-micron 120-degree ultrawide, a proper 10MP f/2.4 1.0-micron 3x telephoto with PDAF and OIS, and a 10MP f/2.2 1.22-micron front shooter with dual-pixel PDAF.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ ultrawide

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Samsung Galaxy S22+  main camera

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ telephoto (3x zoom)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ telephoto (10x zoom)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ telephoto (30x zoom)

Despite using different camera hardware, the S22 Ultra and S22/S22+ share the same imaging features, which include those previously available on the S21 series, plus a few new software tricks. The night and portrait modes have been improved using the latest in AI tech. Low light images are more detailed, and portraits are more natural looking. There’s even a night mode toggle in portrait mode, for the best of both worlds.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ main camera (auto)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ main camera (night mode)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ ultrawide (auto)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ ultrawide (night mode)

Auto framing is another new feature. It detects and tracks up to 10 people and keeps them in the frame by automatically zooming in or out while shooting video – clever. Then there’s Expert RAW, which is basically Samsung’s take on Apple’s multi-frame ProRAW format. It requires you to install a separate camera app from the Galaxy Store, which is similar to Sony’s Photo Pro app, but without the fancy Alpha user interface.

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ telephoto (3x zoom, macro)

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Samsung Galaxy S22+ selfie camera (portrait mode)

And when you’re ready to edit your masterpiece, Adobe Lightroom now supports Expert RAW. The rest of the shooting modes include high-res (108MP or 50MP), portrait video (1080p 30fps), pro, pro video (up to 8k 24fps / 4k 60fps / 1080p 120fps), motion photo, panorama, food, slow motion (1080p 240fps), super slow motion (720p 960fps), HDR10+ video, super steady (1080p 30fps), and hyperlapse (up to 4k 30fps).

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Camera Pod

There’s also Single Take, which shoots a bunch of photos and videos in a variety of styles, angles, and formats for up to 10 seconds while you move the handset around. All three S22 models capture stabilized video with stereo audio at up to 8k 24fps (main shooter only), 4k 60 fps, and 1080p 60fps. In addition, video pro also supports 1080p 120fps video recording with the ultrawide (S22 Ultra only) and the main camera.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra main camera

Pictures taken with the S22 series are fantastic. There’s a ton of detail, the colors are accurate, and the exposure is generally spot on. Despite having different specs, both main shooters are closely matched. The S22+ captures sunset photos with slightly more contrast than the S22 Ultra, but the latter produces marginally sharper images in low light. Most of the time, though, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ultrawide

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Samsung Galaxy S22+  main camera

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra telephoto (3x zoom)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra telephoto (10x zoom)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra telephoto (30x zoom)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra telephoto (100x zoom)

Both main cameras also deliver excellent dynamic range and low-light performance. To achieve this, the S22 Ultra bins (combines) blocks of nine pixels into one to generate 12MP photos with 2.4-micron pixels, while the S22+ relies on 4-to-1 pixel binning to output 12MP images with 2.0-micron pixels. As you’d expect from the near-identical specs, the ultrawide and 3x telephoto on these phones also produce great results.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra main camera (auto)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra main camera (night mode)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ultrawide (auto)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ultrawide (night mode)

It’s the additional 10x telephoto that really sets the S22 Ultra apart. With the S22+’s 3x telephoto, 10x zoom is still perfectly serviceable, but 30x zoom is problematic. Fire up the S22 Ultra’s 10x telephoto, and 30x zoom becomes completely acceptable, while only 100x zoom remains troublesome. As a bonus, Samsung’s improved stabilization for the telephotos across the S22 series, making it easier to frame shots.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra telephoto (3x zoom, macro)

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra selfie camera (portrait mode)

By default, selfies are captured at 6.5 megapixels unless you switch the front shooter to “wide”, which gives you access to the full 10MP resolution. Here again, the S22 Ultra uses 4-to-1 pixel binning to output 10MP photos with 1.4-micron pixels. The resulting selfies are quite lovely, regardless of which S22 model you choose. Finally, video performance is also impressive, almost matching the implacable iPhone 13 in quality.

Next up: audio, performance, and battery life...

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