Samsung Electronics' launch of the Galaxy S22 series marked the end of the Note era, but the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer made sure to integrate the latter's best features in the high-end Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G.
Samsung has consistently topped global smartphone market share rankings, but rival Apple overtook the Seoul-based brand in the fourth quarters of both 2020 and 2021, according to Counterpoint Research.
Samsung is hoping its latest premium device will ensure it retains the top spot.
S22 Ultra 5G Form: a repackaged Note
At first glance, the S22 Ultra 5G resembles the Note 20. But flip it over and you'll see the main difference: the camera block has been removed, with all the lenses embedded within the rear. Otherwise, the device is a repackaged Note 20 — buttons on the right side, and card tray and USB-C port below.
The S Pen is in its usual lower-left bottom slot. More on that to come.
The unique build of the S22 Ultra 5G is highlighted by its curved sides, flat top and bottom, armour aluminium metal frame and Corning Gorilla Victus Glass — Corning's strongest by far — on the front and back. It does look really solid and is quite heavy, but at 228 grams, it weighs 10g less than the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
And then there's the quad-HD+ screen, a generous 6.8 inches that's edge-to-edge in an almost bezel-less design. The Infinity O display gives a hint of the Galaxy Edge phones, albeit not in an obvious way.
Performance: what you would expect
You normally won't have any problems with a high-end Samsung device in terms of speed and flow, and the S22 Ultra 5G is no exception. Inside is Qualcomm's 4-nanometre Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, which promises better and faster CPU and graphics performance while also increasing efficiency. This new processor is also being used in other flagships, including those from Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme and Xiaomi.
Samsung's own 4nm chip, the Exynos 2200, will be made available for devices in some international markets. Areas including the UAE, Australia, India, North America, South Africa and South Korea get Snapdragon, while devices sold in Europe and the UK will use Exynos.
What is odd, however, is that Samsung decided to go with lower RAM: the S22 Ultra 5G only has 8GB and 12GB to choose from, compared to its predecessor, the S21's 12GB and 16GB.
Overall, there weren't any issues with using the device. It's 120Hz refresh rate guarantees a smooth graphics flow. If that's not enough, you can push it up to 240Hz — but that's only available for gaming and you need to set the device to Game Mode.
Camera: 'nightography' takes centre stage
The S22 Ultra 5G has four cameras, the biggest being a 108MP wide-angle sensor.
Samsung has heavily marketed the device's “nightography” abilities, promising more clarity for shots taken in dim-light situations. So we decided to test that using night mode — our sample photos follow.
The details on lights are good and the overall results aren't overexposed. If you look closely, however, there is some blur with moving subjects or objects.
The device also comes with the Space Zoom feature that allows you to zoom up to 100 times, but pound-for-pound it's pretty much still a novelty.
A sample video below also shows that it can hold up pretty well at night, although there is some grain in some of the darker areas.
Battery: not fully charged
In our one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the device lost only 6 per cent. Any flagship that's in the single digits in this category is already very good, but Samsung has upped the ante.
However, its 5000mAh battery — at par with its S21 counterpart and above the Note 20's 4500mAh — doesn't really translate into actual use. We found ourselves down to less than 30 per cent by night, and even lower than 20 per cent when we pushed it further. Many factors are at play here, including its huge screen, brightness, refresh rate and others.
The phone supports both 25W and 45W fast charging, but you'll have to buy these chargers separately as Samsung's S devices no longer come with charging cables. The package continues to include a USB-C-to-C cable.
The device charged 52 per cent (25W) and 61 per cent (45W) in half an hour. Not a huge difference, but 50 per cent in 30 minutes is good enough, especially if you're in a hurry.
S Pen: glide with 70% faster latency
The biggest feature of the S22 Ultra 5G is, without a doubt, the S Pen, especially since it has now has been fully integrated into the device, unlike last year's S21 Ultra that did not offer a built-in option.
“The integration of the S Pen in the Galaxy S22 Ultra played well,” Osman Albora, the head of Samsung Gulf Electronics' mobile experience division, told The National.
Anyone who's used to the S Pen would notice a key improvement: its latency — the time delay between input and output — has been whittled down to a mere 2.8 milliseconds from the previous iteration's 9ms. That's a huge improvement of almost 70 per cent for response time.
The S Pen retains its bag of tricks and is a boon for note-taking, scribbling and even some art, but that means it's still meant for a specific set of users.
Generally speaking, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G is a revamped version of the Note. The company didn't go for a more unique look to distinguish the combined abilities of both series, but what matters is what's inside, and what it gives to the user. The main things we were not convinced about is the battery life, which is unbecoming of a flagship, and the hefty price.
But the launch of the new device also gives Samsung the ability to consolidate its focus on its flagship models, with a clear line drawn between regular smartphones and foldables.
The S22 Ultra 5G has the best of both the S and the Note, and honestly, clubbing the two lines should've been done a long time ago.