With the usual preceding fanfare of leaks, the Galaxy S22 series has launched officially here in Australia after being announced last month.

Samsung announced three phones in the Galaxy S lineup this year, much like they have the last few years with the Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22+ and the Galaxy S22 Ultra now official. Scott is checking out the Galaxy S22+, while I’ll be taking the Galaxy S22 Ultra for a spin in this review.

As the top of the line model, the Galaxy S22 Ultra isn’t cheap, though it depends on which model you want, or can afford. Samsung offers the Galaxy S22 Ultra in four configurations, with the entry level Galaxy S22 Ultra also including slightly less memory:

  • 128GB | 8GB – $1,849.00
  • 256GB | 12GB – $1,999.00
  • 512GB | 12GB – $2,149.00
  • 1TB | 12GB – $2,449.00

Samsung has kept the 1TB model as an exclusive on their online store, but you can purchase an S22 Ultra in the other three configurations from retail or through an Aussie Telco.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S22 Ultra for about a week and a half now, and here’s how it went.

ProsCons
Display is amazing, legible even in direct sunlightBattery life is not great.
Fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate.No Charger
Phenomenal Camera

Hardware

Design

The design of the Galaxy S22 Ultra compared to the other Galaxy S22 models is distinct. It’s a larger phone overall than the other two models, and while the lower end models feature curved corners and a camera island reminiscent of last year’s models, the Galaxy S22 Ultra instead has squared off corners and Samsung has opted to leave the camera sensors standing a part in the top left corner. This design tends to allow dust to settle around the sensors and left me keen to check out case options to eliminate that aspect.

The design of the camera sensors also means that the phone doesn’t sit flat on a desk. Once you start tapping the display with your finger or taking notes with the S Pen the phone rocks back and forth a bit awkwardly – again, a case may help this aspect by flattening out the rear.

The rest of the phone includes the usual Samsung setup, with the volume buttons on the right with the volume rocker at the top and power button below, with the SIM tray, USB-C port and S Pen all at the bottom of the phone.

It’s slightly wider than a Pixel 6 Pro, though a little shorter. but feels wonderful in the hand with the curved edges sitting comfortably in the hand, I have fairly large hands and can work the buttons fairly easily with one hand, though smaller hands may struggle here.

There’s no microSD card expansion option for the Galaxy S22 range, so consider that when deciding which model to go for.

Another thing to consider is colour, because Samsung has brought a lot of colour options for the Australian launch. Samsung sent us a ‘Phantom Black’ colour for our review and it looks great in classic black. Samsung also offers the Galaxy S22 Ultra in Burgundy, Phantom White and Green from most retailers – but they’re offering exclusive colours – Graphite, Sky Blue and Red – through their online store.

No matter what the colour, the rear (and front) of the phone are covered in Gorilla Glass Victus+ and it’s paired with an ‘Armour Aluminium’ frame so it’s incredibly tough – something I can attest to after I dropped it on the garage floor and it came off without a scratch.

The rear glass has a matte feel, but definitely attracts smudges – another reason to check out case options.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra also carries an IP68 dust/water resistance rating that also extends to the S Pen, so a splash isn’t going to worry it.

Specs

Samsung is bringing their Exynos powered Galaxy S22 Ultra to Australia, though they have supplied a model with Qualcomm internals fo rhte review. It’s a negligible difference in terms of performance, though I’d be interested to see the difference in the power dissipation on both models.

There’s four storage options available for the Glaaxy S22 Ultra, with the entry level 128GB model also including only 8GB RAM compared to 12GB in the rest of the range. The review model has 256GB of storage which was fairly roomy, but this will run down if you capture a lot of 4K or 8K video.

One feature of the Galaxy S22 Ultra I was very impressed with was the speakers. I’m no fan of subjecting anyone around me to my taste in music etc. but a good speaker setup on a phone is hard to find and this is fairly impressive. The audio is clear and surprisingly very loud, with max volume too loud for small spaces.

Display

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has the largest display of the range clocking in at 6.8-inches. It’s a big phone mostly due to the large 6.8-inch LTPO AMOLED display.

While Samsung has opted for flat displays on the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+, the Ultra features curved edges which slide off to the rear melding almost seamlessly with the rear glass. It’s a personal choice, but I’m not a huge fan of curved edges as I find them more prone to phantom touches than a flat display, but your mileage may vary.

The screen is capable of 120Hz refresh which makes for a smooth experience in games, or even when scrolling around the system or social media. The LTPO technology lets it vary the refresh rate when not required, in theory offering battery life improvements.

The screen is super easy to see in direct sunlight with a maximum brightness of 1750 nits at peak.

The tuning of the colour on the display is set to Vivid by default which will be familiar look for Samsung users. I prefer this look, but it can be a bit much for some and Samsung lets you choose the ‘Natural’ setting which mutes the colours a little but still looks great.

The screen has a small punch-hole notch in the centre housing the 40MP selfie cam, but as with most of these notches they tend to fade into the background after a while. Using dark mode helps to hide the notch, but if you’re a light mode user it may take a shade longer to adjust.

Samsung has included an Ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the display. It’s got a large touch target for clumsy thumbs and it’s super fast and accurate with only a slight touch required to scan. It’s a noticeable difference from the Pixel 6 fingerprint sensor, which while improved still doesn’t match the speed of the S22 Ultra.

All up, this is a phenomenal display that’s going to be hard to beat. Samsung makes some of, if not the best mobile displays around and they’ve showcased it on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

S Pen

For the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the positioning of the phone – as Ultra – means we’re getting essentially a showcase of everything Samsung can do, and yes Note fans, the S Pen is back full-time.

The Samsung Galaxy line has gone through a transformation in the last few years. Samsung introduced foldables with the Fold and Flip line, while removing their Note series.

Samsung’s S21 Ultra picked up the slack somewhat last year by offering S Pen support, but the S Pen wasn’t truly a part of the phone and felt more of an afterthought as an accessory. This year Samsung has tried truly appealing to Note fans, incorporating the S Pen as a part of the S22 Ultra, by including a garaged S Pen design that lets you access the S Pen quickly when you need it, or simply leave it there unused if you don’t.

I’m not much of a stylus user regularly. I love a stylus, the Palm PDAs of my youth encouraged this, but I forget it’s an option and hence go through stages of regularly using the S Pen – and then forgetting about it – and that’s the choice you have with the S Pen on the S22 Ultra – use it…or don’t, it’s all up to you.

There’s a lot to love about the S Pen though if you use it. The ability to just eject the S Pen when the screen is off and start taking notes on the blank screen is fantastic, as is the option to append notes to screenshots or even just use the S Pen as a bluetooth camera shutter.

Air Actions

For me, one of the best additions for the S Pen is ‘Air Actions’, a menu of possible things you can do with your S Pen which pops up on the screen when you eject the S Pen.

Air Actions come in two parts, media controls you can use with the S Pen and apps or features you can use with the S Pen. The context of the app you’re in (or not) defines actions, so if you’re in the camera you’ll see different media controls for taking shots as opposed to normal ‘media controls’ for music playback.

Samsung has really improved the latency of the S Pen in recent years, and the S22 Ultra is no different. Taking notes on the S Pen feels almost like taking notes with a pen and paper with the digital ink appearing essentially instantly on the screen when you write.

The S Pen on the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers that little bit of extra functionality, but it’s one of those features that you’ll either be delighted with or just not use it. It’s thanks to Samsung design that it’s such an unobtrusive inclusion that you don’t even need to be aware of it if you don’t want to be.

Camera

As usual, the focus for most phones is the camera, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra has come to this fight loaded for bear. There’s five cameras included on the Galaxy S22 Ultra which are remarkably similar to those found on last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra – but considering the results from last year that’s not a bad thing.

The sensors included on the phone start with the 108MP main sensor which has a wide-angle lens, but if you want really ultra-wide shots then there’s a 12MP sensor with 120° range and dual 10MP sensors that make up the Samsung Telephoto setup offering 3x and 10x optical zoom – which can also go up to 100x zoom if you take advantage of the digital zoom options.

The photos from the Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras are just great. They take crisp, clear shots indoors or out with nary an issue. I found the auto option delivers brilliant shots with the auto-focus picking where I wanted without having to adjust it.

Portrait mode has also been given a makeover on the Galaxy S22 Ultra camera, with more depth detail, and better AI which isolates things like strands of hair and doesn’t simply blur them with the rest of the background. It’s a great shot, and there’s also now the bonus of applying portrait mode to your pets.

There are some tools to play around with the blur, or at least the background in the Camera app to give you more fine grain controls of your portraits.

Another of the big features of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, once you move beyond the big 108MP sensor is the zoom and it’s very, very good. There’s 3x and 10x Optical Zoom on the Galaxy S22 Ultra with a digital ‘Space Zoom’ option letting you zoom right in to 100x. While the 100x zoom isn’t something to rely on, the results are actually pretty good.

Onto Samsung’s focus for the S22 Ultra: Nightography. While most phones these days can offer great day time shots Night photography is still somewhat contested. Samsung’s night photos on the Galaxy S22 Ultra though are class leading, with great colour reproduction using the on-board AI.

A slight annoyance with night mode in the Galaxy S22 camera software is that Night Mode can’t be manually triggered. Instead you have to wait for a moon icon to appear before tapping the shutter button.

A final word on photography for more expert users, is the Expert Raw’ in the Galaxy App Store. The app is a standalone camera app specifically for the Galaxy S22 Ultra, letting you access full manual exposure controls as well as selecting which camera sensor to use.

Expert Raw offers a little more than the default RAW setting in the camera app, with that simply dumping a literal raw dump of data into a DMG file. The Expert Raw app stacks several raw images and saves all the data into a single DMG file – and yes, the output is massive, so check that default storage before you buy.

Most people won’t need, or want the Expert Raw app, but it is quite a powerful option if you want to use it.

Charging and Battery life

As befits the Ultra monniker, Samsung has included the largest battery of the range in this model with a 5,000mAh battery powering the phone. There’s also no charger included in the box, so you’ll have to supply your own – or purchase one of the official 45W chargers from Samsung themselves. for $69.

While it’s great that Samsung is more environmentally aware of the damage of unnecessary e-waste, there’s still a swathe of people purchasing their first phone – and this one doesn’t have a charger, which means purchasing from Samsung – which seems a little gross when you think about it. I have far too many chargers, but nowhere near enough cables as they consistently break – but you DO get a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, so there’s options for charging.

For the entire review, I was averaging around 24-28 hours of battery life, with around 4-6 hours of screen on time. There are a number of factors for the battery life on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, all relating to the display and I tried them all – but the end result was around 1 day of use with 4-6 hours of screen on time.

By default, the display uses FHD+ (2316×1080) resolution, with an option to bump it up to QHD+ (3088×1440) or even down to HD+ (1544×720) resolution in settings. At FHD+ resolution the display looks great but you do have the option to bump it up to QHD+ though Samsung does tell you this option uses the most battery and obviously using the HD+ option offers the most battery friendly option.

Samsung includes a beautifully tuned LTPO display capable of ramping up to 120Hz refresh rate, or down as low as 48Hz which will affect battery life. You get a measure of control over this setting too by selecting either 120Hz (Adaptive) or 60Hz (Standard) under Motion Smoothness in settings. The lower refresh rate will also improve battery life says Samsung.

I found the difference negligible as you can see with the results when using Adaptive (120Hz) vs Standard (60Hz):

The Galaxy S22 Ultra lasted around a day, however if you need more charge or have a long day ahead you’ll likely want to plug it in to a charger during the day. The phone does support wireless charging, so having a wireless charger available to sit the phone on during the day also helps.

Software

The Galaxy S22 Ultra (and the entire S22 lineup) uses Android 12 out of the box with the January 1st 2022 security patch and Samsung’s custom ‘OneUI’ 4.1 over the top.

In terms of software support, Samsung is offering one of, if not the best software update policies for Android manufacturers. Samsung has promised up to four years of software updates – both feature and security updates – which means you’ll see Android 16 and OneUI 8 down the track.

The UI itself is very Samsungm but this is Android so of course you can change the launcher to something more accustomed to your tastes. I don’t find OneUI terrible, just restricting in some of the choices that are made by default – like having the custom order in the App Gallery, or limited space in folders for icons. It is what it is, so if you’re not a fan, there’s a load of options out there.

One UI 4.1/Android 12 on the Galaxy S22 Ultra incorporates a lot of the features of Android 12 itself, including aspects of Material You. This means you can theme your phone based on your wallpaper, with Samsung throwing in a bit of their own flavour on the feature.

One thing Samsung has not done well is the keyboard. I try each default keyboard out when reviewing phones, but find the Samsung keyboard is consistently bad with smaller touch targets and also unimpressive auto-correct that I just have to change it. G Board, Fleksy, Minuum, even Microsoft owned Swiftkey would be a better choice and it’s strange they haven’t used Swiftkey.

The reason I’m perplexed about the lack of Swiftkey on the S22 Ultra is that Samsung has partnered with Microsoft for the S22 series. You’ll find Microsoft apps pre-installed including Office, LinkedIn, OneDrive and Outlook apps pre-installed, and you’ll also get prompts for backing up photos to OneDrive – so why they don’t simply use Swiftkey perplexes me.

While you can’t remove these Microsoft apps, you can disable them if you don’t need them. Not being able to uninstall the apps is not as important an issue as it once was when storage was expensive, but still frustrating that you don’t own that part of the user experience on your own device.

Should you buy this phone?

If you want the best performing Android phone at the moment – or you’re a Galaxy Note fan who longs for a top of the line smartphone with that handy S Pen, then yes, you should definitely get yourself a Galaxy S22 Ultra.

There’s going to be some back and forth about the Pixel 6 line – and rightfully so, especially with Google stating they are aiming at flagships this year. However. Samsung offers a much more streamlined, and consumer friendly option with the S22 Ultra (and the rest of the line). They supply regular updates – looking at you December Pixel 6 release – and they also have a friendlier customer service experience, while Google’s customer service leaves something to be desired.

There’s going to be competition from several competitors through the year of course – the OPPO Find X5 is looking like a serious competitor, and of course Apple will bring their new models later this year – but that’s a whole other debate. If it’s Android you’re looking at, then the best of the best is the Galaxy S22 Ultra, at least for now.

You can find the Galaxy S22 Ultra just about everywhere in Australia, but for more details you can check out our where to buy guide here.