Hands-On, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Hands On: The Galaxy Note in All But Name

The Galaxy Note is back. Well, sort of. Enter the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which is essentially a Note device in all but name. It has the same design language, it has a large display, and most importantly, it has a built-in S Pen – new and improved with lower latency, to boot.

Without a doubt the Galaxy S22 Ultra is made for fans of the Galaxy Note series, even if it’s marketed under a different name. Beyond its Note-esque features, the S22 Ultra is also easily one of Samsung’s most interesting flagships yet.

First, let’s talk about the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s S Pen. Thanks to its lower latency, the writing experience is more fluid than ever. In short, it feels very, very natural to write using the S Pen; almost like I’m physically scribbling on a piece of paper. Almost.

The S Pen itself sees a slight revision as well. Previously, it was just a simple plastic stylus, but the S22 Ultra’s S Pen has a slightly rubberised texture for a more comfortable grip. I also like the fact that it’s finished in black now – it contrasts very well with the Phantom White colourway.

Speaking of which, I’m quite a fan of the Burgundy colour option. Depending on the lighting, it can appear as a shade of dark red, brown, or even purple. The Green model looks quite good too; it’s similar to turquoise, in my opinion.

Aesthetically, the Galaxy S22 Ultra can easily pass off as a Note device with its flat top and bottom, giving it an angular appearance. The sides of the phone, however, are rounded; it’s almost like the display and glass back panel of the S22 Ultra are wrapping around the frame. All in all, this makes for a premium phone in looks and feel.

What about the display quality of the S22 Ultra? Not surprisingly, it’s a stunning 6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel. According to Samsung, this is the brightest screen ever on a Galaxy S device with a peak brightness of 1,750 nits. Naturally, it also supports HDR10+ with 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut.

Of course, the S22 Ultra’s display has a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate too, and it can go as low as 1Hz, depending on the content shown on the screen.

In the performance department, the Malaysian market is getting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 version of the Galaxy S22 Ultra instead of the Exynos 2200 variant. This is quite a surprise, given that our market usually gets the Exynos version of the Galaxy S series.

Nonetheless, in my brief time with the S22 Ultra, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 feels very fast and zippy; as expected of a 2022 flagship chipset. I didn’t manage to run any demanding mobile games on the phone, but I reckon it will be able to handle them without any performance hiccup.

Despite having to make space for a slot to keep the S Pen, the battery capacity of the Galaxy S22 Ultra is still the same as its predecessor’s at 5,000mAh. The fast charging has also been upgraded to 45W from 25W. While this is a good change, it’s still not quite as fast as its competition, some of which already support 120W charging.

Last but not least is the quad camera system of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It’s made up of a 108MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide angle shooter, a 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and another 10MP lens with 10x optical zoom instead. Collectively, these telephoto sensors allow the phone to do 100x Space Zoom.

While the S22 Ultra’s camera configuration is similar to the S21 Ultra, the sensors are now bigger with improved low light performance. After all, bigger sensors can absorb more light. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the new camera thoroughly – we weren’t allowed to share any sample shots taken with the S22 Ultra at the media briefing either.

But for what it’s worth, the quad camera system does feel very capable. All four shooters can lock in focus quickly, images look very flattering with good details and dynamic range, and of course, the camera interface feels responsive with no hint of sluggishness.

Samsung has consistently delivered excellent camera performance with its flagship phones, so needless to say, I’m quite excited to put the S22 Ultra’s camera system through its paces in a full review.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a very promising flagship smartphone. Not only is it the first device in the S series to get a built-in S Pen, it also offers fast performance, a bright, stunning display, and an even more capable camera system.

But all of these impressive features also demand for a matching price tag: starting at RM5,099 for the base 128GB model – up to RM5,899 for the range-topping 512GB variant – there’s no denying that the Galaxy S22 Ultra carries a premium price tag.

Now, whether or not this asking price is justified…we can only fairly assess in a full review of the spiritual successor to the Galaxy Note.

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