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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: The slab phone retirement plan

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: The slab phone retirement plan

 March 21, 2022 at 8:39 am   |     Author:   |     Technology  

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Ron Amadeo

Is there anything left to do in the slab phone market?

Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy S22 feels like a retirement plan for the company’s slab line. After killing the Galaxy Note line and skipping a 2021 release, Samsung is merging the S-Pen-equipped Note line and the Galaxy S line, cutting the slab phone flagships down to a single yearly release.

Look at the Galaxy Note 10 from 2019 and you’ll see that Samsung has essentially been recycling its design for three years now. It feels like Samsung is standing still, as if the plan is to have slab phones slowly ride off into the sunset while the company directs resources toward a future in foldables.

Galaxy S22 Galaxy S22+ Galaxy S22 Ultra
SCREEN 2340×1080 6.1-inch OLED

48-120 Hz, 422 ppi

2340×1080 6.6-inch OLED

48-120 Hz, 390 ppi

3088×1440 6.8-inch OLED

1-120 Hz, 501 ppi

OS Android 12 with Samsung One UI
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, or Exynos 2200, both 4 nm
RAM 8GB 8GB 12GB or 12GB
STORAGE 128GB or 256GB 128GB or 256GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
NETWORKING Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.2, GPS, NFC, mmWave (Same) + 6 GHz Wi-Fi 6E, UWB
50 MP Wide Angle
10 MP Telephoto (3x optical)
108 MP Main
12 MP Wide Angle
10 MP 3x Optical Telephoto
10 MP 10x Optical Telephoto
Laser AF
SIZE 146×70.6×7.6 mm 157.4×75.8×7.6 mm 163.3×77.9×8.9 mm
WEIGHT 168 g 196 g 229 g
BATTERY 3700 mAh, 25 W charging 4500 mAh, 45 W charging 5000 mAh, 45 W charging
STARTING PRICE $799.99 $999.99 $1,199.99
OTHER PERKS Wireless charging, in-screen fingerprint sensor. IP68 water and dust resistance

We’re reviewing the S22 Ultra, but first, let’s talk about the lineup as a whole. The Ultra is a Galaxy Note with a Note-style design, while the S22 and S22+ share a design that looks just like the S21 from last year. The biggest change is the SoC performance bumps in both the Exynos (international) and Snapdragon (US). Other than that, it’s hard to credit Samsung with year-over-year spec growth. The top-end S22 Ultra configuration has less RAM this year, down to 12GB from 16GB. The S22 and S22+ are both thinner and lose 300 mAh of battery capacity. The S22+ and S22 Ultra are marketed as having 45 W fast charging, but they don’t actually charge faster than last year’s models.

The prices are all the same as last year: $800, $1,000, and $1,200, depending on where you are in the size range. All of these prices seem way too high in the face of Google’s excellent Pixel 6. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single thing the $1,200 S22 Ultra does better than the $900 Pixel 6 Pro. There certainly is not $300 worth of difference between the two devices, and if you’re in the market for an Android flagship and have the option to buy a Pixel 6 Pro instead of the S22, you should. Of course, Samsung’s big advantage is that most people don’t have the option to buy a Google phone because Google’s small, underfunded hardware division only sells phones in about 13 countries, while Samsung is in 100+.

The bumpy camera setup. Below the volume and power buttons, that's a mmWave window on the side of the phone.
Enlarge / The bumpy camera setup. Below the volume and power buttons, that’s a mmWave window on the side of the phone.

Ron Amadeo

The S22 line has been plagued with controversies since its launch. Samsung announced the S21 and S21+ display with dynamic refresh rates from 10 Hz to 120 Hz, and then a week later (after taking preorders), Samsung quietly changed the spec sheets to read “48 Hz to 120 Hz.” Samsung markets the S22+ and S22 Ultra as having “45 W” fast charging, but the devices don’t actually charge any faster than last year’s 25 W models.

We’re still not sure what’s going on with Samsung’s decision to throttle thousands of games and apps through its “Game Optimizing Service.” Samsung’s throttling app contains a list of 10,000 apps and games that can have their CPU performance reduced by as much as 46 percent, and Samsung is controlling this all remotely via the cloud. Unsurprisingly, Samsung has managed to exclude every major benchmark app from its throttling scheme, which, according to Geekbench, makes this a cheating offense worthy of de-listing from its benchmark charts.

Samsung has promised to ship an “off” button for this throttling app at some point, but it has not arrived on our review unit yet. Reports out of Korea say Samsung is already facing a preliminary investigation from the country’s Fair Trade Commission over the feature, and S22 owners are gearing up to launch a class-action lawsuit.

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