Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra at the February Unpacked 2022 event. It comes with a slew of features and improvements over its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. For starters, you get an in-built slot for the S Pen, a new camera module, and improved A.I. features, alongside the usual improvements like a new processor. But which one should you buy? Is the Galaxy S22 Ultra worth the upgrade from the S21 Ultra? Here’s our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra comparison, where we break down all the differences between the two devices.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Size 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm (6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 inches) 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm (6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches)
Weight 228 grams / 229 grams (mmWave) (8.04 ounces) 227 grams (Sub6), 229 grams (mmWave) (8.01 ounces)
Screen size 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Screen resolution 3088 x 1440 pixels (500 ppi density) 3200 x 1440 pixels (515 ppi density)
Operating system Android 12 based on One UI 4.1 Updated to Android 12 based on One UI 4.0
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 / Exynos 2200 (depending on the market) Qualcomm Snapdragon 888/ Exynos 2100
(depending on the market)
RAM 8GB, 12GB 12GB, 16GB
Camera 108-megapixel primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP periscope, 10MP telephoto
40MP selfie camera
108MP primary, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP periscope, 10MP telephoto
40MP selfie camera
Video 4K @ 30 / 60fps 4K @ 30 / 60fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.2
Ports USB C USB C
Fingerprint sensor Yes (in-display ultrasonic) Yes (in-display ultrasonic)
Water Resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 5000mAh
45W wired charging (no charger
included in the box)
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
5000mAh
25W wired charging (no charger
included in the box)
15W wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom White,
Green, Burgundy
Phantom Black, Phantom Silver,
Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy,
Phantom Brown, Navy
Price Starting at $1,199 Starting at $1,199 (at launch)
Buy from Samsung Samsung
Review score Hands-on review 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design and display

Galaxy s22 ultra with galaxy s21 ultra.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra looks more like a Galaxy Note than an S-series smartphone. That’s because the device is a combination of both major Samsung flagships — S and the Note. When compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the newer model features a linear camera setup where the lenses are built directly upon the body, instead of sitting in a camera module. The design refinements make the Galaxy S22 Ultra look sleek and modern, and it uses an armor aluminum frame and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus+ (both front and back), as well as sporting an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.

The new Galaxy S flagship is slightly bigger than the Galaxy S21 Ultra, with the additional width likely due to the space for the S Pen inside. It feels like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, with the same unclipping and springing out mechanism for the S Pen. Putting the pen back in the phone gives you the same, slick, fluid experience as the Galaxy Note devices.

Coming to the display, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is equipped with a 6.8-inch AMOLED screen, which supports a 120Hz dynamic refresh rate and a Quad HD+ display (3200 x 1440). Samsung has introduced the new Vision Booster feature which allows the S22 Ultra’s display brightness to go up to 1,750 nits. Jargon aside, this should mean it’s brighter and clearer than any smartphone before — including the S21 Ultra.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Performance and battery

Galaxy s22 ultra in black and white.
Andy Boxall/We

As you might expect, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has 2021’s flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, or the Samsung Exynos 2100 in European and Asian regions. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset in North America, South Africa, UAE, and India, while the UK, Europe, and Korea will get the Exynos 2200-powered 2022 Samsung flagship.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra performed smoothly and speedily in our hands-on where we browsed through Chrome and the Samsung Internet app, played around with the OneUI settings menu and used the camera app. Like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the S22 Ultra is a really powerful productivity-focused phone. It is likely to perform on par with the latest flagship smartphones. However, the speed bump in performance might not be noticeable over the Snapdragon 888-powered Galaxy S21 Ultra. This new processor may also mean better power efficiency, resulting in better battery life than the predecessor, but that remains to be seen.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra started at 12GB RAM, but you’ll get an 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model of the S22 Ultra for the same price this year, with the availability of 256GB and 512GB storage options. Unfortunately, there’s no microSD card slot on either device.

Samsung chose to bring the same 5,000mAh battery on the 2022 flagship. While the Galaxy S21 Ultra has support for 25W fast charging, the S22 Ultra gets a bump with 45W fast wired charging. Both smartphones allow for up to 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. The introduction of 45W fast charging is a big deal and it means we can get more charge in less time.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Cameras

Galaxy s22 ultra and s21 ultra camera modules.
Andy Boxall/We

Samsung introduced its 108-megapixel sensor on the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020 and improved it in 2021 with the 108MP sensor in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The company is going with the same lens on the S22 Ultra, and it’s accompanied by three additional cameras: One 10MP telephoto lens, another 10MP periscope lens with support for 10x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultrawide camera. This is basically the same setup as the S21 Ultra, so it may be general performance is on the same level.

But the 2022 Samsung flagship is adding a few new tricks. It’s taking on Apple’s RAW image editing with Samsung’s own Expert Raw app, claimed to deliver a DSLR-like experience with a suite of professional editing tools. The company is also upping the game with additional A.I. capabilities. You get a new “de rigueur portrait mode,” a new video auto framing tool, and more features the company claims will make your images look “professional.”

Samsung is also using Super Clear rear lens glass that removes the reflections sometimes seen in lowlight photos. It has also added a Nightography feature that uses A.I. and the new processor to deliver “spectacular results.” Samsung also told us that the two new telephoto cameras read raw, uncompressed RGB data — so when you zoom at 30x, you can see a four-times sharper, more vivid, and truer to life image than before.

Essentially, the camera numbers mean that the Galaxy S22 Ultra may not be worth the upgrade if all you care about is daytime camera performance. The company is promising improvements in low-light photography and new pro-level features. We are expecting the camera to be up there with the Google Pixel 6 Pro in terms of A.I. and nighttime photography capabilities, but we’ll wait until our full review is complete before making that statement. For now, we’re giving the benefit of the doubt to the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Software and updates

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was launched with Android 11 and One UI 3.1 interface over the top. Since then, the smartphone has received the Android 12 update with the latest One UI features. Samsung promised three years of major OS updates in 2021, but with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the company is going one step ahead of Google and offers four years of major OS updates with five years of security updates. Considering the S22 Ultra runs the latest Android 12 OS with OneUI 4 on top, it is a pretty significant deal to see that sort of commitment from Samsung.

They’re both likely to get the same updates, though, and at about the same time. This is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Galaxy s22 ultra in phantom black with s pen.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy S22 Ultra support the S Pen, but the latter getting an in-built slot for housing the stylus is not the only improvement. The S Pen on the Galaxy S22 Ultra is 70% faster than the S21 Ultra’s (separate) S Pen making scribbling or writing on the S22 Ultra’s display more natural than ever before. Other new special features include better A.I. optimization in the cameras and a new Nightography mode for better nightlife pictures. Both the phones support the DeX desktop mode, which is great for productivity.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1200 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variant. It can be pre-ordered from Samsung and will be supported by all major phone networks and sold widely by third-party retailers.

For reference, the Galaxy S21 Ultra started at the same price but it offered 12GB of RAM in the base variant. You’ll still be able to find it at various retailers, even though it’s officially been discontinued.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Galaxy s22 ultra with a dog.

While the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra initially seems very similar to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it consists of significant feature bumps to justify the modest upgrade that it is. It comes equipped with a new processor that enables better low light photography and gives more A.I. capabilities to the cameras, while also refining the design and offering a brighter display. We are still evaluating the phone for our full review, but for now, it seems the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a better phone than the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

But is it worth upgrading from the S21 Ultra to the newer model? That’s a harder judgment, and for the moment, we’re leaning towards “no.” But our full review is yet to come, and that assessment may change.

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