On February 9, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S22 lineup as an upgrade to the Galaxy S21 range from last year. Here’s a detailed comparison between Samsung’s latest Galaxy S22 Ultra and its predecessor, the Galaxy S21 Ultra, to determine if Samsung’s claimed improvements on the spec sheet translate into noticeable real-world enhancements.
Samsung has made several incremental changes under the hood of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. For instance, the phone features a 1TB storage option that its predecessor lacked. It also packs an S Pen in the phone’s body itself, making it seem like the Note lineup’s spiritual successor. Other noteworthy improvements were made to the battery and the phone’s design. But does it mean the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a better phone than the Galaxy S21 Ultra? Should you upgrade to the former? Let’s find out.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra
Design and Construction
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – IP68, Armor aluminum metal frame, Gorilla Glass Victus Plus
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – IP68, Aluminium metal frame, Gorilla Glass Victus
The design language and materials used to manufacture the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 Ultra leave no stone unturned. However, Samsung claims that the Armor aluminum used to construct the Galaxy S22 Ultra is both harder to scratch and more resistant to damage when dropped. In theory, this should give the Galaxy S22 Ultra an edge over its older sibling in terms of durability. Another exciting change comes in the form of a redesigned camera housing on the rear. Samsung has ditched the combined camera bump seen in the corner of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and opted for individual camera bumps for each lens on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Drop tests show that this has made the phone’s camera system more prone to damage when dropped, despite the Armor aluminum chassis. Also, the newer model has boxier, sharp corners in place of the older model’s curved corners that were easier to hold. So, the Galaxy S21 Ultra remains the better phone in terms of design and build.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – 6.8-inch AMOLED, 1440×3088 pixels, 1 to 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1,750 nits peak brightness
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – 6.8-inch AMOLED, 1440×3200 pixels, 10 to 120Hz refresh rate, HDR10+, 1,500 nits peak brightness
The Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 Ultra have remarkably similar display configurations. The display size and underlying technology remain the same. However, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a new LTPO AMOLED panel that can drop the refresh rate to just 1Hz, or once per second. This helps save battery when using features like Always-On Display or displaying static images. On the other hand, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a marginally better pixel density.
Samsung claims the Galaxy S22 Ultra can reach a peak brightness of 1,750 nits, notably higher than the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s maximum of 1,500 nits. At best, this translates into better readability under direct sunlight, but not much else.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra also comes with the S Pen built-in, making it a spiritual successor to Samsung’s Note lineup, although it’s a Galaxy device. The stylus allows you to get the most out of the S22 display, especially in note-taking apps for annotations and image editing suites like Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile. Samsung has also built-in a whole suite of dedicated apps for the S Pen. However, the Galaxy S21 Ultra also supports the S Pen, but you won’t have a place to store it unless you purchase a case that does. So, in the display department, the Galaxy S22 Ultra takes the cake with native S Pen support and the ability to drop the screen refresh rate lower to save more battery.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – Exynos 2200, 4nm process, made by Samsung EUV | Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 5G; Xclipse 920 | Adreno 730 GPU
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – Exynos 2100, 5nm process, made by Samsung EUV | Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G; Mali-G87 MP14 | Adreno 660 GPU
The new Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the direct successor of the Snapdragon 888 found to power the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Both chips offer best-in-class performance, but the newer variant brings a notable jump in AI, ML, and gaming performance. Further, the Galaxy S22 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 2200 processor in some markets. The chip has an industry-first feature developed in collaboration with AMD. The company’s RDNA 2 technology enables real-time ray tracing in video games, a feature previously limited only to gaming consoles and PCs. This gives the Galaxy S22 Ultra the clear upper hand in terms of performance, although only in particular use cases.
That said, the phones are neck and neck in terms of performance, with only minor improvements giving the newer Galaxy S22 Ultra the edge in some use cases.
RAM and Storage
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – 8/12GB RAM | 128, 256, 512GB, 1TB storage
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – 12/16GB RAM | 128, 256, 512GB storage
The Galaxy S22 Ultra packs less RAM than its predecessor. Even the top-of-the-line variant is capped at 12GB of RAM, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s costliest variant offers 16GB of RAM. This gives the older phone the edge here. More RAM allows for better multitasking and gaming performance. However, the Galaxy S22 Ultra ships with up to 1TB of storage. Given that storage is non-expandable, this could be a boon for productivity freaks, content binge-watchers, and gamers. Note that the 1TB storage option is only available in select markets.
Once again, the final choice is down to the consumer’s preference. The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers marginally better performance with more RAM on the tap, while the Galaxy S22 Ultra can lug more files around.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – 108MP with f/1.8 aperture, OIS; 10MP telephoto with f/2.4 aperture, OIS; 10MP telephoto with f/4.9 aperture capable of 10x optical zoom, OIS; 12MP ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture capable of 3x optical zoom, 120-degree FoV; 8K60fps video recording; Front – 40MP camera with f/2.2 aperture
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – 108MP with f/1.8 aperture, OIS; 10MP telephoto with f/2.4 aperture, OIS; 10MP telephoto with f/4.9 aperture capable of 10x optical zoom, OIS; 12MP ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture capable of 3x optical zoom, 120-degree FoV; 8K24fps video recording; Front – 40MP camera with f/2.2 aperture
Although Samsung has reworked the exterior design of the camera housing with the Galaxy S22, the specifications, sensors, and lenses remain unchanged. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 allows the phone to capture 8K footage at 60fps, compared to the 24fps limit on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Both the phones feature a 108MP sensor that uses pixel binning to output 12MP photos and improve low-light camera performance.
Here, the improvements to software-based image stabilization (EIS) of the Galaxy S22 Ultra put it in a league of its own. Both the phones can achieve 10x optical and 100x digital zoom, which might seem like overkill but could be helpful in some situations.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a more impressive camera setup, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra isn’t very far behind. You could pick either phone if cameras are an essential criterion for you.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – Dual SIM, 5G, 2Gbps LTE, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, VoLTE, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, GPS with GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, USB-C 3.2, UWB
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – Dual SIM, 5G, 2Gbps LTE, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, VoLTE, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, GPS with GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou, USB-C 3.2, UWB
The Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra support 5G connectivity on both SIM cards. However, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra uses a newer 5G modem which should theoretically allow it to give users higher download speeds. In other aspects, both phones provide the same connectivity features.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – In-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – In-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
The Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra take very similar approaches to security. The phones feature an in-display fingerprint scanner and offer optical face unlock, which isn’t as secure as infrared-based face unlock technology.
Battery and Charging
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – 5,000mAh, 45W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 4.5W reverse wireless charging
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – 5,000mAh, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 4.5W reverse wireless charging
The Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 Ultra have the exact same battery capacity at 5,000mAh. The Galaxy S22 Ultra should offer one-day battery life, just like its predecessor, but with the added benefit of faster recharging. The newer model supports 45W fast charging, while the older one is capped at just 25W. In the real world, this means the new Galaxy S22 Ultra will be recharged in around an hour, while the older model would take around 40 minutes more.
However, a battery drain test shows that the Galaxy S21 Ultra lasts longer on a full charge than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Although the cause is unknown, it could be attributed to the integrated S Pen sipping away battery on the newer model or just poor optimization. That said, the fast charging speed tips the tables in the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s favor.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra – Starts at $1,199
- Galaxy S21 Ultra – Starts from $750
Since the Galaxy S21 Ultra is a year old and has been superseded, its starting price is $500 lower than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. However, bear in mind that Samsung’s phones are almost always on discount, and you could get a deal on the Galaxy S22 Ultra that closes this $500 gap.
One important factor to consider when purchasing your next smartphone is long-term software support. Samsung has promised to provide at least four years of Android updates and five years of security updates to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. You would get at least a year less with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Presently, the Galaxy S21 Ultra makes for a better value proposition than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. However, if you wanted a spiritual successor to Samsung’s Note lineup, the newer model is the only option available for purchase.
Which device will you purchase based on the above comparison: the Galaxy S22 Ultra or the older, similarly-specced Galaxy S21 Ultra? Please drop a comment and let us know!