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Samsung Galaxy S22 vs. Galaxy S22 Plus vs. Galaxy S22 Ultra

The start of the year is here, and that means it’s time for a new release of smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range is here to put the “22” in “2022,” and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The new range is technically formed of three smartphones, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra is something of an outlier this time around. It has a slightly different look from the other two models in the range and an upgraded camera — but the really big difference is the inclusion of a built-in S Pen, much like the now-defunct Galaxy Note line.

But does that make the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra the best smartphone of the range? It’s certainly the biggest, but is it the best? A lot of factors go into whether a smartphone is right for you, and you may be wondering which of the Galaxy S22 models is the best choice or what the major differences are. Here, we’ll explore that and tell you which smartphone may be right for you.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S22
Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Size 146 x 70.6 x 7.6mm (5.75 x 2.78 x 0.30 inches) 157.4 x 75.8 x 7.6mm (6.20 x 2.98 x 0.30 inches) 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm (6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 inches)
Weight 167 grams/168 grams (mmWave) (5.89 ounces) 195 grams/196 grams (mmWave) (6.88 ounces) 202 grams (7.2 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Screen resolution 2340 x 1080 pixels (425 pixels per inch) 2340 x 1080 pixels (393 ppi) 3080 x 1440 pixels (394 ppi)
Operating system Android 12 with OneUI 4 Android 12 with OneUI 4 Android 12 with OneUI 4
Storage 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
MicroSD card slot No No No
Processor Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (Exynos 2200 outside the U.S.) Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (Exynos 2200 outside the U.S.) Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (Exynos 2200 outside the U.S.)
RAM 8GB 8GB 8GB, 12GB
Camera Triple lens 50-megapixel wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto rear, 10MP front Triple lens 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto rear, 10MP front Quad lens 108MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto rear, 40MP front
Video 8K at up to 24 fps, 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 8K at up to 24 fps, 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 8K at up to 24 fps, 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.2 Bluetooth 5.2
Ports USB-C USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes (in-display ultrasonic) Yes (in-display ultrasonic) Yes (in-display ultrasonic)
Water resistance IP68 IP68 IP68
Battery 3,700mAh

25W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

 

4,500mAh

45W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

5,000mAh

45W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

15W wireless charging

 

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Phantom Black, white, Pink Gold, green, Graphite, Sky Blue, Violet, Cream Phantom Black, white, Pink Gold, green, Graphite, Sky Blue, Violet, Cream Phantom Black, white, Burgundy, green, Graphite, red, Sky Blue
Price Starting at $800 Starting at $1,000 Starting at $1,200
Buy from Samsung Samsung Samsung
Review score Hands-on review Hands-on review Hands-on review

Design, display, and durability

The Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, and S22 Ultra.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s no way to sugarcoat this — the Galaxy S22 Ultra shares more with the Note 20 Ultra than its stablemates. While the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus share a clear design language with rounded corners and flat displays, the S22 Ultra goes its own way with more angular corners and a curved display. That makes sense, given Samsung’s intent was to blend the S-range with the Note, but it does mean the range doesn’t feel particularly combined. But that’s a fairly small complaint, and they’re all stunning smartphones regardless.

Size could be an issue for you, though. If you have smaller hands, you may find the S22 Ultra a little bit too large, and it has the potential to be unwieldy even for those with large hands. Weirdly, it was the smaller S22 that really enchanted us during our initial hands-on time, and unlike previous generations, Samsung cut no corners with the smallest model’s build quality, too. So you’ll find metal and builds on each of these phones, which is a big draw if you’re a fan of smaller phones.

All three have a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s higher resolution means it’s technically the strongest option here. But really, you’re unlikely to notice a difference in crispness in real-life use between the three, so don’t let that weigh on your decision too much. As mentioned before, it’s a glass and metal party on each of these phones, so durability is going to be similar across all three. The same applies to waterproofing too, thanks to an IP68-rating.

This is an extremely tough category to score since so much falls down to personal choice. We’ll come back to this once we’ve had more hands-on time with all three phones, but for now, we’re giving it to the S22 Ultra purely because of the technically superior display. But, if you’re a fan of smaller phones, feel free to mentally change the win to the Galaxy S22 or S22 Plus.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Performance, battery life, and charging

Galaxy S22 Ultra app screen.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

All three phones use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor (or the Exynos 2200 in certain markets), so it’s safe to say all three are stupidly powerful and capable of running any app or 3D game you can get your paws on. The S22 Ultra has options for more RAM, but that’s not likely to have a huge impact on your real-life use. The Ultra’s larger range of storage is likely to have more of an impact if you record a lot of high-resolution videos or like to download lots of movies and other media. The 512GB and 1TB options will be very tempting for media-lovers, and it’s something the two smaller models can’t match.

As you might expect, the larger phones have, well, larger batteries. But it’s not safe to assume a larger battery means a longer battery life, as the different display sizes mean differing power needs for each. So we’re going to have to wait to have more time with each of the three before we’re able to make a safe judgment. However, the S22 is automatically at a disadvantage due to only having support for 25-watt fast charging — the larger two models have 45W charging, which is a lot faster.

A lot remains to be seen here, so we’re very much hedging our bets. The S22 Plus and Ultra just sneak ahead with their faster charging — for now.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus & Galaxy S22 Ultra

Cameras

Galaxy S22 Ultra 10x zoom photo mode.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

It should come as no surprise the S22 Ultra is, once again, the more technically impressive of the three smartphones. All three have a similar lens setup, with a wide-angle main lens, a telephoto lens, and an ultrawide lens. The S22 Ultra does add an extra lens, though — a 10x periscope telephoto, and that’s a fun lens to play with, even if it’s not the most important inclusion around. However, the Ultra model has even more going for it. The main lens has 108 megapixels, rather than the 50MP on the S22 and S22 Plus, and the front camera has 40MP rather than 10MP.

Performance is something we’re going to have to wait for our full reviews to confirm, but if the S21 range is anything to go by, the Ultra’s additional lens and increased megapixel count will make a difference in image quality. The Galaxy S21 Ultra had an excellent camera, outpacing the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, and on first impressions, the Ultra looks set to do the same thing again.

Prior performance of a similar camera should mean the Ultra has a slight edge over the two smaller models — though, of course, we’ll wait for the final reviews before we confirm this. But, for now, we’re giving this to the S22 Ultra.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Software and updates

Galaxy S22 Ultra in hand.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

So here’s a category that’s a strong tie, and that’s because all three devices run Android 12 under Samsung’s OneUI 4. As such, you’ll get the same software experience on each of the three phones. Samsung’s OneUI has come a long way since the terrible TouchWiz of the past, and while it’s still one of the heavier-handed manufacturer skins, it’s a great Android variant.

Samsung still isn’t the fastest updater, largely due to the aforementioned custom interface. But regardless of that fact, none of the phones in question will get updates any faster than the others. Every S21 model will get updates at the same time as the others and will get the same number of updates too. This is a solid tie.

Winner: Tie

Special features

Writing with the S Pen on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

As with software, there are some big similarities in the available special features on these phones. All three have 5G, access to both the Google Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby, Samsung’s desktop-emulating Dex Mode, and a bewilderingly large amount of other special features. However, the S22 Ultra has something the S22 and S22 Plus do not — the S Pen. As the Note’s apparent successor, the largest S-range flagship has a built-in S Pen. If you’ve ever used a Note, you know the extra usability an S Pen offers when sketching, taking quick notes, or creating a to-do list. It’s a fantastic addition, and it means the S22 Ultra has an unassailable lead here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S22 range is currently available for pre-order and will release on February 25. The base Galaxy S22 is the cheapest of the three, with prices starting from $800 for the 128GB model. The S22 Plus will set you back $1,000 for 128GB of storage, and the S22 Ultra with 128GB of storage starts at $1,200. Samsung is offering some strong trade-in deals, and you can even upgrade your storage for free during the pre-order period.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

In a battle of pure specs and which phone is technologically “better,” the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was always going to come out on top. It’s gorgeous, with top flagship specs, a built-in S Pen, and more camera lenses than you might know what to do with. Looking at the three head-on, well, the S22 Ultra is the “best” model.

But really, that only tells part of the story. It’s fair to say the differences are small in most places — except for, perhaps, the S Pen and the extra camera lens. But if you’re happy to live without those and want something a little cheaper or even a little less massive, then the Galaxy S22 or S22 Plus are also excellent choices. While we’re yet to have a large amount of time with any of the handsets yet, we’re anticipating each phone to be capable in its own rights.

Love a big phone with all the bells and whistles? Buy the Galaxy S22 Ultra. But if you’re happy to save a little money, seriously consider the Galaxy S22 Plus or S22. You’re unlikely to be disappointed.

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