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

Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range has been out for a while now, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The latest 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 in 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 whether the base Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Plus, or Galaxy S22 Ultra 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 by 7.6mm (5.75 by 2.78 by 0.30 inches) 157.4 by 75.8 by 7.6mm (6.20 by 2.98 by 0.30 inches) 163.3 by 77.9 by 8.9mm (6.43 by 3.07 by 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 13 with OneUI 5 Android 13 with OneUI 5 Android 13 with OneUI 5
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-megapixels 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 frames per second, 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

Reverse wireless charging

 

4,500mAh

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

15W wireless charging

Reverse wireless charging

5,000mAh

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

15W wireless charging

Reverse 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 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

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 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. Ultimately, we’re giving it to the S22 Ultra purely because of the technically superior display — through the Burgundy color is also a bonus. 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.

The Galaxy S22’s 3,000mAh battery is the smallest you’ll find in a modern smartphone (with the exception of the iPhone Mini), and admittedly, battery life isn’t stellar. You should expect to barely get past a single day of use, and in our review, we got around four to five hours of screen-on time, though less demanding usage should see you through the day. With the base S22, idle battery loss remains a concern despite updates, and we noted a loss of nearly 10% to 15% over a couple of hours while the phone lay on a table with cellular internet enabled and a couple of communication apps running in the background. The vanilla S22 is also the only phone in the range with 25W peak wired charging speeds.

In contrast, the S22 Plus and S22 Ultra both support 45W fast wired charging, with the latter reaching full capacity in around 59 minutes. The S22 Plus packs a 4,500mAh battery, while the S22 Ultra beefs this up to 5,000mAh. Though the Ultra’s battery takes a couple of days to adjust to your usage — as you’ll find with most phones — after this, it should easily see you through a full day of heavy use or two days of moderate use.

We should also note here that all three phones in the range support 15W wireless charging and reverse wireless charging for accessories, and no charger comes in the box with any of these devices.

We’re giving this round to the S22 Ultra for its beefy 5,000mAh battery, fast 45W charging, and two-day battery life with moderate use.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Cameras

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

It should come as no surprise that 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.

In our reviews, the S22 Ultra came out on top with its improved 3x, 10x, and 30x zoom, providing more natural and accurate colors and greater detail than its predecessor. The main and ultrawide angle lenses provide much the same results as the S21 Ultra, and you can expect beautiful photos with excellent balance and vibrant colors in most lighting conditions.

Worth noting is the newly updated portrait mode, which we found very effective, and features like Single Take mode (available across all three models), which lets you shoot a 15- to 20-second video, with the phone’s AI then generating multiple images and videos from it, which you can edit and share. We found this helpful for focusing on what we wanted to shoot rather than how we should shoot it.

Unfortunately, the S22 Ultra’s selfie camera often produces soft photos and isn’t great in low-light conditions. The color accuracy and exposure at 3x and 10x zoom settings also need work. The S22 and S22 Plus share the same camera setup, though the latter adds an optical 3x zoom camera, so expect great pictures with plenty of details and impressive colors from both phones. It’s worth noting here that we spotted some weird warping effects with the S22 Plus’ ultrawide shooter. All three phones in the range offer night mode support, as well as Samsung’s new Expert RAW app for more advanced photo editing.

We’re giving this round to the S22 Ultra, as it’s one of the best camera phones around right now.

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 13 under Samsung’s OneUI 5. 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 offers four years of operating system updates and five years of security updates, and this applies to all three phones in the S22 range. True, 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 S22 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 to buy from Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, and other third-party retailers, as well as from most carriers. 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, too.

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. We’ve spent enough time with each phone in the range to know that each has its strong points and shortcomings, so ultimately, it may end up coming down to what matters most to you.

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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