Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 Ultra

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Compared to the S21 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the start of a totally new market niche for Samsung – a Note-style phone with a built-in stylus that is a part of the S-line series – so we can only have an indirect clash between the two. 
Despite that the S22 Ultra is nominally a direct successor to the S21 Ultra, it is actually a spiritual successor to the last Note line flagship, so you may want to also check our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Note 20 Ultra comparison.
Besides the usual annual specs upgrades, the S22 Ultra will always have that one more advantage before the S21 Ultra – the S Pen silo. That could make it the preferred phone for Samsung fans, despite the fact that the S21 Ultra specs also list S Pen doodling support, as it got inevitably deprecated when the S22 Ultra landed. 

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 Ultra price

  • S21 Ultra price: $1199.99 for the base 128GB model
  • S22 Ultra price: $1199.99 for the base 128GB model, $1599.99 for 1TB
Currently, Samsung has scrubbed all possibilities to order a Galaxy S21 Ultra from its website directly. That goes for the T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint models of the S21 Ultra, too, just like it did with the S20 series. 

S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra colors and design

Stockier S22 Ultra beats the old Ultra in more ways than one

  • Galaxy S22 Ultra colors: Black, White, Burgundy, Green, Red, Sky Blue, Graphite
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra colors: Black, Silver, Navy, Brown, Titanium.
Besides all the new Galaxy S22 color variants, Samsung did a design overhaul of the S22 Ultra, and not just the moves necessitated by the inclusion of an S Pen silo down there. There is no camera island in the traditional sense on the Galaxy S22 Ultra at all.
Instead, the sensor and lens combos for the main 108MP camera, the 12MP ultrawide, or the 10MP telephoto and periscope zoom cameras, are nestled each in its separate silo, with just their lens rings slightly jutting out of the rear surface.

It’s not a Google Pixel 6 series level of change, what with the camera strip across the rear, but we welcome the change nonetheless, as the island-in-left-corner design is getting repetitive and rather long in the tooth. That’s in terms of aesthetics, although in terms of practicality the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s new camera design leaves something to be desired, as cases would now have to be pierced for each individual camera lens ring or lint and debris could get stuck between the ones that are close.

Moving on to the front, the other big difference between the S22 Ultra and S21 Ultra is the symmetry of the display bezels. Samsung worked to make its new Galaxy truly « all-screen » by shaving off the bezel even more than what we have on the Galaxy S21 series, whose bottom bezel is vanishingly thin already, compared to the competition. The project is called Border Reduction Structure (BRS) internally and it is first deployed on the S22 series. This allowed Samsung to change the aspect ratio from tall 20:9 in S21 Ultra to a slightly shorter and wider 19.3:9 in the S22 Ultra. 

The tradeoff is an added single-hand usage S22 Ultra discomfort for keeping the battery size and adding a built-in stylus, but we’d gladly have it, as the S21 Ultra is no less of a shovel to begin with. Moreover, the S22 Ultra has a slightly curved display, which is more comfortable to hold and use with back navigation gestures. 

Those thinner S22 Ultra bezels and added width mean not only an improved screen-to-body ratio and larger true display area to doodle on with the S Pen, but have also allowed Samsung to keep the same 5000mAh battery pack, despite the addition of the S Pen silo. 
Overall, the S22 Ultra design wins over the S21 Ultra. Unfortunately, the curved screen and the exposed camera archipelago also make for more weak points in terms of durability compared to the S21 Ultra as you can see in the S22 Ultra drop test below, so put a nice Galaxy S22 Ultra case and screen protector on the second you take it out of the box.

S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra display quality

1750 points of light, baby, and the first 1Hz-120Hz Samsung display!
With equally resolute QHD+ screens of the same 6.8″ size, the Galaxy S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra display specs comparison may seem like a futile exercise. Samsung, however, fired up the new generation of LTPO OLED screen production, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the first to benefit with a record peak display brightness of 1750 nits or the most granular 1Hz-120Hz refresh rate dynamics. 

Granted, such brightness levels will only be possible when you are watching HDR content in high ambient light settings, yet the same requirements are valid for the S21 Ultra’s panel which is able to reach « just » 1500 nits. The rest of the Galaxy S22 Ultra display quality benchmarks that we tested are also superior to what the S21 Ultra musters. The newer panel exhibits a more credible color temperature representation that is closer to the reference white point instead of appearing slightly colder and blueish. 

Both the standard and the wide color gamut coverage of the S22 Ultra are also tighter and better aligning to the reference points meaning that what you see on the display is what you get with your own eyes to a larger extent than on the S21 Ultra.

The more granular refresh rate control down to the single hertz hence means more efficient display power consumption, too, at least on paper, as in reality the S22 Ultra didn’t fair better than the S21 Ultra in our battery tests. Both screens have active digitizer layers that allow them to react to Samsung’s S Pen, with the big difference that on the S22 Ultra the stylus is always in the phone, while the S21 Ultra has it as a tack-on in a separate (and unwieldy) case. When we add the drastically decreased input lag of the new S Pen stylus and the higher WACOM digitizer sensitivity for handwriting, it’s another win for the S22 Ultra here.

S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra camera

Raindrops, shmaindrops, how about better night shots?

At first blush, the Galaxy S22 Ultra camera specs may sound the same as those on its predecessor – main 108MP camera, a 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto or periscope zoom sensors. Samsung, however, is equipping the S22 Ultra with an improved 108MP main camera that has a wider aperture and brighter lens able to collect more light. 

The improved algorithms for the 108MP ISOCELL line in the S22 Ultra have allowed it to introduce better detail capture by merging one full-res shot in the mix, as well as better low-light sensitivity. Check out some of the camera samples with the Galaxy S22 Ultra to gauge its camera performance against the samples from the Galaxy S21 Ultra right after it. 

We wouldn’t say there are drastic difference between the two, but the S22 Ultra photos look a bit more pleasing to the eye, with better dynamics and definition, and slightly more detail.

Not only that, but Samsung is also introducing a huge improvement in image stabilization, to the tune of a whopping 48% shake reduction and movement compensation compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra predecessor. Here are some more S22 Ultra camera samples in all conditions.

It’s not clear if Samsung has achieved this via some sort of what Apple calls Sensor Shift stabilization in the iPhone 13 models, or another technique, but it is obvious that Samsung will be going for Apple’s video capture crown with the S22 series, and the Ultra in particular. Check out how the new stabilization mode performs against Apple’s Sensor Shift below.

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 Ultra specs and processor performance

The S22 Ultra is upgrading on the Snapdragon 888 processor that is found in the S21 Ultra with a 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but for the first time it’s the Exynos version of the S22 Ultra that is the more interesting one. The S22 Ultra, S22+ and S22 have the Exynos 2200 model version in Europe and some other places – you know, the one that Verizon wanted – that has an AMD graphics subsystem and whose benchmarks against the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 model of the S22 Ultra are promising. In our tests below, it performs slightly higher on all counts than the Exynos 2100 in the S21 Ultra, too.
Samsung’s latter days Exynos processor incarnations were marred by thermal and performance issues compared to their Qualcomm Snapdragon alternatives, chiefly on account of the stock ARM-Mali graphics it used in the package. All of that changes with the next, Exynos 2200 iteration, which is the first to bear the fruits of the Samsung-AMD labor under the form of an mRDNA graphics processor that is as frugal as it is powerful compared to its heretofore Mali counterparts in Exynos chipsets. 

Snapdragon vs Exynos benchmark scores

The Exynos 2200 scores that you see below are a tad above the Galaxy S21 benchmarks and the S22 Ultra delivers a faster performance compared to the S21 Ultra in their Exynos versions.

When it comes to the Exynos 2200 vs Snapdragon 888 scores, the new Samsung chipset wins by a larger margin as Qualcomm’s processor is clocked at a comparable level.

Needless to say, pure synthetic benchmarks are only a part of the equation, and sustained performance, as well as throttling under pressure are the ultimate criteria to look at. In the case of the Exynos 2200-laden Galaxy S22 Ultra, the pure graphics subsystem scores, AMD mRDNA GPU and all that, turned out very helpful in our 3D-gaming battery test, as you can see below. 
The new GPU managed to throttle less and deliver more on a charge than the one in the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Only a handful of European countries get an Exynos S22 Ultra, though, while the rest of the globe is getting the Snapdragon one.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S21 Ultra battery life and charging speeds

Faster charging, but no battery life gains save for the AMD GPU in the 3D gaming test

Both phones sport giant 5000mAh batteries, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra already proved to be the longest lasting Android flagship phone in its top-shelf specs segment in our tests, so we expected nothing less from the S22 Ultra. It has a more efficient processor and display, so a slight improvement in battery life was a reasonable expectation to have. 

Unfortunately, the Exynos 2200 model we tested lasted less on the 120Hz browsing and YouTube streaming battery benchmarks, though the AMD-powered graphics subsystem proved very efficient and pulled off way ahead in the 3D gaming battery test.

The S22 Ultra is also finally supporting Samsung’s fastest 45W charging speeds, putting it on an equal footing with the Chinese competition. Why equal given that they are already at 80W or even 120W?

Well, the speeds Samsung is able to achieve with the regular 25W brick – about an hour and eight minutes for a full 5000mAh battery charge in our S21 Ultra battery tests – are impressive, but the numbers on the S22 Ultra are even better. 

Samsung announced full Galaxy S22 Ultra support for its fast 45W charger and the phone takes just 20 minutes to charge to 50%, or an hour and two minutes to full charge, slightly faster than the 25W charging of the S21 Ultra, but not by much.

Samsung’s fast 45W charger for the Galaxy S22 Ultra and S22+

The charging speeds were the only weak point of Samsung’s flagship phones in the battle with their main competitors for Android market share, so finally resolving this issue would have looked very good, and not only on paper. Unfortunately, the S22 Ultra still takes a bit over an hour to charge, whereas its main Chinese competitors are now at half an hour for the same battery capacity, even though some of them have doubled the battery longevity from 400 to 800 and more cycles already.

Galaxy S22 Ultra or S21 Ultra, which one should you buy?

If you are coming from the S21 Ultra and have survived without its tack-on S Pen stylus case so far, an upgrade to the S22 Ultra won’t bring you much else but fun new colors and a better display, at least at first blush. 

The camera aficionado in you, however, would appreciate the clearer night shots, steadier video capture, and the more pleasing look of the photos from the S22 Ultra compared to what its predecessor musters. 

If you bought the S21 Ultra just to have Samsung’s latest and greatest last year while you waited on a Note 20 Ultra successor with a built-in S Pen, however, well, here it is, and the best Galaxy S22 Ultra deals will make the upgrade from your S21 Ultra almost painless, too.


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