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Galaxy S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra: Did Samsung change enough to warrant an upgrade?

Last year's Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was arguably the best smartphone of the year with fantastic cameras, gorgeous display, S Pen support, and more. The new S22 Ultra sets the bar for 2022, but if you have a S21 Ultra is there enough to justify an upgrade?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Samsung's S21 Ultra was released a year ago and two significant aspects of that release were the S Pen support and $200 price drop from previous flagship releases. The launch price is the same, but the S Pen is now fully integrated with a silo and S Pen in the retail package.

Other than improved S Pen integration, are there other specifications or features that might compel you to upgrade? If you are considering an upgrade, I recommend you take advantage of the pre-order launch specials and generous trade-in offers since it is always best for the customer to buy a Samsung phone before the official launch date. We have the S22 Ultra in hand and are trying to decide if its worth selling an iPhone 13 Pro Max to purchase the S22 Ultra.

Also: Best Samsung phones: Explore a new Galaxy

If you own a Note 20 Ultra from 2020, then I think the answer about upgrading is much clearer for you as the S22 Ultra offers an overall better experience in every way except for the microSD card slot. However, if you have a S21 Ultra, the answer is not so clear. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor proved to be a fantastic processor and we have yet to see the impact of the new Qualcomm processor on battery life and performance. The annual upgrade cycle is harder to justify when the S21 Ultra is still perfectly capable at excelling in so many ways.

Tale of the tape

Specifications don't provide the complete picture regarding the capabilities of a smartphone, but they are useful for comparison purposes and to provide you with an indication of what each device offers.

FeatureGalaxy S22 UltraGalaxy S21 Ultra
Display size 6.8 inches 6.8 inches
Processor Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Snapdragon 888
Dimensions 163.3 x 77.9 x 8.9mm 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mm
Weight 229g 229g
RAM 8/12GB 12/16GB
Internal storage 128/256/512GB/1TB 128/256/512GB
Battery capacity 5000mAh 5000mAh
Rear cameras Four: 10MP tele (10x), 10MP tele (3x), 108MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide Four: 10MP tele (10x), 10MP tele (3x), 108MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide
Front cameras One 40MP One 40MP
Other Armor Aluminum, Gorilla Glass Victus Plus Contour Cut camera array

Both Samsung devices have an adaptive 120MHz refresh rate display, fast wireless charging, IP68 dust/water resistance, wireless powershare capability, UWB, and 5G. The battery capacity, weight, and camera hardware specs are also all the same between these two devices. The S22 Ultra includes the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and newer materials.

Also: Best Android phones

If you never use the S Pen on the S21 Ultra, then there is even less reason to consider an upgrade. If the S Pen is an essential part of your daily routine, then having a silo and S Pen included in the S22 Ultra may be all that you need to justify the upgrade.

We will continue to use the S22 Ultra here at ZDNet in the coming weeks so stay tuned for more coverage on the camera performance, S Pen, and more.

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