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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs S22 Ultra: Is this year's flagship worth the upgrade?

Samsung's top-of-the-line Galaxy S23 Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra smartphones have a lot in common, but there are some key features that could tip the scale to help you make a decision about which one is right for you.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Kerry Wan
The galaxy S23 Ultra in 4 colors

Samsung just announced the Galaxy S23 lineup, consisting of the S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra

There's a lot to unpack about the phones and the differences between Samsung's latest phones and their predecessors, which we'll continue to do over the coming days, but a good place to start is with the differences between last year's flagship S22 Ultra and its successor, the S23 Ultra.

Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Best smartphone of the year (so far)

Below I'll break down the major differences and what they are, as well as highlight some of the reasons you may want to go with the S22 Ultra over the latest and greatest Samsung has to offer. There are a couple of pretty compelling reasons.


Galaxy S23 UltraGalaxy S22 Ultra
Display6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O QHD+, Edge Screen 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate, 500ppi, 1,750 nits (peak)6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity-O QHD+, Edge Screen, 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate, 500ppi, 1750 nits (peak)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxyQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Operating systemAndroid 13 with One UIAndroid 13 with One UI
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Memory8GB, 12GB8GB, 12GB
Rear cameras200MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP telephoto, 10MP telephoto108MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP telephoto, 10MP telephoto
Zoom3X or 10X Optical, 100X Space Zoom3X or 10X Optical, 100X Space Zoom
Front camera12MP40MP
Network/Connectivity5G (sub6/mmWave), Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth5G (sub6/mmWave), Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth
IP ratingIP68IP68
Size and weight3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 inches, 8.25oz3.07 x 6.43 x 0.35 inches, 8.04oz
ColorsPhantom Black, Cream, Green, LavenderBurgundy, Green, Phantom White, Phantom Black, Graphite, Sky Blue, Red

You should buy the Galaxy S23 Ultra if…

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with S Pen
June Wan/ZDNET

1. You want all the megapixels for your photos

Arguably, the highlight feature of the Galaxy S23 Ultra is its new 200-megapixel main camera sensor. That's an improvement over the 108-megapixel main camera sensor on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

When you take a photo using the new 200MP sensor, Samsung's software will combine 16 pixels into one larger pixel. The end result will be clearer photos with more definition and information in each pixel, especially in darker environments.

Also: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 14 Pro Max

At least, that's what Samsung is promising early on. We'll go hands-on with the phone over the coming days and, based on Samsung's track record when it comes to delivering high-end camera experiences, have little doubt that won't be the case here. 

2. You're due for an upgrade from your Galaxy Note

With Samsung retiring the Galaxy Note a year ago, and with the addition of the S Pen to the S-series Ultra devices, it makes sense for the S23 Ultra to be an upgrade for former Note users whose phones are ready to retire. 

The S23 Ultra's S Pen is embedded directly into the phone, just like it does in Note devices from years past. Once removed, it triggers all of the same fancy software features that the S Pen is known for, such as Air Actions to notate a screenshot, or take notes in the Samsung Notes app. 

In addition to getting a more modern "Note" experience, you're gaining performance, camera and battery life boosts as well.

You should buy the Galaxy S22 Ultra if…

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Pulling Out S Pen

1. You don't need the latest and greatest

When you go through the spec chart embedded above, you'll quickly notice that there's not a whole lot that's different between the two phones. The S22 Ultra has the same exact display, battery, size, connectivity options, and IP rating. 

The biggest difference between the two phones comes down to the cameras, processor and colors. Oh, and the base model of the Galaxy S23 Ultra with 8GB of memory comes with 256GB of storage, instead of 128GB for the S22 Ultra with the same amount of memory. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: Near perfect 

We don't yet know how much of a performance difference the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy will bring to the S23 Ultra over the S22 Ultra's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, but if past experience is any indication, then the speed boost won't be record-setting. Instead, it'll be an incremental increase in performance at best and one that we can't really complain about.

2. The S22 Ultra's camera is good enough for you

How many megapixels are too many megapixels? It's a question that will probably be asked a lot in the coming days and weeks as reviewers and users get their hands on the S23 Ultra and its 200-megapixel main camera, but in the meantime, we do know that the 108-megapixel main camera on the S22 Ultra took clear, crisp photos that many people have used and loved over the last year. 

And for most, it's a camera that's going to be good enough well into the future. 

More: Now is a great time to trade in your smartphone. Here's why

Don't get me wrong, the fact there's a flagship phone with a main camera of 200 megapixels is impressive and exciting, but unless you make a living off of the photos you take on your phone, the S22 Ultra's camera is going to be more than good enough for photos of your kids, pets and other random items. 

3. You take a lot of selfies or front-camera videos

When it comes to the front-facing camera, there's a pretty significant difference between the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra. Last year's model is equipped with a 40-megapixel front-facing camera, while this year's phone has a 12-megapixel camera. Yes, you read that right. 

To get even more into the details, the S22 Ultra's selfie camera is 40 megapixels with an f/2.2 aperture, and 26 mm viewing angle. The S23 Ultra's selfie camera is 12 megapixels with an f/2.2 aperture. I don't have the viewing angle information yet. 

But, if you're someone who takes a lot of front-facing videos for apps like Instagram or TikTok, then the S22 Ultra's front-facing camera is more appealing, on paper at least.

Also: How to use the Samsung Galaxy S23's Photoshop-like feature

Alternatives to consider  

Not sold on the Galaxy S23 Ultra or S22 Ultra? Here are some more ZDNET-recommended alternatives:

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