Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. S20 Ultra: A super phone throwdown

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

When Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy S20 Ultra, it was the first of its kind for the brand. The Ultra moniker was brand new and would be where Samsung planned to put the best of everything it had to offer. That has continued now two devices later with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. But just because the latest version in this lineup is out doesn't mean the original is obsolete. Should you upgrade to Samsung's latest and greatest or stick with your older phone? Let's break down that decision.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. S20 Ultra: More than just a name

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

For years now, Samsung has been cranking out some of the best Android phones, and it shows no sign of stopping. In the past, when you wanted to get Samsung's most technologically advanced smartphone, you had to get a Note. The Note 20 was the last in that lineup, the same year that the Galaxy S20 Ultra came out, but its spirit endures in the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The Ultra series has become a showcase for what Samsung can really do in a flagship device.

With the Note line all but gone, Samsung has moved on to focus on the Ultra series to show off what it can do. When the S20 Ultra came out in March 2020, it was definitely an impressive device, from the design to the top-tier specs and the, at the time, mind-blowing 100x Space Zoom feature for the cameras. The base 12GB RAM and expandable 128GB storage offered plenty of support for the Snapdragon 865 processor and the vibrant 120Hz AMOLED display.

For 2022, Samsung bolstered the Ultra lineup with the S22 Ultra by continuing to push the limits for power, functionality, and photography. The new phone utilizes Qualcomm’s latest and most powerful processor with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Though the phone has less RAM in the base model with only 8GB and lacks a microSD slot, it makes up for it in other areas. 

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Header Cell - Column 0 Galaxy S22 UltraGalaxy S20 Ultra
Chipset4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200 7nm Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990
Display6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display 3088x1440 120Hz refresh rate (1-120Hz) with 240Hz touch sampling6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 3200x1440 120Hz refresh rate
Memory8 or 12GB12GB
Storage 128/256/512GB or 1TB 128GB
Rear Camera108MP, ƒ/2.2, 0.8μm 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (120-degree ultra-wide) 10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm, 3x optical zoom (telephoto) 10MP, ƒ/4.9, 1.12μm, 10x optical zoom (telephoto)108MP, ƒ/1.8, 0.8μm 12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.4μm (120-degree ultra-wide) 48MP, ƒ/3.5, .8μm, 4Xoptical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom (telephoto)
Front Camera40MP, ƒ/2.2, 80-degree wide-angle40MP, f/2.2, wide-angle
Battery5,000mAh 45W Fast Charging 15W Wireless Charging5,000mAh 45W Fast Charging 15W Wireless Charging
UpdatesUp to Android 16 Security through 2027Up to Android 13 Security through 2024
SecurityUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensorUltrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6 sub-6 and mmWave 5G UWBWi-Fi 6 sub-6 and mmWave 5G UWB
S Pen✔️✔️
microSD card slot🚫✔️ (up to 1TB)
3.5mm headphone jack🚫🚫
Dimensions6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 in6.57 x 2.99 x 0.35 in
Weight8.04 oz7.83 oz
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold, Graphite, Sky Blue, Cream, VioletCosmic Grey, Cosmic Black, Cloud White
Protection IP68 Gorilla Glass Victus+IP68 Gorilla Glass 6

Samsung took the already amazing display in the Galaxy S20 Ultra and made it better for the S22 Ultra with variable refresh rate, better color reproduction, and a brightness level up to 1,750 nits. In comparison, the S20 Ultra maxes out at 1,342 nits. This extreme brightness level means you'll be able to easily see the display on the latest Ultra phone in any environment. 

These two displays are nearly the same size and resolution, with the S22 Ultra coming in at 6.8 inches and a 3088x1440 resolution, and the S20 Ultra coming in at 6.9 inches and 3200x1440 resolution. The differences here are quite small, but the improved brightness and new variable refresh rate make a difference. Regardless of whether you choose the S20 Ultra or S22 Ultra, you're going to want to grab a screen protector to keep that display looking sharp!

Speaking of battery life, the two phones have the same size cells and charging capabilities. The daily usage on the S20 Ultra is going to get you through the day just fine — unless you have the 120Hz high refresh rate turned on. However, if you buy a phone with Ultra in the name you want all the features all the time. With the S22 Ultra and its variable refresh rate, you get buttery smooth scrolling whenever you want it and much less of a battery hit. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Android Central)

If photography is your thing, both of these devices possess some truly great cameras. While on paper, each of these phones sports similar sensors and zoom capabilities, the Galaxy S22 Ultra easily bests its predecessor in nearly every way. Aside from improved hardware on the new model, the software has also matured to help produce better photos in almost any lighting conditions and far better zoom photos than the S20 Ultra.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has a rather unfortunate issue regarding focusing. With this device, Samsung went with a different system that it had been using for the auto-focus hardware, and it didn't work out too well. The camera, at times, would hunt to find a point of focus and would cause images to come out blurry. However, this isn't a constant issue, but it is an issue that comes of more often than it should.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

However, when it comes to carrying on the spirit of the Note, there is a pre-requisite aside from having the best specs — the phone has to have an S Pen built-in. Thankfully, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has that. Like the Galaxy Notes before it, the S22 Ultra has the same silo for the S Pen to slot into. No matter if you want to doodle, jot down a note, sign a document, or anything else pen related, the S Pen is ready. The S20 Ultra is compatible with the S Pen, but you'll need to purchase it separately and find a way to store it, like in a case.

Another significant area of difference between these two phones is in the software. Yes, both are running the latest Android 12, but the Galaxy S20 Ultra will only have one more OS update to Android 13. Though the phone will continue to get security updates in 2024, there's no guarantee it will get Android 14. The Galaxy S22 Ultra, on the other hand, will be updated through 2026.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Android Central)

Finally, there is a difference in design between the devices. Both phones are using metal frames with the S22 Ultra going with Gorilla Glass Victus+  and the S20 Ultra using the older Gorilla Glass 6. Samsung also changed its design language after the Galaxy S20 series, but it kept a similar style for the Galaxy S22 from the S21 series. Curiously though, the Galaxy S22 Ultra got its design cues from the Note 20 Ultra in a squared-off, boxy style. Though it looks nice, the corners make the large phone less comfortable to hold than the Galaxy S20 Ultra's curved frame.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. S20 Ultra: Which should you buy?

If you already own a Galaxy S20 Ultra and are ready to upgrade, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a fantastic option. But, if you consider purchasing either of these devices, then the choice gets more complicated. There are a few questions you have to ask yourself before going in on a purchase.

First, what is your budget? The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is newer and hasn't seen a discount yet as it just launched. That means this is a pricey device. So, if cost is an area you are looking into, the Galaxy S20 Ultra can be found at various retailers on sale or even be picked up at great used phone sites

Do you plan to keep this phone for a long time? If so, the Galaxy S22 Ultra will last far longer from a software support standpoint. The Galaxy S20 Ultra will get at least one more Android version and security updates through 2024, so it could get you a couple of years before it's ready to be retired.

How much do you care about photography? As for the camera department, both phones can take great photos. But, the improvements on the Galaxy S22 Ultra's hardware and software make it the clear winner here. The other downside of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, aside from the older hardware, is the poor autofocus. 

So, if you want a lower-priced phone that could get you through a couple of years of software updates and photography isn't a high priority — the S20 Ultra will do. But the Galaxy S22 Ultra will do better.

Chris Wedel
Senior Editor - Smart Home
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.