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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max: Which flagship wins?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: Future)

A Samsung Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max face-off is just what you need if you're trying to decide between two of the best phones money can buy. And it's not an easy call to make, as each phone has its own set of strengths and special features that stand out.

As you'll see in our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review, Samsung's 6.8-inch beast of a device delivers one of the best displays we've ever tested along with much improved cameras. But the biggest addition is a built-in S Pen. (Speaking of ultra devices woiith an S Pen, we also have five reasons to buy the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra and two reasons to skip it.). As a result, you'll pay a pretty penny for the S22 Ultra, with a starting price of $1,199.

Our iPhone 13 Pro Max review shows it's the very best iPhone available, offering a vivid 6.7-inch OLED display and powerful cameras of its own, including a compelling new Cinematic mode for video. Plus, its A15 Bionic chip is blazingly fast and you get great battery life.

So which phone is best for you? Our in-depth Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max comparison is here to answer that question. (We've also got a Galaxy S22 vs. iPhone 13 face-off that compares the two less-expensive base models.)

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max specs

Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraiPhone 13 Pro Max
Starting price$1,199$1,099
Screen size6.7 inches (3080 x 1440)6.1 inches (2778 x 1284)
Refresh rate1Hz-120Hz adaptive10Hz-120Hz adaptive
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 1 (US); Exynos 2200 (K)A15 Bionic
RAM8GB, 12GB6GB (based on teardowns)
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear cameras108MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 2 10MP telephoto (f/4.9) with 10x and 3x optical zoom12MP main (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x optical zoom
Front camera40MP (f/2.2)12MP (f/2.2)
Battery size5,000 mAh4,352 mAh (based on teardowns)
Charging speeds45W wired, 15W wireless20W wired; 15W wireless
Size6.4 x 3.1 x 0.4 inches6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches
Weight8.1 ounces8.5 ounces
ColorsBlack, white, green, burgundyGraphite, gold, silver, blue

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Price and value

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,099, which is $100 more than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. You get 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to start, and it costs $100 more to jump up to 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage. The 512GB and 1TB models cost $1,399 and $1,599, respectively. 

Note that you can jump up to the 12GB/256GB model for free during the Galaxy S22 pre-order period (until February 24), and there are some great Galaxy S22 deals out there that includes the Ultra. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at a lower $1,099 for 128GB of storage. (Apple doesn't list the amount of RAM but it's believed to be 6GB.) The 256GB model costs $1,199, while the 512GB costs $1,399 and the 1TB model is $1,599. 

They are both super premium phones, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a better value because of its lower starting price.

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Design

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in white

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra just looks and feels sleeker than the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and it starts with a camera array that's more flush with the design. The iPhone's lenses are arranged in a more chunky block on the back of the device.

Another point in Samsung's favor is that it doesn't have a notch on its display. Yes, the iPhone 13 Pro Max's notch is smaller than before, but it's still more distracting than the punch hole on the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

iPhone 13 Pro Max in grey, held in front of water

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

However, while the slightly curved display on the S22 Ultra is more eye-catching, it can sometimes make typing and moving the cursor more tricky than it needs to be. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a flat display, which makes it a bit easier to use and hold.

Measuring 6.4 x 3.1 x 0.4 inches and weighing 8.1 ounces, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is taller but lighter than the iPhone 13 Pro Mac, which comes in at 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches and 8.5 ounces. 

Winner: Galaxy S22 Ultra

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Display

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display vs iPhone 13 Pro Max in direct sunlight

(Image credit: Future)

The AMOLED displays on the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max are both stunning, and you can't go wrong with either phone. But I give the edge to Samsung's phone for a couple of reasons. 

First, the S22 Ultra shined a bit brighter in our testing, reaching 1,359 nits. The iPhone 13 Pro Max maxed out at 1,038 nits. In addition, the Galaxy S22 Ultra's panel covered more of both the sRGB color gamut (137.5%) and more demanding DCI-P3 color space (97.4%), compared to 109.3%/77.4% for the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Apple's panel does have an advantage in terms of color accuracy though, as it turned in a Delta-E score of 0.21, where 0 is perfect. The S22 Ultra was slightly worse at 0.25. 

Update: Some Galaxy S22 Ultra units equipped with an Exynos processor are experiencing display glitches, and Samsung is promising a fix. The issue doesn't appear to affect the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 model of the S22 Ultra, which is what we reviewed. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Display test resuls
Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraiPhone 13 Pro Max
Max brightness1,359 nits1,038 nits
sRGB color gamut137.5%109.3%
DCI-P3 color gamut 97.4%77.4%
Delta-E color accuracy (lower is better)0.250.21

I also like that the Galaxy S22 Ultra gives you an option to pick the type of color profile you want (Natural or Vivid), as I prefer the latter when watching videos.

Winner: Galaxy S22 Ultra 

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra enters this fight with a 108MP main camera with a larger sensor than the S21 Ultra that's designed to let in more light. And it's complemented by a 12MP ultrawide lens and dual 10MP telephoto lenses that give you up to 10x optical zoom and 100x Space Zoom.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max packs a trio of 12MP lenses that include main, ultrawide and telephoto shooters. Apple also increased the size of the main sensor to let in more light. The iPhone 13 Pro Max supports just 3x optical zoom though.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max starts strong this shot of chrysanthemum flowers taken indoors. You can make out more details in the petals on the right side, while the S22 Ultra seems to struggle with this close-up shot. 

When it comes to Night mode shots, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivered a brighter and crisper image here than the iPhone 13 Pro Max. You can more easily make out the bushes, mulch and the snow. 

In this Night Mode photo of a bar cart I'd say it's a draw between the two phones. The Galaxy S22 Ultra's image is brighter and reveals the decorations on the right, but the glasses and Kettle One bottle in the background look clearer on the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The S22 Ultra's shot has a yellowish tinge to it. 

The Galaxy S22 Ultra offers improved portraits with a AI Stereo Depth Map feature that better separates subject from the background, but the overall image quality in this shot isn't quite as good as the iPhone 13 Pro Max. While I like the warm tone in the Samsung shot, my face and shirt look brighter and crisper on the iPhone. 

The iPhone 13 Pro Max wins with this shot of fruit at a grocery store. The pears have a more natural hue, while the colors are a oversaturated on the S22 Ultra. Same thing goes for the oranges on the right. 

This selfie comparison isn't an easy call. I prefer the more evenly lit shot the Galaxy S22 Ultra provides with its 40MP front camera, but the iPhone 13 Pro Max's shot is a bit brighter while offering more detail in my jacket. 

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Video

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is capable of recording video up to 8K at 24fps, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max maxes out at 4K and 60 fps. However, only the iPhone offers a Cinematic mode for video that provides a rack focus effect; and it automatically switches subjects based on who is speaking. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a portrait video mode, but it's not as smart. An Auto Framing feature lets Samsung's phone track up to 10 people, keeping them in focus.

So what about video quality? I took both phones to capture this fountain in midtown Manhattan and used the 4K setting. 

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra benefits here in that it lets you zoom up to 10x, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max is limited to 3x. So I can get closer to the water with the Samsung. The blue sky and clouds look crystal clear as I pan up, but once I pan down the green plants on the right of the frame look washed out in the sun. Not so with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. 

With the iPhone 13 Pro Max clip, I prefer the look of the water, which looks clearer when played back at full screen. And I can make out small details a bit better, such as the 1251 on the banner and the lettering on the food trucks. However, I noticed more distortion when panning quickly with the iPhone than with the S22 Ultra.

Winner: Draw

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Performance

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 3DMark benchmark

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra packs the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, which delivers a notable performance increase, especially when it comes to graphics. But it's still a step behind the iPhone 13 Pro Max and its A15 Bionic chip on various tests.

Galaxy S22 UltraiPhone 13 Pro Max
Geekbench 5 (single / multicore)1240 / 33921720 / 4549
Geekbench ML TensorFlow Lite (CPU / GPU / NPU)434/ 2039 / 3132915 / 1587 / 2663
Adobe Premiere Rush (Mins:Secs)0:470:25
3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (Score / FPS)9984 / 59.8 fps11,418 / 68 fps
3DMark Wild Life Extreme (Score / FPS)2346 / 143075 / 18

On synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 5, the Galaxy S22 Ultra trails the iPhone 13 Pro Max in both the single- and multi-core tests. On 3DMark Wild Life, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivered a silky smooth 59.8 frames per second, which is a big jump from the 34 fps on the S21 Ultra. Still, the iPhone 13 Pro Max turned in a higher score.

iPhone 13 Pro Max gameplay

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra took 47 seconds to transcode a 4K clip to 1080p, which again is an improvement over the S21 Ultra but still slower than the 25-second mark from the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Still, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a powerful phone, and it actually feels a bit faster when switching between apps and closing apps. 

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Battery life and charging

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's 5,000 mAh battery did not last as long as we hoped in our testing. On the Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness, the S22 Ultra's best result was 10 hours and 18 minutes, and that was with the phones adaptive refresh rate turned off. The iPhone 13 Pro Max lasted nearly 2 hours longer at 12:16, which places it on our best phone battery life list.

Still, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers faster 45W charging, compared to 20W for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. It's the difference between getting to 50% capacity in 20 minutes vs. 30 minutes. 

See our in-depth Galaxy S22 Ultra battery life results summary to see how it stacks up with other phones. 

Winner: iPhone 13 Pro Max

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Special features and software

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's top special feature is easily the integrated S Pen. It's not only built in to the phone, you get much smoother performance than the last Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. There's 70% less latency, which means that taking notes and drawing feels even more responsive. 

Another cool special feature for the Galaxy S22 Ultra is what you can do with Google Duo. During a call, you can share your entire screen, so you can watch videos with others in YouTube and other apps. (To be fair, Apple's FaceTime supports that feature with iOS 15.)

For the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the main special feature is Cinematic mode, which delivers a bokeh effect for video and leverages AI to switch the focus to the right subject in the frame based on who is being more active. You can also manually switch focus between subjects on the fly. 

Winner: Galaxy S22 Ultra

Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max: Overall winner

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future)

This Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 Pro Max face-off shows that both of these phones are stellar, and you can tell by how close the final score is. Only 3 points separate these two flagships. 

Galaxy S22 UltraiPhone 13 Pro Max
Price and value (10)78
Design (10)98
Display (15)1514
Cameras (20)1719
Video (10)99
Performance (10)810
Battery life and charging (20)1719
Special features (5)53
Total score8790

Based on this comparison I'd say the iPhone 13 Pro Max has an edge because of its significantly longer battery life, faster performance and better image quality in a number of comparisons. Samsung's cameras are getting better, but they're not quite iPhone beaters.

However, Samsung has the edge in terms of the design, display quality and the versatility of its cameras, especially low light performance and more powerful zoom. The Galaxy S22 Ultra also features an S Pen, if that's a perk you would find useful.

Overall, the iPhone 13 Pro Max narrowly wins this contest but the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best premium Android phone money can buy for a reason. 

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • ManicMods
    This is a very nice write up, and the slider images are just what I needed. Thank you!
    Reply
  • TimWayne
    The comparisons are questionable. The selfie is one example. Comparing one half of a picture to the other half is not a valid test. In this case one half of the selfie was in sunlight and the other was not. Take the same picture with each camera and compare them. I'm sorry to see the quality of Tom's Hardware phone evaluations is not what I've come to expect.
    Reply
  • Ethan of Arabia
    TimWayne said:
    The comparisons are questionable. The selfie is one example. Comparing one half of a picture to the other half is not a valid test. In this case one half of the selfie was in sunlight and the other was not. Take the same picture with each camera and compare them. I'm sorry to see the quality of Tom's Hardware phone evaluations is not what I've come to expect.

    That's what the slider is for, dude. Both full pictures are available, you just have to know how to use them.
    Reply
  • TimWayne
    Ethan of Arabia said:
    That's what the slider is for, dude. Both full pictures are available, you just have to know how to use them.
    And I suppose they were taken in the same lighting conditions.
    Reply
  • Ethan of Arabia
    TimWayne said:
    And I suppose they were taken in the same lighting conditions.
    They are quite clearly taken back to back.
    Reply
  • Mark Spoonauer
    admin said:
    Our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs iPhone 13 face-off compares the design, performance, cameras, battery life and more to crown a winner.

    Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max: Which flagship wins? : Read more

    Hi, Yes they were taken in the same lighting conditions in the same spot
    Reply
  • Soul_ArmyofOne
    How was performance measured? By how fast they open apps?
    Hennessy Venom GT has the highest top speed, McLaren has the highest acceleration rate... what you're measuring is just acceleration. Doesn't make it the better performing device if all you did was open apps...
    You didn't test its endurance at those speeds, you didn't test its ability to corner and handle high speeds and maxed output (which, if I may note, apple devices are known to struggle through thermal throttling for- hence Genshin Impact being used to test how long devices can be put through graphic torture at high Temps, and being realistic... iphones are not what people use to game on for mobile. At all.)
    Using limited tests to draw conclusions deduces incomplete results.
    Reply