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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — what are the differences?

An image showing the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (left) in comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (right)
(Image credit: Future)

On paper, choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is a fairly easy decision. However, it’s not always that simple, especially if your two-year contract for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is running out and you’re not quite sure if the newly announced S22 lineup merits an upgrade. 

While the two Samsung smartphones bear some similarities, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has some big advantages. This includes a more dynamic 120Hz display, improved S Pen and upgraded cameras. 

To help you make a more informed decision, we’ve put together an in-depth comparison between the two smartphones below. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra specs

Galaxy S22 UltraGalaxy Note 20 Ultra
Android versionAndroid 12, One UI 4Android 10, One UI 2.0
Display6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED QHD+6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED QHD
Refresh rate1Hz to 120Hz. adaptive1Hz to 120Hz. adaptive
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 1Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB, 512GB
Rear cameras108MP (f/2.2) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 10x telephoto, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2)
Front camera40MP (f/2.2)10MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery5,000 mAh4,500 mAh
Size3.1 x 6.4 x 0.4 inches3.1 x 6.4 x 0.3 inches
Weight8.1 ounces7.3 ounces
ConnectivityEmbedded S Pen, Wi-Fi 6E, UWB, 5G (mmWave/sub6)Wi-Fi 6, 5G (mmWave/sub6)
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, BurgundyMystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra price and availability

When it was first announced in 2021, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra cost a whopping $1,299. Understandably, with the release of newer Samsung models, the price for the Note 20 Ultra has significantly decreased since then, and can now be found for less than $1,000. 

By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costs $1,199. The phone is already available for pre-order, with the flagship expected to ship worldwide on February 25. In fact, many mobile carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon already have Samsung Galaxy S22 deals available in store and online.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra design

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra have somewhat similar designs; both are equipped with large curved displays and built-in S Pens. The S22 Ultra does have a slightly smaller screen, measuring in at 6.8 inches compared to the Note 20 Ultra’s 6.9 inches.  

The back of the phone is where the designs really differ. While both smartphones feature elaborate rear camera systems, the Note 20 Ultra has three lenses arranged in a rectangular shape. The S22 Ultra embraces a simpler approach, instead opting for five sensors embedded directly into the back of the phone. 

galaxy note ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

The S22 Ultra is more durable than the Note 20 Ultra, as the former features an armor aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus Plus back.

Color-wise, the S22 Ultra features four matte options to choose from: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green and Burgundy. In comparison, the Note 20 Ultra’s design has a more glossy finish, available in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black and Mystic Black. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra display

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display

(Image credit: Future)

Both the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra have AMOLED QHD displays, but there's a number of differences. 

The two smartphones also have an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz that adjusts itself automatically depending on the type of the content you’re viewing. For static images, both devices can even reduce the refresh rate  to conserve battery life. The S22 Ultra can go down to 1Hz, compared to 10Hz for the Note 20 Ultra. 

Galaxy Note 20

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra's display can also get a lot brighter, as it turned in a max reading of 1,350 nits. The Note 20 Ultra delivered 662 nits, so the outdoor readability of the S22 Ultra's panel should be much better. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S Pen

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

While both the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra offer a built-in S Pen, the S22 Ultra takes the performance up a notch. Samsung decreased the latency from 9 ms to 2.8 ms That's a 70% improvement. 

Samsung has made a few other notable S Pen improvements, including more accurate handwriting-to-text conversions, as well as the ability to quickly save your notes in Microsoft Office docs and emails. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra cameras

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras from left side

(Image credit: Future)

Now, the camera systems are really where the two phones differ. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra features three rear cameras: a 108MP wide camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a 12MP telephoto lens capable of 5x optical zoom. The Note 20 Ultra’s camera system also added an additional sensor that compensates for widespread issues users faced with the S20 Ultra’s auto-focus. 

On the front of the phone, the Note 20 Ultra has a 12MP selfie camera with a 120-degree field of view that comes particularly in handy for group photos.

Best camera phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In comparison, the newer S22 Ultra has even more impressive built-in photography capabilities. Samsung’s newest premium smartphone keeps its previous 108MP main camera, albeit with a larger sensor and an Super Clear lens that prevents flare during low light photography. The S22 Ultra also features a 12MP ultrawide lens and two 10MP telephoto lenses, one with 3x optical zoom and another with 10x. 

The 40MP selfie camera on the S22 Ultra is also significantly beefier than that of the Note 20 Ultra.

The S22 Ultra also boasts an improved Night Mode, better portraits and the ability to capture RAW files using a dedicated app. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra performance

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra had one of the best internals available upon release, fitted with a Snapdragon 865 Plus, 12GB of RAM and either 256GB or 512GB of storage. 

The Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with a more updated processor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. In terms of memory, you can choose between configurations of either 8GB, 12GB or 16GB of RAM and either 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage capacity.

We didn't see much of a difference in the Geekbench 5 performance test in our Galaxy S22 Ultra benchmarks, with the S22 Ultra turning in a multi-core score of 3,392 to the Note 20 Ultra's 3,294.

But the S22 Ultra took considerably less time to transcode a video from 4K to 1080p, needing only 47 seconds using the Adobe Premiere Rush app. The Note 20 Ultra took 1:16. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra battery and charging

The battery fitted in the newly announced S22 Ultra holds a 5,000 mAh battery, an improvement over the Note 20 Ultra’s 4,500 mAh. On 60Hz mode, the S22 Ultra lasted 10 hours and 18 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over 5G. That dropped to 8:50 with adaptive mode turned on. 

In terms of the Note 20 Ultra, we were able to get almost 8 hours of continuous web surfing with the display’s refresh rate turned all the way up to 120Hz. That number jumped to 10:26 with the display set to 60Hz. 

The Note 20 Ultra supports a 25-watt charger capable of juicing the device up to 56% in just 30 minutes. The S22 Ultra supports a faster 45-watt charger, and we'll report back when we have the results. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra software

Out of the box, the Galaxy Notes 20 Ultra runs on the Android 10 operating system and One UI 2.0. Being the newer of the two, the S22 Ultra ships with with Android 12 and One UI 4.1 pre-installed. 

Going forward, it’s highly likely that Samsung will provide software updates for the S22 Ultra longer than for the slightly older Note 20 Ultra. Samsung has said that the S22 Ultra will get four years of software updates. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: outlook

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is an undoubtedly powerful phone that still features some of the best specs available. And there are some similarities in specs between the two phones, including the AMOLED QHD displays with 120Hz adaptive refresh rates and 120Hz cameras with 100x Space Zoom. 

However, it’s hard to look past the S22 Ultra’s upgraded processor and much improved camera system that features a larger main camera sensor and dual telephoto cameras. You also get a brighter display, more responsive S Pen and faster charging.

While it’s perfectly reasonable to hold out for an upgrade, the new S22 Ultra is a great flagship phone if you want to take the plunge.

Denise Primbet
News Writer

Denise is a Life Reporter at Newsweek, covering everything lifestyle-related, including health, relationships, personal finance, beauty and more. She was formerly a news writer at Tom’s Guide, regularly producing stories on all things tech, gaming software/hardware, fitness, streaming, and more. Her published content ranges from short-form news articles to long-form pieces, including reviews, buying guides, how-tos, and features. When she's not playing horror games, she can be found exploring East London with her adorable puppy. She’s also a part-time piano enthusiast and regularly experiments in the kitchen.