Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra — should you upgrade?

A split image with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (left) on a table, and the Galaxy S20 resting against a wooden wall
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It may appear that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra are very similar phones, but there are still quite a few differences between these ultra phones. Two years is a long time in the smartphone world, and the S22 Ultra carries a number of enhancements to the S20 Ultra's template.

As you'd expect, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the superior phone, but just how much better is it that the Galaxy S20 Ultra? Is it worth buying Samsung's latest and greatest, or could you afford to buy the older model, or skip upgrading for another year? Those are the questions we hope to answer in this face-off.

Perhaps your two-year contract on that Galaxy S20 Ultra you bought back in 2020 is coming up, and you want to know if it's worth the upgrade to the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Or maybe you just want to see how Samsung's phones have evolved over the last couple years. Whatever the reason for your curiosity, we've got a breakdown of both phones' features below.

Also, if you're looking at buying one of these phones instead of upgrading, take a glance at our Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S21 Ultra face-off to see what differences there are between the two most recent Ultras, and if that could affect your buying decision.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy S22 UltraGalaxy S20 Ultra
Android versionAndroid 12, One UI 4Android 10, One UI 2 (upgradeable to Android 12/One UI 4)
Display6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED QHD+6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3200x1440; 120Hz)
Refresh rate1Hz to 120Hz. adaptive60Hz, 120Hz. manual
CPUSnapdragon 8 Gen 1Snapdragon 865
RAM8GB, 12GB12GB, 16GB
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB128GB, 512GB,
Rear cameras108MP (f/2.2) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 10x telephoto, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto Quad-lens: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 48MP telephoto (ƒ/3.5); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); time-of-flight VGA
Front camera40MP (f/2.2)40MP (ƒ/2.2)
Battery5,000 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging45W wired, 15W wireless45W wired, 15W wireless
Size3.1 x 6.4 x 0.4 inches6.6 x 2.7 x 0.34 inches
Weight8.1 ounces7.7 ounces
ConnectivityEmbedded S Pen, Wi-Fi 6E, UWB, 5G (mmWave/sub6)Wi-Fi 6, 5G (mmWave/sub6)
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom White, Green, BurgundyCosmic Black, Cloud White, Cosmic Gray

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra price and availability

The Galaxy S20 Ultra cost $1,399 when it debuted. That remains an astonishingly expensive price, even for a premium flagship phone. You can buy the Galaxy S20 Ultra for less these days, but since it's no longer in production, it may be tricky to find a handset, and even more so a carrier that will sell you one with a contract.

The S22 Ultra is a little cheaper at $1,199, although you can likely get it cheaper by going for one of the top Samsung Galaxy S22 deals we've found.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra design

These two phones look similar from the front, with large curved displays and central punch-hole selfie cameras. However the Galaxy S20 Ultra screen is a little larger at 6.9 inches, compared to the 6.8-inch S22 Ultra.

Galaxy S20 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

There's a greater difference around the back. The S20 Ultra has a big rectangular camera bump floating around the top left corner of the phone, while the S22 Ultra has its cameras embedded separately in a p-shaped array on the phone's back.

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

But the largest difference comes in the form of the S22 Ultra's integrated S Pen. The S20 Ultra doesn't even work with a stylus, let alone having room for one in the body. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra S Pen on back of phone

(Image credit: Future)

Your choice of colors for the two Ultra phones has a bit of overlap. You can buy both in simple black or white, but the S20 Ultra also offers a gray variant, while the S22 Ultra has green and burgundy options.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra display

Like we mentioned before, the S20 Ultra's screen is a tiny bit larger at 6.9 inches, facing the 6.8-inch S22 Ultra. Both panels offer a QHD resolution, and both have a 120Hz maximum refresh rate. However, there's a key difference in how those refresh rates and resolutions work.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a static refresh rate, meaning you can set it to either 120Hz or 60Hz with no room for adjustment in-between. Also if you set the phone to 120Hz, the phone defaults to an FHD resolution instead of the full QHD in order to save a little battery life.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra charging

(Image credit: Future)

While top refresh rate of the Galaxy S22 Ultra's display is no faster than120Hz, it can remain in QHD resolution. Also its refresh rate is adaptive, meaning that when the display isn't in motion, the phone can scale down the refresh rate all the way to 1Hz, saving you battery life when you don't need the smoothness. When you're doing something that benefits from a fast refresh rate such as scrolling, the screen ramps things up again. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra display

(Image credit: Future)

As for test results, the Galaxy S20 Ultra managed a maximum brightness of 921 nits, and a Delta-E color accuracy score of 0.38. The Galaxy S22 Ultra can manage an astonishing 1,359 nits of brightness, and a Delta-E score of 0.25 (lower is better). Without question the S22 Ultra has the superior panel.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra cameras

The Galaxy S20 Ultra's camera specs are still impressive two years on. On its back, you'll find a 108MP main camera, a 12MP ultrawide camera, a 48MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom and a time-of-flight sensor for measuring distance. There's also a 40MP selfie camera on the front of the S20 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S22 Ultra cameras are similar but improved when compared to its older predecessor. You still get a 108MP main camera, but now it's equipped with a larger sensor and an Ultra Clear lens for improved low light shots without glare. There's also a 12MP ultrawide camera, a 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and a second 10MP telephoto camera with 10x optical zoom. Finally. the S22 Ultra also offers a 40MP selfie camera.

a photo of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

The S20 Ultra was criticized at launch for taking a long time to focus on subjects with its 108MP camera. Since that's the main shooter, that was quite an irritating issue. Samsung has since fixed this with newer flagship phones, with the issue not visible to any of us after using the S22 Ultra for several months,

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra performance

The Galaxy S20 Ultra had top specs for a phone back in 2020. It was equipped with a Snapdragon 865 chipset, and either 12GB or 16GB RAM and a choice of 128GB storage or 512GB storage.

The S22 comes with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, a chip from the same family as the 865 but two generations newer. For memory, there's a choice of 8GB, 12GB or 16GB RAM and 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage capacity. That means you can choose arguably inferior memory specs compared to the S20 Ultra if you wish, but you can also get more if you're willing to pay for it, too.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraSamsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Geekbench 5 (single-core/multi-core)1,240 / 3,392805 / 3,076
3DMark Slingshot Extreme Unlimited (score)9,5267,543
Adobe Premiere Rush (time to process in mins:secs)0:471:16

In our testing (results above) we can see what two years of chip advancements do for performance. There's a noticeable gap between the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy S20 Ultra, whether that's compute performance (although the gap's smaller for the multi-core result), graphics processing or rendering a video.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra battery and charging

Both of these Ultra phones have 5,000 mAh batteries, and support 45W charging. However the S20 Ultra came with a 25W charger in the box. There's no included charger with the S22 Ultra.

The S22 Ultra lasts 9 hours and 50 minutes on a single charge when put under our custom battery rundown test, with its regular Adaptive refresh rate enabled. The Galaxy S20 Ultra managed 9 hours and 13 minutes when fixed at 120Hz, which shows that while the S22 Ultra has improved, it's not by as much as we'd hope.

On the charging front, the S20 Ultra charged from 0% to 63% full in 30 minutes using its included 25W charger. The S22 Ultra charges to 58% in the same time frame with a 25W charger, even though it's the same battery capacity.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra software

As you'd expect, both phones use Android via Samsung's One UI interface, although the S20 Ultra started out with Android 10 and One UI 2.0, while the S22 Ultra starts off with Android 12 and One UI 4.1.

More importantly, the S22 Ultra will get Android updates for longer, not only because it's newer but because Samsung now offers four years of Android upgrades for the S22 family. The S20 Ultra was only guaranteed two, which may change now that Samsung's trying to keep its phones going for longer. Still, there's no telling whether we'll see the S20 Ultra get another update beyond Android 13 later in the year.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra verdict

You can tell there's been two years of development since Samsung first introduced the Ultra name to its phones. The S20 Ultra has aged well in some ways, such as its 120Hz display, its  108MP main and 4x telephoto cameras and a 5G chipset. But the Galaxy S22 Ultra improves on these capabilities with a (slightly) more power-efficient adaptive display, a larger main camera sensor and dual telephoto cameras. It runs on a newer system-on-chip than the one inside the Galaxy S20 Ultra as well.

There's no sense in buying the Galaxy S20 Ultra at this point, but upgrades are another matter. If you've got a Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Ultra would make a suitable upgrade for you. If you're not ready to swap out phones though, you can take solace in that most of what you're missing out on are more refined versions of features you already have, rather than something brand new.

If you're a Galaxy Note fan, do also check out our showdown of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.