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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)

Picking between the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S20 Ultra isn't a question of which phone's better. (Spoiler alert, it's the much newer S22). Instead, a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra comes down to how much better has Samsung made its most expensive non-foldable phone over the past two years?

A lot of the headline specs look the same on both phones, but it's the tech behind them that gives the Galaxy S22 Ultra an edge over the S20 Ultra. There are a few things that make the S22 Ultra uniquely better, like its included S Pen or newer chipset, but you can still see a very strong family resemblance between these two Ultra phones.

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.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra specs

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. As of this writing, it's available for preorder, but the phone won't go on sale until February 25. At least there figures to be lots of Samsung Galaxy S22 deals to choose from if you want to get the most from your money.

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)

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, so we shouldn't see this problem on the S22 Ultra. We can't say how well the S22 Ultra's cameras perform yet, but we have high hopes for it.

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.

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.

We haven't tested charging speeds or battery life for the S22 Ultra, but Samsung claims the battery lasts more than a day with typical use and charges to 50% in 20 minutes. 

We've got our own results for the S20 Ultra though. That charged from 0% to 63% full in 30 minutes using a 25W charger, and it lasted 9 hours and 13 minutes on our custom TG battery test when set to 120Hz mode. Presumably, the adaptive refresh rate on the S22 Ultra figures to improve on that result, but we won't know until we run our battery test, in which phones are set to surf the web over cellular until they run out of power.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs. Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G and connectivity

You can get 5G on either phone, but it's not guaranteed in the case of the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung sold both 4G and 5G versions of the S20, so you'll have to look carefully at which version you're getting if you're trying to buy that one.

An additional connectivity option to keep in mind is the S22 Ultra's support for ultra wideband tech. This is something you'll want to pay attention to if you like the sound of more accurate tracking of supported key trackers or making use of Android's precise Nearby Sharing ability.

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 outlook

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, a 108MP main camera and 4x telephoto lens and a 5G chipset. But the Galaxy S22 Ultra improves on these capabilities with a 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
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer 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.

  • Eyal Narkis
    You forgot to mention the lack of SD card, so no way to add extra memory mostly for videos and pictures if you take them. With S20 Ultra 128GB internal, and a SD card of 512GB on board you can have a lot of space. If you need to upgrade you just need to take the higher priced version of S22, and that's bad.
  • kep55
    Two comments. First: If your current phone works just fine, why waste your money on a "new" piece of kit that does does nothing more that your current kit?
    Secondly, what's with all the lens? I can understand (barely) having two lenses to imitate 3D images, but not at all well. But why so many? Next thing you know the back of these huff-n-puff toys will be nothing but lenses. Like a spider.