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Now that we’ve covered the Galaxy S22 Plus, as well as the S22 Ultra in their own respective in-depth reviews, it’s time we take a closer look at the vanilla Galaxy S22 as well.
Most of you are likely already familiar with the Galaxy S22 lineup in at least some extent, but we still feel like we need to preface the review by saying that expectations towards the trio should be moderated. Not regarding the quality of the products. That is still excellent, but rather regarding any major generational changes or innovations. Those are few and far between on the S22 line. Well, perhaps sans for the reincarnation of the Galaxy Note line in the S22 Ultra, but without the legendary “Note” branding.
While arguably getting increasingly boring (or tamer for lack of better words) over the last few years, Samsung‘s flagship offers are nothing if not consistent. That has a lot of merit in itself. Apple proved that much time and time again with its incremental year-over-year strategy. So, what’s new with the S22 this year? Well, summing things up before we dive into the nitty-gritty – you get a new camera setup, new chipsets and slightly less battery that Samsung promises it will offset through better chipset and display efficiency. The displays on the vanilla and plus are now slightly shorter but do promise certain technological improvements.
The vanilla S22, which is the subject of this particular review, has shrunken down in overall size considerably compared to its Galaxy S21 predecessor. So much so, in fact, it can now be considered part of a rare breed of “compact” flagship devices. All in relative terms, of course.
The phone measures 146 x 70.6 x 7.6 mm and it tips the scale at 167 grams (168 for the mmWave version). Compare that to the S21 and its 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm, 170g, or so, body. The new 6.1-inch display on the S22 has gotten shorter, which is a trend across the entire S22 line. Unfortunately, a smaller body has also mandated a smaller 3,700 mAh battery back. Down from 4,000 mAh last year.
Aside from the obvious move to the latest flagship chipset generation – the Exynos 2200 in Europe and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 pretty much everywhere else, the S22 also has a new main 50MP camera, with a 23% larger sensor than last year’s 12MP model. Also, a new 10MP telephoto with optical rather than hybrid 3x zoom. The ultrawide and selfie cams are carried over from the S21.
Samsung Galaxy S22 5G specs at a glance:
- Body: 146.0×70.6×7.6mm, 167g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass Victus+), glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus+), aluminum frame; IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins), Armour aluminum frame with tougher drop and scratch resistance (advertised).
- Display: 6.10″ Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1300 nits (peak), 1080x2340px resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 425ppi; Always-on display.
- Chipset: Exynos 2200 (4 nm) – Europe, Qualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4 nm) – ROW: Octa-core (1×2.8 GHz Cortex-X2 & 3×2.50 GHz Cortex-A710 & 4×1.8 GHz Cortex-A510) – Europe, Octa-core (1×3.00 GHz Cortex-X2 & 3×2.40 GHz Cortex-A710 & 4×1.70 GHz Cortex-A510) – ROW; Xclipse 920 – Europe, Adreno 730 – ROW.
- Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
- OS/Software: Android 12, One UI 4.1.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 50 MP, f/1.8, 23mm, 1/1.56″, 1.0µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS; Telephoto: 10 MP, f/2.4, 70mm, 1/3.94″, 1.0µm, PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120-degree, 1/2.55″ 1.4µm, Super Steady video.
- Front camera: 10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3.24″, 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF.
- Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@24fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+, stereo sound rec., gyro-EIS; Front camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30fps.
- Battery: 3700mAh; Fast charging 25W, USB Power Delivery 3.0, Fast Qi/PMA wireless charging 15W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, ultrasonic); NFC; Samsung DeX, Samsung Wireless DeX (desktop experience support), Bixby natural language commands and dictation, Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified).
Another thing Samsung has been doing exceptionally well over the past few Galaxy S generations is segmentation. Obviously, the Ultra is in a feature league of its own this year, even if it’s lacking a “Note” moniker. Comparing the vanilla S22 to the S22+, though only reveals a few significant differences. The S22+ is obviously bigger, with a larger 4,500 mAh battery and advertised 45W fast charging support instead of the 25W that the S22 carries forward from older Samsung devices. We’ll get into more detail in the charging section, but, spoiler alert, the 45W omission is hardly significant. The omission of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) support on the vanilla S22 is hardly a deal-breaker too. The difference in display panels between the two is a bit more complex and goes beyond size. We’ll dive into that as well, but the vanilla S22 does miss out on the small yet nifty generational OLED brightness improvements of the S22+ and S22 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy S22 • S22 Plus • S22 Ultra
None of these “omissions” in the vanilla S22 are that important and hardly take away from its undisputed and well-rounded flagship nature. That’s what we mean by great segmentation – for most prospective buyers, the choice between an S22 and S22+ will come down to size and, of course, price.
Speaking of budget, Samsung has remained impressively consistent on that front as well. You can check detailed pricing on the entire S22 lineup and the Galaxy Tab S8 here, but the S22 basically starts at $800, €850 or £770, which is essentially the original S21 MSRP. Getting the same price point is not an insignificant feat given the ongoing tough situation regarding supply chain and material shortages in the tech industry as a whole.
Samsung Galaxy S22 • S22 Plus • S22 Ultra
So, that’s the S22 in a nutshell – an incremental boring upgrade for some, a consistently-solid all-around flagship with no unexpected potentially deal-breaking surprises or price hikes for others. As usual, the devil is in the details. Follow along as we dig through them and really see what makes the Galaxy S22 tick.
Just like its S22+ and S22 Ultra sibling, the vanilla S22 ships in a minimal retail box in every sense of the word. In case you were wondering, there is still no charger in the box. That seemingly went away for good with the Galaxy S21 generation. The S22 family ships with a relatively short, sturdy USB Type-C to Type-C cable and a SIM ejector, plus some obligatory paperwork. And that’s it. As barren of a package as conceivable, but that’s the rule of the day.
Of course, there is the ecological angle to consider. The thin and compact two-piece box is made from 100% recycled paper, and Samsung has limited the use of plastics in the packaging as much as it can too. The printing is done with soy-based ink as well, making this among the most ecological retail packages around.
The Galaxy S22 trio is not cheap by any means. Even so, pricing is mostly unchanged from last year’s models, which should be considered an achievement given the even-climbing prices of materials, scarcity, and other ongoing global economic and relater factors. Plus, the vanilla S22 is naturally the cheapest of the bunch, with an MSRP of $800/€850/£770 for the base 128GB variant and $850/€900/£820 for the 256GB one. As per our price-tracker, as of writing this review, actual retail pricing has even come down a bit in some places.
Beyond being the cheapest of the bunch, which might be alluring to certain customers, the Galaxy S22 has another potentially even bigger thing going for it, pun intended – its size. Very few devices offer a full flagship experience in quite as compact of a form factor. That, coupled with the fact that the S22+ offers almost nothing over the vanilla S22 except for size, battery, and at a notably higher price, convinced us to leave it off of the list. What is a viable option, though, is the older Galaxy S21. It is still a great, all-around flagship. You’ll have to live with the controversial plastic back panel, which is mostly us joking since the S21 still has great build quality. You do also get a bigger battery. Plus, the S21 gets to benefit retroactively from Samsung‘s new promise of extended software support.
The same is also true for the Galaxy S21 FE 5G. It is a great way to get a comparable modern Samsung experience while also saving a few bucks in the process. You do have to be ok with a notably larger device, though, and last year’s flagship chipset and Samsung camera setup, which we have already established, still hold up in 2022.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G • Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G
Circling back to the topic of compact flagships, while your options are limited, there are still a few devices to consider. The Asus Zenfone 8 is an interesting device in more than a few ways. It is compact but without skipping on major flagship features, like a great 120Hz, HDR10+ Super AMOLED panel, great stereo speakers, IP68 ingress protection and a respectable 4,000 mAh battery. Asus has its priorities aligned a bit differently than most going out of its way to fit additional hardware like an FM radio, NFC, 3.5mm jack and even a notification LED into the small Zenfone 8. Its ZenUI software is also a particular mix of clean and AOSP-like and highly customizable. The Zenfone 8 does, however, come with some notable camera compromises.
Asus Zenfone 8 • Apple iPhone 13 Pro • Sony Xperia 5 III
The Sony Xperia 5 III places much more emphasis on the camera department. It is also an all-around flagship in most other aspects, with IP65/IP68 ingress protection, stereo speakers, and a Snapdragon 888 chipset. It does have a bit of a “quirky” extra tall, “skinny” aspect ratio and a matching 21:9 display that is also a bit off in its BT.2020 HDR support but still excellent all-around with 120Hz refresh rate and 10-bit colors.
A valid argument can be made that the Xperia 5 III and the Zenfone 8 are “particular” in their own way. That’s pretty much us saying that they are not what we would consider “mainstream flagships” like the Samsung Galaxy S22. Enter the Apple iPhone 13 Pro – arguably the most viable and actual competitor to the Galaxy S22. There is hardly any need to sing the praises of the iPhone 13 Pro. We’ll just remind you that not unlike the S22 and S22+, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are basically all-around identical in their excellent flagship features, with size and battery capacity as the sole major differences.
The vanilla S22 is pretty much an incremental update like the rest of the Galaxy S22 line. Samsung is playing it safe yet again – no major breakthroughs or innovation and no jarring and potentially disruptive changes. It uses a familiar formula that has proven effective in drawing in crowds of satisfied, even if often unexcited users.
It’s hard to find any significant faults with the Galaxy S22. We can keep on dreaming of microSD cards and 3.5mm jacks, but that’s clearly not happening. And sure, its battery life could have been better or at least as good as the S21, and perhaps the Exynos 2200 overpromised a bit compared to its initial delivery.
Even so, the entire S22 lineup is as solid as ever. For better or worse, it is kind of the definition of “a safe choice”. Consistency is the name of the game, and it’s arguably the most difficult game to play in the smartphone realm, particularly with flagships. While it’s cool to be disruptive and strive to tread new ground with things like amazing charging speeds or price-defying specs at the expense of other cutbacks, that’s not how you stay on top of the game. The likes of Samsung and Apple have proven time and time again that the key is relentless consistency and extremely calculated moves and incremental upgrades while always building on a solid foundation year over year. That’s how you get the new iPhone and the next Galaxy S device.
The flip side of that reality is that while the S22 is engineered to be as good as possible for as many people as possible, it is pretty boring. Once again, boring in a dependable sense, but still hardly the device that is going to tickle a smartphone enthusiast’s fancy. We definitely wish we could have a more exciting smartphone scene like years past when even titans like Nokia could afford to roll the dice and experiment. Then again, there is something to be said about having an ever-dependable choice in the latest (and greatest) Galaxy S phones. That is a significant draw for many users out there. Plus, the vanilla S22, in particular, has the size aspect going for it, potentially drawing in a crowd seeking a true flagship experience in the smallest possible form factor. And that’s on top of those users simply wanting to pick up the cheapest of the S22 trio.
If you believe you fit nicely into either category getting the Galaxy S22 is a pretty easy decision. If “default” is not your style, there is a vast sea of more interesting and exciting devices out there for anyone willing to explore them.
- Industry-leading build quality with IP68 rating. Small and compact in modern terms. The new flatter and more symmetrical design is still very recognizable.
- Excellent 120Hz AMOLED display with great brightness, improved sunlight legibility, superb color accuracy and a great HDR video experience.
- Solid all-around hybrid stereo speaker system.
- Likable no-nonsense OneUI 4.1 OS with powerful features and extended software support (four OS updates and five years of security patches).
- Solid flagship camera experience both in photos and videos. Incrementally better or just as good as the S21 generation, it adds further small refinements here and there, particularly in low-light photography.
- No charger in the box and no pre-applied screen protector.
- Worse battery life than last year’s Galaxy S21 5G.
- The new RDNA2-based Xclipse 920 AMD GPU collaboration looks promising, but is experiencing some early bugs and we feel its potential is nowhere near fully utilized in practice yet.