With the Samsung Galaxy S22 5G there seems to be a change, a shift in pace that can cause heartaches to Samsung fans who want to move on. In this in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy S22, we are going to take a look at the introductory flagship that made me toss and turn.
- Really nice to look at
- Great display
- Adequate performance
- Excellent cameras
- The selfies are just right
- Four years of OS updates and five years of security patches
- Dysfunctional shape
- Heats up easily
- 3700 mAh is not enough
- Very slow charging
- Few changes from the S21
Samsung Galaxy S22 in a nutshell
One year after its release, street prices for the Samsung Galaxy S22 didn't change that much in the US, even after the release of the Galaxy S23. With pricing around $700, buyers find a lower battery capacity and a weaker processor in the S22. To make matters worse, since Samsung didn't change the prices of its 2023 flagships in the US, the predecessor becomes hard to recommend.
With that in mind, the original disadvantages of the S22 remain even in 2023. First and foremost, the low battery life is annoying in everyday use, which is due to the power-hungry processor and the small battery. Since Samsung provides its smartphones with a particularly long update warranty, the S22 will still be supplied with operating system upgrades and security updates even one year after the release.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 was presented in February 2022 alongside the Samsung Galaxy S22+ and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. The device comes with two different versions, one featuring the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that was released in the US and other regions, and the other featuring the Exynos 2200 that we tested here, which is available in the EU.
The launch prices were similar to the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the successor and began at $799 for the Samsung Galaxy S22 with 128 GB and $849 for the larger 256 GB.
Design: All form and no substance
The Samsung Galaxy S22 touts a strikingly similar design to its predecessor, taking a successful step down the minimalist path with a homogenous color scheme and an improved glass back. Compared with the successor model, the camera array differs, which blends flush into the casing. In the S23, the cameras are individually embedded in the back.
- Really nice to look at.
- The different elements, materials, and colors match perfectly.
- Compact size and low weight.
- Edges of the frame are uncomfortable to hold.
- Too much wobbling when on a flat surface.
The shape of the display is closer to the more squared approach that we see by Apple the past few years, which in combination with the relatively compact size (at 6.1 inches) makes the display of the S22 a beauty to look at. Aside from the punch hole, there is visually nothing to distract your eye and the smaller length also means that your eyes have to move less.
But this is where the heartaches begin. Samsung has invested so much in minimalism that forgot that smartphones are, in principle, functional devices that we use every day in many different environments. The most basic function of a phone is to be grasped by human hands and I found the Samsung Galaxy S22 weirdly uncomfortable to hold.
Even though the balancing is perfect and you will not feel tired holding it (the weight of just 167g also helps here), the edges of the frame are straight with a small gap that provides tactile feedback in your palm at the points of contact. To say it plainly; the device feels like touching the corner of a table.
Another point where Samsung seems to have chosen aesthetic minimalism over functionality is stability. When the S22 is left on its back, functionality disappears. Trying to type is guaranteed to create considerable wobble and noise and even unlocking the device will cause it to move.
Samsungs boasts of a minimalist design and while they are technically right, this is the wrong kind of minimalism. Aesthetics should go alongside, or at least not hinder, function. Investing in a case is a must in my opinion, not for the protection of the Samsung Galaxy S22, but that of my sanity from the upsetting contact feedback and table noises.
Display: A sight you can't resist
The S-Series always enjoyed some of the best innovations in the field. In the Samsung Galaxy S22, we have a similar story, with the device boasting a bright Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 1300 nits of peak brightness.
- Visible under direct sunlight
- Super smooth at 120Hz
- Great customization options
- Smaller size is not ideal for competitive gaming
- Consumes a lot of battery
Whatever ends up in the display is simply beautiful to look at, enabled by the resolution of 1080 x 2340 (~425 ppi), the smooth refresh rate, and the HDR10+ capabilities. The obvious competitor, the iPhone 13, is fighting outside its league. The customization abilities through the settings, that allow you to fine-tune the colors to your liking also have no match right now.
What I also really liked is the ability to lock the full brightness of the display which allowed me to get the best possible experience when playing games or watching both SDR and HDR content. The brightness is enough that even under direct sunlight, it is perfectly visible.
So if you want striking visuals and great content reproduction the Samsung Galaxy S22 is a solid choice, but if you want something better, the S22+ is worthy of consideration.
Software: Coming back to stay
Samsung has done an excellent job in the software side of things. One UI 4.0 is a well-balanced Android 12 skin that is easy to just set up and forget for casual users. If you want to learn everything you can do with it, I highly recommend that you read our One UI 4.0 Review.
Samsung surprised with a particularly long update warranty for the S22's launch. The S22 started with four years of Android updates and five years of security updates. If you buy the phone one year later, you have to deduct one year each. However, you can start the update to OneUI 5, Samsung's latest operating system, right out of the box.
OneUI 5 is based on Android 13 and offers some new features. You can find out how Samsung's latest operating system performs in everyday use in our review of OneUI 5. You can keep an eye on the latest updates for Samsung phones in the linked overview.
Performance: "Troubles by the storm"
Testing the performance of the Samsung Galaxy S22 was quite tricky. Samsung has once again fragmented its products by using two different chips . The one we are testing here is the European version, which features the Exynos 2200 that was co-developed with AMD which fails to impress us.
- Solid performance for 2022 - still sufficient in 2023.
- Good thermal throttling, so that you don't burn your hands.
- The S23 offers noticeably better performance and energy efficiency.
In the CPU tests, the Exynos 2200 manages a considerable score of 1,158 in single-core and 3,414 in multi-core in GeekBench 5. This is a bit better than with the Snapdragon 8g1 that we had the chance to test in the Oppo Find X5 Pro, which scored 846 / 3,324. But keep in mind that this performance is different even between devices with the same SoC, so the Samsung S22 with the Snapdragon could be anywhere between.
But graphics is where it underperforms. For all the gravitas of the RDNA2 name, the Xclipse 920 GPU has little to flex in graphical performance. In our test, we did not manage to get satisfying results and the performance was all over the place.
Before we look at the specific benchmarks, I want to say that all games run smoothly with the Exynos 2200. The thermal throttling is pretty severe, but under normal gaming circumstances, users should not see a huge difference in performance. Gaming for a few hours in PUBG: New State was a pretty fun experience, with no perceivable drops, and this is one of the most graphically intense games out there, so I can confidently recommend the Samsung Galaxy S22 to Android gamers out there.
In the 3DMark Wildlife test, the results were all over the place. Our top result was 7035, while our lowest was halved at 3,535 with several passes in between. Digging deeper, we find that to be the outcome of some very aggressive thermal throttling. Even if the temperatures are generally increased, they do not pass the 44c threshold, to the detriment of performance.
In the Wildlife stress test, we had a top score of 6,508 and a low of 3.939. For comparison, the Snapdragon 8g1 of the Oppo Find X5 Pro pulled nearly double the results at 9,192 / 6,069.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Performance comparison
|Oppo Find X5
|Oppo Find X5 Pro
|Asus Zenfone 8
|Xiaomi Mi 11
|3D Mark Wildlife
|7035 at 42.10 fps
|5,830 at 34.9 fps
|9,300 at 55.7 fps
|3D Mark Wildlife Stress Test (best / worst)
|5,581 / 3,537
|11,049 / 6,169
|4,723 / 3,217
|9,192 / 6,069
|Geekbench 5 (single / multi)
|1,158 / 3,414
|1.537 / 4.807
|1,097 / 3,155
|846 / 3,324
|1,124 / 3,738
|1,119 / 3,657
Cameras: Captivating stare
Samsung has made very few changes to its base model in terms of cameras in the past few years. What was a point of criticism for the new S23, doesn't really apply to the Galaxy S22 in the re-review. Because the triple camera still performs well in 2023 and is comparable to the successor.
- The main camera images have great color accuracy and details.
- Zoom up to x10 works like a charm.
- Selfies are really good.
- Hardly any drawbacks compared to the Galaxy S23.
- Night mode is almost unusable.
- Background blur can be problematic.
The primary camera is a 50MP wide-angle camera with an aperture of f/1.8 and optical image stabilization. Under good lighting conditions, I was impressed by how easily you could capture beautiful pictures with the vibrant colors that Samsung has us used to.
- Samsung S22 or Apple iPhone 13? Take a look at the comparison!
- Here are the best smartphone cameras you can buy.
The same is true for the 12MP ultra-wide camera with an aperture of f/2.2. The lower megapixels do contribute to fewer details and worse edges, especially in objects with strong shadows, but this is mostly inconceivable to the average user and the results from the Ultrawide are more than usable.
The last of the main cameras is the 10 MP telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.4, which constitutes an upgrade over the S21's x1.1 lens. This camera can create some nicely detailed zoomed-in images. With x3 optical zoom, the OIS was very much appreciated when trying to capture steady pictures of objects that were further away.
Zooming in further produced mixed results. The digital zoom can produce some decent pictures but the quality drops considerably with every increase. Personally, I would remain within single-digit zooming numbers.
In portraits and selfies, I was truly surprised. The selfie camera, a 10MP wide lens with an f/2.2 aperture, is almost too good for its own good. The vibrancy of the colors can, under the "wrong" conditions, capture the good and the bad of your skin. This little guy in the front of your display can shoot a 4K video at 60fps.
My only issue was that in open areas, the auto blur feature struggled to recognize me and sometimes looked like a bad photoshop job. In one of the included examples, it cropped half of my ear, probably confused by the earbuds that I was wearing.
Lastly, we have night photography. This is another big heartache because Samsung advertised this point quite heavily, only to fall flat. The results were very circumstantial, with straight-up distracting highlights and over-exposed light sources. In completely dark environments you will basically need a tripod, as any micromovement will ruin a shot and the results are not guaranteed either.
Battery: "I waited (two hours) but you must have lost your way."
Samsung has listened to the feedback about the S22 and improved the battery performance in the successor. Although the changes are not exactly world-changing, we still have to criticize the too-small battery in the S22 On top of that, we find no charger in the box and the charging speeds are stuck at 2018 with 25W.
- Plenty of customization options to tune the device to your needs.
- No included charger.
- Only 25W in 2022 is bad.
- 3700 mAh is too little.
- Battery life of only one day.
To charge the battery from 0 to 100%, you will need two hours with a conventional charger and about one hour and thirty minutes with a charger capable of quick charging. Unfortunately, I did not have an original Samsung charger readily available, so I could not test the speeds with the official charger, which will set you back another $35.
Under normal conditions, you should expect your device to last you for about one whole day with some concessions. If the charging speeds were better, this would have been respectable but remaining hooked to a plug for two hours every day is less than ideal, especially when the competition, like the Oppo Find X5, can go from 0-100% in 45 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy S22 technical specifications
Final verdict: A love you can't win
Let's answer the question that is already in the title of this review: No, buying the Samsung Galaxy S22 is not really worthwhile in 2023. With the Galaxy S23 priced just $100 higher and with better specifications, especially in the processor and battery, if you are spending that much money on a phone, go with the one that can offer at least a day of battery life.
Not even the good software support can sway our recommendation back to the S22 since the S23 will have an extra year of updates. In summary, the S22 has not aged well and is only worth buying if you find it with a steep discount.
This review was updated in February 2023 with a retest of the phone after the launch of the Galaxy S23. Old comments were kept.