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Galaxy S22 & S22+ hands-on: Same old from Samsung yet different

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Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S22 series at the Galaxy Unpacked event on February 9. One day prior, we were able to get an exclusive first impression of the new smartphones. In this hands-on, I will tell you what kind of innovations the manufacturer has come up with and whether the upgrading from its predecessor is worth your money.

Good

  • Finally, faster Quick Charging in the Plus model
  • "Real" telephoto cameras at last
  • Samsung builds the best displays - period
  • Smaller and easier to handle

Bad

  • Few significant improvements
  • Very small battery in base model and only at 25-watts charging speed
  • Memory is not expandable
  • SoC advantages remain to be seen

Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22+ in a nutshell

Samsung reserved its true innovations for the Ultra model in 2022, and even then, they are not worth mentioning here, either. Thus, Samsung launched high-quality and elegant smartphones with the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+, but Samsung fans may be justifiably disappointed after looking deeper. This is because for upper-class smartphones that cost close to $1,000 or higher, there is simply a sore lack of innovations.

The most important improvements are offered in the cameras, which score with larger sensors and optical magnification. That is all well and good, but not groundbreaking by far. The new Exynos 2200 SoC is and still remains an exciting proposition. I hope it can bring real advantages in everyday use and shine especially when it comes to mobile games due to its cooperation with AMD. But these advantages will remain a novelty for most consumers since, in most regions, the device will launch with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. 

Unfortunately, Samsung did not show any gaming scenes in the build-up to its release, nor were any games pre-installed on the devices shown. Let's give the new devices a second chance in a detailed review!

Galaxy S22 & S22+ - storage and prices

Model Memory (RAM / internal) Price
Galaxy S22 8 / 128 GB $799
Galaxy S22 8 / 256 GB $849
Galaxy S22+ 8 / 128 GB $999
Galaxy S22+ 8 / 256 GB $1,049

Design & displays: A bit smaller, a bit more angular

With screen sizes that measure 6.1-inches and 6.6-inches respectively, the new models have shrunk a bit. Samsung also rounded off the edges of the smartphones a little, which makes them a bit better to hold in my opinion. The installed AMOLED 2X displays are once again so brilliant that I was amazed at the lack of any actual differences with its predecessors.

What I liked:

  • Smaller format fits better in the hand.
  • Displays remain unbeatable this year.
  • Even the base model offers a back made from Gorilla Glass Victus+.

What I disliked:

  • Hardly any innovations can be seen.
  • Color options are more boring than the predecessor (in my opinion).
  • Not compatible with S21 series cases.

While trying it out, I took the Samsung Galaxy S21+ and made several mistakes. This is because Samsung relies on the look-and-feel of the predecessor's models when it comes to the casing. Thus, you end up with the same dog-eared camera bump at the back and a punch-hole notch in front. However, it is interesting that Samsung has followed the trend of shrinking smartphones. The displays thus measure 6.6- and 6.1-inches.

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Visually, the new devices are very similar to their predecessors / © NextPit

 

While not everyone will like this, there is hardly anything at all to complain about in terms of display technology. Samsung remains at the top of its class when it comes to smartphone displays and thus the displays are crisp, shine in bright colors, and scroll smoothly thanks to the 120 Hertz refresh rate. Unfortunately, they are less efficient than the Ultra model's display. The variable refresh rate ranges from 10 to 120 Hertz here unlike the 1 to 120 Hertz in the larger sibling.

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The displays are again first-class this year / © NextPit

Last but not least: Samsung has improved the quality of its premium series even further by using Gorilla Glass Victus+. Fortunately (and I asked several times), glass is also used at the back of the base model. The experiment into the world of polycarbonate that Samsung began with the predecessor is apparently over. Good thing!

Performance & memory: The new gaming hope?

Samsung has once again developed an SoC specially for the S22 lineup that will be used exclusively in Europe. The Exynos 2200 was developed together alongside AMD that collaboration supposedly offers advantages - especially for mobile games. Among other things, Samsung wants to enable ray tracing on smartphones, which is already a small revolution, but this comes into play only if game developers take advantage of this potential.

What I liked:

  • More power, says Samsung.
  • Ray tracing on smartphones, says Samsung.
  • ... wait and see, says Ben! 😎

What I disliked:

  • No memory upgrades compared to the predecessor.
  • No micro SD slot.

I could not yet convince myself of the performance of the new Samsung processor during the hands-on. However, I assume that the small updates in CPU and GPU performance are not particularly noticeable in everyday use. High-end devices always come with more performance, which is not really relevant for the end user. And this is also the case for the new Galaxy devices.

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The same processor works in all Galaxy S22 models. With the basic models, the memory configurations are also the same / © NextPit

However, Samsung's cooperation with AMD, one of the leading manufacturers for gaming hardware, is exciting. Among other things, Samsung wants to bring ray tracing to smartphones, a rendering technology that can simulate particularly realistic lighting effects and reflections. Unfortunately, Samsung is still very reserved with partnerships when it comes to developer studios, which means that the advantages cannot really be assessed just yet.

The fact that a graphics card supports ray tracing is not a big advantage on its own. There have to be games that are adapted to the hardware, and the future remains uncertain. This is especially since Samsung offers the S22 lineup in two versions once again. One with Exynos in Europe and the other powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the US. Thus, it is not very worthwhile to develop games exclusively for the Galaxy S22.

Camera: Real telephoto lens at last

The back of the Galaxy S22 and S22+ features a triple camera configuration that covers a focal length range from ultra-wide-angle to telephoto. The main camera carries a resolution of 50 megapixels for the very first time, and is optically image-stabilized and relies on a larger sensor. The ultra-wide-angle resolution stands at 12 megapixels and Samsung offers a telephoto lens with optical magnification as a big innovation. Selfies feature a 10 MP resolution.

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Samsung will finally make the leap to real telelenses in 2022 / © NextPit

What I liked:

  • Finally with a real telephoto camera.
  • Exciting new AI features.
  • Difference between the Ultra model has shrunk.

What I disliked:

  • Cameras still remain unproven in everyday use.
  • Missing memory expansion options for videos is a big disadvantage.

Samsung has obviously read my reviews of the Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21! I remember I strongly criticized the manufacturer for installing telephoto lenses in such a high price range that rely on digital magnification instead of opting for optical. The two S22 siblings finally offer telephoto lenses with optical 3x magnification. The resolution now shrinks to a sufficient 10 megapixels.

Samsung has packed the remaining megapixels into the main camera. This sports a resolution of 50 megapixels and Samsung has installed 23 percent larger sensors here. Both the telephoto and the main camera lenses feature optical image-stabilized and is quite fast with open apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.2. The ultra-wide-angle camera features a 12 MP resolution and does not have image stabilization.

The lighting conditions were not exactly ideal at the PR event and my test photos in the hands-on look correspondingly boring. However, Samsung created a sense of anticipation with a few software tricks. Not only does the manufacturer copy the various portrait filters of the iPhone 13 lineup in an almost one-to-one ratio, there is also supposedly a more powerful night mode. In addition, the AI eraser, which I already compared with the Magic Eraser of the Pixel 6, finally makes it into the Gallery app. A short run out with it convinced me about as much as the performance of the beta feature.

We will soon find out how exactly the cameras perform in everyday use. So until then, the fact remains that Samsung has integrated sensible camera updates into its smartphones.

Battery: Quick-charging upgrade for $999.99

The batteries of the new Samsungs measure 3,700 and 4,500 milliampere hours, respectively. As the manufacturer wrote in its press release, the larger battery in the S22+ is supposed to last longer than a day. If that is not confirmed, you can at least charge it faster - Samsung integrates quick-charging with 45 watts into its smartphones for the first time. The base model unfortunately lacks this feature.

What I liked:

  • Faster Quick-Charging in the Plus model at last
  • Processor with 4-nanometer manufacturing is theoretically more efficient.

What I disliked:

  • Battery in the S22 has shrunk compared to its predecessor.
  • Slow quick-charging in the base model.
  • Fast charging adapter not included.

I cannot say much about the battery runtimes of the new devices after trying them out for a short time. However, it is noticeable that Samsung has further reduced the battery capacity of the base model. Since the Galaxy S21 already did not convince with a long endurance in the review, I am a bit concerned here. In addition, buyers of the base model are disadvantaged in terms of battery.

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A disadvantage of the smallest model: Quick Charging still works with a maximum of 15 watts / © NextPit

On the one hand, it is welcome that a smartphone going for ~$1,000, by which I mean the S22+, offers reasonably fast quick charging at 45 watts. On the other hand, this feature should also be included in the Galaxy S22. Let's take a look at Xiaomi: The manufacturer introduced the Redmi Note 11 Pro a few weeks ago, which is expected to be released for just under $350 in selected markets. That smartphone charges at 67 watts and thus shows that fast Quick-Charging is by no means a super-premium feature anymore.

To make matters worse, however, I have to criticize Samsung's no-charger policy, especially this year. The 45-watt charger is neither included in the S22+ nor in the S22 Ultra. So if you bought a 25-watt charger last year, you will have to fork out more money yet again. This is absurd when you look at the price list of the new Galaxy devices.

Early Verdict

After Samsung's hands-on event, I took the subway home in a very pensive manner. As I would still highly recommend Samsung's mid-range devices from 2021 and its foldables are also cool despite the high prices, the manufacturer seems confused about the Galaxy S22 series. Along the way, an already too small battery shrinks, Quick-Charging is apparently forgotten in a device, and innovations are largely absent.

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The S22+ (right) does not offer many advantages over the predecessor model (left) / © NextPit

At the same time, I would like to point out that I could not try out the Galaxy S22 devices for a long time. At the same time, usage was severely limited at the PR event. Even though my first impression is negative and Samsung's decisions are questionable in many ways, I would therefore like to give the handsets a chance. In addition, there was a rumor shortly before the event that could not yet be confirmed by Samsung at the hands-on:

Apparently, Samsung plans to extend the software support even further. If you were to purchase a Galaxy S22 model in 2022, you might receive security updates until 2027. That would be another advantage that belongs in a fair review. So let's find out in a few days' time whether you really want to keep the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ for so many years. See you soon!

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Benjamin Lucks

Benjamin Lucks

Ben has been working in tech journalism since 2018, was a freelancer in the middle of the CoVid-crisis and has been full-time at NextPit since November '20. Since then he has tries to find the right mix between professional competence, humor and fresh perspectives in reviews and texts.

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  • Joy of Smartphone 5 months ago Link to comment

    I have seen in the several forum and community site that S22 has overheating issue.