Samsung Galaxy S22 hands-on review



Intro

The big flagship star of 2022 has got to be the Galaxy S22 Ultra with its fresh new look, S Pen, and all the bells and whistles, but if you love compact phones, there is another device to be excited about: the regular Galaxy S22 model!

With a more compact size than last year’s model, the new S22 goes straight for the heart of mini phone lovers. The screen size has gone down to just 6.1″ and that might not seem like much, but a look at the dimensions shows this phone is actually about as big as the Galaxy S10e, a super compact device that you may remember from a few years ago.
With this downsizing, Samsung has had to use a smaller battery, which is the biggest compromise, but not much has been sacrificed as the processor and camera system is the same as on the bigger Plus model.

What else is there to know about this cute mini phone and should you get one? Let’s dive deeper to find out! 

Design

One for the compact phone lovers

When talking about the design changes, we really have to focus on the downsizing, partly because not much else has changed and the Galaxy S22 looks almost exactly like the S21.

Sure, you no longer have that stunning violet color option, but instead the Galaxy S22 color list now includes a new green version that looks classy, as well as a pink gold model, along with the two traditional staples, Phantom Black and Phantom White.

Oh, and one more thing: the S22 has a glass back rather than the plastic one Samsung used in the S21! Actually, both the front and back are shielded with the latest Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, and the mid-frame is made of aluminum, and so are the buttons. Also, just like before, the Galaxy S22 is easy to notice in a crowd with that camera unit seamlessly blending into the frame. It’s a thing of beauty, plain and simple.

Let us also give you the exact dimensions of the Galaxy S22, notice how it is considerably smaller than the S21 and only very slightly bigger than the compact champ from a few years ago, the S10e:

  • S22 dimensions: 146 x 70.6 x 7.6mm
  • S21 dimensions: 151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9mm
  • S10e dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm

The S22 has also shed a bit of weight, it’s 167g versus 171g on the S21, a tiny difference but still.

Look a bit closer, and you would notice a few additional delightful details: the borders around the screen now appear perfectly uniform, and the side of the phone is almost flat, with only a slight curve to it, so it’s easier to pick while resting on a table.

IP68 water and dust protection is very much here still, ensuring your Galaxy will survive a bit of rain and an accidental drop in water (rated to survive up to 30 minutes in up to 5ft deep fresh water).

Display Quality

Wider, super bright screen

The screen is smaller, but not too small at 6.1 inches in diagonal. An interesting detail is that it is not as tall as on the previous model, and now you have a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, while the previous S21 had the taller 20:9 ratio. By the way, this new ratio just happens to be the same as on iPhones.

The resolution is 1080 x 2340 pixels, not quite as high as the 1440p QHD+ you get on the S22 Ultra, but definitely sufficient for most users.

For all else, you have Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED tech in all its glory, the uniform bezels all around, gorgeous colors and an adaptive refresh rate going from 10Hz and reaching up to 120Hz.

AMOLED screens improve very gradually, and this year the key new spec is higher brightness. The S22 can reach a max brightness of 1,500 nits, higher than the S21 which maxed out at 1,300 nits and way higher than the 800 nits on the iPhone 13. Naturally, you get full HDR video support for the occasional Netflix movie (and even some YouTube videos are shot in HDR these days).  

For biometrics, Samsung uses an ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader. Our impressions are that it is basically identical to the one on the previous S21, which is to say accurate and fast enough (even if not the fastest in the industry). You also get face recognition using the front camera and 2D images, so not quite as secure as Face ID, but we are definitely glad to have this option.

Performance and Software

The Snapdragon-Exynos divide lives on

Despite earlier rumors about a change, Samsung has decided to stick with the old strategy of using different processors in the US and UK/Europe.

In the United States, the Galaxy S22 comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, while the UK and Europe are getting a Samsung-made Exynos 2200 processor. Consumers were previously not too happy about that as Exynos chips usually run a bit slower and last year, we even saw differences in camera performance between Snapdragon and Exynos versions of the same Galaxy model.

Early pre-release benchmark runs show that the Snapdragon chip still has a nearly 10% CPU advantage over the Exynos one, so not much has changed here. Of course, don’t make early assumptions and best wait out the in-depth testing that we’ll add here soon.

As for storage, you are getting a 128GB base model as well as a 256GB version that will cost a bit more. You cannot expand that storage as there is no microSD card slot on the Galaxy S22, so choose your storage wisely. Keep in mind that the S22 Ultra also gets a 512GB version and a 1TB option, but not the regular S22. 

In terms of software, the Galaxy S22 ships with Android 12 customized with Samsung’s One UI 4.1 on top. Interestingly, the One UI 4 software does not look like other stock Android 12 phones which introduce large widgets and very striking elements, and instead the Galaxy S22 keeps the familiar Samsung look with only few slight modifications.
Samsung has previously promised 3 years of software updates, but it’s changing that now and the Galaxy S22 will benefit from 4 years of major OS updates and 5 years of security updates. This means that the S22 should be getting Android versions 13, 14, 15, and 16 some time in the future, which is great! No other Android phone maker goes to such lengths and even Google only promises 3 years of OS updates. 

Camera

Finally, a real zoom lens 

Apart from the usual main and ultra-wide cameras, Samsung pulled a weird trick with the S20 and S21. Those phones did not have a “true” telephoto lens, but instead used a 64MP sensor that barely had any zoom (1.1X) and just cropped in to achieve an advertized 3X zoom level. This changes in the Galaxy S22, the first in a while to get a “true” 3X zoom lens. 

Take a look at the camera specs of the S22 below, if you like to nerd out over camera sensor sizes and megapixels.

To save you the number crunching and comparison, let’s just say that for the most part the camera hardware on the S22 is remarkably similar to the S21, with a slightly larger main sensor being the other notable change.

But where Samsung usually excels is camera software, so we do expect improvements in actual photo and video quality.

There is a lot of hype around the new Samsung Expert RAW 16-bit capture that should provide enthusiasts and professionals with more creative potential.

On the video side, Samsung officially teases “breaking the rules of light”, basically saying that we should expect better low light photos and videos, and we for once cannot wait to learn more about that. For actual samples, though, we need to wait up until we actually get to test the phone, stay tuned.

Audio Quality and Haptics

No headphone jack. That’s been the case last year, and that’s the case on the new Galaxy S22. There are also seemingly no headphones included in the box with the phone. This means that if you want to use wired headphones, well, get a dongle or a pair of USB-C headphones.

Phone audio still happens via two loudspeakers: a bottom-firing main speaker and a helper, secondary one in the earpiece. We hope for improvements from last year’s Galaxy S21 which lacked in sound depth and clarity, and we’ll update you as soon as we test this.

Battery Life and Charging

The smaller battery might be the biggest compromise 

Users are never happy when companies cut battery sizes, but that’s just inevitable with the much smaller Galaxy S22 size, and it comes with a 3,700mAh battery, a downgrade from the 4,000mAh cell used on the S21 (a 5% decrease in size).

The Galaxy S21 was just fine in terms of battery life, it lasts us one full day with average use, but more intense use would stretch it thin, so we are a bit worried about the Galaxy S22. No battery life estimates are available yet, so the only thing we can do is wait until we get the phone and put it through its paces in our series of independent battery tests.
And while Samsung’s main hero, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, is getting faster charging this year, the compact S22 model sticks with 25W charging speeds, same as last year. No charger in the box, of course, so you’d need to use an older charger or consider spending $20 bucks on a good charger.

Wireless charging is still very much here with 15W speed, and you also have support for reverse wireless charging to top up another device, but with the smaller battery here, that’s probably best used for short charges or smaller gadgets.

Competitors

Finally, the Galaxy S22 price has remained the same as last year’s model in most markets. Expect to pay $800 for the base unlocked phone with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and $50 on top of that for the 8GB/256G configuration.

The biggest rival has got to be the $800 iPhone 13, which opens the gate to the lucrative iOS ecosystem with trendy Apple Watches, AirPods and blue bubbles. And of course, those looking for a super compact phone, will also compare teh S22 to the iPhone 13 mini.
The $600 Pixel 6 looks like a steal, despite some issues with the sluggish fingerprint scanner, and it also has the advantage of faster Android updates and a larger screen.
But honestly, the big competitor to the Galaxy S22 is not a phone by another brand. It’s Samsung’s very own Galaxy S21, which still looks like incredibly good value with discounts and at least so far, it might just be the wiser buy unless you’re dead set on getting the latest phone out there.

Summary and Final Verdict

So should you buy the Galaxy S22? For those who want a truly compact phone, this one sure seems like a revelation as there are so few good compact phones running Android.

It has the looks, the powerful performance, the solid camera, and now longer software update support too. We still have doubts about battery life, but it’s only natural you get lower battery life with a compact phone.

On a personal note, your truly is genuinely excited about this new compact size and will be using the heck out of it. But what are your thoughts on the Galaxy S22: is it the right step forward for the iconic series?





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