Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus hands-on review



Intro

While the Galaxy S22 Ultra model stole the thunder at the 2022 Samsung Unpacked event, it is the Galaxy S22 Plus that might actually be the more suitable big screen phone to buy for the average user.

The Galaxy S22 Plus is missing some features from the Ultra model, but that is exactly what makes it special: if you don’t use an S Pen regularly, you probably won’t want one in your phone, and not having that means you get a phone that is significantly lighter and not as gargantuan, so you can comfortably carry it in your pocket.

So yes, the Galaxy S22 Plus is that golden middle ground: not too small, and not too large, it has a premium glass back, dissipates heat better than compact models, and battery life is far superior than a mini phone. And compared to last year’s S21 Plus model, the new Galaxy does all of that in more compact form factor too!

Let’s explore it in more detail below! 

Design

Big within reason

We’ve already mentioned what we think makes the Galaxy S22 Plus special: it’s big, but it’s big within reason. Sure, the S22 Ultra has got it all, but that results in an oversized device with sharp edges that is not exactly a comfortable fit in your slim fit jeans pockets.

Here is a comparison of the size and weight of the three Galaxy S22 series models, notice the reasonable balance that the S22 Plus strikes:

  • S22: 146,0 x 70,6 x 7,6 mm, 167g
  • S22 Plus: 157,4 x 75,8 x 7,6 mm, 195g
  • S22 Ultra: 163,3 x 77,9 x 8,9 mm, 227g

The Plus model is way thinner than the Ultra, and not as crazy wide and heavy, big benefits for portability.

And if we talk Galaxy colors, you have four options to pick from: the traditional Phantom Black and Phantom White, and then a new Pink Gold, as well as a classy Green colorway.

As for the rest of the design, the S22 Plus is quite similar to last year’s S21 series, but that’s a good thing: the camera that kind of blends with the frame is a unique touch that now other companies are copying.

Samsung has also worked on getting tiny details right, as the bezels around the screen are now perfectly uniform (previously, the bottom bezel was slightly thicker). And then practicality is still very much there with an IP68 water and dust protection, helping your Galaxy survive a bit of rain or an accidental drop in water.

Display Quality

120Hz and a brightness that goes beyond expectations

With the Plus, you get a large, 6.6-inch (technically, it’s 6.55″) screen which is flat and uses the latest Super AMOLED tech with 1080p resolution. Most users will find this screen top notch, but we ought to say that the Ultra model does offer a bit more in terms of screen quality for those who demand the very best. First, the 1080p resolution is one difference, as the Ultra has a higher 1440p resolution for just a bit extra sharpness. Secondly, you have adaptive 10-120Hz refresh rate on the S22 Plus, good enough, but again just a bit less impressive than the 1-120Hz range on the Ultra model. Having the option to go down to 1Hz on the Ultra with static content should help it squeeze longer battery life.

However, one thing Samsung hasn’t skimped on is how bright the screen can get: max brightness is now 1,750nits, exactly the same as on the Ultra, and up from the already impressive 1,300 nits on last year’s S21 Plus. This is the best in the industry and will help make the screen super easy to use outdoors, even on a sunny day.

We should also mention that all Galaxy models this year have a slightly different aspect ratio, and on the S22 and S22 Plus, you now get a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, while previous Galaxies had narrower screens with a 20:9 aspect ratio. By the way, this new aspect ratio on the Galaxies matches exactly that on iPhones too, curious fact.

Finally, just as you’d expect on a flagship, you get full HDR video support, so you can enjoy a Netflix movie in all of its HDR glory.

For biometrics, Samsung sticks with the familiar ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader. We have not tested it yet, but leaks suggest it will be identical to what we had on the Galaxy S21. Stay tuned for an update once we test it in detail. Additionally, you will have support for face recognition using the front camera. This is not as secure as Face ID, but you also don’t have a notch and it still gets the job done, so we are glad to have this option on board.

Performance and Software

How fast your Galaxy is still depends on which country you buy it from

Despite all the hubbub in rumors, Samsung sticks with its old strategy of using different processors in the same Galaxy model sold in different markets. It’s the old adage: all Galaxy S22 models in the US get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, while the UK/Europe will have to make do with the Exynos 2200 chip.

You have probably already heard that traditionally the Exynos model is a bit slower, gets a bit less in terms of battery life, and even images and videos from it tend to look a bit worse. We cannot tell if this holds true for the Galaxy S22 series, but early benchmarks sure suggest it does.

Pre-release benchmarks that you see above show that the Snapdragon chip with the lead and a nearly 10% faster CPU scores over the Exynos model. But again, best withhold assumptions and wait out the in-depth testing of the actual final devices. On the specs topic, also, we know that the S22 Plus has 8GB of RAM on board. If you look historically, you will notice how the S21 Plus also had 8GB of RAM, but the S20 Plus from 2020 came with 12GB of RAM, so the series has actually seen a downgrade here.

One bright spot for the Exynos model might be its GPU performance, though, as a new GPU unit brings more power and speed, great for gamers.

As for storage, you are getting a 128GB base model as well as a 256GB version for a slight premium, and we’d recommend those taking more videos definitely grab the 256G model. Remember that the S22 Plus does not have a microSD card slot, so you cannot expand the storage, what you get is what you end up with.

Finally, on the software side, the Galaxy S22 Plus comes with the current Android 12 version, but customized with Samsung’s One UI 4.1 on top. The One UI keeps the familiar Samsung look and does not have the fancy new Android visual elements that you get on a Pixel, but we like the familiarity of it.

The big news, however, is about software updates. With the Galaxy S22 series, Samsung promises 4 years of major software updates down the line, more than any other Android phone maker and more than the 3 years that Samsung pledged for earlier. This means that the Galaxy S22 Plus will get Android versions 13, 14, 15 and 16 some time in the future. Excellent news!

Camera

The S22 Plus does not have a periscope lens and at this price, this looks like a compromise

The Galaxy S22 Plus ships with three cameras on the back, a main, an ultra-wide, and a 3X zoom lens, exactly the same setup as on the smaller Galaxy S22.

What’s missing, however, is a periscope zoom lens, and while we can forgive the compact S22 model for not including one, it seems like the now more expensive S22 Plus should get one. Still, that remains an exclusive feature for the S22 Ultra.

Below, you’d find the full camera specs, one more thing to notice there is that instead of a high-megapixel telephoto lens with digital crop, the S22 Plus has a native 3X zoom lens, which should result in better zoom shots.

The main camera sensor is now also physically bigger and with quad-binning, it should capture photos with cleaner detail during the day and at night.

Of course, phone cameras these days are a lot about the software, so we do expect tweaks to software algorithms to help get better image and video quality.

We should also mention a new Samsung Expert RAW 16-bit capture feature that enthusiasts and professionals will appreciate.

On the video side, Samsung promises to “break the rules of light” in the official S22 teaser, basically confirming improvements to low light photo and video recording. For actual camera samples, though, you’re in a bit too early: we will update this section with photos once we have the phone in our hands.

Audio Quality and Haptics

Audio quality has been a slight disappointment on the previous S21 model, which lacked in depth and sounded a bit tinny. Samsung is keeping the same dual speaker setup with a main, bottom-firing speaker and a secondary, helper speaker in the earpiece, but we hope it has improved the quality.

What you won’t get in the box with the S22 Plus is a pair of headphones, and it’s also no surprise that the phone lacks a headphone jack. If you want to use wired headphones, you’d need a dongle or a pair of USB-C headphones.

Battery Life and Charging

Going compact meant reducing the battery size on the S22 Plus

Samsung has decided to downsize the S22 Plus, great for portability, but that also meant making one significant compromise: this Galaxy actually has a smaller battery size than last year’s model.

The S22 Plus ships with a 4,500mAh battery (compared to the 4,800mAh battery in the S21 Plus). That’s a nearly 6% reduction in size and we do expect this to also result in lower battery life.

We should point out that last year’s model lasted comfortably through longer days, so a full day use with even more intense use should still be easily achievable on the S22 Plus.

We already have our independent battery test results for the S22 Plus and here is what the numbers tell us:

On the charging side, the S22 Plus gets faster 45W charging, great news! There is no charger included in the box, as expected, so you’d buy one separately, and keep in mind that Samsung’s 45W charger comes with a thicker cable that you need to use in order to get the fastest speeds.

Wireless charging is also supported with 15W speeds, and you also get reverse wireless charging at slower speeds that allows you to place another device, usually wireless buds or a smartwatch, but also possibly a smartphone, on the back of your Galaxy and use the phone as a wireless power bank.

Competitors

Good news is that the Galaxy S22 Plus price is the same as last year at $1,000 for the base 8G/128GB model, while $50 on top of that gets you an 8G/256GB model and that seems like the optimal configuration.  

This is cheaper than arch-rival iPhone 13 Pro Max, but admittedly the iPhone has an advantage in battery life, has faster performance, and an edge for video recording too. Some people may also prefer the iOS ecosystem with Apple Watches, AirPods, and all the rest.

The $900 Pixel 6 Pro is a great Android option despite a few issues with the sluggish fingerprint scanner. The phone is seriously fast, gets Android updates on day 1 rather than a few months late, and has an impressive camera.

But if you are a Samsung fan and considering the Galaxy, the real competitors to the Galaxy S22 Plus this year are just other Galaxies. If you can find a Galaxy S21 Plus at a lower price, you don’t seem to be losing out much with it. Even the way cheaper Galaxy S21 FE covers most of the bases with a flagship grade processor, a reasonably big screen and with solid battery life.

Summary and Final Verdict

At the end of the day, the question remains, should you buy the Galaxy S22 Plus? 

The S22 Plus saves you some money compared to the Ultra and it also saves you from the hassle of carrying a gargantuan phone around.

At the same time, if you are fine with the bigger size of the Ultra, you get so much more with that phone, starting with the S Pen to the zoom camera, bigger screen, and way more impressive battery size. And all of that at not too much of a price premium.

So yes, the S22 Plus shapes up as a good phone, but it is overshadowed by the Ultra and those who want the very best, should probably look in that direction first.





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