Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra: has Samsung’s champ been beat?

The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra (L) and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (R)
(Image credit: TechRadar / Samsung / ZTE)

ZTE has really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons with its Axon 40 Ultra flagship, with the Chinese brand having Android royalty in its sights.

Here’s a premium phone that comes with many of the same specifications and a very similar design to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but with a much (and we mean MUCH) lower price tag. So where’s the catch?

We have spent some quality hands-on time with both devices, and we know all about their specs. Here’s how the two offerings compare.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra landed in shops on February 25, 2022. Prices kick off at $1,199.99 / £1,149 / AU$1,849 for the 8GB RAM/128GB model, before moving up to $1,299.99 / £1249 / AU$1,999 for 12GB/256GB. Splashing out $1,399.99 / £1,329 / AU$2,149 gets you 12GB/512GB, while $1,599.99 / £1,499 / AU$2,449 pays for the 12GB/1TB top model.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra goes on sale on June 21 at a price of $799 / £709 (roughly AU$1,200) for 8GB RAM/128GB. Spending $899/£809 (around AU$1,350) bump that up to 12GB/256GB.

That’s a difference of $400/£440 in favour of the ZTE.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra design

Design-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra are remarkably similar. That’s surely no accident on ZTE’s part, what with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s immense popularity.

These are two extremely large phones, with the Samsung measuring in at 163 x 77.9 x 8.9mm and 229g, and the ZTE coming in at 163.2 x 73.5 x 8.4mm and 204g. Advantage ZTE.

Small differences in size aside, the similarities are obvious. Both phones sport “waterfall” displays that curve away at the sides, and both accompany those curves with flat top and bottom edges. The ZTE’s prominent camera module appears to have more in common with the Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra, however, which is arguably more stylish than its spiritual successor’s separated camera modules.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra full back

(Image credit: Future)

The ZTE has one other notable advantage over the Samsung. It does away with the hole-punch notch altogether in favor of an under-display selfie camera.

Samsung strikes back with its own unique feature: the S Pen stylus. While you’ll find a neat housing on the bottom of the Galaxy S22 Ultra for this advanced digital pen, there’s no such provision on the ZTE.

When it comes to colors, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivers a choice of Phantom Black, Phantom White, Burgundy, Green, Graphite, Sky Blue and Red. The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra will come in Black, Gold, and Silver.

Ultimately, our reviewer called the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra “an inarguably beautiful device”. By extension, then, that must be the case for the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, too.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra display

The ZTE Axon 40 Ultra continues the tribute act with an AMOLED screen that’s identical in size (6.8 inches) and refresh rate (120Hz) to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra equivalent.

It doesn’t get quite as bright as the Samsung panel’s 1750 nits, but 1500 nits still makes it one of the brighter displays on the market.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung’s screen is quite a bit sharper, too, reaching a maximum resolution of 1440 x 3088 compared to the ZTE’s 1116 x 2480. In practical use, this difference shouldn’t be obvious in most day-to-day scenarios, but it’s an advantage for the Samsung handset.

The South Korean giant also uses a more advanced ultrasonic fingerprint sensor standard in its phones compared to the ZTE’s bog-standard optical system.

All in all, we’re quite confident that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra will have the better display of the two. It’s the best in the business right now, after all, with Samsung making most of the top smartphone screens in the market.

Still, the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra’s screen looks like it gets impressively close, especially for the money.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra cameras

If there’s one area where the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra earns the extra $400 on its price tag, it’s the camera system. Even at this early point we can confidently tell you that it includes much better cameras than the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra.

Samsung’s is nothing less than one of the best smartphone camera systems on the market, with a stunning 108-megapixel wide sensor taking sharp, colorful, freakishly well-exposed shots. It also benefits from a pretty decent 12-megapixel ultra-wide.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with camera ap open

(Image credit: Future)

But the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s crowning glory is its dual 10-megapixel telephoto setup, providing up to a 10x optical zoom. No other phone can rival it for those close-up shots.

Certainly not the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra, even with its impressive-sounding triple–64-megapixel camera setup. It isn’t a bad system by any means, but it isn’t good enough to compete with the Samsung. ZTE’s AI scene optimization isn’t particularly good, and the phone suffers from a slow autofocus system.

The other issue with the ZTE is its front-facing camera. It might be cleverly hidden behind the screen, but that makes for some soft, blurry selfies.

Meanwhile, the Samsung’s own 40-megapixel selfie camera uses a tetra-binning technique to combine four pixels into one for impressively high-quality 10-megapixel images. There’s really no contest here.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra performance and specs

Both phones run on the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. Or, at least, they do in most territories.

Over here in Europe, Samsung utilizes its own Exynos 2200 chip. It offers broadly equivalent performance to the Snapdragon, but it’s neither as fast nor efficient.

ZTE Axon 40 Ultra

(Image credit: Future)

That’s nominally a win for the ZTE, then; but we’re talking about fine margins here. These are two extremely capable, smooth-running smartphones.

Both phones offer a choice of 8GB or 12GB of RAM, so there’s nothing between them on the memory front either. Samsung does offer double the storage, though, with 512GB and 1TB options added to the shared 128GB and 256GB provisions.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs ZTE Axon 40 Ultra battery

Wouldn’t you know it – both phones include the same 5,000mAh-capacity batteries, too.

With the Galaxy S22 Ultra, we found battery life was good for a full day of varied activity. To be honest, we had hoped for better.

We’d have hoped that the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra could one-up its rival on the stamina front, given its slightly dimmer and lower-resolution display. So far, however, we’ve found that the phone doesn’t always last through a day of use without needing to be recharged.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra drawing with the S Pen

(Image credit: Future)

One area where the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra undoubtedly tops the Samsung is in the recharging stakes. While the Galaxy S22 Ultra supports only 45W charging, the ZTE stretches to 65W.

You don’t get wireless charging with the ZTE, however. Samsung delivers support for 15W Qi or PMA.


The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is undoubtedly the better phone of the two overall. Most obviously, it comes with that brilliant S Pen stylus, and its cameras are in a totally different league to the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra.

A sharper, brighter display and the provision of wireless charging add further weight to the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s case.

But is Samsung’s flagship phone $400/£400 better than its rival? That’s the question that we’ll be looking to answer in our final ZTE Axon 40 Ultra review.

While the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is arguably the best phone on the market right now, there’s a chance the ZTE Axon 40 Ultra will prove better for more people – especially in these financially challenging times.