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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review: Yippee-ki-AI!

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The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best Android smartphones on the market. It is clearly the best Samsung smartphone at the moment. A lot if it is owed to its Galaxy AI suite of features. In this comprehensive Galaxy S24 Ultra review, I will explain why the smartphone won me over despite its gimmicky AI features.

Good

  • Premium titanium design
  • Flat 120 Hz screen, more ergonomic, and as bright as ever
  • Top performance and battery life
  • Efficient and (slightly) less versatile camera module
  • Integrated S Pen
  • 7 Android updates & 7 years of security updates

Bad

  • Expensive
  • Galaxy AI functions are still too gimmicky
  • Charging speed is far too slow


Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: All deals

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in a nutshell

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra has been available since January 30, 2024 from $1,299 onwards. At first  glance, it is close to a carbon copy of its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (review).

Add a few tweaks to the screen, the camera module, and One UI, and the Galaxy S24 Ultra becomes the best Samsung smartphone of the year. For now, it also holds the title of the best flagship Android smartphone.

Yes, Samsung has pulled all the plugs on artificial intelligence (AI) with its Galaxy AI suite of features. However, I do not think this is the smartphone’s main selling point.

The S Pen is nifty as always, including the "Circle to Search" AI function.
The S Pen in the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is very handy when it comes to using the “Circle to Search” AI function. / © nextpit

 

Design


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t offer any groundbreaking innovations in terms of design. However, even though it is not original, Samsung knows how to maintain consistency in its finish and use of premium materials which I appreciate. The switch to a titanium frame, as Apple did with its
iPhone 15 Pro Max (review), also proved to be a winner.


Pros:

  • Gorilla Glass Armor in front and Gorilla Glass Victus 2 at the back.
  • IP68 certified.
  • Integrated S Pen.
  • Amazing titanium colors.
  • Good grip with a flat screen and sharp corners.

Cons:


Getting a steady grip of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is easy.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra offers a good grip with its sharp corners. / © nextpit

Samsung gave in to the titanium trend for the chassis of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. The smartphone comes in three colors: Titanium Blue, Titanium Green, and Titanium Orange. All three are simple, clear-cut, and straight to the point. Unlike the iPhone 15 (comparison), the use of titanium did not make the Galaxy S24 Ultra any lighter. It’s quite a large handset, but some of One UI 6 ‘s software tricks make one-handed use more comfortable than expected.

The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass Armor glass, which is slightly tougher than the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 found at the back of the smartphone. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is, of course, IP68-certified for water and dust resistance.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera module is similar to last year's design.
In terms of design, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s camera module is the same as last year’s. / © nextpit

Visually, it looks pretty much the same as the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The only notable design change is the subtle switch to a flat screen. There goes the curved edges! This is a first for Samsung. Personally, I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I found this design change to have improved the smartphone’s grip.

Finally, when you look at the bottom edge, we find the S Pen slot alongside the USB-C port, the speaker, and the SIM port. This S Pen is not backward-compatible with older models, and vice versa.

In short, there’s not much new in terms of design. At the same time, why should I call Samsung out on this when Apple has been getting away with the same look for so many years?

You cannot use the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's S Pen with older models.
The S Pen on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is not backward compatible with older models like the Galaxy S23 Ultra. / © nextpit

Display


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra offers an excellent screen with any major surprises. The screen is also flat this time instead of sticking to a curved edge design. However, I felt Samsung’s touch was a little too pronounced when colorimetry is concerned.


Pros:

  • QHD+ resolution/120 Hz refresh rate combo is as effective as ever.
  • Gorilla Glass Armor in front.
  • Flat edges make using the S Pen easier.
  • Bright screen is almost immune to glare.

Cons:

  • Colorimetry lacks more naturalness than usual.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's screen is once again excellent, but lacks color fidelity.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s screen is once again excellent, but color fidelity is lacking. / © nextpit

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s screen is a 6.8-inch AMOLED panel with a 1440×3120 pixel resolution. I have already mentioned the screen’s flat edges earlier. Not only do they provide the smartphone with a better grip they also make using the S Pen a more ergonomic experience. Gone were the days of false touches were registered and unintentional slips of the Samsung stylus when you arrive at the “edge of the page” while taking handwritten notes.

The refresh rate is variable from 1 to 120 Hz via LTPO 2.0 screen technology. Among the entire Galaxy S24 range (comparison), the S24 Ultra model is the only one to benefit from 100% DCI-P3 colorimetric spectrum coverage certification by the Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker (VDE) in Germany. For the German certification fetishists among you, that’s got to be a massive plus point.

Everything's balanced in the Galaxy S24 Ultra, including its bezels.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s bezels are the same thickness on each side, losing the prominent chin and forehead. / © nextpit

To the naked eye, however, I found the colorimetry to be a little too saturated and unnatural. This is usually the case with Samsung, but I found the effect more pronounced on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Apart from that, the screen is very bright, achieving a peak brightness of 2,600 nits. Reflectance is also very low, making the screen legible under all circumstances. It’s a near-flawless offering from Samsung.

Software: Galaxy AI is here


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra runs on One UI 6.1 which is based on
Android 14. Samsung once again aligned itself with the Google Pixel update policy, offering a whopping 7 years of Android and security updates. Finally, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is supposed to be the first “AI phone” with a host of AI-boosted features grouped under the Galaxy AI moniker. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t impressed at all.


Pros:

  • 7 Android updates + 7 years of security updates.
  • One UI 6.1 is my favorite Android skin.

Cons:

  • No new S Pen features.
  • Galaxy AI functions are still too gimmicky.

Once again in 2024, Samsung is one of the two Android smartphone manufacturers who sell the longest-lasting smartphones on the market, apart from Google. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra will receive seven Android versions and seven security updates. Obviously, Samsung won’t be offering monthly patches for seven straight years as the frequency will decrease from year to year.

However, when you’re buying a smartphone that costs at least $1,300, to know that it will remain functional seven years down the road (theoretically speaking) is quite reassuring. This could slow down the lightning discounts that tend to affect most Android smartphones a short while after their release.

We’ll soon bring you a full One UI 6 review. Personally, it’s my favorite Android skin. Samsung made sure they integrated the best of Androidin One UI 6. The integration of the Monet engine, for instance, allows you to synchronize the interface color with the dominant colors of your wallpaper.

I really like the Samsung Autoblocker security function. Among other things, it prevents malware installation via USB, which is very useful if you have a nasty habit of using public power outlets. It also provides an extra layer of protection when sideloading and installing apps outside the Google Play Store.

I also appreciate the fact that Samsung gave real thought to the one-handed use of its gargantuan smartphone. Many native apps allow you to slide the controls and menus down slightly to bring them closer to your short fingers.

Galaxy AI, ouch, ouch!

What’s that? Oh yes, Galaxy AI! It’s THE killer feature of the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Ze mega-selling point! Samsung revolutionized the market and ushered in the post-smartphone era. No, it hasn’t.

My colleague Stefan has tested out every single Galaxy AI feature. Basically, these functions have been integrated into Samsung’s native applications that are supposed to make your life easier.

The first major flaw? You will need a Samsung account to use them. Above all, it is the gimmicky, unfinished nature of most of the Galaxy AI functions that baffled me somewhat.

Here’s an overview of the main features:

  • Circle to Search with Google: Hold down the home button and search for any content on the screen, such as photos, by circling it.
  • Transcription and note-taking assistance: Transcribe and summarize your conversations and organize your notes intelligently.
  • Writing assistant on the Samsung keyboard: Compose e-mails, text messages, and social media posts with a customizable tone, from casual to formal.
  • Live translation of phone calls: Speak in your language on the phone and the person you’re speaking to will receive a live translation in one of 13 languages (available via downloadable language packs).

Circle to Search is a very practical tool especially when you use it with the S Pen. If you’re scrolling through your news feeds and come across a pair of sneakers or a cool jacket, you can try to find it via Google Images.

I also enjoyed using the Galaxy AI functions in the Samsung Notes application. You can summarize and format your notes accordingly. Samsung offers several layout styles for the “format” function. I even had a brief laugh (I was alone so I just chortled with some snot coming out of my nose) when the “summarize” function started talking about me, the author, in the third person singular.

Unfortunately, there’s far too little substance to make Galaxy AI a real selling point for the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Yes, some functions are quite practical. But outside of my review parameters, it hasn’t yet made its way as an everyday smartphone reflex action. This is not me at all, as most of you would realize that I often defend manufacturers’ inclusion of gimmicks because they tend to add a little freshness to the user experience.

If Samsung hadn’t gone to such lengths with Galaxy AI, I’m sure I wouldn’t have pushed my judgment further. I felt that of all the qualities that make the Galaxy S24 Ultra an excellent smartphone, Galaxy AI is not one of them. This is further exacerbated by the fact that Samsung has plans to charge users for these Galaxy AI functions in the future. Personally, I don’t think they’re mature or relevant enough to justify a pay-as-you-go model.

Performance


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra features the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC and the smartphone is available in three UFS 4.0 storage versions of 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. All three come with 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM. It’s a performance monster, and that’s the minimum, given its price.


Pros:

  • A clear gain in raw performance with Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC.
  • No overheating issues.

Cons:

  • Not as stable as the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra's use of titanium makes it very similar in feel to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The titanium used in the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra feels very similar to that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. / © nextpit

In terms of raw performance, there’s a clear gain on benchmarks compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC that powered last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra.

When it comes to graphics benchmarks, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra fared better than Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro Max and its A17 Pro chip. However, in terms of stability, Samsung lags behind Apple. I didn’t notice any visually noticeable thermal throttling during my review. When it comes to CPU computational capabilities, Apple still has the upper hand.

  Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
Apple A17 Pro
3DMark Wild Life Extreme 5,094 3,998
3DMark Wild Life Stress Test
  • Best loop: 17,680
  • Worst loop: 9,673
  • Best loop: 9,991
  • Worst loop: 8,709
3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test
  • Best loop: 5,160
  • Worst loop: 3,013
  • Best loop: 3,400
  • Worst loop: 2,741
3DMark Solar Bay 8,373 6,275
3DMark Solar Bay Stress Test
  • Best loop: 7,922
  • Worst loop: 4,963
  • Best loop: 5,857
  • Worst loop: 4,516
Geekbench 6
  • Single: 2,252
  • Multi: 7,107
  • Single: 2,936
  • Multi: 7,453

In any case, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a performance monster. It didn’t overheat during my gaming sessions. Genshin Impact ran at a constant 60 FPS with all graphics settings set at maximum.

Samsung made much fanfare of its flagship’s ray-tracing capabilities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Android games capable of exploiting them. Samsung did mention Arena Breakout among the supported titles, but I couldn’t find any ray-tracing-related options in the game settings.

In any case, I simply think it’s a shame to offer such a gaming machine and under-exploit its power on games like Fortnite, CoD Mobile, or Genshin Impact, which were released years ago and offer boring, repetitive gameplay. That’s probably because I’m spoilt rotten since I’ve been playing AAA games on the iPhone 15 Pro Max (maybe I’ll talk more about that in a separate article).

Photo quality


This year, Samsung slightly altered its camera recipe. The Galaxy S24 Ultra still carries a quintuple camera module with two telephoto lenses. However, last year’s second 10x telephoto lens was replaced by a 5x telephoto lens this year. On paper, that signals a downgrade which really isn’t one at all. Read more about it below!


Pros:

  • The primary lens is amazing under all circumstances.
  • 5x zoom is even better now with the new telephoto lens.
  • Impressive ultra-wide angle shots during the day.
  • Top selfie quality.

Cons:

  • Zoom quality suffers once you go beyond 5x zoom.
  • Portrait mode’s bokeh could be better.
  • Unnatural night mode.

The 10x telephoto lens in the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra has been replaced by a 5x telephoto lens.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra abandoned the 10x telephoto lens in favor of a 5x telephoto lens. / © nextpit

 

  Galaxy S24 Ultra – Rear camera module
Main lens 200 MP | f/1.7 | 24 mm
Ultra-wide angle lens 12 MP | f/2.2 | 13 mm | 120° FOV
3x Telephoto lens  10 MP | f/2.4 | 69 mm
10x telephoto lens 50 MP | f/3.4 | 115 mm

Main lens and ultra-wide angle

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 200 MP main lens is based on the same Isocell HP2 sensor as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and is virtually flawless in all circumstances. The colorimetry is still a little bit too flattering, as always with Samsung. However, I don’t mind that and the effect remains fairly contained.

Sharpness, exposure and detail are all top-notch, whether in daylight, backlight or low light. The Galaxy S24 Ultra effectively limits lens flare.

The ultra-wide angle lens also proved to be highly effective. I didn’t notice any color inconsistencies with the main lens during the day. At night, however, things get worse inevitably, and I would advise against using this lens in low light conditions.

Telephoto lenses (3x and 5x)

The switch to a second 5x telephoto lens from the 10x in the Galaxy S23 Ultra was a wise choice on Samsung’s part. At 5x zoom, the gain in detail is clearly perceptible. Images are sharper, better exposed, and more consistent in terms of colorimetry than with other lenses.

Once you go beyond the 5x level, however, you will switch to digital zoom. Having reviewed the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a 10x telephoto lens, you can perceive the drop in quality. Photos are darker than with other lenses, and the sharpness is a tad lower.

Personally, I can understand Samsung’s choice. Users are statistically more likely to take photos at a zoom range of up to 5x rather than at 10x. On the other hand, I find that it makes the Galaxy S24 Ultra lose an element of differentiation that I really liked. Huge zoom lenses were the hallmark of the Galaxy S Ultra range. It’s a shame to no longer be able to push the camera module to its limits.

Selfie lens

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s selfie lens is very effective, with its ultimately fairly standard 12 MP resolution (f/2.2 aperture). Day or night, my beautiful face and majestic mustache were captured excellently in great detail.

Portrait mode

With the camera module behind, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s portrait mode offers plenty of shooting possibilities. You can choose from 4 levels of magnification, so you don’t have to move around to get closer to your subject. The portrait mode also worked well at night.

In selfie mode, there’s a normal mode and an ultra-wide angle mode for group selfies. Cropping is not always the cleanest, and the focus gets temperamental at times. To be honest, I found the results impressive enough.

Night mode

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra’s night mode is automatic, depending on the scene. You can manually increase the exposure time as you wish, though. Overall, Samsung always managed to properly illuminate shots to make them look better. It sometimes struggled to attenuate strong light sources such as urban lighting, which slightly yellowed the image.

Very often, I found the photos lacked naturalness. On the other hand, the portrait mode and 3x zoom surprised me in terms of quality and level of detail. The 3x zoom stood out for me in particular, which managed to limit digital noise and deliveed results that were consistent with the excellent main lens.

Battery life and charging


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra boasts a 5,000 mAh battery with great battery life. Despite my complaints (and cries of despair), Samsung remains committed to its rather slow 45W wired charging. It also accepts 15W wireless charging and offers 4.5W reverse wireless charging.


Pros:

  • Excellent battery life.
  • Wireless and reverse wireless charging supported.

Cons:

  • Charger is not included.
  • Charging speed is too slow.

Getting a steady grip of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is easy.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra offers a good grip with its sharp corners. / © nextpit

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a very durable smartphone in terms of battery life. With the screen set to 200 nits brightness and Full HD+ resolution, it lasted for over 19 hours on the PC Mark benchmark. That’s an excellent score.

On a day-to-day basis, this stamina is noticeable. I was able to use the Galaxy S24 Ultra for a full day without needing to charge it in the evening. With an average screen time of 4 hours, I always had anywhere from 20% and 30% battery left in the evening before retiring for the night.

On the other hand, the charging speed is still a disappointment. As with Apple and Google, it’s disgraceful to sell such an expensive smartphone that charges so slowly. This is even more stark since Samsung doesn’t include a charger in the box, and tends to restrict charging speed with unofficial chargers.

  Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
Charging speed
5 minutes
10 minutes
15 minutes
30 minutes
1 hour
Full charge

Technical specifications

  Technical specifications
Device
Image Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Product Image
Display
  • 6.8″ LTPO OLED
    3088 x 1440 px
    1-120 Hz refresh rate
SoC
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM
Storage
  • 256 GB / 512 GB / 1 TB UFS 4.0
OS
  • One UI 6.1 based on Android 14
    7 Android updates + 7 years of security updates
Camera
  • Main lens: 200 MP, f/1.7 aperture, OIS
    Ultra-wide angle lens: 12 MP, f/2.2 aperture
    Telephoto lens 1: 50 MP, 5x zoom, f/3.4 aperture, OIS
    Telephoto lens 2: 10 MP, 3x zoom, f/2.4 aperture, OIS
Selfie camera
Battery
  • 5000 mAh
    Wired recharge 45 W
    Wireless charging 15 W
    Reverse wireless charging 4.5 W
Connectivity
  • 5G / LTE / Wifi 7 / Wifi Direct / Bluetooth 5.3 / NFC, UWB
IP rating
Dimensions & weight
  • 162.3 x 79.0 x 8.6 mm, 232 g

Early Verdict

Would I advise you to buy the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra? Yes! Admittedly, it’s very similar to last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra. However, the extended 7-year upgrade policy alone makes this model more relevant in terms of long-term sustainability. 

Photo quality is once again top-notch as the new 5x telephoto lens is a judicious choice, if a little too pragmatic for my preference as it removed some of the magic from this iconic Samsung device. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC’s performance and 5,000 mAh battery life are excellent.

In short, there are plenty of good reasons to spend almost my entire month’s salary on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. However, the Galaxy AI features are definitely not one of them. I don’t understand why Samsung placed so much emphasis on this aspect of its smartphone. I feel like we’ve fallen into one of those gimmicks that trend the latest buzzwords such as NFT phones or crypto phones.

What do you think? Do you plan to buy the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra? If so, will Galaxy AI be a deciding factor for you?

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