The Galaxy S24 Ultra aims to be the best Android phone that money can buy, and for the most part, it accomplishes that. It might not be too different from its predecessor, but there’s a level of polish here that you won’t find with competing devices. Whether you prioritize gaming, photography, content consumption, or productivity, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a great tool for the job, and the new AI tools just make it better. The only major downside is the price, which is higher than last year, making this one of the most expensive flagships in town.
- Powerful performance
- Exceptional display
- Great cameras
- Useful AI tools
- It’s pricey
- Gets toasty while gaming
- AI features may cost money in the future
Samsung’s top-tier flagship for 2024 has arrived, and while it may look quite familiar, there’s a lot more to this phone than first meets the eye. Whether you’re looking for top gaming performance, camera prowess, or AI-powered productivity, the Samsung S24 Ultra offers something for everyone. It’s almost guaranteed to be one of the best Android phones of the year.
So, what’s new with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra? For starters, it runs on an overclocked Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. There have also been improvements to the display, the chassis, and an all-new telephoto camera to shake things up in the photography department. And that’s before we talk about AI features, which you’ll now find sprinkled throughout the operating system.
With a $100 price hike on what was already one of the most expensive Samsung phones, though, does the Galaxy S24 Ultra do enough to justify its asking price? I was looking forward to finding out, and after living with the phone for the past week, here’s what I think.
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Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra starts at $1299.99, $100 more than its predecessor, the S23 Ultra. It’s also more expensive than its main rival, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which starts at $1199. That said, the Ultra is all about giving you the best that Samsung offers, so it makes sense that it costs a lot, but that price increase still stings a little.
The S24 Ultra is available to purchase globally through Samsung’s website or third-party retailers such as Amazon. If you go through a retailer, you’ll have four color variants to choose from: Titanium Gray, Titanium Black, Titanium Violet, and Titanium Yellow. If you purchase through Samsung directly, you’ll also have access to the exclusive Titanium Green, Titanium Orange, and Titanium Blue options. There are three storage options available, and you can see the pricing breakdown below:
- 12GB RAM and 256GB storage – $1299.99
- 12GB RAM and 512GB storage – $1419.99
- 12GB RAM and 1TB storage – $1659.99
A lot of Samsung’s S24 Ultra marketing efforts have focused on the integration of Galaxy AI, a new suite of tools covering everything from productivity to image manipulation. I couldn’t help but think back to the Google Pixel 8 series launch, where the focus was almost entirely on the power of its new AI tools rather than advancements to the hardware. Given the close working relationship that the two brands have, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it’s easy to imagine the AI sharing some DNA – but that’s purely speculation.
The first new tool is Chat Assist, which Samsung has built into the keyboard and almost every other application. You can use this feature to change the tone of your writing, correct spelling, and grammar, and translate incoming and outgoing messages. There are 13 languages available at present, and more are on the way soon. It seems to work well in my testing, at least in Spanish, which my dad is fluent in.
Transcript Assist is a similar feature that works with voice recordings and phone calls. As the name suggests, it can transcribe conversations on the fly, breaking down the conversation into individual speakers and translating them, too. When the conversation is over, it can generate a summary for easy reading. This kind of thing could be a godsend for lengthy team meetings.
Another new feature is Circle to search with Google, which debuted with the S24 series phones but is also making its way to other Android devices, including the Pixel phones. This feature basically works like Google Lens, but rather than requiring a screenshot or a photo, you simply circle anything on your screen, and Google will try to find it. It’s incredibly convenient and one of the features I’ve used the most.
Finally, we have new AI-based tools for image and video editing. These features range from simple things, like adding a portrait mode blur to any photo, to more complex concepts, like the ability to pick up a subject and move it to another part of the frame. These ideas work well for the most part, but under scrutiny, you can often see odd artifacts and haloing when doing more complex edits. It’s still very impressive as it stands, and I can only imagine it getting more convincing over time.
My favorite editing tool is the ability to straighten out an image without needing to crop in. Samsung uses generative AI to fill in the corners. In certain scenes, the results can be nearly flawless. Of course, there are limitations, and if you have a complex object in the corner of your frame, it’s likely to introduce weirdness.
The S24 Ultra also allows you to add slow motion to any video clip by simply long-pressing the video as it plays in the Gallery app. The phone generates frames using AI to create an artificial 120fps slow-motion video, and if you like the way it looks, you can save a new slow-motion version. I had mixed results with this. It works well at times and appears impressively smooth, but if there’s anything too complicated going on, like the splashing of water, you’ll notice all kinds of strange effects. Still, it’s pretty cool and might be good enough for your Instagram feed.
Samsung tells us that it currently has no plans to charge for these new AI features, but despite that, the product listing on its website only guarantees that they’ll be free of charge until the end of 2025. It’s not likely to be a dealbreaker at this stage, but it’s worth noting so that you don’t get blindsided in a couple of years.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra looks a lot like the S23 Ultra, but on close inspection, there are plenty of changes to find. Firstly, it’s a little smaller in all dimensions and slightly lighter. We’re talking a couple of grams and millimeters, but with a phone of this size, every little helps.
This year, Samsung has swapped the Armor Aluminium frame for a titanium one, just like the iPhone 15 Pro series. It’s supposed to be 56% more durable than the aluminum frame, but I don’t think I’ve ever significantly damaged a frame, so that’s not something that matters to me. What matters is the look and feel. In that department, the new titanium frame is a winner. It has a matte finish that feels silky to the touch while remaining very grippy. It’s also much less smudge and scratch-prone than the glossy finish of its predecessor.
Gorilla Glass Victus 2 covers the rear of the phone, which also has a matte finish, and as someone who can’t stand fingerprint smudges, I love to see it. I have the Titanium Gray option for testing. The contrast of the high-gloss camera bezels and the light bronze frame give it a luxurious look and feel.
The S24 Ultra is slightly boxier than its predecessor. It has a completely flat display, and the rear panel is flat to match. There’s still a nice curve to the edges of the frame, but the corners are fairly sharp and can make this phone less comfortable to hold than its curvier siblings. On the plus side, this design means that the display has sharp edges, too, and it looks great for gaming and watching full-screen Netflix content.
Stylus fans will be happy to learn that the S Pen is still in its usual position, but it didn’t get much attention this year. I’m not an avid scribbler, so for the most part, I kind of forgot about it. However, it’s as functional as ever and unique to the Ultra. If you love handwriting notes or doodling on the go, this is the flagship for you.
The display offers the same resolution and refresh rate as the S23 Ultra, but its peak brightness output has increased to 2600 nits, up from 1750 nits. It’s also now completely flat, whereas the S23 Ultra had subtly curved edges on the left and right-hand sides. I’m a fan of this change. The curved edges might feel nice, but they can introduce distracting reflections and often make it hard to tap items at the very edge of the display.
The screen utilizes a brand new type of glass from Corning called Gorilla Armor, and it’s currently exclusive to the S24 Ultra. Samsung says it is four times more scratch-resistant, which is reassuring, especially as there’s no screen protector included as standard, but I haven’t had the phone for long enough to tell how true this is. What’s really exciting, though, is how resistant this glass is to reflections. You can immediately see the difference in holding this phone next to any other. Other screens look like a mirror with the display off, whereas the S24 Ultra dulls your reflection.
Together, these improvements make for a seriously impressive display, and probably my favorite of any smartphone available right now. It looks great in all lighting conditions, can boost bright enough to compete with bright sunlight, and the slimmer bezels and smaller camera cutout make for an incredibly slick and modern look.
It’s an LTPO panel, which means it can shift from 120Hz down to as little as 1Hz, depending on what you’re looking at, and this should aid in conserving battery life. No matter whether I’m gaming, scrolling through social media, or watching content on YouTube and Netflix, this display always looks brilliant.
If you like to tweak your color settings, you get a few options in the settings menu, but they’re much more limited than I’ve seen on other Android devices. When things look this good as standard, though, I can’t imagine many complaints.
The ultrasonic under-display fingerprint scanner is the same as the one on the S23 Ultra. It’s worth mentioning, though, as it’s one of the best fingerprint scanners around. It’s fast, accurate, and won’t blind you in a dark room, which is always a plus.
Most of the cameras on the S24 Ultra are the same as the ones on the S23 Ultra, except for a 50MP 5x telephoto camera replacing the 10MP 10x telephoto camera lens. I was nervous about this decision, as I assumed it would make 10x (and above) shots look far worse, but thankfully, that’s not the case. In fact, in most lighting conditions, the high-resolution 5x telephoto actually outclasses the older 10x lens. Of course, it goes without saying that 5x shots are massively improved, too.
The new 5x camera has a 1.6x larger sensor than the old telephoto and offers better optical image stabilization. This change means it looks far better in low-light situations, though things start to get a little noisy at 10x zoom and above.
Otherwise, the images you can produce on the S24 Ultra are remarkably similar to those captured on the S23 Ultra. The only noticeable difference is that Samsung seems to have toned down the color processing slightly, favoring a more natural look with less exaggeration. It looks better, but it’s not a dramatic shift, and the two phones are easily comparable.
That said, the S23 Ultra was already a top-tier photographic performer, and the same goes for S24 Ultra. Images look consistently fantastic, and I was particularly impressed by the accuracy of the portrait mode cutouts, which are a cut above those you’ll get from a Google Pixel camera.
For video shooting, the S24 Ultra offers up to 8K recording on its main lens and 5x telephoto, while the other cameras max out at 4K60. If you like to shoot slow motion, the S24 Ultra is one of the best options, as it can shoot 4K 120fps on the primary camera with high-quality image fidelity.
Qualcomm’s most powerful chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, powers the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, so we already know it’s going to game well. However, Samsung takes things a step further and employs a special “for Galaxy” edition of the SoC, which effectively has an overclock on the GPU and CPU. It’s paired with an ample 12GB of RAM to aid in multitasking, which is true of all the storage variants.
To keep things cool, Samsung has almost doubled the size of its vapor chamber, but even with this enhancement, the S24 Ultra gets pretty toasty under load. It’s not hot enough to be concerning, but you’ll definitely feel the area near the cameras heating up during an extended play session.
In benchmarks, the S24 Ultra falls slightly behind gaming handsets like the ROG Phone 8 Pro and RedMagic 9 Pro, most likely due to the cooling difficulties. Still, it scored a respectable 4854 in 3DMark Wildlife Extreme, which puts it above the Xiaomi 14 Pro and about on par with the OnePlus 12.
In the real world, you’re in for a great time. You can max out the settings in graphically demanding titles like Genshin Impact and enjoy smooth 60fps gameplay. The beautiful display, with its sharp corners and small camera cutout, makes gaming look better than ever.
The Galaxy One UI features its own gaming overlay, but it’s on the basic side. Still, it offers some value, including the ability to mute incoming calls and notifications, prioritize game performance, and access Discord quickly.
My only real gripe with the S24 Ultra, other than its warmer-than-usual temperatures, is the speaker placement on the base of the phone. When held in landscape orientation, my palm is almost always muffling this speaker, and that’s quite frustrating, as when you’re not blocking the speakers they sound fantastic.
The battery life of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is nothing short of impressive. If used sparingly, this phone can happily see you through two days on a single charge. It’s the same capacity as last year, so it’s a real testament to the efficiency of Qualcomm’s latest chip.
Of course, if you’re gaming for hours or taking tons of photos and videos, your battery won’t last quite as long. However, even on days when I put a couple of hours into Genshin or took hundreds of photos, the phone always got me through the day with ease. There was usually still 20% or more left in the tank at bedtime, too.
When it’s charging time, you can refuel the S24 Ultra at up to 45W with a wired USB-C charger or 15W wirelessly. As usual for Samsung, there’s no charger in the box, just a USB-C cable. I’d really like to see these charging speeds improve a little, but 45W is fast enough to not feel like a burden. It takes just over an hour to charge from flat to full.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra?
While the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra isn’t a massive departure from its predecessor, it offers enough to keep things fresh and new. I can’t imagine existing Galaxy S23 Ultra owners rushing out to buy one, but if you’re coming from an older handset, it’s hard to go wrong with the S24 Ultra.
Every improvement made here makes for a better experience, resulting in probably the most well-rounded and feature-packed Android phone available right now. The performance is top-notch, only outclassed by actively cooled gaming phones, the software is slick, the design is ultra-premium, and the display is one of the best you can find on any phone. Plus, it takes great photos and videos, which you won’t find on a gaming-focused handset.
Then, there’s all the AI goodness that comes with this release. Some of these tools are genuinely useful for productivity, and the image editing abilities are a lot of fun to play with. This is an area where Samsung has a leg up over Apple, which has been relatively slow in rolling out any AI-powered features.
If our Samsung Galaxy S24 review hasn’t sold you, check out some of our suggestions for alternatives below.
iPhone 15 Pro Max
The S24 Ultra’s main competitor is the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and there are a lot of similarities between them. Both offer a titanium frame, blazing-fast performance, and brilliant cameras. Of course, you’ll need to be on board with Apple’s ecosystem, but if you are, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is also an excellent choice for gaming and everything else. With this option, you lose out on the S Pen and the AI features, but you save $100 and get access to some exclusive titles, too. For more on this one, check out our iPhone 15 Pro Max review.
ROG Phone 8 Pro
If you’re just looking for the ultimate performance, then the ROG Phone 8 Pro beats the S24 Ultra using its fancy AeroActive cooler, and it’s probably one of the best gaming phones available right now. However, you’ll be making a few sacrifices. The camera performance isn’t as good, and the software isn’t as polished, either. Still, it’s a good option for die-hard gamers. If this gaming phone piques your interest, see our ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro Edition review.