Smartphones have become truly ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives and as we step into a new era of AI-powered tech, we’re going to see phones that try to use AI to further enhance the things we do with our devices every day. Samsung is hoping to get an early start on that trend with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. However, while this phone does add some seemingly useful AI use cases, like having a glorified Grammarly for your text messages, the S24 Ultra really just excels in being a great smartphone, but at a starting price of $1299, it kind of has to.
It’s a gorgeous device, cased in Titanium with a beautiful AMOLED display. You just have to hold the phone for a couple seconds to see what kind of difference this makes: it’s a premium device that feels a step above pretty much everything on the market right now. It’s the same reason the iPhone 15 Pro Max feels like it’s in a class of its own, and now Apple’s flagship finally has a companion.
Samsung Galaxy S24
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra – Design and Features
At first look, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra looks like every other Galaxy device that’s come out in the last few years. It’s a rectangular glass brick with rounded edges, making the display blend seamlessly into the chassis of the device with minimal bezels. But take a closer look, and the upgrades we get this year are striking.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra was constructed out of “Armor” aluminum. This time around, however, the chassis is constructed out of titanium, much like the iPhone 15 Pro Max. The most obvious result of this new frame is the weight of the device. Weighing in at 8.22oz, you can feel the difference immediately, this is a substantial device, and the weight of it makes it feel premium.
Samsung also claims the new Titanium frame, along with the new version of Gorilla Glass, makes this the most durable Galaxy smartphone to date. I can’t really test for that without potentially destroying the phone, but I can say that the phone definitely feels more durable as a result of the new frame. You should probably still put it in a case, though.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra also has an absolutely gorgeous display, just like the S23 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 5 did last year. You get a 6.8-inch 1440p AMOLED display with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz. There are two different ways you can configure the refresh rate, with a “Standard” setting and an “Adaptive” setting. Standard basically keeps you locked at a steady 60Hz, while Adaptive will automatically adjust your refresh rate depending on what is being displayed at the time. This could go up to 120Hz, but it’s not guaranteed that it will stay at that refresh rate all the time.
This makes sense, as refreshing the display 120 times every second when it’s not necessary would just eat up your battery for pretty much no reason. And, even with the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, there are plenty of times that you’ll be playing games locked in at a lower framerate, even if the phone could do more. Better to match the display’s refresh rate to the actual frame rate of the content – that’s why G-Sync and Freesync are such a boon for the best gaming monitors.
The in-screen fingerprint reader also makes a comeback, although you don’t have to rely on it if you don’t want to for whatever reason. You can also use your face to unlock the S24 Ultra, although the fingerprint scanner is way faster. I don’t know why Samsung insists on including other biometric login options, because none of them ever match how fast and easy its fingerprint reader is.
On the right side of the device you get your volume rocker and the lock button, both of which feel incredibly solid. Gone are the mushy volume keys of smartphones past. On the bottom of the device is where you’ll find the USB-C port for data and charging, along with the incredible S-Pen. The S-Pen is exclusive to the S24 Ultra, which basically makes it the Samsung Galaxy Note 24 in everything but name, but it should become a standard feature. Every single year, this little stylus gets better.
Writing down notes, poking around the device, doing a bit of doodling – it all feels incredible with the new S-Pen. And, thanks to the new AI features, the Pen becomes even more useful. For instance, you can go to an image, hold down the home button and draw a circle around anything in the picture, and it’ll attempt to Google whatever it is.
This is Samsung’s AI Smartphone, For Better or Worse
AI is probably the hottest thing in the tech world right now, and it didn’t even take a month into 2024 to get a new smartphone that makes AI one of its biggest selling points. The Samsung Galaxy S24 is dripping with AI features, but at this point they feel like gimmicky add-ons, rather than a central feature for the smartphone.
Probably the most useful of these features in every day life is live translate. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra can translate phone calls or text messages in real time, making it incredibly useful when traveling. This also works in your notes. All you have to do is press the little stars icon that will show up in the body of your note and select what you want the AI algorithm to do.
That’s pretty much the case wherever you can use AI on your phone. For instance, when you’re editing photos in the gallery, there will be a little stars icon that will help you edit your photo incredibly quickly. You can even pull out your S-Pen, circle an item you want to cut out of your image, and the phone will patch the photo up by taking samples from the surrounding image and assuming what would be in that object’s place.
All of this is cool, and I did genuinely enjoy playing with it on the day I opened the phone up and started using it. A few days later, though, and I forgot all of these features even existed. They’re definitely nice, but none of them perform quite good enough to rely on every day. It’s a promising start, though. AI is being worked into phones, laptops and more, and it’s going to take a while to iron out all the kinks. It’s not that long ago that virtual assistants were nothing more than a silly little gimmick, after all.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra – Camera
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra was already one of the best camera phones on the market, especially if you are ok with software touching up your photos after you take them. But because AI was already such a huge selling point for the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, you better bet the camera got some of the artificially intelligent love.
Samsung has included a whole suite of AI tools for your camera, from a “Nightography” mode that will greatly improve the camera in low light environments, whether you’re taking photos or video. You can also record a video and add slow motion effects by simply navigating to a video in your gallery app and holding down on the screen during the part you want slowed down.
Samsung Galaxy S24 camera samples
But there’s obviously more to a camera than flashy software, and the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra features a whopping 5 lenses, including a 200MP Wide sensor, a 12 MP ultra wide sensor, and a 50MP zoom sensor. Even without the software touching up your shots, you would expect to get some incredible performance out of this setup, but I was immediately impressed with the camera.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra also has a 12MP selfie cam, and it’s incredible. Say what you will about Samsung’s post processing, but my selfies on the Galaxy S24 look incredible.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra – Performance and Gaming
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the first phones on the market to feature the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC, or System-on-a-Chip. This features an 8-core CPU, and a GPU with 1,536 shading units, so while it’s not going to dethrone one of the best gaming laptops any time soon, it’s extremely powerful for a device that’ll be in your pocket all day.
Samsung pairs this powerful SoC with 12GB of RAM and three different storage options: 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. Because the size of the storage doesn’t affect performance, no matter what option you go for, you can expect an extremely fast smartphone. It’s unlikely you’ll notice any improvement if you’re upgrading from a year-old device like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, but if you haven’t upgraded your phone in a while, this device will definitely feel lightning fast in your hands.
One of the best parts of a phone with a 6.8-inch display is multitasking, and the huge amount of RAM makes sure that you can switch between apps without feeling any lag at all. There’s even enough headroom here that you can pin apps in the multi-tasking view and keep them running as if they weren’t in the background – especially useful for games.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been playing Hearthstone Battlegrounds, switched to another app while waiting for the turn timer to burn out and then returning 30 seconds later to find that I’ve been disconnected. Not an issue here.
Of course, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is also extremely good at running all of the most demanding Android games. Even going into the settings for Genshin Impact and raising everything to the max with a 60 fps target, the GPU easily stays locked at 60 fps the entire time.
Game Booster also returns to the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which makes this device one of the best gaming phones around right now. Basically, this is a tool that can help you manage performance, and even has plugins that you can download that lets you monitor performance information in real time, just like you can do on PC. Its an incredibly powerful tool if you play a lot of mobile games, and even has settings that can help the performance of games that may not have been updated in a while by smoothing transitions.
It really shouldn’t be surprising that a $1299 phone is a performance monster, but if you play a lot of mobile games and you have the money to burn, this is the phone to get. Period.