Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review

We review the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, an incredible smartphone and easily one of the best phones you can buy in Australia right now.

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10Expert Score
A Galaxy of excellence: The S24 age of Ultra

Samsung’s 2024 flagship smartphone is the best phone the company has ever produced, and is impressive in its performance.

Design
10
Performance
10
Pros
  • Lightning fast performance
  • Truly magnificent camera
  • Best screen on a phone
  • Strong battery life
Cons
  • AI functionality is typically buried in menus
  • Quite heavy
  • Pricey

Last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra was one of the best phones ever released. It was the first product we ever inducted into the BTTR Hall of Fame. We rated it a full 10/10 in our review.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is better in almost every way.

It is blazingly fast. Its camera system is ridiculously good, with photos that look absolutely fantastic. The screen is spellbinding.

The AI features Samsung has incorporate into the phone all work pretty well, though I found I had to remind myself to try them, given a lot of them were buried within menus.

But importantly, the AI features don’t detract from the overall experience of this phone. It’s not perfect, but you also don’t have to use it.

Which makes it easy to state that the S24 Ultra is the best phone money can buy right now. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Design

I suppose it’s no real coincidence that both Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro models and the new Galaxy S24 Ultra are framed with Titanium. 

The premium metal is strong and lightweight (for metal, anyway), and looks and feels great. On the S24 Ultra, it surrounds the huge 6.8-inch AMOLED display. 

What’s more, the phone comes in a range of “Titanium” colours, and while the review unit I tested was Titanium Grey, the Titanium Violet model looks pretty stunning.

While Titanium is a more lightweight option than stainless steel, the phone itself is still pretty heavy, weighing in at 232 grams. It’s not too heavy, but it’s certainly not something you want to spend a long time holding up at eye level.

Visually, the S24 Ultra looks similar to last year’s S23 Ultra. There are differences between the phones, but at a distance, you’d struggle to identify them. 

(Though honestly, at a distance, could you pick apart any two phones from the front? Foldables aside, it has been a while since smartphones have mixed up their core design.)

Display

Browsing BTTR on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra display

The big slab of glass on the front of the S24 Ultra is, in a word, spectacular.

Samsung has opted for a flat screen this year, and while that subtle change is barely noticeable visually, it does give a different tactile experience. In particular, the corners feel a lot sharper.

If you carry your phone in a jeans pocket, expect to see the outline of the phone etched into the fabric.

But switch the S24 Ultra on, and you’ll see what is undoubtedly the best screen ever packed into a smartphone. 

With a QHD+ resolution (3120 × 1440 pixels), and a max refresh rate of 120Hz, the Dynamic AMOLED 2X screen absolutely pops. 

You can comfortably use the phone in full sun and clearly see what’s on the screen. Even the pinhole camera on the front of the phone is a minor distraction. 

Honestly, it’s difficult to overstate how nice the S24 Ultra’s screen is to look at. It’s like a miniature TV in your pocket, with the tiniest bezel around the outside of the screen leading into the Titanium frame. 

Specs

Taking a note on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra smartphone with the S-Pen

The S24 Ultra is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor for Galaxy and comes with 12 GB of RAM inside. You can grab the phone with either 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB of storage space.

Samsung has been getting the Snapdragon 8 processor to sing for the past few generations of S series Ultra phones, but this year, it is absolutely euphonious.

Similarly, the camera array is magnificent. You get a 200 MP (f/1.7) main wide-angle camera lens, plus 50MP (f/3.4) zoom, 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide and 10MP (f/2.4) zoom lenses, which offer 3x and 5x optical zoom and 2x and 10x optical quality zoom.

While it’s clear when you look at the photos that software does a fair amount of heavy lifting in creating the images, the results mostly speak for themselves.

The phone also offers 8K (7680 × 4320) video recording at 30 fps, and 240 fps slow motion at Full HF resolution. 

The bottom left-hand corner of the phone houses the S-Pen stylus, which can be used for everything from a remote shutter for your camera to a note-taking device to creating shortcuts for your most popular apps.

You also get wireless charging of the 5,000 mAh battery, Bluetooth 5.3 support and Wi-Fi compatibility up to 802.11be (across 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz ranges). 

It all adds up to a quick phone, with impressive battery life. And that’s before we start looking at the shiny new AI features and functions.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Performance

Small hand holding the Galaxy S24 Ultra, looking at the camera array

Let’s get the benchmarking data out of the way first here because it’s interesting but far from the most important detail of the S24 Ultra’s performance.

I’ve stacked it up against the iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, Google Pixel 8, Galaxy Z Fold 5 and last year’s S23 Ultra to show how it performs:

Single-core

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
2161
Google Pixel 8
1562
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
2289
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
2892
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
1999
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
1967

Multi-core

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
6653
Google Pixel 8
4216
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
5388
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
7196
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
5286
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
5088

GPU

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
11208
Google Pixel 8
5071
Apple iPhone 15 Plus
22784
Apple iPhone 15 Pro
27332
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
9100
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
3568

As you can see, the S24 Ultra holds its own on the benchmark front, but can’t quite take the mantle from last year’s iPhone 15 or 15 Pro.

But benchmarks aren’t actually that useful in the real world. Sure, they help for an objective comparison point, but when it comes to actually using a smartphone, it doesn’t capture the details.

Like the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is fast. It feels ridiculously fast. I’ve been using the iPhone 15 Pro as my daily phone since I reviewed it, and the S24 Ultra feels like a lightning bolt compared to the iPhone.

It’s the most subtle of things, too. Like unlocking the device, and the transition between screens moves quickly. 

Or swiping between apps. Or browsing a website. All of these things feel faster than any other device I’ve ever used. Samsung has managed to get the S24 Ultra to respond to commands almost before they happen, so you don’t have to wait for your app to load.

Camera performance

The camera array of the S24 Ultra does have a slight dip in specs from the S23 Ultra, in that the optical zoom has dropped from 10x to 5x. Samsung has increased the megapixel count in its place, and uses software to create a 10x “optical quality” zoom.

You do still get the 100x “Space Zoom” feature as well, and while it won’t give you a printable photo, it’s still ridiculously impressive in the quality the photo can achieve.

Samsung has always had a tendency to over-saturate its images, and it looks like the S24 Ultra has dialled that back a bit. Images in bright sunshine still pop, but the phone does an impressive job balancing difficult lighting and colour reproduction.

Portrait modes do a good job of creating a blurred background and that false bokeh effect, though the rear cameras typically do a better job of it, as you would expect.

Here are a bunch of sample images taken over the course of the review. They’ve been resized and optimised for the internet, but otherwise unedited.

Let’s talk about AI

One of the biggest marketing elements around this year’s S24 Ultra is Galaxy AI, Samsung’s catchall expression to capture the advanced functions the phone can deliver from advanced machine learning.

Samsung has incorporated plenty of functions into the phone under the moniker of AI. To be honest, over the (slightly less than) two weeks I had testing the phone, I probably only tested a fraction of them because many of the features were buried in menus and sub menus.

The flagship feature, which has since arrived on Pixel devices, is circle to search. Using the S-Pen or your finger, you can circle anything on the screen, and it will search Google for a result.

This can prove quite useful. Watching a video and can’t identify an actor? Simply press and hold the home button, then circle their face to get some search results to discover their identity. Need to search a word’s definition? Circle the word and get a definition.

You can add to the search parameter after every circle search as well, so if you were to be searching a picture of the Galaxy S24, for example, you could also ask the search to identify cases for this product.

As with all things Google Search related, your results may vary because Google’s Search results typically vary.

Perhaps the AI feature I appreciated the most, however, was the ability to colourise old black and white photos.

It was a bit of a process to get this to work for me, as it’s a feature built into the Samsung Gallery app and I typically lean towards Google Photos as my gallery of choice on Android.

After downloading the pics, which were more sepia than black and white, I had to save them as black and white through a filter. 

And then, to add the colour, you need to navigate through the information button rather than the edit button. This feels moderately counterintuitive to me, and is but one example of Samsung burying the AI features a bit too much.

But the results from colourising are pretty good. Here’s a photo of my dad as a young man. I scanned the photo in a few years ago, and you can see the print had a bit of damage in the bottom corner.

blank

And here’s the colourised version:

blank

Not every photo worked out as well — a lot of my old black and whites are scanned, and the detail isn’t as clear as a modern photo.

But it’s still an impressive feature. In the future, I’m excited about it becoming even easier — a one-touch option that automatically fixes the damage to the photo while adding colour at the same time, for example.

And for what it’s worth, I tested taking a colour photo with plenty of detail, making it black and white, then colourising it again. Here are the results:

Which just goes to show how far there still is for the tech to progress.

Part of me wonders if that’s why Samsung has buried so many of the AI features in menus: because it’s not quite at the level that it wows every time.

Either way, it’s good to know that the technology is only going to get better over time.

Battery life

The S24 Ultra comes with a 5,000mAh battery. That’s the same size as all the best Android phones these days. Last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra offered 5,000mAh.

But Samsung has achieved fantastic results of optimising the software on the S24 Ultra. On any given day, my phone typically sits at about 50% as I give up on the death scroll of social media and decide to crawl into bed.

Obviously, the amount you use your phone will impact how much battery you use, but I found the S24 Ultra’s battery to be pretty great during my testing.

The S24 Ultra on a table

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Verdict

2,000 words later, I think I can best summarise my thoughts on the S24 Ultra by saying, quite emphatically, this is the best phone on the market right now.

Obviously, it’s also one of the most expensive, so not everybody will be able to make the investment to try it out for themselves.

If you do, though, you can rest easy knowing that Samsung has committed to seven years of software updates for the phone. This means you can take advantage of those AI features, fantastic camera and display and solid battery life for years to come.

There’s room for growth with the AI features, and Samsung would do well to better surface all that functionality for the less technically minded users.

But even without AI, this is still an incredible phone. With top-tier performance across the board, this is an exciting flagship that throws down the gauntlet for all other phone manufacturers. 

2024 will be an exciting year for smartphones.

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Product disclosure

Samsung supplied the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

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