Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra is a great phone, easily the best flagship Android handset available right now.
|Excellent CPU and GPU performance
|Phone edges are pointy without a case
|Superb 120Hz capable display
|Cameras work well in all situations
|No storage expansion
|Buy The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra!
|Buy On Amazon
Samsung’s Galaxy S line has been its reliable flagship brand for many years now. If you look at the phones that Australians buy in any significant quantity, in the premium space, it’s always positioned as a battle between industry heavyweights Apple and Samsung, because these are the phones that people actually buy.
Coming up with something new – beyond expected upgrades like faster processors – is a daunting task, especially when you’re talking about the Ultra model of the Galaxy S family. That’s meant to be the phone that exemplifies the brand, the absolute best of the best, with a price tag to match.
There’s definitely an argument to be had about the relative value of premium smartphones given that the Galaxy S24 Ultra pricing starts at a wallet-bending $2,199 and upwards. That’s a lot of dough – and Samsung’s delivered a lot of phone in the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
The days when Samsung radically redesigned phones year on year are, it seems, behind us, with the primary design change in the Galaxy S24 Ultra coming from the fact that it features an entirely flat display. Measuring in on the diagonal at 6.8 inches, every time I pull the Galaxy S24 Ultra out of my pocket, I feel like I’m revealing a tiny Samsung TV – and I mean that in a very positive way.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 3120×1440 Dynamic AMOLED 2X 120Hz display is one of the very best I’ve ever seen on a mobile phone, hands down.
It’s bright enough to be seen clearly even in very bright sunlight, with minimal disruption from its front-facing camera hole. I’m struck by the fact that Samsung’s been offering up in-display cameras on its Galaxy Fold line for a few years now, and I can only assume the single reason the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t feature one is because Samsung can’t seem to get them working at premium resolutions just yet.
If I have one criticism of the flat design – and this is very pedantic in a way – its’ that the flat sides accentuate the rigid sides, making it feel a little sharp on the sides if it’s not in a case.
Samsung didn’t loan me a case with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but I’d be throwing one around it quickly. OK, you got me, I’d be doing that anyway, but aside from protection, a case would also smooth out the pointier ridges on the side of the Galaxy S24 Ultra nicely.
The body of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is finished in Titanium (I’m *cough* sure Samsung thought of that independently *cough*) in Titanium Grey, Titanium Black, Titanium Violet, Titanium Yellow, Titanium Blue, Titanium Green or Titanium Orange.
The latter three colours are only officially available through Samsung itself, while the Grey, Black, Violet and Yellow finishes are available anywhere it’s sold.
Samsung loaned me a Titanium Grey model, which has a rather stern feel to it in my view. I’d probably opt for the Blue if it were my money, but it’s at least nice to see such a wide variety of colours available to suit all tastes.
Control-wise, you’re talking standard power and volume buttons up the right side, while the base houses the S-Pen that’s been at home in the Galaxy S Ultra series ever since the Note got the flick, as well as a
dual Nano-SIM tray – though not one with any kind of microSD expansion capability.
Update: The model supplied to me for review was dual SIM, but it appears that Australian retail stock is single Nano SIM+eSIM only.
Flip the Galaxy S24 Ultra over, and you’ll see lenses. A lot of lenses, with five tiny eyes staring back at you, begging you to engage in some photographic creativity work.
Specifically, it’s headed up with a 200MP wide sensor, 12MP ultra-wide and dual telephoto with 10MP 3x and 50MP 3x sensors.
At the front, selfie taking is handled with a 12MP sensor. As always, the photographic prowess of a camera phone is far more than just the sum of its megapixels, though it is interesting to note that Samsung’s opted for a drop in absolute telephoto zoom from the 10x found on the S23 Ultra to 5x on the S24 Ultra.
The tradeoff there is a much higher megapixel count on the sensor itself, such that Samsung talks about it having a “10x Optical Quality Zoom”.
But how does that play out when you’re shooting distant targets? Mostly well, up to a point. As with prior Samsung long telephoto lenses, it still carries the (sigh) “Space Zoom” branding to suggest it’s capable of up to 100x zoom.
As with prior Space Zoom Samsung phones, there’s definitely a point at which the quality drops to little more than novelty value, but it’s still impressive to see just how far you can push that.
To give a practical example, I got dive bombed while out on a walk by a sulphur crested cockatoo jerkbird, one of Australia’s fine native avians while testing the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It flew up onto some power lines, so I figured I’d invade its privacy by way of subtle revenge.*
Here’s the ultra-wide shot, where it’s basically only just visible:
Here’s the 3x zoom, which is the same as its 10MP 3x sensor (though it’s almost certainly doing a little hybrid work at each distance)
Stepping up to 5x is still solid:
As is 10x zoom:
30x zoom works well, and I’ve long found this to be the sweet spot for Samsung’s space zoom cameras:
But I know, you want to see what 100x Space Zoom looks like from a handheld shot.
Well, OK then. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:
It’s an amusing shot, because it decided to have a squawk as I was taking the photo, but it’s not really anything I can use.
What I can use is the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s general output, which is pleasing for everything from landscapes to macro shots, and of course, the Internet’s favourite subjects, cats:
A flagship phone also has to be able to compete in the low light arena, so to test that, I took the Galaxy S24 Ultra out for a little low light shooting, along with direct competitors the Apple iPhone 15 Pro and Google Pixel 8 Pro.
Just to show exactly how glamorous tech journalism is, this was late at night, it was dark, and it was raining, because if you’re going to suffer for the art, you may as well suffer properly.
First stop, a local sports field that I’ve used for more than a decade for this kind of testing. Here’s how each phone compared:
The iPhone 15 Pro delivered a more colour-saturated shot while the Pixel 8 Pro delivered a muddier presentation, and the S24 Ultra sat in-between. It’s pretty close between all three given how dark it actually was.
Then a longer distance shot, looking at the clubhouse from a darkened position:
Again, while I’d give the edge to the iPhone here, the S24 Ultra is no slouch, delivering marginally better detail than the Pixel 8 Pro.
Nearby, someone had left a jacket and umbrella hanging out in the rain. I couldn’t pick the colour of the jacket in the dim conditions, but could the Galaxy S24 Ultra?
The S24 Ultra takes that one, with a considerably brighter shot that picks up a lot more detail.
And finally a low light selfie in portrait mode — not exactly in the conditions where you might want to take too many selfies, but it’s a good stress test:
A pretty easy win there for the S24 Ultra, though it would be dishonest of me not to point out why the Apple phone did so poorly here. In portrait mode, both Samsung and Google’s phones recognise that it’s a low light situation and provide a quick lighting circle on the phone screen itself prior to taking the shot, making for easier portrait mode selfies. Apple doesn’t do this in portrait selfie mode, but it does similar in regular selfie photo mode, leading to a better overall shot that looks like this:
While it did display the classic slightly oversaturated colours that Samsung’s post-processing seems to love, there’s no doubting that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a really powerful contender in the high end mobile photography space — which is exactly where it should be.
Samsung is also very keen to sell the Galaxy S24 Ultra on its AI prowess.
For photography, this is a matter of using AI in a way that’s highly reminiscent of Google’s “Magic Eraser” as found in the Pixel 8 Pro. Samsung’s Photo Editor (which has to be enabled in Settings before it’s even apparent) allows you to remove objects or shuffle them around, with its AI filling in the blanks in what’s meant to be a contextually appropriate way.
Samsung’s AI editing software is notably a little slower than Google’s efforts. You’ve got to give it a bit of time to work its magic, and quite how much magic it’s able to work will depend on your image of choice.
Take this photo of an escalator:
Let’s say I want just the escalator, not the guy on it. How well does photo editor handle that if I let it send the image to Samsung’s data cloud?
That’s… not exactly great, though I guess the guy is technically “gone” from the photo.
It’s even more comically weird if I restrict the phone to on-device processing, though it’s also worth noting that this won’t work at all if the phone doesn’t have some kind of data connection – which means it’s shifting some data somewhere to make it all happen:
I seem to have consigned that innocent escalator traveller to some kind of hell dimension there. It’s a worse shot for the intent though, as it’s far more clear that there used to be someone there that I’m trying to remove.
All up, it’s not terribly different to what I’ve seen from the very similar Magic Editor on Google’s Pixel phones, where more complex backgrounds struggle to be resolved.
AI image editing is rather like this; for every shot where it’ll make you feel like a photoshop wizard, there will be another where you’re more like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a flimsy curtain and hoping nobody will spot the obvious seams.
Still, overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra shoots well, as a camera phone in its space should. Samsung’s stuck to its typical style of offering up slightly oversaturated post-processing, but that’s a style that seems to suit a lot of folks very well indeed.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Sample Photos
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, but there’s an important qualification to make here. That’s the processor at the heart of every S24 Ultra, but it’s not the case that it trickles down to the S24 Plus or base level S24 here in Australia.
Instead, those models use Samsung’s own Exynos 2400 silicon, though some international models are Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 enabled. On the surface, it would appear that if you want the fastest Samsung phone right now, that’s only the S24 Ultra; when I inquired with Samsung Australia about getting an S24 or S24 Plus in for review – I like to be comprehensive – I was told that could only happen if I didn’t benchmark them.
That’s not a big vote of confidence in the Exynos 2400’s comparative performance, but then the story there has long been that the Exynos versions of a given Samsung phone were a little slower, but you got better battery life in return.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra features 12GB of RAM across all variants and either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of onboard fixed storage; the model Samsung loaned to me for review was the entry level 256GB model.
For some years now, Qualcomm’s made big promises around processor performance, especially relative to Apple’s own A series processors as found in models like the Apple iPhone 15 Pro.
For some years now, it’s been trailing badly in comparative benchmark terms. So how does the Galaxy S24 Ultra compare? Here’s how it stacks up against other flagship competition using Geekbench 6’s CPU test:
That’s not quite beating Apple – but it’s way closer than anyone’s come to date, and a big jump in capabilities for Snapdragon processors.
It gets even more interesting when we look at 3D performance through the lens of 3DMark’s Wild Life Extreme benchmark:
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is clearly a powerful phone with some impressive graphics capabilities, though I do have to put a slight asterisk here, simply because it’s powerful, but there’s still not much in the Android space that’s pushing that power.
The iPhone 15 Pro in the comparison above can run titles like Resident Evil 4 (which I reviewed in that form for Kotaku Australia), but to date there’s not so much of an effort to bring AAA titles to the Android platform.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra can breeze through higher-end Android gaming titles, but then those games also have to run on considerably lesser hardware. It would be nice to see titles that really pushed these premium phones to make the most of their power.
You will at least be able to get a decent number of years out of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which ships with Android 14 and the promise of 7 years of both security and operating system updates. It puts it on par with the Pixel 8 Pro – but for a much more powerful device, which means it’ll stay current and useful for a much longer span as well. That’s hugely commendable, and it’s great to see more Android manufacturers getting on board with long term update commitments.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is 5G capable, but like every other Samsung 5G phone to date it is… sigh… only sub 6Ghz capable, not mmWave capable the way competitors like the Google Pixel 8 Pro is.
Samsung could make a version that was mmWave compatible for Australia, but it doesn’t, and that’s irksome in a phone that’s meant to be the pinnacle of what it can do in a standard smartphone form factor for the year.
As such, I hit pretty much my expected sub-6Ghz speed brackets when testing with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, in the range of 300-600Mbps at best. I can get that out of a much cheaper phone, however, so while mmWave coverage is scant in Australia, it would make the Galaxy S24 Ultra properly stand out. As it is, it just plays along.
Then we come to the other big selling point of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, that being “Galaxy AI”. That’s Samsung’s catch-all marketing term for a suite of AI features built into the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Some of them are Samsung specific, while others are more broadly features that it’s grabbed early from Google – which is to say that they’re also now available for select Pixel devices, and probably other Android phones down the track.
Of the new AI features, easily my favourite would have to be circle to search. It’s a simple image search facility that kicks into gear with a long press of the virtual home button – or the navigation handle if you’re using gesture navigation – that allows you to then encircle anything on screen in seemingly any app at all. Google will then search for whatever it is you’ve circled and give you its best guess as to pertinent results.
The actual process is quite fun, whether you use your finger or the S-Pen for the actual circling, though results that come through can vary pretty widely. I can’t fault Samsung for that; a great many of the weirder results I’ve hit are pretty clearly due to the way that Google’s search index is (cough) not quite as reliable as it used to be. Those SEO people have a lot to answer for…
Circle to Search is a Google feature, however, and if you’ve got a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro and it’s been updated since the 31st of January 2024, you’ve also got access to it. As yet no other manufacturers have put their hands up to say they’re getting it, but it’s one of those features – especially since it’s built around search – that feels like it’s just a matter of time.
Then there’s the summarising function, available across Samsung Notes and Samsung’s own Internet browser. This gives you a quick AI-led precis of your notes or a web page, which could speed research… but again, I have notes of caution.
Here’s how it interpreted my review of UFO Drive’s EV hiring service:
Now, that’s not measurably wrong, but there’s an awful lot of actual detail that’s lost in that summary, and it’s detail that could shape how you viewed that review and service. In trying to be concise, it’s missed quite a lot.
It’s much the same story for Samsung’s Interpreter function, which lets you translate conversations between languages in near real time.
It’s almost certainly leaning on Google Translate for this to some extent, because it shows the same kinds of clunky mechanical translation errors that Google does.
Testing with English to Japanese and back again showed that it’s workable to an extent for very simple sentences and constructions, but anything more complex or rapid-fire and it can become hilariously weird.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra packs in a 5,000mAh sealed battery, absolutely in line with… well, with even the most basic of Android phones these days, because unless you’re a folding phone, I’m more surprised when an Android phone doesn’t have a 5,000mAh battery sitting beneath its screen.
This is another area where Samsung’s processor choices may have an impact on your battery life. While I can’t test an Exynos 2400 versions of the rest of the S24 family, and as far as I know an Exynos 2400 version of the S24 Ultra doesn’t exist, Snapdragon processors have historically been a little worse on battery life, in return for their improved performance. Add in that glorious but no-doubt-battery-sapping screen, and there’s a recipe for compromised battery life.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case in my testing, either with a straight up benchmark, or in anecdotal day to day usage.
First of all, my standard YouTube battery test, which runs a full-screen, full brightness 1080p video at moderate volume for an hour to show relative battery usage from a fully charged phone. What I look for here is as high above 90% as possible, to indicate a phone that’s likely to last out a full working day.
Prior Samsung Galaxy S phones have had variable results with this test. Here’s how the Galaxy S24 Ultra compares against its contemporaries:
The Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t quite beat out the Google Pixel 8 Pro, but given that it’s working off a considerably more powerful processor and better screen, I know which one I’d pick given the choice.
It’s good to note that it’s also seen a battery life improvement over its predecessor as well.
That battery test gives me a decent visual guide to comparative performance, and pleasingly, the Galaxy S24 Ultra did not disappoint when it came to real-world performance.
As always if you play high-end games or ask the S24 Ultra to shoot 8K video for hours at a time you’ll see the battery life plummet, but for everyday use, I was regularly hitting 50% or more remaining by the time 5pm rolled around. That gives you plenty of scope for after-hours usage too, even if you can’t reach a power point or wireless charging hub in the meantime.
It is a tad disappointing that the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t feature Qi2 charging with its neat, Apple-esque magnetic alignment technology under the hood. Instead you get fast charging up to 45W for wired connections, though there’s no charger in the box, or via Qi wireless charging at up to 15W.
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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Alex’s Verdict
Honestly, on paper, I kind of figured Samsung was coasting a little this year, delivering faster hardware but not much more, resting heavily on the promises of “Galaxy AI”. It’s been down this road before, delivering capable flagship hardware that just wasn’t that exciting.
I was wrong.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is a really exceptional phone, even at its premium price point.
It’s easily the best flagship Android phone money can buy right now with superb performance, nicely capable (and fun) cameras and a great display. The S-Pen hasn’t seen huge updates unless you like circle to search a lot, but it’s not as though you couldn’t ignore it completely if you didn’t want it, because it’s embedded anyway.
Galaxy AI doesn’t entirely live up to the hype for now, though as with all AI-related projects, there’s scope for it to learn and improve over the years. With seven years of updates, this is a phone you could invest in now and find to be quite a different beast a few years down the track.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Pricing and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra retails in Australia with pricing starting at $2199.
|Buy The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra!
|Buy On Amazon
*The jerkbird did not care at all about having its photo taken. My revenge was hollow.