Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Smart Phones

Samsung Galaxy S24 Hands-on Review: Compact powerhouse with a sprinkle of AI

Samsung Galaxy S24 Intro

Looking for a great compact phone? The just unveiled Samsung Galaxy S24 might be your best option.

The Galaxy S24 combines a compact size with an improved design, it has faster performance, improved cameras, and a sprinkle of magical “Galaxy AI” all around.

“Compact” here is a relative term: at 6.2 inches, the Galaxy S24 is not quite as small as mini phones of the recent past, but in 2024 when most phones come with giant 6.7-inch+ screens, it fits the bill.

So let’s take a look at all the new features and see why the Galaxy S24 could well be the best compact phone of the year.

What’s new about the Galaxy S24

  • Evolved design with flat sides
  • Slimmer screen borders, uniform bezel
  • Compact 6.2″ size
  • Fast Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor (in the US)
  • But still only 8GB of RAM
  • New “Galaxy AI” features
  • Same triple camera hardware, but new camera processing
  • Slightly bigger, 4000mAh battery
  • Unchanged charging speeds
  • $800 starting price

Table of Contents:

Galaxy S24 Specs

Same price, lots of smaller refinements

Galaxy S24 Design & Colors

Flat sides and thinner bezels

The Galaxy S24 keeps the look that Samsung phones are known for, with the three separate camera lenses on the back, but there are some improvements.

First of all, the sides of the phone are now flat, just like on recent iPhones. Phones with flat sides are becoming the new norm and among some of their advantages is that it’s just easier to grab the device from a table.

The size of the S24 is extremely similar to the previous model, so still quite small, even if not “mini” sized. 

As for materials, you have a tougher new Armor Aluminum frame and we like that the sides have a matte finish now, so they don’t attract fingerprints. Look closer and you’d also notice how the connection between the rear panel and the frame is practically seamless, which is nice.

Up front, borders around the screen are a bit smaller for a more immersive look.

The rest is the same as before: IP68 rating, USB-C port on the bottom, and power and volume keys on the right hand side.

  • Marble Gray
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Onyx Black
  • Amber Yellow

Which one is your favorite?

Galaxy S24 Display

The Galaxy S24 is also getting a slightly bigger 6.17-inch screen this year, and this screen can get super bright too. It can reach 2,600 nits of peak brightness, a big improvement from the 1,750 nits of the previous model, and this makes using the phone outdoors much easier.

Also, for the first time on the vanilla model you now have 1Hz-120Hz refresh rate, a feature previously exclusive to the Ultra model. With a 1Hz refresh rate for static content, the phone is more frugal and its battery can last a bit longer.

Borders around the screen have gotten slimmer too for a more immersive look.

The resolution remains 1080p, but we don’t really mind. That is already sharp enough for the vast majority of people.

We will be adding our Galaxy S24 display lab benchmarks here soon too, so stay tuned for that.

As for biometrics, you have an ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint reader, unchanged in the last few generations, and you also get 2D image-based face recognition.

Galaxy S24 Camera

Zoom and editing super powers thanks to AI

And the hardware is indeed the same. Samsung is using the same main camera sensor for a third year in a row, and there are no changes to the ultra-wide and 3X zoom cameras either.

Yet still, photos and videos from the S24 camera look noticeably different. It all starts with the viewfinder which now gets HDR preview, so you can see exactly how the photo will look when you take it (that was not the case on the S23 series).

Samsung is also bringing a totally new color science to images. Photos no longer look overly saturated, gone are the unnatural warm colors, and the excessive sharpening from images has been toned down. Photos now have a much more natural look and we have got to say we love that. This might just be the biggest upgrade for the Samsung camera in years.

Some of that innovation is made possible by “Galaxy AI”. This also spreads into photo editing. The S24 series gain “Magic Editor”-like features.

In the Gallery app, you will see Edit Suggestion for each photo which basically allows you to easily remove moire, reflections from an image, and remaster it. You also have a couple of new Generative Edit options. With a crooked picture for example, you can easily straighten it and AI will fill in the details missing from the borders. Or when a person in a photo needs a tweak, AI lets you select and move the subject, while blending the background where the subject was.Video is also getting better. One cool new feature is Instant Slow-mo. Just long press a video and that particular moment will slow down and AI will generate the missing frames, so you can replay that one special moment in smooth slow motion.

And if you are worried about all of this trickery, it’s good to know that a label is added to the metadata to all AI-augmented images and videos.

We will be updating this section with a lot more detail and actual camera samples very soon, so stay tuned.

Galaxy S24 Performance & Benchmarks

First phone to take AI seriously

The Galaxy S24 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset in the United States (some markets might get an Exynos 2400 version).

And performance indeed gets a nice boost with this new processor, but Samsung seems to be focusing just as much the “Galaxy AI” element of performance rather than raw speed. We explain how that comes to fruition in the software section right below.

In pure specs, the Galaxy S24 comes with 8GB of RAM on board, less than the 12GB in the larger models. That is a bit of a letdown as less RAM means apps in the background will have to reload more often and multitasking might not be as smooth for power users.

You have two available configurations:

  • 8/128GB base model for $800
  • 8/256GB option for $900

Those who order early would benefit from a free storage upgrade, so that’s nice.

The Galaxy S24 arrives with Android 14 and Samsung’s latest One UI 6.1 on top of that.

The new One UI 6.1 has the same visuals as the 6.0 version, but adds a few new AI-powered features.

The native Phone app now supports real-time translation of phone calls within, supporting 13 languages at start. It uses on-device AI, so that your privacy is protected, and you also get voice and text translation built in.

The Samsung keyboard also gets augmented with a feature called Chat Assist where with a press of a button, you can translate messages. You will also see suggestions for tweaking the tone of your messages, and the Galaxy will suggest emojis to enhance the tone of your message.

When using Android Auto, Galaxy AI summarizes your messages so you can know what’s up with just a glance, and it will suggest quick replies too.

For meetings with multiple people or when just recording your thoughts via voice, Transcript Assist will give you a summary and even translations if needed.

One other cool new feature is Circle to Search with Google, which makes its debut on the Galaxy S24. Just long press the home button at any time and circle anything on any screen (for example a cool landmark) to search for it.

Finally, Samsung promises an impressive SEVEN years of OS upgrades and security patches for the Galaxy S24. This is the first Galaxy to get such long software support (the S23 series only supported 4 years of OS upgrades), which is great news.

Galaxy S24 Battery

Slightly bigger battery size, but no change in charging speeds
The Galaxy S24 battery gets a slightly bigger 4,000mAh battery, up from 3,900mAh on the last year’s model. This is just 2.5% bigger, so don’t expect big changes to battery life.

We are yet to test the battery life in detail, but it is possible that a more economical chipset, the more frugal screen (with the newly supported 1Hz refresh rate), and all the possible AI enhancements, might contribute to at least some gains.

Of course, remember that this is a compact phone after all, and expectations cannot be sky high. 

Charging speeds have also remained roughly the same. For years, Galaxy phones have used 25W charging via a wire, and roughly 15W wireless charging speeds, and that’s exactly what we have on the S24.

Galaxy S24 Audio Quality and Haptics

Samsung tweaks the speakers on its phones ever so slightly, and while it may seem like nothing is changing, if you listen to a Galaxy phone from just a few years ago, you will spot the difference.
We still cannot be definitive about the audio quality, but we will be testing that very soon, so stay tuned.
There don’t seem to be any changes to the vibration motor, however, so Samsung seems to stick with the same haptics as in previous phones (quite decent, but not as good as the best phones).

Galaxy S24 Competitors

Good news is the Galaxy S24 price is not going up. The base 8/128GB model costs $800.
If you are looking at the Galaxy S24, chances are you want a compact phone. This means, you basically have only two good alternatives: Google’s vanilla Pixel 8 model, and the Apple iPhone 15 Pro.

Here is briefly how these two phones compare to the new Galaxy S24

Learn more here:

Galaxy S24 Summary and Final Verdict

We are yet to test the Galaxy S24 battery life and camera in detail, but based on our initial hands-on impressions, we can already tell that the Galaxy S24 improves an already mature product.

The improvements in performance are nice and we like the slightly tweaked design, but what we appreciate even more is the new look for photos and the overall improvements to the camera.

As for all the AI features, they all sound great on paper, but we are yet to see how much use will they get in real life. For some people, they might be the game changer, while others might not care too much about live translation in calls.

What are your thoughts on the Galaxy S24 and… will this be your next phone?


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