Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Smart Phones

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: zoom in, enhance!


Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Intro

The brand-new S Pen-armed Galaxy S24 Ultra is here — about 11 months after the release of the old Galaxy S23 series. Couldn’t even wait the full year! Well, now that you can go and grab a Galaxy S24 Ultra deal at launch, but should you?

Well, what are we getting? New processor — sure. Then, some design facelifts — definitely, with a titanium frame to keep up with the times! A bit of a camera module shuffle has the zoom cameras changed up a bit, but we still end up with 4 cameras on the back, like before.

And, we now get to see the Galaxy S24 Ultra go completely flat-screened. There’s just the ever so slight arch at the edge of it, so it fuses into the frame seamlessly. Samsung has been reducing the edge curve over the past few years. If you are still a fan of it, it looks like the Galaxy S23 Ultra may be your last chance to get a phone with an Edge screen for a while. The good news is that we do expect Samsung to keep selling the S23 Ultra as a “reduced cost model” over the next year.

What’s new about Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

  • Titanium frame
  • A flat screen to replace the curved Edge design
  • Higher peak brightness at 2,600 nits
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
  • Zoom camera has a 5x lens, and an all new 50 adaptive megapixel sensor
  • New AI tricks with OneUI 6.1

Table of Contents:

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Specs

Riding the edge of tech
As always, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has the latest cutting-edge tech that Samsung can put into a mass-produced smartphone. Below, we have the highlights of what it packs, but you can follow the link for the full Galaxy S24 Ultra specs.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Design & Colors

Rise of titanium
All hail Titanius — the new ruler of the flagship phones. Joking aside, we have a titanium frame on the Galaxy S24 Ultra now, following in the footsteps of Apple’s Pro iPhones. It’s a soft touch matte and it looks clean and stylish — pretty cool. We don’t get a lot of benefits in terms of weight — it’s about the same as before since the titanium is replacing an aluminum frame from before. (Unlike with the iPhone 15 Pro, where it replaced a heavy stainless steel frame).

Samsung also completely removed the curvature of the screen. The soft Edge design has been getting less and less prominent over the years, as it appears consumers simply prefer a flat display. And Samsung has been obliging, slowly but surely pushing the curve closer and closer to the edge of the screen, until it finally disappears. Each year, it has been getting good feedback from the community — it seems that smartphone users are generally over the “futuristic” look of curved glass screens. On the Galaxy S24 Ultra, it’s just a slight beveling into the frame of the phone, for a seamless transition.

The slightly rounded frames remain, and feel a bit slippery thanks to the matte titanium — this will be a bit unstable to hold with cold, dry hands (and it is winter right now, so). Make sure you check out our Galaxy S24 size comparison, so you’d know what you’re getting yourself into. The titanium may be tough, but it’d be a good idea to shop around for some Galaxy S24 Ultra cases as well. 
The Galaxy S24 Ultra colors are Titanium Gray, Black, Yellow, and Violet, with Samsung.com having a few extra ones — Titanium Green, Blue, and Orange.

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Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t add Qi2 compatibility in the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Meaning, no magnetic ring on the back. Luckily, Pitaka’s aramid fiber cases do that — a thin magnetic ring inside a Kevlar weave case. It’s tough, minimalist, it follows the shape of the Galaxy S24 Ultra perfectly, and it provides a lot of much-needed grip to the device!

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Display

As before, we have a 6.8-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2x screen — Samsung’s best screen tech that has been awesome for years now. There’s more brightness headroom, with a peak brightness of 2,600 nits — that only matters when watching HDR content and under very bright conditions. But hey, it’s there.

It’s still QHD+ resolution for super crisp images, and it’s still an LTPO panel with variation between 1 Hz and 120 Hz — Samsung has been doing that with the Ultra models for a while now.

Colors look beautiful, and you again have a choice between an amped up mode, and a more natural “Basic” mode. Plus the adaptive eye protection, which filters out blue light depending on time of day and ambient lighting. Samsung screens are easy on the eye and great to look at.

We, again, have an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner under the glass. It’s fast and accurate, and ultrasonic tech is typically better than the optic sensor that most other manufacturers use — it’s supposedly more secure, but what we do know for a fact is that it can read your print better if you hand is moist, or there’s some smudging on your finger or on the glass.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Camera

Four-eyes!
The Galaxy S24 camera has always been among the leaders of the pack. OK, we are back to having a 200 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera, and then two zoom cameras — a 10 MP zoom camera with a 3x telephoto lens, and a 50 MP one with a 5x lens. You may have noticed — the 5x camera replaced the 10x lens of yesteryear. Apparently, Samsung is using the high-res 50 MP sensor and some AI trickery to achieve the same, or better, results with it.

Galaxy S24 Ultra camera samples

Main camera — day

Off the main camera, we get great results. It seems the typical Samsung-isms of having too much grean in the grass, and neon blue skies have been toned down quite a lot. The colors are vibrant and saturated, but we wouldn’t say unrealistic. The photos come out with good exposure and dynamics balance. You can spot some sharpening around tree branches, but it’s not too excessive, we find. At least not in the current smartphone camera climate where everyone seems to sharpen details for that wow effect.

Main camera – low-light

Night shots are also quite good, with light sources kept intact and a lot of details preserved within the shadows. Now, depending on how much lighting you get, the noise reduction and detail sharpening can get a bit damaging (sample 4), but otherwise, we would trust this phone to take nice memorabilia when we are out on a Friday night.

Zoom quality

With the zoom cameras, it’s a bit different. The more and more we zoom in, the more the software compensates by amping exposure and colors. You can spot the shift between 3x (telephoto camera 1) and 5x (telephoto camera 2). Then, at the 10x and 30x shots of the first row above, we can see the return of the aforementioned “Samsung-isms” as the red building becomes more and more aggressive. Though, we imagine achieving those zooms with just a 5x telephoto camera is hard enough. Credit given where credit is due, at 10x, we don’t miss the old Galaxy S23 Ultra 10x telephoto lens. It seems Samsung has kept its promise — it’s using a 5x lens with a 50 MP sensor and the zoom looks just as good as before.

Ultra-wide camera

The ultra-wide camera is tuned to match the main camera quite well. Of course, the lens is a challenge to work with, and the images are slightly lower quality — details are a bit jagged around the edges of the photo, and there are a bit more HDR auras visible where dark objects meet the bright sky. But, in general, it’ll serve you well for some epic shots or landscape photos.

Selfies

Great performance from the selfie camera — a lot of detail and facial features have been preserved. The threads in the hat, the beard look impressively sharp. Skintone is correct and dynamics look great.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Performance & Benchmarks

Another year, another Snapdragon

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has the brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Mobile Platform for Galaxy. Again, it’s like a normal Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, slightly overclocked for Samsung flagships.

For what it is, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is an extremely powerful processor — no doubt one that enables the AI trickery that the S24 can do with pictures and live translations. It scores high in the benchmarks, naturally. And, more importantly, the phone feels pretty quick in daily use. Now, when editing photos with the generative AI editor — it does take its sweet time. But that’s still new tech, so it’s to be expected. It just shows us how long it’s been since we’ve had a major new development on smartphones, that we are used to everything being quick and polished.

Samsung has upgraded the thermals inside for better heat dissipation. In daily use with heavy apps, we didn’t really spot throttling. In the 3DMark Wildlife Estreme Stress Test, the phone’s performance drops gradually over the first 4 loops. It stabilizes around the score 3,000, but continues to drop slowly for the full 20 loops. That’s in the above-average field, but not the best. For example, the iPhone 15 Pro Max throttles after a single loop. The Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro lasts for about 14 loops before starting a more prominent drop (with X Mode off).

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra OS / Android version

Naturally, the S24 Ultra launches with Android 14, with Samsung’s One UI 6.1 reskinning the operating system to an unrecognizable level. Not to say that’s bad — One UI has grown and evolved over the years to not only be feature-packed, but also user friendly. So long as the user does spend some time with the phone — there are quite a lot of things to do with it!

Like split-screen scenes, which you can save and recall at any time, floating your apps in resizable windows, taking long screenshots or noting on your screenshots with the S Pen.

Ah yes, the S Pen suite comes with even more features, like controlling the phone with air gestures from the stylus, using it as a mouse cursor when hovering, and — of course — writing and drawing.

With One UI 6.1, we get the following AI features:

  • Live translate during a phone call
  • Chat Assist in Samsung Keyboard (translate, proofread, rephrase messages)
  • Generative photo editing
  • Circle to Search with Google
  • Note Assist will summarize notes, format messy notes
  • Summarize voice recordings from Recorder
  • Summarize websites and articles

We have to say, some of these work remarkably well — like the summarize tool for articles. We tested it with a few editorials here at PhoneArena, and the AI was incredibly good at breaking down the article in a few to-the-point bulletpoints, which were very accurate to the author’s original intention.

The picture editor is OK. Don’t get us wrong, the possibility to draw and recreate background when you crop something out is mind-boggling. However, it doesn’t typically hit the mark very well. Depends on the background, of course, but you can definitely tell something’s been going on if there is some texture that needs to be restored. Often, the photos will work for small screens and social media. But, if you squint, you can tell.

We are curious to see if these AI features will expand throughout the year, and if they will trickle down to older Galaxy phones. 

In another record-breaking statement, Samsung now pledges to 7 Android OS updates and 7 years of security patches. If we are getting this right, it means the Galaxy S24 Ultra will get:

  • early 2024, launches with Android 14
  • late 2024, gets Android 15
  • late 2025, gets Android 16
  • late 2026, gets Android 17
  • late 2027, gets Android 18
  • late 2028, gets Android 19
  • Late 2029, gets Android 20
  • Late 2030, gets Android 21. End of support

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Battery

No changes expected
The Galaxy S24 Ultra battery has the same 5,000 mAh capacity as before. It has a pretty good endurance — in fact, about the same as the Galaxy S23 Ultra

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

OK, what does that say about real-life use? Well, the Galaxy S24 Ultra isn’t quite a “2-day phone”, especially if you spend a lot of time enjoying those new AI features. But it can very comfortably last you a day and then some. If you are a more casual user, it can take it up to the second evening before requiring a charge, sure.

It also won’t be pushing any charge speed limits, with wired charging at 45 W, and wireless — 15 W. No Qi2 support, too, which we were kind of hoping for.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

Unfortunately, the phone does not come with a charger in the box. We figure that, in 2024, there’s a high chance that you have a power brick that’s capable of delivering that optimal 45 W over a USB C cable. Just be warned that, if you don’t, you will probably get slower charging speeds.

PhoneArena Wireless Charging Test Results:

Typical Qi charging speeds — 15 W, pretty much any modern pad supports this. There are still some old ones with 7.5 W floating about, so — again — your results might differ.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Audio Quality and Haptics

Samsung’s stereo speakers have been quite good thus far. Maybe a bit middy, and a bit harsher-sounding at max volume. The Z Fold phones have been sounding great, which showed that the Ultra flagships still have a bit of work to do there. But, spatial constraints probably play a role. The Galaxy S24 Ultra sounds fine… for the YouTube video or Instagram Reels doomscrolling, sure. It’s definitely well above average, but it doesn’t break that “smartphone speaker” barrier, where you’d feel comfortable sharing music over it.

As far as haptics go, the S24 Ultra we feels pretty much like the S23 series — clicky, strong, responsive.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Competitors

Samsung is squeezing in between two competitors here. On the premium flagship side — the battle versus Apple’s iPhones is still ongoing. So, the main competitor for the Galaxy S24 Ultra there would be the iPhone 15 Pro Max, clearly. Both play the camera game, both put emphasis on zoom features, the titanium frame, the top-notch performance. And, of course, the Android vs iOS thing will play a huge role — what apps do you want to use, and what accessories do you want to connect to the phone?
Then, purely on the Android side, Samsung is stepping into the AI game and we already saw that Google is heavily invested in it. The Pixel 8 Pro got its first AI features with the December Drop of 2023, and we feel like that’s just one of many to come. Whereas, Samsung isn’t giving us much indication that more and more AI features will be coming to the Galaxy S24 Ultra throughout the year. For now, Samsung leads with the Circle to Search and Article Summary, but these are probably coming to Pixels soon.
Lastly, we can squeeze in a pure performance competitor. The recently-released ROG Phone 8 Pro has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip inside, comes with insane storage and RAM numbers, and will be the Android phone to beat in terms of performance. If you are after the benchmark crusher, we feel like the ROG Phone 8 Pro will take the lead here. However, its camera can’t step on the toes of the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Learn more here:

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra conclusion

Bottom line, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a very, very good phone with powerful hardware, good camera, and dependable battery. Plus, it now has that 7 year software upgrade promise, so it’s really easy to recommend it, even at its high entry price. If you are still looking to save an extra buck, we wouldn’t say that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is out of the picture yet. In fact, S23 Ultra owners probably can stave off the “upgrade crave” for now. You will miss out on some new AI features, but then again — these are only now coming in, there will be more meaningful upgrades to look forward to in the near future.



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