Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: an AI-powered phone that's big and bright
Now available, the Samsung's S24 Ultra boasts ChatGPT-like AI capabilities inside a big and bright smartphone
Update: Our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review is here to help you decide whether or not this AI-powered phone is any good. We’ve tested it for a week and, as of today, the Android smartphone is available to purchase.
🏆 Review score: 4.5 out of 5
🏅 Editor’s Choice Award
✅ 🧠 Samsung added several AI features as if ChatGPT is baked into the phone
✅ 📸 200MP photos are brighter and 50MP 5x telephoto pics are crisper
✅ 🪨 Solid new titanium frame, strong front/back glass, flat (not curved) design
✅ 💡 Much brighter display for easier outdoor use
✅ 🤖 Seven years of Android updates promised
❌ 💰 Starts at $1,299 – although trade-in deals dramatically level the price
❌ 📐 It doesn’t come in a smaller size with ‘Ultra’ specs, which many people want
❌ 🤔 Some AI features will come to older Samsung phones in the future
❌ 💬 Samsung’s Achilles heel – no blue bubbles to convert US iPhone users
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the brightest smartphone we’ve ever tested. It’s literally bright with 2,600 nits of brightness and, behind the big 6.8-inch touchscreen, it has AI functionality that makes this phone a true smartphone. The Galaxy S24 Ultra, now on sale in the US, along with the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Ring, shows that Samsung is going all-in on AI in 2024.
This means we’re getting incredibly clever features, yet a phone that remains easy to use. Unlike some gadgets we reviewed at CES 2024, the S24 Ultra has the new AI smarts to back up using this year’s most overplayed tech buzzword.
Ethics note: If you use one of our affiliate links, we may earn a cut from the store – and there’s a $50 promo on the Samsung links for you. Of course, none of that influences The Shortcut’s editorial critiques. We just like to have no pesky banner ads.
I tested Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra for two weeks to explore all of its neat features and I can confirm that it has functionality I can’t find on my usual go-to iPhone 15 Pro Max. Yes, Google Pixel 8 Pro and even Samsung’s own Galaxy Z Fold 5 are smart, too, but the S24 Ultra – along with the Galaxy S24+ and S24 – feels smarter thanks to machine learning. For me, this makes up for the fact that the S24 Ultra design remains very similar to the S23 Ultra with only a few outward changes.
As if ChatGPT is baked into the Galaxy S24 Ultra, Samsung’s AI allowed me to live translate conversations in several different languages – in person and live on calls.
As if ChatGPT is baked into the Galaxy S24 Ultra, Samsung’s AI allowed me to live translate conversations in several different languages (in person and live on calls), instantly summarize long notes into more readable bullet points and, transform my photos with generative AI edits. Some of this was possible before on phones, but now these tricks are less cumbersome and the results are more accurate thanks to a mix of on-device and cloud-processing that does the heavy lifting.
AI aside, the Galaxy S24 Ultra specs are full of features: the 200MP camera takes brighter photos at night, the 50MP telephoto camera has a crisper 5x zoom, the flat (no longer curved) display shines brighter outdoors, and the phone’s frame is made of titanium (taking a cue from Apple). It also comes with an embedded S Pen – the only flagship phone with a handy stylus and remote-controlled selfie wand.
There are a lot of likable changes here, and there should be; the phone’s price starts at $1,299 before trade-in values bring it down by $750, as of launch day. Is there enough smarts to justify that hefty price? Let’s dive in before I write my full Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review (without the help of AI).
Why trust our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review
Matt Swider is a technology expert who has been reviewing smartphones and tech for 25 years. He’s tested every major new Samsung Galaxy phone over 13 years for The Shortcut, TechRadar and other credible publications. Matt fully tested Samsung’s new Galaxy S24 Ultra for two weeks before offering a final review score and will continue to update this review as he used the smartphone in the coming weeks.
Samsung Galaxy S24 price and deals
The MSRP is $1,299, but both Samsung and Best Buy do reward early adopters with boosted trade-in offers. While Samsung and Best Buy got rid of the free S24 Ultra storage upgrade available at pre-order, there is a $150 gift card bonus available through Best Buy with your purchase. You can even buy the S24 Ultra unlocked or tied to a US carrier – Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile – through these stores.
What’s Samsung Galaxy AI do for you?
💬 Two-way live translation – even offline. My favorite feature – one I’ll use in Barcelona at MWC 2024 in February – had me carry a full voice + text conversation in English with someone speaking Spanish. It worked both in person and over a phone call. Translation apps in general aren’t new, but live translation on a call is a big deal and, in person, Samsung uses a slick UI (where both ends of the phone translate what’s being said in realtime like it’s a two-player chess game on a phone). And, importantly, it all works offline in 13 languages and 17 dialects. That’s powerful.
📝 Notes app summaries get to the bullet point. One of the most useful Samsung Galaxy S24 series AI features involved whittling down copious text and audio transcriptions, then transforming them into clean AI-generated summaries. Bullet points are better than superfluous paragraphs, I say, as the owner of a tech news and reviews publication called The Shortcut. I see this being especially helpful for audio transcriptions where speakers drone on – and it works in multiple languages and with multiple speakers (I do wish you could go back and label the speakers, but maybe for the Galaxy S25 Ultra in a year). One question: Where was this during long lectures during my college years?!
🖼️ Generative photo edits in a snap. I was able to transform photos by repositioning subjects, generating new elements, and rotating and filling in the missing edges of images, all using cloud processing. You can do these things in the latest version of Photoshop, but on the S24 Ultra I was able to reframe my picture in the default photo editing menu in seconds.
🖌️ Generative AI wallpaper. AI found its way in the S24 series’ wallpaper menu, so I could create lock screen and home screen backdrops after going through a Mad Libs-style customization menu. My S24 Ultra painted a T-Rex in the jungle with watercolors in one instance, and offered surreal wallpapers of bicycles made of felt in shades of pink and purple, according to my next fill-in-the-blank string of commands. It’s not fully customizable, but you won’t generate the same wallpaper twice, which is neat.
🌓 Fix shadows & eliminate reflections. This deserves its own call-out. I was able to instantly fix shadows and eliminate reflections in photos. Samsung phones could do this before to a degree, but now it seems more powerful. I can’t wait to see how this works on my everyday pics so I can ditch opening up Adobe Lightroom.
🔍 Circle to Search with Google. Finding something in photos or videos is now easier thanks to a new circle to search gesture coming to Android phones via Google (and launching first on the S24 series). I was able to pinpoint landmarks, types of trees and even products. We’ve seen this sort of feature before from Google Lens, but now it’s baked in to be less cumbersome because you don’t have to leave the app. This is especially helpful for pinpointing products in Instagram without ever leaving your feed. Best of all, the results, in my testing, appear to be more accurate through this new method that Google is pushing out for on Samsung phones.
🪨 Titanium frame is stronger, not lighter. Samsung made all of its latest flagship phones out of titanium. This has become the “it” material ever since Apple launched its lighter iPhone 15 series. But because Apple went from stainless steel to titanium, the new iPhones feel lighter. Samsung just went from a lightweight aluminum frame to heavier titanium, as we pointed out in our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs S23 Ultra comparison, so it made up for the extra heft in other ways to achieve the same total weight. It’s stronger, for sure, but don’t expect it to be any lighter in the hand.
🦍 Extra-strength Corning Gorilla Armor. I always appreciate the fact that Samsung’s phones come enveloped with Corning’s latest front and back glass each year. The S24 Ultra is the first phone I see with the new upgrade, according to Corning, and it should do two things: 1) prove sturdier than past devices in drop and scratch tests and 2) reduce unwanted reflections.
🎨 Seven Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra colors. There are a total of seven colors – four default colors and an additional trio of Samsung Store exclusive hues. The default colors are muted, but shopping at the Samsung Store proves to offer more energetic tones of green, blue and orange. I really appreciate that and wish more manufacturers would offer bold colors among their priciest smartphones.
Titanium Green (Samsung Store)
Titanium Blue (Samsung Store)
Titanium Orange (Samsung Store)
📲 Big flat display. The 6.8-inch screen size of the Galaxy S24 Ultra is unchanged, but the shape is different. Gone are the sloped left and right edges that often come with Samsung’s curved displays. This will please all of the people who (very vocally) dislike curved screens and it’ll make S Pen note-taking easier without feeling like you’re falling off a gradually sinking edge.
👀 Thinner bezel. Samsung found a way to make the S24 Ultra screen bezels smaller than the smartphone’s predecessor, and it’s especially notable when you look closely at the chin of the phone. The black bar is now uniform with the other bezel around the Super AMOLED screen, in line with what Apple has done with its iPhone.
📐 Some wish it was smaller. And I concur. This is a large phone in the hand and, as much as I love the big screen, it can be awkward to juggle. For example, the S24 Ultra on-screen camera controls at the top and shutter button at the bottom make taking one-handed photos a chore. While the 6.7-inch Galaxy S24 Plus and 6.2-inch S24 offer smaller sizes than the Ultra, they don’t have all of the top-end camera bells-and-whistles. So I feel for all of you who are torn and just wish a 6.4-inch S24 Ultra existed. This is the fix that foldable phones will provide as they get better.
💡 More than 40% brighter display. Samsung has increased the outdoor brightness of its new smartphone and bested Apple in the process. The S24 Ultra reaches 2,600 nits of peak brightness, up from the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 1,750 nits and the iPhone 15 Pro Max at 2,000 nits. According to my math, this isn’t exactly a 40% increase, as advertised. It’s 48.571428% brighter. I guess 40% is easier to market.
🪞 Anti-reflective screen. Another screen perk that no one is talking about is how dramatically better than new anti-reflective looks on the S24 Ultra over the S23 Ultra. While you can see yourself in last year’s phone screen when it’s dim, as if you were looking into a dark mirror, it’s very difficult to see your reflection in the S24 Ultra. This makes the display more visible in direct sunlight and your reflection less distracting.
S24 Ultra camera
📸 200MP after-dark camera tricks. The S24 Ultra delivers better night photos out with 1.6x larger pixels than before and 2x wider optical image stabilization (OIS) to better distinguish your movement and your subjects movement. During my review testing, I found the S24 Ultra has a touch more dynamic range year-over-year, and Samsung credits that to its ProVisual Engine that fine tunes photos. It doesn’t always beat the iPhone in low-light, but the S24 Ultra almost closes the gap.
🔭 50MP telephoto camera with 5x zoom. Samsung has ditched its optical 10x zoom for an optical 5x zoom, which sounds like a YoY downgrade. But people were settling for 5x anyway, according to Samsung’s internal data, and shots will look crisper at 50MP over last year’s 10MP. There’s also a 3x 10MP telephoto camera onboard for close-but-not-too-close shots. I tested the S24 Ultra camera zoom range at night, taking photos of a bright neon sign (a difficult test for any smartphone camera, so ideal for this review), and the 5x optical telephoto camera and even 10x zoom looked to handle the saturated red colors very nicely. Samsung remains the telephoto camera winner among smartphones.
🤳 Portrait photos and selfies. Samsung’s portrait photos from the rear S24 Ultra cameras do a good job blurring around the edges (much better than the S22 Ultra two years ago), while the 12MP selfie camera (which can optionally also shoot portraits of subjects) hasn’t change at all from last year (and specs suggest that and the result of our review testing prove that). Samsung still has the best default camera app interface for taking selfies pictures though. Launching the camera is easy with a double press of the physical sleep/wake button, switching between the front and rear cameras can be done with an easy swipe on the screen (acting like a giant camera switch button you can’t miss), and gesturing with your hand to trigger the selfie timer remains an easy way to prep the perfect selfie.
🖼️ Remastering S24 Ultra photos. Samsung’s promising a lot with its ‘ProVisual Engine’ and dedicated color-tuning, but when that’s not enough, you’ll be able to easily manipulate photos on the same level as the Pixel 8 Pro (minus Google’s cleverly marketing face swap feature). Editing here is fun and time-saving (Adobe’s software is great but it takes too long to load up/edit photos, IMO). One more time-saving tip that has been applied to S24 Ultra: snapping a photo is faster with less shutter lag. It’s a small, but nagging problem with past Samsung phones when I’ve compared them to the iPhone. Samsung nearly matches Apple this time around.
📹 Video performance. The S24 Ultra can record video in 8K30fps with less of a drop than when we tested 8K out two years ago on the S22 Ultra, but the average consumer will be better served by 4K60fps, and now there’s more versatility to that mode. You can choose any of the camera lenses while recording, something that just wasn’t possible at the 60 frames per second mode on older Samsung phones.
🏃♂️ Slow motion for me with a tap. Going back to edit slow motion video is a bit easier. When rewatching a video in the edit menu, a simple press-and-hold gesture causes the video to slow down (you can adjust the slowness to 1/4 and 1/2 speeds). It won’t have me give up CapCut completely, which can do curved speed ramping very easily, but it’s a nifty gesture for the default editing suite.
Gaming, processing and software
🎮 Gaming with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. I was able to play test games on Samsung’s new phone at max settings without dipping in frame rate. This meant 120fps in Call of Duty Mobile PUBG multiplayer, and 60fps for Genshin Impact. By pairing the Galaxy S24 Ultra with a BackBone One controller and using Sony’s remote play app, I played PS5 games remotely without needing to find the next PlayStation Portal restock. Everything stayed cool and speedy.
💿 But what about ray-tracing games? The S24 Ultra does support ray-tracing games, and there are a handful of them like Diablo Immortal and Arena Breakout. That’s a good start, but Apple made a bigger effort to get Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, and Death Stranding from the PS5 to its App Store. Samsung and Google need to make a similar triple-A title push that elevates what’s currently in’s Android’s Play Store. Cutting-edge graphics and sophisticated thermals are great, but eventually it comes down to which games are supported.
⚙️ Under-the-hood specs. Qualcomm’s latest chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, is at the core of the S24 series, and keep cool with all-new vapor chamber system. It also now starts at 256GB of storage + 12GB RAM (up from 256GB+8GB), with options to go to 512GB and 1TB of storage with the same 12GB of RAM. More testing to come, but these are certainly top-of-the-line specs for 2024.
📶 S24 Ultra has WiFi 7. This feature doesn’t matter today, but it may down the line, long after we review the S24 Ultra. Year-over-year, Samsung moved from WiFi 6e on the S23 Ultra to WiFi 7 on the S24 Ultra, and that’s a good thing. But most US consumers don’t have either router today (likely stuck with WiFi 5 without even knowing it). So it doesn’t make a big difference today. But since Samsung promised seven years of Android updates, this will matter headed into the year 2031.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs
📆 Release date: today, January 31, 2024
💰 Price: $1,299 (check launch day deals)
📺 Screen size: 6.8-inch
🏃♂️ Refresh rate: 120Hz adaptive
💡 Brightness: 2,600 nits
📸 Main camera: 200MP
📸 Ultrawide camera: 12MP
📸 Telephoto cameras: 50MP (5x) / 10MP (3x)
🤳 Front camera: 12MP
⚙️ Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
🐏 RAM: 12GB
🗄️ Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
🔈 Speakers: stereo (and no headphone jack)
🔋 Battery: 5,000mAh
🔌 Wired Charging: 45W (adapter not included)
⚡ Wireless Charging: Yes
📶 Connectivity: 5G sub6 and mmWave, WiFi 7
👇 Fingerprint sensor: Yes (under glass)
📐 Dimensions: 6.40 x 3.11 x 0.34 in
⚖️ Weight: 233g (8.22oz)
🌈 Colors: Violet, Yellow, Gray, Black and Samsung Store-exclusive colors: Green, Blue, Orange
🤖 OS: Android 14, OneUI 6.1
🪨 Durability: Titanium frame, Corning Gorilla Armor
💦 Waterproof: IP68
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra battery life
🔋 Samsung’s strongest battery. Even though the big 5,000 battery capacity hasn’t changed since the S20 Ultra in 2020, the new Galaxy S24 Ultra has the best battery life I’ve tested on a Samsung smartphone. This comes down to two things: the display and chipset. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip boosts power efficiency enough that the S24 Ultra bested both the S23 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max in my battery life tests.
⚡ Wired and wireless charging. The S24 Ultra supports 45W charging, so although you don’t get any charger in the box, the phone does offer Samsung’s speediest fast charging rates (though other Chinese phone manufacturers have topped this). We’re still at 15W wireless charging on today’s phones, as Samsung matches this rate.
🧲 No Qi2 standard. Samsung matches Apple feature-for-feature in almost every other test, but hasn’t copied the iPhone’s MagSafe idea. It could. Incorporating the Magnetic Power Profile is part of the Qi2 wireless charging standard announced in early 2023 and tons of MagSafe-equipped phone stands and charging pads already use this. Samsung’s official comment is that people haven’t been asking for this, but it’s likely new technology that the public doesn’t know about yet. As my Galaxy S24 Ultra slides off my nightstand MagSafe charger, I can’t help but feel like this is a miss.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra?
If you still haven’t decided, let me basically tell you if you should get it:
✅ 🧠 You’d like a truly smart phone with an AI translator, photo editor, etc
✅ 🔭 You want Samsung best 200MP camera and telephoto zoom lens
✅ 🖋️ You desire an S Pen and love the large flat screen that accommodates it
✅ 😎 You relish having a bright, anti-reflective screen that works well outdoors
✅ 🔋 You want a phone with excellent battery life and fast enough charging
✅ 🤑 You have an older phone to take advantage of those trade-in deals
❌ 💸 You feel like a 6.8” screen & $1,299 price are a stretch (get a Galaxy S24)
❌ 😬 You’ll get in trouble for ditching blue bubbles & FaceTime (get an iPhone)
❌ 🎮 You demand more than a few notable ray-tracing games (get an iPhone)
❌ 🤔 You only want the AI features (some of them will come to the S23 series)
❌ 🆕 You want a cutting-edge productivity phone (get Samsung Galaxy Fold 5)
What about the Samsung Galaxy Ring?
The new Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the Razer Iskur V2 gaming chair were my top tech picks for January, but there are new gadget launches in the future. The new Samsung Galaxy Ring is a smart ring announced during the Galaxy S24 Ultra launch event. It gives us a glimpse of a future that puts AI-powered health and sleep tracking at our fingertips – and offers us the first big rival to the popular Oura Ring among the major tech companies. Since an Oura Ring can track 20 biometric signals, comes in eight ring sizes and lasts seven days on a single charge for $299, expect Samsung to match all of that later this year.
No official wedding date from Samsung just yet, but, hey, at least they put a ring on it.