Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: the best Ultra ever, and a must buy

The back of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

MSRP $1,300.00

“The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the most complete, most capable, and most creatively versatile smartphones we’ve ever used.”

Pros

  • High performance processor
  • Improved telephoto cameras
  • Flatter screen aids S Pen use
  • Battery will last two days
  • Long software support
  • Durable build and materials
  • Circle to Search by Google

Cons

  • Unfortunate price increase
  • Speakers easily covered up
  • Chat Assist is almost unusable
  • Charging speeds are only average

If you asked the AI chatbot of your choice to help design a smartphone with the best specification possible, it might come up with something similar to the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which itself is packed full of AI smarts.

After all, there’s very little missing from the top Galaxy model, with everything from a stylus to the very latest processor included. Does this mean you shouldn’t think twice about buying it? Let’s find out.

About our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review

This is my preliminary review based on seven days with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which I used extensively as my primary smartphone during this time. After another seven days with the phone, it will be updated when I finalize my opinion of the battery life, camera performance, and software reliability. However, none of these aspects (or any other part of the phone) have given me cause for concern at this time, and I don’t expect my overall score or opinion to change unless something dramatically alters.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: design

The back of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, resting against a post.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung hasn’t really changed the design of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, as it’s very similar looking to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but it has made various alterations that make the phone more durable, easier to use, and even more modern. It may not have had a significant redesign, but what has been altered is more meaningful than just a few new lines and a different look to the camera.

A titanium frame replaces the Armor Aluminum frame used on the S23 Ultra, and it’s warmer to the touch, likely more scratch-resistant, and has a more attractive visual texture. The sides are less curvy than before, which, combined with the grippier titanium, makes it feel more secure in your hand. The screen is flatter too, and with a smaller bezel at the bottom, making the enormous screen look somehow even bigger. This is an imposing smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra from the side, resting against a post.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The flat screen isn’t the design disaster on the S24 Ultra as it is on some other phones, and it actually makes writing with the S Pen stylus more comfortable when you’re holding the phone in your other hand. Dimensionally, none of this makes much of a difference compared to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, as it’s only a hair thinner (8.6mm compared to 8.9mm) and a millimeter shorter and less wide, too, plus it is one single gram lighter.

It means the Galaxy S24 Ultra is still a massive 232-gram smartphone that will stretch your pocket to capacity. It’s not ungainly, though, and time does mean you get used to wrangling such a whopping piece of technology. But if you want a compact device, the regular Galaxy S24 will be much more up your street.

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Drop the S24 Ultra, and you could face a hefty repair bill, so a case is recommended if you’re concerned. Thankfully, it’s not a slippery phone at all. Samsung has sealed the phone well enough to have an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, and the screen is covered in Corning’s Gorilla Armor glass, exclusive to the S24 Ultra. It’s supposed to be more scratch-resistant, which is great, but more noticeably and just as welcome is it’s less reflective than other glass, making the screen easier to see in bright conditions.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s style has been refined over the past few generations and is instantly recognizable. The addition of titanium makes it more modern, and surprisingly, so does the flat screen, which also has considerable ergonomic benefits. It’s also as durable as phones get. I’d choose one of Samsung’s brighter, exclusive online colors to give it some visual pep, but otherwise, this is a smartphone you’ll be proud to carry around — even if it doesn’t always fit in your pocket.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: screen and performance

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's screen, resting against a post.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The special Gorilla Armor glass stops reflections from being such a pain, but the 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2x screen has another trick to make outside viewing easier: a peak brightness of 2,500 nits. Dreary winter days in the U.K. mean I’ve probably not seen it hit this yet, but on the sunnier days, I’ve had no problem viewing the screen comfortably with the brightness slider at maximum. The Adaptive Brightness works well, and I haven’t needed to adjust it manually, indicating it isn’t aggressively restricting the brightness to save battery life.

But what about alongside the OnePlus 12? The new OnePlus phone has a peak brightness of 4,500 nits for those who dislike their retinas but will sit at 1,600 nits when it’s not trying to blind you. Compare them side-by-side at maximum everyday brightness (set by the slider), and the OnePlus phone certainly is a little brighter, up to the point of being quite stark. Even with the Pro setting activated for the OnePlus’s color profile, it can’t quite match the S24 Ultra’s lovely vibrance and pop. The OnePlus 12’s screen is undoubtedly a bit brighter, but unless you live on the surface of the sun, I doubt you’ll need the additional level of brightness that often.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s performance and visuals are incredible almost all the time.

Out of the box, the screen is set to a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution, and you must manually switch to its full 3120 x 1440 pixel resolution. The refresh rate is set to adaptive as standard, meaning it dynamically switches between 1 and 120Hz depending on the screen’s activity. During normal use, I don’t notice any difference in sharpness when using the highest resolution setting, and it’s wonderfully smooth and stable at all times. The screen always looks excellent.

Qualcomm has worked with Samsung to optimize the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for the Galaxy chip inside the S24 Ultra, and it comes with 12GB of RAM and a choice of storage options. I’ve had no problems at all with its performance when using the phone for calls, apps, and other basic tasks. Over 30 minutes of playing games like Asphalt 9: Legends barely makes the phone warm, and even benchmarking stress tests can’t make it too hot to handle. Annoyingly, holding the phone in a landscape orientation does make it easy to cover the speakers.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and S Pen stylus on its screen.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

This is the advantage of the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro, which also uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, as its forward-facing speakers aren’t so easily obscured, plus they deliver more bass and have a much fuller, wonderfully musical tone. Due to Asus’s redesign, the ROG Phone 8 Pro is lighter and more manageable than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, plus the screen is absolutely stunning. Playing games back-to-back, I’d play for longer on the Asus phone, so do consider it if gaming is a priority.

While the OnePlus 12 and Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro are strong competition in certain situations, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s performance and visuals are incredible almost all the time, no matter what you’re doing or where, making it such a fantastic all-rounder. It’s perfect for someone who wants to do pretty much everything on their phone and not compromise.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: camera

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera lenses.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a 200-megapixel main camera, a 12MP wide-angle camera, and a 10MP telephoto camera for 3x optical zoom photos. The main hardware change is a new 50MP telephoto camera for a 5x optical zoom, and 10x zoom photos are now “optical quality.” Inside is Samsung’s ProVisual Engine, Super HDR, and a selection of Galaxy AI editing tools to enhance your photos during and after shooting them.

You can see how the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s telephoto cameras compare to the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s in our separate test, but rest assured that outside of slightly less detail at 10x zoom, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s telephoto cameras take better, more colorful, and more visually accurate photos than its predecessor. Despite what the nomenclature may lead you to believe, it’s a genuine upgrade.

Shoot with the main and wide-angle camera, and the S24 Ultra performs much like the S23 Ultra — taking colorful, punchy photos that are great for social media but also have depth and detail so you can edit them using apps like Lightroom for a very polished final look. Photos in extreme lowlight are decent but can be a little noisy, and I’m still testing lowlight photography in general. I dislike how close-up shots force the main camera to activate the intrusive “focus enhancer” mode, ruining any depth of field you may be trying to create.

A more successful feature is the new AI-assisted auto slow-motion mode, where you tap and hold on a video shot at normal speed, and the S24 Ultra slows it down while the AI fills in the missing frames. If the video is very busy, it’s a tiny bit jerky, but at all other times, you’d never know it wasn’t actually shot in slow motion. You can edit the video to only slow down at certain moments too, creating your own little stylized movie. It’s great.

The camera is packed full of video features, too, including UHD resolution recording with access to all the different zoom levels, 8K at 30 frames-per-second (fps), and UHD slow motion video at 120fps. Along with assessing the battery life, I’ll continue to use the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s camera over the coming week.

So far, it impresses with its versatility; the useful AI features work very well, and the telephoto cameras have been improved at 3x and 5x zoom. The 10x zoom is also far better than I expected, and it completes the S24 Ultra’s comprehensive array of photography tools.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Galaxy AI

In case you hadn’t noticed by the fact the tech industry is constantly talking about it at the moment, AI is being touted as a very big deal, and Samsung has wasted no time getting involved. The Galaxy S24 Ultra has a suite of Galaxy AI tools and features onboard. But what are they, do they work, and, most importantly, are you ever likely to use them?

The Circle to Search by Google feature is an instant winner, taking everything helpful about Google Lens and adding a quick, simple gesture so it works as a visual search tool for your photos, your Instagram feed, and across the web. It’s joined by the Generative Edit photographic tool, which works a bit like Google’s Magic Eraser to cleanly remove distracting elements from photos, resize or straighten images, and then fill in the blanks using AI. It’s superb at this, and only the most critical eye would know it had been used, so a sparkly watermark is added to images where it has worked its magic.

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra using the Circle to Search feature.
Circle to Search Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Outside of these two features, you may not find many uses for the other Galaxy AI tools on a regular basis. The Live Translate feature provides a real-time translation (across 13 different languages) for voice and text, while Interpreter sits in between two people and translates typed-out text in real-time. Outside of a demonstration during the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s launch, I have not had a need to use either of these features yet.

Chat Assist is AI at its worst, as it makes suggestions on how to give your typed messages a different tone — and is almost always laughable. Outside of pathetically adding a few emojis or hashtags to simulate “personality,” it goes on to suck all the individuality out of your messages when it tries to give them a professional or polite tone. It’s absolutely awful.

Responses generated by the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's Chat Assist mode.
Chat Assist’s AI-generated replies Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The feature does have a grammar and spelling check that’s more useful, and it’s all activated with a tap of a sparkly icon above the Samsung keyboard. Samsung’s Notes app also has some AI features to summarize notes and add formatting.

Galaxy AI is not a reason to buy the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but the features do all seem to work as advertised, and a handful of them are genuinely useful and fun, although you may not find a use for them every day.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: battery, calls, and charging

The base of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The 5,000mAh battery inside the Galaxy S24 Ultra has the stamina to match the enormous power of the phone. During the break-in period, a single charge lasted about five hours of average use without gaming, with about 25% remaining at the end of the day. That’s solid performance, but it has gotten a lot better since then. After a few charging cycles, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s battery will eat up nearly five hours of screen time and end the day with 50% remaining, and that’s with gaming, apps, video streaming, and calls.

The battery life is shaping up to be a massive advantage of choosing Samsung’s biggest S24 model.

Running the tough, 20-minute Wild Life Extreme Stress Test benchmark saw the battery go from 33% to 19%, suggesting serious gaming will put it under some strain, but the phone didn’t get anything more than just hot during the process. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is proving to be very efficient, even under moderately heavy use, and Samsung’s software is similarly effective at power management. The battery life is shaping up to be a massive advantage of choosing Samsung’s biggest S24 model.

The side of the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

You don’t get a charger in the box, and to get the fastest wired charging speed, you’ll need a 45W adapter. I used the Samsung-compatible Anker 313 GaN charger and the correct cable, and it took 70 minutes to fully charge the battery. It’s acceptable, but the OnePlus 12 is much faster. If you use a charger that doesn’t support the S24 Ultra’s fastest speed, it will take 90 minutes to fully charge. The Galaxy S24 Ultra also supports wireless charging and has reverse charging too.

Calls and connectivity are excellent, and the S24 Ultra has been one of the best-sounding and most reliable smartphones I’ve used in this respect for a while. The speaker is crystal clear, and finding the right spot to place it against your ear is easy. I’ve had no complaints about quality either, even in low signal areas without Wi-Fi calling active. It has solidly connected to my home Wi-Fi and to both 4G and 5G networks when out and about. It all sounds like a given, but it isn’t always the case. If you want to use your phone as a phone, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a great choice.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: software and S Pen stylus

A person using the S Pen stylus with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you made a checklist of everything a modern smartphone should have, the Galaxy S24 Ultra would likely have a mark in each box. It comes with Android 14 installed along with One UI 6.1, and it has been totally reliable so far. Samsung’s software does take a little getting used to, but once a few core adjustments have been made — such as setting the always-on screen and changing the ring and alert tone — it’s comfortable to use and simple to learn.

There’s plenty of customization throughout, and I like the new Creative wallpaper option, where you can make some cool AI-generated wallpapers using a few keywords like “surreal tower made of amethyst in shades of indigo and blue.” The Quick Settings screen is packed but logically laid out, and a tap of the notification icons on the lock screen allows for plenty of interaction without delving into the main screen or opening the app.

A person holding the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

One thing to note is if you want to use Samsung’s Chat Assist features, you must also use the Samsung Keyboard, which isn’t as good as the alternatives. Swipe typing is far less accurate than Google’s Gboard, even after spending a week “training” it, and it regularly refuses to correct spelling or anticipate the correct and most logical words when typing. The good thing is that Chat Assist isn’t great either, so don’t feel bad if you want to set Gboard as the default.

The S Pen stylus is unsheathed from the bottom of the phone and does not seem to have gained any new features over the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The flat screen makes it more comfortable to rest your palm’s heel when you scribble on the screen, though, and the way it works as a wireless shutter release for the camera is great for selfies using the rear camera or avoiding having to set a timer for group shots.

Samsung promises seven years of software updates for the Galaxy S24 Ultra, making it one of the best-supported smartphones around. The phone has so much ability and is more than powerful enough to last for many years, so this long-term support will help offset the initial high cost of actually buying the device.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the S Pen stylus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy S24 Ultra starts at $1,300 or 1,250 British pounds in the U.K., making it more expensive than the Galaxy S23 Ultra and even the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max. It comes with 256GB of storage space at this price, but you can pay more for either 512GB or 1TB of storage. It comes in four colors: Titanium Grey, Titanium Black, Titanium Violet, and Titanium Yellow. There are three more colors, Titanium Blue, Titanium Green, and Titanium Orange, available exclusively through Samsung’s own online store.

There’s no getting away from the fact the Galaxy S24 Ultra is very expensive, and all the other big-name, similarly specced Android phones cost less. For example, the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro is $1,199, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is $1,000, and the OnePlus 12 is $800. The only way to spend more is to buy a big-screen folding smartphone instead. However, it’s also impossible to argue about the outstanding overall value of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, as it has all the features, power, and support you could realistically want for years to come.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra's screen, resting on a bench.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A refreshed design does not make a true upgrade. New features, new technology, and lifestyle-enhancing alternations do, and the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra has all of this along with seemingly every other feature or specification bump you could want from a new phone. Not only is it worth buying if you don’t already own a Galaxy Ultra phone, I’d even say it’s worth buying if you have a Galaxy S23 Ultra. It’s really that good.

Obviously, you don’t need to upgrade your Galaxy S23 Ultra (it’s still excellent), but it’s heartening to discover Samsung hasn’t just sent out a vague refresh of its most expensive non-folding phone this year, which is really what it did with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 over the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The Galaxy AI stuff is being pushed hard, and while some of it is worth your time, it’s not a reason to choose the Galaxy S24 Ultra on its own. It’s a combination of all its parts — from the amazing battery life to the genuinely improved camera — that makes it a must-buy.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra really is that good.

Although I say it’s even worth an upgrade from the year-old Galaxy S23 Ultra, I do think you should mostly go into the Galaxy S24 Ultra with the intention of keeping it for years. Quite apart from Samsung’s efforts to use more recycled materials, the software update commitment, the sheer ability of the device, and the price bump all shout, “Keep me!” In all honesty, I don’t think you’ll tire of the Galaxy S24 Ultra or reach its full potential any time soon. Buy it and keep hold of it, as you simply can’t do much better.

Editors’ Recommendations