Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is it worth upgrading?

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It's been almost a year since the Galaxy S23 Ultra launched, so in a surprise to hopefully no one, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the centerpiece of today's Galaxy Unpacked event. Given the volume of Galaxy S24 Ultra, there aren't too many surprises, but 

There’s a fair amount of hype surrounding the S24 Ultras release, but a product with hype around it is always at risk from the words “Didn’t live up to the..” also taking orbit around it post-release. So what do we know about the Galaxy S24 Ultra, and how can we tell if Samsung’s upcoming flagship phone is worth jumping aboard the bandwagon over? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra: Specifications

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Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy S23 UltraSamsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (rumored)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for GalaxyQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
StorageUp to 1TBUp to 1TB
Display6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Resolution (ppi)1440 x 3088 (~500)1440 x 3088 (~500)
Refresh rate1Hz - 120Hz1Hz - 120Hz
Peak brightness1,750 nits2,600 nits
Front camera12MP (Selfie)12MP (Selfie)
Rear Camera(s)200MP (Main)200MP (Main)
Row 10 - Cell 0 12MP (Ultrawide)12MP (Ultrawide)
Row 11 - Cell 0 10MP (Telephoto, 3x optical zoom)10MP (Telephoto, 3x optical zoom)
Row 12 - Cell 0 10MP (Telephoto, 10x optical zoom)50MP (Telephoto, 5x optical zoom)
Dimensions6.43 x 3.07 x 0.35 inches6.4 x 3.11 x 0.34 inches
Weight234 grams (8.25 ounces)233 grams (8.22 ounces)

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra: Price

There were plenty of rumors of a price increase for the Galaxy S24 Ultra, similar to what we saw with the iPhone 15 Pro Max this year, and unfortunately the rumors were true. The Galaxy S24 Ultra starts at $1,299, a $100 price bump from the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra leapfrogs the iPhone 15 Pro Max ($1,249) to once again secure its spot as the non-folding phone with the highest starting price. If you are looking for anything to soften the blow, if you pre-order the Galaxy S24 Ultra between now and January 30 on you are eligible for a $100 Samsung Credit and you also get a free storage upgrade from 256GB to 512GB, or for the first time you can opt for the 512GB to 1TB boost.

The offers help and you do have upgrades like the improved display and the titanium frame, but from a pure price standpoint, this one goes to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. It's also worth noting that the older model will surely drop in price now that its predecessor has launched.

Winner: Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra: Design and displays

As anticipated the design changes for the Galaxy S24 Ultra aren't a massive departure from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, but there are a few notable upgrades.

The first of these is the anticipated move to a titanium frame, much like what we saw from Apple on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max late last year. As the Galaxy S23 Ultra used aluminum, rather than a stainless steel frame like the iPhone, this doesn't result in a lighter phone, but it should prove more durable. 

Inside the Galaxy S24 Ultra gets an updated vapor chamber that is almost two times the size of the one in the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which should unlock even greater performance gains with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra display remains the same 6.8 inches with a QHD+ resolution and an adaptive refresh rate from 1-120Hz, but as rumored it is a flatter display that Samsung says is more optimized for viewing and productivity. Opinions will vary on this one, but I dramatically prefer this to the rounded edges from a usability standpoint. 

Samsung delivered two more upgrades for the Galaxy S24 Ultra display. The first is the move to Corning Gorilla Glass Armor, which reduces reflections by up to 75% and according to Corning's own testing is four times more scratch-resistant than "competitive aluminosilicate cover glasses." The former I'm inclined to believe as glare resistance has clearly been a focus on Samsung displays in this generation, but I'll await 3rd party testing on the scratch resistance.

Finally, Samsung claims the Galaxy S24 Ultra boasts an incredible peak brightness of 2,600 nits. We'll see what our lab has to say about that figure, but safe to bet that it will at least overtake the 1,444 that the Galaxy S23 Ultra managed last year.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra: Processor

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset was one of the S23 Ultra's most impressive features. More power, better graphics, and much-improved efficiency resulted in an all-around improvement in performance and battery life — leading to the S23 Ultra to feel like it genuinely lived up to its name.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra features the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor and while we still need to run our own tests, if Qualcomm’s released Geekbench and AnTuTu results are to be believed, performance from the 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is enough to rival the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 3nm A17 Pro chipset in several metrics. 

Of course, results like these have been known to over-promise. Until we get our hands on the Galaxy S24 Ultra and put it through its paces in our lab, we won’t know for certain just how the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 compares to its flagship Apple counterpart. We can say that benchmark results aren’t generally real-world reflective and that numerous factors go into how well a phone performs beyond its on-paper numbers.

Beyond raw power, Qualcomm and Samsung are leaning heavily into the AI capabilities of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 with a 42% improvement in the performance of that all-important NPU (Neural Processing Unit). This is the key to several of the new Galaxy AI features that Samsung highlighted today.

We'll find out the truth of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3's performance as we start putting the Galaxy S24 Ultra through its paces in real-world and lab testing today, but it's not a question of whether it will beat its predecessor, but whether it will manage to overtake Apple.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra: Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra had a magnificent secret weapon in tow when it was released: an almost comically high-spec 200MP main camera. It was a clear shot across the bow to the competition and an indicator to smartphone shutterbugs that Samsung was willing to go all-out to woo them.

Did it work? Well, let’s just say, there’s a reason you see the S23 Ultra topping so many best cameraphone lists. Beyond its impeccable main shooter, the S23 Ultra features a diverse array of lenses and sensors that make it one of the most versatile smartphones for taking pictures on the market. Toss in a pair of telephoto lenses with one capable of a 10x optical zoom, and the line between cameraphone and phone camera becomes blurrier than pictures of Bigfoot.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn't have as clear of an ace up its sleeve in the camera department, sticking to a 200MP main camera with the same f/1.7 aperture. The 12MP ultra-wide at f/2.2, 3x 10MP telephoto at f/2.4, and 12MP front-facing camera at f/2.2 also match up with last year. The one notable change comes to the formerly 10x optical zoom 10MP zoom at f/4.9, which now becomes a 5x optical 50MP zoom sensor at f/3.4.

The improvement to the aperture, the sensor, and the computational photography capabilities in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 may be enough to overcome the drop in optical zoom, but this is one category where we are going to get out and shoot photos in a wide variety of settings to see if the Galaxy S24 Ultra comes out on top. Stay tuned as we'll update this face-off in the coming days with our results.

Winner: TBD

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Overall winner

While we will continue to update this face-off with camera samples, lab test results, and our real-world testing, there is no question that the Galaxy S24 Ultra is an overall better phone than its predecessor. That shouldn't come as a significant surprise.

However, based on what we've seen so far, barring incredibly enticing trade-in offers, Galaxy S23 Ultra owners shouldn't be looking to make the leap. While the cumulative upgrades make for a solid package, many of the changes would go unnoticed by most users.

If you are coming from the Galaxy S22 Ultra that is a more serious question as the battery life and performance jump delivered by last year's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 was already considerable and we expect that both will take another step forward this year. The AI performance has also been a considerable focus over these last two generations, so you are missing out on some features and speed enhancements delivered by the NPU.

For anyone currently using a Galaxy S21 Ultra or Galaxy Note 20, this should be an easy upgrade. Battery life has seen a transformative change over that time and you are also likely facing battery degradation if you've been using the phone for the last 3+ years. Overall performance, AI performance, and camera upgrades are also dramatically improved, so you've waited long enough.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more. 

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