Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Galaxy AI take the wheel

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra kicks off the new year with a bang

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra with S Pen on the back laying screen down on a green wooden wagon
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a bigger update than it appears with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 driving brand-new AI experiences, while the new vapor chamber may boost performance and battery life to new heights.


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    Qualcomm's 8 Gen 3 chip

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    Enhanced AI capabilities

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    Impressive 200MP camera

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    Bright, vivid display

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    Almost 17 hours of battery life!


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    Minimal design changes

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    $100 price bump to $1,299

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs

Starting:  $1,299
OS:  Android 14, One UI 6.1
Display: 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile platform for Galaxy chipset
Rear cameras: 200MP main (ƒ/1.7); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 10MP 3x telephoto (f/2.4); 50MP 5x telephoto (f/3.4)
Selfie camera:  12 MP (f/2.2)
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Battery: 16:46
Size:   6.4 x 3.1 x 0.34 inches
Weight: 8.2 ounces

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the first mainstream flagship phone out of the gate in 2024 and it sets a high bar for the competition with enhancements across the board that its rivals may be hard-pressed to clear.

Outwardly there aren't massive changes, the flatter display is a usability upgrade and the move to titanium retains that premium appeal, but overall you'd be forgiven at a glance for confusing it for the previous two generations of Galaxy S Ultra. However, beneath those seemingly quiet waters flows a powerful new current in the form of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which Samsung is channeling to its full effect. The raw power and efficiency alone in the Galaxy S24 Ultra would make it a contender, but coupled with the new Galaxy AI features it's an unstoppable juggernaut.

I've spent over a week with the Galaxy S24 Ultra now, and while I'll continue to update this review as time goes on, I've seen everything I need to put this phone among the best smartphones. While it's an unbelievable phone, that new $1,299 starting price may be enough to give you pause, so read on to see if it's worth it for you.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra pricing and configurations

Samsung's top-tier flagship costs an extra $100 in 2024 with the Galaxy S24 Ultra now starting at $1,299 for the base model. If you are looking for good news you do get 12GB of RAM this year to go with your 256GB of storage, rather than the 8GB in the base Galaxy S23 Ultra

If you pre-order Galaxy S24 Ultra from Samsung from January 17-January 30, you get a free storage upgrade, so $1,299 will get you the 512GB Galaxy S24 Ultra or $1,399 will score you the largest 1TB model. Samsung will also toss in $100 in Samsung credit, which you could use on a Galaxy Watch or Galaxy Buds. Stack these deals with some of Samsung's typically excellent trade-in offers and it could take a lot of the sting out of that price. 

Pick up the Galaxy S24 Ultra at Best Buy instead and you can get a $150 Best Buy gift card on top of the same double storage offer and competitive trade-in discounts.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra design

The Galaxy S24 Ultra remains an absolute unit in 2024 at 6.4 x 3.1 x 0.34 inches, but thanks to the move to a titanium frame it drops to 8.2 ounces (ok, so it's only 0.1 ounces lighter, but it's something). If you don't like big phones, the Galaxy S24 Ultra still won't be for you, and if you do like big phones there's nothing else this premium looking and feeling on the Android side of things.

The Ultra is available in Titanium Gray, Titanium Black, Titanium Violet, and Titanium Yellow. Shop directly on for exclusive options like Titanium Green, Titanium Blue, and Titanium Orange. 

I didn't get to see the exclusive colors at my hands-on session, but the standard array all looked excellent. I'm partial to the natural look of the Titanium Gray of my review unit, but the Titanium Violet exudes an undeniably luxe appeal. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in Titanium Gray under an iPhone 15 Pro Max in Natural Titanium resting on a green wooden wagon

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Material sciences aside, the basic design remains the same as last year with metallic sides to the phone with the Side key (a.k.a. Bixby key) and volume buttons along the right. Around the back five lenses jut out the top left corner of the phone. While the look has grown on me, I still have a hard time carrying this phone without a case as putting the phone down either directly on its display or resting on that quintet of cameras eats at me like fingernails on a chalkboard. At the bottom are the USB-C charging port and the S Pen silo. 

The 6.8-inch QHD+ panel still delivers its adaptive 1-120Hz refresh rate, but you do get updated Corning Gorilla Armor that offers a 75% reduction to glare while being four times as scratch-resistant according to Samsung. I'll wait for 3rd party testing on that second point, but the anti-glare is instantly recognizable and may ruin just about every other phone display for me. The other display change is one I've been hoping to see for years, the waterfall display era has finally dried up, Galaxy S24 Ultra joins the flat display ranks again. I'm rejoicing for this one as I always found the curved displays more irritating to use, so here's hoping the other holdouts follow suit.

Durability otherwise remains the same with an IP68 rating which means it can withstand being submerged in up to 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) of water for 30 minutes along with protection from dirt, dust, and sand. If you are spending $1,300 on a phone it's good to hear that it can hold up to some wear and tear.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra display

We touched on it already, but Samsung remains the undisputed leader in mobile displays. However, if you were looking for major changes, you may be disappointed. The Galaxy S24 Ultra still sports a 6.8-inch, Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with an adaptive refresh rate able to drop down to 1Hz or ramp up to 120Hz based on the content on your screen. The one spec that Samsung is touting is the now 2,600 nits of peak brightness, and while it did perform well there, it came up shy of that mark in our lab tests at a max of 1,363 nits.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Samsung makes up for it on the color gamut testing with its vivid default setting delivering 98.5% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. That easily surpasses the iPhone 15 Pro Max (84.5%) and the OnePlus 12 (78.9%). However, both win some points back on the color accuracy test, where a lower score is better and the Galaxy S24 Ultra comes in at 0.25, while the OnePlus 12 hits an even 0.2 and the iPhone 15 Pro Max limbos under both at 0.14.

Samsung has enjoyed a lead on the competition for years now, so while it's still an excellent display, this feels like a little bit of coasting from them, but we'll just have to see if anyone can capitalize on it.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra performance

Last year Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 closed the gap considerably on Apple after years of dominance from the Bionic chipsets, but it remained a bit of a shock to see Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 surpass it in several categories. 

The most notable of these is Geekbench 6.2.2, where the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra now holds the highest multi-core score we've seen from a phone at 7,249. That's enough to just surpass the iPhone 15 Pro Max's 6,945. Single-core however remains in Apple's favor at 2,783 to 2,300. 

We saw Qualcomm-powered phones overtake Apple in graphics last year, so no surprise that it continues in 2024 with the Galaxy S24 Ultra hitting 20,627 in Wild Life Unlimited at 123.5 frames per second, easily beating the iPhone 15 Pro Max (15,399, 92.2). We are still in the process of testing some additional Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones, but these are going to be hard scores to beat for anyone this year.

Again the real-world experience mirrors this perfectly. There is no game, productivity task, or multitasking that will slow this phone down. I'm getting into some additional DeX testing to see if I can push the desktop experience on the Galaxy S24 Ultra to the point that it bogs down, but treating this like a phone you will not find its limit.

We'll address it in the software section, but now that Samsung has committed to 7 generations of Android updates and 7 years of security updates, all this performance headroom is good news as while it is overkill today, if you are keeping this phone for 5-7 years you'll appreciate it.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The S23 Ultra’s cameras were the big claim to fame for last year's flagship and things remain largely the same in 2024. The S24 Ultra sticks to a 200-megapixel primary sensor, but drops one of the other highlight specs from 2023, the 10x optical zoom. Samsung balanced that out by moving to a superior 50MP 5x optical zoom, which uses a combination of that higher resolution and computational photography to still deliver up to a 100x zoom, but we'll be testing the two phones side-by-side to see whether the software solution matches up to the optical zoom of the old model. 

Beyond the hardware, Samsung is talking up its ProVisual Engine this year, which is the AI-powered tricks up its sleeve. Some of these are editing tools for post-processing work on your photos, but others are happening automatically without your noticing. This includes the Adaptive Pixel Sensor that works in tandem with the onboard optical image stabilization in the telephoto and primary lenses on the back of the phone to deliver sharp images even when zoomed in. These two features are also helped by the larger 1.4 µm pixel size, a 60% boost from last year's sensor.

While the specs are part of the story, ultimately going out and taking photos with both phones is the only thing that's going to answer the question of how things have or haven't improved, so keep an eye out for our update to this review in the coming days.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra battery life

The S24 Ultra comes with a 5,000mAh battery, the same as its predecessor and the Galaxy S22 Ultra before it. However, much like the camera specs, battery size isn't the whole story when it comes to battery life. Last year we saw the Galaxy S23 Ultra last 12 hours and 22 minutes in our test, over two hours longer than the S22 Ultra on the same test and the longest a Galaxy S series phone had ever made it in our tests. 

After the performance results came in, it seemed like Qualcomm might have leaned into power over efficiency this year, but why not both? The Galaxy S24 Ultra lasted an incredible 16 hours and 46 minutes in our testing. That's almost four and a half hours longer than its predecessor and seven hours longer than the Galaxy S22 Ultra!

This is good enough to blow past the iPhone 15 Pro Max (14:02), but the OnePlus 12 (16:54) with the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 just managed to edge it out. Qualcomm has cracked the battery life cheat code this year as these are amazing results year-over-year and particularly looking back to Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, this is a night and day difference. 

Lest you think that Qualcomm just figured out how to optimize for battery life tests, my real-world usage has shown the same mind-bending results. Like James Bond, this phone is going to have to die another day, because I could not kill it in a single day's usage. With heavy photo and video usage, gaming, and watching streaming video I have taken it down to 28%, but that's the best I could do. With more normal usage you could easily power through two days on a single charge or beyond if you turn on the power saving mode.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones are about to rule the phones with the best battery life page in 2024, which is going to mean all eyes on Apple this fall for a strong response.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra software

The Galaxy S24 Ultra arrives running Android 14 with the latest version of its One UI software, One UI 6.1. However, the biggest news is that Samsung is now matching Google's support promise with seven years of software updates and seven years of security updates.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The other major change for the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the introduction of Galaxy AI. We'll dig deeper into these features as we work on our full review, but here's a quick look at what's possible.

Live Translate is an impressive addition to the Galaxy's bag of tricks, whether you are in person or making a call the Galaxy S24 Ultra can do real-time, two-way voice and text translations in the native Phone app. I was given a demo of the feature and while it had the occasional slight translation falter, it was amazing how quickly it spit out the translation thanks to the fact that it is all happening on-device.


♬ original sound - Laptop Mag

Chat Assist is another handy feature for those who struggle with finding the right tone when messaging with a variety of different options from formal to very informal social media-focused phrasing with emoji. 

Samsung's Note Assist and Transcript Assist are potential dream productivity hacks for Galaxy S24 Ultra owners. The former gives you AI-generated summaries of your notes including a variety of formatting options and the ability to easily generate a distinct cover so you can quickly scroll through your various notes. The latter is AI Speech-to-Text, which again is happening on device and can similarly transcribe, summarize, or even translate recordings.

Samsung also partnered with Google for some clever AI features. Circle to Search lets you just long-press on the screen and then either circle, write, or highlight content on your display to search on it. 

All these AI features are clever, but perhaps the biggest software news for the Galaxy S24 Ultra was the aforementioned move to 7 Android updates and 7 years of security updates. Samsung now matches Google's Pixel commitments with both leading the industry when it comes to a committed update policy. Apple has hit 7 years of support with some of its phones, but it doesn't have an official stated policy.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)


There is no question that Samsung and Qualcomm have absolutely hit it out of the park with this generation when it comes to performance and battery life, I'm still doing some specific camera and Galaxy AI testing before I give a final ruling on the phone.

The price increase certainly isn't a welcome change when the phone looks largely the same on the outside, but the changes actually run deep on this phone with the anti-glare display, the built-in AI features, and the massive improvements to the performance and battery life.

The cameras remain my biggest question and regrettably we've been dealing with abysmal weather here that hasn't lent itself to some of the test photos I need. The loss of the 10x optical zoom stings, but what I have been able to capture so far doesn't suggest that it is the downgrade some believe it to be.

I'll still be working with the Galaxy S24 Ultra over the coming days and updating this hands-on with new information as soon as it becomes available, so if you want to stay up-to-date on the latest bookmark this page and check back for the latest including our final score.

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.