Published On: Fri, Jan 26th, 2024

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: The everything phone


The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is a powerful and fully featured Android phone (Image: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best phones you can buy, a do-it-all Android device with a lofty price tag to match

What we love

  • Great cameras
  • Excellent screen
  • Useful stylus
  • Seven years of software support
  • Clever AI features (that you can ignore)

What we don’t

  • Very expensive
  • Big and heavy
  • Selfie camera could be better

Despite its large boxy design, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the finest Android phone around. It packs in everything you could want in a smartphone (except for iOS!) and performs close to flawlessly no matter what you throw at it.

The display is excellent and less reflective than older phones, and is a joy to write and draw on with the S Pen stylus that nestles inside the phone when not in use – it’s still the only phone in the UK along with older Ultras that comes with one.

The S24 Ultra has superb performance thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset (which is absent on the S24 and S24 Plus in the UK), and the cameras are some of the most versatile you can find on any phone with four lenses handling many zoom lengths.

The new Galaxy AI features are nice to have but they aren’t a good reason to buy the phone, plus you can ignore them if you don’t want to use them. Circle to search and other cool Google-made tools are better, though they will come to other and older Android phones soon. Better is Samsung’s commitment to seven years of Android and security updates, matching the Google Pixel 8. 

Overall this is a ‘kitchen sink’ smartphone that’s a little hard to fit in every pocket, but otherwise is one of the best phones you can buy.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review

We’ll admit it upfront – the Galaxy S24 Ultra is very similar to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which indeed looked a lot like the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Samsung has not rocked the boat with visual changes, and aside from new headline AI features, there’s not too much new under the hood with its latest premium Android phone either.

But that doesn’t change the fact the S24 Ultra is one of the best phones you can buy.

Samsung has refined the Ultra’s big and boxy design by switching to a titanium frame and taking away the curved edges of the screen from previous generations. The S Pen stylus remains, as does the huge battery and quad-cameras on the back.

The company is shouting loudly about new ‘Galaxy AI’ tools, and while they are good to have, they are not essential, and many are not exclusive to the S24. A promised seven years of Android and security updates is more useful to most people, as are there great cameras.

Overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the very best Android phone you can get in the UK, even if its large rectangular design might put you off.

Design

  • Titanium frame scratches easily
  • S Pen stored in phone
  • Matt glass back

The S24 Ultra is big and heavy, which is the worst thing about it. Samsung may have stuffed every last feature and a huge battery into the thing, but it shows – this is a phone we found annoying to carry in a tight jeans front pocket.

The frame is now made from titanium but – unlike the new titanium iPhone 15 Pro – that material hasn’t made it much lighter due to Samsung already using aluminium on older devices. Despite claims it’s super strong, we picked up an annoying scratch on the material within days. The back of the phone is a lovely matt glass that hides fingerprints in the titanium grey colour we tested, and with flat top and bottom this is a true slab of a phone. The utilitarian look won’t be to everybody’s tastes so you can cover with a case (like the lovely plastic-free one I’ve been testing from Wave), but any case will of course make this large phone even bigger and heavier.

The S24 Ultra in four different shades

The S24 Ultra in four different shades (Image: Samsung)

At least you get an S Pen stylus stored in the body of the phone, a very useful accessory that is practically exclusive to Samsung’s Ultra line these days. It’s genuinely useful to draw, write, or use to poke around the software. If you don’t need a pen with your phone and would prefer a smaller handset, Samsung offers the regular Galaxy S24 or slightly larger S24 Plus with curvier designs.

The haptics on the phone (the vibrations when you type) are excellent, adding to the premium feel, and the in-screen fingerprint sensor works incredibly quickly. There’s also face unlock via the selfie camera.

Display

  • Beautiful 6.8-inch OLED screen
  • Flat panel
  • Thinnest bezel on any Samsung phone

Samsung has done away with the curved displays of previous Ultras, which is good as it doesn’t reflect light in odd ways at the edges. Less reflection is also helped by the new Corning Gorilla Armor material that really does show less glare compared to other phones while helping to protect it against scratches and cracks.

Samsung may have stuffed every last feature and a huge battery into the S24 Ultra, but it shows – this is a phone we found annoying to carry in a tight jeans front pocket

The 6.8-inch OLED screen is very good indeed with an excellently smooth scrolling effect thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate. It can also get incredibly bright in direct sunlight to help you see things better thanks to Samsung’s Vision Booster tech that cranks the brightness up to a dazzling 2,600 nits if needed. The bezels at the very edge of the screen are also razor-thin, giving the newly flat front of the device a true all-screen look. It’s great whether you’re texting, scrolling Instagram, shooting photos, or watching a few episodes of your favourite box set tucked under the covers.

Cameras

  • Outstanding 200MP main camera
  • Quad-lens setup is versatile
  • Selfie camera improved over S23 Ultra

With four rear lenses, the S24 Ultra is one of the most versatile pocket cameras out there. Samsung’s photos are all social media ready thanks to boosted colours, particularly blues and greens that aren’t always true to life, but we were very pleased with some of the shots the phone managed.

The rear camera lenses of the S24 Ultra

The rear camera lenses of the S24 Ultra (Image: Samsung)

The 200MP main camera collects a ton of detail to output in 12MP, 50MP, or 200MP images, with excellent sharpness and detail in most lighting conditions. Portrait shots are superb with background blur and artistic flair in all the right places.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

There was a 10x optical zoom on the S23 Ultra but that is a 5x here – it looks like a downgrade on paper but as it’s a higher resolution 50MP shooter, results are just as good, if not better than before. We shot many zoom shots at various ranges, and it’s a game changer. You won’t know how you lived without such a capable zoom once you’ve tried it.

With four rear lenses, the S24 Ultra is one of the most versatile pocket cameras out there

Shots at all levels up to 10x have great detail and are very shareable and usable – not something you can always say about zoom photos from phones. 100x zoom is still possible, but the shots look like this:

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Here’s an example of a much better zoom shot, taken from a boat. I was not that close:

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The selfie shooter is good in a pinch including for group shots and video calls, but we think Samsung could do better here considering how expensive this phone is. Shots in low light can be a little grainy.

Performance and battery life

  • Very powerful Snapdragon chip
  • Great for top-end gaming
  • Battery can last two days with light use

The S24 Ultra uses a souped-up version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset designed especially for Samsung, and it absolutely flies through any task. This is a very quick phone that can handle multitasking, flipping between apps, and top tier gaming with ease. There’s a sizable vapour chamber inside the phone to help with cooling so it doesn’t overheat when you’re really taxing it.

All models of the phone have 12GB RAM, and you can choose between 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB storage options. 256GB should be enough for most, but you might want to level up if you intend to keep the phone for several years or if you want to store a lot of music or videos on the device – there’s no microSD card slot for expandable storage. You do get dual nano-SIM slots, though, plus eSIM capability.

A stylus being used on the Galaxy S24 Ultra

The S Pen stylus isn’t essential but it is very useful when you need it (Image: Samsung)

Samsung stuffed a huge 5,000mAh battery into the S24 Ultra, and the software is surely also doing some wizardry because the phone lasts absolutely ages. Unless you are hammering it at all hours, we found the phone could carry us well into two days of use. It’s a shame Samsung doesn’t offer truly fast charging, capped at 45W speeds that can fully charge it in under two hours. That’s miles off the £849 OnePlus 12 that can fully charge from dead in 27 minutes with the included charger. Samsung only puts a USB-C cable in the box with the £1,249 S24 Ultra, so you’ll have to buy a charger separately.

Software and AI

  • Android 14
  • Seven years of software support
  • New AI features are not essential

The S24 Ultra runs Android 14 at launch with Samsung’s customisable but busy One UI skin. We like it, but it takes some tweaking to get it how we like it, a far cry from the simplicity of the Google Pixel phones.

The phone is packed with new ‘Galaxy AI’ features, but we found them easy enough to ignore. That’s because they’re not immediately life changing – phone companies are desperate to differentiate (not just Samsung) and so currently these artificial intelligence tools feel more like a proof of concept than something you will buy the phone just to get.

We reckon the best of the bunch is ‘Circle to search’ (which we wrote about here), where you hold the home button or swipe bar to freeze whatever is on your screen. You can then circle an object to Google search it. It’s quick and helpful if you want to identify a landmark, object, or product – but it requires a web connection. It’s also coming to other Android phones.

The new Circle to search software feature

The new Circle to search software feature is genuinely useful (Image: Samsung)

Some of the AI is done on-device, meaning you don’t need to be connected to the internet and your data for the features are kept private and out of the cloud – though Samsung says you’ll get better if these features run through their cloud servers. Tools include live translation in an Interpreter mode that lets you have a two-way conversation in two languages while the translation appears on your screen. There’s even a live translation feature built into the Phone app – you can call someone and it will translate what you are saying to them with an AI voice, and vice versa. It’s a little clunky and confusing for the person you have called, but in our testing it does work.

You can also get the Samsung Keyboard to change the tone of a text you’re about to send to make it sound more professional or casual, as well as grammar suggestions, plus the Voice Recorder app can now transcribe recordings and summarise a whole recording down into simple bullet points.

The summarise Galaxy AI tool in action

Galaxy AI can summarise notes, web pages or voice recordings (Image: Samsung)

And taking a leaf out of the Google Pixel’s book – Google’s Gemini AI powers a lot of these tools – you can also edit photos to erase objects or people, or move things around. We found it, like the Pixel, a little rough around the edges. Plus, we don’t really want to fake our photos in the first place. Samsung also quietly said AI features are only free until the end of 2025, with no indication of how much you’ll have to pay after that.

… this is the very best Android has to offer

While you can also summarise notes you make with the S Pen stylus, we much preferred just scribbling down notes on the virtual notepad, marking up PDFs for work, signing documents, and sticking reminder notes to the lock screen. This is a do-everything phone, and above all it feels intuitive and fun.

Samsung is giving the S24 Ultra seven years of Android updates and security updates, so the phone is supported until 2031. That’s an industry best, though the battery probably won’t last that long.

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra costs £1,249 for the model with 256GB storage and 12GB RAM. That’s £50 more than the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

You can buy the S24 Ultra direct from Samsung, Argos, Currys or Amazon, as well as all the major UK networks.

You can also check out our separate S24 Ultra deals round up article.

The 512GB/12GB version costs £1,349 while going up to 1TGB/12GB is a hefty £1,549 – two prices that undercut the equivalent iPhone 15 Pro Max by £50. The 128GB Google Pixel 8 Pro costs £999.

There’s no doubt the S24 Ultra is incredibly expensive, especially when the OnePlus 12 has very similar specs for £849 – itself a steep figure. You will be rewarded with the finest Android experience going, but it’s a high price from Samsung against its rivals. Even Samsung’s own folding Galaxy Z Flip 5 is arguably more technoligically impressive than the Ultra, and that phone is cheaper at £1,049.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best phones you can buy, a do-it-all Android device with a lofty price tag to match. It’s a little big and heavy, but it packs in absolutely everything you could want from a premium smartphone in 2024, with great cameras, a superb screen, long battery life, new AI tools, and an industry-best seven years of software support.

If you don’t mind the size, this is the very best Android has to offer.



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