Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review: taken to the extreme

This is the phone Samsung’s been working towards

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra home screen with clock and weather
(Image: © Philip Berne / Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra embraces what it means to be Ultra, a phone that transcends the smartphone category. It offers more than any other phone, and somehow manages to improve upon last year’s Ultra in every way. The Galaxy S24 Ultra has better battery life, faster performance, and even better cameras, though you’ll also pay a bit more for the improvements. The new AI features are the only thing that can slow this phone down, except for Samsung’s aging and terrible software, which buries every exciting thing under layers upon layers of settings and menus. When you see the Ultra in action, it’s worth the price, and some features are downright magical, but there’s more room than ever for improvement at the top.

Pros

  • +

    Better performance and battery life than ever before

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    Great cameras improve the photo quality over last year

  • +

    Titanium frame and durable Gorilla Armor glass

Cons

  • -

    Big and heavy – titanium didn’t help with that

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    Many new and great features are hidden beneath terrible menus

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    AI features are often useless and cause performance delays

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Galaxy S24 Ultra: Two-minute review

If you made a list of everything you’d want on the best phone you can buy, your list would point to one phone: the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Samsung is clearly working from the same list, and the S24 Ultra will please fans and tech enthusiasts alike. In many ways, including some I didn’t expect, the Galaxy S24 Ultra proves itself the best phone you can buy at any price. 

Do you want the best battery life? The Galaxy S24 Ultra outlasts the best iPhones and every previous Galaxy phone; it lasts more than a day with intense use. 

Do you want the best cameras around? The Galaxy S24 Ultra takes better photos than its predecessor, no matter what the spec sheet says. It remains the most versatile camera phone for all types of photographs. Your artistic friends may prefer the iPhone 15 Pro, but you’ll take better shots of everything if you have a Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

What else do you need? If you play games, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best gaming phones ever. It outperforms the best Android gaming phones, and it can even beat the blazing-fast iPhone 15 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra lock screen

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

If you use your phone for work, the S24 Ultra has professional features that even the Pro iPhone can’t top, like Samsung DeX software that turns your phone into a veritable laptop, complete with windows and an application dock. 

Samsung is relentless. In its pursuit to push the Galaxy S24 Ultra further than any phone that came before, it has mostly succeeded. And yet, more than ever, it’s apparent what is missing: elegance and simplicity. 

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the best phone you can buy in all of the ways that should matter. It’s also the culmination of Samsung’s worst instincts. And while fans won’t mind suffering for Samsung’s advancements, this phone won’t be winning any switchers from the competition. 

Samsung’s software is a mess. It’s a morass of settings, hidden features, and useless options that clutter the interface. It’s a jumble of features that were old five years ago, but which haven’t been either updated or abandoned since. 

For every new feature Samsung adds to excite buyers, it takes two steps back, hiding those features beneath further settings menus and layers of options. If you were expecting to find new AI features on the Galaxy S24 Ultra you won’t be disappointed, as long as you’re willing to look three layers deep in the Settings app.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing tiktok

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Samsung also may have squandered its brief performance lead on fanciful AI features that don’t work very well, or aren’t useful at all. Even if you find the language translation feature magical, you’ll also find a useless AI button that will reformat your Samsung Notes (who uses those?), or offer an inaccurate summarization of the web page you’re reading (gee, thanks). 

Worst of all, these AI features add a delay. While you’re speeding around the new Galaxy at the fastest clip ever, these new AI features are speed bumps on the highway, and the results are just as welcome. I’m hopeful that useful AI advancements are coming, but right now we’re suffering through a lot of proofs of concept, and it’s only slowing down this otherwise lightning-fast phone. 

The bottom line for the Galaxy S24 Ultra is still very high in the sky. This phone is the best you can buy, and all the software frustration and useless AI features won’t keep me from appreciating the weekend-long battery life, the unfailing cameras, and the endlessly-useful S Pen.