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.


  • +

    Better performance and battery life than ever before

  • +

    Great cameras improve the photo quality over last year

  • +

    Titanium frame and durable Gorilla Armor glass


  • -

    Big and heavy – titanium didn’t help with that

  • -

    Many new and great features are hidden beneath terrible menus

  • -

    AI features are often useless and cause performance delays

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Editor's Note

• Original review date: January 2024
• Camera updates continue to roll out
• Launch price: $1,299.99 / £1,249 / AU$2,199
• Lowest price on Amazon: $1,149.99 / £1,040 / AU$2,199

Update: April 2024. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is not only our pick for the best smartphone overall, it's also our favorite camera phone, at the top of our best camera phone list. That means that all eyes are on the S24 Ultra and the images it produces. Perhaps that's why Samsung keeps releasing camera updates to improve the image quality and stability of the camera system. We're on our third update since the phone launched, and image quality was always good, but Samsung is going to keep tweaking this phone, probably until we have a Galaxy S25 Ultra to play with. 

Philip Berne
Philip Berne

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.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra from the back with S Pen mostly withdrawn

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

This is the phone I use instead of my laptop or my tablet, because it’s more powerful and convenient when I need to get work done. This is the phone I show off when I want people to see what technology is coming in the near future. This is the phone I carry when I want to carry next to nothing, but still do everything. 

I wish the Galaxy S24 Ultra was much easier to use, and maybe AI can solve Samsung’s usability problems in the future. I think Samsung needs a reckoning before that happens. The iPhone 15 Pro with iOS 17 is not just simpler, it’s more fun and sociable, with cool features like Name Drop and Check In that make iPhone users proud to share among iPhone friends. 

Samsung doesn’t seem to care about that, but it should. The software problems have gotten bad enough that I won’t stick around much longer. The hardware is already great, and it somehow keeps getting better. Now it’s time for Samsung to focus on using the phones, instead of just building them.

Galaxy S24 Ultra: Price and value

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra from the back in titanium grey

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Costs more than last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • Seven years of OS updates could improve value
  • Trade in deals and launch offers aren’t as good as last year

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is more expensive at launch than last year's Ultra, and the difference is going to hurt more. The Galaxy S23 Ultra was already packed with features, and there's nothing so big and new in the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It just got a little bit better in a lot of ways. 

The real value could come down the road, thanks to Samsung's promise to deliver seven years of major Android and security updates. That length of long-term support was unheard of only last year, but now we have seven years of support for the best Android phones, with Apple lagging behind offering only five years of support. 

Samsung can promise breathlessly, but until we get to year seven, we won't know if it will truly deliver. Apple has literally delivered on this long-term promise a dozen times already across a wide range of iPhones. Google and Samsung – not once.

There's already reason to be skeptical. Buried in Samsung's latest terms of service is a notice that the current slate of AI features may only remain free for a limited time. Frankly, we have no idea what that means and it's too early to speculate. But it's weird, in a way that seems like Samsung is building legal backdoors to weasel out of expectations. Apple doesn't do that. Only time will tell if Samsung holds up.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra in front of Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

I bought a Galaxy S23 Ultra last year, trading a Galaxy S21 Ultra for it, and I am sad to report that trade in deals and discounts at launch are not as enticing as they were a year ago.

If you are trading up from last year's model, expect to pay hundreds over your trade value. I'd still say it's worth making the leap, just this once. Older phones are going to be left out of the newest AI features more and more with every update. That means values could plummet the first time Samsung delivers bad news and drops the features guillotine on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, or something even newer. 

In the months since I originally published this review, we have seen some deals on the Galaxy S24 Ultra on Amazon, effectively lowering the price by around $150 / £200 or so. This is still one of the most expensive phones you can buy, and we don't see Samsung dropping the price much more, even when the next generation of Galaxy Z foldable phones shows up later this year. 

Is this phone worth such a high price? If you're asking that question, you are reading the wrong review. You want the Galaxy S24 Plus, which is probably worth it. This is the Ultra. This is the extreme phone; the one that does what no other phone can do. You can't put a normal price tag on Ultra. It doesn't fit.

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Galaxy S24 Ultra pricing at launch
StorageUS PriceUK PriceAU Price
  • Value Score: 3 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Specs and benchmarks

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing writing on lock screen "taken to Extreme"

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

In our Future Labs benchmark tests of the Galaxy S24 Ultra, an astonishing thing happened. It beat the best-performing iPhone: the iPhone 15 Pro. In almost every single benchmark test we ran, the Galaxy S24 Ultra scored higher. In multi-core tests, graphics rendering tests, battery rundown tests, and many others, the Galaxy S24 Ultra beat the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

Last year's Galaxy S23 Ultra was not able to top the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, and it has been quite some time since an Android device scored a resounding win in cross-platform benchmark testing.

That said, I don't use benchmark scores in my final review score, and I only mention scores out of objective curiosity, not because benchmarks should be a part of a buying decision.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Dimensions:162.3 x 79.0 x 8.6mm
Screen:6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 2,600-nit peak brightness
Refresh rate:1Hz-120Hz variable
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
OS; Expected Upgrades:Android 14 / One UI 6; 7 years of upgrades
Rear Cameras: 200MP f/1.7 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 50MP f/3.4 periscope (5x), 10MP f/2.4 telephoto (3x)
Front Camera: 12MP f/2.2
Battery: 5,000mAh
Charging: 45W wired, 15W wireless
Colors: Titanium Violet, Titanium Gray, Titanium Black, Titanium Yellow, Titanium Blue, Titanium Green, and Titanium Orange

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Design

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra from side showing buttons

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • A big ol’ slab of smartphone
  • Titanium hasn’t made it lighter
  • Polished and classy, but unchanged

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is indistinguishable from the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which doesn't mean there are no differences, but rather the changes are inconsequential. The speaker grills are different, the microphones moved a bit, but mostly the new phone looks like the old phone. That's too bad, because while Samsung's Ultra phone oozes a certain refinement, it isn't very interesting at a glance.

A deeper inspection is rewarding. The back glass is layers upon layers of metallic paint, which gives the phone an eerie depth, especially in the ghostly, natural grey titanium finish. The violet finish is my favorite, with a great contrast against the polished metal. 

Samsung pays great attention to detail when it comes to color, materials and finish. Each color has a subtly hued frame that complements the new Gorilla Glass Armor back. The titanium black is all black, while other color options edge into warmer frame tones.

Apple fans like to point out the symmetry of their phone as a pinnacle of its design. Frankly, Samsung is more smart than symmetrical. I prefer having Power and Volume buttons on the same side. It means I don't fill my photo gallery with accidental screenshots every time I grab my phone.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra beneath an iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Like Apple, Samsung has opted for titanium on the frame this year, but it doesn’t make as much difference as it does on my iPhone 15 Pro Max. The Pro Max managed to shed considerable weight this year versus last year, about half an ounce. The Galaxy Ultra? It’s a single gram lighter, at most.

If you’ve never played with an Ultra, you really need to pick one up and pop the pen. Did you know the S Pen clicks? There's no reason for it. It could just pop out, spring-loaded, but instead the S Pen has a clicky top that is extremely satisfying. Oh, the S Pen is also a motion-sensing stylus with a Bluetooth camera remote button, but Samsung hasn't neglected the clicky top. 

Of course, that S Pen isn’t just built for fun, it’s one of the most surprisingly capable accessories ever. It’s as precise as a professional drawing tool, not like a big, clumsy, rubber-tipped stylus that you can buy for an iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra held from the side

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

It also has Bluetooth built in so the side button can act as a remote control for other features on your phone, especially the camera. That’s right, the Galaxy S24 Ultra ships with a remote camera shutter release, which is an accessory I actually bought to go with my Nikon DSLR. 

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is flat this year, ending a run of screen curvature that began with the double-black-diamond slope of the Galaxy Note Edge, and subtly resolved itself into a signature Samsung look that reduced the effect of the bezel around the edges. On the front and back, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has gently-rounded curves that make the phone feel much nicer to hold. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is more sharp, and though it isn't uncomfortable, it feels conspicuously big.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Display

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing generative AI wallpaper castle

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Fantastic display in bright light or a very dim room
  • Huge and sharp, among the best you’ll find
  • Lack of Dolby Vision support still stings

The display on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is excellent, as good as you'd hope to find on a premiere smartphone. It’s huge, bright and colorful, especially using the Vivid color tone option.

There are plenty of adaptations for this display, including adaptive brightness and color tones that measure ambient lighting and adjust the display to look its best. In bright, outdoor light, the display can boost to a stunning 2,600 nits, which isn't quite the brightest you can find, but you won't need any brighter. 

Even more interesting might be the Extra Dim option. The Galaxy S24 Ultra can maintain good color fidelity even down at one nit of brightness. That's dim enough that you could almost check your messages in a movie theater, but then you’d be an extra dim Ultra jerk. But you could.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra playing a TikTok video

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

There is an always-on display mode, but Samsung also still makes its unique S-View cases, which provide a small window for time, weather, and notifications, peeping through a wallet cover case. It's a very cool case feature that Samsung never abandoned, even if we haven't checked them out for a while. 

Could the Galaxy S24 Ultra display be any better? Absolutely. There are phone displays that can reach 144Hz refresh rate, though that may be faster than a human eye can actually see. 

It would be nice for Samsung to give up the fight against Dolby Vision on its phone displays and TV sets. If you watch a lot of Netflix, shows look better when you compare a display with Dolby Vision against a display without. It seems like a silly omission for Samsung not to support Dolby's HDR video standard, when it supports Dolby Audio.

  • Display score: 5 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Software

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing Advanced Intelligence settings menu

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Terrible software hides all new features under ‘Settings’
  • New AI features are occasionally magical, but mostly useless
  • Seven year update promise already has an asterisk

It has become abundantly clear that Samsung is focused entirely on hardware and has no interest in improving its software. The software on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is terrible, and One UI is becoming unusable. Even the simplest features are bogged down with options and menus, and Samsung can’t seem to make a single decision about what’s best for its users.

I'm going to give Samsung a year to fix its software problems, though I suspect it will take two years or more to dig out of the current mess. Everything that was wrong with Samsung software has gotten worse, and the problems infect every new addition, like a disease.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra is loaded with features, but where do you find them? Where do you find the new AI translation tools, or set up the AI feature that rewrites your text messages? Where do you turn on AI to edit photos, or AI to summarize a web page? All in the same place, sadly.

All of the new Samsung Galaxy AI features are buried in Settings, and they are not at the surface. There are 22 different options in the Settings menu. Option 16 of 22 is Advanced Features. Tap on this and you'll find “Advanced Intelligence,” which isn't actually what AI stands for… is it? In any case, that’s where Samsung has hidden all of the cool new features for its flagship smartphone: under the 16th Setting option, three layers down.

I’ve talked to Samsung about this, and they recognize that it’s a problem. Features are hidden. Everything gets buried in Settings, as if that is a place we expect to find features as disparate as wireless power sharing, parental controls for children, and always-on display widgets. 

In a feeble attempt to inform users about everything the phone can do, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will occasionally bubble up messages and suggestions for things to try. Sadly, Samsung phones are overloaded with messages and suggestions. Galaxy phones will infamously serve you an advertisement, on your brand new Galaxy phone, imploring you to buy that brand new Galaxy phone. 

That’s not how you educate people. Take it from me, a former high school teacher, if you simply tell your users about a new feature once, you haven’t taught them to use it. Samsung needs to take a big step back and figure out how to encourage users to try features they will enjoy. Samsung also needs to remove the features that aren’t being used, and hide the ones that don’t need to be visible. 

As for the new AI features, they are a mixed bag of amazing magic and useless doggerel. If you get a chance to use the AI translation on a phone call, it’s like science fiction. It feels like you’ve stuck a Babel fish into your ear and you’re living in a fantasy future. Samsung could write ‘Don’t Panic’ on the phone and ship it with a towel.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing AI writing style tools

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Other AI features are useful, but only to a point. The AI writing style feature can adapt your text messages to a variety of different styles, including a professional tone and more playful messages, replete with emojis and hashtags. In practice, the differences were not very useful, and I mostly just stuck with what I’d written. Samsung also over-promised on this feature. I distinctly remember reps saying the phone would convert my words to Shakespeare, but I’ve seen nothing like this on my S24 Ultra. 

These writing style and translation features are built into the Samsung Keyboard, so they work across multiple apps. Unfortunately, Samsung has utterly broken its software keyboard. During my test period, I had some of the worst trouble with autocorrect and an onscreen keyboard that I’ve ever had. 

The keyboard would often capitalize words in the middle of a sentence for no reason. Even worse, it would autocorrect partial words and automatically insert some nonsensical phrase or string of characters into my typing. While typing contractions, most keyboards are smart enough to insert the apostrophe, but on the Samsung Keyboard the autocorrect tried to insert whole new words after my contraction. It was making up content out of context, and it was completely wrong.

When I went back to change the error, the keyboard was quite unfriendly. While the Apple iPhone keyboard assumes that a backspace after autocorrect means the autocorrection was bad, the Samsung keyboard sticks to its guns and makes changing errors incredibly tedious. 

I suspect that if I am diligent with the Samsung Keyboard and I keep correcting all of its elementary errors, I will eventually teach it to write properly. I don’t have time for this. I’m not sure how Samsung broke its keyboard so badly, but it’s terrible and needs an immediate update. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing

The Galaxy S24 Ultra has generative AI wallpaper, just like the Google Pixel 8 Pro (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Some of the AI features that carried over from the Google Pixel 8 family have turned out to be a disappointment, as well. Samsung promised that its Voice Recorder app would offer transcripts and summaries, just like the Recorder app on the Google Pixel. In practice, Samsung’s app is not as advanced or useful as the Pixel version. It’s slower, less accurate, and does not provide a live transcription of the conversation as it happens. 

The image editing features are also less impressive on the Galaxy S24 Ultra than they are on the Pixel 8 Pro. The Galaxy gets Samsung’s take on the Magic Editor tool, dubbed Generative Edit, which lets you select objects in your photo to move, resize, or erase them. When you erase an object or a whole background, the phone can use AI to replace that part of the image. 

What the Samsung phone lacks are the best editing tools available on the Pixel, namely the Photo Unblur tool that sharpens even old photos you didn’t take with your smartphone, and the Best Take option that combines multiple photos to get rid of closed eyes and ugly expressions.

Yet, as much as I complain about Samsung’s software, there are simply things you can do with a Galaxy phone, especially the Galaxy S24 Ultra, that you can’t do with anything else. I love Samsung’s DeX, which turns your phone into something that acts more like a Chromebook, when you plug it into a monitor with a keyboard and mouse. You get a new home screen with windows and a dock, and everything runs smoothly. 

Why is this useful? I have a computer at home, but my corporate IT guys don’t like me using it for work stuff. Instead, I use my phone, which is already set up with work and personal accounts. If I need to get work done at home, or even while I’m traveling, I don’t need to bring my work laptop. I can just plug my Galaxy S24 Ultra into a USB hub and now I have all of my work and personal stuff in one place. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra connected to a monitor and keyboard using DeX

Using the Galaxy S24 Ultra (left) with DeX on my home monitor (Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

I can respond to important emails using a real keyboard, or edit documents in Microsoft Word and Google Docs. I can do just about everything I need, short of running Chrome web browser extensions. I never need to add my protected work account to my own personal computer. I can just use DeX and have the best of both worlds on my Galaxy S24 Ultra.

As mentioned, Samsung promises that the entire Galaxy S24 family will get software updates and security patches for the next seven years. With brand new AI features on the phone, I wonder how Samsung will be able to pull this off, especially since AI seems to be advancing exponentially. How can a seven-year-old phone possibly survive in the year 2031?

One clue may lie in Samsung’s terms of service. Hidden deep you’ll find the following language concerning AI features: “Samsung may, at any time, change some or all of its advanced intelligence features to subscription-based features, in which case Samsung will provide prior notice. Samsung reserves the right to rate limit you to prevent quality decay or interruptions to the advanced intelligence features.”

This could be completely innocuous, or it could be a sinister sign that Samsung is looking for a loophole to get out of its seven year promise. It may offer future Android updates in regular and “Premium” flavors. It could also exclude certain models from any future premium feature and just offer the most basic, barebones OS to the Galaxy S24 Ultra by the time, say, Android 18 is launched, presumably in four years.

In any case, there is now an asterisk on Samsung’s promise of seven years of updates, until this is clarified. I want and expect Samsung to behave like Apple. Any features that aren’t entirely hardware dependent should come to every eligible phone. The five-year old iPhone XR obviously can’t get a new Dynamic Island, but the latest update brought NameDrop, which is a brand new iOS 17 feature. We expect the same when the Galaxy S24 Ultra is updated to Android 21 in 2031.

  • Software score: 3 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Better image quality, even if the specs are suspicious
  • Less detail from the zoom lens, but better color and range
  • Still needs help with low light and noise reduction

The Galaxy S23 Ultra was our overall best camera phone of last year, so rumors that Samsung would be dropping the optical zoom from 10x to 5x set off a flurry of concern. The 10x zoom was the standout feature on the Galaxy S23 Ultra … aside from the 200MP sensor, the two zoom lenses, the 100x digital astrophotography, the AI image enhancements, and everything else the phone could do. Still, it’s odd for Samsung to take a step backwards, especially where specs are concerned.

Let’s start with the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 5x zoom lens. Samsung has not taken a step backwards, more a step sideways. The Galaxy S24 Ultra still has the best zoom camera you can find on a smartphone. It’s better than the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 10x zoom, and it’s much better than the 5x zoom you’ll find on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Most of the time, like when you are really using the zoom to its full extent.

When you zoom in to 10x or even 100X, the Galaxy S24 Ultra produces images with better color and much better dynamic range than the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Where the older camera made images look flat, you’ll see more depth and shadow with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. What you won’t see is plenty of detail. Samsung has sacrificed the fine details in images for better overall quality.

It’s a good trade. Those 10x and 100x zoom images from the S23 UItra look terrible. Sure, you could make out some details, but they are mixed with noise and blur like a virtual chopped salad. On the Galaxy S24 Ultra, you won’t see as much, but you’ll be happier sharing those photos because they actually look like good pictures, rather than police evidence. 

In a straight comparison between the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max at 5x zoom, the iPhone produces better images. Once you start applying digital zoom, the Galaxy does a better job. At 5x zoom, I got a nice landscape shot of a lighthouse from both cameras. When I zoomed into 25x, the Galaxy kept more detail and even better color than the iPhone. The iPhone couldn’t zoom any farther, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra could grab enough detail from the Peck Ledge lighthouse, which sits a mile off the Connecticut coast, to count the stairs leading up from the dock.

Samsung has been criticized in the past for unnatural color in photos, and it’s clear the company took this to heart and tried to hew closer to the iPhone’s processing techniques. Colors look much more natural all around, often even cooler than the over-warm iPhone pics that cast a yellowish tint on some images. Digital sharpening problems have been reigned in, so the Galaxy S24 Ultra produces images with a nice amount of detail, without the blurriness you’ll find on some iPhone pics.

That doesn’t mean the camera isn’t without problems. Low light is still an issue, and other phones handle various night situations better. The Google Pixel 8 Pro is better at landscape and city photos at night, and even the OnePlus 12 could handle some mixed-light shots, like taking photos of food in a dark restaurant, better than Samsung’s best. 

Overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the best camera phone I’ve used in the past year. It may not dominate in every area, but it performs consistently better than every other phone, whether you’re using an iPhone, a Pixel, or even a newer OnePlus phone with fancy Hasselblad processing. 

Where Samsung really excels is in the interesting shots. If you need a good macro photo up close, or an appetizing pic of the pizza you made, the Galaxy has you covered. Selfies and portraits look great, with accurate skin tones and enough detail that you won’t look like a poseur. The phone had no trouble framing my adorable dog and cropping her fuzzy ears nicely in a portrait shot. 

For photo editing, Samsung has made some advances, but you’re better off relying on third-party software, and maybe even some obscure Samsung apps. In the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s Gallery app, you can now apply the Generative Edit AI features, which can resize and move objects in your image, or completely change the background depending on the context of the shot. It’s a nice trick, but I’m not sure it counts as photography as much as mixed-media collage. If you do apply any AI tricks, though, Samsung will add a small watermark to your photo to let viewers know.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra showing

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

The Samsung Gallery app will suggest photo edits, like removing reflections (above). You can see the results below:

If you miss the Photo Unblur feature from the Google Pixel 8 (and it is quite desirable), you can head to the Galaxy App Store and download Samsung’s Galaxy Enhance-X photo editor. This little-known app gives you a ton of advanced photo editing tools, many of which rely on AI and machine learning. These tools aren’t as effective as edits in Google Photos on a Google Pixel 8 Pro, but it’s cool to peek into Samsung’s software skunkworks to see what the company can create. 

You can also run more advanced photo editing software, like Adobe Lightroom and SnapSeed. These apps run very smoothly on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, and it was easier to edit photos with the S Pen than with my finger. 

I have not been able to test the AI moon photography features on the Galaxy S24 Ultra because it’s been cloudy since I received my review unit, but rest assured I will be shooting for the moon as soon as possible. Samsung says that the AI on board will recognize objects, then try to identify the subject to shoot the best photo. We’ll see if the new phone can keep up with the dazzling astrophotography of last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Image samples

Samsung has clearly made significant improvements with image processing on the Galaxy S24 Ultra compared to last year's Galaxy S23 Ultra. This photo looks much more natural with better color and dynamic range, and without as much digital sharpening:

  • Camera score: 5 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Performance

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra playing Call of Duty Mobile

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • First Android in memory to beat the iPhone in benchmarks
  • Only delay comes with new AI features
  • Tops in gaming and productivity

Ever since Apple started making its own Bionic chipset for the iPhone, we haven’t seen an Android phone that could beat Apple’s best iPhone in raw performance. That ends with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. The Ultra is just as fast as the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and in many ways it’s even faster. You may never notice the performance gains, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Qualcomm and Samsung have managed to top Apple’s silicon for the first time in years. 

What does that mean in the real world? Everything that you could do on your smartphone you can now do faster. If you play games like Call of Duty Mobile or Genshin Impact, you can play at the highest settings and experience fluid framerates and stutter-free gaming. 

Pair your game with an Xbox or Playstation controller via Bluetooth and you will be destroying noobs on pathetic Pixels and cheap Motorola phones in your multiplayer arena of choice. Seriously, having a phone that responds so quickly to your commands and movements is a huge win for multiplayer games. 

Is the Galaxy S24 Ultra a gaming phone, then? You’d better believe it. I tested the S24 Ultra against the Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro, a phone that is truly made for gaming. The S24 Ultra had no problem beating the ROG Phone 8 in every metric, even producing a higher framerate on the newest games.

If gaming isn’t your thing, you can still feel the performance benefits. I edit photos in Adobe Lightroom, and on my Galaxy S24 Ultra I can move the adjustment sliders freely and watch my photo change in real time. In side-by-side tests using the new Adobe intelligent masking features, the Galaxy S24 Ultra was able to find and select my foreground subject in seconds faster than my older Galaxy S23 Ultra. 

The only features that cause a delay on the Galaxy S24 Ultra are the new AI features, and that’s ironic. For the first time in years, Samsung commands a lead over its rival Apple, but it loaded the Galaxy S24 Ultra with AI features that Apple has skipped, so far. Instead of feeling like everything moves faster on my Galaxy, I have to wait while the AI composes new text messages, or makes edits in the photo gallery. 

Those features aren’t worth the wait. If there was no waiting, if writing suggestions appeared in real time the way Adobe Lightroom changes my photos, I’d be amazed by the AI tools and I’d use them more often. Instead, every time I see the AI stars logo appear, I see a Stop sign. 

  • Performance score: 5 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Battery life

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra battery settings menu

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Excellent battery life, among the best you’ll find
  • Fast charging, but could be faster
  • Plenty of power management options

You won’t find a phone with longer battery life than the Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

In our lab testing, which involves continuously browsing the web on 5G until the battery runs out, the Galaxy S24 Ultra in its default Adaptive display mode lasted a huge 16 hours and 45 minutes. That beats the impressive 14 hours and 2 minutes the iPhone 15 Pro Max managed in our testing. It also outlasts the Galaxy S23 Ultra by more than two hours, as beats many other Android phones too. 

You’d have to buy a hardcore gaming phone with a massive battery inside, like the Red Magic 9 Pro with its 6,500mAh cell, to get any more battery life from your phone. 

Samsung didn’t increase the size of the battery over last year’s Ultra, it just improved power management on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, so it saves more juice. The adaptive screen settings can be aggressive, but you can turn them off if you need a bright display all the time. You can also adjust settings like screen resolution and processor performance to save more power. 

There are even more extreme options. Samsung used to have an ultra power saving mode, but now that’s just another setting under the Power Saving features, letting you limit the apps available, turn off edge panels, dim the display, and generally shut down everything you don’t need to conserve every watt. 

There should be a more intelligent power management option that reads your habits and adapts the power savings to the way you use the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Oh, wait, there is such a mode and it’s called “Adaptive power saving.” But you’ll never find it.

Adaptive power saving is buried under the Settings menu, then under ‘Device care.’ Then you have to tap the Battery graph, which is a button that doesn’t actually look like a button, but trust me it’s a button. 

Then tap ‘Power saving,’ which also looks like plain text and not a button. Again, it’s a button. Hooray, you’re almost there! Just find the three little dots in the upper-right corner, which is a Samsung way to hide even more menus, and then you’ll finally be able to open the ‘Adaptive power saving’ settings. 

Why, Samsung? Why? Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t my Galaxy S24 Ultra come with adaptive power saving turned on by default? If this feature is so useful, why is it hidden beneath FIVE LAYERS of menus? Beneath buttons that don’t look like buttons, and submenus that are just cryptic dots? Enough is enough. Fix the software, or this is my last Galaxy Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra from the bottom showing USB C port

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

The Galaxy S24 Ultra charges at 45W, which is a respectable charging speed, fast enough to get you well past 50% if you only have a half hour to charge your phone. In fifteen minutes, my Galaxy S24 Ultra was just under 40% charged, and it took around 45 minutes to charge the phone completely. That’s even faster than Samsung promises.

There are phones that charge faster, like the OnePlus 12 that comes with an 80W charger. That phone can reach 100% charge in about half an hour, and OnePlus even has a superfast (ie. SuperVOOC technology) wireless charger that is capable of 50W charging. The S24 Ultra can handle up to 15W wireless charging, including the latest Qi2 charging standard. 

The Galaxy S24 Ultra can also charge other devices wirelessly, and if you can find wireless power sharing in the Settings menu, I will personally send you a prize. Instead, just add a Wireless power sharing button to the Quick settings menu if that’s a feature you use often. 

Unlike the OnePlus 12, the Galaxy S24 Ultra does not come with a charger in the box, and if you want the fastest charging speed you’ll need to pay attention to the charger you buy. You can spend a lot of money and get a big wall wart from Samsung, or you can do the right thing and get this Anker 713 Nano Charger from Amazon for around half the price.

  • Battery score: 5 / 5

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Score card

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra score card
ValueIt’s more expensive than last year, but if you want the best of the best, and then some, you’ll have to pay a premium. Don’t expect great deals like last year, either. 3/5
DesignThe Galaxy S24 Ultra looks exactly like the S23 Ultra, but with so many features packed in, what could Samsung change without losing something? Too bad titanium didn’t help Samsung cut weight.4/5
DisplayA big, bright, and beautiful display that is sharp and responsive. The flat design helps with writing, though the phone is more of a gigantic slab than ever. 5/5
SoftwareSamsung’s software has always been bad, but each new feature adds more complexity, and the interface has never been cleaned up properly. Things are a mess, and One UI better improve because nobody will care how great the phone is if it’s unusable. 3/5
CamerasThe Galaxy S24 Ultra holds Samsung’s crown as the best camera phone all around, for any occasion. You can find better pictures here and there from competitors, but the Ultra is more reliable and versatile than the iPhone, and it improves on last year’s S23 Ultra in important ways. 5/5
PerformanceThis is the first Android in a long time to beat the fastest iPhone, so what will you do with all that power? As long as you’re not waiting for the AI features, you can enjoy it with fast gaming and real-time photo editing. 5/5
BatteryBetter battery life than any iPhone or any Galaxy Ultra that’s come before, you won’t find better battery life on a phone worth buying. This phone can last more than a day with no trouble. 5/5

Buy it if...

You want to do a lot more with your phone
If you want a phone that does more than a phone should be capable of doing, you want a Galaxy S24 Ultra. This isn’t just a phone, it’s a laptop, a drawing tablet, a game console, and an entire camera bag in your pocket.

You want to see what the future feels like in your hand
Samsung tries new features before any other phone company, and if you want to make a phone call with a Star Trek universal translator, or have an AI rewrite your text messages for you, you need a Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

You want the best phone overall, no matter how hard it is to use
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is admittedly complicated, but that’s because there is so much that you can do with it. If you want uncompromising technology with every option available, get the Ultra. 

Don't buy it if...

You don’t need all that
If you have ever started a sentence with “I don’t need,” then the Galaxy S24 Ultra is not for you. It has everything you need and everything you don’t, and you can’t ask for less. It only comes with everything. 

You want a phone you can use with one hand
The Galaxy S24 Ultra is titanium, but it isn’t lighter than last year’s phone, and the Ultra is a big beast to behold. If you need something more manageable, try a different device. 

You prefer an elegant experience over tech wizardry
While the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a phone like no other, it isn’t easy to use, nor is the software elegant. If you want to appreciate intuitive design and features that feel natural, check out what Apple is doing with iOS 17 on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

Galaxy S24 Ultra review: Also consider


Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max
If you want the absolute best phone but the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t strike the right cord, there’s only one other phone to consider and that’s Apple biggest and best iPhone.


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
If cameras aren’t so important, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 gives you everything you’ll find on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, with a tablet folded away inside. It’s a whole new class of device. 


Google Pixel 8 Pro
You can save a lot of money by considering the Pixel 8 Pro, which is not only simple to use with a great camera, it also gets the same seven years of Android updates that Samsung has promised. Plus, AI directly from Google with no Samsung in between.

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Galaxy S24 UltraiPhone 15 Pro MaxGalaxy Z Fold 5Pixel 8 Pro
Price (at launch):$1,299 / £1,249 / AU$2,199$1,199 / £1,199 / AU$2,199$1,799.99 / £1,749 / AU$2,599$999 / £999 / AU$1,699
Dimensions:162.3 x 79.0 x 8.6mm159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25mm154.9 x 129.9 x 6.1mm (open) 154.9 x 67.1 x 13.4mm (closed)162.6 x 76.5 x 8.8mm
Displays6.8-inch OLED, 2,600-nit peak brightness6.7-inch OLED, 2,000-nit peak brightness7.6-inch OLED (inside) 6.2-inch OLED (cover)6.7-inch OLED, 2,400-nit peak brightness
Cameras200MP f/1.7 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 50MP f/3.4 zoom (5x), 10MP f/2.4 zoom (3x)48MP f/1.8 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 12MP f/2.8 telephoto (5x)50MP f/1.8 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 10MP f/2.4 zoom (3X)50MP f/1.7 wide, 48MP f/2.0 ultra-wide, 48MP f/2.8 zoom (5x)
Chipset:Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for GalaxyApple A17 ProQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2Google Tensor G3

How I tested the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

  • One week testing period
  • Used AI features extensively, plus Samsung exclusive software
  • Benchmark testing for comparison, not scoring purposes

I had the Galaxy S24 Ultra for a week before this review posted, but I have more experience with Samsung Galaxy Ultra phones than any other phone model, and perhaps more than any other reviewer. I worked for Samsung as an internal reviewer when the first Galaxy Note was launched, and I have used every Samsung S Pen-enabled smartphone ever produced, including the one that nobody else used because it exploded. 

While Samsung provides review units for me to borrow, I have purchased my past two Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Ultra devices with my own cash, and this phone is calling my name. 

I used the Galaxy S24 Ultra to its utmost, testing every single new feature that Samsung has marketed, and retesting all of my favorite old features. I used AI for messaging, summaries, and transcription, in addition to testing the translation features with foreign language teachers and students. I also tested DeX for work, Bixby for interface control, and all of the other Samsung features. 

I played games with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, mostly Call of Duty Mobile and Marvel Snap, in addition to trying others, like the new Warcraft Rumble game that just launched late in 2023. I play games at the maximum settings, with Bluetooth headphones and a Bluetooth joystick attached where appropriate. 

I also tested the Galaxy S24 Ultra with accessories and external devices, including a Dell monitor, Razer Blackwidow keyboard, and Logitech Master MX 2 mouse for DeX. I used a variety of wireless earbuds, including Galaxy Buds FE, Pixel Buds Pro and Nothing Stick 2 earbuds, as well as Ray Ban Meta smart glasses. 

The Galaxy S24 Ultra was benchmarked in Future Labs by our resident benchmarking expert, and results were shared and discussed with review editors. Benchmarks do not affect review scores in any way, and are helpful for comparison but not for real-world review purposes. 

I tested the Galaxy S24 Ultra camera in a shootout against the current best cameras available, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the OnePlus 12, and the Google Pixel 8 Pro. I took hundreds of photographs under the same lighting conditions for each, with similar settings enabled. Then, I compared the photographs when viewed on a professional Dell monitor at full resolution. 

Read more about how we test

First reviewed January, 2024

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.