Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review: Amazing, But You Knew That Already

Everyone is obsessed with artificial intelligence (AI). Actually scratch that, every technology company and consumer electronics manufacturer is obsessed with artificial intelligence.

Much like the push to feature some sort of digital assistant to make devices smarter, so too are companies aiming to do the same with AI. The first to do so in the smartphone space is Samsung, which unveiled its latest flagship series of phones even earlier than normal for 2024.

Such is the urgency to stay ahead of the competition.

So does the introduction of Galaxy AI make the Galaxy S24 Ultra a game changing flagship phone or are the set of new features still trying to find their feet as on-device AI still strives for a purpose?

We spend the past couple of weeks with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, in Titanium Violet for our review model, to find out.

Here is what we learned about Samsung’s latest play.

New material, same style

We start as always on our phone reviews with design. It would take a truly trained eye to spot the differences between this new Ultra model and last year’s iteration.

The key difference here is the introduction of Titanium for the body of the device, with it particularly present on the frame of the phone. There are four different colour options, but with the exception of the Titanium Black colourway, the rest feature the same Titanium Grey for the frame.

Combined with the Titanium Violet, it is a handsome device, although the shade of Violet here is considerably darker than the one seen on the standard S24 and S24+.

In terms of the other design elements, not much has changed in the past 12 months.

What we have picked up on, however, is just how pronounced the camera bumps on the rear – five in total that jut out significantly. We would not quite class it as an eyesore, but the bumps mean you will have to buy a protective cover in order to make up for the difference.

As we have noted in past Galaxy S reviews, the lack of a generic plastic cover in the box is a little frustrating, as is the lack of a charger. We understand Samsung’s desire to prioritise sustainability with its packaging, but given that consumers are paying R29 999 to pre-order the device, not bundling a cover or charger is irksome.

That said, those who purchase from Samsung’s official online store do get access to a R4 000 voucher and free cover (while stocks last), but again, if other companies can include that in the box, why can’t Samsung or Apple?

Well assembled

Okay, our packaging rant is over, so let’s move on to the manufacture of the device and as expected from a R30k smartphone, the S24 Ultra has been expertly crafted. All elements feel premium, and while cynics (ourselves included) might say the addition of titanium is simply there to keep up with Apple, its addition here and matte finish yield a phone that is great to cradle.

If we were to make one suggestion for the S25 Ultra, it would be to introduce a physical Galaxy AI button. Being able to quickly launch features contextually without having to pull up the home button or long press on the screen could prove useful, not to mention mapping the button for most-used Galaxy AI tools, for example.

It is at this point we can start talking about performance. Powering the S24 Ultra is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor. Unlike the past couple of years, the Ultra boasts different silicon compared to the rest of the S24 series. It is unclear why this is the case, but the result is the top performing Android smartphone we have benchmarked to date.

Here the S24 Ultra scored 7 013 and 2 254 on GeekBench’s multi-core and single-core respectively. For reference, last year’s model scored 4 769 and 1 831, illustrating a serious jump in performance.

While we don’t try to place too much weight on this review metric, the benchmark results mirror well with the actual experience, as we only noticed a lag on one occasion – launching the native Interpreter Galaxy AI tool, but we’ll touch on that shortly.

Galaxy S24 Ultra
Display6.8″ (3088×1440)
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
Battery5 000mAh
Rear Camera200MP wide-angle, 12MP ultra wide-angle, 50MP telephoto, 10MP telephoto
Front Camera12MP wide-angle
ConnectivityWiFi 6, 5G
Galaxy AIYes
PriceR32 499 (RRP)

The AI we were expecting?

Now for Galaxy AI. Several new features fall under this set – Circle to Search, Live Translate, Interpreter, Chat Assist, Note Assist, Transcript Assist, ProVisual Engine, Generative AI Edit, and Instant Slow-Mo.

Having put all of them to the test during this review period, calling any of them true AI features does not quite sit well.

Let’s explain. Take Circle to Search for example. While it is indeed a handy feature, the experience feels just like Google Lens, with circling an object displayed on the screen being the real differentiator. As such, some of the magic that Samsung is aiming to showcase loses a bit of lustre when you know how things work.

The same goes for Chat, Note, and Transcript Assist, which are also extensions of features and applications available elsewhere. That said, all three work well, and for journalists in particular, are very useful indeed.

As for Live Translate and Interpreter, our experience with it was quite mixed to say the least. We specifically downloaded the Spanish language pack to do English to Spanish, and vice versa, translations. Here the translations were not always accurate, and depended heavily on the tone and pronunciation of those involved. We’re therefore not sure this feature works well enough yet to be fully helpful in the field, especially when slang and a more informal way of speaking are difficult for Galaxy AI to handle.

Galaxy AI has some interesting elements, but the suite needs to be larger, along with having more time to bake, before it truly feels like a notable upgrade to whatever else is on the market.

Superb visuals

We’re not done with Galaxy AI, as the ProVisual Engine, Generative AI Edit, and Instant Slow-Mo segue nicely into the camera performance of this flagship phone.

Of the three features, Instant Slow-Mo is the one that does not feel like true AI, and rather like some useful software at work. ProVisual Engine and Generative AI Edit are a completely different story, however, as the ability to quickly edit images to the desired specification with little input or effort is great.

Generative AI Edit is fun to play with, but as any content creator can attest, doing those levels of edit are far better on a notebook or desktop instead of a phone. That said, we were impressed with some of the results.

As for the hardware on offer here, Samsung has not held back. A quartet of lenses are present on the rear – 200MP wide-angle, 12MP ultra wide-angle, 50MP telephoto, and 10MP telephoto.

The results are truly great while shooting outdoors, and toggling between the 12MP, 50MP, and 200MP lens options shows you just what this camera array is truly capable of in the right hands. We would have liked the ability to set which lens we used when accessing the camera app, as it defaulted to 12MP all the time, but can understand why it’s not done given the sheer size of images the 200MP option takes up.

In terms of the camera and video performance, the S24 Ultra comes as close as any flagship phone has to the Huawei P60 Pro, and that’s saying something considering it’s the best smartphone photography experience we’ve had to date.

Final verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the best phone you can buy right now from a specifications perspective. Every element is top notch and its performance is unmatched based on the flagship phones we’ve reviewed recently.

As has become the case with the top Galaxy S models each year, the S24 Ultra features a stunning and large display, equally sizeable and long-lasting battery, and one of the best camera experiences we’ve encountered in some time.

While we’re effusive with our praise of the phone, the exact same compliments can be paid to last year’s S23 Ultra, and this is where our issues come into play.

Quite simply, Galaxy AI does not distinguish the real-world performance of the S24 Ultra compared to its predecessor. We’ve gotten a taste of Galaxy AI, but quite frankly want more, and given the fact that older models of Samsung flagship phones will receive access to the feature set later this year, it is difficult to recommend upgrading if you have last year’s iteration.

That said, if you want a phone that can do everything expertly, and aren’t keen on an iPhone, few options can match what the S24 Ultra can do right now.



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