Galaxy S24 Ultra: I lived with it so you don’t have to (but you should)

Galaxy S24 Ultra: I lived with it so you don’t have to (but you should)

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The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra came to the office this February, and as soon as it passed all our tests and benchmarks — I yoinked it!

The new screen glass had me enamored, and the new AI features had me intrigued. I was coming off a long term experience with the ROG Phone 8 Pro and wasn’t looking back to grabbing the good ol’ iPhone. Nah, time to dive back into the S Pen goodness!

By now, you know what the Galaxy S24 Ultra is — it’s a huge phone with a 6.8-inch AMOLED screen, a superpowered Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, an S Pen on the inside, slight camera upgrades from last year, and a titanium… eh, coating of the frame.

Our original review of the Galaxy S24 Ultra focuses on measurements, camera tests, benchmarks, and comparisons. But here… here, we will be talking about how it performs as an actual day-to-day smartphone, organizer, social media tool, camera, entertainment machine.

I don’t care that it’s made with titanium

But I love the shape

Samsung was quick to coat its premium flagship in titanium, not long after Apple released the titanium-clad iPhone 15 Pro. It’s a thin film of the premium metal on top of the good old classic aluminum frame. It does change the feel of the phone by a bit, but considering its front and back are all glass, I wouldn’t say it makes a huge difference. Does it add physical endurance? Maybe a bit, I wouldn’t test it, though.

But that design — Samsung got it right with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and only improved upon it since. Here’s what I mean — the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra, and the S22 Ultra were all amazing phones, right? I ended up not using any one of them because of their soft sides and slippery back. They just felt uncomfortable to hold, especially when wanting to use the S Pen. And yes, I rock a phone either naked or with a thin case on.

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The Galaxy S23 Ultra, with its slightly flattened sides and sharp corners, is pretty easy to hold. And I’ll be honest, I’ve had some close calls when taking it out of my pocket. But it provides plenty of grip. And the fully flat display has me noting with an S Pen again — ahh, I missed that.

The screen is still awesome

The new Gorilla Glass Armor on the Galaxy S24 Ultra shocked us with its ultra-low reflectivity. It also makes the display panel shine better, even when viewing it in broad daylight. It was a striking effect, immediately visible as soon as we got it at the office.

Now, after the honeymoon period is over, I can reaffirm that — yeah — it’s a small change on paper that does still deliver on a daily basis. And I still love looking at that screen.

There was a slight issue at release — if you activated the Eye Comfort Shield feature in the Settings, the S24 Ultra’s colors would get a bit too dull. Samsung admitted that it needs some tuning and, at present, it seems to be fixed. There’s an extra toggle within the Eye Comfort Shield if you want to get the washed-out effect, which removes aggressive colors.

However, I personally use it with Eye Comfort on and Adaptive Color Tone on. The phone adjusts its white balance dynamically throughout the day, and I am always greeted by warm colors.

And while on the topic of the display — the under-screen fingerprint panel is extremely fast. It only requires a tap to read your finger, no need to hold it even. And it works through small particles or moisture, if you happen to have something on your hands (though, holding it is a better option in those moments).

The audio is somewhat letting me down

Samsung phone speakers are well above average, but not quite among the best. The Galaxy S24 Ultra does have a respectable amount of bass, but some musical information is missing in the mids, and there are some harsh higher mids.

It’s OK. It’s not a Bluetooth speaker. Having just used the ROG Phone 8 Pro prior, I did immediately miss the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Yes, I use “archaic” tech, but rarely complain about the jack since… well, at this point it’s a lost fight.

I need to round this off by addressing the EQ within the advanced Sound Settings of Samsung phones. Short story — don’t use it. Slightly longer explanation — if you boost a frequency with this EQ in particular, it doesn’t really boost that. Instead, it lowers your overall volume, leaving that frequency intact.

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Not exactly in this 1-to-1 manner, but there’s definitely something funky going on with this EQ, with how it interacts with compression and levels. If you need to use it for the speakers, try to use the EQ to remove frequencies before thinking about adding. If you are using it for a pair of headphones — you may just ruin their EQ curve, I’d leave it alone. Or, of the headphones in question have their own app with sound profiles — use that.

It’s a performer, and I am not even pushing it

Editing quick videos, making thumbnails, taking notes — I like working with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It’s snappy, and it has a feature set that makes it easier for me. I particularly like the ability to tap and hold a subject on a photo to have it cropped out, then save it as a .PNG with a transparent background for further edits (admittedly, this feature was introduced on the iPhone, and that’s where I learned to use it) — put that in Canva, and I am ready to make a YouTube thumbnail.

Since the Galaxy S24 Ultra landed in my hands, it has been in Light Performance Profile mode. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 inside already works hard enough, and pushes the pixels through smooth animations well enough. I turned it on to see if I will see a hit in performance, and I didn’t. But the assurance that I may get slightly more battery life out of it, and have it run cooler, felt like a good tradeoff.

But the battery still isn’t that great

The Galaxy S24 Ultra can still take me through a day, I am rarely worried that I need to find a power outlet. That said, I find myself hitting the below-20% levels more often than I did with the ROG Phone, or the iPhone before that.The charging speeds are also not super-fast, and I can feel it. I admit, I’ve been spoiled from reviewing phones that pull in 70-ish percent in about half an hour on the wire. But, in general, I can see how a poweruser can feel a bit limited by the battery life on offer here.

Galaxy AI is here

And nobody cares

AI is a big buzzword recently — same as Machine Learning. What does it mean in practical terms? Well, the Galaxy S24 Ultra got a couple of party tricks.

The Internet Browser’s ability to summarize long articles is really impressive and also useful. The Recorder’s transcripts and summarization also work rather well for long, long meetings.

From then on — it’s downhill. The Live Translate in a call is an awesome concept, but not ready for prime time yet. The generative AI editor is not something to write home about. I actually made a fun “Guess the AI edit” article a few weeks ago. Be sure to catch up if you missed it.

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I dive deeper with the current Galaxy AI features — and their usefulness — in a dedicated video:

Video Thumbnail

Let’s talk about the camera

Why did I leave the camera for last? I don’t know, maybe because we already know it’s great.

Well… great-ish.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra had enough chops to make it through our PhoneArena Camera Benchmark with flying colors. And it gave us very good samples on our initial run through the review.

Since then, I made it a point to use that camera. I went to MWC with it, documenting the product demos with my Galaxy.

Our own Rad Slavov did the same — with his iPhone 15 Pro. And, sorry to say, in the flashy-but-poorly-lit, often chaotic and barely predictable conditions of a showfloor… the iPhone 15 Pro held it together more often than the Galaxy S24 Ultra did.

The best example I have of this is our footage from the Nothing Phone (2a) presentation. Since the device was behind a glass panel, and its Glyph Interface was constantly blinking, the Galaxy’s HDR algorithms got… confused. I was getting too much contrast, too much oversharpening, or too much blur and noise. Overall, we weren’t expecting a miracle — but we wanted to push the phones as far as we could. We ended up using the iPhone photos for our Nothing Phone (2a) announcement article.

Now, let me be clear. That’s a freak test. In my day-to-day life, I still feel fully confident capturing memorabilia with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. And I end up with good photos with almost every shutter press. I even use the S24 Ultra as a basis of comparison when I am looking at another phone camera’s output. I have come to find it reliant and predictable for my day-to-day. And, as mentioned — I feel completely comfortable and happy using it for my side projects. To redeem myself for the aforementioned horrible example, here are some photos I am perfectly happy with:

Should you buy the Galaxy S24 Ultra?

If you are looking at it right now, money burning a hole in your pocket, with an old phone crashing again on the table. Sure, the Galaxy S24 Ultra will give you wings.

However, while it is nicer than the Galaxy S23 Ultra, I wouldn’t say you should rush an upgrade. Neither would be in a hurry to chuck a Galaxy S22 Ultra in the recycle bin. Samsung’s flagships have just become that solid. But hey — good reason to look forward to the Galaxy S25 Ultra next year!

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