Review, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review: Incredibly Refined AI-Powered Flagship Phone (For a Price)

AI is expected to be the next big thing for smartphones this year. Unsurprisingly, Samsung is the first out of the gate to introduce a slew of AI-powered features with Galaxy AI on the Samsung Galaxy S24 phones. While the AI features – which are both useful and impressive – are offered on all devices in the series, the range-topping Galaxy S24 Ultra gets the best hardware upgrades.

Not only does the S24 Ultra now feature a titanium frame for improved build quality, it also has a tweaked quad camera system that improves the phone’s zooming performance. Of course, these upgrades do come at a price, which is the premium phone’s biggest shortcoming, in my opinion.

But for those who are willing to fork out the money for the S24 Ultra, you will get one of the best Android flagship phones in the market now.

What It Is

Display6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3120 x 1440), 120Hz adaptive
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 3.39GHz octa-core
GPUAdreno 750
RAM12GB
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)200MP f/1.7
12MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide angle)
10MP f/2.4 (telephoto), 3x optical zoom
50MP f/3.4 (telephoto), 5x optical zoom
Camera (front)12MP f/2.2, AF
Battery
5,000mAh with 45W charging
Dimensions162.3 x 79.0 x 8.6 mm
Weight
232g
OSOne UI 6.1 based on Android 14
Connectivity5G
LTE
NFC
Bluetooth 5.3
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax/be (2.4/5/6GHz)
USB Type-C
PriceRM6,299 (256GB), RM6,799 (512GB), RM7,799 (1TB)

Hardware wise, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a few upgrades over its predecessor. Not only is its display brighter with a peak brightness of 2,600 nits, it also has the aforementioned titanium frame for improved durability – much like the iPhone 15 Pro lineup – and a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset.

Beyond that, the S24 Ultra also has a new 50MP telephoto shooter that can do 5x optical zoom, which replaces the S23 Ultra‘s 10MP telephoto sensor with a farther-reaching 10x optical zoom. Despite no longer providing “true” 10x zoom, the S24 Ultra…actually has improved zooming performance. I’ll get back to this further down the review.

Pricing wise, all variants of the S24 Ultra cost exactly RM600 more than its predecessor with a RM6,299 starting price. This is quite a drastic price hike, though the new phone does come with a number of noteworthy upgrades.

The Good Stuff

Since Galaxy AI is one of the most highlighted features of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, let’s talk about that first. Essentially, it is made up of various AI-powered features, which include AI photo editing – it can do various generative edits, including filling the background after moving a subject around – Circle to Search to easily look up anything on my screen, and even translating a conversation in real time.

For the most part, these features work quite well, though the AI photo editing is a bit hit-and-miss. Depending on the subject, it has some issues properly isolating the subject, and it can take some time for the processing to be completed. But when it does work, the results are actually quite impressive, though I don’t use this feature particularly often.

Before (left) and after using AI photo editing

But I do find one feature of Galaxy AI that is very, very useful: Interpreter. As its name suggests, it can translate spoken words – on-device without the need for an internet connection – to another language of my choosing. As far as I can tell, it can translate English to Chinese with reasonably good accuracy, and I use it quite a bit to train my (admittedly very limited) Chinese vocabulary.

Another aspect of the Galaxy S24 Ultra that continues to impress is its camera, and I’m really quite surprised by the zooming performance. Even though the quad camera system now features a 50MP 5x zoom sensor instead of the S23 Ultra’s 10MP 10x zoom, there is actually tangible improvement here. Judge for yourself with these sample shots; the left images are taken with the S24 Ultra, followed by the S23 Ultra’s on the right.

5x zoom
10x zoom
5x zoom
10x zoom

At 5x zoom, the S24 Ultra wins hands down, thanks to its true 50MP 5x zoom telephoto lens; the S23 Ultra uses its 10MP 3x zoom camera instead at this level of zoom. But surprisingly, even at 10x zoom where the S23 Ultra has a dedicated 10MP 10x zoom shooter, the S24 Ultra still delivers sharper shots with better detail preservation despite using the same 50MP 5x zoom lens.

Aside from the zoom lens, the S24 Ultra still delivers great-looking shots in all kinds of shooting conditions. Day or night, the quad camera system feels very capable, and the various focal lengths really make it one of the most versatile (and top-performing) smartphone cameras in the market now.

Naturally, other aspects of the Galaxy S24 Ultra are befitting of a flagship smartphone too. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip can provide top-tier performance – I can get stable 60fps frame rate in Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact – the 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display is bright and vibrant with true, deep blacks, the titanium frame gives the phone improved build quality over its predecessor, and the S Pen is as practical as ever.

When it comes to battery life, I never had any issues getting through a typical workday with the S24 Ultra. Its 5,000mAh battery can return between six to seven hours of screen on time, and that’s with some gaming, navigation, and a ton of web browsing thrown in. Needless to say, this phone has long battery life.

Software is also the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s strong suit. Not only is One UI one of the most refined versions of Android with minimal bloatware and intuitive interface, Samsung is also promising seven years of Android and security updates for the S24 series. Only Samsung and Google have made such a promise, which truly put the S24 phones heads and shoulders above their competition.

There are a lot to like about the S24 Ultra, no doubt, but it also has one shortcoming that prevents the phone from being accessible to a wider audience: pricing.

The Bad Stuff

Starting at RM6,299 in Malaysia, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is undoubtedly a costly smartphone. If you want more storage than the 256GB base model, you’ll have to fork out RM6,799 and RM7,799 for the 512GB and 1TB models respectively, which is a lot of money.

Granted, you are getting an incredibly refined flagship smartphone for that kind of money, and the steep asking price is really the only big negative with the S24 Ultra. To be fair, other high-end phones also sit at this price point, so it’s not an issue unique to Samsung.

Is It Worth It?

If you’ve got RM6,299 to spend on a high-end, premium smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra should definitely be in your shortlist. Galaxy AI offers some genuinely useful AI-powered features, the phone’s quad camera system is one of the best in the market, and it has top-tier hardware as well.

Samsung has always set the bar for what to expect from other smartphone makers for the year, and the Galaxy S24 Ultra has set a high bar to start off 2024. Again, it is a costly smartphone, but it will be worthwhile for folks who are willing to spend that amount of money on Samsung’s latest and greatest flagship smartphone yet.

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